This year has been different for me. I’ve been healthy, I had a great off-season, we came off a victory at the Monster Cup. We were able to build off that, and it’s been pretty seamless. If we encountered problems with the bike, we fixed them, and we’ve had time because I wasn’t dealing with an injury.
Having a month off after outdoors—not touching a motorcycle and not being hurt—helped me a lot. The whole attitude was different. When that break was over, I wanted to get back on a motorcycle and test. We rode for three weeks and won the Monster Cup, so that sparked it up even more.
Racing outdoors last year helped, having a different element. Racing two 30s [30-minute-plus-two-lap motos], being up to speed, working on racecraft, getting bad starts but being able to work my way up—all that provided a great foundation.
Starting Seven was one of my big things, and I’ve got a great group of guys around me that take care of it. When I was off for a month, it gave me a chance to worry about the business side, and once that month was over, it’s all been about racing.
The gear has more compression and is a little bit tighter. When I started this, I told them I wanted to be different. It wasn’t about graphics. It was like when I started with Bell in 2009: “If we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right.”
When I started with Bell, I was in the Moto 8, and then I went to the MX1. I told them, “Let’s do another helmet,” and that’s when we ended up coming out with the Moto 9. It was pretty cool to see how big they were back when Jeremy McGrath use to race for them, and to come up to the factory and basically design a helmet was pretty nice.
I feel like I’ve been doing everything right to get a win. Two weeks I was sick, but last weekend in Oakland, I rode good enough to at least challenge for the win. Anaheim 1 I rode good enough to win, but I went down in the whoops. To get a win, I’ve got to keep running like I have been. It’s as simple as keeping to the game plan: You get a better start, you don’t go down, and there it is.
This season, I think you’ve got to keep within 25 points to have a shot at the title. We all have bad races—I lost 25 points at the first race, one weekend Chad Reed got ninth, but then the next weekend, he won. It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to be there.
You’re still missing three guys—Eli Tomac, Trey Canard, and Davi Millsaps—so once they come back, it’s going to be three more positions to make it that much tougher to come back up if you get a bad start. Those are points that will be taken off the table or gained by somebody.
This won’t be a championship that’s just given to you for being consistent. Ultimately, I think the best is going to come out of everybody. Whoever wins this championship will be the guy who should’ve won the championship.
This year, Malcolm and I have a chance to be the first brothers to win both classes. We both got a podium at Anaheim 2—he got third [in 250SX West], and I was second. Every year, Malcolm’s gotten better, and I think he’s also going to be one of those guys during the motocross season that I’m going to have to worry about. Hopefully he’ll move up to the 450 in supercross next year. He’s a big kid, and if he’s a threat to win a Lites race, he’s also going to be a possible threat to win a 450 main event.
Outdoors last year was pretty interesting. I think at one point, Malcolm beat me five motos in a row. Then I told him he wouldn’t beat me again, and that’s when I started getting podiums at all the races and ended up winning one. It’s definitely one of those things where you’re like, “I can’t let him beat me,” and if I don’t let him beat me, then I’ll be up there competing.
I don’t understand [the booing], but I think people fear what they don’t know. A lot of people don’t know me, and maybe they read an interview or see my face and just go off of that. When I get in situations where I feel uncomfortable, I try to just figure it out on my own. I think people take that as arrogance, instead of that’s just how I grew up being.
The year before I came into the 250 [two-stroke] class—2004—I remember they booed Ricky Carmichael out of the stadium. Then I showed up to race him in ’05, and they started cheering him, and they booed me!
I feel like I give more to the sport than anybody I’m racing against, so to get booed is kind of weird to me. At the same time, I’ve learned to just keep it moving. If I can’t change people’s opinions now, then I never will.
Yeah, I’m toward the end of my career, but I’m having more fun than ever. I’m really enjoying the process of racing, the process of testing. I appreciate it. I’m happy with the people I’ve got around me. When I go to the test track, I see faces I really want to see. To be here with Suzuki, I made that decision, so I’m finally at a place where I’m like, “I made that choice.”