wanted to help me out so that I could race the 250 class
this summer. They said they would have a factory bike,
and that was all I needed. I had been on Kawasaki
forever, so the Yamaha was a lot different. I have been
getting used to the new bike. It’s just not easy because
it’s only been a few months. I rode Kawasaki for almost
20 years, so I know that bike much better. Last year,
Pro Circuit Kawasaki was already full, and I had wanted
a bike to get used to. All their riders were healthy then,
so Mitch did not have a spot for me. It would have been
a good opportunity to race for him again, but when you
are full, you are full. He had six riders racing for the
team and just said that he couldn’t add me on.
HOW’S YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH MITCH
PAYTON? I think that I understand him better than
anyone else, because he is paralyzed and I was
paralyzed. I was going through the same difficulties
that he’s had to deal with. There were times when
Mitch and I wouldn’t even talk about racing. Our
relationship is more than that. Mitch is a good guy. He
likes me and I like him.
WERE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR RESULTS
DURING THE 250 NATIONALS? My results weren’t
very good, except for winning the Unadilla National. The
good thing is that I have been adapting to the bike. I
have had some good rides, but also some poor results.
It just hasn’t been easy for me to learn a new bike.
Sometimes I’m fighting with it and using all my energy.
I’m very fit, though. I have been working out way more
than I ever had in the past when I was winning. I know
that I am ready, but I just need more time on the bike.
The big thing is that I don’t waste too much energy
during the race.
YOU WERE TYPICALLY THE FASTEST 250
QUALIFIER DURING THE NATIONALS. There
were only one or two races at the beginning of the
season where I did not log the fastest time in practice.
One of those times Jeremy Martin just barely edged me
out. My main goal was to win every single Oakley Bomb
fast-lap award so that I could get the watch, but really
it was just a fun game for me. Ever since I was a little
boy, I always tried to set the fastest lap times. I did
enough to earn the Oakley watch, and the added benefit
is that I had the first gate pick quite a bit during the
DO YOU GET ALONG WITH YOUR
COMPETITORS? Yes, although I don’t really hang out
with any of them. Racing is our job, and I don’t think
that we are here to make friends. We may say hello to
each other, but generally we all live far away from each
other. I live in Orlando, Florida, whereas a lot of other
guys live in California. We travel every weekend, so I
really cannot make many friends. I am just too busy.
I don’t really talk to any of the fast guys, but at times
some of the more local riders come to my track at my
house to ride. They are nice people, so it’s fun.
ARE YOU AND MARVIN MUSQUIN ENEMIES?
Why would Marvin be my enemy? I have never said
anything about disliking him. When I am on the track,
I try to beat everyone that I can. If Marvin is faster on
the track, then of course he will want to pass me. I think
of him as just another rider. I actually like racing closely
with Marvin more than many of the other guys, because
and then adapt my line choices. At the end of the day, I
really need to focus on the right lines, especially in the
second motos when the track gets so much rougher. I
think I see the track differently from other riders. It’s not
always easy to look at the track in a different way. Many
racers will often take the same lines all moto long and
never change. It seems that a lot of racers in the U.S.
don’t believe that far outside lines are faster, but
DO YOU STILL HAVE LINGERING EFFECTS
FROM YOUR BACK INJURY? No, not really. I can tell
you that it is a lot to accept when you are paralyzed. It
was a very big deal, but now I am all good. I just need to
try to take good things from it. That’s what I have learned.
FANS SEEM TO MISUNDERSTAND YOUR
PERSONALITY. I’ve learned that people say whatever
they want to. For example, a few years ago I said that I
enjoyed riding a jet ski; however, I never said that I was
training on my jet ski to get better on the bike. I said
that I rode my jet ski once every week, and that it was a
good workout and stress reliever from racing. People took
that the way they wanted to take it, but for this sport,
if you don’t put the laps and hard work in, then you
aren’t going anywhere. Motocross isn’t made up of little
15-minute motos. They are over 30 minutes long, and the
series is very long. It’s important to do the right things to
prepare yourself, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong
with having some fun. Your brain doesn’t constantly need
to be focused on the bike.
HOW DID THE VALLI/YAMAHA DEAL COME
TOGETHER FOR THE 2014 NATIONALS? Yamaha