Justin Hill interview
ur rounds down in the 2017 Western Regional 250SX Supercross Championship and two riders have split the four main event wins with two apiece. Troy Lee Designs / KTM’s Shane McElrath won the first two and established himself as the rider to beat, but Monster Energy / Pro Circuit / Kawasaki’s Justin Hill has fired back with two straight wins of his own and closed the gap in the points to just four points. The only difference being that Shane has not finished off the podium in 2017 and Hill scored a fifth at the Anaheim 1 opener.
At last weekend’s Glendale SX, Hill pitched the equivalent of a no hitter on his way to the main event win. The #46 was fastest in both qualifiers, won his heat race by 10 seconds and came from behind to catch and pass McElrath for the main event win. There are days where everything goes your way, and Hill’s day and night at University of Phoenix Stadium looked like one of those days.
After his second win of 2017 and the fifth win of his 250SX career was in the books, MotoXAddicts’ Chase Yocom caught up with Justin to talk about his Glendale SX.
I feel great about it, you know. Last weekend, I didn’t have to pass for the lead and I won. This weekend, I didn’t have the lead until dang near the end. I earned it. I’m really pumped on myself. I did what I needed to do and I’m excited. Coming into the season I was like, “Man, this is going to be a tough one,” because I wasn’t ready. I’ve been the most mentally strong that I’ve ever been, and I believe in myself. That’s really all it is. I believe that I should be winning, and when it comes to fruition I’m stoked. It’s amazing!
Coming in this year with a little bit of an injury, did that almost take some of the pressure off of you? Knowing that you weren’t quite there yet and then you could start putting pressure on yourself after you got a little healthier maybe?
It’s hard to say what affects you until it’s time. This time, I just focused on the work. If I can hurt more than that guy, then hopefully I can beat him. I’ve really made pain my friend, because I’ve really had to push through some stuff. I’ve had to really give it. I wouldn’t say it took pressure off, ’cause I’m a guy that likes to pull confidence from what I did preseason. I like to pull my confidence from how hard I worked. I think, yeah, for San Diego when I almost got Shane [McElrath], I pulled confidence from that. I knew what kind of work I did before. I did some 20’s [minute motos], and I did them this hard. I know I can do it. When we came to that race, I knew I could push through it.
You have a couple good role models in that regard. Your brother and your dad are pretty tough guys. (laughs)
Oh yeah, tough as nails. My dad has taught me everything I know—not just with dirt bikes, but how to be a good man as well. I couldn’t ask for a better family. They’re amazing people.
What did you think of the track tonight? It’s the first time we were inside of a stadium with a roof this year—although, they had the roof open.
(laughs) Yeah, it didn’t matter. If it was threatening [weather], they probably would have closed it, but I like it better when it’s controlled like that. It’s just one less thing to think about. The night before at all the other rounds when I was in the motor home, I’m like, “Dude, it’s raining right now. Come on.” Every night.
Kind of weird for California.
Yeah, it’s weird for California. I like the rain; I grew up in Oregon and always rode mud. For the most part, though, when it’s at an SX race and for points, it’s like, “Man, I wish it would just be dry.” (laughs) But Dirt Wurx does the business and they can get the mud out of there. It’s amazing what they can do. Hats off to those guys giving us four dry rounds. It should have only been one.
We know you’re not afraid to jump crazy things and big combos through the rhythm sections. There were some crazy rhythm sections out there with different lines tonight. What did you think of those?
Really, we didn’t do the big rhythms in the main. In practice, I did the big rhythms that Chad [Reed] and Eli [Tomac] were doing, which was 3-4-3-2.
Yeah, it was big!
It was big. On the 250 it was wide open, but we didn’t do it in the main. The corner before it was chewed up and you couldn’t triple in consistently on the small bike. So I just went low and did the other rhythm. I think tonight was the two biggest triples in a row that I’ve ever seen. The first one was wide open, but we never chopped it [the throttle] on either one. The fact that we started jumping it from the inside, I was blown away. In practice, it was everything we had just ’cause it was a little sloppy [wet]. The jumps were big tonight. At the end of the night, I’m like, “Dude, keep building them big. I like that stuff.” It gives me a little bit of breath, makes it a little easier on me and I can go faster. That’s what I want.
That was intense battle with Shane. How much fun were you having out there? Obviously, it’s intense out there, but it looked fun too.
It’s a great time battling with Shane. He’s a good guy. When we get together, get to mix it up a little and give the fans what they want to see, that’s good stuff. When we came over the finish line, I’ve never felt so much gratitude for him and so much respect for myself for the performance we put on for the people. That’s what it’s all about.
Could you hear the crowd tonight?
Oh, I heard them. On the podium, I told them, “I heard you guys. When you started yelling and I was getting closer, it was blood in the water and you guys helped me.” It was cool. They motivated me. It’s a lot of fun battling with Shane. I was glad that I could win. I know he wants to win, so we’re just going to keep battling and see who comes out on top.