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Justin Hill interview

Five races down in the 250SX Western Regional 250SX Championship and Monster Energy / Pro Circuit / Kawasaki’s Justin Hill just wrestled the red plate away from Troy Lee Design’s / KTM’s Shane McElrath after winning the last three main events in a row. Shane won the first two main events and has not missed the podium one time in 2017, but Hill’s recent dominance has given him a one-point advantage in the Championship and, most importantly, the confidence that comes with knowing that right now he is the man to beat.

After winning at A2 and Glendale, Justin came into the 2017 Oakland SX trailing McElrath by four points. With the rain falling all morning, it was anyone’s guess how the evening in O.Co Coliseum would play out, and compounding the weather issues for the #46, he came into the day feeling “sick as a dog.”

When the gate dropped for the main event, Justin rounded the first turn around midpack, but after his teammate Austin Forkner went down and took half the field down with him, Justin snuck around the pile up and came out running second with McElrath right there in third. By the end of lap one, though, Justin made the pass on Rockstar / Husqvarna’s Martin Davalos and was off to the races.

On a very wet, sloppy and rutted out Oakland circuit, only Marvin Musquin, Ryan Dungey, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac in the 450 class ran faster laps than Hill, but with time winding down, he spun out on plywood in the bottom of a rut and nearly threw the win away. Justin got the bike back up and going just before Davalos came by and was able to regroup and pull away again for win number three of 2017.

After the win, Dan Lamb talked to Justin on the floor during the 450 podium celebration, and I have never heard this kind of confidence from the new red plate holder. I would shy away from saying cocky and go with the kid knows where he’s at, and right now mentally he’s on top of the world.

Three in a row is officially a win streak. That has to feel good in these conditions tonight.

What can you say, three in a row! I’ve never gone two in a row, let alone three in a row. I’ve got a great mindset. I’m in a great position, and I didn’t think I was going to win this one. I was sick as a dog all week. I came into tonight feeling really weak, and I just pulled it together. Like I said, I have a really great mindset this year and winning is the only thing on my mind. Everything else falls away, especially when that 30-second board goes up for the main. It’s a points paying race, and I’m going for it. There’s nothing else. I’ve never been—for lack of better words—a man in this sport. Now I’m manning up and getting it done. I’m just doing it.

You’re at the point where you’re looking down the line of the main event and knowing, “I am the man everyone is looking at. I am the one they have to beat if they want to win.”

No doubt! I just proved that again tonight. Three in a row and I have the red plate. Those are statements. My family, they’re just sitting there smiling and, god, I want to do that for them every weekend. It’s such a family sport, and when I win, we all win. That is such a great feeling.

I talked to you earlier today and thought you would love this track because I felt the weather and soft soil was going to make it a technical track. You said back to me that you didn’t think it looked very technical, but I think now you would agree that it got super technical. (laughs)

Dude, yeah, it got bad.

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you.

Yeah, I saw you and said, “I don’t know, man. It don’t look that tough.” But you know how it is. A track will look one way and then, gosh—it got so rutted and rough. Now all of a sudden, all the stuff that you wanted to do all day long is dang near undoable. You have to improvise, but it takes energy to improvise. It takes energy to change your lineup, and do something you weren’t comfortable with all day, which we had to do and do it every lap. I was jumping through the whoops before the finish and I hadn’t jumped through the whoops all day. I was like, dude, I have to jump through there.

I noticed even some of the top 450 riders jumping through both sets tonight. Consistency was the key.

There was no other way. I mean I did seven different things in the other ones. I was looking for something that was going to make my time better. I was trying to be a warrior tonight and I got it done, even with a crash because of a completely BS piece of plywood in my line. That was nuts. I was like, no way is something like that going to steal this win from me tonight. Now I just gotta do it again.

Did you see how close [Martin] Davalos was when you finally got her up and going again?

I kind of saw him still. I was like, “Okay, I think I still got this thing.” I really thought he was on my tail. Then I realized I had some room and just regrouped. I’m not great at regrouping, but I gave it my all. 110%; that’s it.

Four in a row now? You want to call it? (laughs)

Four in a row. Let’s do it!