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Joey Savatgy at the Hangtown MX Race 2015


May 202016

Beginning with a well-earned third overall finish at the Budds Creek National last June, it all started to come right for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki racer Joey Savatgy. His third year as a 250cc National rider, the native Californian found his rhythm, placing third at Spring Creek, winning at Unadilla and finishing second overall at Crawfordsville, Indiana to finish the season off third overall in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Savatgy further upped his program during the off-season - certainly benefitting from the wisdom and guidance of one Ricky Carmichael - to where he came out breathing fire in 2016 and came within a single point of winning the AMA West Region Supercross Series over reigning champion Cooper Webb. A fortnight removed from the near miss, this Saturday afternoon at the 48th Annual Hangtown Motocross Classic, Savatgy will contend the 30th National of his young career, and in doing so, begin his quest to try and come out on top in the 12-round, 24-moto AMA Pro Motocross title brawl. No real need to mention here that it’s a title both Savatgy and team boss Mitch Payton have thrown absolutely everything they have at winning.


Joey, what’s happening up there at Prairie City SVRA this afternoon?

I’m at Hangtown and actually trying to work my way down into the pits so I can get my stuff into the semi before it starts getting all crazy for press day. Yeah, I’m here and ready to go racing.

On what is basically the eve of the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, how are you feeling about everything?

I feel good, man. I ended supercross on a good note and I feel prepared, or as prepared as I’ll be. It’s kind of one of those deals where it’s like supercross at the beginning, like at A1 when you don’t know for sure who is going to be fast. There are always those dudes that are expected to be fast, but you never know until you go out for first practice. That’s really when you kind of get a gauge of who has done the work and who hasn’t done the work. It’s always good to end one season on a positive note, you bring in the positives and the confidence after ending that previous season. For me, I feel good. It’s a waiting game. Everyone is supposed to be going fast according to everyone you talk to. All I can do is put in the work and that’s all I’ve been doing. We’ve been down at The Farm and been trying to get everything lined up and come out swinging for outdoors and at the end of the 12-round series to be in a position to win the title like we were in supercross this year. That’s the main goal. I think we made quite the improvement in supercross from last year to this year and I’m hoping outdoors is going to be the same way. We had a good outdoor season last year. We were third in points, but quite a ways off, but we also had a lot of DNFs and motos where things didn’t go that great. Now I’m another year smarter and just trying to salvage points at every round this year. I think that’s one thing I’ve learned - especially with supercross ending the way it did where we lost by a point. Every point does matter. It sounds so cliché and it’s so overused, but if you look at the big picture, if I would have passed one more guy at one round and one more guy at another round, that’s would have been two points and that would have been the difference for the title. Yeah, I’m just trying to come into this as prepared as I can be.

I was around you and the entire Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team back in the pits a few minutes after you lost the West Region Supercross title by a single point. Everyone around the truck seemed both dazed and disappointed, yet at the same time, everyone present also knew what an outstanding effort you had put in that night. Were you brokenhearted to lose the title like that or were you okay with it?

To be honest with you, man, it’s one of those deals where I’m okay with losing, especially once you get a taste of winning. There’s something about that where it just outweighs everything else. No, it sucked the way to lose the way that we did. We lost by a point and I guess I’d rather lose by a point rather than lose by a tie and most wins, but either way, it’s not cool to win and it’s not cool to get second. It’s way cooler to win and that’s what the plan is going to be for outdoors.

To my way of seeing things, what was so impressive about you performance in Las Vegas was how you just took command of the event. From practice all the way through the main event, you were bent on controlling you own destiny, weren’t you?

It was honestly all I could do. We talked about it. We talked to Ricky about it and he kind of gave me his advice. I talked to Mitch and he gave me his advice. I talked to my dad. I talked to a lot of people. I kind of got everyone’s thoughts and everything and everyone was on board. Coming from Ricky, arguably the greatest guy to ever ride a dirt bike, and coming from Mitch, who has run one of the winningest race teams ever, everyone had the same advice. All I could do was to go out and do what I could do. If won, then anything else that happened was meant to happen. I feel like the Man Upstairs had a plan for me that night and the plan came up a little bit short. I think in the long run it was a learning experience.

In the days leading into the Vegas race, did you know how damaged Cooper Webb’s wrist actually was? Was there talk about that?

I knew. The rumors start real quick when something happens, especially with a big name guy. I knew a week prior. I wish he would have shown up healthy because I would have loved to show up in Vegas and race him healthy and to end the season beating him while he was healthy. I think that would have been very good. I couldn’t think about what he was going through and what he was going to be able to do because I knew, at the end of the day, that dude is a champion for a reason and that he could get the job done if he needed to. Knowing what the guy is capable of, I knew that the he would show up because if it was me, I would have done the same thing.

Do you like the Hangtown track? Do you not like it? What’s your general take on it?

I don’t know, man. Last year was pretty gnarly but they had gotten a lot of rain previous to the race. (Note: Savatgy placed seventh overall). I’ve heard that they haven’t gotten as much rain lately. I don’t know how it’s going to be. Overall, I think it’s a pretty good place. You’ve got a lot of elevation and hills. I shouldn’t say a lot of elevation, but the elevation they do have is steep, so all the hills are straight up and straight down, so it tends to develop big braking bumps. It’s a pretty technical track. We’ll find out. Every year seems to be different.

You placed third overall to Jeremy Martin and Cooper Webb in last year’s outdoor title chase. You know Cooper’s current situation and you also know Martin is a two-time champion in the class. How do you see them, as well as all of the other riders you’ll line up against, as competition?

Like you said, Cooper is unknown. I don’t think he is going to make the whole series. And I could be wrong. I think Martin is the main priority. There are always all these guys that you don’t expect to be fast, but they show up and they surprise you. There is one guy at the top of my list that I KNOW is going to show up and I KNOW is going to be fast and it’s Martin. The dude has won back-to-back titles for a reason and he goes fast. My main priority coming into this weekend is to salvage points and if I can come out of here with a podium, I think it’s going to be a great starting point. I obviously don’t want to go out there and crash and get no points and start the series at a deficit, so the game plan is to come out, have good qualifying times, have a good first moto and put myself in a position to be on the podium. Obviously, the win is ideal, but I’m not going to put myself at risk just for the sake of a couple of extra points. I’d rather settle for a podium here, walk away, gather some info and know where I stand and head into the rest of the series with confidence and still in the title fight I don’t want to throw it away here. I know it’s a long series, but with a guy like Martin who is very consistent and bulldoggish-like and who is going to fight his way through the pack no matter what, you never want to put yourself behind the 8-ball with that guy. Like I said, the biggest thing for me is to put ourselves in a position to do well and try and win. If the win presents itself, then we’re going to win. If it doesn’t, we’re going to do the best that we can do. The goal is to try and be on the podium every round and try to collect the points.

And then there is the Monster Energy/Kawasaki/Pro Circuit team itself. For the first time in quite a while, you’ll have Arnaud Tonus and Adam Cianciarulo back and racing, as well as the new guy, namely Austin Forkner, making his professional debut. It’ll be a pretty interesting mix of racers in the Pro Circuit pits on Saturday, won’t it?

Yeah, it’s pretty interesting, you know? It’s quite a combination. I think you have AC who was in Forkner’s shoes not that long ago, and you have AC who is in the opposite set of shoes he was in a couple of years ago. It’s quite the group we have with us. It’s going to be the first time in a while that we’ve had a full semi as for the most part is has been me and maybe Chris [Alldredge]. Yeah, it’s quite the group of guys. I think all around, though, the whole team is pretty solid and we have some fast dudes. The main goal for everybody is to bring home a title for Mitch. I know he’s been missing a couple of number plates on his rig, so we’re trying to bring one home for him and to make him proud.