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Austin Forkner during the 2016 Pro MX Nationals in Iron Man Raceway Crawfordsville, Indiana

Austin Forkner: AMA Motocross Rookie of the Year

Aug 292016

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner put the finishing touches on his remarkable 2016 rookie season by winning his first overall at Saturday’s Ironman National in Indiana. Then, a mere twenty-four hours later, the seventeen year-old was named AMA Motocross Rookie of the Year. Quite a season for the kid from Missouri, and one he hopes to keep rolling as he will compete in this weekend’s US Grand Prix at Charlotte Motor Speedway in North Carolina..


Austin, can you talk about the two motos you competed in today?

In the first moto I basically told myself that I wasn’t going to look back for the whole moto because if I look back then I just start thinking too much. I didn’t until I think it was the 20-minute mark that I was like, there has got to be somebody here. I looked back and all I saw were lappers. Then it was down the step down table that I saw them and they were going by the mechanics area. I was like, there’s no way that’s second. Then I came around and my mechanic put plus 23 on my board and I was like, that’s second. It was really good. At that point I just kind of put it on cruise control. I was really comfortable and was still able to keep pulling a little bit. I think I ended up winning by like 28 seconds or something. That was really good for me. Second moto was good. I got off to another good start. Aaron [Plessinger] kind of had the inside of me in the second turn and he got me. Just rode around behind him for the first couple laps. Then he messed up and I got him. We didn’t really battle but he applied a pretty decent amount of pressure on me for the first twenty minutes basically until I fell. Then that jump, I got sketchy on it in the first moto and it’s blind. So you go over it and you can’t see what the ruts are. And then you look, so you just have to guess basically every single time. The ruts were so deep that even if you get it good you’re going to drag the pegs, and if you don’t then you’re going to land in that soft stuff and drag your feet off. So I got sketchy on that one time. I had kind of made a mistake before that. I hadn’t been doing it [trying to jump in the section where he crashed]. I kind of made a mistake and he caught me. I was like, man, I didn’t even do it [the jump]. If you can do it and get it clean, then the guy behind you doesn’t do it, it’s like a second. I just needed to get a little bit of breathing room back from the mistake I made. [I tried to jump it] I ended up going down. Whenever I hit I got some sweat and dirt on the inside of my goggles on the right side so I was ripping tear-offs but it was on the inside. So I had to ride the rest of the moto kind of with one eye because this side was all blurry. The bars were a little tweaked but not too bad. Cooper [Webb] got me a few laps later. I really didn’t put up much of a fight. He was there so I just kind of let it go and followed him and actually almost kind of had a battle for the next couple of laps. Then he ended up pulling away a little bit. Saw that [Alex] Martin was behind me and I just kind of put it on cruise control and rode it home. Whenever you fall and air stops moving and you get hot it’s hard to regroup. But I was just trying to regroup and just ride it home. I was pretty sure that I got him [for the overall]. I really didn’t know until I finished and my mechanic was holding up the one. They didn’t tell me on the board. It probably helped a little bit.

Was your mindset any different today coming into this race than it’s been?

It’s been the first mud race this year and my mechanic told me on the line before practice, he said, get out front. And I got out front. Most of the time I don’t like to get out front. It did help riding at press because at least I knew the track and I could go somewhat fast the first couple of laps. If I’ve never been there I really don’t like it out front because then I feel like I have to push really hard, and then I end up making stupid mistakes because I don’t even know the track. Since I rode press I pretty much knew at least the speed to hit the jumps and stuff. It was muddy so that was different, but I figured that out. I pretty much had to push to keep the guys behind me. I was actually surprised that I got out front in both practices because there’s so many guys waiting for the guy to tell you to go and I ended up getting out front in both practices. So it worked out. I knew after the first practice that I knew the track really good so I just could start attacking immediately. Basically crossed the finish and put down three or four solid laps. Fastest lap time in second practice, but second overall.

How much have these last couple weeks where you’ve been up in front, getting on podiums, contributed to today?

Yeah, I was pretty comfortable for the most part. Just any time that you get up there and run with those guys in the front, like Unadilla, and that’s my third podium in a row now, so even if I hadn’t have won today just ending the season with podiums and actually it’s my fourth podium in a row. Just ending it with consistent podiums, I felt like at the beginning of the season my starts were super inconsistent. Most of the time you’re not going to get on the podium [with bad starts]. So my starts have definitely been way better, and just getting on the podium every week. I feel like if I could have done earlier in the season that I would be battling for second or third in the points because I was within ten points of third I think in the championship. That’s pretty good, fourth in the championship. I think for a rookie that’s really good. My trainer told me at the beginning of the year that he thinks that I could win a moto and an overall, and I did both. So I’m really pumped on that. Good way to end the series this year. Gives me some confidence going into next year.

I think you finished outside of the top ten in only three motos. Has the consistency surprised you a little bit?

Yeah, a little bit. I knew that I wanted to be in the top ten pretty consistently. I didn’t expect to be in the top ten as much as I was this year. I think I only had a few motos outside the top ten, and one was because I crashed twice at Millville. It’s been a good season I think, consistency-wise. At the beginning of the season my starts just weren’t there. I’d holeshot one and then be outside the top 20 the next. You’re not going to get the overall finish with that. So I was really pumped with the way my starts have been. I think I holeshot both motos today even though Aaron passed me pretty quick in the first moto. I got two holeshots at Unadilla. Just been getting good starts lately and that obviously helps a lot.

A lot of times we’ll see rookies kind of tail off toward the end. It’s a long season. You’ve actually gotten better. Is it because you’re riding with other guys that are pro?

I don’t know. I feel like more experience is always better. I seem like I’m on a roll right now with just getting good starts and getting podiums and running up there with those guys. I feel like once you’re on a roll you’re kind of hard to stop. I feel like the past couple races that’s kind of been the case. Coming into today with being on the podium the last three races, if I would have finished off the podium today that would have been a disappointment. I knew that that’s where I should be. I just feel good about my riding and everything.

Earlier in the season we talked about you had some goals for the outdoors. Did you hit all the checkboxes?

It wasn’t even on the list, but a championship obviously would have been the main goal. But five podiums, two moto wins, an overall win, I feel like that’s pretty good for a rookie season. I wasn’t sure honestly about an overall win. After Washougal Robbie, my mechanic, was like, you can get an overall win. You can do it. I was like, man, I don’t know. But I came in this weekend knowing that I need to be up there in the top three and that I can get a moto win, and I did.

What’s the off-season look like for you? You just take some time off and get back into training or do you have any off-season races to do?

I was hoping to maybe do the Soaring Eagle race, and maybe Baja Brawl, which is an amateur race, just for fun. I like those two races but I’m going to be doing the GPs so that’s not going to work out. Some of the guys I feel like just as soon as the racing is done just absolutely shut off racing. Don’t touch a bike for like months, or at least until it’s time to start getting ready for supercross. But I’m going to get bored if I don’t ride. I got to get the new ’17 set up for supercross because that’s what we’re going to be riding next year, but I’m just going to have them send me some of the arenacross suspension I rode with this year just because if I want to go down to Trey’s—I’ll be back at home in Missouri, but if I want to go to Oklahoma and ride the supercross track at Trey’s a little bit, ride Robbie’s supercross track, there’s a hybrid supercross track that’s pretty close to us. Just kind of mess around and get in the supercross rhythm. If my friends want to go ride some outdoors, I’ll have two bikes setup one for supercross, one for outdoors. I’ll ride a little bit. Obviously not every day and I probably won’t do much off bike. Probably go to the skate park and stuff like that. I really don’t like getting fully out of shape. I like staying comfortable on the bike. Supercross is going to be pretty tough because it’s going to be new. So I feel like just slowly working my way into it and getting a little comfortable at time and then start doing motos later on this year but just slowly kind of working into it, I think that’s good. That’s kind of what I want to do.