MPG / DAILY BREAD / MARCH 1, 2017
Jayce Pennington started off the 2017 season on the right foot after putting in one of the best rides of his amateur career at last year’s Monster Energy Cup. The Illinois native had multiple hurdles to overcome before making his way to Vegas to contest the Amateur All-Stars class; he wasn’t able to train with his regular trainer and he was doing all of his preparation on outdoor suspension. He finally got his SX suspension in two days before the event and was able to adapt quickly as he made minor adjustments throughout the day of practice, eventually putting it all together in the second moto with a second place finish, leading to a fifth place overall. The spectacular performance in Sam Boyd Stadium attracted the attention of the Traders MX team and they were able to agree on a deal for the new year. Injuries, bike problems, and general misfortune affected Pennington throughout the entirety of the 2016 racing season, but he’s turning a new leaf over in 2017 with a brand new bike, a brand new team, and a renewed sense of confidence in his abilities. The longtime Seven MX supported rider contested the five rounds of the AMSOIL Arenacross series in order to earn his Road to Supercross points and he experienced a bit of a learning curve while doing so. Pennington wasn’t able to put in the results that he expected of himself at the beginning of the year, but he adapted to the situation and overcame the challenges that he had been facing this past weekend in Atlanta as he grabbed his first career Lites class victory. Now that his SX points are taken care of, his focus has shifted to the spring nationals, Loretta’s, and his eventual professional debut in August. We caught up with Jayce to chat about how he’s been fitting in with the Traders MX team, how it felt to win his first AX race, and what he’s got planned for the rest of 2017.
You signed a deal with Traders MX for 2017, could you talk a little bit about the deal and how it’s been working with the team?
Yeah, I started talking to them around Monster Cup in 2016 and I ended up doing good, so we started talking and ended coming away with a deal for 2017. So far I’ve had nothing but great things with everyone and everything. I mean, I struggled at the beginning of AX, but that was me and nothing to do with the bike or anything else. I’ve had a great experience with Traders.
You didn’t let any of that stuff affect you at the Monster Energy Cup when you showed your speed and consistency by grabbing a good start and finishing second place in the second moto, what was it like to get on the podium at such a high profile event like that?
It was really cool. Umm, not trying to sound cocky, but it wasn’t really surprising -- just ‘cause I trained at MTF for a couple weeks before that and I was riding (Jordan) Bailey, Wilson Fleming, and (Dylan) Walsh, and everyday we’d be battling but most of the time I’d be the fastest one. So, I kinda expected to be up front at Monster Cup and then in practice I was not at all. Then in the first moto I got a little better and the second moto I was kinda like ‘I know I can be up front, so I need to do this.’ And I just got a good start and stayed up there.
Obviously you’ve done big races before, but how much does the crowd and the bright lights come into play when you’re sitting on the gate getting ready to go?
Ummm, I really didn’t pay attention to that side of it, but it was cool being in a stadium and on a SX track, and on the same track that the pros were racing -- seeing how fast they’re going compared to the amateurs and the lines and stuff. It was cool, but I didn’t really pay attention to it, I guess.
How was it for you starting on the metal grate on the gate?
It was pretty cool -- the first time I got to start on one was at Monster Cup. I would compare it to starting in really tacky dirty, so I liked it.
I heard that you were actually racing Monster Cup on sort of a hybrid suspension as opposed to full SX stuff. What influenced that choice and where do you think it kind of gave you an advantage?
Well, I actually ended up getting SX suspension two days before I left for Monster Cup. But, the three weeks prior to Monster Cup, I was on MX suspension on a SX track and I kinda just got used to that. I wouldn’t really say it was a disadvantage, ‘cause there weren’t really any whoops or anything, but umm...I got SX suspension two days before Monster Cup and it was a lot different; it was hard to corner, but I wouldn’t complain about it. I mean, it was good.
So, did you have any time to practice on it before going to MEC or were you still dialing things in during practice?
Yeah, I kind of was…I made a few adjustments through practice. The first day I got it -- I spent the whole day breaking it in and then the second day I actually rode on it. So, I pretty much had one day on SX suspension going into Monster Cup, but it wasn’t bad; it wasn’t too much of a change.
You’re coming off of an awesome weekend at Motofest where you were on your A game all day. You had one of your best nights in AX and came away with the main event win in the Lites class, how’d everything go from your perspective?
Umm, it went good! I ended up starting the day out with a third, I think, in the Lites class qualifying. I was behind the two GPF Babbit’s guys and I knew that was a good pace. I had Jacob Williamson in my heat and I knew if I got a good start that I could stay up there and I ended up getting the holeshot -- I think I pulled like a two second gap or something on the first lap, and then I just rode my own race. I came away with the win and that felt really good -- just knowing that I could do it. In the main, I was feeling pretty confident and then I got a second place start, I believe, and first place made a mistake so I got by him. I just pretty much rode my own race. Like the fourth lap I think, I could hear Ryan Breece, he was pretty close, and he ended up making a mistake. After that I pretty much was like five seconds out, I think, and I just kinda rode smooth and ended up getting the win. It was cool, I really think that it being more of a SX track is what made the difference compared to how I did at the other AX races.
Talk me through the first lap of the main event, because you got a pretty good start — didn’t get the holeshot — but you made an awesome move over the triple and jumped over a couple people. The first lap was pretty hectic.
Yeah, it was. I really don’t know how I got as good of a start as I did, I was wheelieing down the straightaway, like clutching it the whole time. Umm, somehow I got a second place start and I was behind Brandon Bourley -- he’s been doing pretty good, so I didn’t expect to just pass him and move on. But, I was right behind him in the rhythm section and I think he went double-double-triple and he just cased the triple out, so I was like ‘I’ll take it.’ I just focused on my rhythm and went double-triple-double and passed him over the big triple, but I also knew that I would pull a little bit of a gap in the whoops. Ryan Breece was hitting them good, but I think I was a little bit more consistent in them. I was also watching Jace Owen in the heat and he was jumping through them, so I just started jumping through them and it worked out pretty good for the most part. But yeah, the first lap was pretty hectic, haha.
During a couple of your practice sessions during the day, you were one of the only guys that was going two-three-two in that rhythm section which is what all the pros ended up doing on Saturday…
I thought it was just easier; the triple in the middle was smaller than going double-double-triple, so I was able to get over that smoother. So, even if I over-jumped the first double a little bit, I could still make the triple in the middle. But, if I went double-double and over-jumped the second double, I couldn’t make the last triple. So, I stayed with doing that...plus I felt like it made me carry momentum through the corner. I just personally felt more comfortable with that line, I didn’t know if it was faster or slower at the time.
Was there anything that changed in your preparation/training or that you’ve found with the bike in order to step it up this past weekend?
Yeah, I train down at Climax and they have AX, but I mainly just ride SX with Mitchell Harrison. But, the week prior I really didn’t train too much for Atlanta. I’ve been getting ready for Freestone and breaking in suspension and stuff like that, so the first three days of the week I was riding outdoors, and then the last day I just worked on starts and whoops before I went to Atlanta. So, I knew I needed to get my points, but I wasn’t really focused on that race. I guess it worked.
You’ve got your Road to SX points taken care of, what’re your plans for the 2017 season now?
Umm, I’ll be doing Daytona and Freestone and then after that I’ll just be getting ready for Loretta’s and the last three outdoors after that.
Being from Illinois, you’ll get to race one of your first pro races not too far from your house at Ironman, that will be pretty cool.
Yeah, it’s like four hours from my house, so it’s the closest national and it would be a home race for me. I’ve been there a couple times, I really like the track, it’s fun...the elevation and some of the jumps that they have are pretty crazy.
So, you’ve got five rounds under your belt in the AMSOIL AX Series now, what’s your impression of the racing?
I really don’t like it at all. I don’t mean to bash AX, it’s just not my thing. The first year, I think, would be a struggle for anyone -- I mean, Austin Forkner obviously killed it whenever he went, but umm...I think if someone were to actually go into AX trying to do that, it’d be easier once you started doing it. But, the first year of AX, I would say, is just a struggle for anyone. I’m just glad I got it over with now. It’s something else, but I would definitely say it’s a learning curve. I got better at lots of things; my starts, having to charge the first lap, and guard on my insides. It’s definitely different from amateur racing and MX.
How many times did you have to start on the second row?
I had to do that more times than I had to start on the front row actually, and one time -- I think it was Baltimore -- I came out like fourth from the back row which was pretty good. But umm, they start you on rock hard dirt and there’s no ruts; the back row starts suck.
What’re your goals/expectations for yourself heading into spring nats and the big amateur nationals this year?
I expect to be top three in every class, especially at Daytona. I’ve never really done well at Freestone -- I’m not trying to have that mindset, but I’ve never done well there, so I don’t expect to go there and be the fastest. But, I expect to do good and ride good for myself, and make people see me, and my team, and sponsors. I expect to do good at Freestone and I’ll be expecting a win at Loretta’s. Last year at Loretta’s I went to it pretty confident and had like, I think, fourth fastest lap time in both classes and then first race -- I got taken out and the second race I broke my elbow. So, I didn’t have too much luck on my side.
Who would you like to thank for helping you out this year?
Traders MX Racing, Ethika, Seven MX, Limited Decal, Ohlins, ATVS & More, Vonzipper, Gerne, Cycra. Flo Motorsports, Hinson Racing, Pro Circuit, Motostuff, Mototape, Renthal Moto, DT1 Airfilters, TractionMX, Engine Ice, RNB racing, Inquire Partners, Delb Lifestyle, JGRMX, Bell Helmets, Asterisk
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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