Bench Racing Ammo: Savatgy Speaks


Hangtown Motocross Classic Rancho Cordova, CA Race Center: Hangtown Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship

We all know what played out on the last lap of the 2017 Dave Coombs Senior East/West Showdown in Las Vegas. While one rider—Zach Osborne—put in a performance for the ages to win the 250SX East Region Supercross Championship in a last lap pass that will be argued about and commented on for years to come, the other—Joey Savatgy—saw what appeared to be a sure thing get yanked right off the table with a mere two turns to go. However, no matter how you look at it and no matter whose side you were on after it was all over, what’s done is done and what’s now in the AMA record book is there for, well, eternity.

The bewilderment and straight-up crushing disappointment Savatgy and those close to him felt mere minutes after the madness that decided the title was hard to watch. Standing near the tight group who congregated around him, the disbelief and emotion that cloaked the small gathering was probably the most acute this writer has ever seen at any sort of motocross race.

Using some time back in Florida to get back up and to shake it all off, Savatgy was able to move on to where now he is fully focused on Saturday’s Hangtown Motocross Classic, the opener for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. A race Savatgy dominated last year, he is, perhaps more so than any other race of his career, truly looking forward to it. On Wednesday, Racer X spoke with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki racer about the immediate past, present, and future.

Racer X: Joey, where are you at today?
Joey Savatgy: I’m back in Florida. It’s that time of the day, man. I’m just getting my chill on.

Did you ride all day?
Yeah, we had some motos to do this morning and then went for a run this afternoon, and that’s about it.

How are you doing? I know Johnny O’Mara has been working with you and he and I spoke this morning and he told me you’re doing great and hanging in there.
Yeah, I’m doing as good as I can be. You know, it is what it is. It feels like the end of the world at the time, but if you take a step back for a second and take a look at the big picture, and it’s hard to swallow, but we left Vegas healthy. Saturday night came and Sunday morning happened, it was another day and we’ll live to fight another day. It definitely sucks, but in the same breath, I’ll take my health over anything else. That’s the priority. Being healthy is the name of the game. If I would have left Las Vegas injured, I would be a lot more disappointed. At least with this we’re heading into outdoors with a fresh plate and a fresh start and a full 12-round series, so we’ll do our best to come out swinging and try to put ourselves in position every weekend to win and to maximize points and be there in the end when it counts and make another run for it.

The Pro Circuit Kawasaki team huddles around Savatgy after a tough main event in East Rutherford.
The Pro Circuit Kawasaki team huddles around Savatgy after a tough main event in East Rutherford. Jeff Kardas

You won three of the first four 250MX races last year, so I’d assume that’s a real nice breeze at your back heading into Sacramento.
Yeah, like you said, we started off last year really good. We won the first round at Hangtown and went 1-1. We went to Glen Helen and had a little bit of a brain fart or meltdown. It was a bad deal, but we were able to rebound in Colorado. We should have gone 1-1 there, but went 2-1 and got the overall and then went off to High Point and went 4-1 for the overall there. I think we’re in a really good position. We’ve learned a lot over the last couple of years from the health standpoint. We’ve learned from everything. I think going into this year we’re in a good spot. Not that we haven’t been in the past, but we’ve learned from the past and learned what didn’t work the previous years and we kind of know what we need to watch this year and what to maintain and manage. I’m excited and ready to get the party started.

Will Johnny go on the road with you for some of these races?
Yeah, for sure the first two and then from there we’ll have to play it by ear. I know he has some obligations and races and stuff that he has to do, so we’ll take it weekend by weekend. I definitely hope to have him there for the majority of the rounds. I know he’s a good dude to have around. He’s been around the sport and has a lot to offer as far as race strategy and everything. It should be good. I had him come back here the week after Vegas. It was a good week. We rode some bicycles and hung out and got to interact a little bit more outside of the races. We went and had dinner with Ricky Carmichael and just talked about some things. Obviously there were some things that we could have done better, but every weekend has a learning curve and I try to take positives out of it. You know, no one would have thought the guy who melted down to Jason Lawrence [Note: Ryan Dungey lost the 2008 SX Lites Championship by three points to then bitter adversary Jason Lawrence] would become known as the Diesel. Obviously I’m no comparing myself to Ryan Dungey because you can’t do that to someone of that caliber, but you look back at the time when Lawrence got into Dungey’s head and beat him for the title … man, everyone kind of blew him out said he’s not mentally strong enough and that he’ll never be able to do it, but how many years later now the guy announces his retirement today and, man, look at his career, you know? He’s been on the podium how many times? You know, you go from one extreme for the other for him. He went from being mentally melted by Lawrence to never making that mistake again. I look forward to the future and to learning and becoming a better racer and person in general and trying to keep a positive outlook.

Okay, I need to ask you the tough question: What happened in Las Vegas?
Obviously, there were a lot of things and I could sit here and go through detail by detail, but at the end of the day, it’s nobody’s fault but my own. We had a good start and we were up there and I made that first little mistake, which never should have happened. Then we were behind Jordon [Smith] and I saw him go down. At that point there was some communication I took the wrong way. To be completely honest with you, man, I had no idea that Zach was coming. People are going to think what they want to think and I know it sounds hard to believe, but the God’s honest truth, I wish I would have known Zach was that close or that he was coming because I know the outcome would have been different. I would have approached those last three laps differently and I would have made it happen, but like I said, there were some things communicated during the race that were taken the wrong way by me. There was a little bit of miscommunication and that’s simply on me. I read something and took it a different way and that’s all there is. I wish we were sitting here talking about how the night went how we wanted it to, but we’re not. I can sit here and dwell about it and talk about it, but I’m just going to address it as that. I read something the wrong way and I didn’t know that he was coming and when we came around for the white flag and I just didn’t know. Trust me—I wish I would have known. I could have changed the outcome. You learn from it and I should never have been that far back, but after the crash and after seeing Jordon crash, I just I guess I rode too cautiously, I guess you could say. That’s basically the bottom line–I didn’t know he was there and didn’t know he was that close and didn’t know that something that I worked for since I was a kid could be taken out underneath me with two turns to go. It sucks, man. It’s a sour taste in my mouth and it’s not easy, but if it was easy, there would be a lot more champions. There can only be one. We’ll have to learn from it and move forward. I try to look at the positives and look at that night and even being in that position to win a title and to be there at the end with the year that we had was something in itself. We had a lot of mistakes this year that were very uncommon, and, I guess, unfamiliar for me. I’m not used to having all these little errors. I’m trying to perfect what I do and if that means that along the way that we have these hiccups and have these little crashes—nothings easy and no one is perfect. With all these little crashes that we had this year in supercross, if that means that we’re learning from them and we’re trying to get to that next level, then yeah, we do it. In the long run, if it pays off and makes me a better rider, then it’s all worth it.

The Osborne pass—what’s your take on what went on there?
I mean the move, to be completely honest with you, yeah, it sucks on my end of it, but if I’m in his shoes, there’s no doubt in my mind that I would have done the same thing. You know it wasn’t for a race win, not for a podium spot, it was for a title. At the time I was angry and it sucked and there were a lot of people on my side that were like, “Oh, that wasn’t right! That’s not cool!” Man, I would have done the same thing. I know they say rubbing is racing or whatever, and that move was a little bit more than rubbing, but like I said, it was for a title. It was for all the marbles. That’s what happens when you’re unaware of what’s going on behind you. You can’t defend yourself from something that you don’t know is there and that’s the bottom line and it is what it is.

Was the team not signaling to you that Osborne was closing like he was?
I don’t want to sit here and blame it on anyone because at the end of the day, it’s my fault. If I wouldn’t have crashed the first time on the first lap, we would have been a few seconds ahead and we would have been in a better spot and we wouldn’t have had to worry about it. I ride a dirt bike and I’m supplied with a great motorcycle and I have a great team and a great support system, but none of that means anything once that gate drops. It’s 100 percent on me and I’m the guy responsible to get the job done. It’s no one’s job but my own. We were down in the dumps there for a day or so, but we’re going to bounce back and come out in full effect and give it our best for 12 rounds and see where we’re at.  There’s another series coming up this weekend that is the same. At the end of the 12 rounds, if we can close out what we didn’t close out in Vegas, then guess what? You forget. Not completely. But you could kind of forget about the supercross stuff. Like I said, it’s a fresh series and a brand new start and I’m excited, eager, and ready to get it going.