Racer X: We were looking back and 2011 [at High Point] was kind of where the name El Chupacabra came from. Do you kind of remember that?
Blake Baggett: I remember it, for sure, like it was yesterday.
What was it about that race that kind of got that name going? I know it was Weege [Jason Weigandt] that kind of did it as a joke, but now it’s kind of stuck.
Probably just the fact of going down and somehow my visor broke off both side bolts, but somehow the top center bolt stayed there. It literally spun around just perfectly backwards. Then to get up and I was, like, in the infield, not even near the track, and to be able to get up and then charge my way back and be able to win that race. Weege was on his A-game that day and just gave the nickname and it just stuck. It was just a good day for me. It was one of those days where you’re on fire and nothing could put it out. Crash, get up, still make it to the front. Just one of those days that I felt good. It was kind of like two weeks ago at Colorado. I went down in the first turn and just still made it happen.
I was going to say, now it’s kind of coming full-circle where I think even Weege said El Chupacabra’s back. This is the Baggett we expected to see. Obviously, injuries last year, but even ’15 … do you kind of feel that way?
Yeah. I think with the team that I’m on and the bike that we’re riding, it’s got that comfortable factor right now that we’re at that you can really push the limits on it. I feel just the more comfort you get, the faster everybody’s able to go. All of us riders are equally talented—it’s just whoever’s more comfortable on that day is willing to go faster than everybody else on the day. Not every day is going to be an amazing day or a great day, and I know that. That’s why you got to cherish the ones where you feel really good and you’re able to pull off something that you don’t pull off all the time.
You changed a lot in-between the first two rounds. Does that change coming east? Do you still make changes or do you have to kind of go into the first round on the East Coast and figure it out and then go from there?
We’re really close to what we had two weekends ago. Just small, minor changes. Depending on how the track goes in practice, depending on what changes we’ll make from there. But we’re only making those changes to try and find more comfort. I think that the comfort level is really good right now. We went back to Florida the past two weeks. It’s soft. It’s East-Coast-like. We got lots of rain. We tried to make it as deep as possible. The bike feels good. It feels good in those situations as well, so we’re just going to have to see how it feels out here and see how I feel on Saturday. You could feel great or maybe it’s the day that you don’t feel that good and you just try to salvage it out. It’s all an unknown, but of course, I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
When we’re coming from the west to the east, how important is it to be able to ride press day? Does that make a big difference for you?
I don’t really think that it’s that big of a difference. I just think that maybe sometimes you’ll be a little looser on the first practice on Saturday because you got to ride it today. But in other scenarios it is kind of nice to be at home a little longer and you get to enjoy your Thursday. It’s one day longer, but at the same time you’re normally not leaving super early. We left at 3:00 this morning Florida time to get out here. It’s an early morning and it sometimes throws you a little bit off your routine. Other times it works on the weekend really good and you consider doing it every weekend. It’s just one of those things where you never know what you’re going to get.
There’s definitely a lot of hype coming into this race. I think you’re probably aware of it. Have you noticed it? And does it make you approach the race any differently?
Yeah, I don’t know if it’s hype or just all of a sudden you get forgot about, basically. It’s a cruel way to say it, but that’s the honest truth of it. You get forgot about even though you’re there. You might be really close sometimes, but it takes doing something out of the ordinary to start everybody talking about you. But at the same time, most of those people that are talking about you, they don’t talk to you or about you when you’re in 30th. It’s just a phase. You get used to it. You get a lot of new friends when you win, that’s the bottom line to it. Whether they’re friends or not … I just let it go.
So, it seems like people easily forget Hangtown just a year ago where you did pretty much the same thing?
Does that kind of motivate you a little bit?
No. I think I’ve been around long enough—not a long time, but I’ve been around long enough that I know what to expect. I come here each weekend to race the track and all the people that are coming here to race as well. I’m here to do a job and that’s the best I can. At the same time, if you win, I know what comes along with that. If you lose or you get beat, I know what comes along with that, too. So, I’m immune to it by now.
Racer X: Why did you decide to race this weekend?
Ryan Sipes: I always do a couple Nationals a year. I try to. Since I quit doing it full-time, the first year I did three and then I got a fill-in ride for Davi [Millsaps], so I did nine. The second year I did three. Last year I only did one because I was injured the other couple. This year I’m only going to be able to do one. The ones I normally do I’ll be in France for the ISDE, so I won’t be able to do that. I kind of had to make it work for this one.
What bike are you riding? Are you riding your GNCC bike?
No, it’s really similar. Just different suspension. But my 350, so it will be interesting to see if I can keep up with the 450s. The bike is really fast, so I’m hoping if I can get out on the start, on the track I think I’ll be good.
A lot of people are talking about your two-stroke race [Sipes won the 125 Dream Race at Thunder Valley]. Talk about that experience and how it all came together.
Basically the guy that rides 125s for our off-road team [Coastal Racing], he got hurt. So, his bike was just sitting there. The owner was like, “Hey, go race it if you want.” It worked out. I had a buddy of mine, Brandon Parrish, haul the bike out there. Then I flew in and got to ride the 125 race. It was like being a kid again. It was a blast. It really brought the fun factor back. That was fun. I honestly feel like I’m going faster now on my 350. It might be an illusion, but it’s so much fun. I feel like I’m going better now.
Do you still practice motocross a lot to cross-train? How often do you ride?
Once a week, once every two weeks. Really for this race I would like to have had a couple more weeks to ride moto. I’m running my suspension for the first time today, so I’m a little bit unprepared. But this is all just for fun now. I hope I do well, but if I don’t, this isn’t my job anymore. My job is to go fast in the woods. I’m just ready to have some fun and do my best.
Is it kind of cool to get back to some of these races where it’s a little less pressure? Does it bring some fun back into riding? It can be a grind. It feels like a profession and it’s not why everyone started. Is it nice to get back to that?
Absolutely. Moto is still my true love. I still like to ride it at home a lot, now what I race mainly is not moto. It’s really good practice still, and I still ride some, but to come back to these races and see all my old friends that I basically grew up with for 10 years doing moto and stuff, and get out there and ride a little bit … these tracks are always amazing. A lot different than going around a practice track. These are the best of the best. Super fun. I wish I could do more. I wish I could do three or four a year, but this year it’s just going to be one. I’m glad it’s High Point. High Point is one of my favorites.
How’s the GNCC going? You podiumed last weekend?
Yeah, it started off well with a podium then I had a couple injuries back-to-back. Then I just forgot how to ride for a couple weeks. I’ve slowly been getting better I guess. I felt really good this weekend. I had what it took to win, I just made a few mistakes. But the speed was there, the fitness was there. It’s getting back on track. Hopefully now I’ll carry that through the end of it.
I know at one point you were like, “Man, I just got to get used to doing GNCC.” Have you gotten to that point where you’re like, I know what I’m doing now? Just fine-tuning it a little bit?
Honestly, now it’s not that I need to learn any more—it’s that my instincts are still moto a little bit. That’s like 25 years, or however long I’ve raced it, ingrained. Where those guys kind of grew up with 25 years of GNCC stuff. So, my instincts are still a little bit moto, but I’m getting there. I know everything I need to know now as far as just how to approach it, how to do it, fitness—all that stuff, I’m good. It’s just now more experience. I know it’s been four years, but when you’re going up against 14 years it doesn’t make a difference. But I’m getting there.
When you say your instincts, is it to kind of sprint? What do you mean by your instincts? What do you need to adjust to?
We sprint almost the whole time. It’s gnarly now. If you think you can go out there and cruise for an hour, you’re going to be a minute behind. It’s crazy. But, it’s not so bad. Actually moto helps me. That instinct helps me from the gate drop just go. That’s natural to me. But the line choices. It’s basically line choices and kind of sense of direction and things like that, and looking a little bit further ahead. In GNCC the track is changing dramatically every lap sometimes, where new lines are forming that weren’t even thought of the lap before. Where in moto, by the third lap you know all the lines and you’re six minutes into your race. Where in ours you could be two hours and 40 minutes in and there’s new lines still developing. In that sense of “I got to look for it,” I still have to remind myself— it sounds silly—to look for better lines. It’s different than moto. You’ve got 30 feet here that you have to worry about. There it’s a lot bigger. Just little things like that. The mud races, sense of direction…. Picking the wrong side of the mud hole can be worth a minute. Things like that I just have to learn. I’ve got good people in my corner. Barry Hawk and Steve Hatch, my trainer. They’ve got all the experience I need. Now it’s getting it to be second nature to me instead of having to think about.
Last year bizarre circumstance with ISDE. I’m sure it probably still doesn’t sit well with you. Then they go and win for the first time. You also history yourself in 2015—first American to ever win the overall. I’m sure a little bit of mixed feelings, but are you happy to go back?
I’m super excited to go back. It hurt last year to not be a part of the team that won it for the first time, but at the same time I was still super happy for them and for USA. It was tough to watch them hold the trophy up and go “that was supposed to be me.” I’m not still upset about it or anything. I’m just super excited to go back and hopefully we do it again. I won it overall individual, and that was awesome. I want to be part of the team that wins the trophy now. That’s the goal.
Racer X: So you’re finally back and racing outdoors. Last time you never actually got to race outdoors. Tell me about why you decided to do this and your thoughts on coming back.
Dean Ferris: I always wanted to do the outdoors, but as you know I went back to Europe in the year that I was here. I ended up back in Australia. I was fully committed there last year. I won the championship. The deal I did, I signed with the same team. It was okay for them to let me come and do one race. So, here we are. This is the one that fit into our little mid-season break.
When did you get into America?
We got in on Tuesday night.
So you’ve had some time to adjust?
Yeah. We’ve still got a little bit of jet lag, but we’ll be good by Saturday.
Tell me about the bike. How did all this work? Is this your bike?
Yeah, 100 percent all my parts. American Yamaha gave us a standard bike and we built it up with all our parts. So, it’s exactly what I have at home in Australia.
What’s the future for you? I know you’re doing supercross now in Australia. Do you have plans to maybe want to come back here?
Yeah, that’s what I’m shooting for. I thought I’d come here, see where I’m at. Try to make a plan for next year.
How are things going in Australia? I know you’re leading the points right now. Won the championship last year. Everything going well?
Yeah, it’s going really well. I’ve won five out of five so far. It’s my second year in Australia. I went back there to rebuild myself with a great team and it’s working out good. We won the championship and we’ve built on last year again. We got faster and stronger and better setup. It’s all going well.
Is it good to get back in familiar surroundings to kind of build yourself back up?
I think to where I could get the best bike with the best team. I knew I’d be happier with a good program there. I knew that I could rebuild myself into a better rider than I was in Europe. I feel like that’s what’s happened. I knew CDR was a great team. I didn’t previously ride for them, but they were just renowned for good equipment and a really good structure. That’s what they provided for me. That was the reason I went back home to Australia.
What do you think needs to happen here to kind of get back on the radar this weekend?
I’ll discuss that on Sunday. I just want to see how I go. I’m not out to prove anything. We’re doing well in Australia and I’d like to see where I’m at. We’ll see how well I do on Saturday and then I guess I’ll start making a plan and go from there.