Almost every year, rookies begin making their pro debuts following the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. This year, Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award winner Justin Cooper entered the class at the 2017 Unadilla MX. It’s not uncommon for a rookie to have an eventful first race, but Cooper’s was perhaps one of the wildest. With massive thunderstorms that delayed racing and flooded the track, he would find himself in a podium position in the second moto. Although his 12-2 scores weren’t enough to score an overall podium finish, it was no doubt a strong ride in less than ideal conditions. We spoke with Justin about his wild first race and what’s next for the newest rider in the 250 class.
You scored a second place moto finish at the 2017 Unadilla MX, that’s a pretty good start to your career.
It couldn’t have gone any better. I was just expecting to do my own thing and figure it all out. I was able to get up front in that second moto and pace Jeremy [Martin] for a bit. I figured I’d try my hardest and I was able to run the pace and learn a lot from that moto. I’m so happy to land on the podium at my debut.
It was pretty wild as far as pro debuts go because of the weather. Take me through that experience while lining up for your first pro race.
Basically, all of the pressure was off. I did what I had to do at Loretta’s and I came into Unadilla trying to have fun. I got out front in that second moto and I really wasn’t expecting much, but it was definitely sick to be up there and battling with those guys. The conditions were pretty gnarly and it was hard to see, but we got the job done and got on the podium.
Between the Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award and the podium finish at Unadilla, do you feel like you’re carrying some good momentum right now?
Yeah, I definitely feel good and I’ve got a lot of confidence right now.
You mentioned not having any pressure on you, is the pressure pretty much off until you take on a full season next year?
In a way it is. I always put a little pressure on myself to do good. Why not do that in my rookie season? The pressure is pretty much off, but I still want to do good and show what I’m capable of.
Do you feel like any of these three tracks suit your style?
Well, I ended up racing at Ironman for the regional this year. I went 6-6 there and I really feel good on that track. I’m looking forward to that race and I feel like I’ll have an advantage. I think I’ll excel there. I definitely like these tracks we’ve raced too. I’m just going to go out there and see what I can do.
Are you more of a Supercross or motocross guy?
I haven’t ridden too much on any Supercross tracks, but I did the Arenacross all this year and was able to get the championship on the East Coast so I have experience indoors. Supercross is a little more opened up, but we’ll have a bunch of time to train and prepare for it. I definitely feel more comfortable outdoors, but I’ll be ready for Supercross.
Do you have any off season plans or are you just focusing on next year?
My plan is to take a little time off and then get right into preparing for Supercross in California.