Josh Hill finished second in the X Games. Photo: Monster Energy
By Eric Johnson
"Justin was just on my rear wheel the whole time," explained Josh Hill at the conclusion of the 2013 Summer X Games main event. Hill held the lead for 19 of the 20-lap race, but was frustrated when Justin Brayton executed a deft block pass on the last lap to snatch away the Gold Medal.
Josh Hill and the X Games. Talk about a love hate relationship. In the July of 2010, while trying to sort out a backflip trick for the X games, Hill ended up in the emergency room with brutal injuries that were equal parts life and career threatening. Almost three years of subsequent pain and suffering, not to mention trying to rekindle some sort of spark into his dormant career, Hill came back to the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Series. As he will explain, Hill says the rough and tumble times he's had only made him stronger. Read on.
PRIOR TO THE X GAMES THE LAST TIME YOU RACED AT THE VEGAS SUPERCROSS. HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT EVENING?
Vegas wasn't that good for me. I was doing okay. I was in the top 10 the whole moto and Broc Tickle and I were battling the whole race and I was trying to get him back. I overshot that ski jump down Monster Alley and crashed into the wall. I still picked myself up and got 12th or 13th or something (Hill placed14th). The Vegas Supercross wasn't really how I wanted to end the series.
Justin Brayton (10) stalked Hill for 19.5 laps . Photo: Monster Energy
HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR 2013 SUPERCROSS SEASON?
Well, I think it would have been great, but I had just this small crash in practice at Anaheim I and ended up breaking my hand. It's the way I fell. I crashed jumps were piled up. I smacked my hand on something and broke it. It wasn't even a bad crash. I had to sit out five rounds and pretty much had to start my preparation all over. My hand was still hurting for a couple rounds after that, then I just showed up at the San Diego Supercross after riding for two days to prepare for it. I qualified for the main by winning the Last Chance Qualifier. So that was great for not racing for almost three years. That was cool to come off the couch, come out of a cast and come out and go out and qualify. Then I just kind of slowly started to pick it off from there. I just wanted to do it slow instead of just going out and getting myself in a position where I could get hurt again. Towards the end of the series I found my footing, won a heat race and felt like a solid Top 10 guy. I was in the top five, six and seven in lap times every single weekend and I was right there. It felt good to be back in the mix.
WHEN THE RCH SUZUKI TEAM DECIDED TO RACE THE NATIONALS THIS SUMMER, WAS THERE ANY TALK OF YOU RACING THE NATIONALS?
No. They had planned to go outdoor going into this season, but they only had enough equipment to have one factory bike. They didn't really give me the option to race outdoors, but when everything came about, you know, I was at the end of my season. I had done okay and showed some promise and they said they wanted to continue to support me as much as they could so they got me a bike for X Games and helped me line up this deal to got to Australia to race their Supercross Series. Hopefully, I'll get re-signed with them and stay right where I'm at.
The X Games Moto X was not much more than an Arenacross track—with 23 second lap times. Photo: Monster Energy
HOW MUCH PREPARATION DID YOU DO FOR THE X GAMES?
We put in a lot of time. I rode my stock bike outdoors pretty much all summer. I had a little surgery on my foot just to tune it up. They shaved down some bones so I wouldn't have pressure sores in my feet anymore. We prepared for about four weeks for X Games, riding Supercross. I felt really good coming in. I thought I was going to take it. We came close.
YOU LED ALL 12 LAPS OF YOUR QUALIFYING RACE AND ALL BUT THE LAST LAP OF THE X GAMES. WHAT'S YOUR OVERALL TAKEAWAY FROM THE SUMMER X GAMES?
Well, the whole weekend, everything was based off the start. I had to get a good qualifying time so I could get a good gate pick and try to pull holeshots. And I did. I did everything perfect. The only thing was that we really weren't anticipating how tight the track was going to be and how small the berms were and things like that. The way the racing was, whoever was in the lead couldn't really ride the fast line. If I had somebody right there - like when Brayton hit me on the last lap - it could have happened a lot through the race so I kind of had to ride real protective. Instead of trying to bust out and pull away, I just tried to ride a solid enough race to where I could beat everybody. I felt fine. My endurance was good - it wasn't like I was getting tired or anything. I really thought I had it locked down and Brayton just kind of came across the track and hit me pretty good on the last lap. It was a good game plan for him, because if he would have done that to me earlier in the race, I'm pretty sure I would have got him back.
IT LOOKED LIKE YOU GUYS MAY HAVE HAD A FEW WORDS AFTER HE FINISH LINE.
You know it's something where I can't be mad at him. He rode a great race. He rode in second for pretty much for 32 laps and then just found that one spot where he punked me in that one corner. He found a good, clean spot to do it. It was one of those tracks where it would have been much more relaxing to be in second out there.
Everybody knew that before the race was over there would be contact. Hill tried to keep an eye on Justin Brayton, but he took his eye off of him for one corner and wham! Photo: Monster Energy
YOU WERE LOOKING OVER YOUR SHOULDERS A FEW TIMES DURING THE RACE. WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?
It was a nerve-racking race. You are worried about where you're going to get hit the whole time. There wasn't anything to separate a guy to pull away. The track was too small and easy—which made for good racing for TV. For me, my game plan of pulling the holeshot and pulling away went out the door. I couldn't really break away while using those lines.
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE X GAMES “SUPERCROSS”? WAS IT GOOD? WAS IT FUN? WAS IT DUMB?
It was fun. It's just good to be at the X Games. It's a different crowd. They treat you really professionally. It's just nice to be there. Even though the track wasn't up to par with what we're used to racing at a Supercross, it was still fun. I couldn’t really showcase what I've been working on all summer, but I feel like I did an okay job. Yeah, I didn't pull of the Gold, but I came close.
WHAT ABOUT THAT METAL RAMP SITUATED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE TRACK?
They should use ramps in Supercross. If you can't jump a ramp you don't belong on a Supercross track. I think it was cool the way they did it. In fact, it's almost more safe. If you make a run off on the side - and not double the triple - you don’t have to worry about getting landed on - it's almost worth it.
Josh Hill got a Silver Medal at the X Games, but mostly his career got a boost. He's headed for Australia in a month. Photo: Monster Energy
DID THE SILVER MEDAL EVEN MATTER TO YOU?
I wasn't happy with second. I thought I should have won gold. I was happy just to come back from three years ago, when I was getting ready for X Games and almost lost my life and almost lost my leg and being told I wouldn't be able to ride again. To almost win it and get second was good. It put a smile on my face.
YOUR BROTHER JUSTIN HAS HAD SOME PRETTY SOLID RESULTS FOR THE PRO CIRCUIT MONSTER ENERGY TEAM. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
He's okay. I don't think it's as good as he could do. He's had some good flashes. He's a rookie. It's his first year and he's getting his feet wet. But I think at some point he needs to open his eyes up and realize that he's got the talent and the equipment to go out there and battle for a championship. I'm hoping that next year that happens. He needs to get out of that, “I'm just a rookie here to get my feet wet” stage and start being a man.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR YOU?
I’m going to do the Australian Supercross Series for Hart & Huntington Suzuki. Monster came in before X Games and decided to help me out so I'm going to be running a full Monster helmet in Australia. Hopefully, I can go over and contest for the championship. There are a lot of good riders over there so for me to go over there and win would be an awesome stepping stone for the U.S. Supercross Series.
ARE YOU ALL SORTED-OUT AS FAR AS THE RCH TEAM GOES FOR 2014?
I'm hoping so. I'm hoping everything is done. I haven't seen it, but I'm hoping everything is locked up with these guys. If not, they're really going to be leaving me scrambling because they made it sound like I have something for next year. I'm hoping to come back from Australia totally healthy, more dialed-in and in better shape. I think I'm going to surprise some people.
CAN YOU BE A TOP FIVE SUPERCROSS GUY IN 2014?
No, dude, I can win. I wouldn't keep chasing this dream and dealing with my beat-up body and how much it hurts every day after I work, if I didn't think I could win again. I'm here to come back and be on the podium every weekend .