By Eric Johnson
When asked how the 2019 motocross season is going, Justin Cooper said, “I was definitely nervous before the season started, but everything is pretty much going to plan. I’m still working a few things out. I’m feeling strong every time I line up and that’s a good thing.” The Cold Harbor Springs, New York, native is the breakout star of the 2019 AMA motocross scene. Unheralded as a minicycle and amateur racer, Justin Cooper hit the limelight at the 2017 Loretta Lynn National Amateur Championships when he received the Nicky Hayden AMA Horizon Award and very shortly thereafter, placed a resounding fifth overall in his AMA 250 Pro Racing debut at Unadilla in 2017. Now, a mere two years later, Cooper is one the fastest 250 racers in the country and a contender to win every time the gate drops.
WHAT DID YOU THINK OF WASHOUGAL? I’m not a big fan, but it’s different. It’s cool that it is different because it challenges all the riders. It’s a challenge to us all. I definitely can ride the place well.
THE FINAL THREE RACES ARE UNADILLA, BUDDS CREEK AND THE IRONMAN. WILL THESE TRACKS BE GOOD FOR YOU? Yes, Unadilla is a home race for me. Hopefully it’ll be dry this year. We’ve had it muddy the last few years. Hopefully, we can get a dry day for once and hopefully I can do well there in front of the home crowd. I’m also good with Budds Creek and the Ironman.
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON YOUR COMPETITION IN THE 250 CLASS THUS FAR IN THE OUTDOORS? It’s been tough. Everyone has been pretty consistent, especially Adam Cianciarulo. It all makes for good racing and it always seems like we’re up there on the podium. No one is making too many mistakes, so it has been a pretty close series. Everything has been going great so far and it has been a great year of racing and hopefully I can get a few more wins under belt. I’m signed with Yamaha through 2020 and I think we’re going to work on extending that sometime soon. Everyone at the Star Racing team is awesome. No complaints there. They push me every day to do better. They have a lot of knowledge with everything and that goes a long way.
WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN FOR THE LAST FEW NATIONALS? I’ve been pretty frustrated with how the last couple weekends have gone, so I just want to get back out front and get some more wins, for sure.
HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO COME THROUGH THE 250 FIELD AFTER A BAD START? If you’re outside the top 10, you kind of get lost and stuck behind some people and the leaders take off. You definitely have to start good and run that leading pace right away.
YOUR SPEED AND RACE CONDITIONING HAVE BEEN VERY IMPRESSIVE THROUGH THESE SUMMER MONTHS. Yeah, I’ve been putting in a lot of work with Gareth Swanepoel and we’re looking to turn it around for this last half of the season. We just want to get back to where we feel we belong. We spend pretty much every day together and training on and off the bike.
YOU CAME FROM OFF THE BEATEN PATH TO BECOME A MOTOCROSS STAR? WHAT’S IT FEEL LIKE? It’s different. It’s hard to enjoy the moments when they come. You have so much pressure on you at the races and everything. I’m trying to change that and trying to enjoy the moment a little more than I have been because it comes and goes so fast. Enjoy it while it is here. Yeah, I love what I do and I wouldn’t really change it for anything.
DO YOU ENJOY GOING OUT AND RACING STRAIGHT-UP WITH FERRANDIS, CIANCIARULO, NICHOLS, HAMPSHIRE & SEXTON? Yes and no. I guess the pressure gets to me a little bit, but when you get the holeshot and you’re out front, there isn’t anything better.