SHANE MCELRATH INTERVIEW: HE TALKS ON 450SX IN 2021, TRAINING FOR THE UNKNOWN & MORE
With an all-new program for 2020 and no contract for the mandatory jump into the 450 class in 2021, Shane McElrath has pressure to perform. If 2020 Supercross were to be cancelled all together, Shane would be able to stay in the 250 class for another year. But, if he earns a total of 135 points (he currently has 88) in 250SX, it will be his fourth season above the point threshold which would bump him to the 450SX class. The Star Racing Monster Energy Yamaha rider took an impressive win at the opening round in Tamap, Florida, and followed it up with podium finishes, until he derailed his podium streak by crashing at the Daytona Sx. At this point, the 25-year-old is second in Championship points, ten behind series leader Chase Sexton. The Star Yamaha team was one of the only teams who elected to keep their riders training, even when it was still unknown when they would race again. We caught up with to Shane McElrath to talk about training for a race season that isn’t guaranteed to happen, his future in the 450 class, his season so far and more.
By Jim Kimball
YOU STARTED EAST COAST 250 SUPERCROSS OFF WITH A WIN AND RACED FOUR ROUNDS. WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON IT? It was a little up and down. We started off pretty good, the win was good, but riding wise, it was just so-so. Going on to the second round, I felt like I was really the best all day. But I had a bike issue in the first race and the second race, I don’t even remember what I got.
At Atlanta, I got third, and that was the low point. That is where I rode the worst out of all the races. I just struggled a little bit with bike set-up. That was really the first time we got on a track that was East Coast style and was a little softer dirt. That caught us off guard a little bit and had to make a few little changes because of that. I felt like Daytona was actually my best race out of the four. I felt really good, and I was really ready race hard. I thought that race was kind of going to be the turning point for me of the season, but I ended up going down twice in the main.
That put me back in fifth at Daytona. I was upset about getting that result on paper, but I was really happy with my riding, and the team was as well. As a racer, I hate getting fifth, that is too far back. I don’t make bonus money for fifth place, so fifth is not so good, especially in a short championship series. Thankfully, that was the worst that we had up to that point, and I was pretty excited to go race at Indy. Now we are still wondering if we are going to get back on Supercross.
LET’S IGNORE COVID-19 FOR A MINUTE, WITH FOUR RACES LEFT, IS YOUR TEN POINT DEFECIT A BIG DISADVANTAGE? Yes, really this whole season was really a do or die season. I have a new team, new bike, new trainer, new everything, so there were obviously still some like bugs that needed to be worked out, and just some learning to be done. Going into Tampa, I was really nervous just because I have never raced the Yamaha before. I had been riding it just about every day, but I don’t know how it is going to do come race time. I don’t know if it is going to be different. There were so many different new emotions, just along with the new aspects of our whole program. It was a lot of learning but at the same time, I still did things that I should not have done. I need to work on these things to be better and stronger in the future. Anyway, I was pretty disappointed with it because of how I rode even though the races were pretty good results wise. I was just disappointed in my riding, so I really just continued to work on those things that will prevent me from doing the same mistakes in the future.
IT APPEARS THAT YOURSELF AND CHASE SEXTON MAY BE A LITTLE STEP ABOVE THE REST IN THE 250SX EAST DIVISION; WHOULD YOU AGREE? Yes, but a lot of that is just experience. Chase is the defending champion and I have been racing for a while now. This is my seventh year, and I know Rj Hampshire who is third in points, has had some injuries throughout the years where he has missed whole seasons. But the younger guys are fast too, if we went off qualifying times every week, the series would be all over the place. It could be anybody; but after you apply the points to the finish’s week to week, that is when it really starts to funnel people out. But maybe at any given race, like Daytona, it was supposed to be Garrett Marchbanks to get a win. I don’t know that anybody counted on him winning that night.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MARCHBANKS TAKING HIS FIRST SUPERCROSS WIN? That might have even been his first holeshot ever in the heat race. His first heat race win and then just a holeshot and win the main. We all know that he has a lot of speed, and he was talked up all throughout his amateur career because he had done a lot of good things. But in the Pros is just a little different, so just to see him come out and do that really got a lot of people’s attention, because it is one of the harder races. Unfortunately for me, going down twice did not help my finish. Plus, that that track is really hard to pass on. So, him getting out front, really set the pace for the whole race, and we were all trying to catch him.
“At this point, I am not really expecting anything; I am just letting it play out. Emotionally for us, having to ride that rollercoaster of “you are racing, you are not racing” on top of riding a physical rollercoaster that we go through day to day and week to week is difficult.”
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON SUPERCROSS RETURNING IN MAY OR AFTER OUTDOORS? Honestly, at this point, it is really hard to say. I am not really saying it is a go for anything at this point. They have been having meetings about racing Supercross and trying to jam them in before outdoors. This might work better than after outdoors, but at the same time, it is not confirmed yet. There is not a guarantee at this point. We just spent the last month working with nothing to chase after and nothing to really work towards. Now it is like okay, get ready because if we do race, we are going to race this date. So, at this point, I am not really expecting anything; I am just letting it play out. Emotionally for us, having to ride that rollercoaster of “you are racing, you are not racing” on top of riding a physical rollercoaster that we go through day to day and week to week is difficult. I am not banking on anything. I will just let it play out.
“Even if you ask Eli Tomac, he wants to race Supercross. For the sport, for the teams, and for everyone I believe it’s best to try to keep the schedule as close to original as possible.”
I GOT THE IMPRESSION THAT MOST RIDERS WOULD PREFER GETTING SUPERCROSS IN BEFORE OUTDOORS, AND HAVING SOME RESEMBLANCE OF A TRADITIONAL SEASON, IS THAT TRUE? Racing Supercross after outdoors really puts a lot of teams, a lot of riders and a lot of people in a tough situation. At this time, I know Chase Sexton, Dylan Ferrandis, and myself should be finishing our time in 250 Supercross. So, if we finish Supercross in October or November we have a short time to get used to a 450 for 2021 Supercross. So, there is a lot that is unknown, and that is why emotionally I just have had to check out and just work. At this point, there is not a guaranteed future. We don’t know what is going to happen. But at the thought of racing, sooner, than later, I was excited about it because of the repercussions that it could present later on. It would be different if it was outdoors, and we were about to start a whole season, but we are already halfway through the Supercross season. Even if you ask Eli Tomac, he wants to race Supercross. For the sport, for the teams, and for everyone I believe it’s best to try to keep the schedule as close to original as possible.
MANY OF US FANS THINK THAT THE TRAINING FOR BOTH SPORTS ARE THE SAME; IS THAT TRUE? No, it is not; just with the style of riding, the bike set-up, the training regimen, there are a lot of changes between Supercross and Motocross. If we were to be riding at this time it would be two to three days of Supercross a week and one day of outdoors. Outdoors is maybe twice as hard on your body as Supercross. You don’t realize how important recovery is once you get to outdoors. With Supercross you can get away with being a little sloppy on your recovery or not resting as much, because you can grit through a Supercross day. Once it comes to outdoors, is where you really see how much nutrition, and how much physical fitness plays into the riding part. Supercross is when we get to live a little, if you will. We can hangout and can visit friends, but outdoors it is almost stricter because we cannot really afford to spend extra energy, or we do not have any extra to give. Outdoors just depletes you completely.
“With other businesses shut down, we cannot get parts. We only have what we have in stock to work with right now.”
THERE ARE A LOT OF COMPANIES, FACTORIES, MANUFACTURING AND RETAIL BUSINESSES SHUT DOWN. HAS THAT AFFECTED YOU AS A FACTORY RIDER? Yes, actually that has been another big issue with not knowing when things are going to pick back up. At first, it was like okay Supercross is canceled, while outdoors is still set. That was all we knew for a while. Outdoors is also a lot harder on the bikes than Supercross, so outdoors is pretty much where most of our parts budget goes to; not just breaking stuff but normal wear and tear. We started back on Supercross recently with the rumors that we may be racing. We rode two days this past week, and pretty much did not have to wash the bike, did not have to change any tires. Nothing was really worn out on the bikes or physically on our bodies. Two days of Supercross is really not that much, compared to just even one day of outdoors. It is definitely something that we have had to consider up to this point because with other businesses shut down, we cannot get parts. We only have what we have in stock to work with right now.
HAS THERE BEEN ANY BENEFITS FOR YOU WITH THE RACING BEING SIDELINED LIKE IT HAS? I feel it has been good for myself and my wife, but more so as a nation, I think it has a lot of people’s attention. I think it has really opened a lot of people’s eyes. Now getting to spend time stuck in our homes with our families, it has forced families to be together when a lot of families normally can’t be. It is great to slow down and see things from a bigger picture and a slower perspective. I think that there is a lot of good that can come out of things like this.
DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING LINED UP FOR THE 450 CLASS IN 2021? I don’t really have anything for 2021. Next year is really dependent upon this year and, as you can see, it is currently on hold. As I said, for myself I want to win, and I need to win, because I want to have a 450 career. I want to be good and competitive, and I am trying to do everything I can this year to be ready and to move up when I need to move up.