MXA INTERVIEW: JUSTIN COOPER’S COMING IN HOT TO THE ST. LOUIS SUPERCROSS
MXA INTERVIEW: JUSTIN COOPER’S COMING IN HOT TO THE 2020 ST. LOUIS SUPERCROSS
Justin Cooper was practically a Supercross rookie in 2019. He had only completed one round of Supercross in 2018 before he was injured at round two. After an awesome Supercross season landing on the podium six times in 2019 on the East Coast, Justin Cooper was excited for 2020 and ready to get his first win. He was hopeful, but not expecting to get it at the first round. Justin came into Anaheim 1 slightly overshadowed by Dylan Ferrandis. Dylan is the defending champion in the 250SX West Coast region and he proved early on in the day that he was the guy to beat at Anaheim. Ferrandis was over half of a second faster than Cooper, who was almost a full second faster than the third quickest qualifier. But when the Main Event got under way, it was Justin Cooper who found himself battling at the front while Dylan Ferrandis had to fight his way through the pack after a bad start. For this interview, we talked with Justin after his big win last Saturday in Anaheim.
By Josh Mosiman
CONGRATULATIONS, YOUR AN ANAHEIM 1 250 MAIN EVENT WINNER, HOW DOES IT FEEL? It’s so hard to describe being my first one, for it to happen here is just surreal. It’s so early in my career and it’s a big accomplishment for me. To get my first win here at A1, it’s bigger than any other race I could’ve won, so I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and let it set in. I’m going to drive home and think about what just happened.
DID YOU HAVE EXPECTATIONS TO WIN OR DID YOU JUST WANT TO DO YOUR BEST? I came in wanting to do the best I can. It’s a long series, we’re just looking to ride smart and consistent and land on the box tonight, but we got more than that. I felt like last year I didn’t have the pace to be up front and to lead the races and win them straight up. I felt like I had to do something dumb to even be in contention for a win. This year is totally different, I’m more prepared and I’m here to win and I feel like I have the pace to go walk away with it.
Technically this is Justin’s third season of racing Supercross, but it’s really only his second full season. In 2018, Justin finished ninth at Anaheim 1, but then was injured during qualifying at round two in Houston and he was out for the rest of the Supercross season.
HOW DID YOU FIND THAT NEXT LEVEL OF SPEED? WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE THIS YEAR? I would just say experience. I came into the offseason more confident and I felt good right away. It’s honestly just good experience, I had a good learning season last year, I had a bunch of podium rides but nothing threatening for a win. So to be able to do it like this it’s cool. I felt like I was in control of the race, even though I was behind Austin for a while, I was just kind of planning my next move. It just feels good to be a title contender and to be doing it the right way. I feel like I have the right speed to do it.
Austin Forkner and Dylan Ferrandis joined Justin on the podium at round one. Later the results would be changed after the AMA decided to penalize Austin Forkner two positions for cutting the track.
WHERE DO YOU FIND YOUR CONFIDENCE TO GO OUT THERE KNOWING YOU CAN BE A TOP GUY? You don’t. You have to believe in yourself and you don’t know what to expect at the first round. You go out there and practice to see where you line up against those guys and then just believe in yourself and believe you can go the distance. You train hard for this. I’m really confident with my trainer Gareth Swanepoel and my whole Star Racing Yamaha team behind me. You really have to believe in yourself to be up front.
Justin Cooper shakes his teammate, Dylan Ferrandis’ hand after the race. The two riders are teammates, but Ferrandis doesn’t ride very often with Cooper. Justin Cooper trains with Gareth Swanepoel and the rest of the Star Racing Yamaha riders while Ferrandis does his own program with David Vuillemin.
WHAT MOTIVATES YOU TO PUSH FORWARD WHEN IT GETS CHALLENGING? Just providing for myself honestly. It’s a job and I take it seriously. It’s my life, it’s been my life for a while and if I’m going to do it, I’m going to give it everything I have.
TWO JUSTIN’S WON TONIGHT, BOTH FROM NEW YORK BOTH ON FACTORY YAMAHA’S. Justin Barcia and I were just talking about that actually after the Main Events. It’s a cool deal, we ride with each other at the Yamaha track all the time, so it’s cool to be able to come out here and do this.
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT JUSTIN BARCIA’S PERFORMANCE TONIGHT? I saw the first couple of laps, he got really aggressive and he got right into the lead. I think he had a battle with AC (Adam Cianciarulo), I only watched the first couple of laps, I didn’t watch the middle part. He rode strong and solid, he looked like he was comfortable and that’s where he wanted to be.
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE ANAHEIM 1 TRACK? It was really awkward in the first practice, but with each practice it got more and more flow to it and then by the end of the practices the track was coming around pretty good. We knew what lines we were going to hit and it started to have a little bit more of a flow to it. It was a little awkward in the beginning but it turned out pretty good for the mains.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE COMING FROM START STRAIGHT INTO A RHYTHM SECTION? I feel like it’s dangerous for the mid pack riders. Luckily I was first and second in both of my races. But I feel like it’s a little dangerous, I feel like it should be maybe a little bit more mellow. It was a pretty big rhythm section too, you didn’t know who was going to hit the big jumps or not. I wouldn’t really agree with it, but luckily I was out front so it was all good.
LAST QUESTION, IS #32 YOUR CAREER NUMBER? Yes, 32 is my career number. I was going to grab #14 but Dylan (Ferrandis) ended up getting the first choice with that so he snagged it. But I’m stoked on it, I had a good year last year and it’s working out good for the first round I’d say.