MXA INTERVIEW: SHANE MCELRATH TALKS ON HIS DOMINANT 1-1 PERFORMANCE DURING A SUB-PAR SEASON
Shane McElrath won an overall at Muddy Creek last year, but this was his first 1-1 performance.
Shane McElrath has only topped the overall podium once in the AMA Nationals and he did it last year at Muddy Creek without even winning a Moto. His consistent 3-2 scores earned him his first overall win. This year has been tough for Shane, But at Budds Creek he showed that he still has it by running away with two Moto wins. In a summer dominated by Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo and Yamaha’s duo of Dylan Ferrandis and Justin Cooper, it was refreshing to see another race winner. We caught up with the North Carolina native to hear about his day, his immediate future and a potential team change for 2020.
BY JIM KIMBALL
SHANE, WHAT A WAY TO WIN AN OVERALL WITH TWO DOMINANT ONE-ONE SCORES. TALK ABOUT THE DAY, AND YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO THE MOTOS. Well, actually my day started out pretty wild. My wife and I missed our alarm clocks. Something happened, they did not go off, and we did not wake up until about 6:45. So we were really late getting to the track. We were running around like chickens with our heads cut off, and it was a pretty wild morning. I did not really qualify that well, but when it was time to line up, I was confident, felt really good, and got a great start. I started in third, and just hung in there the first couple of laps. I just settled in my pace and realized that I had the “race pace.” I felt pretty good and I just went after the leader. I knew that I could not really get stuck behind him for any time at all because I knew that there would be people coming. So, we really just put our head down and tried to be as consistent as we could. The track was rough and it was hot. Just to win the first moto was great as usually I really don’t have good first motos. It somewhat caught me off guard and I felt good. It was a technical track, and it was crazy how it worked out for the first moto. Then for the second moto, I felt way better. I felt way more confident, more relaxed, and I was really just focused on the start. I just put my head down and did not think of much else, only hitting my marks. Like I said, it was a technical track. It was crazy that I was able to go one-one. It was my first time doing that and especially coming into the day with how everything started, I was not expecting that.
YOU WON AN OVERALL BEFORE, BUT THINGS REALLY CAME TOGETHER AT BUDDS CREEK. Things just clicked, I guess. It was a good track, and I enjoy when it is technical like that. It is not just wide open and fast. You have to be patient, hit your marks and be precise. I just felt like it suited me well. It was weird. I don’t feel like it was much different than any other race day. I just got a good and stayed there.
WITH THE SEASON WINDING DOWN THIS HAS TO BE A GOOD SHOT IN THE ARM. Yes, everybody knows that we have had a rough year. Even going back to Supercross we really struggled a lot. But we have kept at it. My goal honestly was to just work my way towards the podium by the end of the year. There were times where that felt like it was really far away, and there were also times that felt like it was getting a lot closer. Coming into the day on Saturday, I was like “okay, I have two shots left. Let me just fix some of my mistakes and just try to be a little better this weekend.” It was crazy. It was beyond my expectations almost. I wanted to make progress, for it to end up being a one-one, I don’t know what just happened.
THE TLD/KTM TEAM HAS STRUGGLED THIS YEAR. THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF INJURIES AND ALMOST LIKE A DARK CLOUD OVER THE TEAM THIS YEAR. It has been really rough for the whole team. There has been a lot of injuries, just really a lot of unfortunate events that seem to be around at the same time. It has been like a kick in the gut for us because this whole year has been going downhill after we have been climbing up the last couple of years. It began with “alright, let’s have another good year of building, of growth, of learning and trying to be a little better.” I personally was a little too confident. I really expected a lot of myself this year, and it was very humbling all year for what we went through, because I was not ready for all of it. But it has really grown me as a person, and a racer. That has been huge but at the same time, from a statistical standpoint of results, it is embarrassing. But we have had a lot of growth elsewhere that not a lot of people see, which is unfortunate. We have really grown as a team, it has been tough, but it has been fruitful.
YOU LOOK AT EVERY START OF A 250 MOTO AND IT IS USUALLY ADAM CIANCIARULO, AND THEN ALMOST THE ENTIRE STAR RACING YAMAHA TEAM HEADING INTO TURN ONE. They have really kind of made a statement. I would not say they are leaps and bounds ahead of everybody, like I said, we were just caught off guard. I guess we took a lot of things for granted and I was very humbled this year. All year, its been “let’s just keep at it and one day at a time, one race at a time.” In last couple years we have steadily progressed pretty well, and then to have a year like this where we go backwards a little bit is really embarrassing. But at the same time, it is like we cannot have growth without some hard times, which help prepare you for the future. We have had little problems, and then that turned into bigger problems. The team has not necessarily gone anywhere, it is just that we have struggled with a few little things that I did not handle very well. I had had high expectations for myself all year, then to face these little challenges, I let them get the best of me in a sense.
THERE HASN’T BEEN AN OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE, BUT YOUR NAME HAS BEEN LINKED TO THE STAR RACING YAMAHA TEAM. CAN YOU SAY ANYTHING? No, at this time I cannot. We are still here (TLD/Red Bull KTM) and we are still in the moment. Right now, it is not something I can talk about, but maybe in a couple more weeks, I will be able to.
HOW IS YOUR MINDSET GOING INTO THE IRONMAN FINALE? Similar to Budds Creek. I did not feel like we changed a lot for Budds Creek. It just was little things, we were put in a good position, we went with it, and that is the goal for this weekend too.This is what we practice for every day during the week, so it is not much different for the final round, other than maybe a little more motivation because it is the final round. Nobody wants to go down a loser, so it is one last shot not only for myself but for all of us out there to make a statement. I know pretty much everybody else wants to do that but for me, it is time that I back up what we have been working on. I think that it was good at Budds creek but there is really a lot more that I expect of myself. It was just a glimpse at Budds Creek, I guess. Moving forward, I really expect a lot of myself, I think that I can be very competitive this weekend again, and I am really excited about it.
BESIDES ANY POTENTIAL TEAM CHANGING, WHAT DO YOU HAVE GOING ON AFTER IRONMAN? WILL YOU BE DOING THE MONSTER CUP? I’m not sure yet. I like racing Monster Cup, it is a fun event, and I think it is good to just get some racing in during the off season, so you are not waiting around until the first round. But right now, we are just going to take a vacation after Ironman. At the end of Supercross, I had back issues, so we were already behind from that going into outdoors. Then I had a few crashes outdoors and missed some more riding. I feel like I have been playing catch-up, and I have not been able to relax, because I feel like I am still trying to catch up to where everybody was. For me, I am looking forward to a little bit of a break after Ironman. My wife and I are going on a cruise two weeks after the final race with some of our friends. It is the same thing we did last year. We will just really take about a month off, and then get back started on Supercross.