It’s precisely a 42.6-mile drive from the outskirts of Cold Springs Harbor, New York to the parking lots of MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey and that’s exactly where Justin Cooper will be come Saturday, April 27, 2019 when the Monster Energy Supercross Series sets up its big top at the NFL football venue.
The hometown race for the sophomore Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha, Cooper will also go into the Garden State, the penultimate event of the 250SX East Region, with a full-on shot at the championship. Following Austin Forkner’s crash at Nashville, the red East number one plate is now a free for all, and Justin Cooper has the speed, drive and determination to win the entire thing come Las Vegas in May.
Q: You’re now in the hunt for the AMA 250SX East Region Supercross Championship. Did you expect to be before the gate dropped at Nashville last Saturday night?
JUSTIN COOPER: Honestly, no. It was kind of a surprise to see Austin go out like that. It definitely put a lot of emphasis on the night show, and yeah, it’s cool to be in this position now with two races left. I’m looking to go fight for it.
Q: You’ve been extraordinarily consistent this season for someone so new to supercross. Beginning with Minneapolis, you’ve gone 3-2-4-5-3-3-3 in the races you’ve started. With the exception of the Anaheim 1 opener, you didn’t even race in the stadiums in 2018, did you?
JC: Yeah, it’s been a crazy turnaround. You’re right; I did only do that one Anaheim race last year. Out of seven rounds so far in ‘19, I’ve been on the podium in five of the races, and I’ve been in the top five in every race and that’s the key. The key is to be consistent, and now it’s obviously going to come down to getting out front and getting it done. It’s good to be in this position right now and fighting for the championship.
Q: That big holeshot you pulled at Nashville last Saturday night was declarative…
JC: Yeah, I went way to the outside. I was talking to the team about it and they didn’t think it was a good idea, but I had a good rut picked out and I was really confident with my starts all day. I knew I just had to get a good jump and it would be mine. And yeah, I killed the start, that’s for sure.
Q: Thus far in 2019, your average start has been 7.0 and your average finish is 3.3. What do you think of those two numbers?
JC: We’ve really been working on all of it. Like I said, I only had that one supercross race last year, so the whole steel grate thing is kind of new to me and it took a little while to figure out. We’ve been working on the starts a lot, so it’s good to see it paying off.
Q: Getting to the Austin Forkner variable that played a major role at the Nashville race, how was the vibe within the team before the main event? The Forkner miscue totally threw things wide open.
JC: Yeah, for sure we knew that Austin was struggling. It was out of our control. The only thing I was worried about was going out there and going for the win. That’s what I’ve been searching for all season, and I feel like luck just hasn’t been on my side. But yeah, we just went into the night show looking to win against whoever was on the line with us.
Q: What did you think of your main event last Saturday? Both you and Chase Sexton both really wanted to win that one.
JC: Yes, I had that first incident on the first lap and then I ended up going down again two laps later. That really was a bummer. But it was a great night for me. It was another really great ride, and that’s what it’s going to take in order to stay in this championship hunt. I’m really happy with my riding and there’s no better time to do it than now with two rounds left.
Q: As far as supercross goes, I still sort of look at you as a rookie. To that end, it’s been a long time since a young rider as yourself has been able to run so well, and so consistently, on the football gridirons and baseball diamonds.
JC: It’s been an awesome season, honestly. It turned into a good base season and now, all of a sudden, it’s a championship season. We’re going to fight for this championship and it’s gonna go down to the wire. It’s going to be good.
Q: Can you win it?
JC: For sure. I’m down seven points to Austin. Austin is kind of questionable on whether he will come back or not, but besides all of that, we’re all really close. I just want to go out there and try and get that win that I’ve been looking for and that’s where I want to be and that’s what it’s going to take to win this championship.