“These last two years I’ve gotten second in supercross, and in the last two consecutive outdoor championships, I’ve gotten third,” pointed out Justin Cooper on Monday afternoon. “I’ve gotten in the top three in the last four championships that I entered, so now it’s just time to for the win. Not that I haven’t been going for the win, but I really want to put everything into it now for this championship and try to come out in top.”
High consistency and high performance are two attributes now commonly associated with Cooper of the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing team. In the last three 250cc racing seasons, Cooper has competed in full-time – 2018 250MX, 2019 250SX East and 250MX and 2020 250SX West – he has finished either second or third overall. Not bad for a third year rider in a brutally competitive and classification of the sport. Off a fighting runner-up finish to Honda-powered Chase Sexton in the recent 2020 250SX West Region Supercross championship, Cooper will now turn his sights to Hurricane Mills, Tennessee and the curtain-opening round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship this Saturday.
“I’ve just been doing some riding and been getting ready to go racing this Saturday,” he said. “It’s coming up pretty quick now. It was a long break, and now it’s this coming weekend, so we’re just getting the final preparation in and heading over that way. We’ve got to race at some point and everyone threw something together, and I think we’re all just along for the ride now.
“Everything is looking good. I’m coming back from a little bit of an injury, but it was a pretty short injury, so it has come along well and we’re ready to go racing.”
Despite not having lined up behind a starting gate since it clanked into Salt Lake City dirt two months ago, Cooper is confident he’s in possession of everything required to run up front in what will be an abbreviated nine-race championship series beginning on Saturday and wrapping up at Pala Raceway in Pala, California on October 10.
“We’re ready,” he said. “We did a lot of testing for all the supercross races we ran and we’ve really been over everything. The bike and the fitness are good. I’m real happy with the bike right now.
“You know looking back to everything there, Salt Lake, It was weird. It was definitely way different and way different than I anticipated. It went good for me, but a little bit up and down and I wish my results were a little bit better in the mains, but I seemed to do really well in the heat races. But yeah, the focus is now totally on Tennessee and the outdoors now. It has been for a while. I’m just looking to come out swinging there.”
Perhaps putting a spring in his Alpinestars boot step will be the fact that Cooper will be showing up for with a newly-signed contract that will have him racing for the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing team for as long as he’s a 250cc rider.
“Yeah, I just signed a new deal with Yamaha,” he said. “Basically, I’m with Yamaha until I’m done with the 250, and then from there we’ll see what’s next. But I could stay with them for the rest of my career. I feel like they’re a good team and they put a lot of work in like I do, and in order to succeed, I feel like that’s what I need in this class.”
His resume began in 2011 when he first showed up to race the AMA Amateur National Championship in the 85cc 12-14 Stock and Modified classes. Cooper has fared well in Hurricane Mills,, earning amateur titles in both 2015 and 2017, and he kept a close eye on this week’s live webcast from the venue to get a read on both the track and racing conditions.
“Yes, I have checked out a few motos from Loretta Lynn’s thus week,” he said. “I watched some of the racing from there to get a view of the track for what we might be in for when we go race there this weekend. It was always a good time at Loretta’s and it’ll definitely be different going back there here in a few days because it’ll be an entirely different atmosphere with a pro race going on there.”
And of the aforementioned Trans-American schedule the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will embark upon when rolling out of Music City, USA?
“I think it’s good,” he said. “We’re getting a good variety of tracks, so that’s good. I wish Southwick was in there because that’s always a good one. I’m glad to just be going racing at this point. Bring it on. I mean, it’s always going to be competitive at this level. You have both supercross coasts coming together, and you’ve got everyone together in one class, and it’s never easy, and I don’t expect to be. I just have to trust the riding, the fitness, the training and give it all I’ve got. I’m going there to win. That’s the main goal. A title would be awesome. That’s definitely my dream, so I’m going to give it everything I have to get that done.
“It’s definitely going to be tough and that’s going to make it worth it in the long run. The plan is to just stay consistent through the whole series like I usually do, and to try and limit the bad days to give myself the best chance I have to go out there and win. That’s definitely the goal, and I’m looking forward to getting out there and giving it my best shot. It should be exciting to go back to Loretta’s for the first round. There is going to be a lot of hype around it, so we’ll start it all off and see what we can do. You have to take it slow. The championship is not won in a couple of races, it’s won through an entire period of time. For now I’m just going to take it one race at a time and to out myself in that position to go after the title.”