451 South 1400 East, Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. That’s the address of the 45,807-seat Pac-12 Conference NCAA College Football venue better known as Rice-Eccles Stadium, and Colt Nichols’ destination this weekend.
The home of the University of Utah Utes will host the final two rounds of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series, and settle the title battle between 250SX East Supercross Championship combatants Colt Nichols and Christian Craig. Separated by a mere eight points, the title is Nichols to lose, but it’s something Craig desperately wants as well. Who will come out on top between the two Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha teammates over the next fortnight? Good question. In an effort to get up to speed on what’s about to go down over in Utah, we sought out Nichols for a chat.
Q: You’re right there with an excellent shot to win your first professional championship. Has been tough waiting around for the 250SX East Region title showdown?
COLT NICHOLS: Yeah, a little bit. It’s weird, just because that’s the most racing I think I’ve ever done. We did seven races in four weeks and then then we had the biggest break I’ve probably ever had. We had 10 weeks off, so it has kind of been like two ends of the spectrum here. We’re all in the same boat, everyone on this coast, so we just tried to use our time wisely and got some outdoor preparation in. Ready to go for the weekend. It’s exciting.
Q: You seem to have a really pragmatic approach to this whole thing.
CN: I’ve been in a really positive frame of mind. Overall, I’ve just had a calm kind of demeanor. Really, even before the season started, I just had this weird, kind of intuition that everything was just going to work out, you know? I’ve just tried to keep a positive attitude and focus on the task at hand.
I think the biggest deal is just focusing on what’s right in front of me at the time. That’s really helped me this year. Instead of trying to get too ahead of myself and end up stumbling a little bit, I’ve tried to really focus. Man, we’re really just taking it day to day. I mean, I’m worried about the next time I ride and focusing on the motos that we have at the track. I’m not really worried about much else. It seemed to work really well, and I’ve got a lot of positivity and a lot of good people around me and that’s helping me kind of push through and staying where I need to be, for sure.
Q: Your results in the East have been outstanding, with 3-2-1-1-1-3-2 scores in the seven main events you’ve lined up for.
CN: Yeah, that first little run was good. I was really, really happy with how we ended things. I was a little disappointed at that last Indy round. I felt like I really had that one in the bag. I got the good start and had that big crash. I fought and clawed my way back to a third place on the night, so that was a real big salvage night for me. I’ve just really tried to put myself in good positions, and luckily I’ve been able to do that so far this year. I’m going to try and do that two more times, and hopefully be ending this thing with a number one plate.
That Indy race was important. That was a big, big race that could have went one direction or another. I was third that night and I scratched and clawed and I was proud of that ride. I left my heart out on the track, really. It was a fun race, and I was a little bit bummed because I felt like I could have won that one. I did what I could and did what I had to do that night to keep myself in the points.
Q: Rice-Eccles Stadium is a relatively small stadium and stadium floor. Do you like racing inside that venue?
CN: I wasn’t really prepared to race there last year, but just kind of went there to maybe help Shane [McElrath] a little bit in that championship hunt he was in and stuff like that. I got to race there in five races last year and it was actually good. Now I know what to expect. I’m acclimated to the place and I know how the dirt is going to develop a little bit. I was glad I was able to race there last year.
Q: Do you have a plan for these two last races in Utah, or are you going to take it all as it comes?
CN: Really, I’m just going to take it as I go. I mean, you can try and plan all you want and I can guarantee you that it probably won’t really turn out that way, so I really just want to try and put myself in a good spot like I’ve been doing, and stay smart and stay in control of this thing. Overall, I’m going to try and put myself in a good spot and go try to get me another win because that’s the whole goal for this weekend.
Q: Were you and the team working on your outdoor program during the hiatus?
CN: Yeah, we got a lot of outdoor riding in. I think I’ve done around 25, 26, 27 35-minute motos already, so I already went through a whole season of outdoors just based off of the moto count I now have. It was good. I got to do a lot of riding and really just kind of take my time with stuff, which is a pleasant change from years past. I really got a big block of fitness in and we got to work on the bike a little bit as well, and that was huge for me. I wanted to get a little more comfortable to try and make a run at this outdoor thing, too. I’ve been staying really focused on trying to win this supercross championship, but I want to establish myself as an outdoor guy and go and try and be a championship contender there, too. I’m glad we got a little bit of a head start.
Q: You’re leading your teammate Christian Craig 166 points to 158, and are knocking on the door of your first championship. All of you guys that start out doing all this as kids dream to be in this position, right?
CN: Yes, there’s not much more you an ask for, really. You just want to have a shot. That’s all you really want. After that it’s on me to try and go put it together, and that’s exactly what I’m gong to try and do these next few weekends. It’s just a cool position to be in regardless. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to be in. I’ve tried and tried for years, and I’ve had my fair share of hard luck, and that’s kind of what is pushing me a little bit up to this point. I’ve had some hard times during the past six or seven years. Going from being a privateer to being on a factory team to now being in a championship hunt has been quite a journey, and all that makes it that much cooler and that much more special, that’s for sure.
Q: Nothing worth having comes easy, huh?
CN: Oh, 100 percent. I’m trying to be a little bit of an inspiration for some of the kids that maybe don’t have a factory ride straight out of amateurs, or whatever the case may be. It’s definitely not been easy, but that makes it all worth it. And like you said, nothing good comes easy, that’s for sure.
Q: You and Christian do well as teammates, but only one guy can win…
CN: Yeah, it has been an interesting dynamic with us just because we are teammates and in the championship hunt, but like you said, only one guy can win. There is a lot of respect there between us. I think we’re a little bit more mature, being a little bit older and understanding what is at stake, but also we both don’t want to do anything stupid. I think that definitely helps with both of us. I’ve raced him clean all year, and he’s raced me clean all year. We never really have to look over our shoulders too crazy hard when we are racing each other. That’s been a big plus.
It’s been fun, but we are getting down to the nitty gritty and hopefully it is me on the other side of this thing smiling and holding up the number one plate when it’s all said and done.