I hadn’t watched a Monster Energy Supercross Series main event or a Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship moto in well over a year, and there I was out at Fox Raceway in Pala, California last Saturday afternoon looking on while Adam Cianciarulo led the early laps of the first 450MX moto of the summer.
And it was a thing of beauty. So much so that my eyes watered up and I was glad nobody was around to see me. The sport we all grew up loving was back in action, and a kid I’ve known since he was racing the 51cc 4-6 AMA Class 1 at Loretta Lynn’s was out front and leading the way.
We all know how the opening round of the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross shook out for Cianciarulo, but still, this writer wanted to hear what the 24 year-old had to say about the first natural terrain motocross of 2021. The Team Monster Energy Kawasaki racer took a quick breather from packing his gear bag for Saturday’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National at Thunder Valley MX Park to answer a few questions.
Q: I was standing in the infield at Pala and was watching you lead the opening 450cc moto, and started wondering, ‘what Adam is thinking while leading the world like that?’ So that’s my question for you. How does it all feel?
ADAN CIANCIARULO: It’s just awesome. When you’re leading a race, especially when it’s the first outdoor race of the year, you have all the electricity in the air that the first round of a series brings, and I started off in front and it just felt amazing. And we haven’t really had the fans at full capacity yet, so Pala was really the first taste of it. To hear all the fans going crazy, and to be out front and to be battling like we were, there’s just nothing like it, especially with the energy Southern California fans bring to a race. I think everyone there was stoked because they hadn’t been able to go to an event like that in quite a while. The turnout was great and yeah, it’s always nice to be up front and not pulling off any tearoffs.
Q: You’re the 2019 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship 250 Champion as well as the 2020 450 Championship runner-up. The Lucas Oil AMA Pro MX Championship has been pretty kind to you the past few summers, hasn’t it?
AC: Yes, it has, but I can’t say I’ve always gotten along with the outdoors. When I first went pro and during my first few years of racing outdoors, it was a little bit of a struggle. But definitely these past few years have gone really well for me and I really embrace all of it and enjoy all of it. Yeah, it’s the grassroots of the sport, you know? Supercross is great, but with the outdoors, there is just so much history there with all of these different tracks and historic venues, and there is just some magic in the air at the outdoor races. I grew up watching all of The Great Outdoors movies that Troy Adamitis did a great job on, and I know you did some of the commentary on some of those films. That was kind of like my introduction to the outdoors, and I feel like I’m a part of that now. That’s cool. As a kid you’re hoping to make it to this level, but to be a part of it and to be doing well is awesome.
Q: I watched the Adam Cianciarulo Uncut video you guys produced out at Pala. Not only did I like the video, but I got really caught up in how you deal with the huge highs and lows of racing.
AC: Obviously, dirt bike racing means a lot to me. You put a lot of work into it and you’re pretty emotionally invested in your goals and all that stuff, and it’s easy to get kind of caught up in the rollercoaster of emotion of going up and down. Racing is always going to be up and down, whether you’re winning or going through struggles.
It’s a major goal of mine now to live my life level-headed. I read this quote the other day and I really liked it. The quote is, “It’s not things that are good or bad, it’s our judgement about those things.” The racing is all I’ve ever wanted to do, and the results at Pala were not what I worked for. I don’t work to go out there and crash with the lead and not have good results. I work to win races, and that didn’t happen. You have to take it all for what it is. You can’t dwell on it. You have to look at your mistakes, do your best to fix them, and then go out the next weekend and try as hard as you can. I mean, that’s really what I’ve done my whole career.
It’s like anything that gets in my way. Anything that I feel is a challenge, I look at it for what it is: a challenge. It’s a challenge, and I do my absolute best to try and conquer and do the best that I can, and that’s what I’m going to keep doing. It’s hard to get me discouraged. I’m going to keep getting back up every single time and try my absolute best, because my goal isn’t necessarily to go out there and win every time. My goal is to be my absolute best and to be the best person I can be at all times. It’s easy for me to bounce back and to keep coming back swinging with that mentality.
Q: Every year there is talk about how deeply talented a field of racers can be in AMA Pro Racing, but out at Pala that the 450MX classification was astonishingly competitive, wasn’t it?
AC: Yeah, with the competition it seems like every year everybody says it’s a really stacked field, and it just seems to get harder every year with guys coming up. Dylan Ferrandis got his first win this weekend. We’ve got Chase Sexton coming in. With the plethora of other guys out there, it’s like first through 15th is insanely fast. You want it to be hard to win and to accomplish your goals, because it makes it all feel quite a bit better. I’m definitely going to enjoy these guys. Everybody is going to get the most out of each other, and I’m excited for that challenge.
Q: There are still 11 rounds and 22 motos yest to be run this summer. Do you feel good about your health and conditioning?
AC: I feel good about it. Like I said earlier, the results weren’t that great this past weekend, but I know all the tools are there to be successful this summer. I’m just going to keep plugging away at it. Health-wise I feel solid. This plate I have on my collarbone is not in an ideal spot, so it’s going to bother me a little bit, but it’s not going to bother me enough where it is going to affect my results. This past weekend I took a hard crash, and I was definitely pretty banged up. I dealt with some pretty nasty arm pump, as well. But we’ll just chalk that up to first race nerves. I’m feeling confident for the rest of the year.
Q: I watched both you and the entire Monster Energy Kawasaki team from afar out at Pala, and to my way of seeing things, your house truly is in order. Can you win this thing come September?
AC: Yeah, my whole team is awesome. I look around now and I kind of have everything that I ever imagined as a racer. I just bought a bus and I have a bus driver, and that’s been awesome to have all that. My mechanic Justin Shantie is great and I have a great relationship with him. My crew chief Oscar [Wirdeman] is great. My trainer Nick Wey, the two of us are super-tight. Everything about my life right now is in such a cool spot. Like I said, it’s kind of everything that I could have ever imagined. And I think having those people around me, regardless of results, it makes me feel like I’m living a dream no matter what the results are.
I’m just in a happy spot. I really enjoy my life, and what I’m doing, and how I’m doing it and how I’m going about my business. I think with my abilities and with the team of people I have around me, I definitely feel that I can accomplish all of the goals that I’ve set for myself. This is my entire life’s work. My entire life’s work is what I’m living right now. In the grand scheme of things, I don’t get to enjoy this part of my life for very long. I’m 24 now, and realistically I can probably race at a very high level until I’m maybe mid-30s. I’m just trying to enjoy for what it is, and for what it is right in front of me, and it has all led to some pretty amazing times in my life, for sure.