Adam Cianciarulo competed in his first AMA Pro Racing event in 2013 at Budds Creek Motocross Park. He placed 16th. Nine years, the 2019 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship 250, two career Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship 450 wins and an astonishing number of dramatic highs and lows later, the kid from Port Orange, Florida is still fast at it. A member of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team, Cianciarulo was behind the starting gate inside overflowing Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Saturday night and despite the harsh reality that he’s still trying to bounce all the way back from a gnarly grade 3 separation of his AC joint, he took a hard-fought 11th place on his No. 9 Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450SR Special Racer.
“The beginning of January is definitely always crazy, but we love it and it’s what we live for,” said Cianciarulo. “In a way, I still feel like that kid. It’s interesting to look back and to see all of the opportunities and everything I’ve gotten to do in the sport so far. I just turned 25 this year, so it all moves fast and I’m just trying to enjoy the ride.
“I feel great about this new 2022 season. I had a great off-season. I was able to get a lot of laps in and I was able to get a lot of good testing in with the team and my mechanic Justin Shantie and my crew chief Oscar Wirdeman and my trainer Nick Wey. We’ve all had a lot of really good days at the track working on a lot of specific things to reach our goals. It has kind of been my mantra no matter how things are going to just try and do my best and to put my best foot forward and to ride with a purpose and with intention. Yeah, I feel great about supercross.
“I did have a crash a few weeks ago and I’m dealing with that injury right now, which isn’t ideal, but it happens. Still, I think I’m certainly in a better spot than I was last year just because I’ve been to have a lot more time on the bike during this off-season and I now kind of have that base under me.”
New to the Monster Energy Kawasaki fold for the 2022 season, veteran pilot Jason Anderson replaced Eli Tomac as Cianciarulo’s longtime teammate within the green fold and Adam is absolutely fine with it all.
“It’s awesome to have Jason here,” declared Cianciarulo. “Jason and I, we used to train with Aldon Baker back earlier in our careers. It was when Jason first moved up to the 450s and I was basically a rookie in the 250 class. We were tight then and it has been cool to kind of be around him again. We certainly do a lot of motos together and we push each other. He’s going really fast and he’s a great rider. Obviously he’s a former champion and I’m really excited to see how he’s going to do this year. The vibes have been good.
“Jason and I have both been in California the whole off-season, so we’ve actually pretty much been spending every day at the track together and riding together and that’s what it is all about, you know? Jason is somebody like me. We like to keep things in perspective. We know how lucky we are to do this. But that’s not to be confused with lack of work ethic from either of our parts. I think we’re two of the hardest workers in the game. It’s crazy how much goes into all of this at this level — especially since I moved up to the 450 class. Through all of that you really get an idea of the level and the work and the mental discipline and everything that it takes to be at the top of the sport. It’s a dog-eat-dog world up here, for sure, but that’s what we live for.
Part of the appeal of supercross for Cianciarulo is that on any given Saturday night inside these baseball and football stadiums, only one guy can win.
“Yeah, only one guy can win and I think anybody that is on that supercross main event gate on Saturday nights is an excellent rider and racer,” he noted. “As fans of the sport we tend to look at the podium guys and maybe the top-five guys. The guys that are kind of in the back half of the field don’t get as much as respect and I think we should start looking at it all a little bit differently. I think the level it takes to be out there in a main event on a Saturday night in the 450 class is to be respected. I think it takes a lot of talent and a lot of effort and I certainly have a lot of respect for everybody who puts in what I put in to this sport.”
Coming off of an injury-sabotaged 2021 season in which close to nothing went right — including a badly timed crash at Spring Creek which sent him to the sidelines for the remainder of the year — Cianciarulo is eager to turn the page.
“There are always a lot of question marks, but we’ve been saying that the last few years,” Adam said with a sigh. “It seems like we say that every year and then it’s always Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen are the ones that have won something like 85 percent of the races the last few years, so there is obviously a lot of parity in the field and those guys have risen to the top. I think everybody is trying to close the gap there and I definitely think we are going to see a lot of new winners this year. I hope to be one of them. It is a really exciting time for supercross right now.
“Everything I went through in 2021 has made me stronger for this year. Anytime you have to overcome obstacles, it makes you grow mentally and physically. All of that put me in a good position for this year. I’m really hungry to put my best forward and to go after my goals. Had a couple decent results last year. I had some flashes of showing what I can do. I certainly haven’t lost any belief in myself. I’m very confident and I believe in my ability.”
So just what does Adam Cianciarulo hope to achieve during the 2022 Monster Energy Supercross Series and beyond?
“I find the subject of expectation is something that I have thought about a lot recently the past couple of years,” he mused. “I find that the best and most self-serving mindset for me is just to put one foot in front of the other. I’ve been there. I’ve been caught up in that, ‘I’ve got to win this championship!’ or ‘I’ve got to win this race!’ That’s just not the mindset that I enjoy myself most it. My entire life is based around a couple key principals. You control what you can control and do your best. I think I succeed the most when I have this mindset and I think I have the most fun when I have that mindset. I would say my expectations for 2022 are to stay present and to do my best.”
After the klieg lights shut off at Angels Stadium of Anaheim early on Sunday morning, Cianciarulo was delighted by that unglamorous 11th-place opening night finish.
“From my perspective this result is fantastic. I seriously feel like I won the lottery. Sounds dramatic but I don’t think I’ve ever exceeded my expectations so much. It always is tough — you’re fighting that mental battle, because I love that atmosphere here at Anaheim. It’s electricity. You want to put your best foot forward. So that was the toughest thing, to get past that and just do what I could do. It wasn’t going to be good enough to win. It was tough…but I’m glad it’s over.
“You know I have grinded, especially this off season, every day to try to better myself since Millville. That was where I shifted my mindset. I was struggling to wrap my head around getting 16th place. I was about to fall asleep in here before the night show because I was like, ‘I don’t work like that.’ That’s not the mindset. That’s not someone who is going to win multiple championships. That’s not someone who is going to be consistently at the top of the sport. You have to make the best of it and you have to figure it out at all times. My trainer Nick Way and I talked about that. If you get 17th you get 17th but you learn something. As far as when I might feel better? I’m not really sure. A week and a half ago I could not ride supercross. No chance in hell. Tonight I raced. I’m probably not going to be up front for a few weeks.”