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Phil Nicoletti is no stranger to Canadian races fans as just a few seasons ago he spent a lot of time north of the border chasing the 450 Triple Crown Series Championship. In 2019, Nicoletti and his OTSFF Yamaha Team realized that dream as he took home this prestigious championship after clinching the title at the final round in Hamilton. It was a great moment for Nicoletti and his team but things can change quickly in motocross. Fast forward to now and Nicoletti still hasn’t returned to Canada, but he has taken all he learned from his two seasons in Canada and is applying it to his racecraft in the Monster Energy Supercross Series and the highly competitive 250SX East class. After the two opening rounds in Minneapolis and Arlington this past weekend, Nicoletti sits 9th overall in the series and is getting better with each lap. We caught up with Phil as he was getting ready to tackle another challenging week of SX training.
MXP: Hey Phil, what is going on tonight?
PN: Hey Palms, not much really. I’m just trying to figure out what I’m going to eat for dinner and then have to get all my stuff ready for the week. I don’t know, just typical Monday stuff after racing on the weekend.
You’ve been working hard and so far your results have shown that. Overall, how are your feeling these days, especially after racing three main events on Saturday night?
Well, other than my knees, my ankles, and my back, I feel pretty good (laughs). No, all joking aside I feel pretty good and I’m happy with where I’m at with my riding. Also, we’re in a really good spot with my bike as far as settings go and now I have my buddy Steve Simms here helping me so things are good.
Well, judging by your riding and your results so far it appears that you’re happy with everything. I’m going to be completely honest with you but coming into the 250SX East Series this year I didn’t know where you were going to fit in. With how stacked this class is I figured you could finish either 10th, 15th, or even some nights struggle to make the main event. I know we’re only two rounds in but you’ve been really good.
Thanks! I mean I do have a lot of experience to draw from as I’ve been in this game a long time. I also had some solid results in the past in both the 250SX and 450SX classes so it’s not like I haven’t been here before. We did a lot of work in the off-season down at ClubMX so my bike is really good. I’ve been training hard and mentally I feel in a really good place. I know that some people are maybe shocked with how I’m doing but I’m not. This is what I expect of myself when I decide to do something.
I’m not one of the people who are shocked at your results through the opening two rounds. Let’s just say I’m pleasantly surprised. Overall, how did Saturday night go in Arlington?
It was going great until the final race when I lost traction and went down. I think if I didn’t make that stupid mistake then I could’ve finished maybe 4th or 5th overall. But that’s racing and honestly, I was happy to just get out of there in one piece. The track was going away fast and it was starting to eat some guys.
Talk to us about the Arlington track for a moment. From a distance or on television as most of us saw, the track and the dirt appeared to look good. However, like the commentators kept eluding to the track was more like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Would that be an accurate assessment?
It’s funny when I got home yesterday I watched the race and you’re correct, on television the track looked great and the dirt looked like it had some traction. But honestly, on Saturday night the track was so challenging. There were ruts, it was slippery, the tops of the jumps and whoops had edges, it was almost dangerous that we had to race three main events on that track.
Yes, I don’t think people quite realize just how rough and chewed up some of these SX tracks get as the night goes on. As we said, you sure can’t see it on television or even from up in the stands. So you had a little mishap in the final main event on Saturday, however, up until that point you were riding great. You mentioned earlier that you’re in a good spot mentally. Is that because you were forced to take some time off last year as you recovered from knee surgery and now you feel recharged?
I think that had something to do with it for sure. Anytime we get injured and can’t ride we always miss it. It’s always good to miss something and also when you’re sitting around injured you start to think about all of the things you’re going to do right when you return to riding and racing. So, the break was good for me and it just made me conclude that I’m not done in this sport. I have some gas left in the tank and I want to have at least two good more years and then we’ll see where we’re at. Right now things are going well and my goal is just to enjoy the moment and try and keep everything on track. I have a good team, I love my bike, I have Simms helping me, all I have to do is go racing and do my best.
Okay, you’re coming off two solid weekends to start the 2022 250SX East Series. What is the plan this week heading into Daytona?
Just more of the same really. I’ll head down to ClubMX tomorrow and ride with everyone. We’ve been having some rear brake issues so we have to figure something out there, my starts haven’t been great so I’ll work on that for sure. Other than that, we’ll probably make some mapping changes for the sand at Daytona but that is about it. It’s just another week and this weekend is another race.
I can definitely hear the experience coming through in your voice. It’s a good lesson for younger riders to not get too high or too low after a race weekend. You just stay the course. Do you like Daytona as a track and as an event?
I like Daytona because it gets rough and also because of the sand. The track changes a lot during the day so you have to adapt quickly and find new lines, I enjoy doing that and I feel like that is one of my strengths as a rider. Other than that, Daytona is fun and I like going there. I wish they’d find a way to fix the lighting for us. It sucks with the dark soil as it’s hard to see holes as they develop. But regardless of the track, the plan is the same and that is to get some good starts and have a safe and successful race.
Well, good luck Phil! We’ll all be cheering for you this weekend. Before I let you go I want to ask you about ClubMX. You’ve been based out of there for some time and each year it seems like you get surrounded by more and more Canadians. It’s a good thing you like us (laughs). How are things going at ClubMX?
Things are great there as each year the program gets bigger and more fine-tuned. The boys there do a great job and I think it’s become one of the premier training facilities in the USA. As far as the Canadian riders? You’re right each year it seems like it’s getting more and more popular with riders from the great white north. When Shawn Maffenbeier and I were teammates I had him down here, last year Piccolo was here, and this year he’s back and Steve [Simms] has his TLD Team here. So yes, everywhere you look here you see Canadians.
You mentioned Jacob Piccolo. You were one of the people that told me last year how good he was riding and that if he could keep it on two wheels that he would win the 250 Triple Crown Championship. Well, you were right!
He was riding good last year here and since I was getting ready for the outdoor series here we did a lot of riding together. We would do 30-minute motos and he would be on me the entire time. Of course, in some motos, he would get too excited and cartwheel, but for the most part he was really good. We all told him that if he could calm down and ride smart that he could win the title, and if he didn’t then we would come up there and kick his ass. Obviously, he did and he was able to get it done. I haven’t seen him ride much this year yet as I’m always on the SX track and he’s been riding outdoors. He’s a good kid as are all of the Canadian kids that come down here.
Thank you for doing this Phil. It’s always great to chat with you and like so many people, I’m excited to see you back racing SX and so far doing well. Good luck at Daytona and for the rest of the season.
Thank you Palms! Thanks for calling and please say hi to everyone in Canada. I had a couple of good years up there and I miss everyone.