By Eric Johnson
Saturday night, January 18, 2020 inside the 45,517-seat Angel Stadium of Anaheim a few minutes removed from the running of the 250SX West main event.
“Tonight, was a night I just want to forget and move on from,” lamented Austin Forkner of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki race team who placed a crash initiated 17th. “That costly mistake in the whoops in the main event ruined my evening. My team and I are going to regroup and probably spend a good amount of time hammering out whoops this next week. I had a lot of fun racing the Triple Crown races last year, so I am just ready to get to Glendale and redeem myself.”
Saturday night, January 25, 2020 inside the 63,400-seat State Farm Stadium of Glendale a few minutes removed from running of the 250SX West main event.
“It’s always good to go from 22 points down to 10 points down,” said a stoked Austin Forkner on what a difference a week can make in motor racing. “I just had really good intensity and just kind of broke away quickly and nobody could really catch me. I knew all that mattered was the overall, so I went 1-1-3 to get the overall. The first two mains, I rode really well. The last moto, not so much, but I really went into manage mode once I got into third. I wanted to win them all, but it just didn’t end up like that. I was happy. My riding was good. The bike was good. It was just a solid night.
“I feel pretty locked in now. I feel good going into these next two races here out west. We’ll fly to Oakland. It’s a short flight. And San Diego, well, we’ll just drive to that race. We’ll be right in our own backyard for these next two races before the break. I’m hoping to make up as many points as I can going into the break.”
As advertised, the next two weeks of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series ran in California football stadiums in Oakland and San Diego, respectively, and Austin Forkner was fast and consistent to place second in both main events.
And it was after the Petco Park race in San Diego where the Oklahoma-based racer returned back to the Midwest where now, due to the global pandemic, he still remains with no race to races to run. And that’s where we tracked down the Kawasaki pilot on Friday afternoon.
“I’m in Oklahoma. Riding. Training. Same old same old,” said the mildly agitated racer in waiting. “We’re just waiting to hear wherever we’re going to go racing, really. I mean, nothing has really changed much for me. As far as the coronavirus thing, I got out of California in time. Oklahoma, I guess, is not nearly as bad. Things are starting to open back up here. I really don’t do anything that is closed anyway. I go to a private gym, a private track, everything we do is pretty much private anyway, so I mean as far as work stuff and riding, nothing has really changed for me. It’s just like things for fun, things like going to the mall, going to the movies and things like that, obviously it’s all changed and we’re not doing any of that.
“But you know what? Asked Forkner. “I think it’s on its way out. From all the reports and from all the stuff that I’ve heard, the virus cases are starting to go down, if not almost stop. I think everybody is starting to get over this too. In my opinion, I think this was blown way out of proportion. I think it was overdone. I don’t think it should have been this big of a deal. In my opinion, I think this was basically the flu and I don’t think that they needed to shut down America for the flu. Yeah, it’s a new virus and, yeah, people have died, but I don’t think that they literally need to shut down the country for this. It is what it is and that’s what they decided to do. But I do think people are getting over it. I’m fortunate enough in that I was in a fine position with all this financially, but people are going to start running out of money and then what? I think everybody is just ready to get back to normal and get back to work and to get back to doing things how we were.”
Oklahoma, while a great place which has put forth many a world class motocross racer, is a 1,515-mile, 23-hour drive on the I-10 and I-8 and a hell of a long way from the spiritual homeland and race land of the Southern California-based motocross industry. Nonetheless, Oklahoma is where Forkner is riding out the coronavirus and he’s perfectly fine with that.
“Yeah, I’m in Oklahoma with everybody and we all went riding today,” he said. “We’ve all been doing the same thing. Still riding. We were doing motocross stuff, but I just switched back to supercross because we heard we were going to be racing at the end of the month. That’s changing day by, so we will see. I talk with Mitch Payton (team owner) probably once a week. Really, I mean whenever he hears something, we hear it because the team owners are usually the first guys to hear after FELD kind of makes a decision or thinks of an idea or anything like that. Mitch will call me and say, ‘HEY, this is what we’re kind of hearing.’ He’ll ask me what I think about it and ask for my opinion, so yeah, I keep in contact with him for that. As of right now, though, and as far as supercross goes, the bike is fine, I think. We don’t really need to do anything testing-wise as of right now. Everything right now is just a cluster, so you don’t really know. I’ve just been talking with Mitch about when we’re get back to racing, really.”
Yes, while busy with riding, testing and training, and just like the rest of us currently up on blocks in our homes and garages, Forkner has found some spare time on his hands. That being the reality of his surroundings, what’s he been up to as far as keeping the clock from going backwards?
“Me and my friend have been shooting guns a lot at Robbie Reynard’s place (Note: Reynard, also from Oklahoma, was a world class racer during the 1990s), as he’s got a big canyon section and me and my friend Riley and my friend Carter and his girlfriend have a bunch of steel targets and stuff put down in there and we’ve been shooting a lot. We’ve been shooting quite a bit out there. That’s kind of what we’ve been doing during downtime. Other than that, I’ve just been riding, training and doing the standard stuff like Netflix, Xbox, kind of the standard stuff. That’s pretty much all we’ve been doing as of lately. We’ve also been going to a few skateparks to ride scooters and bikes and stuff. Yeah, skateparks, shooting guns, hanging out, taking my dog on walks and all that good stuff.”
In the first six 250SX West events of the 2020 season, Forkner ran quite well, racing to fifth at Anaheim 1, first at St. Louis, an aforementioned 17th at Anaheim 2, first at Glendale, and second at both Oakland and San Diego before the lockdown sent him back to Oklahoma. Third in points at the moment in the 250SX West, Forkner is pretty much stoked on how it has all gone – thus far.
“Yeah, yeah and I feel if anything, I’ve only gotten stronger. We’ve been doing long motos here in both supercross and outdoors lately. I wouldn’t say Robbie is burning us out, but I would definitely say he’s kind of cracked down on us a decent amount over this break. I don’t think I was 100-percent in the off-season coming off an injury in ’19, but he’s worked on getting me back to where he wants me as far as fitness goes and speed and dealing with my knee, so I think this break has been good in that way to kind of get back to 100-percent as close as we can get. I think we’re definitely getting there and getting better. I feel like I’ll be good and mixing it up in the outdoors and sometimes you can come back even better in supercross just because you’re actually kind of excited to ride it again because sometimes you get burnt out riding the same thing. I just jumped back on to supercross and I’m feeling really good. I feel reenergised riding again, so it’s been good. I guess we’ll keeping looking to the races in Glendale because the last I heard, they really want that to happen. I would say that’s our best bet right now. I don’t know. It’s whatever they decide and I hope that the Phoenix thing happens and we just get to finish off the supercross season. Really, though, and some guys have strong opinions about it, I don’t really care where and what we race. I’m ready for both supercross and motocross and have been riding both disciplines enough in the past couple months, I feel like I’m pretty prepared for either way it goes.”
250 SX West Championship Points