By: Transworld Motorcross
By now, you’ve either heard about or witnessed Jeremy Martin’s performance at the 2017 Daytona Supercross, as he finished in second place in his first-ever 450 class race. The GEICO/AMSOIL/Honda rider lined up on the bigger bike as a one-time deal and did so aboard a factory HRC Honda CRF450R. J-Mart went on to lead the race for a total of 11 laps in front of the likes of Ryan Dungey, Marvin Musquin and Chad Reed after grabbing the holeshot, but in the end he was passed by Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac for the lead. J-Mart ultimately finished in second place and has plans to make the move up to the premier class in 2018, so his results at Daytona couldn’t have come at a better time. We caught up with the number six this morning to talk about Daytona and to hear about his experience working with Team HRC Honda.
First off, let’s talk about Daytona. The weekend went very well for you, so talk about the experience through your eyes.
Daytona was a breath of fresh air. To get second overall in my first-ever 450 class Main Event against guys like Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, Jason Anderson and so on is extremely gratifying. Every one of those guys in that class has done something exceptional at some point in his career, so it was an honor to race against guys of that caliber. The 450 guys ride a lot differently than the 250-class racers in that they seem to hold their lines more efficiently. I had the utmost respect for everyone out there, especially the guys in championship contention, and I had a really good time out there.
Now that you’ve experienced the 450 class, how does it compare to the 250 class as far as the competition goes?
The obvious difference with the 450 guys is that they’re much more seasoned; therefore they know what moves to make and when to make them. As a 250-class competitor, I’m used to doing only eight rounds of Supercross, whereas the premier class races a total of 17 rounds, so that alone gives them over twice as much race time as us. Not only that, but the racing format in the 450 class entails more race time because of the addition of the semi-qualifiers, so they’re experiencing more gate-drops as well. The race-craft that the premier-class racers embody is way up there. Again, they know when to make a move and when to hold off. Sometimes I get a little impatient and that’s exactly what happened this weekend as I was trailing Justin Brayton. I attempted to make a pass on him, but I was unsuccessful, which allowed for Cole Seely to pass me. That particular instance also showed me that there’s always going to be someone there to capitalize on your mistakes.
Did you expect to qualify second for your first 450 Supercross?
No, not at all. I remember looking over at the board and saying to myself, ‘Holy crap! The six is up there!’ (Laughs). I felt good throughout the week leading up to Daytona, but I guess I didn’t realize how good I felt (laughs). It was an experience that I’ll never forget.
You led more than half of the Main Event in front of some notable riders. That has to be a gratifying feeling, right? To know that you’re more than capable of beating some of the best in the world in the 450 class.
Yeah, absolutely. To be able to pull the holeshot from 18th gate pick on the outside was unbelievable as well. All of the lines going down the start straight were choppy and many of them even crossed over into other lines, so it wasn’t exactly ideal. My plan was to obviously get a good jump off the gate, but after that I was aiming for the outside line. I was going to mono-rail the crap out of that outside berm and I did just that. As the race went on I thought to myself, ‘Wow, I lead the first lap!’ And that went on for 11 laps. After a while, I had to take a look back to see who was on me and when I saw it was Eli Tomac, my goal was just to ride as smooth as possible. I actually managed to calm down and relax on lap four or five, and I was really able to find my groove out there. As the laps clicked off, I thought that I could possibly win, but on lap eight is when the fatigue began to set in. I gave it all I had until lap 11 and soon after is when Eli passed me. That 450 is so much more powerful and obviously heavier, which is something that I am not accustomed to quite yet. I didn’t get tired because I was riding too tight though. Instead, I think riding the heavier and more powerful bike is what got to me.
Was the jump up to the bigger bike a difficult transition for you?
No, actually it was quite the opposite. It was a very simple transition for me simply because of the bike and the way it handles. The entire HRC Honda crew took me in under their wing, and from the beginning it was an easy switch. I adapted to the bike in a matter of two or three days. I think it was evident that I was comfortable on the bike during the race as well.
Talk about your time with Team HRC Honda. They’re one of the most prestigious teams in the pits, so talk about your experience working alongside that crew of people.
It was great working alongside the HRC Honda guys. For me, I never thought I’d be in a position to ride a factory Honda. I mean, I got to ride a factory Honda CRF450R. That’s pretty badass if you ask me because a lot of people never even get the chance to see those bikes in-person. Those guys over at HRC have worked with a lot of successful people over the years, so to work with Dan Betley and everyone else was an incredible experience for me. That’s something that I get to cross off my bucket list.
Now that your first race in the 450 class is in the books, do you think you planted a good seed with that second-place finish for your move up to the 450 class next year as far as contracts and teams go?
Yeah, I’d like to believe that I planted a good seed. To be honest, I know that a lot of people said that I was going to fail at Daytona because they weren’t expecting me to do as well as I did. And a lot of people said that it was a no-pressure race, which is completely untrue. There was a lot of pressure on me last weekend because that was essentially a tryout of sorts for my move up to the premier class. I think there was more pressure to do well this weekend than there was to win the 250 West Coast Supercross Championship. I knew that I needed to do well because I know that eventually I’ll be moving up to that class, so it was important for me to establish myself and what I’m capable of. I’ve been saying for the last year or two that I’ve wanted to move up to the 450 class, so getting that second place was also a bit of reassurance. A lot of people also said that Daytona wasn’t a legitimate Supercross track. I disagree because it was much more jumpy and more technical than it has been in the past. Nonetheless, I showcased that I know how to ride a 450.
You surprised a lot of people this weekend, including those who doubted you. How does it feel proving all those people wrong?
It feels really good. I finished 17 seconds behind Eli, and I wasn’t happy about that because I got pretty tired out there. I just tried my best to ride it into the finish. With how my season has gone in the 250 West Coast Supercross Series, my performance at Daytona couldn’t have come at a better time because that’s a huge accomplishment to have on my resume. I made sure to crack open a beer after the race because I wanted to celebrate with the people who have been in my corner before the 2017 season even began. We’ve been in the trenches since then, so we had to soak it in. Like I said, I had a celebratory beer and I even ordered some pizza (laughs). We had a great night, and I felt that it was important to celebrate as a team. That was probably the most rewarding part of the weekend, to be able to share that experience and success with everyone.