Rider Interview: Kyle Regal

| 11 March 2016 3:19 pm

AMSOIL Arenacross Series

Courtesy of Feld Motor Sports
ELLENTON, FL, MAR. 11, 2016

Kyle Regal’s 2016 title defense has been full of misfortune and challenges, but he’s still in a position to win another title, with the Race to the Championship cutoff coming this weekend.

Kyle Regal’s 2016 title defense has been full of misfortune and challenges, but he’s still in a position to win another title, with the Race to the Championship cutoff coming this weekend.

With just one race remaining before the cutoff to AMSOIL Arenacross’ annual Race to the Championship playoff, the tension is mounting for some riders heading into this weekend’s inaugural visit to Lafayette, Louisiana’s Cajundome. Undoubtedly, none of those riders have as much on the line heading into tomorrow night’s action than defending AMSOIL Arenacross Champion Kyle Regal.

It hasn’t been the type of season the Rockstar Energy Drink Husqvarna Factory Racing, presented by FMC and OTSFF, rider was hoping for with the number-one plate, as injuries have marred his turn as champion thus far. A crash during preparation for the 2016 season put him behind the eight ball to start off the year, and that was followed by another big get-off at the fifth round in Colorado Springs just as he was starting to generate some momentum. His most recent incident left him on the sidelines for five races and dropped him to ninth in the points standings. A hopeful return last weekend in Omaha, Nebraska, ended prematurely after he chose not to race following practice, which dropped him to the 10th and final spot for the Race to the Championship. Just one point sits between Regal and 11th in the Arenacross-class standings, which means that all of his hopes of defending his title hinge on his Lafayette results.

Regal was able to get some valuable track time this week heading into this pivotal race in the season, and AMSOIL Arenacross caught up with him to discuss his trying season and his hopes of keeping the number-one plate for another year.

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Kyle, let’s talk about your time away from competition and your road back to action this weekend in Lafayette. You had a crash in Colorado Springs that forced you to the sidelines. Then you attempted to come back at the last round but ultimately chose to wait until this weekend. Can you tell us what’s been going on?
I’ll even go back before the beginning of the year, around Christmas time. While preparing for the season, I hit the ground and ended up coming into the season hurt, so I already knew I was behind going into the season, because I didn’t have that much time on the bike. I had a contusion on my lung and I broke a couple ribs right before Christmas, so that was about two weeks out [from the start of the season]. I felt good coming in and still felt like I had some decent speed; I just knew I was going to be a little bit slower at the end of the races because I hadn’t been practicing. Broken ribs are a deal where you can’t train like you want to because at high heart rate, when you’re breathing hard, it’s pretty painful.

So I came in [to the season] a little behind, and in Colorado Springs I started to get it figured out and was feeling better on the bike. In Greensboro the weekend before, I got second, and Thursday night in Colorado Springs I was riding really good and got on the podium [in both main events], but a late-race crash made me lose the overall. Going into Friday, before I crashed, I was feeling good. I was second or third after the first practice, and in the second qualifying session I went a little too fast over the catapult [finish-line jump] while trying to bring speed to start a fast lap. I went a little too long and I jumped a little too far left and I ended up having to jump off. I was diagnosed with a concussion and was knocked out for a little bit.

To be smart [about the recovery], I was doing all the stuff that was needed: I was taking time off, stepped away from the gym and took the concussion test. I passed that literally the Thursday before the last race [in Omaha] but I hadn’t been on the bike. So going into [Omaha] I literally hadn’t been on a bike and hadn’t been on an arenacross track. I was just going to see how I felt.

During practice, I didn’t feel right the entire time and just didn’t want to go down that road. I decided to step away, give it another week and actually give myself time on the practice track; do baby steps rather than getting thrown in. I actually qualified decent [in Omaha] and I felt like a 35th-place guy. Ultimately, I just didn’t feel like I was ready, and now that I’m on the bubble in 10th [for the Race to the Championship] and someone is close to me in points, I need to race. I was able to ride this week, and I’m feeling it out [coming into Lafayette].

Even though you started the season banged up, you mentioned that you had those couple of races where you were in contention for the win and things seemed to be getting back where you expected them to be. Do you feel like you were where you wanted to be before your crash? Do you feel that way at all coming back this weekend?
Yeah, for sure. I feel comfortable. I’ve just been really struggling with putting the laps in during the week. When you have an injury, you put it all on the line on race weekend, and then do damage control during the week and fix what you can with rehab. That’s really what I’ve been fighting all year. It’s not the way I wanted to defend my title, obviously, but it’s going to be a situation where I’m going to take advantage of the Race to the Championship, because I’m way down in the points.

I feel like last year, I didn’t necessarily benefit from it [the points being reset], but this year I can because I’ve done it before [won the championship] and I know what it takes. That’s a huge mental step for me, and as soon as I’m able to do what I’m used to doing during the week, the results are going to show. That’s exactly what happened in Greensboro. That was the first time I rode during the week, and I got on the podium. I’m in it for the championship, and that’s the way I’ve been looking at it all season. To still have a chance at it and to miss as many races as I have is obviously a huge opportunity, and I need to take it serious. I need to start putting the laps in during the break before the points reset in Ontario.

Just as Kyle Regal (1) appeared to be hitting his stride this season, he suffered a crash that has left him on the sidelines for the last five races.

Just as Kyle Regal (1) appeared to be hitting his stride this season, he suffered a crash that has left him on the sidelines for the last five races.

How are you approaching this weekend in Lafayette? Are you looking to improve your ranking, hold on to the last spot, or will you just take things as they come out on the track?
I think the biggest thing for me this weekend is to focus on being in the top 10, riding smart, and being able to do the 15 laps in each main event. At this point, if I go out there and win, it won’t necessarily mean anything. It’s not so much of a confidence booster for me, because I still believe like I can do it [win the title] and I did do it just last year. So I still have confidence running the [number] one plate, but I feel bad because I think this is the first year a guy hasn’t been up front after winning the championship. But it’s been tough for me off the track with the injuries and stuff like that. As a rider, you try to keep it quiet, but it’s hard to do that when you’re not doing as well as you expected. I’m spending a lot of time getting ready, and I think I should be at 100 percent by the time we get to Ontario. That’s what I’m focusing on.

Assuming everything goes according to plan this weekend and you lock in your spot for the Race to the Championship, how do you approach your title defense? Will you come out swinging, looking to make a big jump in points, or will you just take it race by race and take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves?
If I learned anything from last year, it’s to be consistent and be up front. I’m one of the best guys off the start, and that really helped me last year, and I feel like it will help me this year. I need to put myself in a position to be up front and just not have any of the bad races.

I had a couple races last year that were bad, and looking back now, it would have been a lot nicer to have that cushion going into [the Las Vegas finale]. I’m just going to try and fix the mistakes I had last year and try to win the title again. It’s a deal where there’s 10 guys thinking they can win the championship going into it, and only one guy does. You have to be mentally tough, put the work in during the week, and stay healthy. That’s going to be something I’m focusing on after racing all year unhealthy, and I’m looking forward to being healthy as soon as I can.

Have you been keeping an eye on how the season has unfolded since you got injured? Do you know who your biggest challengers are going to be to defend your title?
Yeah. I obviously watched, since I was there last weekend. I’m actually really good friends with Gavin Faith. I think he’s a really good rider. He’s smart and keeps it clean. I think he’s going to be really good. Last year, we were teammates, and this year, even though we aren’t [on the same team], we’re still friends because of that.

Another one of my buddies, Travis Sewell, he grew up by me, riding together. He was an Indiana, Ohio, guy and I was a Michigan guy. [He and Gavin] I really like [to contend for the title]. The number-two guy, Jacob Hayes, he’s going pretty good, but he also had a crash in Tampa. I don’t know; there’s a lot of guys that get banged up in arenacross and have to tough it out. The key is to stay healthy, be as good as I can be, and that’s all I can really focus on. Race to win.

Although he carried the red plate for just one race this season, Kyle Regal is optimistic that he can once again finish the season on top.

Although he carried the red plate for just one race this season, Kyle Regal is optimistic that he can once again finish the season on top.

The ninth round of the 2016 AMSOIL Arenacross season will commence tomorrow night at Lafayette’s Cajundome, starting at 5 p.m. PT/ 7 p.m. CT/ 8 p.m. ET.

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