"It's Like Seeing Death in Front of You" | Casey Cochran on Hitting Whoops

We catch up with Rockstar Husqvarna's amateur sensation about winning the final round of Supercross Futures and another run at some Loretta Lynn's championships.

Casey Cochran is part of the next wave of amateur superstar riders that we will be seeing under the lights of Anaheim in a few years. Rockstar Husqvarna has to be thrilled with his Loretta Lynn championships and win in Salt Lake City in the Supercross Futures class. I had a chance to meet him at the James Stewart Freestone Spring Championship and instantly liked the kid. If you don't normally, take some time to listen to the audio from this one. He's well spoken, funny, and has a bright future. We had a few laughs, so I think you'll enjoy.

For the full interview, check out the Vital MX podcast right here. If you're interested in the condensed written version, scroll down just a bit further.


Jamie Guida – Vital MX: How's it going, man?

 Casey Cochran: Pretty good. I'm just chilling out today. 

Vital MX: Was it a big training day or light?

Casey: It was light after racing the Loretta's regional yesterday, so just a chill day today. 

Vital MX: How'd yesterday go?

Casey: It was good. I won both Schoolboy 2 and 250 B.

Vital MX: Good job! Let's do a little bit of background. You grew up in Virginia with a couple of Navy parents, correct?

Casey: Yeah, I did. I was born just outside Virginia Beach, and both my parents were in the Navy. I didn't spend much time there. I only lived there for about a year. We moved when I was one, and then I grew up in Tennessee until I was about eight. Then Georgia and Florida after that.

Vital MX: Were your parents still in the military when you were born? 

Casey: I know my mom was still in the military. I'm not entirely sure about my dad. I don't know if he was on active duty or not.

Vital MX: Your dad was a fighter pilot, and your mom was a mechanic on an aircraft carrier. Those are pretty cool jobs.

Casey: Yeah, for sure. It's a cool backstory, for sure.

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Vital MX: Your dad raced a little bit, and I assume that's how you got into it. He must have been racing when you were growing up, and you wanted to do it too.

Casey: Yeah. So, my dad used to race cars back in the day. I don't remember if I was born at that time. I'm not even sure, but he stopped doing that pretty early. My grandpa owns a motorcycle dealership, and he used to road race. He got me a CRF50 for my second or third Christmas, and ever since then, I've been on a dirt bike.

Vital MX: How quickly did it become addicting to you, and at what point did your family realize, "Casey's got some talent?"

Casey: We did a lot of local racing every weekend or two. There were a few little local series in Tennessee when I was probably five years old. Then when I was six and on 50s, I was still in school, obviously, and the whole summer, we went to train with Zak Mashburn for Loretta's. I went to Loretta's that year, and I won on a 50, and ever since that day, it's been pretty serious.

Vital MX: Growing up, who were your idols? Being a Tennessee kid, tell me it wasn't Alex Ray.

Casey: (Heavy laughter. This was funny to him) No, I don't think it was.

Vital MX: Okay. Who were your idols?

Casey: I used to love (Ryan) Villopoto back in the day. In the 2011 to 2013 era when he won those titles on the 450. I always looked up to him a lot. Recently it's changed to Kenny (Roczen). I love the whole vibe he's got going on and everything he's overcome. It's a cool story. So, nowadays, it's him. It's cool being able to hang out with him. We go on the boat sometimes and go wake-surfing. So, it's cool to be able to hang out with someone you look up to.

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Vital MX: Do you still get a little nervous, or is it normal now?

Casey: You know, maybe for the first year, it was a little nerve-wracking, but now he's just a normal guy.

Vital MX: When did you start getting support from outside sponsors?

Casey: It was that year that I won Loretta's, actually. We did the Oak Hill National before Loretta's that year, and I won that. I was wearing some random Answer gear, and they called us, and I got to deal with them to get some free gear. That was when the first little support started coming in. I remember there was some Skullcandy gear that they came out with, and I wanted that gear so badly. So, being able to get it for free after that, I was stoked.

Vital MX: At what point do you get some support from OEMs?

Casey: I'm not sure exactly when it came, but when I got on Sr. 50s, we got a deal with Cobra, and I was on the Cobra Elite team. So, then the bikes were pretty much taken care of. We've had support almost every year since except the one year we went on our own and bought GasGases. 

Vital MX: Then Rockstar Husky must have made a deal because you were on Rockstar Husky in '22 and won a couple of championships at Loretta's.

Casey: So, it was the whole year of 2021. We went out on our own and bought some GasGas Super Minis, and had a really good year. We won a bunch of titles, and then we got a deal with what was basically Orange Brigade but on Husqvarna. It wasn't Rockstar, necessarily. Then I won Loretta's in both classes on the 125 last year, and after that, we got a deal from Rockstar which brings us to today.

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Vital MX: I assume now, with Rockstar Husky, the pressure level starts growing. It starts to become serious and probably starts to feel like a job. Are you equipped for that? Do you have other people that you talk to about trying to separate the pressure and making sure it's still fun so you don't feel overwhelmed?

Casey: Yeah, I'd say so. This year's been pressure free, especially with all the Supercross Futures. I feel because I'm not an 'A' rider, I didn't have the pressure to go in and say, "Hey, you have to win. You have to do this." It was just getting my feet wet because I think I'm going to run those again next year. This year was just to go out, get comfortable, and get your feet wet on some Supercross, which actually ended up turning out well, I guess. On the motocross side of things, I hadn't ridden much until recently on the bike, so to come out and win the regional, I was stoked with that. Now the pressure's on for Loretta's, but the team is super chill and super cool about it. I never feel I'm under pressure over there.

Vital MX: That's good because that will come at some point, and it changes things. Daniel Blair is now part of the Orange Brigade and the Husky and GasGas amateur stuff. He's very family-oriented, and he's a pretty chill guy. Have you worked with Daniel much? Has he helped you, or is that still a new relationship?

Casey: I've actually got to work with and talk to him quite a bit. I love Daniel. He's a good dude, and he's really easygoing and honestly helps out a lot. He gives tips here and there, and it's good to have him around. I'm not part of that Orange Brigade team, so I don't go to him with bikes or anything, but anytime I see him at any of the amateur races, he's always giving me little tidbits here and there. I wanted to touch on the fun side of it. It's nice where we are right now. I live on a lake, so whenever I get home, we can go out on the boat and go surf and go hang out just to get your mind off of training for a little bit. It keeps it fun, and it's not too much of a grind. Every single day you get to come home and get away from it and then go back to it tomorrow.

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Vital MX: I think that's very important. I want to go back to Daniel just for a minute. He's one of my buddies, so I want to know if it makes it more comfortable when you do visit with him because he's the same size as you.

Casey: (So much more laughter) I think I might have him beat now.

Vital MX: You might. He's a little bitty fella, but he's fantastic people. Any advice you can get from him, take it. Do you do anything else, like playing golf, video games, or BMX?

Casey: I used to be really into video games. The past couple of years, I haven't touched them much because I've been getting busier and busier with the whole schedule and everything, but I was really into MX Simulator last year and even did a bunch of the professional races they have on there. Recently I've been doing some wake surfing on the boat and occasional ocean surfing. I haven't dabbed my feet into that too much, but when I go out to California, I'd like to hit some better waves because the waves here in Florida are pretty 'not it' to be honest.

Vital MX: How is working with Mike Brown at Baker's Factory? He's known as a very hard-nosed dude on the track, but he's a softie off the track. 

Casey: It's been good. I love Brownie. He's a good dude, and on the track, he gives me all the tips and training I need. All the technique stuff we've been doing has been working. I love the whole vibe we have going on with everyone. When Jalek (Swoll), (Max) Vohland, and everyone's in town, we'll all go out and get some food, and we'll just mess with each other all the time. So, it's a pretty loose program outside of training, but we all get tightened up on the bike.

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Vital MX: I bet that is a fun group. Max is a friendly, funny kid, and Jalek's just always joking and laughing. He kind of missed Stylez (Robertson) since he left, but it sounds like there's a good group there now.

Casey: I know Brownie misses Stilez, for sure. We all do a little bit. He was part of the whole group, but it's still been a good time.

Vital MX: How aware are you of Mike Brown's history? He's lived it, man. He's done a lot of different things on motorcycles.

Casey: Everything. Literally everything. I always ask him, "Did you ever do this?" He's like, "Yeah, yeah." I'm like, "Dang, you raced every single type of racing there is to do."

Vital MX: He still does. There's no doubt if he lined up this weekend at Thunder Valley, he could probably top ten.

Casey: Honestly, I wouldn't doubt it.

Vital MX: Let's talk about Supercross Futures. At A2, you got a second, Arlington a second, Glendale a fourth, East Rutherford a fourth, and then you win Salt Lake City. A hell of a good record, man. I mean, obviously, you got a little bit of help at Salt Lake City with (Daxton) Bennick and Juju (Julian Beaumer) going down, but it doesn't matter. You won. That's killer.

Casey: Oh, man. Definitely. I'm still speechless about that night in Salt Lake. The whole series was wild for me, especially coming into A2. I was looking at the roster, seeing all the guys that could be there, and my expectations were, "Let's get a top ten." I would have been stoked with a top-five, even. I got hurt in October, right before Straight Rhythm. I was going to do Straight Rhythm on the 125, and then I got hurt and broke my hand and didn't get back on the bike till basically the beginning of December. So, I had maybe a month and a half on the 250, and all that time was basically supercross. I know some of these guys have been riding it a lot longer. I was just coming in hoping to dabble and maybe get a top-five and then get on the podium with a second, and I was over the moon.

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Vital MX: What did the Supercross Futures Program surprise you with? What did you take away from it? It's cool that you get to go experience the whole day and night program and race under the lights. It gives you a little insight into what's to come. 

Casey: The biggest thing for me was just walking out of the tunnel at A2 for that main event and looking up and seeing, I don't know, 50,000 people in the stands all watching you and thinking about how you've dreamed of racing this since you were a little kid and it's finally here. Being able to get that opportunity to race in front of so many people at one stadium and just cherish that moment. It's such a cool opportunity, and I'm so happy that we got to put it together and actually come out with some good results.

Vital MX: What do you think your strong points are from the Supercross experience? What are your weak points? Usually, it's whoops, but what are yours?

Casey: Definitely, the weak point is whoops. I remember it was Glendale, and I got like fourth in qualifying, but we did a match-up with some film. I was ahead at first in qualifying all the way until that long whoop section. Then I lost a second and a half. I told myself, "I'm just going home, and I'm going to hit whoops, 100 times a day. I'm just hitting whoops over and over." It's gotten better, and Salt Lake City was actually pretty good. I felt pretty comfortable there, but yeah, Glendale was rough. East Rutherford was a little better in the whoops. That's definitely the weak point. The strong points are the starts. They were pretty decent all year. I wasn't too mad at those. 

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Vital MX: With the whoops, is it technique, or is it a bit of mental? You have to commit, and that's very difficult, I assume.

Casey: Yeah. It's like seeing death in front of you, and the faster you go at it, the better it is. It doesn't make any sense. 

Vital MX: Haha, I think that might be the quote for the title of this interview. That's great. Just go talk to Christian (Craig), man. He'll get you dialed.

Casey: I know. I see this guy hitting whoops every day before the Supercross season, and I'm like, "How does this guy do it?" He looks so steady and so perfect. I try and do the same thing. It just doesn't work.

Vital MX: Shift up and close your eyes. Anyway, I was looking through your Instagram, and it reminded me that last year you were on the FIM Junior World Championship team for the USA and won that in Finland. What was that experience like?

Casey: Unreal. Honestly, that whole experience was eye-opening, for sure. That track we raced over there, I can confidently say, was the most brutal track I've ever raced on in my life. I was going over there thinking, "Oh, it's not going to be too gnarly." The 125 is the highest bike they have, and I was thinking, "Okay, so it's just 125, 65, and 85, and it shouldn't be too bad." We did the qualifying day before, and I think I qualified like fifth or something, and the track actually wasn't too bad. Then we woke up the next morning, and I looked outside, and I said, "They didn't touch the track at all. They left it the exact same. Oh Lord, this is going to be rough." I think I got fourth overall in the 125 class, but the team ended up winning for the USA overall. I went something like 7-4 in my motos, and I remember in the first moto coming off the track and saying, "I don't even want to go back out there." I was so tired, and I was so done. I thought, "If I rode this track every day or tracks as gnarly as this, people wouldn't be able to touch you." I was astonished by that experience, honestly.

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Vital MX: Was that your first time racing out of the country, or have you done that before?

Casey: I did some MX Master Kids in France in 2014 and 2016, maybe. So, I did some racing overseas before in France. Yeah, that's some good experience.

Vital MX: How are you as a tester? Do you feel the bike? If there are minor changes done, will you pick up on it? 

Casey: I would say it's getting better. On an 85, I would literally ride around with a flat tire. It used to be so bad you could put a whole different set of suspension on, and they would ask me, "Do you feel anything?" I'm like, "Oh, I didn't even know." That's how it used to be, but it's getting better now. We're starting to get where I can feel some stuff and actually make some changes to help the team out.

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Vital MX: That's good. You'll need that as your career moves on. What are your plans for the rest of the season? You talked about Loretta's. Are you staying 'B' class?

Casey: It's 'B' class until Loretta's, at least, and the Combines at Red Bud and Ironman. I think we have a deal that if I win the Combine at Red Bud, then maybe after Loretta's, I'd go do one of the amateur days and get my pro points. Then maybe race one of the last pro rounds just to dabble in there a little, and then Supercross Futures next year. After that, depending on what the team says, maybe go pro for outdoors. We haven't really made up our minds. 


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