Don’t count Phil Nicoletti out.
The Motocross veteran hasn’t exactly been retired if you’re just now getting up to speed. The long-time fan favorite spent the last two years racing in Canada where he finished third in the 2019 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Motocross Championship just 30 points behind Colton Facciottti for the title, Unfortunately, last year with the coronavirus pandemic racing wasn’t as rosy.
But for 2021, Nicoletti returns home and will line up behind the gate on May 29 at Fox Raceway for Round 1 of the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series. It’s not a one-off either. With the help of personal sponsors (including MotoSport.com), Nicoletti plans a full privateer effort (#715) onboard a Yamaha in the 450 class for the 12-round series.
Nicoletti has not lined up for the American Nationals since 2018 when he finished seventh overall at Ironman but he’s been training and riding for two months after a lengthy break off the bike. FilthyPhil, as many call him, took a break from the track to sit down and answer some questions about Canada, Mike Alessi and his return to the Outdoors.
Interview with Phil Nicoletti
1. It’s been three years since you competed in the real Nationals. What made you decide to line up for 2021?
The decision came when the current team I was riding for in Canada had folded. I was really bummed, because I enjoyed my time in Canada, as well as the team. Nothing made sense for me to continue up there, so I made the decision to come back to the US. A lot of personal sponsors made it possible to happen such as MotoSport, FXR, Rockstar Energy, ClubMX, 6D Helmets, Atlas Brace, and OTSFF. Happy to be back!
2. I won’t ask you anything about Mike Alessi. That OK?
Wouldn’t bother me (laughs). It gets brought up a fair amount. It’s no big deal. S--t happens in the heat of the moment. Not saying it was right or wrong on both parts, but it happened, and that day ultimately took me out of the Canadian MX Championship. Live and learn I guess.
3. Do you know how hard it is to find the results of the Canadian Triple Crown series? What’s wrong with them?
Yea, the results, rider points standings is a pain in the ass to find. Even for myself it was hard to figure out what was going on. I didn’t care about anyone else, just focused on my points and whoever was close to me.
4. Did you win? I don’t know. I can’t find it.
I won big in 2019 (laughs). 2020 it sucked, with Covid and what not. Nothing was the same. There wasn’t 100k up for grabs (or $76,000 US), which was a total bummer. The idea of the Triple Crown 100k, was pretty badass. There were a lot of championship battles, all through the year in AX, MX, and SX. The MX title was still the bread and butter, but the Triple Crown payout made for an awesome year.
5. OK, on to the good stuff. How is training going for Outdoors?
Outdoor training has been going well. I had a lot of time off the bike, so it took a long time to get some speed back. Fitness actually came back before the speed. Now after two months, I feel like I’m back to normal and making good gains again. Still have some testing to do, which with help with more speed and comfort. But I’m excited.
6. What keeps you motivated to line up and compete?
I think that’s a pretty easy answer, especially for the older guys that still do it. We love it. I still love racing and training. I love the summer grind, and stroking out in the summer heat. That might sound crazy, but it a very satisfying pain (laughs). It hurts so bad at the time, but the state of calmness it brings is like no other.
7. How was racing in Canada?
I really enjoyed my time in Canada. 2019 was awesome, when Covid wasn’t around, and we got to race all over the country. I regret not getting a camper between rounds in 2019, and checking out some of their national parks and what not. I met a lot of great people up there, and they became good friends. I’m not saying my time in Canada is over, you never know. Reevaluate when things get back to normal.
8. Much of a difference from the American Nationals? A different feel or once the gate drops you can be anywhere?
I’ve raced the Australian series, Canadian series, and the American series. No matter where you go in the world, there is always someone fast. The difference between all of those series, is the depth. Instead of three to four fast guys, there are 14. So obviously the U.S. brings a different vibe as far as competition and seriousness.
9. You’re a bit older now. Have you found anything noticeable (or annoying) that requires more training or focus than what was necessary a few years ago?
It’s funny you ask that. Some things are much easier, some things are a lot harder. Fitness is easier to maintain to be quite honest, as far as riding. The issue for me in preseason, is not being able to do four days of riding. I used to be able to handle Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday in the younger days, but now I’m just Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday. That probably has to do with my hour and 15-minute drive to ClubMX, and I couldn’t be bothered to do it four times in a week.
10. You finished sixth overall in 2018 including a podium at Unadilla. Lots of new faces this time around. How do you stack up against the competition?
A lot of new faces, a lot of old faces. I’m not sure where I’ll stack up! I’m hoping in the Top 10 (laughs). I’m not putting a s--t ton of time in to just be a gate filler. It’s going to be a battle of course, but I still have it in me. It’ll take a few races to work out a few kinks, but I’m confident I’ll be OK. If not, beer 30 might come a little early (laughs).
11. Do you have any nagging grievances you plan to settle this summer?
Not at the moment! But that could change quick after first practice. You never know! I could see Coop (Cooper Webb) getting in my way on a fast lap for going to slow. I’d hate to have to have to yell at a buddy (laughs).
12. MotoSport is a proud sponsor of Phil Nicoletti for the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series. How many times do you think you will forget to thank us?
With MotoSport supporting myself, PulpMX, and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, I think they will be the number one company of the summer! It’s awesome to have a company like MotoSport, give back to a washed up old guy like myself. I appreciate the support VERY much.
13. Seriously, we are very happy to have you under our tent. By the way, I have to ask, is your nickname because you swear a lot (you are extraordinary polite) or because you hit the dirt more than necessary?
(Steve) Matthes gave me the nickname FilthyPhil a long time ago. I’m not sure how it even came about (laughs). It’s fits well, maybe because I do swear a bit. But who doesn’t? Words just flow naturally!
Gates drop for Nicoletti and the 2021 Motocross season on May 29 at Fox Raceway in Pala, CA. Watch live on MAVTV and NBC Sports Network or stream on Peacock.