Nick Romano turned a lot of heads last year after taking both titles in the Mini Sr divisions at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Motocross Championship in August, but he turned even more heads when it was announced that he would ride a YZ250F for the Star Racing Amateur team in November at the Thor Winter Olympics. Romano exceeded many’s expectations, even his own, as he was immediately on pace with the front runners in both the supercross and motocross portions of the event. The New York native landed a couple of heat race wins and overall podiums but came up just short of a title at Mini Os which only fueled his determination for the 2020 season. Unfortunately, he suffered a broken collarbone at the first round of Supercross Futures in January and had to spend some time off the bike, but he’s been putting in some hard work since he got back in the saddle. We had a quick chat with Nick to see how he’s adapting to the west coast lifestyle, training with the Star Racing Yamaha team, his thoughts on the B class, and what video games he likes to play.
What have you been up to lately to keep yourself busy with everything on pause in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic?
Really just doing my training whenever we do ride and then obviously off the bike training, we've been doing a lot. Besides that there's not much to do, I'm just kind of taking the time as it comes, you know. Hang around, do nothing, play a little Xbox and basically hang around the house.
The Star Racing Yamaha team has still been practicing at private tracks, so you guys haven't really skipped a beat when it comes to riding. Have you had to do much to adapt to these new circumstances?
We haven't changed much, we've just been doing the same thing when we do ride as we would normally do. It's really just a little bit less time on the bike. We used to ride three or four days a week where now we're only riding once or twice. We've been riding at a private place called MX Heaven and it's an awesome track. Especially when it rains, he'll rip it up and it gets real rough and choppy, you get some long ruts. There are a few g-outs for sure and they'll catch you if you're not ready for 'em, but the track is just amazing.
Talk a little bit about making the jump from the Mini Sr. class straight to the B class and showing up at Mini Os for your first race with the new team.
A lot of people thought I was crazy for going straight from winning Loretta's on an 85 to the 250, but it's been awesome. I put in the work before Mini Os and I went there just looking to have fun, but I ended up coming out with multiple podiums, holeshots, and I learned a lot for my first race on the big bike. I took a little time off and I've just been training, getting used to the whole Star team. We've done a lot more since then and I'm just getting into the groove with all the pros and my amateur teammates. It's been awesome.
How was your mindset heading into Mini Os making that big of a jump?
It was definitely different. I didn't really expect much, but obviously I wasn't just going there to ride around; I wanted podiums and top fives. In my first heat race on supercross, I was definitely nervous, shaking a little bit on the gate and I came out with the holeshot and I kind of shocked myself. It was a really good learning curve for my first race, I learned a lot with the bike and my fitness, so it was a good experience.
As a competitor, were you upset with yourself not to come away with a title after you came so close in multiple classes?
Yeah, it was definitely a weird week. Like I said going in, I was looking at podiums and top fives and then I came out in my supercross heat races and got a 1st and two 2nds. After that, I was like "I'm here, I could be doin' this right now." After supercross, I had a few crashes -- last lap, last turn for the championship. I kind of got over that quick and going into outdoors, kind of the same deal, more laps on the outdoor track which I wasn't really used to. In the B class, they give you eight laps or fifteen minutes, whatever it is. Same scenario there, I threw a few titles away and at the moment I was definitely pissed, but after the week was over I went back to New York for a little bit. I got some calls and texts from the team telling me how good I rode and I shocked them, so honestly after I heard that I was cool.
How has it been adapting to the west coast lifestyle and doing all of your training out in California with the Star team?
Being out here is definitely different -- the scenery, the traffic, the tracks, the dirt, the weather, everything. It's definitely different but it's a good change and I'm learning so much with the whole team. Shane (McElrath) especially, he's been a pro in the 250 class for so long, every day there's something new just from listening to him talk and how he sets up the suspension. Same thing with Colt (Nichols) and Justin (Cooper), they're top guys in the 250 class so there's definitely a lot of experience that I'm able to learn from.
Have you had to focus a little bit more on bike setup and that kind of thing now that you're on a bigger bike and have some more resources at your disposal?
I wouldn't say a lot has changed. They gave me the bike when I came out here and it honestly didn't need much changed; we did a few clickers here and a few things gearing wise. At Mini Os, we learned a lot going from the west back east, the dirt is different and it roughens up differently. We have tested a few things suspension wise, but we've got it pretty dialed to where I'm pumped and the rest of the bike is just awesome.
You had a little injury at the beginning of the year, have you been able to do any racing at all?
Yeah, coming into Anaheim 2 which was the first Supercross Futures, I broke my collarbone in one of the first heat races and I was off five or six weeks. I wasn't even supposed to be riding yet but we went to Hangtown (LLAQ) so I could qualify. I was just rolling around trying to get a qualifying spot which I did, but unfortunately Jarrett Frye twisted his knee there.
At this point, you're probably just dying to get a couple gate drops under your belt this season.
Yeah, I haven't really gotten the gate drops that I've wanted. Every day I'm thinkin' about the next race...when's it gonna happen? Where's it at? I'm definitely itchin' to race.
What's your opinion on the different options they've laid out for Loretta Lynn's?
Yeah, we've been talking about it with the whole Star team with amateurs and pros. For us amateurs, as of right now I think we're just going to end up going to Plan D, the last plan, and everyone could go and race and get rid of Areas and Regionals, but obviously we don't know yet, something could change next week. As it looks, it will probably be the two-week thing with youth and amateurs.
All of the pro riders are obviously in a completely different situation. As someone who is kind of on the inside of that situation, how has it been for them dealing with that?
There's definitely a lot of stuff going on with them. I live with Star Racing's Team Manager, Will Hahn, and I wouldn't say I know anything first, but I get to know before it goes out to the public. It's been crazy, Feld and all the team guys have meetings a few times a week and I don't know what they're planning to do with supercross. It literally changes everyday and same thing with outdoors, I honestly don't even know if they're going to do outdoors, so it's crazy.
What's it like living with your Team Manager?
Honestly, it's awesome! Will's a great guy, he's so nice. He'll help out with anything, literally anything. Besides riding and training, just living with him is pretty cool. Sometimes me and him will just go work out, talk about stuff, or whatever the case is. He's awesome.
You need to return the favor and help him out with his lap times on the Monster Energy Supercross 3 video game. He didn't perform too well in the General's Cup.
Yeah, he needs some big help. I'll help him out but honestly I need some help myself. We'll see what happens.
Yeah, you were lookin' a little sketchy in the onboard footage they showed of you.
(laughs) Yeah, I came out swingin' in the heat race and it just went downhill from there.
It was cool that the Star team stepped up and you guys all raced in it. Honestly, you have a pretty experienced team of gamers when it comes down to it.
Honestly, our whole team kind of games so it's pretty sick! (laughs)
What games are you into?
Yeah, obviously Supercross...I play Fortnite, Call of Duty, Rainbow Six Siege, and sometimes Halo but the main three are the top ones.
Talk a little bit about the depth of talent in the B class this season.
It's a stacked year for B class. You got me and Matt, the PC boys, Honda guys, KTMs -- it's definitely going to be a fun one. Everyone's going to be fast but I'm just focused on myself, it's going to be good.
What're your plans for next year? You're still young in the B class and just moved up, so will you do another year there?
Yeah, we talked a whole bunch of times before I signed (with Star) and they were cool to let me do 125s and me and my dad talked about it a lot. Honestly, we didn't want to waste my time on a 125 because our plan is to go pro as early, as strong, and as healthy as we can on a big bike.