Gonzales earned himself a spot on the Rock River Yamaha Factory squad last year just in time for his move up to the A class, starting with none other than The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City. The Florida native put himself on the top step of the podium in 250 A in relatively flawless fashion and kept up the solid run of form at Mini Os with another title and a handful of overall podiums, finishing off the season on a tremendously high note. Gonzales has been keeping busy throughout the offseason and the recent coronavirus pandemic, continuing to put in hard hours down at Millsaps Training Facility in Cairo, Georgia in order to be prepared for the return back to racing. Gonzales is all in on Loretta’s this year as this will most likely be his last year racing in Hurricane Mills before he makes the transition to the professional level, so he’s been putting one hundred percent of his focus into preparing for his final year at the Ranch in an attempt to earn his third number one plate at Loretta Lynn’s and go out with a bang. We caught up with Mason to chat about his graduation to the A class, his mindset for Loretta’s this year, and returning to racing at Silver Dollar.
What have you been during the quarantine for the past couple of months?
I’ve really just been trying to keep the program as normal as possible at MTF lately. I’ve been doing a good bit of riding and it’s a little difficult to push forward when you don’t have things to look forward to like races and stuff because of the pandemic, but that’s really all I can do with the situation.
Has the lockdown affected your riding and training situation in any way?
The riding and trading leveled out there for a little bit due to hospitals being more and more populated with COVID-19 patients. So now as things started to turn around in the world, everything is pretty much back to normal training-wise. Regionals have come up pretty quickly so I’m really looking forward to those and then it’s on to Loretta Lynn’s.
What has it affected about your day-to-day life?
I actually think there have been some positive things that have come from all of this. I want to do more activities outside now. I’ve started to pick up a couple of new hobbies like going fishing every so often. It’s nice because I don’t have to worry about being around a lot of people and it’s nice to just get away sometimes. Now some restaurants and certain things are opening back up to the public here in Georgia, so as long as we get used to the social distancing from people I think I’ve been adjusting to this “new normal” thing pretty well.
Talk us through the battles throughout the week and the emotions of winning the title last year at Loretta’s in the 250 B Limited class.
Well the emotions going into the week were neutral and I knew I had put the work in prior to the event, so I was feeling confident in that but I knew I still had to execute things. I think the start is one of -- if not the most important things at Loretta’s -- so I just wanted to make sure I had those down consistently throughout the week. The first moto of 250 B Limited went well. I believe I got a decent start and lead most of the race to take the win in that one. It was nice to start off the week on that note and get the ball rolling in the right direction. Fast forward to the third moto for the championship and I was feeling a little pressure at that point but I knew what I had to do. I told myself that it was going to be a difficult moto and to just get ready to suffer. So I get a top-five start or so and I work my way past a few people on the opening lap. I figured out Preston (Kilroy) was behind me about a lap in so I knew I had to keep my composure throughout the whole race. Preston kept me honest the whole race and the two laps to go board comes out and I don’t know how he was feeling but oh boy was I feeling some arm pump (laughs). Luckily, I ended up winning the moto and brought back home my second Loretta’s title. I’ve had some great memories, last year was no different, and I’m looking forward to making more.
What was it like for you making your A class debut at The Motoplayground Race at Ponca City and what was your mindset moving up to the A class?
Honestly, I really didn’t have any expectations going into Ponca. Everything was new to me with being on a new team, bike, mechanic, etc. My main focus was to get more comfortable on the bike and get out of there safe, healthy, and ready to head into Mini Os with some confidence. So yeah, I started off the weekend at Ponca really well and ended it with a title in 250 A. I can’t complain about getting a title in my first A race. After the race, I sat down and looked back on what I did wrong and what needs to be done better. I think that helped me going forward into Mini O’s.
How did your week of racing go last year at Mini Os?
Mini Os has always been one of my favorite events on the amateur circuit. I’ve been going for many years now it seems and I had a lot of fun throughout the week of racing. The SX portion went well. I was able to get a win and some podium finishes there and then shifted things to MX. I got some more podiums over there as well, but I was left feeling really unimpressed by some of my performances. I felt like I choked on a few wins that were in my grasp and I think that just fired me up to get back to riding and training hard at MTF to correct my faults.
Do you find yourself watching the 250SX class closer than ever before, studying the competition considering that is the next step for you in your career path?
I feel like I have always studied the top guys in the pros. Now that it’s getting closer and closer to making that step into the pros, I do watch and examine them closer than ever it seems like. I think it’s good to ask questions as I’ve always been the type to just sit back and listen. Like now, guys at MTF are starting to get back into supercross and I’m over there watching and trying to learn even though MX is my main focus at the moment. I know that SX is a big part of success in our sport. As I’ve grown over the years, I’ve started to look at some things differently. From a competitive standpoint I watch all the pro guys, their strengths and weaknesses, I study a lot. I really want to know everything (laughs).
What was it like to finally be back at the races at Silver Dollar?
Oh man, I was so pumped just to get some gate drops. I want to give a shoutout to Matt Walker for putting on a great event for everyone. The races were short, I think it was around five laps or something, but it was good to go there and see where I stack up against some other good talents. I rode well all day and put myself in good positions winning five out of the six motos.
What’s your mindset heading into Loretta’s this year?
From the looks of it this could be my last run at Loretta’s and quite possibly my last amateur race and I want to go out with a bang! I truly believe this is the best I’ve felt on a dirt bike in a long time. I just want to ride like myself and put everything out there onto the track and I think that will translate into the results that I’m looking for. The main goal forever and always will be to have fun and I’m accomplishing that right now, there are times where things get a little heavy but that’s just part of the sport.
Do you know what you have planned for the end of the season moving into 2021?
The plans for next year are still up in the air right now. I’m putting all my focus into Loretta’s and being as prepared as possible. I have long term goals set for myself, now I just need to do what I’m doing and hopefully everything will fall into place.