Every athlete appreciates their fans, but the relationship between SuperMotocross star Aaron Plessinger goes beyond simple appreciation. The energy they provide rejuvenates his life force.
“When (the fans) get into it, when they’re cheering, I just get chills every time,” Plessinger told NBC Sports. “Every time I go out for the hot lap or opening ceremonies, the energy they give just wakes me up. When I interact with them, they really bring me joy. I love it.”
The Monster Energy Supercross series does not have a Most Popular Rider award like NASCAR has for its drivers, but if they did one could reasonably expect Plessinger to be among those most likely to take the honor every season. Anyone who wants to know where he is on the track and whether he is getting ready to make a pass for position needs only to listen for the crowd noise, which is so loud that at times Plessinger hears it over the roar of his engine.
“It’s almost louder in the race than it is in opening ceremonies,” Plessinger said. “When their favorite riders ready to pass for the lead or whatever, they get it. It’s so loud. It’s almost as loud as a mic. There’re some sections that I’ve gone around a corner and my bike goes a little bit lower in the RPM and I can’t hear my mic. It’s crazy how loud they can get and how many there are.”
Plessinger advanced into the 450 division in 2019. By 2021, he was regularly challenging at the front of the field and that season he finished fifth in the Supercross points’ standings. But while success on track is important, it is not the driving force for this rider from Hamilton, Ohio.
Off the track, it is impossible to find Plessinger without a smile on his face. While some athletes talk about how blessed they are to be part of their sports, it’s a question that doesn’t need to be asked of Plessinger because of how he stands out from the crowd.
“I don’t know what it is about this sport, but not a lot of people show personality,” Plessinger said. “For me, that’s one thing I’ve done ever since I’ve gone pro, is just be me. And everybody else, if they don’t like it, whatever. It’s come so easy because I’m just being myself and everybody likes it.
“I think that plays into the hand of why the fans react to me so well. It’s because I’m a little bit more relatable than the guys who never smile and are like, ‘I got second, that sucks’. Being myself has kind of morphed into this. I’m an individual who really shows what I’m about and portrays me instead of a dirt bike rider, or a professional dirt bike rider, who just trains all the time. I just have fun with it.
“There’s a time and a place to take it serious but you still got to have fun.”
The 2023 season was not exactly a career best. Plessinger finished seventh in the Supercross points in part because he was one of many riders who missed races to injury. His injury came late in the season, forcing him to miss three of the final four rounds. He was almost perfect in regard to top-10 finishes in the rounds he made, however, finishing worse than ninth in only one of 14 races.
That 13th-place finish came in Detroit, where he had perhaps the best performance of the season. Taking the lead from Adam Cianciarulo on Lap 2, he led until a freak accident robbed him of victory. Plessinger was cruising toward victory when his toe dug into the dirt in a deep rut and pitched him from his bike.
“I led more laps than the previous years, felt like I had the potential to win but, little mistakes here and there by me just kind of got in the way,” Plessinger said of his 2023 season. “I had a few little mishaps. We got speed, we got confidence now.”
When Plessinger returned for the final race of the Supercross season, he immediately jumped onto the podium with a second-place finish at Salt Lake City.
Plessinger carried his momentum into the Pro Motocross season where he finished in the top five in all but one race. In the outdoor season, Plessinger did have the best performance of his 450 career with a third-place finish in the points, second-place finishes at Thunder Valley and Budds Creek as well as another podium in the season-ender at Ironman.
“It’s always nice being a part of the conversation and I feel like the last few years I’ve kind of flown under the radar and still a little bit this year, but I feel like I’m going to put myself in a lot better position this year with better starts and confidence,” Plessinger said. “I feel really, really good this year. … I started riding a month and a half ago or so and I’m already feeling better than I have in the past year.”
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