Well, another Daytona Bike Week has come and passed. There isn’t close to as much hype for another race on the schedule like there is for Daytona. Everyone is cooped up all winter long and anxious the first two rounds of the season in Florida. New teams, new bikes, and new goals has everyone excited to sling around the dirt at the Short Track every year. Nevermind that the track is more unpredictable than Kanye West at the Grammy’s. Everyone is pumped on Daytona. Well, mostly everyone. Get ready to hop aboard the emotional roller coaster that happens to be Daytona Bike Week.
Coming into this season, I was unsure what my racing plans were. It had me very frustrated. I feel like I work harder than most of the riders out there. I train every day. I market myself the best I can. I market the sport the best I can. I felt like my results, although not completely satisfying, were solid last season. I was left without a ride for the 2015 season.
Instead of feeling bad for myself and waiting for something to come my way, I decided to go after it myself. With only a handful of days before I was scheduled to leave and head south, I went out and bought a 2010 CRF 450. I believe that in racing, there are only so many intelligent sacrifices you can make before you need to catch a break that enables you to make a living in this sport. Notice I used the word “intelligent” before sacrifices. Some riders continue to make sacrifices to chase the dream of a professional motorcycle racer that hurts them in the long run. I view things a little differently. Racing motorcycles is awesome and it’s been my dream since I was a little kid, but I realize there are other means of being successful than winning motorcycle races. I feel like the last minute purchase of this motorcycle before Daytona was my “Hail Mary” for this season. Did I have to finances to make the purchase? Not really. Did I want to stay up til 1am every morning before I left getting the bike ready? No way. Did I want to spend $1k on tires, $600 in race entries, and $180 on race gas for a week of racing? You should know the answer to this one. As I stated in a previous blog, I feel like eventually all the hard work will pay off, and I truly believe that time for me is right around the corner. I hope so at least!
After I bought my new race bike, an opportunity came my way. I received a phone call from Babe DeMay to ride his newly built Yamaha FZ-07 twin at Savannah. I was very excited to be the first rider behind the handlebars on this motorcycle. After a day of remembering how to ride at Mid-Carolina Speedway on my CRF 450, I headed to Savannah for the first race of the season. I won’t get into a full race report on what went down at each race. No one likes to read that crap. At Savannah, I felt very good on everything I rode. I finished 7th in the 450 Expert Class. Not exactly what I wanted, but it was a follow-the-leader type of race and I struggled making passes. I also won the Super Singles class on my 450. It felt good to get a win, especially with all the good competition in my class.
The Twins class is what I put most of my focus on. Even though the FZ-07 was bone stock, we were very fast right out of the box. Our lap times were very capable of being on the podium. With any new motorcycle, there are going to be some bugs that need to be worked out. We had some battery issues that left me unable to start my heat race. I had a stacked heat race with Mees and Halbert. I wanted to see where we stood against those guys, so I was bummed not being able to make the start. I felt very good in my semi and won by over a straightaway. In the main event, I started in 18th place. Savannah isn’t the easiest track to pass on, but I quickly made my way up to 6th or 7th place when I ran off the track in turn two. Luckily, there was a concrete barrier blocking a bunch of trees that I was able to berm off of to get back in the race without crashing. The crappy thing was that all the passes I made in the first half of the race, I would have to make up in the second half of the race because I was back in 18th place again. I charged hard and when the checkered flag came out, I finished 11th. At first I was pissed off because it would have been sweet to podium the first ever race on the Yamaha, but then I just started to smile thinking about the potential of this new motorcycle.
After Savannah, Babe and Clayton (The Crew Chief of the Memphis Shades/Yamaha Team) decided to head down to Volusia so we could race the motorcycle again and get some more seat time on it. I felt really fast again at Volusia. I came from the second row in the main event to finish 3rd in the Expert Singles behind Mees and Halbert. Even though I was pumped on another podium, I was making a lot of ground on those guys in the closing laps so I was a little bummed I didn’t get the win.
We had another small issue in the Twins heat race that left me unable to make the start. I ended up getting the last transfer spot to the main event and again started on row 3. Volusia is even a harder track to make passes at then Savannah. I got slowed by a few riders during the main event that delayed my progress. With a couple laps to go, I caught a pack of about 5 riders but I was only able to make one pass and I finished in 9th. Again, another result that doesn’t do us any justice for how fast we were on the Yami Twin.
I rode the Memphis Shades/Yamaha 450 in the Super Singles class. Although I jumped the start in the main event, I was still able to grab the win. Not bad for my first time riding it.
The Short Track was up next. I hate the Short Track. I don’t hate Short Tracks in general. Just Daytona. The good thing about my own blog is that I can be honest in it. It’s not a terrible track to ride on, but it’s so unpredictable. The dirt isn’t the greatest and it’s very tough to pass on. The first day I rode the Yamaha 450. I started on the front row in my heat race which was a first for me at this track. I got slammed into running 5th in my heat race that left me playing catch up the rest of the night and unfortunately I was left spectating the main event on day one. Big congrats to Stevie Bonsey on his main event win. That was cool to see.
This had me extremely motivated for day two. There were a lot of things that happened on Thursday that were out of my control. However, I need to do a better job of executing my races. I didn’t have any excuses at all. I just needed to race better. The next morning I went on a 4.5 mile run to clear my head, grabbed some lunch and headed to the track. I switched over from the Yamaha to my Lancaster Honda 450. The bike has a lot of horsepower for this tiny track, but because I didn’t have any seat time on the Yamaha, I felt more comfortable riding red. My good friend and crew chief Jerry Alexander made a bunch of changes to the Honda before the day started. We put on a Motion Pro Rev2 Throttle among other things that hoped would work in our favor. I again qualified on the front row for my heat race. I ended up pulling a monster holeshot in the heat race. As soon as I dropped the clutch, I had a big grin on my face. I got passed by two former winners at this track named Brandon Robinson and Briar Bauman, but I held on to finish 3rd in my heat race. I was confident for the main event.
They overwatered the track a little bit in the main event that made the track very slick. I got a terrible holeshot and struggled (a lot!) with the track conditions. I crossed the finish line in 15th. I thought we had a good shot at a top 10 so I was bummed with this result, but it felt good leaving Daytona for the second straight year with some points.
There are a lot of things in the works right now for the 2015 season. I am hoping to land a full time ride with the Memphis Shades/Babe DeMay team, but nothing is set in stone yet and we are still working out the details. We have some time before the next round at the Springfield Mile May 24th. Until then, I will keep training and making sure I am ready to race. I have a few Duathlon races planned and a Warrior Dash before then. I am also racing the 12-hour NJ MiniGP endurance April 25th. Until next time..
*Photos by Mia Moore & Flat Track Live.