AURORA, Ill., (Jan. 4, 2007) – After six races on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour, TUF Racing’s Danny Smith has put up a solid lead over the rest of the field and has set the early season stage as to who is the favorite to capture the 2005-’06 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series title.
With 123 points in the AMA Arenacross class – to Chad Johnson’s 95 – Smith has asserted himself as the guy to beat. With a decisive win on the opening night at Des Moines (Iowa), Smith hasn’t let up a bit in two other stops (Albany, N.Y., and Reno, Nev.), making a podium at Albany (2nd on Saturday) and going 1-2 at Reno.
Smith has stayed on the gas during the holiday break as well, putting in a lot of practice laps on a relatively new bike to him – the Honda CRF450R. We caught up with Smith to get his take on the Toyota AMA Arenacross season thus far.
Question: Danny, that had to be a big relief winning the opening night at Des Moines. No doubt there was some pressure on you and you certainly answered the call.
Danny Smith: “Yeah, it’s funny. I didn’t focus on winning that race too much. Usually if you did all your work leading up to the weekend it usually makes things go right. Try to do that each and every race weekend.”
Question: You’re a longtime Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series Lites class racer. You’ve since made the move up to the 450s for Toyota AMA Arenacross Series. In doing so, what do you feel was the biggest difference between supercross and arenacross?
DS: “I can tell you now it’s real hard to make up time in arenacross. You can’t make any mistakes in arenacross because it’ll put you behind and it’s next to impossible to catch back up to the lead.”
Question: Did anybody give you any solid advice in advance of the first part of the season?
DS: “Yeah, got some advice from a few guys, Brock Sellards told me a lot about what worked well for him last year. So I was pretty much just hoping to get through the first few rounds, figure out how it works and maybe get on the podium.”
Question: Talk about where Toyota AMA Arenacross Series fits into your motocross career history.
DS: “The way I always look at is racing a dirt bike’s racing a dirt bike. Whether you’re here, over in Europe, arenacross or whatever, it takes work and you don’t underestimate your competition. There’s good riders out here and it’s not easy. I knew that going in. And that’s the outlook I’m going to take all year. Making the right choices for practicing and testing and not underestimating anybody. I’m happy I’m racing my motorcycle for a living and plan on going and racing some supercross once the arenacross season is over. Hopefully I get on a team and ride the 450 outdoors as well. I want to stay healthy, keep getting used to the new bike and go out and race hard, hopefully win some races. And that’s the bottom line.”
Question: You brought up a good point regarding arenacross – staying healthy. You’ve managed to stay on the upper end of the curve in terms of injury during your career. Do you feel this will give you an advantage during the lengthy Toyota AMA Arenacross Series season?
DS: “I hope to use my experience to make the right choices. Make some changes here and there on the bike, go home and practice and continue to improve my speed each round. You can’t look too far ahead because so much can happen all year long. I feel I’m as good as I’ve ever been in my career, but at the same time I feel I can get even better. And that’s what gets me going every week.”
Question: What’s been the response within the industry regarding your move to Toyota AMA Arenacross Series?
DS: “I’ve been in the Lites class a long time, and there’s a lot of good young riders coming up. Things are changing and that’s just the way it goes. So I feel like right now in order to extend my career I need to put myself on this bike. Getting tons of experience on the 450 before I go to ride supercross and outdoors.”
Question: One of the greatest motocross victories in recent years was your overall win at Southwick in 2002 – right after the passing of your brother, Kip. Wrap this interview up with the all-time greatest Danny Smith motocross highlights.
DS: “Obviously, that day (at Southwick) will always be a good one for me. Out of every race I’ve ever done there’s only two where I didn’t want to be there – and that was one of them. So to win it was kind of weird. Two times in ten season’s pretty good. I also look back a couple supercrosses I blew, both at Anaheim. The one in 2000 and the best race I was ever in, 2001 my first year at Suzuki, racing Ernesto Fonseca on his four stroke. I got 2nd place and Ernie went on to win the title, but was the best race I’ve ever had. Worked real hard for that.
Question: Thanks for the time, Danny. Good luck at Charlotte this weekend.