“Sometimes the wheel turns slowly, but it turns.”
So said author Lorne Michaels. It’s a pretty good way to describe what happened to Team Torco Racing Fuels Honda rider Kevin Windham on Saturday night while circulating the super-technical racetrack the fine people at Live Nation had placed upon the base paths of Angel Stadium. After closing in on the blue rear fender of championship-leader Chad Reed, Windham went to work on Reed, shadowing him as he tried to take the lead from the otherwise dominant frontrunner in Monster Energy Supercross. Calling into action his ever-smooth style on a motocross bike, Windham used the quirky obstacles and rhythm sections on the track to his advantage to pull even on Reed on more than one occasion.
However, as the 20-lap race wound down to the halfway mark, Windham visibly slowed, and both Honda’s Davi Millsaps and Team Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry ultimately whizzed by the number 14 bike. To the 40,000 present in Anaheim (as well as the million or so who watched the race on CBS on Sunday afternoon) it looked like Windham may have become fatigued or lost his way, but that was not the case at all. Kevin had suffered a flat front tire, which, ultimately, sabotaged what very well could have been his best SX ride in years.
Nonetheless, 2008 has been a great season for the veteran supercross racer. Second in points five races into the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, Windham is 26 points down on the consistently fast Chad Reed (that’s a main event victory with an extra point thrown in). And while the gap may look somewhat daunting, closing it is not totally inconceivable, and as we found out in the following conversation, Windham not only seems to be getting quicker, but more confident, as well.
Racer X: Kevin, what are you up to this afternoon?
Kevin Windham: Well, I actually just dropped off a rental car and am in the middle of making plans to make the transition back to the East Coast. I’ve had a great time out here, but it’s been kind of stressful on the family and stuff. So, hopefully, after San Diego we’ll be able to go home.
Well, I went to Phoenix with two pairs of pants and three T-shirts and then the weather went crazy and I’ve been out here on the West Coast since. I tried to get home week after week after week, but the weather wouldn’t straighten out.
You looked great at Anaheim III. Then, during the main event after a spirited charge on Reed, things seemed to go sideways for you.
Anaheim III was a good race for me. It was a good night and things were going well. I was pressuring Chad in the main and was right where I needed to be. Around lap number seven or eight I felt a front end push and tried to figure it out. What I think happened was that there was a rock in the second whoop section and I hit it and the impact caused the flat. The flat came on very slow. By the 10th lap the tire was on the rim. After the race I talked with Davi [Millsaps] and he told me about that time in the race he could see that I was hauling ass in the rhythm sections, but that my corner speed was slow.
In hindsight, I think it was one of my better rides, but then we experienced the problem. When we knew what was going on, the team kept a close eye on the front of the bike. It’s the rim we were worried about, but it held up. And as far as the Dunlop tire really, we were really happy it stayed together. I mean, it took 12 laps of abuse.
It was a tough track — the toughest of the three Anaheim tracks. I’m so thankful with how good the team has been. At Anaheim 1 I was not as close to Chad [Reed] as I was at Anaheim III and we’ve improved by leaps and bounds.
In speaking with you at the press conference before the season opening Anaheim round you mentioned that if you could get off to a good start, you believed you were going to have a good season. So far so good?
I think so. Typically, I don’t start the season that strong, but now we’re off to a strong start. This year has been a lot of fun and I hope to turn it into some wins. And who knows what’ll happen with the points. I mean, what happened to James is crazy. Consistency is the game plan. Consistency is the name of the game. Unfortunately, Chad Reed’s consistency is amazing. He has not finished worse than second this year. Consistency is the name of the game and to avoid finishing out of the top five. Luck, as we’re finding out, plays a huge part in what’s going on. I don’t wish bad luck on anyone and I want to earn what I get, but Chad is a great rider and he’s going to need a bad night for me to get some of the points back. You know, if it wasn’t for two weekends, I’d be right in the ballpark. Unfortunately, at San Francisco I jumped off the track. I needed to be more aggressive there and this weekend we had some bad luck. There is no reason we can’t keep improving. This series is tough, though. I don’t want to get overconfident and just want to keep advancing and putting a foot forward.
Qualcomm Stadium normally offers up a larger track. Are you looking forward to racing there on Saturday?
I am. I like the dirt there. I even like the city. I like everything about it. It’s just a stone’s throw from Los Angeles and Anaheim and even San Francisco, and even though we’ve been plastered up and down the West Coast, San Diego is like a breath of fresh air. The race always has a great crowd and it looks like the weather will be good and I think the race will be sold-out, so I hope I’m successful there Saturday night.