The Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar freight train pulled into Atlanta, GA, Feb 23 for round- one of the hotly contested AMA Supercross Lites series. Anticipation was high as the team of Jimmy Albertson, Willy Browning, Freddy Karrle, Tyler Medaglia, and Justin ‘Pooh’ Sipes waited anxiously for their chance to get their Rockstar-fueled Suzuki City RM-Z250s on the soft and rutted Georgia Dome track.
With 67,429 fans in attendance making a powerful first impression is a difficult task, and the deep talent pool in the Lites class made their job even tougher. “I felt good on the practice track, but I was nervous going in and feeling so tight,” said Albertson about his qualifying heat race. “In my heat race I got into some problems, me and another rider got together and I went down, so I ended up getting into the main through the LCQ just behind Sipes.” That first heat was tough for the whole Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar squad, including Sipes who explained “In the first corner I got caught up behind someone that crashed. By the time I got out of that mess I was about dead last. I passed a few people and crashed again on the last lap. I wasn’t comfortable on the bike yet; I mean I haven’t ridden much since I got hurt.” His charge through the pack netted him 17th position, with teammates Albertson, Karrle, and Medaglia in tow in 18th, 19th, and 20th respectively.
In heat-two Willy Browning was confident on the line, but after a dramatic moto he was also forced to go to the LCQ for a chance to make it into the main. “I felt pretty good, since I’ve been down there for awhile practicing. I was ready,” says Browning. “The bikes were awesome, but I had a mishap in the first qualifier. I got a good start, fifth, but then me and a guy got together in the whoops and I went down.” Down but not out, Browning was soon back on the gas and charging through the pack. “I was dead last after that crash,” he says. “I don’t even know what I got (14th!) I smashed two fingers and my thumb pretty good. We were jumping through the last set of whoops and I was set to jump three-out and this guy was coming down and as I came up he leaned over and my hand got smashed between the two bikes.”
With just four riders making it to the main from the LCQ, the pressure was on.
Albertson put in a great ride, charging through the pack to transfer position. “The LCQ didn’t start so smoothly man,” he tells. “I ended up having to pass a lot of guys to get up to fourth. Once I was there I know I could have caught the next guy, but I chilled out and concentrated on making it into the main.” That smart riding paid off, and just behind Albertson team Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar steamed ahead with Sipes in fifth and Browning in sixth. “Pooh (Sipes) got the Racer X gas card for finishing fifth in the LCQ, which was good for him after being off the bike for so long,” said Manager Michael Nasakaitis proudly. The new team’s great sense of sportsmanship was shown by Sipes, who charged ahead but realizing his limitations coming back from injury made sure not to ruin the chances of his teammates for making the main event. “Jimmy’s on my team and he was in front of me,” says Sipes. “If it had been anyone else I would have gotten in there and jammed to get that position, but I wasn’t really comfortable on the bike yet and Jimmy has been riding a lot and putting in the work, so I thought it best to let him have it.” Browning adds “I went into the turn in the LCQ last, but it was cool because Albertson, Sipes, and myself kinda’ formed a freight train there.” Still putting in solid rides but without the best luck, Medaglia finished the LCQ in 11th while Karrle was came in19th.
With the field stacked for the main event, the team’s hopes rested on Albertson. With a ton of determination, Albertson got knocked around for nearly the entire moto but kept getting up swinging and charging back. “I ended up wrecking twice in the main and getting 15th,” he says. “It was good though. I scored some points and had fast lap times in practice, so I know I get can it into the top 10 next weekend.” The new Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar team’s mid-pack finish, especially after overcoming so many setbacks on race day, made Nasakaitis and the riders hopeful. Nasakaitis is excited about the next round, saying “We got Albertson in the main in Atlanta anyway, and although he fell he got back up to 15th so that’s good. But oh man they were on like crazy in the qualifier! I know that they were all in transfer positions when their mishaps arose. All the guys are ready for Indy!” Andre Laurin adds “It was a tough night, but we had one guy in the main. Those three boys are really good contenders, Albertson, Sipes, and Browning. So far they are real jet setters.”
Albertson is hungry and ready to prove himself, saying “I’m pumped. I’m so excited about next weekend I wish I could go there right now and race! I’m ready to move forward, 15th is definitely not where I want to be!” Sipes will get more time during the week to get used to his bike and regain his comfort level to 100%, and says “I’ll be a lot better next weekend because I will be riding all week and testing the race bike and getting things dialed in. I’ll be a whole lot more comfortable for sure. The ankle is still a little sore, but it should be ok by next weekend.” The new team is on the move, and as with any new venture things get better with time and experience. “Things with the team went really good this weekend,” says Browning. “I mean, it’s a first race and some little things need to get ironed out a bit, but it was all good and it’s only going to get better from this point in!”
Nasakaitis is also proud of the team’s performance in Atlanta. “Being that this is our first season, we are extremely pleased with our progress thus far. We had all five guys qualify for the night program. We just had some bad luck issues that kept us from having them all in the main. The guys are all riding extremely well and really pleased with their bikes. We are looking forward to Indy to build on our results!”
Helping Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar make their mark were team sponsors Rockstar Energy drink, RG3 Biloxi, Answer, Suzuki Genuine Accessories, Crew Wear, American Suzuki, Millsaps Training Facility, Suzuki Auto, PR2, Hindle, Alpinestars, K&N, Works Connection, Factory Effex, VP Race Fuels, www.suzukionly.com, Sunstar, Pirelli, Pro Taper, Braking, Dragon, and CV4.
For more information on team Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar, please contact:
Suzuki City Inc, Biloxi, MS
or visit them online at www.racelikearockstar.com