450 Words: Detroit

April 14, 2008 1:46pm
Championships are hard to win at the highest level of this sport. Last summer, James Stewart and Josh Coppins looked like locks to notch the U.S. and World Motocross Titles, but a knee injury ended Stewart’s AMA/Toyota Championship drive and a broken shoulder ended it all for Coppins. Both tried to race through their bruises, both showed heart and guts and determination, but eventually both watched championships slip through their grasp.
Chad Reed, arguably the most consistent rider to ever compete in AMA Supercross, seemed an unlikely candidate to suffer a similar fate this season, but there he was on Saturday afternoon in Detroit being attended to by medical staff. Just like Stewart and Coppins last summer, his crash happened at the race track for all to see, and speculators were left to guess who would inherit the championship they could clearly see the rider giving up.
Reed, though, doesn’t give up. His previous rides through pain are legendary, but his ride in Detroit surely tops them all. Busted shoulder at Southwick 2002? Busted shoulder at Daytona 2006? Busted everything at Anaheim 1 last year? That’s nothing. This time Reed was in a hospital coughing up blood and fearing for his life just a few hours before the race. Physically, he was done. Mentally, though, the guy was still strong.
Most telling of Reed’s determination was a simple statement he made during a post-race interview on the Supercross Live! Webcast. Reed said he was just hoping to get a good start in the main event. Considering his condition, getting a good start in the main could have been suicide. In the heat race, Reed started mid pack and couldn’t even jump the triples on the first lap. He could have gotten landed on. For the main, there was no way to know if he could drive it into the whoops after the first turn. He could have gotten clobbered by the rest of the pack. But Reed wanted to go for it anyway.
As fate would have it, Reed crashed in the first turn. That allowed him to safely pick his way through the back of the field. He was mentally tough enough to know he could compete with those riders, even as hurt as he was. He made a few passes, rode past a lot of downed riders, and pulled off the most impressive 12th –place finish in the history of the series.
It’s still not assured that Reed will win this championship, but the effort he put in at Detroit will not be forgotten. When Stewart pulled out of the series with a knee injury, it looked like Reed was going to win another championship with a figurative asterisk on it. By gutting it out in Detroit, any claims of an asterisk are gone. Reed’s doing something no one else could do, and that’s finding a way to hold on to a title that should have fallen out of his grasp.