450 Words: Seattle

April 28, 2008 12:05pm
Kevin Windham may not win this year’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, which means he will miss out on the huge win bonus and, more importantly, that long-coveted spot in the record books. That’s a big loss for K-Dub, who has won more races than anyone else who has never won an AMA National Championship (Windham now has 32 to Damon Bradshaw’s old standard of 29). It’s not looking good though, since Chad Reed pulled out two improbable title-saving runs at the last two rounds, riding to second with a broken shoulder in St. Louis and then grabbing second again in Seattle after crashing in the first turn. With a 10-point lead, Reed needs to only finish sixth in Las Vegas to take the title, and his performances over the last two weeks make those odds pretty good—even in Vegas.

But even if Windham doesn’t win and never gets to erase that “best rider to never win a national championship” tag, he can still feel good about erasing one other major caveat against his stellar career: Windham has never been known as a rider who steps up under pressure. In fact, pressure often seems to be his Achilles’ Heel. At the Detroit SX, when Windham knew Reed was ailing, he could only come up with third, and the conjecture began again: “When Kevin needs to win, he locks up.”

Further, we’ve all heard the stories from practice during the week, where Windham shows his true speed in a pressure-free environment, but is unable to match that pace when a stadium full of racers and sponsors and spectators are watching.

Well, he may not erase the title-less tag in 2008, but he may erase the pressure troubles. In Seattle, Windham stared a must-win situation in the face and came out on top, scoring an amazing comeback when a tuff block cover seemed destined to ruin his destiny. Windham held the early lead in Seattle but collected the cover on lap two. Two corners later, the cover had locked up his 50 horsepower machine. Can you imagine the frustration and confusion that must have run through Windham’s mind at that point? It would have been enough to rattle most. But Kevin managed to calmly get the cover out, but then found himself down in seventh place and a huge distance behind the leaders.

#14 responded in this pressure situation. He put together incredible laps, riding the ragged edge but also riding without mistakes, mixing his classic, smooth style with a an un-Windham-like willingness to hang it out. These are the qualities we’ve always wanted to see from Windham, especially in a must-win situation. (For instance, you can see K-Dub’s determination in the whoops this year—he is entering them harder than he ever has, but he’s so focused that he hasn’t made a mistake in them yet.)

Even if Kevin Windham doesn’t win this year’s title and Chad Reed holds on—even with one hand—he can at least be happy knowing that this time he stepped up when he needed to.