The 2010 Monster Energy supercross series has reached the halfway mark and it has been nothing short of amazing thus far. This weekend the traveling adrenaline circus makes its way to the grassy infield of Daytona International Speedway. There are places in the world that have a presence to them that command respect. Very few, if any, place in the world gives you goosebumps like Daytona does. It's just a track made for sport, right? In all reality, it's an arena where men and women merely compete in a "game." No, it is not. Some of the greatest and most tragic moments is the history of motor racing have taken place on the hollowed ground of Daytona. Everyone takes things a lot more serious once they pass through the tunnel. The venue needs no moniker or catchy adjectives to give it more substance. Just the word "Daytona" puts a thousand-yard stare on folks that understand glory. I know I grit my teeth every time I write it.
I first laid eyes on Daytona when I was 10 years old and I remember staring at the banked corners in awe. In my travels I have seen everything from the Hoover Dam to Niagra Falls to the London Eye, and nothing has left a lasting impression like the 2.5 mile tri-oval. I was watching when Dale Earnhardt crashed in turn four on the last lap in 2001. I've heard 200,000 people roar when his son drove to the lead and there is simply nothing like it. No entity in motorsports touches the amount of soul its white concrete walls hold. It is a very, very special place.
Supercross is very much a part of the soul of Daytona. There is a huge 50-foot tapestry hanging off the front grandstands of old-school supercross racers. Ask Bob Hannah, Jeff Stanton, Jeff Emig, or Ricky Carmichael how significant their wins in the Daytona supercross are. Only the toughest racers in history have the honor of their name being inscribed on the wall for all time. This week a new name will be added to the wall. A new racer will harness the soul of Daytona and earn his place in history. Let's take a closer look at the storm that's headed our way.
AMA Supercross Lites
Last week's main event was one of the best races I've ever seen. I had a hunch "The Battle of Atlanta" would occur within this group and they delivered. With the most grueling course of the series headed their way, it will be interesting to see who will be strong. Christophe Pourcel is the unanimous choice for winning. His outdoor prowess is perhaps stronger than his amazing supercross skills, and this means trouble for the competition. But, Daytona is weird and unforgiving. It can reach up and grab even the most "crafty" rider by the short and curlies and grind them up. I'd like to say that I have a gut feeling #1/377 will stumble, but I don't. The guy is salty.
Ah, the growing saga of Justin Barcia. When he went on the charge last weekend it was really something to see. Although, he better put that charge in check or else he's going to have the whole field aiming for his ankles. He already has half the field bee-lining him. I think we're going to see another intense skirmish between Barcia, Austin Stroupe, and the surprising Dean Wilson. I didn't know that kid was that fast. The Canadian is a gamer and he'll be on the box this weekend.
There are always surprises at Daytona and some riders looking to make preparation meet opportunity are Kyle Regal, Blake Baggett, and Ryan Sipes. Regal looks like he needs to be on a 450, but I think his size will help him on the brutal Daytona course. Blake Baggett is a sleeper that has the tools to podium. He's been impressive in the first two rounds and I think he is going to raise some eyebrows this weekend. I keep plugging Sipes, but he's had a rough go so far. Like Regal, Sipes is a big, tough, kid and he could be a dark horse for the win if Pourcel stumbles.
All the same, you better prepare to see a riding clinic by the Frenchman.
Oh man, this one will be good. The Daytona Supercross has long been a Honda event and the Red Riders always bring their A-game. Davi Millsaps, Trey Canard, and Kevin Windham will be carrying the Wing and a Prayer banner and take a little extra with them to the starting line. Millsaps needs to pour it on right now if he wants a shot at the title. Canard was stealthy in Atlanta. He was very smooth, and looked like he could have dropped a second a lap if he wanted to. 140-pounds on a factory HRC 450 spells holeshot to me. He'll make it interesting if that scenario plays out.
The real drama will be between the two Ryan's. Villopoto and Dungey look pretty equal on paper when you size them up at Daytona. Both are fitness maniacs and both have the guts to get it done. Dungey has a 20-point lead and doesn't have to press, but RV Park needs to win at all costs to get back in the hunt. The X-factor here could be Jason Lawrence. Recall #338 lead the whole race last year and placed second. If he gets anywhere close to Dungey he'll pull shenanigans. Prison time, fines, and probation haven't stopped his antics now and they won't rightly this weekend. It sure would be exciting if J-Law bangs the holey, unless you're in the #5 camp.
Daytona brings out the beast in all of the boys, though. Do not be too surprised if it goes nuclear. Like I said, strange times are upon us. Ricky Carmichael, the greatest rider of all-time and the true master of the Daytona Supercross has designed the track. It will be a torture chamber of chuck holes, ruts, and braking bumps. As strange as the times are today, the formula for Daytona victory remains steadfast. Only the hard and the strong win at Daytona. Only the hard. Only the strong.