Racer X Redux: Daytona

March 9, 2010 7:38pm | by:
Welcome to Racer X ReduX, presented by Renthal, the tri-oval edition.

  • The author tried to lift this trophy and couldn't, it was that heavy. And note how much RV is, uh, struggling here.
Monster Energy Supercross throws out 17 races in 18 weekends, so there’s not much of a break in the schedule. But Daytona provides a change of pace, as this race is so unique that it almost feels like a one-off. But you won’t hear a single racer give it that kind of credit, because while Daytona might be different, it’s certainly not easier, with absolutely no break physically. As such, Daytona is the best of times and the worst of times.

Best? The atmosphere is awesome. At Daytona, you can revel in bike-week craziness. You see people you usually don’t see, because this is the only week where just about every motorcycle-racing discipline races in the same area. Plus, tons of riders call Florida home now, so the weekend provides a nice break from travel. The crowd has really been growing the last few years, and this year it was massive; plus, the fans come right down on the pavement, so they’re close to the action. And if you haven’t ever been to Daytona before, you have no idea how absolutely massive this place is in comparison to a football stadium; it’s so big, it defies logic.

That’s the good part. The bad part is that such euphoria probably lasts eight laps into the main event. Then reality sets in – this track is rough, tough and demanding. This is the only race this season where I actually saw riders cruising through the final laps, sapped by fatigue. And while an AMA Pro Motocross track may have even longer motos, Daytona features standard supercross obstacles. Getting sloppy in a rutted turn at RedBud’s one thing. Getting sloppy over a table-to-table jump? No thanks.

That said, the track isn’t as crazy rough as it used to be. Riders are leaning toward regular supercross settings on their bikes nowadays. Today, the real difference between a stadium SX and Daytona is the speed – everyone commented how fast Daytona was this year. It’s surely a big adjustment to riders who have been on SX tracks for months; heck, it’s an adjustment just watching. The first time you see the guys blasting down a straight at warp five, a speed we haven’t seen since Steel City or the des Nations, it takes your breath away.

So, that’s Daytona. Different, but certainly not a break.

  • Looks like Dean-O is going to make it.
Sometimes it breeds different winners, too. Back in day, you saw outdoorsmen Jeff Stanton, Mike Kiedrowski and Ricky Carmichael clean up in a much different manner than they would in a stadium. Lately, the results are similar to any other supercross, and this year was not an exception. Ryan Villopoto and Christophe Pourcel winning? Not exactly a shocker there. But if you want to still use the old, “Daytona is a preview of the nationals” phrase, well, RV and CP(377) are probably the outdoor favs, too.

For Pourcel, this race went better than last week, when Justin Barcia and Austin Stroupe seemed to be faster, only for Stroupe to fall in front of Barcia and allow “Le Crafty One” to inherit the lead. In Pourcel’s Daytona heat race, Barcia and Brett Metcalfe were right on him and not letting him get away. CP told me the track wasn’t rough enough for anyone to do anything differently, so he hoped the track would be rougher in the main. It was, and he took advantage. Stroupe holeshot and led early and Pourcel looked content to wait. Then on lap six, all of a sudden he found some crazy speed, snuck up and passed Stroupe (quite craftily). Stroupe regrouped (restrouped?) and went back after it, turning in his fastest lap of the race on lap seven. The big favs were hauling, but here was the strange part – rookies Blake Baggett and Dean Wilson were right there!

Eventually, Pourcel pulled away, and Stroupe never escaped the Wilson/Baggett battle, holding off Wilson by two seconds at the finish. For the second week in a row, Stroupe had only the fourth-best laptime but finished second. Someone is taking consistency pills.

The rookies have some confidence, now, though.

Where the heck was Barcia? He battled with Metty for sixth most of the way before zapping Ryan Sipes on the last lap for fifth. To me, the track still looked like it was hard to make up time on, so Barcia couldn’t bust out anything crazy. And now Pourcel has three wins in three races... Wait, this was supposed to be a wide-open east, right?

Let’s face it: the 450 main was not the most exciting race of all time. Can I write that? You know it’s bad when you essentially get two different races, as the race was red flagged and restarted, and the same thing happens both times! RV2 got both starts because he had the faster heat and an inside gate pick on Dungey. Then he sprinted early and was gone. But don’t think Dungey backed it down just because he has the points lead; he really did try, and when they got into lappers, he closed the gap some. At that point, there was a chance Dungey’s fitness could power him forward. After all, RV has been racing his way back into shape this year, and on a long track like this, maybe he would wilt. He did not. By the way, RV has won six of the last 12 SX races. What’s that old saying about win one and the rest come easy?

  • You do not want to be a supercross track under Chad Reed right now.
You could still argue that Dungey is in cruise mode. After all, his mentor Ricky Carmichael used to say the series begins in Daytona, but in reality, Ricky usually built up a big points lead before this race and then rode smart down the stretch (Trivia: After 2002, RC never won a supercross race post Daytona. Crazy, right?)

So, maybe Dungey could be tempted to do the same. But there’s an X factor out there in Chad Reed, who ironically swept all six races after Daytona in 2003 but couldn’t get any help from anyone else and lost the title by six points to Carmichael. Now Reed is going to race Toronto and he really may get in there.

Wait, wasn’t Reed out there floundering at A1 and Phoenix before he got hurt? Well, a different Chad Reed showed up in Daytona. Like it or not, Chad is one confident, proud SOB, and I think weeks of watching guys he thinks he can beat has really pissed him off.

Chad had no business trying to race Daytona. He had nothing to gain, everything to lose, and a fresh thumb injury to go along with his old hand problem. And we don’t even know about his never-ending stomach deal. Despite all that, he decided on Friday night to try to race, sending the Monster Kawi team into a scramble. It looked like a bad move, but he was a damned man on fire in practice. Fastest overall, and jumping a few combinations I didn’t see anyone else doing. At Anaheim and Phoenix, something was wrong. The only time I ever saw the real Reedy aggression was in the final Phoenix practice, and even then only for a few laps until bike issues crept in.

At Daytona, it was different. This Chad Reed was riding like he wanted to friggin’ kill the track, a type of explosive aggressiveness only he has. I’m not saying Reed’s the fastest supercrosser ever, but I am saying that if you died tomorrow and came back reincarnated as a berm in Toronto, you must have done some major sinning in your life.

  • Mr. Consistency, Justin Brayton, had a crash and finished 18th. Says he'll be back ready for Toronto.
While writing this ReduX, I went into this big rant about how different SX stars dissected a track, but it’s so long I’m just going to post it as a blog later in the week. We need the ratings.

Okay, so Reed went fastest in practice and then decided he wouldn’t be able to hold on for 20 laps. So he didn’t race. He should be able to do so this weekend, and when he does, his 20 laps will be the equivalent of you getting pissed off, running outside for a minute and screaming at the top of your lungs. They call it catharsis.

But he’ll need to get a start, and I’m not so sure he will, seeing as all of his starts this year sucked, and six weeks off the bike won’t help. Riding fast won’t be a problem, though.

Last week I made a mistake (number 175,452 in a series) and said Trey Canard’s agent would be very happy with a 450-podium bargaining chip. But I named his old agent. Bob “Former GNCC TV Pit Reporter” Walker is his agent now. So I’m setting the record straight here. And Bob now has two big bargaining chips.

Two other scoops from the Honda pits: Honda is impressed Canard is getting such good starts already, because he is adjusting to a hydraulic clutch for the first time. And, Honda bakes brownies for their riders when they made the podium, so this week they got a double shot thanks to Trey and Millsaps going 2-3 in Atlanta! Millsaps and Canard swear they don’t touch the brownies until after the race, but I can think of a certain internet observationist who will probably be all over the Honda truck this weekend.

You might think Andrew Short is worried since Canard is doing so well on his bike. But Shorty is doing the same thing...to me! Honda had him doing all kinds of media, interviews and announcing at Daytona, and he did a great job. He’s also posting awesome videos this year on his site, so I believe Andrew has a future in MX media, which means years from now, Canard may be racing, Andrew may be announcing, and I may be back to sweeping restrooms at the German pavilion in Disney’s Epcot Center. Just to make sure I still had it, I stopped by my old work place on Thursday. It’s notably less clean than it was when I worked there in 1998.

  • As one can see, GL was feeling it in Daytona.
Shorty is now walking around without a boot or cast, but he says he’s still a ways off from riding an SX track. He’d like to be back when the tour resumes out west. Also, Josh Grant did get back on a bike last week, but it sounds like he’s a long way off from coming back. I think the Muscle Milk/Toyota Yamaha people just want to save JG for the nationals, but he’s thinking otherwise.

The real Tommy Hahn has only raced twice this year. Once at San Diego when he crashed in the first turn and stayed with Dungey for the whole race to finish seventh. And he was back at Daytona, riding strong all night and taking sixth. Not making the main in Atlanta? What’s up with that? Tommy also let me interview him on the starting line to fill in time while the medics dealt with Grant Langston. Thanks for the time, Tommy.

Oh yes, Langston, Langston, Langston. GL was going super fast in his heat race and straight up pulled away from the field. Then he stalled, got it back going, and went even faster. No doubt Grant was fired up for the main, and he got a good start, which probably fired him up more. But then he went over the bars, which led to the red flag. I can’t imagine being any of those 19 riders on the gate, knowing GL went down and down hard, and then having to just go back and race without knowing what was up.

Anyway, Grant is okay. Check out the 5 Minutes with we did with him today.

GL crashed on a crazy jump that was even crazier in practice. It was supposed to be a single and a stair case, but Dean Wilson jumped the whole thing to set the bar. And unlike Ben Johnson, this Canadian’s achievements were legit! Soon, a bunch of Lites riders were jumping it, and one time Pourcel jacked it up and came about a foot away from the same fate as Langston. Somehow, I swear his panic rev sounded more like a mild-concern rev. The track crew changed the jump, but it was still tricky all night.

  • How long until we start asking,
Hey, when Langston went down in the heat race, Kyle Chisholm inherited the lead before Dungey got him. Good for Kyle.

I can’t imagine team Star Racing/DNA Shred Stix Yamaha is pumped on Nico Izzi and Martin Davalos running eighth and 13th in points. Yes, Davalos was DQed last weekend, and he had a tough weekend this time, too, taking a big header in the heat, winning the LCQ and coming back for tenth in the main. But these guys are expected to be contenders. I’ll know if people actually read this column based on the looks I get in Toronto after writing this.

And Darryn Durham goes from not making the main for two straight weeks to getting eighth. That’s more like it.

Josh Hill finally got a good start in the main, and he fought valiantly for a few laps before relenting. Josh said he’s taken on three huge crashes in two weeks and is just trying to hold on. He’s going in for some therapy this week and hopes to feel better in Toronto. Remember what we said at the top about 17 races in 18 weekends...

I’m going to Canada this weekend. See you all at the sausage/hot dog carts outside the stadium at 2 a.m. this Saturday night, or just send me an email at jasonw@racerxonline.com. Last year, I ran into some dudes that run a track called The Vemp and hung out in one of the Roger’s Centre suites with them until 4 a.m. Then I stumbled over to watch the Formula 1 season opener live in my hotel room. Oh, Canada.