Lots of talk about the right-hand first turn causing trouble off the start, but most of the high-profile crashes took place after the start in the first rhythm lane. That section was tricky even when it wasn’t part of the start, and track builders even made a few changes to the first jump in the section between practices. What started as a regular double jump changed a bit, as a double lip was added to it. It only took a few practice laps for riders to get it down and jump it anyway, hitting the first lip and wheel tapping the second to get over the double and into the section. That rhythm lane was especially tough when the riders had to get through it together after the first turn, and that section claimed Ryan Villopoto in the heat race and James Stewart in the main event.
Stewart crashed with Ti-Lube Kawasaki's Matt Goerke, who looks to have broken his wrist in the crash. Tough year for Goerke, who was already nursing ankle injuries. Hard to put blame on anyone for the crash, as it happened when the entire pack was jumping through the section off the start.
Rumors spiraled all over regarding Stewart’s condition—everything from a broken femur, to a ruptured spleen or broken vertebrae. But his San Manuel Racing Team tweeted this morning that James will be okay and will race this weekend in Toronto.
The right-hand first turn did claim a victim in Blake Baggett, who was second in Lites East points coming into the race. According to Kawasaki’s Mike Fisher, Baggett locked up his front tire in the first turn of the LCQ, which led to a crash (riders often grab too much front brake in right hand turns because they can’t reach the back brake pedal in mid corner). Baggett didn’t qualify for the main.
Baggett was in the LCQ because he tangled with Justin Barcia in his heat race, trying a hard block pass than sent both riders down. Barcia managed to get going and qualify through the heat by finishing fifth, but was later penalized three positions for skipping the whoop section after he got up and actually passed two riders while doing so (the three positions due to passing two riders, and then losing an additional spot as a penalty). With the penalty, Barcia had a bad gate pick for the main, but he made it work and pulled the holeshot anyway.
Lost in all the missing-the-main-event commotion was Rockstar Suzuki rookie Jason Anderson. Anderson started second in his heat race and was taken out by DNA Star Racing Yamaha’s Gannon Audette. He finished 17th, then went to the LCQ and was taken down by Baggett in the first turn. He missed the main.
Dean Wilson said he was so depressed after two tough races that he took a day off, went to the ocean and just listened to the waves.
The Red Bull KTM teamed proved the power of its 350s by nailing each holeshot that they raced for. Mike Alessi nailed one in his heat and the main, and Andrew Short got one in his heat. It’s been a long time since Alessi grabbed one of his once-patented holeshots. Said Mike, “I haven’t gotten one since Hangtown last year. That’s almost a year. Longest drought of my career.” Alessi admitted arm pump got to him when he was leading races for the first time in awhile.
As strong as the starts made the 350 look, Alessi says he didn’t make any changes to his bike. In fact, he didn’t even ride a 350 all week, instead putting in laps on a stock 450. He will probably race the 450 in AMA Motocross. Short, meanwhile, also rode a 450 during the week, but has elected to stay on the 350 for AMA Motocross.
A much needed good weekend for the Dodge Motorsports Hart and Huntington Team, which placed both Ivan Tedesco and Chris Blose into top ten, with Tedesco sixth and Blose tenth. Last week Blose and Tedesco finished 18th and 19th.
On the inverse, the Muscle Milk Toyota JGR team had a terrible night. Justin Brayton crashed in his heat race and hurt his knee, then came back for the LCQ and tangled with Villopoto, missing the main himself. Davi Millsaps looked very fast in his heat race, as he was the only rider besides Stewart to triple the end of rhythm section. In the main, he was battling with Mike Alessi early, but lost the front end and crashed. Late in the race he crashed again and hit his head, taking him out of the race.
The Rockstar Suzuki Lites Team Manager and Owner Bobby Hewitt had good news regarding injured rider Ian Trettel. Over the weekend, Trettel, who is in an induced coma after a crash in Daytona, squeezed the hand of his nurse when asked to. Definitely a good sign.
Hewitt’s son Hunter, now a privateer Suzuki rider, had another good ride going in the main until a crash dropped him to ninth. Other fast riders in the Lites class has problems, including Malcolm Stewart, who went down in a first turn crash in the main and finished 20th. Blake Wharton won a heat race on his GEICO Honda and was running fourth in the main when he crashed in the whoops. Wharton was credited with 17th.
Darryn Durham returned to the scene after breaking his foot while leading the first East Lites heat race of the year. He was fast, but his endurance suffered. He finished a solid sixth in the main.
Andrew Fredrickson photo
Injured Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer is back on the racing scene. He has rented a place in Florida so he can ride at teammate Ryan Villopoto’s house. He has begun riding, with hopes to be back sometime around the St. Louis round in a few weeks.