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Dodge/RCH Weekend Preview

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – If the last three rounds of 450X Class racing in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series were a precursor to Round 9 in St. Louis this weekend, then race strategy will be simple – lead the first lap.

Of the last 60 laps contested in the Main Events at San Diego, Arlington and Atlanta, the race winner has led wire-to-wire. The results seem to contradict the strength and depth of this year’s rider fields but for the first time in SX races history there has been five different winners in the first eight races. The rider winning the battle to the first turn has dominated the 20-lap Main Event the last three weeks.

“If you make the tracks easier, people are going to complain that all the riders are doing the same thing and we’re not going to see any passing,” said RCH owner Ricky Carmichael when asked if changes in track designs could alleviate such starting gate dominance. “If you make the track extremely, extremely hard, then you’re only going to get certain guys doing certain things. Then, it’s really going to be a runaway because the guys with more talent will just crush guys and be gone. It’s just part of the sport right now.”

Broc Tickle (No. 20 Dodge/Sycuan Casino/RCH Racing/Bel-Ray/Suzuki Z450) has rattled off seven-consecutive top-12 finishes showing the consistency needed for success against the world’s top dirt bike racers.

“Last week, I had a really good Heat Race, got a good gate pick and that has to be the plan again this week,” Tickle said. “I felt like I rode the best I have all year in Dallas a few weeks ago. I need to be aggressive.”

Tickle’s lack of top 10s can be single-lined to race starts. Mid-pack racing among the stifling competition on one-line race tracks has been a challenge.

“You may be faster than a guy in front of you but there just isn’t a line to get around him,” he added. “What makes it worse is when you do try to make a pass you end up losing time and the guy behind gains on you. It’s a counter-effect of making a pass. When you go for a pass, you better make sure that it works. Otherwise, the guy behind you will gain a lot of ground.”

Tickle is currently 11th in 450SX Class rider points, two markers out of 10th.

Josh Hill (No. 75 Dodge/Sycuan Casino/RCH Racing/Bel-Ray/Suzuki Z450) continues to make progress following his return to competition after sitting out the first five races with a hand injury sustained in practice at the season opener. The 2008 SX Rookie of the Year looks to earn his fourth-consecutive trip to a Main Event. He will be making his fourth start in St. Louis where he seeks his first top-10 finish.

With the demands of 30-foot jumps, body-pounding whoop sections and high-speed corners, the stress placed on a rider’s upper body is magnified. Hill’s goals are simple – continue to build positive momentum each week while getting back to top-five caliber of racing.

“Practice has gone well this week,” Hill said after spending time on the Suzuki test track in Southern California. “We rode hard for a few days trying to gain some speed. I’m just trying to hammer out some laps to get back the speed that I use to have.”

Nearly two months after suffering the broken right hand, Hill’s return to the Suzuki Z450 is still work in progress. The Oregon native is using a strategic approach. How close is he to 100 percent? “Almost, I’m getting there,” he said. “I still don’t have the strength in my hand that I had before I crashed in Anaheim but I’m getting more comfortable with it every day.”

CBS’s tape-delayed coverage of Round 9 from St. Louis on Sunday will begin at noon (ET).

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
The Race:    Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series – Round 9 of 17
The Place:   Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis
The Date:    Saturday, March 2
The Time:   8:30 p.m. (ET)
TV:             CBS (tape-delayed), Sunday, March 3 at noon (ET)
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