Considered by many as the most difficult on the 17-race circuit, the specifically-built dirt track located inside the 2.5-mile superspeedway’s tri-oval is a hybrid of sorts. Designed by 15-time AMA champion and RCH Racing team owner Ricky Carmichael, the layout blends the unusual Florida soil with the traditional obstacles of Supercross, giving riders the physical challenge of Motocross. Unlike the tighter tracks that SX riders have competed on the first-half of the season, Daytona requires a totally different strategy.
RCH Racing riders Josh Hill (No. 75 Dodge/Sycuan Casino/RCH Racing/Bel-Ray/Suzuki Z450) and Broc Tickle (No. 20 Dodge/Sycuan Casino/RCH Racing/Bel-Ray/Suzuki Z450) have an ace up their sleeve this week. Both teams have been training at Carmichael’s test track located in Tallahassee, Fla., in preparation for Saturday’s event.
“It’s going to be good for us,” said Hill, who finished third at DIS in 2010. “We’re going to get out on some east coast soil – sandy, looser-style stuff – which will be great to prepare for Daytona. The track at Daytona is loose, bumpy and has deep ruts. It’s the kind of track that you really can’t replicate out west.
“I’ve had some good times and good races at Daytona. Back in 2009, I was having a really bad year with some injuries and Daytona was the race that broke me out of my funk. I was able to win a Heat Race and had a killer battle with Chad Reed. Holding somebody off for eight laps on that track is a great feeling.”
Broc Tickle moved back into the top 10 in the SX450 Class point standings last weekend at St. Louis and looks to leverage his consistency into more single-digit finishes. Speed hasn’t been the Michigan native’s problems; scrubbing off valuable fractions of a second has been the challenge.
Sluggish race starts in the Main Events has been an Achilles Heel. Tickle continues to focus on finding more speed in his afternoon timed practice sessions in quest of a better gate selection for the evening program. So far this season, it’s been a task easier said than done.
“The speed is really all over the track,” Tickle said. “It just adds up all over the place. You can barely see a tenth of a second on a stopwatch; it’s the task of just cleaning up your lap. It’s as simple as not being on the brakes and coasting heading into a corner – carrying momentum through the corner and not scrubbing off speed.”
Fast race starts and one-line racing has dominated the first-half of the season, Tickle and crew chief Tony Berluti have also focused on sprint speed and passing situations, framing the mindset of lead and not follow.
“It’s just pick a spot and make the pass as fast as you can,” Tickle added. “That’s what Ricky (Carmichael) has been working with me on. Once I get to somebody, pass them. Don’t sit there and follow them around the track and get stuck in their pass. Make the pass and go pick off the next guy.”
Tickle scored an eighth-place finish in his only 450SX Class start at Daytona last year.
“It’s really cool to race at Daytona,” said Tickle. “The track is so much different than we’re use to riding because it’s a combination of an outdoor- and indoor-style layout. The dirt is soft and usually bumpy. It can get rutted up if we have some rain. I love riding the outdoor series and Daytona is the closest thing that we have to it.”
SPEED’s live coverage of Round 10 from Daytona will begin at 7:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday night.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW The Race: Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series – Round 10 of 17 The Place: Daytona International Speedway The Date: Saturday, March 9 The Time: 7:30 p.m. (ET) TV: SPEED (live), 7:30 p.m. (ET)