Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live

March 9, 2014 11:25am

Take a wild guess what the Daytona track was like. Answer: Rough! Florida had taken on a solid bit of rain in the days leading up to the race, so while the track looked smooth at first, the dirt underneath was soft, which led to huge ruts. Some riders commented on the general similarity to last weekend’s race in Indy due to the technical challenge. Lap times were over a minute, which still makes it the longest race in the Monster Energy Supercross Championship.

The night ended with a huge (literally—he’s lead was massive) win by Ryan Villopoto, but you already know that. The big story of event early centered on Dean Wilson. Let’s just forget Dean’s debut ride in 450SX for Chad Reed’s Discount Tire TwoTwo Motorsports team last week in Indy. He spent the week pounding out motos at Reedy’s house in Florida this week and showed up a whole new rider. He was the overall fastest 450 rider in practice (!) and won his heat race, then ran second for most of the main event. But then the difference between a 15-lap 250SX main and a 20 lap 450SX main reared its head—and Dean sunk like a stone through the final few laps. Still, a superb ride for Dean-O, who finished 7th, just holding off a charging Matt Goerke. There’s now no doubt Dean has the speed on the big bike.

Not much to report beyond that. The Daytona track was long and rough enough to really spread the field out up front. Villopoto’s lead was huge and Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey never quite got into it down the stretch. Both of the Red Bull KTM teammates admitted that Wilson was hard to pass, and they expended quite a bit of energy making the passes happen. By then, they just hung on to the finish. Daytona is tough!

Daytona was gnarly! 
Daytona was gnarly!  Photo: Simon Cudby

Broc Tickle is really starting to rally. His injuries and issues from early in the season are but a distant memory, and his rides at the last three events are easily the best of his 450SX career. And, really, that’s not a surprise because Broc has always been a rider who progresses slowly and steadily. After a career-high fifth last week in Indy, he bettered it with a fourth here. Just like Indy, Tickle said he didn’t feel great when the day began, but the team made good changes to the bike and he was ready when it counted. “I had confidence because I knew I could be good for the full twenty laps,” he said. KTM’s Andrew Short had a rough practice but made serious bike changes and turned it around for the night show. He won his semi and battle with Tickle for most of the main. Tickle got the drop on him, but Shorty held on for a season-best fifth.

Shorty’s teammate Matt Goerke has had a miserable season, but Daytona—a home race for the Florida native—provided some light at the end of the tunnel. He was in the top ten battle the whole way and took eighth. The real question now is if riders like Wilson and Goerke just found Daytona to work with their proficiency on rough tracks, or if this is a sign of more strong rides to come.

Honda was hoping for a big night at the event it sponsors, but things didn’t go the right way for the red riders. Justin Barcia—back in action after missing two races with a knee injury—was battling Malcolm Stewart for a top five spot and they came together and both went down. Stewart’s radiator was smashed in the deal and his night was over, and Barcia lost of ton of spots. Worse yet, GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac took a big digger in practice, then got up and crashed again, ending his night. According to a team statement, Tomac reaggravated his shoulder injury from earlier in the season—we’ll try to get more info out of that camp this week.

Malcolm was very fast on his 450, but this was a one-race deal and you won’t see him again until 250SX West resumes in April. He brought a freshened up practice bike down to the track in his pickup and pitted out of the factory Honda Muscle Milk semi—which made it even crazier when you consider he had the run in with Barcia, his one-night-only pit partner!

If it wasn’t for bad luck the Stewart brothers wouldn’t have any luck at all. James Stewart had a collision with Mike Alessi in the first turn and emerged with a dented exhaust header—which his publicist Greg Hatton referred to as the “power reducer.” He stopped in the pits for a chance and found himself way back, and finished 18th. He did ride well though and actually held Villopoto at bay from lapping him for most of the race—although Villopoto did lose a little time with a brief tip over. Stew’s been fast the last few weeks but the results haven’t showed it.

On the other end, red riders Wil Hahn (GEICO Honda) and Honda Muscle Milk fill in Cole Seely logged solid rides. Hahn had a bad start but was strong down the stretch for sixth. Seely was in a battle for most of the race with JGR Toyota/Yamaha teammates Justin Brayton and Josh Grant, but ended up just outside of the top ten in 11th. The JGR boys, Brayton and Grant, went 9th and 10th, respectively.

The aftermath of the James Stewart crash. 
The aftermath of the James Stewart crash.  Photo: Greg Hatton

After a so-so start to the season, Blake Baggett says he changed everything—everything—for this race, including even his handlebar and footpeg positioning. He also worked hard on starts. He said the revised setup felt even better on the California test track than it did in Daytona, so he thinks it will work well for him going forward. He absolutely crushed the field in Daytona, but Blake is always super fast on the rough circuit. Carrying the momentum forward to Detroit this week will tell the story of his season.

Small, tiny, but significant sign of life for Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin, who has had a horrible season so far. After two DNQs and a 19th last week at Indianapolis, he holeshot his heat race, and while he didn’t have the pace of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki dominators (Cianciarulo and Davalos in this case), he was better than he has been. Martin didn’t get a great start in the main but bulled his way forward, ultimately passing GEICO Honda’s Matt Bisceglia late to snag sixth.