Redux: Daytona

Redux Daytona

March 14, 2017 3:30pm

With Eli Tomac clicking off wins at an alarming rate—five out of the last seven rounds—points leader Ryan Dungey knows every point is valuable moving forward. It’s why his ride at Daytona—which was undone right off the start when his teammate Marvin Musquin hit the gate—was so big. Dungey was nearly dead last off the start, and 17th after the first lap, on a track that no one would ever say was easy to pass on. Methodically Dungey worked his way into fifth, and then went on the offensive on the last lap with Honda HRC’s Cole Seely to snag fourth. It was just the fourth time since the start of the 2015 season Dungey has finished off the podium.

In a team statement after the race, Dungey hinted at “changing up the strategy moving forward.” He said, Obviously the start wasn’t what we were looking for but we did our best to climb through the pack. The track was actually really difficult to make a pass on, which ended up costing us time in the beginning. Making passes was a lot easier in the second half of the race because we had some more space to work with. Next week is a new week and we’re looking forward to protecting the points lead and changing up the strategy moving forward.”

As for Seely, he said he made mistakes and hit lapped traffic, which was a point of frustration. “Today was all right. There are some positives to take away but a lot of negatives too so I’m a little bummed,” he said in a team statement. “I still finished in the top five so that is good, but Dungey edged me out on the last lap with only two turns to go so I was almost fourth, which was unfortunate. I made some big mistakes here and there but also hit some pretty bad lapped traffic. It’s so frustrating that those guys just don’t get out of the way sometimes. I really just want to move forward though. I’ve been in the top five or six the past four rounds, which is great and all, but I want to be up front. It’s that plain and simple. I need to start putting myself in a better position off the start.”

Monster Energy Factory Yamaha’s Chad Reed has turned the corner the last three rounds after a rough stretch following his podium in Glendale. While the results haven’t quite been there—7-4-6—he’s been riding well. Reed was in contention for a podium on Saturday, before making a mistake in a corner and losing control of his bike, which launched into the next corner. He rebounded to finish sixth.

On paper, a seventh from Blake Baggett doesn’t appear all that impressive. But when you dig a little deeper you see how good he was riding on Saturday. As previously mentioned, the track didn’t lend itself to great passing opportunities, and Baggett came from dead last (after lap one) to grab seventh. “It was a tough one tonight,” said Blake in a team statement. “I was feeling good out there until I made a mistake at the start of the main. My speed and confidence is there, so we will look forward to Indianapolis and getting back up on the podium.”

How important was the start on Saturday? Broc Tickle, who finished on the podium in Toronto, started in 15th, and unlike Baggett and Dungey, couldn’t find a way through and finished 14th. “I've always enjoyed racing in Daytona,” explained Tickle in a team statement. “The night came down to the start, more so than any race I've ever competed in. I got a good start in my heat race and came into the first corner second, but I got pushed wide. I got shuffled back to seventh and that's where I finished. I had a good semi and ended up third. Headed to the main, I knew I needed a good start to back up my finish from last weekend but it didn’t happen. I struggled in the first three corners and came around in 16th. I wasn't riding well in the beginning of the race and didn't make passes quickly enough. I'm happy with my effort on the track but not with my start.”  

Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, who sat second in points heading into Toronto, has had a rough two-week stretch. He was battling the flu in Toronto and finished 13th. In Daytona, he hit the gate and then went down in the first corner. He crashed again later in the race and finished 15th. Now he sits fourth in points, six behind Cole Seely. We spoke with him after Daytona to see what happened on the start.

Racer X: You just flinched a little bit? Hit the gate?
Marvin Musquin: Yeah, I’m not sure if it’s me first or Jason [Anderson], but probably me. Unfortunately, sometimes I make that mistake. So I was actually really looking forward to the start. I think I had a decent gate. It was really tight inside, but I had to go for it and sometimes you want to go so much, then you do mistakes like that. Then I flinched once, and then I think we kind of backed up, me and Jason. Usually when you flinch once, then you back up and then that’s when the gate drops. So I don’t know why, I just went and the gate didn’t drop. I literally hit the gate and I was like, oh shit. They’re going to red-flag it. So I was actually looking around and I was far back. Actually on the first lap I got lucky in many sections of the track where I was passing guys, but then I crashed once, then twice … crashing you lose so much time and I was so far back. It’s a bummer because speed-wise, I wasn’t terrible today.”

It was a tough night all around for the RCH Suzuki team, as Justin Bogle crashed in his semi and then was buried off the start in the LCQ and failed to make the main. “It’s definitely a tough pill to swallow,” said Bogle. “I missed transferring from my heat by one spot, fell in the semi, and then got together with someone in the LCQ. I don’t want to say I was a victim of circumstance or bad luck because I truly believe that you make your own luck. We had a lot of things working against us but it was still up to me to get it done. We’ll go to Indy this weekend, pick ourselves up, and not look back.”

Bogle went from getting fifth in his heat race to missing the main event.
Bogle went from getting fifth in his heat race to missing the main event. Rich Shepherd

Although he wasn’t able to crack his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki teammate Adam Cianciarulo in the main event, it was a big weekend for former points leader Joey Savatgy. After consecutive weekends off the podium, Savatgy finished a strong second and picked up six valuable points in the championship to close within six of Zach Osborne. “The last few weekends have been tough and it’s really nice to be back on the podium,” said Savatgy in a team statement. “We gained some good points in the championship and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I try each week to get better and I think this was a good weekend for us.”

The chase for the 250SX East Region has seemingly narrowed to three riders, with Cianciarulo now just nine points behind Osborne after his win.

It you were tuned into the FS2 broadcast on Saturday, you saw a very emotional Dylan Ferrandis following his first career 250 podium. The Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider was holding back tears when talking about how racing supercross in America has always been his dream. After Toronto, we asked Ferrandis what it was like to move from France to the U.S. You can read the full interview here.

Racer X: How’s the transition going for you? Not just racing here but moving here and just the culture and the people and everything. How is the adjustment going?
Dylan Ferrandis: It’s the biggest transition ever. I was living home with my family where I’m born and everything was normal, and I leave for [to] make my dream come true racing supercross and try to win supercross. So it’s really a big, big change. To live in France and now in California is so different, but it’s what I chose to do and I’m really happy about my choice. I’m learning. Even if I have a lot of experience in GP and fight for two years for a championship, supercross is definitely really, really different. It’s a war that you need experience for win. You cannot win the first one. The first one ever I think it’s not possible to win. I’m learning. I think I’m learning fast. I just have to wait and try to keep me a little bit more calm sometimes and it will come. I really enjoy ride [riding] supercross but it’s really a different world than the GP series.

As we reported over the weekend, Colt Nichols will miss the remainder of the 250SX East Region after tearing his MCL and suffering a small fracture in his tibia earlier in the week at Cooper Webb’s new supercross track in North Carolina. According to the team, the injury isn’t expected to require surgery, as it should heal on its own after being immobilized in a straight splint for four to six weeks. In his first year with the team, Nichols had gone 10-3-4 to start the season after making his way back from a broken femur sustained in November. We talked with Nichols last week about his lengthy rehab to be ready for the start of the season.

The book on Jordon Smith has always surrounded his consistency. Speed was never in question, but could he find a way to harness it? Through four rounds this year, Smith has had a career year with 2-5-7-4 finishes. Last year, Smith went 5-3-6-11-19-7-21 in seven rounds of the 250SX West Region. Smith made a run at Ferrandis for the podium in Daytona, but wasn’t able to seal the deal. It was an impressive ride as he came from 11th after the first lap. “The start really hurt us but I think I was able to show some good speed out there tonight,” said Smith in a team press release. “I feel like if we had one more lap, I may have been able to get onto the podium, but we’re leaving with a solid result after a few weeks of ups and downs. We’ll see if we can get back on the box next week.”

Smith finished 1.418 seconds behind Ferrandis.
Smith finished 1.418 seconds behind Ferrandis. Jeff Kardas

It was a career night for River Yamaha rookie Lorenzo Locurcio, who ran third for nine of the first 10 laps and eventually finished sixth. For more on the rookie from Venezuela, check out our Privateer Profile feature from last week.

The revolving door under the Suzuki tent added another rider at Daytona. With Matt Bisceglia sidelined for the supercross season and Kyle Peters under contract to race in Australia, the team brought on veteran Kyle Cunningham last week. After beginning the year with BLUE Buffalo/Slate Skins Yamaha, Cunningham made the transition to Suzuki, the brand he rode for last year, and finished an impressive seventh in his debut. He’ll contest the remainder of the East Region with the team.  

BLUE Buffalo/Slater Skins Yamaha has replaced Cunningham with Jerry Robin. Robin, who gained notoriety riding a 1985 CR250R while qualifying for the Loretta Lynn’s National, rode a few rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross for the team last summer. Daytona was his first career supercross race, and Robin choose to run the number #558 in honor of his good friend Dylan Slusser, who recently passed away. Robin was excellent in his debut, qualifying 10th and finishing fifth in his heat race. While he had problems in the main and finished 19th, it was a successful debut for the Minnesota native. “End result definitely didn't show my potential but I know once we work some kinks out this season will be one to remember for my first full season as a professional! Had about two to three weeks on an sx track before this,” he wrote on Instagram.

Robin was able to qualify straight out of the heat in his supercross debut.
Robin was able to qualify straight out of the heat in his supercross debut. Rich Shepherd

After his podium in Toronto, GEICO Honda’s lone representative at Daytona, Christian Craig, was another rider that was adversely affected by the start. Craig rounded the first lap in 20th and could only work his way up to 14th. “Going from a podium last week to this isn’t what I wanted and it sure as hell isn’t where I should be,” he said in a post-race press release. “I feel like a broken record at this point with all my crappy weekends. The track at Daytona was unlike one I’ve ever raced, which was to be expected so I’m not saying that as my excuse. I have no excuse other than I need to figure my crap out ASAP. The guy I am during the week and even in practice or in heat races isn’t the same one in the main. It all starts with a good start and I’ve been absolutely terrible at starts in the main.

Craig said his mechanic will stay in Florida this week to try and get back to where he wants to be.

“I’ve made a lot of changes this past year and I kinda need to get my head back to where it belongs. I belong on top and I hope other people still believe that. I won’t stop till I am. Extremely bummed I haven’t been able to show everyone my worth this year, but I’m going to make a change and we have five rounds left. I may not be in the points, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have wins.”

Smartop/MotoConcepts Honda’s Cameron McAdoo was a late scratch after trying to ride qualifying on Saturday. The rookie cut his hand practicing on Thursday and required stitches. After trying to ride during qualifying on Saturday he decided to sit the night out. We’ll update his status for Indianapolis later this week.