Texas Stadium hosted round-13 of the Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship April 5, with 46,656 fans watching Suzuki City/OTSFF/ Rockstar once again put their riders deep into the Lites East night program. Justin ‘Pooh’ Sipes and Jimmy Albertson led the team into the main event on the very rough hard clay track. The team also broke in new rider Kyle Gills, 18, of Higgins, MS, who put in great showing despite limited time on his new bike.
With stormy weather and an open roof Dallas almost became a mud race. In practice the track was truly gruesome. “The track was terrible,” Sipes describes. “By the main they had fixed it, but in practice it was wet and then when it dried out it set up like cement and got dusty and slippery. There were holes and kickers everywhere. The faces of jumps were getting chunked out and the start never got any ruts at all, that’s how hard packed it was. All you saw were black burnout marks, like it was a concrete starting pad.” The Dirt Wurx crew made valiant efforts to bring the track up to Supercross Standards. “I’m not gonna’ lie, in practice the track was horrible,” Browning relates. “I mean, I loved Toronto compared to Dallas, and everyone knows how broken down that track was! Dallas was blue groove, the hardest packed track on the East coast. There was a 100% turnaround from practice to the night show though, and by then the track was amazing compared to what a nightmare it was in practice.” For newcomer Gills, the brutal track and new bike just added to the pressure to perform for his new team. The track was crummy and in first practice we only got one decent lap in,” says Gills. “The second practice was better, but I still wasn’t comfortable on the bike yet. I wasn’t really happy with how I rode until the night program.”
In heat-one Sipes came on strong, and despite a couple setbacks was able to finish the moto in position to go directly to the main event. Sipes tells “I got a terrible start in my heat, like third from last, and worked my way up and passed into ninth with two laps to go. When I got back my mechanic told me he thought I got tenth. I thought “Oh well, that’s my luck! Always missin’ it by one!’ but it ended up that I got ninth, so I got a chance to rest before the main event.” The slippery blue groove track took its toll on riders like Browing, who was running in the top 10 before slipping back after a crash. “I got a decent start then kinda’ bobbled around, but I worked my way up to eighth in one lap,” he says. “Then trying to make some more passes I washed out the front end coming up on this triple and got 12th.” Right behind Browning was his new teammate Gills, who was dealing with some troubles of his own. “I mean we struggled a bit with the bike since I had only jumped on it the day before for 30 minutes,” Gills explains. “The race bike is totally different than what I was used to, but it’s also the best bike I’ve ridden. I was running ninth and the guy ahead of me fell down and I kinda’ ran over him, which set me back.”
In heat-two Albertson was hauling, jamming his way to third despite breaking his collarbone only three weeks earlier. That hard packed track had been taking out riders all night, resulting in an LCQ field that was stacked with talented riders. “That last chance qualifier, well it was pretty much a main event,” said Browning who fought his way to fifth after a poor start. “I think in the second qualifier everyone went down, so there were tons of fast guys. I ended up fifth, but you know there were some guys ahead of me that I know I can beat but I just ran out of time.” He laughs and jokes “I got the gas card again! I feel good every weekend, like I’m the fastest guy not to make the main. It’s gonna’ start happening. I just have to do it. It’s frustrating when you see guys in the main you know you can beat but that’s racing.” Gills also fell victim to bad luck in the LCQ, his crash in the first turn setting the stage for a long battle back to 15th. He describes “In the LCQ I went down in the first corner right before the whoops. I came back to ninth and got taken out again. But the more I rode the bike the better I felt. I knew I had the speed to put myself in the night show and that I can beat lots of those guys. I just tried not to let the pressure get to me and have fun, I mean, that’s what it’s all about. As long as I’m on the bike and having fun then I’m enjoying every bit of it!”
In the main event it was Sipes and his RM-Z250F putting in the best finish for the Suzuki City/OTSFF/Rockstar team despite battling tremendous arm pump. “I finally made it to the main!” he exclaimed. “I didn’t get a good start in the main and almost crashed a few times. I passed a few people up to tenth until about lap six when I tightened up. I don’t normally have problems with arm pump like that. I guess the first couple laps I was in traffic and people were going down. The track was super sketchy, so I was holding on tight and just pumped up quick.” That arm pump caused Sipes to slip back to a very respectable 14th by races end. “I battled with Chisholm for a bit and he put some pretty hard block passes on me and I just about crashed. If I didn’t have arm pump I would have kept racing with him, but I figured if I passed him back again and he hit me I was already so pumped up that I probably would have went down.”
For Albertson the main event was a bit of a let down after a crash knocked him back. Team Manager Michael Nasakaitis explains “Jimmy rode really well for having his collarbone broken exactly three weeks ago. He called me Wednesday and said he was feeling good and thinking about racing. To be honest, I thought it was a bit early. I didn't want him to rush it, but he rode really smart and didn't take any chances. He got a great start but ended up coming together with Jesseman while coming out of the first turn and went down.” Simply making it to the main is tough enough; to do it with a freshly broken collarbone and riding in pain is incredible!
Having so many riders in the night program in Dallas, not to mention two riders in the main event is a strong statement for any team. Nasakaitis beams and says “It was a good night. We had a couple guys in the main and Jimmy finished third in his heat. Sipes finished 14th in the main. Maybe we didn’t set the world on fire in Dallas but we had five guys in the night show and two in the main event. That’s proof that we are a force to be reckoned with! Kyle just had his first ride on his race bike on Thursday. He showed some good speed, and with a little more time on the bike he should be going really well. Willy was riding really great this weekend but he had some bad luck keeping him from advancing to the main. He put down some really fast times tonight.”
For Gills the stoke surrounding his new team is infectious. “This is the first time I’ve ridden a Suzuki, and it’s just way different than my old bike but way better,” he says. “All the guys on the team are cool, and if you tell them you need anything they go out of their way to get it for you. Mechanics have their own riders, but if they see you need something they are right there to help out. Mike, the team owner, he just puts so much in and he was actually going to be my mechanic for the weekend! I said ‘Don’t worry, you have so much stuff to think about already.’ My brother is a support rider for them out of our local shop and Michael always told me ‘If we get a yellow fender in front of you you’ll get those holeshots!’ So we got to talking and came up with something. I plan on doing the last two SX East rounds and all the outdoor National rounds for Suzuki City/OTSFF/Rockstar. I’m really looking forward to that!”
Helping Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar make their mark are team sponsors Rockstar Energy drink, RG3 Biloxi, Answer, Suzuki Genuine Accessories, Wiseco, Boyesen, Crew Wear, American Suzuki, Millsaps Training Facility, Suzuki Auto, PR2, Hindle, Alpinestars, K&N, Works Connection, Factory Effex, VP Race Fuels, www.suzukionly.com, Sunstar, Pirelli, Pro Taper, Braking, Dragon, and CV4.
For more information on team Suzuki City OTSFF Rockstar, please contact:
Suzuki City Inc, Biloxi, MS
or visit them online at www.racelikearockstar.com