Photo: Andrea Wilson
You plan all winter long and put in a ton of hours of hard work, training and preparation during the offseason, but it’s still almost impossible to predict how things are going to work out once you get on the race track.
We have raced a handful of events since my last website update at Charlotte. Here is quick rundown:
Phoenix, Arizona: American Flat Track Round 4 – I was really excited for this race as this was the track I scored my first AFT Twins podium at last season. We finished my new bike for this race and I felt really good about my chances for a repeat performance. I was running second in my heat race when I lost brakes on my new motorcycle heading into turn three. I intentionally laid the bike down and slid into the air fence. I was ok, but we were unable to get my brakes fixed and I was forced to ride my back up bike the rest of the afternoon. I was struggling a little bit on that bike. I was still able to put myself in a battle for transfer in the semi until my chain came off on the front straightaway. That was all she wrote and I was watching the main event from the grandstands.
Sacramento, California: American Flat Track Round 5 – I really like Sacramento. I have had a couple of decent Top-10 finishes here over the years and was excited to race in California again. I was approached by Chris Baker to ride his Kawasaki twin at this event and I agreed to give it a try. I never rode the bike, but we qualified 8th in both qualifying sessions and I was adapting quick to the motorcycle. I struggled a little during the qualifying races, which put me on the third row for the main event. I felt solid during the 25-lap main, but the track was very hard to pass on in the corners and I struggled making any passes down the straightaway. I finished with a p12.
Springfield, Illinois: American Flat Track Round 6 – Another race track I was looking forward to. I finished p3 at the September event here last year and have always considered this one of my best tracks. I was back on my own motorcycles and felt good on my new bike in practice. In the first round of qualifying, the engine started making weird noises. We later found out that we had a transmission issue and I was back on my back up bike for the rest of the afternoon. My backup motorcycle has felt a little under powered all season, but instead of making excuses, I rode the sucker as hard as I could all day long. It was another follow the leader deal in the main event. We had a red flag with six laps to go and I was optimistic about moving up into the Top-10 because my starts have been solid the last few races. Sure enough, I got a terrible start, but I put my head down and was able to make a handful of passes to finish a very close (One-hundredth of a second) p11. Not as awesome as my podium the previous trip to Springfield, but not too bad considering the circumstances.
Lexington, Kentucky: American Flat Track Round 7 – I have never raced at this track, but it looked pretty rad. We couldn’t get parts to fix my primary bike in time for this event, so Chris Baker came through again and let me ride a new motorcycle he had just put together. It’s difficult to jump around on a different motorcycle four weeks in a row, but I felt good on it. I was having a hard time figuring out the race track, which is weird because there wasn’t anything super unique about it. We changed some set-up for my heat race and I felt the best I have all day. I was in good position during my semi, but with a couple laps to go in the race, I felt the clutch starting the slip. I was able to hold on to a transfer position, but I was again on the third row in the main event. My mechanic Justin did a full clutch swap between my semi and main event, which is no easy task. I felt great in the main event and the bike was awesome, but I was unable to make a pass stick on the KTM. He was struggling in the corners a little bit, but had a ton of straightaway speed. I tried like heck to make a pass stick, but it wasn’t meant to be and I was credited with a p14.
Our results so far this season haven’t been up to par with last season. The frustrating thing is I know I am more prepared and I felt I was better equipped than 2016. I have a new hauler with more room for parts/tools, more experience with the race tracks on the schedule, and more motorcycles under my stable. However, the other teams out there have worked equally as hard and hit their strides a lot sooner than I have been able to. Kudos to them. No excuses. I will keep working hard until we figure it out and are battling up front.