Season Update – Heat of the Summer

Things have picked up quite a bit since my last update after the X Games. I have raced a handful of different race tracks and series. Here is a short update on each:

20767789_1119330678166848_4538354915975004834_n

Photo: Stevi Smith

AMA All-Star Series: Carrollton, Ohio

I wasn’t too sure about this race track when we got there. It was really narrow and the surface was very technical. The Steve Nace crew did a great job on the track. I won both my heat races in the Super Singles and Expert Twins classes. In the Super Singles class, I didn’t get the best start, and sort of poked around the first couple laps. The leader was riding good. I slowly caught up to him, but not enough to make anything happen and I settled for P2. In the Expert Twins class, I got a great start, but I hit false neutral in the middle of turns 1 & 2. I bunched up the pack of riders behind me (Luckily no one ran into me) which gave the leader over half a straightaway lead on the first lap. It was a short 12 lap main, but I kept charging and came up less than a bike length short at the finish line for another P2. It’s always good to finish on the podium at these races, but I was a little disappointed with two second place finishes. I felt good on the bike though, which gave me some confidence heading into the next race.

Gary Nixon Memorial Race: Timonium, Maryland

I got invited for the third year in a row to race at the Gary Nixon Memorial race in Timonium, Maryland. Nixon was an old friend and someone I had a lot of respect for, so I always try and make this event even though it’s not my favorite race track. It’s a very small and slick bull-ring that gets really rough. I never count myself out though and battled hard all day long. I finished second in my heat race and battled hard for a podium in the 25-lap main event, but ultimately finished with a P4. At the beginning of the day, I would have been happy with a P4, but as close as I was to the 2nd & 3rd place riders, I was a little bummed we weren’t standing on the box.

AMA All-Star Series: Sturgis, South Dakota

I always try and make this event when I am in town for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. It’s a slick and dry half mile, but it stays relatively smooth and it always pays well. I felt like the guy to beat all day long. I won both my Super Singles and Expert Twins heat races. I also won the Dash for Cash. I got a good start in the Super Singles main event and rode away to grab the win. It was nice to get a win on my Lancaster Honda CRF 450. In the Expert Twins class, I got a terrible start and was 5th or so going into turn one. I passed one rider and settled into P4, but I was frustrated with my start and rode like a squid during the main event. I wasn’t able to advance anymore positions in the 12-lap main, so P4 was the end result. I was irritated with this result after winning my heat race by such a large margin earlier in the day. Getting a good start was key on this race track and I didn’t make it happen. Simple as that.

American Flat Track Series: Sturgis, South Dakota

I was really excited about the TT national at the Buffalo Chip TT. Everyone seems to think I dislike or struggle on TT’s, but I have had quite a few good finishes on TT’s over the years. I ride a lot of motocross and had a professional road racing license, so I am very comfortable jumping, turning right and using my front brake. With that being said, I sort of struggled a tad through practice and qualifying. I felt good on the bike, but my times had me 16th in qualifying. The biggest struggle on the day was not having my mechanic Justin there to spin the wrenches. This was the first national he has missed since the beginning of the 2016 season. I think we could have made the bike a lot better throughout the day, but it was tough finding extra time to work on the motorcycle and race the motorcycle. No excuses though. I did the best I could and didn’t complain about it. In the semi, I was having a tough time passing the rider ahead of me. We played follow the leader for the entire race and on the last lap, the rider behind me got anxious and cut a portion of the track attempting a pass. He slammed into me pretty good and when he did, it broke the foot peg bracket right out of my frame. I was able to coast to the finish line without a foot peg (or rear brakes) and finished with a P7, which was good enough for a transfer to the main event. I wasn’t mad that the rider slammed into me because I would have done the same thing, but cutting the track made me shake my head a little bit. I was more upset that my only TT bike was broken and we were unable to get it fixed enough to race the entire main event. I was only able to line up, start the race and pull off in the first corner, resulting in a DNF and a P18. On a tiring and technical track like the Chip TT, I was hoping for a better finish in the main event, but things don’t always go as planned and there’s nothing you can do about it. Onto the next one!

American Flat Track Series: Rapid City, South Dakota

For the Rapid City Half Mile, I was going to be riding the Dave Atherton-tuned Harley-Davidson XR 750. I last rode an XR 750 in 2012, so I was really excited about this race. I felt good on the motorcycle right away. It’s pretty awesome when you can jump on a motorcycle and go fast from the very first lap. We didn’t make many changes throughout practice/qualifying. I was consistently 6th-5th-6th each session on the track and only a tenth of a second off the leader. I was having problems shifting the motorcycle in practice/qualifying. Initially, I thought it was something I was doing wrong, but it became a continuous issue. The bike wouldn’t shift into third gear, and then it would fumble really bad going from third to fourth gear. When it came time to go racing, this put us in a huge hole. I was giving the pack of riders in my races about 20-25 bike lengths every time the light turned green. In this sport, you can’t afford to give these guys that large of a gap. The races are too short and they’re too talented to make it up. I battled as hard as I could and finished 4th and 9th (After a late race single file restart) in my heat and semi to transfer to the main event. In the main event, I charged from a distant last place and passed as many guys as I could. I ended up P13 at the finish, with a handful of guys right in front of me. To be honest, the issue with the transmission took a lot of wind out of my sails. I knew I wouldn’t be able to recover from my starts to accomplish my goals, but I tried to stay optimistic and keep digging lap after lap. I don’t feel the word “If” belongs in racing, so I won’t assume how we would have done if I was able to get my trademark good starts, but I am confident¬†the result would have been a lot different. For the first time on the bike,¬†I think we showed a lot of promise and I am looking forward to the opportunity to ride this motorcycle in the future. If nothing else, I proved to myself that I am still a contender and I can run up front.

Since my Don’s Kawasaki / CTR Kawasaki was still broke from the Buffalo Chip TT, I was forced to sit out Peoria. It sucked missing another national, but it was nice to spend some time at home with my wife as we prepare for the arrival of our first child. He is due on August 27th, but we are hoping he decides to enter the world sooner than later!

Until the next race!

-CT