I’ve always enjoyed the Speedworld circuit in Surprise, AZ, although never really had the greatest success there. The racecourse is always an entraining mixture of the motocross track, the surrounding sand wash ravine and flowing desert terrain through the tall brush. This year was the first year in recent memory that Speedworld hasn’t either opened or closed the WORCS year and we managed to time the weather ever so perfectly, giving us 104+ degrees for both days. If ever there was a market for a rider mounted IV hydration system, it would have been cornered this weekend, as staying cool and on top of fluid intake was a priority.
I’d made good use of the couple off weekends and found myself coming into the race pretty close to one hundred percent, although with only about a week and a half of a full training load under my belt. Nevertheless I felt confident in my preparation and adjusted my attitude concerning the heat to more of a… “105 degrees, that’s it? Where’s my parka?” type of out look. I also took the off time to get a few days testing on my new 2012 KX450 and decided it was race ready; time to head to the starting line.
Having only ridden the ’12 three times I had completely forgotten about the new start button that help smooth out the power delivery in first and second gear and having never practiced with it, I didn’t want to try something new on the line. In retrospect it would have helped quite a bit as I lit up the rear tire and spun like crazy off the concrete start pad. Into the first turn I was toward the rear of the group and quickly got sprayed with freshly watered roost. I reached up to pull a tear off, but the tab had stuck to itself and I couldn’t find it. I couldn’t see too much and by the time I finally got the tear off pulled I found myself in dead last place; I remember thinking, “Alright, time to go to work.” Inevitably from the sweltering conditions the racecourse had dried out and made for some dust, but it actually worked to my advantage coming through as I took a few risks getting by a couple guys. It was pretty chaotic in the dust and a rider in front of me must have forgotten where he was on the track as he flew straight through a right hand turn, giving me a gift of a pass. Next I approached Corey Floyd in his first race back for quite some time and in the adrenaline of the first lap he got really squirrelly and flew off the track right in front of me only to carve hard and fly back onto the track across the front of me again. Luckily I had the momentum and pushed by him into the next corner. From there I caught up to a three-way battle between Gary Sutherlin, Destry Abbott and Josh Strang. As I closed in on Strang, Destry made a mistake and stalled his motor, giving us an easy pass. I was hounding Josh and being that he’s still working his way back to fitness from his broken leg, he pulled wide and made it easy on me. I was now in fifth and closing on Gary with Justin Soulé around half a minute ahead of him. As Gary started to feel the pressure he tried to wick up his pace, but in doing so, even he later admitted, he was riding a little ragged and it was tough for me to make the pass. Luckily my pit crew realized this and brought me in early for gas and goggles. I took off out of the pit and started to reel Gary in again and a lap later, when he came in to pit, I raced by and into fourth. I could see Soulé up ahead and saw that I was gaining ground, but I blew any chance I had of catching him in the scoring shoot on the second to last lap. They had just watered, making it quite slick, and as I tried to quickly pivot and change direction my front end washed out, sending me to the ground. I quickly remounted, but lost around ten seconds in the process and had to settle for a fourth place finish.
The next day saw my start improve drastically, as I made full use of the start button on the KX, and rounded the first corner in fourth. Unfortunately I didn’t really have the quick burst of speed that I needed on the first lap, of which I’ve definitely made a mental note, and Taylor Robert and Soulé quickly shuffled me back to sixth. Brown was out front and Taylor was soon to join him putting Sutherlin, Abbott and Soulé ahead of me. Justin made it by Destry and I was quick to catch up to the back of him as we came into the motocross track. Down the back straight of tabletops I got a good run on him and scrubbed past and into fifth. I caught up to the back of Justin a lap later and around a high speed sweeping right I made an outside-in pass and swept by into fourth. On the very next lap I had caught up to Gary and when he came in for an early pit I made the pass into third. Bobby Garrison had been matching my progress through the pack and was just behind me. I felt good and pushed forward to get a gap on the riders behind me and managed to pull out about ten seconds on Bobby, but the next lap I started to feel the heat. It started with my feet getting hot, then traveled to my head anytime the course slowed and the breeze disappeared. I couldn’t hold the pace and had to back it down, allowing Bobby to catch back up to the back of me, and as we came in for our pit stops he was able to squeak by. At this point I was pacing myself, trying not to totally overheat, which was allowing Gary to inch back up on me. With a couple laps to go Mike Brown suffered a mechanical problem and had to drop out putting me back into third place, but with Gary closing in I knew I had a fight on my hands to keep it. The white flag came out and Gary was right on the back of me. I knew this fight was not just for the podium today, but also on the weekend and a flush of adrenaline lifted my pace. I kept him at bay as we got into the off road section of the course, but down a fast whoop section he made a run up the inside of me. Maybe it was the heat playing with my head a bit, but I thought he was closer than he turned out to be and as I planned to brake early and cut underneath him I actually broke too much and gave him and easier pass than had I just stayed on it. I tried to hang on to him, but the adrenaline could only do so much and once I just lost touch in the dust it was all over for me. The heat had won and I had to back it down and cruise to the finish for another fourth place, giving me fourth overall on the weekend.
I was pretty disappointed that I couldn’t hang onto third place, not to mention that second place on Sunday and in the overall was within my grasp, but considering where I was a month and a half ago I’m really pleased with my progress. I want to thank my team, THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki, my personal sponsors Fox and Asterisk and John Burr Cycles for getting me a 2012 KX450. Up next for me is the Mammoth Mountain MX qualifier at Pala this weekend and I’m looking forward to mixing it up a bit, racing some motocross and working on that early race intensity. Should be good times!
Thank you to all the team sponsors: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki, FMF Racing, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, Dunlop, VP Racing Fuels, IMS Products, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, QTM, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing.