“It was a really difficult track to pass on. We made it happen. I felt awesome out there and the bike was amazing.” – Chad Reed
With round three in the books, it looks like we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what we can expect through the season…and in the big-bore class, it’s not good news for anyone not named James Stewart or Chad Reed. With a crash in the first turn (for Chad), and the search for the right setup (for James), both of these guys had to put in a lot of work on Saturday night…but they rose to the top once again.
The mix of the Rockstar Makita Suzuki and Reed seems particularly potent this year, and Chad put on a great clinic after a first turn crash to work his way through the pack on an Anaheim track that nearly everyone agreed was tough to pass on. It featured plenty of tight and twisty sections, which put cornering prowess at a premium. But with Chad starting nearly dead-last, he had his work cut out for him.
Heading into the first turn, Chad said, “I felt like I was in the top five, but I tangled with a Kawasaki…maybe Kiniry. I got up and I was so mad, and just tried to put my head down and go for it.”
He added, “I said in my heat race that whoever got the holeshot in this thing was going to walk away with this thing, if it was one of the top guys. Going down in the first turn I just through it was over. There was no way that I was even going to get into the top five. It was a really difficult track to pass on. We made it happen. I felt awesome out there and the bike was amazing. I just put my head down and try to watch the pit board and I’d seen my lap times dipping down into the :58s, and I knew that was the best all night long.
“The front guys didn’t really get away. It was a train and I just tried to take one by one. I saw those guys out front and none of them are really pulling away. I was nervous. I’d seen Kevin…all the guys, and the class is really deep this year. Every guy I passed seemed like a factory bike. I knew those guys were going to get tired, and just try to take advantage of that.”
“I was kind of in a little zone, just riding lap times and keeping check on everything. I knew it was a long race. I think it was round lap nine or ten when I put those little sprints in for a few laps and was able to get in the lead.” - James Stewart
His charge landed him in second spot behind James Stewart, which under the circumstances, must have seemed like a win. It gave him the overall points lead, though the gap between himself and Stewart is now just 12 points, about half of what it was after the season-opener at Anaheim
For his part, James Stewart may not have been the polished rider that we normally expect, but he took his second straight win. Yep, there were a few moments that caused some cringes, like landing on a Tuf- Blok at the edge of the finish line jump during his heat race, but he did look a bit more comfortable than he did in Phoenix.
After the race he commented, “I made a few mistakes out there, and lost my rear brake for two laps, I came up short on a triple, and almost threw it away then. I was like, ‘Man, with the way everything’s going tonight, with a practice crash and and maybe not riding the best I could, I’m just going to ride take any points I can get.’ Once I saw those guys riding in front of me and making a few mistakes in front of me, I was kind of creeping up and I wanted to put the pass on and go from there.”
“I was kind of in a little zone, just riding lap times and keeping check on everything. I knew it was a long race. I think it was round lap nine or ten when I put those little sprints in for a few laps and was able to get in the lead.”
In closing, James said, “We’ve been going back and trying different things. Obviously it was better tonight. We’re just going to keep improving. The cool part is, if it looks like we’re struggling and we’re winning, I can’t wait to get this thing completely dialed in and see what we can do.”
In the Lites class, Ryan Dungey also took his second-straight win, after working his way past Ryan Morais, who’d scored the holeshot.
Ryan shook his head as he said, “I really flunked it up in the first turn. I had it, and that slick stuff I didn’t want to get on it too hard, and I didn’t get on it hard enough to let the rear end get kind of keep going. I stood my bike up, and Morais came flying on the outside of me. I was like, ‘Dang it!’”
“I knew the holeshot was going to be key and I set myself up pretty good. Even being behind Morais, it takes a lot of time to get by a rider. On this track it was kind of tighter. It really limited the passing. I was able to be in second and get into first and from there on, I was able to lead my race.”
Dungey is still unsure if he’ll do any 450 racing during the East rounds, but he’s definitely eyeing the jump to the 450 class fulltime in ’09.
The other Ryan in this equation, Ryan Morais, was thrilled to get his first main event holeshot…even if there’s no longer holeshot checks being awarded. “I didn’t get the greatest jump, I think it was like midpack…Not where I wanted to be. Luckily I had a good opening in front of me and everyone hit the brakes and I just left it on and went in there really hot and was able to squeak by Dungey.”
“Luckily I had a good opening in front of me and everyone hit the brakes and I just left it on and went in there really hot and was able to squeak by Dungey.” - Ryan Morais
Morais is currently in second spot in the Lites West point standings, just six back of Dungey, and he’s fully appreciative of the opportunity with the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team this season.
“It was a big step for me to get this chance. I didn’t know what I was going to do for three or four weeks. I didn’t have a ride, and I was weighing out what I was going to do…If I was going to get a job or exactly what I wanted to do. I’m so thankful that Mitch opened this door for me and gave me this opportunity. I’m taking full advantage.
“I’m doing everything I can, working as hard as I can, just taking everything he offers me and building off of it and trying to learn. I know if I don’t perform over here, pretty much my career is done. I don’t want to quit racing for a long time. So I’m out there giving it all I’ve got.”
It looks like we’ll have to wait for San Francisco for the return of last year’s Lites East Champ, Trey Canard, who sat out Anaheim 2 after a concussion suffered in his heat race crash in Phoenix.
Speaking of championships, the first round of the Lites East series starts next weekend when the series moves to Houston. it’s a starting point that’s several weeks earlier than in the past, but it helps balance out the schedule for the West guys, who have a huge gap between the end of the West coast swing, and their final race in Seattle.
We’re extremely curious to see the return of France’s Christophe Pourcel to the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad, and the start of his full-time race schedule here. You’ll remember that he had a win in the second race of his short Supercross tour in ’07, and he has gone through serious injuries and a successful rehab since then.
We have a feeling that he’ll be as strong as ever when he returns. But there will be a full slate of guys ready to take him on, including Nico Izzi, Martin Davalos, Will Hahn, Branden Jesseman, Brett Metcalfe, Blake Wharton, Matt Lemoine, Darryn Durham, and his new teammate, Austin Stroupe.