This was the first time the WORCS series ventured out to the Ridgecrest Fairgrounds, but having raced there a few times in the past I had a slight suspicion that the course was going to be fast and full of chop. The track definitely lived up to my expectation. Winding through the surrounding flat desert terrain, it provided wide open straightaways and fast, flowing corners linked together by the motocross course, the bull ring/Endurocross section and some technical piles of a mixture of dirt and asphalt. With the Pro race scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, the corners would be well burned in, the chop would be at its sharpest, and the desert winds would be howling; it was definitely going to be a hold on and click the gears kind of race.
With such a high-speed racecourse, track position would be important as gaining ground, or passing for that matter, would be difficult, and the lack of a starting gate meant it would be my favorite (sarcasm included) style of start: the dead engine. I did have a pretty good start in Utah though, so I suppose I could surmise that the dead engine is either very good to me, or, considering some attempts prior to Utah, very bad. Needless to say I was hoping for the former.
As Homer gave us the proverbial “stink eye” I repeated my newfound mantra, focusing on a strong swing of my leg through the kick-starter, and when he threw the green flag into the air my machine fired immediately to life. I raced down the abbreviated start straight and quickly funneled in behind Justin Seeds as he took control of the first corner. The fact that two kick-start Kawasakis beat a line full of electric-start KTMs (and a Husqvarna) show that a fast kick-start can beat an electric start off the line, so long as it’s timed well and fires up first kick, of course.
As we rounded the second corner I hit a couple acceleration bumps awkwardly, losing some drive, and Justin Jones quickly muscled his way by me into second place. In the process of losing the position to Jones, I didn’t hit the third corner very well and allowed Gary Sutherlin to accelerate by me as we raced down the first long straightaway of the course. I had quickly been demoted to fourth place… So much for that good start.
As the course turned toward the off-camber and surprisingly challenging dirt/asphalt mounds, Justin Jones made a slight bobble and Gary made his way in to second-place. Not long after Jones lost his balance again, but this time the outcome was a bit worse as I noticed his legs up over his head for a moment before he lost control of his bike and hit the ground. He was quickly getting back up, but his fall handed me third-place and a chance to catch back up to Sutherlin and Seeds.
It took a little more than a lap for me to close the gap up to Sutherlin and I could see that he was already riding with a little arm pump; I wanted to take advantage quickly and make my way by. The course exited a sweeping left-hand corner and as we flew down a fifth-gear straightaway and I had a good run on him. I pulled out to his right, tucked in and pushed my way past him, braking hard into the following corner. The effort to pass Sutherlin had actually pushed me right up to the back of Seeds and at the start of the third lap I began to look for a way by.
I saw my opportunity for a pass as we sped down yet another fifth-gear straight: the course rounded a fast, sweeping right-handed corner at the exit and Seeds was holding a bit of a tight line. As we entered the sweeper, I pushed wide to the slight powder berm and, with the aid of Seeds losing a little traction on the inside, I made the pass stick and found myself in the lead.
I pushed very hard that lap and by the time I came around the finish I had already managed to build a lead of around 15 seconds over the rest of the group. In that effort I started to suffer the slightest bit of arm pump and made the decision to drop my pace just enough to really focus on my breathing in hopes of quelling the arm pump quickly. Over the following few laps I noticed the Bobby Bonds had made his way in to second position, but I was holding my gap, even extending it a bit at times, and to my delight, the arm pump began to subside.
Just past the halfway mark of the race I came in to the pits for gas and goggles; I had a lead of around 30 seconds and a feeling that I was in control of the race. On that lap I saw that Sutherlin had made his way back into second position and, as I expected, he started to make a mid-race charge. Two laps in a row he was able to chip away at my lead, closing to just over 20 seconds, but then I found just enough of a response the following lap to shut the door.
My hands were starting to feel the abuse of the high-speed circuit, but I pushed that pain aside, projected it on to my competition, and focused on maintaining my pace. In those closing laps I was able to inch back away from Sutherlin, allowing for an enjoyable final lap and a great feeling of accomplishment as I crossed the checkered flag to take my first win of the series.
Earning this win feels quite fantastic. I felt I’d been building my way back toward the top step of the podium and this result is verification of the effort I’ve put forth. I’m also incredibly happy to finally have represented all of my supporters to the level I’ve wanted with this performance. I have an incredible group of people, products and companies behind me: Precision Concepts, Kawasaki, THR Motorsports, Alamo Alarm, MSR, Shoei, Sidi, Spy, Focus Apparel, USWE, EVS, FMF, BRP, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Northland Motorsports, Jan’s Towing, and ATP Mechanix. I’m also very happy to share this win with my mechanic, Phil, and my dad, who work incredibly hard to help me with everything that I need, and with my wife, Katie, who is so supportive of everything that I do. I’d also like to say Happy Mother’s day to my mom; though I didn’t get to share the day with her, she’s a big reason I’m able to do what I love to do.
I do also want to give a shout out to the WORCS crew for the job they did over the weekend. The winds were absolutely vicious and while most of us were hiding inside our motorhomes they were busy repairing the markings, maintaining the track and working each of the races; it was a truly demanding weekend and I appreciate the effort they put in to it. See you guys at the next round.
Thank you to each of the team sponsors: THR Motorsports, Hoosier Precision Machining, Dunlop
, GPR stabilizer, Hinson, VP Race Fuels IMS, BRP, Kalgard lubricants, LA Piston Co., A’ME grips, Braking, RK/Excel, ARC levers, DT1 filters, Acerbis
, Zip-Ty, Ryan Abbatoye Designs, Seal Savers, Baja Designs, Northland Motorsports, CryoHeat