There’s little in this world that can simulate the feeling of being in top gear, tucked in behind the front number plate, throttle adjusted to the maximum, asking the motor to deliver just a little bit more, but that description makes up over half of the Best In The Desert Henderson 250 experience. The 45-mile race course is comprised of fast sand washes, a few faster power line roads, one mile-long whoop straight and a couple rocks just to make sure the racers are paying attention. Talladega Nights sums it up best: Henderson “…is all about speed. Hot, nasty, bad*** speed.”
Just to make the race a little more exciting, the weather was in the sub 30’s with 30-plus mph winds. It was time to break out the wool long johns, the Fox jacket and Antifreeze gloves, layer up in an effort to not lose all feeling in the extremities, and head to the start line first thing in the morning for a borderline darkness start.
Ricky Brabec and the Beta team of Nick Burson and Justin Morrow would start ahead of me as we were scheduled to complete three loops for a total of 135 miles. Ricky’s teammate Ty Renshaw and my own teammate David Pearson couldn’t make the race so we would be racing solo, but with the lack of physically demanding terrain that wasn’t going to be too challenging.
The first two bikes had left the line and as the green light burned brightly I accelerated into the still dim terrain. I’ve never been a big fan of starting at the Best In The Desert events; the start usually goes off before the sun makes much of a mark in the sky, leaving it very dim for the first few miles and slightly risky to push the pace. I was riding as fast as I could see, but based on the tracks in the dirt ahead of me it looked like I was losing a bit of time. After a few miles, the sunlight started to make a difference and I picked up the pace.
I felt decent, but even with how smooth the terrain was on the first lap I could tell I wasn’t at my best physically. It had been three weeks since my crash in Baja but my body still wasn’t quite back to 100%, especially my ankle, and the lack of strength was making it difficult to maneuver the bike the way I wanted. At the end of the first loop I came in to the pits about even on adjusted time with the Beta, but Ricky was on fire and had pulled about three minutes on us; he was flying.
The second and third laps were pretty taxing on my ankle as the sand washes that were so smooth on the first loop had become chopped up from the other motorcycles, quads and UTVs. My ankle had swollen up inside the boot and the resulting pressure was making it painful and weak and I was forced to back my pace down. I lost time on both loops to the two leaders and I ended up finishing a pretty distant third.
It was very frustrating not to be able to ride to my potential. I truly felt I was going to be able ride well enough to compete for the win, but it quickly became apparent that I wasn’t ready to race quite yet. Even still, the Beta team rode really well and Ricky was riding like a madman; I don’t think anyone was going to beat him on that day.
It wasn’t my preferred way to close out the year, but on the whole it’s been a fantastic year for me and I’m truly grateful to all of my sponsors and supporters who have made it possible. Thank you to the team: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts, Kawasaki, my personal sponsors: Fox Racing, USWE hydration systems, Alamo Alarm, Northland Motorsports, ATP Mechanix supplements, FMF Racing and Ryan Abbatoye Designs, and all of the team sponsors who have done so much throughout the year.
As I look ahead, my first priority is to let my body get back to full fitness so I can start to build and come out swinging next year. In the mean time, I’m looking forward to spending my favorite time of the year (Christmas time!) with my beautiful wife, family and friends. I truly hope everybody has a fantastic holiday, an exciting new year, and I’ll see you at the races in 2014!
Thank you to all the THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki team sponsors: FMF Racing, IMS Products, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, Dunlop, AME Grips, AP Brakes, LAPC, VP Racing Fuels, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers.