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Behind The Board #9 - Daytona SX Track Evaluation


Recapped By: Carl Hein


Wow, was it ever cool to get a week off!Besides a few days off for Christmas, we had been going for 3 months solid with no time off. So what did I do on my weekend off? I went riding! I have been staying in Gainesville FL with my buddy Jason Thomas after Atlanta and seeing as how Kelly Smithís bike was with me cause he was flying down before Daytona to ride; he graciously let me ride his bike a few times. I went out to a couple different places with JT and Sebastian Tortelli, who are riding buddies. I thought that my skills hadnít eroded too much, but then they would blow by me and quickly bring me back to reality. It was rather humbling.


The week before the race I had to drive back up to Atlanta and pick up Nick and Kelly who were flying in there and then we all headed back down to Gainesville for the week. It was a good time as those two, JT and Tortelli all went out riding and to the gym together. It was, as always, very competitive whether it was the timed laps, at the gym or even playing ATV fury, these guys always want to win. Nick and I tested some different set-ups for the motor and suspension and he seemed to like it, so we were set. Daytona is very different from the other rounds of Supercross, the track gets very rough, with large holes and braking bumps developing everywhere. So you want the bike to be set up softer to absorb the constant pounding but yet you still have triples and other big obstacles to contend with. Itís a real challenge to find the line where the suspension works well on big and small bumps.


I, along with other people really donít like Daytona. There I said it! I can appreciate the tradition and all; after all it was the actual very first Supercross, before even the coliseum back in 74 or whenever. But really it sucks; its bike week for starters, so getting around anywhere takes three times the time it normally would, there are a million Harleys everywhere, and all of the owners seem to be in a ďmy bike is the loudest in the worldĒ contest. All of the teams have to stay 40 min to an hour away because hotel prices are thru the roof, plus the logistics of parking semis. The race is just Saturday, no practice at all so setting your bike up for the race provides even more challenge then usual. The security guys, who are all collecting pensions, are by far worse then the rent-a-cop dudes whom we normally have to deal with. They seem to be taking their bitterness for the world out on us. You have to have a pass to go anywhere, canít lean against this wall, canít stand over there, canít go past the yellow line, its like Iím in the third grade again. When is nap and cookie time? Itís no wonder why one of the AMA guys told me ďthis race is the red-headed stepchild of the Supercross seriesĒ


Lets get onto the track, you could go around the pits and I can bet that 98% of the riders hate the track. Every rider who I have ever spoken with has told me they hate the track, and I mean every one. Itís ridiculous what they have out there for obstacles. From what I have heard, and this could be wrong, the speedway took bids out for track builders a few years ago and Dirt Wurx (the SX track builders) put a bid in, however they were laughed at by the speedway people for wanting way to much to build a track. They lowered their price quite a bit and still got laughed at. It seems that Gary Bailey, the professor of moto-x, really doesnít charge very much to build a track cause he won. There is no transition to any of the jumps, he just throws piles of dirt on a flat ground, then the landings to the triples are so small and steep that, combined with the wall of a take-up, sends the riders landing onto flat ground, unless you can be so precise as to backside a four foot landing from thirty feet up. This year the AMA told him to fix the landings of the triples and he just rode over them with a tractor. That does a lot Iím sure. For a few years I saw big holes dug in the track with a back-hoe bucket, just a third gear straight with alternating holes in the ground. Wow the imagination that mustíve took. Oh yeah, then there was the time that there was about a three foot wall right before a triple, thatís it, just a wall. That got taken out after practice thankfully after some guys tried to wheelie onto it at speed and cartwheeled. Itís just silly how bad the track is. From what I know he canít dig to deep into the ground because there are sprinkler heads buried in there. He could put plywood down or even lay a base of dirt on top of the grass but that would be too obvious I guess. This year there was a double in the back that no one did so it mustíve been pretty good TV for all the guys to single-single onto flat ground. Oh the drama of that! He may be the professor of moto-x, but for sure he is not the professor of track building.


Once again on Saturday morning the AMA administered the twice-annual drug test. Itís always at Daytona every year and they draw numbers out of a hat to decide who gets to pee into a cup. Amazingly every year, no factory riders ever get tested. I think Windham mightíve got his number pulled one-year but thatís all I can ever remember. Its always #689 that gets pulled, never a top guy.Not that I think any riders are on drugs, but itís just weird how that happens. Itís kind of become a running joke among the teams.


Saturday practice went well for Nick as I thought he looked pretty good, I also thought that the bike set-up we went with looked real good out there.After the first practice we made a jetting change to help out throttle response and Nick said that it was better. So onto the heat we went, again another quirk about the race is that they take thirty guys in the 250 main.So there is three heats and the top five go out of them and then two semis with the top six out of them and the LCQ takes three. Nick got a decent start and worked his way into fifth and looked good for a fourth place finish until he hit the ground in the far section. He got up and was seventh but then a couple guys helped us out by crashing and he got fifth. I think that this was great for Nick as then he didnít have to ride the semis and he got lots of rest before the main. The main always turns into a 35-minute race so really itís about the same length as a national moto. The problem that most riders have is that there is no place really to rest, so they are always jumping or getting ready for the next obstacle and thatís what wears them down. That and the track develops ruts on all the faces of jumps, they try to smooth them out before the races but with only two dozers itís pretty hard to get all of them. I guess riders not clearing the finish line because of foot peg dragging ruts is something that public wants to see, who would of thunk that?


Anyway, for the main Nick picked an inside gate which I thought was a good choice, inside at this track is always better then out because with two left turns right away you can always pass a few guys. Nick got a pretty good jump and avoided disaster in the first turn when Metal Mulisha (Tyler Evans) got tangled up in a bail and veered into Nick. He came around in 11th, which was fine considering where we had been starting recently. He then rode a real strong race, passing Huffman, Roncada and a few others to finish 8th.It was our best result since the opening round. He was catching Fonseca but just ran out of steam, a few people have told me that around halfway him and RC were the only guys going forward, which is true I think. He really showed a lot of heart in his riding and Iím sure impressed a few people, myself included. It was an impressive ride and I knew that he would start seeing some improved results because of the fact that he had been working so hard. As my pappy used to say ďyou only get out of it what you put into itĒ and Nick has been putting a lot into ďitĒ.††† After the race Nick, his mom and I went to the dirt track races nearby. I had never been to one and it was pretty cool to see. We got into the pits and that was neat, it was like being stuck in a time warp, I can imagine that this was what Supercross pits looked like back in the day, cigarettes and ponytails everywhere. We met some guy from Michigan who was ranked number eleven, Chris Bigelow. Him and Nick had never met before but they both knew who the other was and they chatted a little bit and Chris filled us in on the rules and such. Nick really surprised me on his knowledge of dirt track; he knew a bunch of guys and what they had done, etc. The only guy I wanted to see was the legend Jay Springsteen, I mean he was the king of dirt track for a long time; also he was in ďOn any SundayĒ. That was good enough for me. We walked up to the legendís pits and there he was! The god of dirt track was sitting in a lawn chair- smoking a cigarette, can you believe that? I can only imagine Jeremy lighting up a Marlboro before going out to battle. The whole smoking thing kind of bummed me out, but nevertheless seeing Jay Springsteen was really cool. He didnít make the final however, but it was still exciting to watch. We went down on the ground and watched it from there and those guys donít play. They go very fast; just like when I went to a GNCC race I have more respect for these guys now. I had never heard of the guy, who won, and I forgot his name but he was wearing a sweatshirt. Nick thought this was funny and if you see New Orleans on TV, look for the guy wearing a sweatshirt riding a Yamaha, thatíll be Nick Wey.


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