This was the first time the WORCS series had 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 impression winding through the surrounding flat, desert terrain providing 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 being held at one o’clock 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 very much 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 should remember that I had a pretty good start in Utah, so I suppose I could surmise that the dead engine is either very good to me, or it goes incredibly poorly; needless to say I was hoping for the prior.
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 through 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) should 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 quickly made his way in to second place. Not long later Justin again lost his balance, 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 Gary and Justin Seeds.
It took a little over a lap for me to close the gap up to Gary 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 I had a good run on Gary. I pulled out to his right, tucked in and pushed my way past him, braking hard into the following corner. The effort to pass Gary had actually pushed me right up to the back of Justin 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 Justin 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 Justin 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 fifteen 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 a thirty seconds and a feeling that I was in control of the race. On that lap I saw that Gary had made his way back into second position and, as I expected, he began to make a mid-race charge. Two laps in a row he was able to chip away at my lead, closing to just over twenty 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 Gary, 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 towards 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.