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March 2014 Race Report

Hello everyone, I hope you have all enjoyed the month of March and the beginning to the majority of all two wheeled motorsports! For myself March had its ups and downs. It all started off in Savannah Georgia at a beautiful red clay half mile. This is where the AMA Steve Nace All Series starts off each year. I was super excited going to this race track because I was going to be racing a twin here for the first time. Not only would it be my first time on a twin at the track it would also be my first time working with my new team, Factory Harley Davidson. I would also be riding my FMC Dyno Center KTM 450 singles as well. The first couple of days in Georgia were a big disappointment. The day we arrived it started raining and didn’t stop for two days. This wiped out two full days of testing with Harley and the first race that was supposed to be on Friday night. Luckily when we woke up on Saturday it was beautiful, clear sky and the race promoters had decided to run the already scheduled amateurs during the day and rescheduled the Pro event to follow that night. They offered a pro twin and single class during the amateur program so I decided to ride because I was plain tired of waiting around! I ended up winning on my 450 and got 3rd on the twin after making a charge from the back row. My hotshoe had fallen off in the heat race which forced me to ride a semi to make it into the main event. So a third from the third row wasn’t a bad deal.  The race that night was like a mini national! Pretty much all the top riders come out for this race to test their new equipment and get some seat time after riding indoors or on the ice all winter long. I ended up winning the main event on my KTM 450 once again and got a close third on the Harley behind Brandon Robinson and Jared Mees. It was a pretty good way to start off the first outdoor of the year. For the next couple of days we spent our time at a couple different tracks testing on the 450s trying to get them dialed in for the first two rounds of the AMA Pro Racing Grand National Championship at the Daytona Beach short track. It has been a battle for me to get as comfortable on the KTMs as I was on Hondas. However, I was going make myself feel comfortable in my mind no matter what.

The first round at Daytona started out good. I qualified 4th which gave me a good spot on the front row for the heats. Unfortunately, this is where the night started to go downhill. The track changes up so much from during the day to at night that your bike has to be very well rounded to work good in both circumstances.  My bike on the other hand didn’t want to cooperate so well. I got off line good right behind that nights winner Briar Bauman. With the weather cooling down a lot the mapping was thrown off pretty bad and the motor was not running smooth which made throttle control very difficult. The track was so slick and with the bike not running correct it was almost impossible to not make mistakes and I eventually slipped back to 5th, which meant I would have to ride a semi. We got the bike running smooth again and made some other adjustments and went out and won the semi to transfer into the main event. Now this is where my bad luck started! When we were sitting in staging for the main event we fired the bike up to warm it up and it was making a very loud top end ticking noise. We decided not to chance running it so I hoped on the back up bike that we hadn’t ran all day.  I had a good start to the main event and was somewhere inside the top 10 when the bike started to cut out. Fortunately, there was a red flag right after it stopped running right so we had some time to figure things out. We couldn’t figure what was wrong with the back up so I decided to hop back on the A bike and just hope it would last the main event. I started the main event from the 4th row and was in a tight battle around mid pack when the flag man threw the black flag pointed at me! I didn’t know why this was happening but I tried my best to get off the track safely and not mess up any of the other racers race. What the DQ ended up being for was my crew didn’t exchange the two bikes in the back up bike staging area. Instead they took the A bike back to the pit area because they thought it was done for the night. The rules say that all bikes must be held in the back up bike staging area to be valid for use. Even though this bike had already been in staging before the main event and was the bike I had been riding all day. I didn’t know what else to do but to accept what had happened and move on to the next day.
The next day things started off decent once again.. What ended up being wrong on the bikes was a cam chain tensioner on the first bike and a fuel pump went out on the back up bike. I know what are the chances of both these parts going out on pretty much brand new 2014 KTM’s. This time I qualified 5th. The track is always a lot more forgiving in qualifying because there is a lot more traction. I could adjust my riding a lot to make the bike do what I wanted it to do. But still when the sun went down and the track got a lot slicker the motorcycle was once again a handful. I was able to transfer out of the heat race but I was far from happy with how things were going. Traction is the key to success in Daytona and I had very little of it. I ended up getting a good jump off the line in the main event and was running as high as 5th in the first 5 laps. Slowly but surely as my charge started to wear off, others riders started to pick up momentum and I found myself just trying to stay smooth on not make mistakes then trying to move forward and race. It’s one of the worst feelings as a racer when you are just trying to get around the track rather than feeling comfortable and pushing forward to the next position. Eventually I settled in 11th position. I hate to blame equipment as the reason to my poor start to 2014 season but the truth is that was the main issue.  Since my rookie year in 2011 I have had the best overall average of finishes in Daytona up until this season. I have always had a lot of fun at this track and came out in the top 5 in points. There was just too much change in my whole program and not enough time spent with the bike and team to gain the data and experience we needed to be successful at Daytona. I am surely not going to let it get me down though. I had a very bad luck in Daytona last year and look where it landed me at the end of the year! Fortunately, there is plenty of time to get the 450’s where they need to be by the next singles grand national in August. I have swallowed my pride and I plan to come back on strong at the next round on Memorial Day weekend in Springfield Illinois!

Since Daytona I have just been enjoying some time around home up in the northwest and preparing myself for the rest of the season. My Mom, my good friend Tanner and I drove straight home from Daytona so I could ride the last indoor short track of the year that very next weekend.  I decided to do one for the fans and bust out J&M dirt track chassis Honda 450 and wear my dirt track leather suit. Any true flat track fan I know loved the original flat track look! It ended up being a great race between myself and other fellow Washington Expert Sammy Halbert. The only bad thing about a framer is they are really hard to get off the starting line. With the track being super dry slick and one lined it was crucial to get a good start. Sammy ended up getting the start on me in both main events on his DTX bike and was doing a great job of plugging the inside. I think I ran into the back of him almost every lap both main events trying to get a drive on him off the corners. Eventually I ran out of laps in the first main but I gave it more of a fight at the end of the second main event. I was finally fed up with trying to make room on the inside so I gave it a go on the outside. Going into turn three the lap before the white flag i left the throttle on longer and rolled around the outside of him and got back on it earlier. I was past him at the start finish but I was a little too wide going into turn 1 and the front end pushed really hard making me go wide and letting him back by. So I ended the night with two close second place finishes and had a lot of fun!

I fly out on Friday at the end of this week to Los Angeles California for the 70th annual Trail Blazers Banquet. I will be sitting at a table with legends like The King Kenny Roberts, Bubba Shobert and Gene Romaro. I am really looking forward to getting down there and showing my respects to the past Stars of motorcycle racing.
I can’t thanks all of my fans, friends, family and especially my sponsors for helping make every step of this dream life a reality!