Daytona is an animal all its own. There is simply no other race on the calendar that even resembles the venue, soil, atmosphere, or level of difficulty that Daytona presents. We often see different results than the rest of the season too, because of that. That variance was especially true in the 250SX class this weekend as Garrett Marchbanks came out of nowhere to win the first main event of his career.
It hasn't been all rainbows and butterflies for the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider from Utah. Finishing the 2019 250SX West season in tenth place, Marchbanks had an opportunity to turn heads once the action headed outside. That campaign didn't go to plan either – he suffered a big crash at Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, for the second year in a row. He actually crashed in the exact same place on the exact same track, derailing his summer.
It has just been that way for Marchbanks. An amateur superstar, he was called up early to Mitch Payton's legendary squad. His rivals like Pierce Brown were held back and given more time to mature before joining the professional ranks. Whether that decision was wise we may never know – he definitely had his struggles though. Outside of his runner-up finish in the San Diego quagmire of 2019, he hadn't had a top-five finish indoors or out coming into this 2020 250SX East series. That simply won't do on a team with the expectation that Monster PC carries.
To his credit, Marchbanks responded. He came out swinging at Tampa. He looked like a different rider at that opening round. He narrowly missed the podium but a fourth was a much stronger beginning to a pivotal 2020 season. Surely he knew that his contract ends this year and how important it is to impress? Whether he stays on his current team or is recruited elsewhere, his results from 2018 and 2019 were not going to secure the type of deal desired. That urgency was apparent at Tampa but with a fifth in Arlington and a seventh in Atlanta I began to wonder where this was heading. Well, that question was answered in Daytona.
The key now is to continue the momentum. We roll into Indianapolis this Saturday and with it, another chance to rewrite his professional career. He will carry more confidence than ever before and believe that he should be in the lead battle. Confidence is a scary thing too. The talent differences in these wunderkind riders is negligible. The margin lies in between their ears. With Marchbanks coming off the ride of his life, how does he parlay that into the rest of this 2020 season? He has an opportunity to not only secure his 2021-22 seat, but significantly increase his pay too.
Look for Marchbanks to be in full "send" mode on Saturday. There aren't many times in racing life when momentum is on your side and as they say, "When you have the hammer, you have to use it." Marchbanks is young enough to convince himself that this is the natural progression. Even with the previous season of struggling, he can completely change the narrative within a few short weeks. This weekend is paramount though. If he goes to Indy and loses touch with the leaders, finishing between fifth and seventh, all of that buzz from Daytona will dissipate. The time is now and the opportunity is right in front of him. How will he respond?
What about his 2021 outlook? The most obvious landing spot is to stay put. He is a long-time Kawasaki investment and that Daytona win may have cemented a new contract. If not, where are possible landing spots? Rockstar Energy Husqvarna could be an option. They currently only have three 250 riders, leaving a possible opening for a race-winning rider like Marchbanks. GEICO Honda seems to have too many riders already but they are also very aggressive. Anything is possible but I would put GEICO as less likely due to their crowded line-up. Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha will lose Dylan Ferrandis to the 450SX class and rumour has it that Justin Cooper is being courted by other teams too.
Could that present an opportunity for Marchbanks? I think that TLD KTM is another serious possibility as well. They have had a tough time lately, losing riders to injury and generally facing adversity. They have a pipeline of young riders but the lack of podium finishes (other than Hartranft) has plagued them. I could see team manager Tyler Keefe making a play for Marchbanks but I have also heard that he is actively recruiting other superstars too. In any case, it will be interesting to watch the next few months as these teams jockey for their 2021 line-up. Marchbanks wasn't a priority signing just a week ago but times have changed. Look for his deal to get done quickly – regardless of where that might be – if he is on his game in Indy.
Words: Jason Thomas | Lead Image: Race Kawasaki