Under unusually heavy rainfall, Blake Baggett excelled in the soft, rutted conditions and finished second. His teammate Darryn Durham came back from a poor start to take the final spot on the podium.
Daytona Beach is best known for its sunshine, but the sun was nowhere to be seen on Saturday for Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Daytona International Speedway. Rain bombarded the area off-and-on all day, leaving the track more challenging than anticipated.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett excelled in the soft, rutted conditions finishing second.
Teammate Darryn Durham came back from a poor start to take the final spot on the podium and reclaim second in the points standings.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto slid out in the mud in the second corner of the main and charged from last place to finish fifth.
After riding half of the race within the top-five, Jake Weimer, among many, fell victim to the difficult conditions and finished seventh followed by Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle in eighth.
Riding to His Potential
Known for his blazing speed outdoors, Baggett knew that Daytona’s track suited his riding style and could be a turning point for his season. Rain forced officials to shorten qualifying practice to only one session, but Baggett had no problem dialing in the course. He got out front in his heat race and with very little difficulty stayed as clean as possible through the standing water and slick track surface. Baggett got a great start in the main on his KX250F and started pursuing the leader. On lap six he tipped over while exiting one of the deep, long, rutted corners and lost close to 10-seconds on the leader. Knowing the main event had been cut to only 12 laps, Baggett rode the wheels off his Kawasaki and reeled the leader back in, but ran out of laps to make the pass.
“I rode more like myself tonight, minus the crash,” said Baggett. “The track was really bad and got worse with each lap. Once I fell I had to do something because I knew I was faster. So I just hung it out, over-jumping jumps, getting out of control and I came really close to getting him. It’s a step in the right direction and I hope to ride this momentum for the rest of the series.”
Durham knew that it wasn’t going to be easy once the rain started coming down in Daytona, but he had a strategy to simply ride smart and make it to the main event, then he could give it everything he had. The always-smiling Durham was having fun in the mud from the very first practice session. After wiping out in the first practice and belly sliding in the mud in front of the grandstand, Durham got up and ran towards the crowd throwing his muddy goggles and high-fiving a few fans. He played it safe in the heat race, knowing that he just needed to make the main event and then could hang it out. When the gate dropped for the main, Durham got a top-ten start and sat in seventh for the first half of the race. As the race wore on, riders continued to make mistakes and Durham steadily moved through the field to finish in third.
“My starts are what kept me back tonight,” said Durham. “But I rode well in the main. There were so many ruts, you just had to be smart and be on your toes the whole time. I’ve ridden a lot of mud races, so I knew guys would be dropping like flies out there. I was just patient and took my time to move my way up. “
Keeping a Cool Head
As the current points leader, Villopoto knew that with the terrible track conditions, survival would be key. After falling a bit behind at the beginning of his heat race, it was obvious that the start was crucial to a good finish and staying out of the carnage. Villopoto made some tire and suspension changes heading into the main, which he hoped would help get through the thick mud that covered the infield of the famous speedway. From the inside, Villopoto’s KX450 pulled down the start stretch battling for the lead, but in the second corner he would go down getting up in last place. With the motos being shortened due to the conditions, Villopoto had his work cut out for him, but knew he needed to take his time and be smart. He came around the first lap in 17th place and progressively picked off riders taking untouched lines in order to make passes. Villopoto crossed the finish line in fifth place and left Daytona still leading the points standings.
“The night was alright, all things considered,” said Villopoto. “I made some changes right before the main that helped in some parts of the track, but not everywhere. I just made too any mistakes tonight. I was really hoping to get out front early and not get roosted, but ended up in last place two corners in. They made some track changes due to the conditions which was a positive, but unfortunately for me the shortened moto cut back on my time to get to the front.”
A Fine Line
Being his first time at Daytona, Weimer was excited and prepared for the notoriously tough race. Even after the rain had significantly damaged the track, he still felt comfortable on his Kawasaki and was ready for anything Mother Nature had in store. Off the start of the main, Weimer spun and was immediately a bike length behind the rest of the field. He darted to the inside on the next two corners and miraculously snuck into sixth. He got as high as fifth, but the conditions got the best of him causing a few tip overs, dropping him to seventh by the checkered flag. In the points standings, Weimer sits fifth, just nine points out of forth.
“I was really having fun today, so it’s too bad the rain came in,” said Weimer. “I was third in my heat race, but tipped over while the rain was coming down and just wanted to get into the main. In the main I felt like Houdini because I was last off the start and two corners later had passed a lot of guys. I started feeling good and was pressuring fourth, but fell and had to re-pass a bunch of guys. It was a bummer having to pass the same guys over and over, but the track was gnarly.”
Where He Belongs
Tickle started the day strong and was able to throw down some fast laps in the single qualifying practice, earning a great gate pick for the heat race where he placed sixth. Feeling strong and confident in the rain, Tickle started the main within the top-ten, but wanted more. In the second half of the race he really turned it on and pushed up to fifth place. By this time, the leaders had lapped up to the top-ten and it wasn’t long before Tickle was taking a lot of roost and mud from each rider he lapped as they raced through the standing water. A few mistakes the last couple of laps dropped Tickle to eighth, where he finished.
“I should have been more patient in the main,” said Tickle. “I was riding really well and knew I should have just waited to make my passes on lappers, but I just got soaked by a few puddles and was sliding all over the bike. I’m still happy with eighth and really felt comfortable on the bike.”
Battling the Elements
After consistent showers throughout the morning, the officials decided to cancel the second practice, leaving the riders only one chance to determine gate pick. Rain continued into the night show, which forced the track workers to fill in the famous “gator-pits” that are unique to the Daytona course. Along with track modifications, the main events were cut from 15 to 12 laps for the lites class and from 20 to 16 for the supercross class. With lap times around a minute and a half, the motos were long and grueling.
Go Green or Go Home
Daytona supercross kicked off the 71st Daytona Bike Week, which Kawasaki has a large presence in. The Fan-Zone was packed with motorcycle enthusiasts all day despite the torrential downpour. The Monster Energy Kawasaki riders took care of the fans over at the Kawasaki Events tent signing autographs for the hundreds of fans spending the week in Daytona. Monster Energy AMA Supercross heads to another famous city in motorsports, Indianapolis, Ind., for Round 11 at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross
Daytona International Speedway – Daytona, Florida.
March 10, 2012
Supercross Class Results
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha
2. Davi Milsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
3. Kevin Windham, Centreville, Miss., Honda
4. Marvin, Musquin, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
5. RYAN VILLOPOTO, POULSBO, WASH., MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
6. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki
7. JAKE WEIMER, RUPERT, IDAHO, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
8. BROC TICKLE, HOLLY, MICH., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
9. Matt Georke, Lake Heln, Fla., Suzuki
10. Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki
11. NICHOLAS WEY, MURRIETA, CALIF., KAWASAKI
12. KYLE CHISHOLM, VALRICO, FLA., JWR KAWASAKI
13. Kyle Regal, Brighton, Calif., Honda
14. Gavin Faith, Fort Dodge, Iowa
15. JUSTIN SIPES, VINE GROVE, KY., KAWASAKI
Supercross Class Points Standings
1. RYAN VILLOPOTO, POULSBO, WASH., MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 221
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 192
3. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha, 177
4. Kevin Windham, Centreville, Miss., Honda, 143
5. JAKE WEIMER, RUPERT, IDAHO, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 134
6. David Milsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 131
7. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Honda, 128
8. Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki, 124
9. Justin Brayton, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 121
10. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki, 113
11. KYLE CHISHOLM, VALRICO, FLA., JWR KAWASAKI, 91
12. JOSH HANSEN, ELBERT, COLO., DODGE/HART & HUNTINGTON KAWASAKI, 87
13. BROC TICKLE, HOLLY, MICH., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 82
14. NICHOLAS WEY, MURRIETA, CALIF., KAWASAKI, 76
15. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 59