Got to Road America (RA) Thursday morning at 10 am. We were sent off to the staging area and sat there till 1:30 and decided to go to registration to get our credentials. Hour and a half later we moved into the paddock and unloaded. Got to meet a lot of the other 390 riders, fun guys to be around. Went to the tech barn and got the bike ok’d for the races. Beautiful weather on Thursday!
Friday, rain, clouds, wind, more rain……..meh. Moved into our hotpit and got ready for the 1st practice. Track kinda drying. Decided to go out on DOT’s. Wrong choice. First lap out, riding in front of Chris Fillmore (KTM Factory Superbike rider and a super cool dude!) who was on a 390 to watch the rest of us, I hit a patch in turn 12 that was wetter than the rest of the track surface and the front went out from under the bike. By the time safety got the bike and me back to the tech barn, the session was over. Crap.
Friday afternoon the weather was ugly, Raining pretty hard and forced track officials to red flag most of the afternoon sessions. By the time of my first qualifying session, it had been shortened and changed to a 15 min free practice instead. At least got some track time in.
Spent a lot of time tweaking the suspension, gearing to get the best out of the bike. Still looking for a perfect setup.
Saturday morning, “oh look, its raining again”. Went out on rains for the Q2 (2nd qualifying session). Was just getting comfy with rain, wind and cold, and getting a little faster, when the rear stepped out on me in T13. Crap again.
Saturday afternoon, first race. Wet, still. Due to my crash in Q2, I was gridded dead last. 26th spot behind a lot of fast and much smaller kids than me. Knew I had my work cut out for me. Red lights go out, and we are off. I had a great launch, but with 25 other riders darting back and forth, I had no good line through the pack. “Head down and run my race” the words I kept telling myself. Couple bikes went down here and there, but I kept my head down and focused on the task I had set out with in the beginning of the weekend, get a top ten finish. As the race lead on, 6 laps total, it seemed like it took forever to complete a lap on the little 390. I worked my way through the pack and finally crossed the checkers in 10th place. Goal accomplished! Time to get some food and a nice, hot, shower at the hotel. Long day but an awesome one!
Sunday, race 2. THE SUN IS SHINING!!!!!! Nice day but cold. Temps only in the low 50’s. But, it is dry. I head out on the parade lap, relaxed and hoping to have a top ten finish again. Get on the grid, Gabe Blevins, my race coach for the last 2 years is waiting for me at #26. Talks to me about how I reached my goal and the rest of the weekend is just the icing on top. Red lights go out and race 2 is under way. Like race 1, I get a great launch but get held up in the middle of the pack. Again, head down, run my race. It’s hard to go fast on a 38 horsepower spec bike when you are my size. It’s worse when you are out of the draft. I stayed in the pack till T6, there I was run wide and off track by a couple bikes that were trying a lower line and drifted up into me. Off in the sod I go and loosing valuable time and places. Head down again. Pick them off decisively. Was consistently getting quicker as the race progressed. Passing riders and moving up the rankings. On the 4th lap one of the riders from Mexico tried to take me on the inside of T5. He ran up into me and I had the entire weight of my body laying on his tank as we barreled through the corner together. We both made it through T5 with me in front and on the rumble strips! (I think with my #200 laying on him spooked him some, cause I never saw him till we got to the tech barn. I went over to him, smiled and gave each other a “Bro Hug” and laughed at the battle we had for a brief moment!) Slowly worked my way up the rankings and a crossed the line in 16th place. Not a top ten but still passed more racers than anyone else did in that race. On the white flag, Ezra Beaubier had a 5 sec gap on me. By the time we crossed the line I got him by a tenth of a sec!
All in all, I was pleased with my results for the weekend. For only being my third year in racing, gridding up with the top 14-22 year old racers in the U.S. is a great accomplishment. And beating half of them is the cherry on top.
Barber Motorsports Park in AL is next on the schedule and we are leaving for it on Tuesday. Hoping for a better qualifying and better grid spot with it, and a podium finish is the main goal.
Thanks for following along.