By Andrew Short
The most anticipated race in the history of supercross had everybody up in arms and scratching his or her head trying to decide just what was going to happen when that gate finally fell. Mother nature delivered her best effort to dampen that anticipation but everyone involved forged on. It is the most exciting time of the year with everyone in top condition, full of confidence and ready to prove to the world they’re the real deal. After all of the riders had spent significant time preparing, practicing, and rehearsing in their mind the “perfect Anaheim race, they then had to let out a sigh of disappointment when they saw the mud. For me personally, a “perfect Anaheim never included mud. Taking a deep breath, the memories of Seville, Spain brought me a smirk and a touch of confidence, because I could honestly say “I’ve seen the worst. It seemed like just yesterday that I finished that mud race in Seville, and I was glad that I had the experience. I was thinking maybe it would help me here! Before I knew it I was at A1, the track was uncovered and the rain continued to fall. Next to fall was the gate and the fun factor soared…well, for some people anyway.
It soared for many of the riders, but I decided to let the pressure climb and forget how much fun racing in mud really is. I can sum up my night of racing in Anaheim as a “disaster. This was my own fault because I put myself in a bad position and made poor decisions. I had expected more, in fact, so much more than finishing twentieth. After it was all said and done I had time to watch the race on TV and reflect on all that happened. I was amazed at how much heart and skill there was in R.C. and Reed’s heat race. To jump triples like they did on the “slot car track was incredible if not borderline stupid. But they didn’t care because they are two of the strongest competitors out there, bar none. The fans didn’t see the race they expected but they did get their money’s worth. You never knew what to expect next. That is exactly what sucks as a rider, because one minute you think you are fine and then all of a sudden you’re upside down covered in mud. The best part of the night for me was when Jeremy got into the lead in his heat race. The roar of the crowd was as loud as it got all night. To see the smile he had afterwards was truly priceless. Some people just love to race.
Moving on to the first real or…. first dry race of the year in Phoenix, it was Bubba, Bubba, Bubba, and he was incredible. As bad as it may sound, I honestly think most of the 250 riders let out a sigh of relief when he got hurt. He has raised the bar and everybody around him knows it. He is going so fast that he has everyone on their toes. The sport needs him.
After a dismal first race for myself the pressure began to consume my head. As hard as it is to admit it, I had to learn my lesson. The lesson was not to forget who I am. Riding for Honda in the big truck I assumed I needed to change. In reality what I needed to do, was to do what I have always done, and just have fun just like the local Ricky Racer does when he goes to the starting line. After racing out of the Honda truck, I now have a completely different view of them. From the outside looking in Honda is intimidating. Walking by the Honda truck in previous years I starred in disbelief at how trick their bikes were. With Ricky there, they always won. Honda Wins. They always had an army of technicians plus two semis and guys who are experts for every aspect of the bike. Being on the inside of the fence caught me off guard. My view of Honda has done a 180. First let me say it is everything and more than I thought it would be. I have the gnarliest bike out there and an army of people to make sure I have everything I need to win. Those guys enjoy what they do and they’re the best at it. After Phoenix they had to straighten me out. My mood was totally down so they told me to chill out and smile more. Finally, I realized after two hard weeks that the best riders do so well because they love the competition and racing for them is a fun job. For me it is important to remember that is why I started this in the first place. This approach may not work for every rider out there, but for me it is important to keep it fun.
The fun approach paid off at Anaheim 2. Second place looked a lot better on paper than my first two stressful “disaster races. It was great just to get a finish on the board and have something to go from. Now I know what I need to work on and improve on to get to the “top of the box. The fun factor, for me, is what is important to be successful.