Of all the races on our calendar, the Daytona Supercross is arguably the most prestigious. Held during Bike Week at Daytona International Speedway, the Daytona Supercross by Honda is traditionally the longest, roughest supercross race of the year. The sandy track gets plenty rutted and chopped out, and because the track is so long the main event lasts about half an hour. It takes a different approach to win Daytona than a traditional night Supercross¿only the strong survive. Heck, it took Jeremy McGrath several years to finally win Daytona, and he’s the King of Supercross! Everyone wants to win Daytona and everyone remembers who won Daytona. Now, I’m proud to say that I’ve won it. Twice.
When I was a kid, I remember travelling to Daytona to watch the Supercross. Guys like Jeff Stanton and Mike Kiedrowski dominated the races because they were fast and strong. Last year, I won the Daytona Supercross and at the same time notched my first career 250cc Supercross win. That was a special day for me¿it proved that I had what it took to be competitive on a 250, and it also served as a little preview to the 250cc Nationals. Winning the San Diego Supercross this season was special for me in a different way¿mostly because it was my first “true” Supercross win. Not that Daytona isn’t a Supercross, it’s just that most riders consider it more of an outdoor National with Supercross jumps thrown in the mix. Bike set-up is different, and we usually run our suspension settings a little softer to soak up the little choppy bumps. Coming into this year’s Daytona race, I would say that I was more confident than I have been all year. During the week prior to the race, my teammate Stephane Roncada and the whole EdgeSports.com race team came to my place to test and hang out. Even ol’ FroDaddy threw a leg over a bike. Emig was just riding for fun, but he was going good! My mechanic Chad and I worked mostly on the suspension settings and also got a head start on some of our outdoor National testing, too. Race day was nearly flawless. The track was pretty much the same as last year, with the exception of a new obstacle or two. I felt great right from the start, even though I had a couple bobbles and tipped over in the second practice. Chad changed some of my suspension settings, and that solved the problems I was having. The heat race was pretty boring, to be honest. Vuillemin got the holeshot but I passed him right away. After I got around him I think he crashed, so I pulled away and just concentrated on getting the fastest heat race time. Posting the fastest heat race time is not only important for gate pick in the main¿I think it is also a huge mental advantage over the winner of the other heat. My heat race was six seconds faster than Kevin Windham’s and 26 seconds faster than McGrath’s. As I lined up for the start of the main event, I chose the gate three over from the doghouse on the inside. Getting a good start at Daytona is important, even though it’s a long race and you do have plenty of time to catch up. On the starting line, I wondered how the race would unfold. I felt very confident that I could win, but I wondered if I would have McGrath dogging me for 13 laps like he did last year. As it turned out, I grabbed the “holey” and ran away with it. I never really had to fend anyone off, as I got out to a pretty good lead right away. There are 30 riders in the Daytona main event¿10 more than a regular race¿so the lappers come into effect right away. All the lappers were pretty cool and I didn’t really have any close calls. At one point, my lead over Mike LaRocco was 18 seconds, but I slowed down to celebrate and wave to the crowd on the last lap. At the finish line, I was still six seconds ahead. After the race was over, someone ran up to me and said that McGrath finished sixth. While I was surprised, it’s not like that made me want to celebrate any more¿winning Daytona is reason enough alone to celebrrate! Leaving Daytona Beach, I had an 18-point lead over Jeremy. We’re still cool and all¿he says hi and I say hi¿but I think I might have finally beaten him mentally. Though the series is far from over, I still can’t believe that I am having such a good Supercross season. From here on out, I am going to concentrate on being consistent, but that doesn’t mean I will not try to win each and every race. By the time the next issue comes out, I hope to have the Supercross Championship under my belt. Wish me luck!