Reflections on the Season
It is bitter sweet writing this race report at the end of Round 8 NJMP, it was my first round back at the track after my injury in Utah. The last time I would suit up in my 1/4quarterly on track development race leathers, for what will go down in history as the last KTM RC 390 Cup. Even though everyone coined this round as a "home track advantage" it wasn't that. The last time I rolled around Thunderbolt was this time last year for a testing day compliments of team owner Bob Robbins. I did however, approach this weekend with hopes of putting it on the box, as does every racer, especially at his home track.
The morning practice I struggled a bit with bike set up and running the new Dunlop tire designed for better grip. Achieving a best lap time of 1:39.808. I was skeptical in the beginning of the tire change, but by the end of the weekend the difference was noticeable, in a sticky, good kinda way. During qualifying 1, I set my best time of 1:35.903. By the end of Q2 I was down to a 1:35.415 . Starting on the grid at 10th position, which is a large disadvantage, I knew I had to keep my head down and get the best start possible once the lights went out.
During Race 1 , I battled with a second pack for several laps, nearly missing my team mate Ben Smith's bike in the front straight away as it ghost rode across the track after striking the wall. I was able to finish with a 5th and my best lap time of 1:34.781. By Sunday I was excited to have another shot, morning practice I ran in 3rd position which made me extremely confident of box potential for Race 2. After the lights went out, I struggled going into turn 1 seeing several riders pass me from behind. As I hit the front straight away for the 2nd lap my pit board displayed P13, I had a long battle ahead of me. I was able to pick each position off until the last lap where Deutchlander and I battled to the checkered flag , drafting back and fourth until the end. I ended up 6th by tenths of a second, but that is what great racing is made of!
I cannot thank everyone involved for the best possibility, to measure my skills against some of the greatest youth racers in the United States! This season has literally been an opportunity of a life time. I would like to thank : Bob Robbins for his generosity in helping kids develop in the sport, Dale Quarterly for providing his skill and insight every session. Mark Reynolds for his top notch mechanical work later joined by Paul Arciszewski, for my final round you complimented each other listening and making adjustments to get the bike to where I needed it to be . Scott Stump for pushing me to the next level and believing in me when at times I didn't believe in myself, as well as introducing me to Shane Narbonne whom accepted the challenge of helping me bridge the gap from mini's to larger displacement bikes, NJMiniGP for the training and support . Without the endless hours I put in on the mini track I would not be where I am. This I am sure of . Your program is changing racing for our youth in a big way ! Evolve GT for providing me track time and bikes for the 2017 season. My sponsors: Heroic Race Apparel for providing me awesome custom leathers, Arai Helmets and Impact Armour for keeping me safe. Whole Sale Automotive Outlet, United Asphalt, Solid Performance KTM, Motion Pro and countless others for their support. Hangdry for not only keeping my leathers dry, but going above and beyond to help me with pre-race strategy, stretching and mental preparedness. Cory Texter for marketing support advice and Tony Pagliaroli for words of encouragement and following me every step of the way ! My fans, from signing a child's bedtime story book, to watching them smile as they sit on my bike under the race tent, or anxiously await as I sign a poster for them. My family, especially my parents, I love you and appreciate the sacrifices you made to get me to the races! The friendships that I have made at the track and during this season will last a lifetime, it is an amazing community. One minute you are bumping elbows, the next you are lending parts to get your competition to line. I am not sure what the next season holds for me but I am forever thankful for this one! I will keep everyone posted over the off season and I look forward to chasing more checkered flags in my future ! Good Luck to my teammates in the final round!
After the crash at Utah Motorsports Park it was advised that I skip the race at Laguna Seca, but I came out to support all my teammates. Looking forward to being back on the bike at Sonoma.
Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again - Nelson Mandela
Reflecting on Road America....
Where am I? Let me give you some clues, 4.048 miles of asphalt, 14 turns, 3 straight a ways with the longest spanning 4,000’. You know where I am yet? You got it, my 3rd round of the KTM RC 390 Cup @ Road America, WI. This weekend proved to be my steepest learning curve to date. My largest hurdle is time, due to the length of this track, I am very limited to become versed in each sector.
After arriving on Thurs evening, I was accompanied by my team mates, as well as other riders and we set out for our routine track walk. If the above description didn’t help you grab the magnitude of this track walking it had my feet sore and my head spinning. I knew tomorrow adding speeds of 100+mph would further hinder the situation.
The weather was still clear for practice 1 on Friday. This was a 30 minute session and I was able to complete around 9 laps. The track conditions were dry and the temperature was a bit cool. I was satisfied with the first session, my set up felt a bit off, so I had my crew dial it back to the settings from the previous race and start there. I am still not confident with the bike so less variables, I believe help me adapt to the new tracks which change every weekend. All of which I have no prior experience on.
That evening for Q1 the track was dry. I knew that I had to set good laps this session due to large squalls of thunderstorms that the weather services were tracking for the next qualifying session. I was able to set my best lap time of 2.51 setting me in 7th position for the starting grid. I was continuing to improve, as my best lap time in the 1st practice was 2.55.
During the 1st race I was able to get a great start. I knew that I needed to stay with the group. I rode well and was in 6th position, however due to 2 separate penalties during the initial start of the race, two racers lost time and I finished 4th after the officials completed deductions for penalties.
I returned, the next day after getting a good night sleep and was ready for the practice session in the morning. I was increasing my times and was able obtain P3 by the end of the session. I was eager to get the 2nd race underway. We had mounted new DOTs right before I lined up on the grid. As the red light flashed out I had gotten the best start of my career to date. As I rounded the first corner I was able to obtain 2nd position. As the race progressed I was able to make some passes and continue drafting back and forth with the pack. I over shot corner 5 and sent myself into the rumble strips. This one omission, I have identified as the mistake that cost me my ending position.
I was able to finish out the weekend with a 4th for Race 1 and a 10th for Race 2. Road America is now official under my belt, as quick as I had arrived, I was packing the rig to head out, another weekend, another track. I am racing against the clock every round, from the moment my Dunlop’s meet the asphalt. Time is my biggest obstacle and one I have no control of, the grander the track, the more tremendous the issue in mastering.
I have, however learned more about “princess” which is what my crew has helped me nick name her. How much lean angle she can take and exactly how much she can handle in the corners’. I am going to continue to study the tracks in preparation for my upcoming rounds. I am grateful for the challenges, setbacks and disappointments. I am grateful for the opportunity to overcome every single one, because doing so contributes to my growth.
I am unable to conclude without acknowledgment of Roger Hayden, your ability to fly Nicky’s flag in the honorary remembrance lap right before your first race, shows us that regardless of what life throws your way, the race still goes on. It was an honor to stand on the track to take in this especially emotional ride. Also to reflect on the fact that my hurdles are minute compared to others.
I would like to thank all of my family, friends, sponsors, 1/4ley Racing and Crew for this opportunity. Special consideration to team mate, Ben Smith, for showing me around these new places, Mark Reynolds for assuring me that “Princess” has the correct tire pressure, Scott Stump and Shane Narbonne for your words of encouragement! Next up, Utah see you there!