An over-used Nascar cliche’ sneaks in and throws both SX titles on their heads.
An over-used Nascar cliche’ sneaks in and throws both SX titles on their heads.
Photos by: James Lissimore
We’ve all poked fun at Nascar for making primarily left hand turns and saturday night in Jacksonville the table’s were turned. Dirt Wurks constructed the track according to the track map which had been available since just prior to the season, a track showcasing the white unicorn of SX first turns, a right hander. What do you think the over under is on number of riders who practiced hole-shots this week and turned right at the end of the practice straight? Even if it was all of them, which it should be, anything goes when the gate drops as we’ve seen almost every week this season and Jacksonville didn’t disappoint in terms of unpredictability.
Everyone knew about the right hand start, everyone had to race the same track with the right hand start yet it still bears the brunt of most of the finger-pointing for Jacksonville’s series changing events. Unfamiliarity is a nasty bitch when your accustomed to cookie cutter tracks, so who adapts and doesn’t get torpedo’d by a flailing competitor gets the leg up. In Jacksonville, that leg up equates to a major step forward in the title chase.
Looking at the Jacksonville ’11 track, it’s hard to believe that it’s the same square footage they worked with in ’09 in Jacksonville. That ’09 track looked to have much more flow, produced great racing between Reed and Stewart and was not nearly as tight as the ’11 Jacksonville. The track looked about as tight as ’10 Indianapolis. Remember that super short start straight which saw every race of the night start off with major first turn carnage? So what better way to approach another abbreviated start straight? Ehh, throw a right handed turn at the end of it. The script writes itself, how could we not foresee how it was going to end? Maybe not the magnitude of title contenders claimed but riders claimed no doubt.
Shockingly, Lites heat 1 made it look like business as usual with regard to the short start straight into the right hander. How about that crash by Alex Martin exiting the whoops though!? That was pretty spectacular. No way could both Lites heats negotiate the unfamiliar right hander without incident could they? Believe it. An uncharacteristic move by Blake Baggett early in heat two found him on the inside of Justin Barcia negotiating a 180 degree left hand turn and Blake didn’t leave Justin an inch. Justin ended up punted off the berm but Baggett got the short end of the stick as he remounted and couldn’t make it back into a qualifying position while Barcia did. No sweat, Blake would just holeshot the LCQ and bring it home with a terrible main event gate pick, but wait, that damn right hand turn was about to flash it’s teeth.
Like a pinch hitter, an actual picture of Blake watching the main…. just kidding.
Holeshot he did but he also immediately tucked the front wheel all but sealing his fate and not making the main event. From 2nd in the points, on the podium every week and a convincing win in Daytona to best seat in the house to root for Dean Wilson. Racing is cruel but that’s what makes it so great, the unpredictability.
In all honesty, that right hander is getting a bad name as other than the Lites LCQ the true culprit for the nights carnage is the rhythm section immediately following the holeshot stripe. Not surprisingly it claimed Malcolm Stewart and Gannon Audette, two very fast kids who always seem to be remounting and charging. A bit more on the Lites later as right now I am focused on the title contenders who were dramatically affected in Jacksonville.
Heat one of the SX class handled the right hander cautiously and without incident, though Brayton took a digger shortly thereafter sending him to the LCQ. Heat two for the big bikes also saw no issues in the right hander but that damn rhythm section following the holeshot stripe would claim Matt Boni and consequently RV2. Not sure what happened to Boni on the face of that second double but his rear tire didn’t appear to lock up as RC mentioned he thought it did on the broadcast. It looked eerily similar to the incident in Houston that found Stewart landing on JT$. The main difference being JT$ was shorting a double that James was in the midst of tripling and in Jacksonville Boni was bailing on the same double RV was doubling, leaving him also with no where to go and in a bad spot. RV was frustrated and rightfully so. I’d be interested in hearing Boni’s side of what happened to cause him to hit the eject button. I know its irrelevant but there was a split second when it looked like RV’s bike was about to teeter back onto his arm he was using to pick himself up off the track, it came damn close. In the future RV, please make sure your bike is at rest before casually getting up. Another 10″ and that arm would have surely snapped.
Usually “Realtree” is a shoe-in for main events.
RV was left to fend for himself in the LCQ, you’ll recall I mentioned the short start straight-ed Indy of ’10 earlier, a race where RV also found himself in the LCQ, an LCQ which he won. Do you recall that memorable instant when JT$ saluted RV over the triple as he moved into the lead and onto the win? In Jacksonville, even though Brayton was also in the LCQ, I and probably most fans, expected RV to either holeshot and checkout or negotiate the tricky right hander safely and quickly work his way into the lead and onto the win. Not happening. In a turn of events no one could have predicted, RV was pushed from the inside into Brayton and they both found themselves on the ground, off the track, wide of the first turn, short of the holeshot stripe. Just crazy, the points leader and one of the most silently consistent racers over the last 3 years, “Realtree” Justin Brayton, found themselves on the sidelines for the main event. Lots of talk about full moons online and on the broadcast, maybe there’s something to it?
So now the stage is set for a drastic shuffling of the points with RV out, James looking for his first win in 7 weeks, Chad looking to capitalize on RV being out, Trey trying to turn around his bad luck of late and Dungey still searching for that first win of the season. For two of these racers the outlook on rest of the season took one more stunning shift in a mere 180 feet. At the beginning the night, Stewart was focusing on keeping RV’s point lead from extending and RV was trying to do exactly that. Less than a minute after the gate fell on the LCQ, Stewarts focus shifted to taking a major bite out of that point lead, optimally leaving Florida trailing by 1 point.
James got dirtied on the full moon night in J.Ville.
Now, in the main event, Stewart would also fall victim to the first rhythm section, in the same spot that claimed RV in heat 1. RV could surely not believe his eyes, much like the rest who were watching. After James remounted in Daytona following his epic triple to digger I didn’t think there was a crash that James would not remount from during this season. Apparently I was wrong as a KX450F footpeg to the lower back will do just that. So James is writhing in pain on the stadium floor and RV’s focus changes again to recalculating the points with a new worst case scenario; that being, Chad Reed +25. A horrible night just got a little easier to swallow for RV2.
Also caught up in the mess was Matt Goerke who it sounds like ended up with the worst of it with allegedly a broken arm and pelvis, guy cant catch a break, figuratively.
The Lites main event was rather uneventful. Barcia bounced off the rev limiter to the win, Dean finally got the train back on the tracks, Sipes worked his way up to third, Lemoine improved his Indy finish by one and I was pumped to see Durham back in the series. He’s a game changer, Toronto?
It’s been a stubborn battle but now the 350 has even Matthes raising an eyebrow.
Trey rode a great race in the 450 main, Chad kept him honest, Dungey may have been able to smell their exhaust at some point, K-Dub put an end to his abysmal luck of late and Shorty did what Shorty does, kept it consistent.
All in all Jacksonville left us with a solid weeks worth of bench racing material, at least. The word out of the Stewart camp is he will be ready for Toronto but that’s irrelevant right now. RV and James, through no fault of theirs, just opened the door for two guys who have won this title before and another who, when he is on, is enigmatic. Can’t wait to see what the next twist is in this season that continues to deliver the unpredictability.
Se habla, Canuckia?