I just got back home from a 3 weeklong racing trip down in California and Arizona. It was a hell of a ride and I brought home a lot of trophies! I drove down with my van and trailer, filled to the brim with motorcycles and gear. I took down nearly everything I had for some fun in the sun.
First event up was the Moto Beach Classic in Huntington Beach, California.
The RSD Super Hooligan AMA National Championship finale was held there once again in the beach parking lot. The track itself was a small asphalt oval. I had ridden one of these tracks once before and won back at the Moto Bay Classic in San Francisco. I felt confident I could win on this type of track. 3 points separated me and Scooter Vernon for the title. Whoever beat who, was basically champion.
I was able to win my heat race with ease. For the first time this season, they had a Dunlop $1,000 Dash-for-Cash. Something I haven't done since The One Show back in February of 2020. I took the holeshot over Scooter, and easily won the 4-lap race! It was the first time I had been able to beat Scooter this season. In the process, I turned the fastest lap of the day.
Going into the main event, I still had to line up 2nd to Scooter since the line up was based on finishes and what heat race you were. Scooter won the first heat, giving him pole. I won the second heat, giving me second. Anyway, when the main event started, I got a good jump, but found myself on the ground in the first turn. It was a disaster for me. I was immediately disappointed. I didn't crash on my own. It was just a racing incident with the track being so small and there being so many bikes. I got taken out. The race was red-flagged, and I picked up my KTM 790 Duke. The bars were all bent, and so was my shift lever. But I was able to restart the race last place.
There were multiple restarts and red flags after. I got caught up in a few of the red flag incidents but managed to stay off the ground. Everyone in the back of the pack where I was were riding overly aggressive trying to fight back to the front. Finally, on the final restart with 7 laps to go, I worked my way from 13th to 3rd place, salvaging a podium finish! It was an incredible ride. The 3rd place finish gave me 2nd place in the championship, to Scooter who had won. I was bummed out I didn't get to battle Scooter and that my championship hopes ended so early. But that's part of racing sometimes.
This years Super Hooligan championship was a weird one. With it being 4 rounds and including a road race, I thought for sure the title was mine, even with taking a 10-point penalty for using a different bike at the first round, Laguna Seca. I rode the 2021 890 Duke R in mostly stock form, before switching to my flat track hooligan bike, the 2019 790 Duke for the 3 remaining flat track races in the series. I knew the risk though, so I can't be to upset. It was a really fun season regardless! Having Scooter out there forced me to develop my flat track bike more and make it the best it has ever been!
I also raced the 2021 KTM 450 SMR at Moto Beach in the Supermoto class, taking 2nd.
After Moto Beach, I drove down to the Murrieta area near KTM. I stayed with my buddy, MotoAmerica racer Josh Herrin. One of the weekdays I went to the movies with him, Malcolm Stewart and Tevin Tapia, and another day I rode motocross at Cahuilla Creek with Josh Hayes and Melissa Paris. I also went and rode Supermoto with Josh Herrin a couple of days. That helped kill some time before driving a couple hours southeast to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway for some road racing.
I had not road raced a 1000cc bike at Chuckwalla since 2017 when I took my Oregon Motorcycle Attorney Yamaha R1 there. I immediately felt comfortable on the bike in Friday's practice. On Saturday, I was able to take pole position in qualifying with a blistering 1:44.7 lap time. My competitors included CVMA lap record holder and MotoAmerica Superbike racer, Aussie Dave Anthony, as well as CVMA #1 plate holder and multi-time MotoAmerica race winner Michael Gilbert, two-time MotoAmerica Stock 1000 champ Andrew Lee, and multi-time MotoAmerica winner and past champion Corey Alexander. To say the class was stacked, would be an understatement.
The first race was Formula Open, and I got the holeshot and commanded the entire race to victory! I was pretty shocked I was able to beat all those guys, and so were they it appeared. The next race on Saturday was Supersport Open. I led half of the race before falling to 4th. There was some oil on the track that almost made me crash twice, and after that I was riding timid. I was still right there at the finish in the 4-way battle for 1st.
Sunday started out great, I was able to finish 2nd place in Formula Open after a great battle with Corey Alexander for the position. That gave me the overall win in the class. The Open Shootout was the next race, which was the big purse money class. $3,000 to win, $2,000 for second, and $1,500 for 3rd. I took the holeshot, but Michael Gilbert was on a winning streak, and he got past me and pulled a gap on the rest of us battling for 2nd. It was me, Corey Alexander, and Aussie Dave. All race long it was a dogfight. At one-point, Aussie Dave tried passing me and made contact, and I was able to deny him. Towards the end of the race, Corey was holding me back, and I had Aussie Dave all over me. I was able to pass Corey and take back over 2nd, with a couple laps to go. On the final lap, I had held Corey off in all the major passing spots, and I felt like I had 2nd in the bag. But to my surprise, Corey put in a last-ditch effort and got me with 2 corners to go, pushing me wide and making room for Aussie Dave to capitalize as well. But both ran wide, and I was able to undercut Aussie Dave in the final turn to take 3rd place! It was a crazy last couple of turns. I was really excited with the finish, and now $1,500 richer!
The final race of the weekend was Supersport Open. It was a close race between Gilbert, Alexander, and me. Gilbert led, with Alexander trying to find a way by, and me trying to do the same with Alexander. No passes were made, but we finished wheel to wheel with less than half a second of separation at the checkers. That wrapped up a fun race weekend for me. It was cool to show up and battle with those guys who have a lot of experience racing there. I am looking to come back to the next round in December and do it all again with them as we race the track in the opposite direction! One of the cool things about Chuckwalla that I love is the bi-directional layout.
Following Chuckwalla, I got to stay at my favorite place in SoCal: Blackmore Ranch. Jeff Blackmore is a construction company owner, and a collector of cool motorcycles. Some of his collection includes bikes from Jeremy McGrath, Grant Langston, and Mike Metzger. I stayed in a badass guest house right by the flat track he has. While I was there, I rode flat track a couple of times, and motocross. One of the nights I rode flat track was totally private, and I had Red Bull KTM Flat Track team manager Chris Fillmore out to test my KTM 790 hooligan bike. That was neat.
My next event I was preparing for was the AMA Supermoto Championships in Tucson, AZ. I got to go to KTM USA headquarters and prep my 2021 KTM 450 SMR in one of their race shops, with help from one of their mechanics. I felt like a factory rider. Everyone at KTM that I have met has been so friendly to me and helpful. I can't thank them all enough. I drove out to Tucson Thursday, which was a 6-and-a-half-hour drive from where I was staying in Murrieta.
Friday, I arrived at Musselman Honda Circuit, and rode practice. I initially felt really rusty and was questioning why I came out. But as the day went on, I felt better and better, and was optimistic about racing. I signed up for Open Pro, which as the premier class of the weekend that rode the asphalt go-kart track and the motocross style dirt section. Additionally, I signed up for the Pro Open Asphalt class, which as you might've guessed, did not include the dirt section. I hadn't raced a supermoto event since 2016! So, I was excited.
Saturday kicked-off racing. Both of my classes were back-to-back for practice, qualifying and racing. It made it challenging for sure. Especially since I would do a 15-minute pro race, and then immediately line back up for a 10-minute asphalt race. The race format consisted of 4 individual qualifying sessions and main events. The overall winner of the 4 main events would be champion.
In the first Open main event, I started 6th, and finished 5th place. There were 5 of us all battling for that 5th position. Towards the end of the race, I distanced myself and caught up to Italian visitor, Alberto Moseriti. I couldn't quite make a pass, but we had a close finish together. In the first Pro Open Asphalt race, I started 2nd and battled for 1st all race long. I tried a couple of passes, but they didn't stick. I got beat by 2 tenths of a second. I wasn't happy about it.
Going into the second round, I was able to qualify 1st for the Pro Open Asphalt class, and 6th for Open Pro. I had a killer race going for me in the Open Pro class. I got into 4th position and was slowly catching up to 3rd. I had a big gap over the competition behind me. But unfortunately, with just over a lap to go, I stalled my bike in a tight corner in the dirt section and couldn't get it fired back up quickly. I fell back to last and pulled into the pits to grab a water before my next Open Asphalt main event. I was mad at myself for making that mistake, and messing up my overall finishing chances in Open Pro. One silver lining was that I had the 3rd fastest lap of the main event, so I knew I had speed. And for being on a bone-stock KTM 450 SMR against fully-built and setup bikes, I was pumped.
I was able to rebound from my DNF in Open Pro by taking a win in main event #2 of Pro Open Asphalt. I got the holeshot and was able to maintain about a 2-3 second lead the entire race to get my first win of the weekend. It was a good way to end day 1 of racing with some confidence!
For the second day of racing, I decided to skip the 3rd round of Open Pro and focus on Pro Open Asphalt. I wanted to conserve my tires and body and give myself the best possible chance at winning Pro Open Asphalt. I never had one an AMA Championship before, and I was really hungry for it, especially after missing out a couple weeks ago with the Super Hooligan AMA National title. I went on to qualify 1st and finish 1st for the 3rd round in Pro Open Asphalt!
Going into the final round, I still had to beat my class rival. If he were to finish first, his 1-2-2-1 finish beats my 2-1-1-2 finish for the overall championship. I had qualified 1st again, and took the holeshot in the race. I was fully committed to winning, and I did everything I could to put in a perfect opening lap. I turned a 55.0 laptime, which was the fastest asphalt-only lap of the weekend by a full second. In the process, my rival crashed trying to keep up. I was gifted a big lead, and I went on to win the final race, and my first ever AMA National Championship!
Now, with the pressure totally off me, I went out for fun in the final Open Pro main event. I started last in 12th place since I had skipped qualifying to save my tires for my last Pro Open Asphalt race. I got a great start, and immediately started making passes and working my way up the running order. I found myself in a tight battle with Bronson Pearce and Sean Butterman for 3rd, 4th and 5th place. Butterman eventually got passed Bronson for 3rd and started sneaking away. Bronson was holding me up but was very hard to pass. I got by into a chicane on the asphalt, but he was able to pass me right back on the exit into the next corner. I tried passing him back in the dirt section but got bumped over a berm by him. I quickly rejoined the track and was able to pass him back in the same spot in the dirt a lap later! I was now in 4th position, a large distance behind Butterman who held down 3rd. I used up what energy I had left of the weekend battling Bronson, and I settled for 4th. It was a really good finish for me though, and I had lot of fun racing supermoto again with the best guys in the states, and a couple of euro dudes!
The KTM 450 SMR is a purpose-made supermoto race bike from KTM, and it definitely lived up to its name and purpose. The stock engine and exhaust provided plenty of power that made me competitive. The suspension was amazing too. If I were racing supermoto more seriously, I would have the suspension valved and sprung differently, but the stock setup definitely kicked-ass.
Getting back out to Tucson for AMA Supermoto was a lot of fun. I did this race back in 2015 on a borrowed bike from Alex Mock, who now is the series promoter and put on this year's event. Racing was fun, but it was just as fun seeing old friends and making new ones. I hope to come back next year and contend for the Open Pro title with more practice under my belt!
To cap off an already epic trip, I got to do a private test session with KTM on all the 2023 motocross bikes. It was an experience I'll never forget that was a huge privilege for me. Once again, I can't thank KTM enough for the support.