Story By: Cory West
Photos By: Brian J. Nelson
After the races in Virginia, I actually had a weekend off, so I flew back to San Diego for a week. I spent most of my time relaxing with my girlfriend, Amanda, and helping her to get ready for college to resume. My birthday was on the 23rd and I didn’t really do anything special except for going out to sushi for dinner!
I flew back to Atlanta on the following Tuesday so I could help Chuck get everything ready for the weekend. With a bunch of help from all of our sponsors, we managed to get everything fresh and ready again after our issues in Virginia. Both bikes were ready to roll and all I had to do was break one motor in a little bit on Thursday’s practice day.
Everything got off to a pretty good start on Thursday in the first few practice sessions. My times were getting close to what I had turned at Road Atlanta earlier in July during the WERA Cycle Jam and we weren’t having any big issues with the bikes. The day got cut short in the afternoon though because it started raining. Road Atlanta is another track that the AMA doesn’t race at in the wet. I don’t want to sound like a cry baby when I say this, but Road Atlanta is by far the most dangerous place on the AMA schedule, if you ask me. There are some walls in places that are very high speed, and for that reason the AMA doesn’t make the riders risk everything by going out on this track in the rain.
Everything dried up on Friday and the first practice sessions went pretty well for us. I definitely wasn’t fully up to speed yet but my times were consistently getting faster. I have a little bit of trouble not getting up to speed as fast as some of the other riders, but it’s usually because I’m trying to get comfortable before I start pushing the envelope. In the past my record at Atlanta has been pretty bad. I’ve crashed a lot at this track and I’ve had some horrible luck here too, so I really wanted to take it a step slower so things didn’t get bad right away. In FX qualifying at the end of the day I ended up 13th and turned in a reasonably quick lap time but we were still a little off the pace. I really tried not to get too worked up about putting in a particular lap time and just focused on getting comfortable and turning consistently quick laps.
Friday night when we were leaving the track, it started raining pretty hard. I don’t know if it rained all through the night but when we showed back up on Saturday morning the track was still partially wet. So morning practices were delayed until the track was completely dry and by the time everything was good, our Supersport practice turned into a 25 minute qualifying session. That really didn’t throw us off too bad and I ended up finishing the session in 11th place. I was happy where I ended up because I’d be starting on the third row and everyone that was in front of me wasn’t going that much faster. I knew it would be a good Supersport race with the times being so close.
After our little practice/qualifying session around noon, all I had left for Saturday was the FX race. I knew the start would be important if I was going to try to hang with the top 7 or 8 guys, so I tried to ride real aggressive in the first few corners. My jump off the line was good and I got into about 8th place right away but the red flag stopped us after completing only two laps. On the restart, I didn’t get as good of a launch and I got held up in the first chicane. It took me a couple of laps to get around a few guys that were holding me up and by the time I got clear track, I had already lost touch with the lead pack. I was in 11th and didn’t have a very exciting race going because I was alone for most of it, but on the last lap, Chris Peris, who was running 10th, fell in turn six and handed me a top ten finish. My times were consistent during the race but I was having a few issues with the rear suspension while I was accelerating. So we came up with a few ideas to try to get me going quicker for Sunday’s Supersport race.
Sunday morning was nice and dry and the morning Supersport practice felt pretty good. We tried a little change to the rear suspension and the bike felt better in a few areas of the track. I felt pretty confident going into the race and I felt like I could keep up a faster pace for a longer time compared to the FX race. The start was just as important in the Supersport race and I got into a good position early and held on to a big group of riders. Including me, there were six of us all in a pack racing for 4th place. I was sitting on the tail end of the group and started turning lap times about half a second faster then what I had qualified at. I was comfortable running that pace but I couldn’t quite get out of turn 5 and turn 7 hard enough to hang with those guys. I could catch up on the brakes but I couldn’t match their drive off of the corners. I held that position all the way to the end of the race and ended up finishing 9th. When I came in and checked the results on the monitor, I finished only 11 seconds off of the leader and turned the 6th fastest time of the race.
The whole team was pretty excited that we finished both races without any crashes or mechanical issues. But besides just finishing both races, they were both top tens and I felt pretty good about that. Atlanta has been a very difficult track for me and I feel like I’ve finally conquered it by doing well and not crashing. We had some extra help over the weekend from Sam Lehrfeld at Kneedraggers.com, and Don Finnely helping with suspension, and I felt like it helped me get going as fast as I did. I feel real good about the last race at Laguna and can’t wait to get back on track!
Thanks to all the Sponsors that have supported our program throughout the year!!! Team Hunter, Kneedraggers.com, Yamaha Motor Corp., Pirelli, Graves Motorsports, Double Life Corp., Premiere Home Audio, SHIFT, Suomy, Sidi, Vortex, VP Fuels, Dyno Jet, Sebimoto, The Trade Group, GW Hoss, Labworks, Razor’s Edge Motorsports, NLA, and the Fellas!
Photos By: Brian J. Nelson