Story by: Cory West
Photos by: Brian J. Nelson & Tim Huntington
At the beginning of the year, when I first looked at the 2007 schedule, I knew the season finale at Laguna Seca was going to be a cool race. Every year that the AMA goes to Laguna, there is always another organization there, like the MotoGP Championship or World Superbikes in the past. For the last race it was only the AMA regulars, and that meant I was going to get some real track time. When the AMA shares the weekend with some other organization, we never get any quality track time. This weekend I actually got to turn a bunch of laps, which helped out a lot because the track isn’t exactly easy.
The only thing that was different for the last race was that the AMA decided to just make it a two day event. Practice and qualifying were on Saturday and all the races were scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Even though it was only a two day event, we still had plenty of track time to get up to speed. We started with our setup from the last time we were at Laguna and just got faster and faster.
The fastest lap time that I turned when we were here in July was a 1:28.5, but I only turned a 1:29.1 in qualifying. My first practice session in Supersport, I got down to a 1:29.1 which felt pretty good for just getting back into the swing of things. The FX practice went even better and I got down to some low 1:28’s, and I ended that session just outside of the top ten. We made a few suspension changes to the bikes and got our tires picked for the afternoon Supersport qualifying session and we were aiming for a second row starting spot.
I got going pretty quick right away in the Supersport qualifying session but everyone was riding really well. I sat inside the top ten for most of the session with a 1:28.1, but I knew that wasn’t going to last when everyone went for the qualifying tires. When I put mine on with 4 minutes to go I got lucky with plenty of open track to get one fast lap. I rode as hard as I could with my extra sticky tire and when the checkered flag flew I saw a 1:27.7 on my lap timer. When I came back into the pits, my time put me 11th fastest overall. I was hoping that would’ve put me higher up in the order but a third row start wasn’t horrible. The only thing left to do on Saturday was one more practice session for FX. I went out to do a long run on what was going to be our race tire and things went pretty well. I was able to turn low 28’s throughout the whole session and I ended up 8th fastest when it was over.
Sunday morning we had a short practice session for Supersport and then our qualifying session for FX. The Supersport session went pretty well considering how quick I was starting to go on race tires. I got down to a 1:27.8 on what was going to be my race tire and I knew I would be able to keep that pace during the race. I think I was like 11th or 12th in that practice session but I knew if I got a good start I would be right there in the mix with everyone. For the FX qualifying we stuck to the same plan as the Supersport session and we were still hoping for a second row start. I got down into the 27 range pretty quickly and only needed about a half second to put ourselves on the second row. When I went out with my qualifying tire I was really hoping I could maybe pull off a high 1:26. I charged as hard as I could and ended up turning a 1:27.1 with my qualifying tire. I was so close to putting it on the second row but I ended up 10th, with another third row start.
So all I really needed to do in both of my races was to get a good start and get going with the lead pack. I knew I could come out of both races with a top ten for sure and a possible top five if I played my cards right. I didn’t get the greatest launch off of the line in the Supersport race but I chose my lines just right in the first three turns and got myself up to around 8th place. I looked back once on the second lap and noticed there was nobody very close to me and that I was the last one hanging onto the lead pack. I felt comfortable with the pace that everyone in front of me was running and I was doing a good job hanging on to the group. I was definitely stronger in spots and weaker in spots but I wasn’t losing touch with the group by any means. Then on the fourth lap, when I was driving up the hill to the corkscrew, my bike totally lost power and started slowing down fast. I grabbed the clutch, hit the kill switch, and coasted all the way back down the hill and into the pits. My engine had gone sour and the race was over for me. I was pretty upset because of where I was running and how many laps were left. A lot of things could’ve happened in that race because there was a red flag just after I pulled in but I tried not to get too upset and just concentrate on the FX race.
I calmed back down and regrouped for my last AMA race of the year. I knew what I was capable of and all I needed to do was go out and do it. My start was pretty crummy and I got held up by a few people right off the bat but it didn’t take me long to get around them and get going. After I got clear of those few guys, I took off after a pack of three not too far ahead of me. I was running in 9th but I just couldn’t make up anytime on the group ahead of me. On about lap 12 of 17, Marty Craggill rode off of the track with his bike on fire and that moved me up to 8th! Then on the next lap, Ben Attard was out in the gravel in turn two and that moved me into 7th. I kept riding as hard as I could but Ryan Andrews caught up to me with about three laps to go. We passed each other a few times but I led us into the last lap. He passed me on the short straight heading to turn 6 and I was just trying to figure out where I was going to get him back. I got a good run coming down the corkscrew and passed him back going into turn 10. He came back under me in the last corner but ran a little wide, and I had him squared up perfect to out drive him to the finish but his team mate, Ryan Elleby, ran right into me. We both stayed up but I lost my drive and ended up finishing 8th.
I was a little frustrated at the end because I wanted to finish 7th but with my 8th place finish, that put me 9th overall in the points championship. I’ve never finished the season in the top 10 in points before, so I really felt like we did pretty well. I found out that we ended up 15th in points in Supersport, too, which considering all the problems we had throughout the year, isn’t all that bad either. Chuck and Don really worked their butts off in the last two rounds and we finished out the season pretty strong. I really have to thank all the people that were a part of our little team’s success because without everyone’s help and generosity, we wouldn’t have made it through the whole season. I feel like I have become a much better rider this season and I think with a little more help I can get to the next level and start fighting at the front of these races. And this isn’t the end for me and Chuck just yet, either. There are a few more club races that will keep us busy until the middle of next month, so I’ll keep everyone posted on how things go. I hope everyone has enjoyed my reports this year and I can’t wait to start another season! See ya next year!
Thanks to all the Sponsors! Team Hunter, Kneedraggers.com, Yamaha Motor Corp., Pirelli, SHIFT, Premiere Home Entertainment, Double Life Corp., Graves Motorsports, VP Fuels, Vortex, Sidi, Suomy, GP Tech, DynoJet, GW Hoss, Labworks, The Trade Group, Razor’s Edge Motorsports, Sebimoto and the Fellas!
Photos by: Brian J. Nelson & Tim Huntington