a lot like David vs Goliath.
I wanted to go racing primarily because I thought the atmosphere of competition would make me better. I saw first hand the big changes in Marshall, Chris, Yuri and so many others and I felt it was time to jump in the shark tank. My problem was that JAWS was in the shark tank.
Dustin Boyd is a monster. My personal Goliath. He is such a good competitor. He is fast, no doubt. But more than that, he has always had my number. Since we are both Control Riders, we have had lots of opportunities to talk smack and mix it up at the NESBA days. He always beats me. Always. He never rubs it in or anything like that, but it still stings.
Friday, July 6
GTO (25 minute race)
I figured this one would be sort of like one of the NESBA sessions in length and that I just needed to get out there and relax and run a good pace and try to bring it home in one piece. YEAH, RIGHT!
Well, to say the least, that all went out the window by the time Dustin and I went flying down toward turn 1 side by side. Ironically, the rider that lined up next to me on the grid had a video camera and caught the start of the race on this video.
I got a very good start and was in the lead (among the Amateurs) through turn 1, turn 3 and into turn 5. I knew Dustin was all over me down the straight into turn 5 and made the decision to try and block the inside line. Bad move on my part cause I run it in a little hot and went wide and he slipped by on the inside of me and started to gap me a bit through turns 6 and 7. Little did I know that this was to be standard operating procedure all weekend.
As we got down to turn 8, Dustin was far enough ahead to start tossing Experts at me and basically that was that. I started to lose touch with him. The harder I pushed the worse it got. I was missing my marks, running wide, and just generally riding poorly. I was riding everyone's bike but mine. BIG MISTAKE!
By lap 6, I settled down a bit and ran my best lap time of that race - a 2:28 something. The rest of the laps were 2:30 somethings I think. At the end of 8 laps, I finished 2nd.
The urgency to run hard ...REALLY HARD... was something that was required and was clearly evident in Dustin's riding. I needed more of that, but I also needed more self-control as well. And I needed to learn how to mix the two extremes into something resembling race craft! I was a bit overwhelmed.
Unlimited SuperBike - Race 1 (4 lap sprint)
I went into this race determined to ride my own ride, to hit my marks, to twist my throttle, to use my brakes, etc Let everyone else ride their bikes and I'll ride mine. I got another good start and I rode well throughout the race. My lap times were now consistently in the 2:28's and I was relaxed and comfortable at this pace.
The problem was that Dustin was absolutely on fire. The level of urgency and aggression I saw in his riding as he slowly checked out on me that first lap was not something I had personally experienced in my own riding. Dustin ran a great race and was actually leading the race in first overall at one point while mixing it up with AMA Pro and CCS Expert Brian Boyd. I am not sure what his times were, but he was clearly at least a couple of seconds faster than me.
At the end of 4 laps, I finished 2nd among amateurs and 5th overall. Not bad at all. I had a great battle with a couple of fast experts. The riding was clean and it was a ton of fun. I was able to pull it out on the last lap and got by them both. On the cool down, they both gave me a big thumbs up which really made me feel good.
Dustin was off the hook and finished 1st among amateurs and 2nd overall! Goliath, I tell you! The man was on fire.
Though I didn't win the race, I still won. I felt very good when I got back into the paddock after this race knowing that I had beaten the nerves and was beginning to get "it". I beginning to see what race craft was and it was way more than knowing how to pass or how to run a defensive line. Dustin was taking me to school...LITERALLY.
Friday night was a long night. I was wide awake at 2:30am trying to figure out how to fix one of my glaring weaknesses...Turn 6 and turn 7. Dustin had pulled at least a 2 to 3 bike gap on me through this section in both of Friday's racing. I had to fix this if I was going to have a shot at being competitive in Saturday's races.
Saturday, July 7
Unlimited SuperBike - Race 2 (4 lap sprint)
I felt good at the start of this race and felt that I had found a bit of time through turn 6 and 7 in the practice session. I got another good start and Dustin and I were side by side sawing through traffic like mad through turns 1 and turn 3 and down into turn 5. I was learning to use the urgency, but still keep it under control a bit and ride smoothly while making good, decisive passing decision AND hitting my marks and riding my ride.
I didn't try anything stupid this time as we screamed down into turn 5 inches apart. You could not have fit a sheet of paper between us as we continued to saw through traffic through turns 6 and 7. As we went down into turn 8, I made a pass on Dustin on the brakes and again he was able to square it up under me and we went into the carousel with me a half bike length behind him.
I think Dustin was bit surprised that I was close enough to try that pass into turn 8 cause he went through the carousel like a freaking run away train trying to gap me. What he didn’t know was that he had me in tow and I was absolutely oblivious to the fact that I was going far faster through that corner than ever before.
We both got through the bend pretty cleanly and as we flew through kettle bottoms pushing each other hard all of the sudden Canada Corner looked like a parking lot. I'm not 100% sure what happened next but in the mad scramble to get the bikes shut down, I saw out of the corner of my eye Dustin do a big stoppie and then let go of the brakes and then do another big stoppie and go tumbling.
I was instantly saddened and elated as conflicting emotions ran over me. I knew my first win was in the bag at that point, but that was just not how I wanted the win to happen. I said a quick prayer for Dustin and thanked God that I made it through that OK. I then tried to relax and brought it home for the win and 3rd place overall!
As I pitted in at turn 5 after the race I saw Chris Irwin just going nuts in the stands to my right and it was just an awesome moment for me and my family and my team.
After the race, my wife Maria and my crew chief Erik and I immediately went over to check on Dustin. There he was with a big hole in his elbow, blood running down his arm while he struggled to change his rear tire. Megan (his fiancée) was trying to get him to go to medical and not having much luck. Danch, Erik and I finally convinced him to go to medical while we put his bike back together for him.
Unlimited GP (4 lap sprint)
Another good start and I just checked out and won the race easily...too easily I suspected. After bringing it home for my second Amateur win I learned that Dustin had mechanical issues and finished 4th. Again, that was not how I wanted it.
I slept like a baby Saturday night and awoke Sunday morning ready for battle. My lap times had not really improved much from the times I was able to run at some recent NESBA days while mixing it up with some of the faster “A” riders.
I wanted a head to head battle with Goliath, but the problem was that Goliath was faster than me.
I posed the following question to Guru AFed:
ME: “How can a person beat another person that is 2 seconds a lap faster?”
AFed: “You need to go faster.”
ME: “Oh, OK.”
Sunday, July 8
I went to Chapel service with my wife first thing on Sunday morning. I prayed for myself, that I would be safe, make good decisions and ride well. I prayed for Dustin cause I knew he would be sore and his arm would be hurting. I also prayed for safety for all the other competitors. This is a dangerous game we are playing and there were a couple of racers that were flown out after some pretty big crashed on Saturday.
Unlimited SuperSport - Race 1 (4 lap sprint)
It was another good race start for both Dustin and me. We were head to head and I was finally able to get by him on the brakes going into the bend. My race craft was coming along and I was feeling confident in the bike and the tires and I was hitting my marks. He was all over me through Canada Corner and as we both exited turn 13, we somehow wound up all tangled up going into turn 14. I got the worst of it and almost ran off the track and wound up 4 to 5 bike lengths back as we went onto the straight.
I spent the rest of the race trying to make up that gap to no avail and finally just maintained the gap till the flag. As I brought home a solid second place, I was not very happy at all. I was encouraged that I finally felt able to run a competitive pace, but second place definitely did not taste as good as first.
Unlimited SuperSport - Race 2 (4 lap sprint)
There was a lot of silence in my paddock as we prepared for my last race of the weekend. Erik diligently went about making sure my bike and gear was ready. I sat in my chair with the fan on me and my eyes closed. I envisioned every corner, every braking zone, every apex, every drive...EVERY THING that I needed to do in order to run a perfect fast lap.
Win or lose, I made up my mind that I was going to run as hard as I possibly could and throw down 4 of the fastest laps possible.
As they called third call to the grid, Maria, Erik, Jesse and Brian all encouraged me as I got on the bike. I knew they were pulling for me along with the rest of my family in the RV and other friends throughout the paddock.
As we gridded up, I was intensely focused on the task at hand and more ready than I had ever been. I looked over at Dustin who was gridded in the row in front of me and to my left. I could tell by his body language that he came ready to throw down.
IT WAS ON.
As the one board turned sideways and the green flagged, Dustin got a great start and I went into turn 1 two bikes behind him. He chose the outside line down into turn 3 passing several Experts and I chose the inside line passing the same Experts. As we exited turn 3, we were close to side by side and we continued to make passes like it was a cone drill all the way down toward turn 5.
As Dustin started to brake for turn 5, I decided to try a pass on the brakes and ran a little wide and he was able to square it up on me like he had all weekend long. As he passed me underneath I saw him shake his head as if to say, "Dude, what were you thinking trying that?!?!" I knew he was right. It was too aggressive and bordering on out of control. I literally yelled at myself in my helmet as we screamed up the hill toward turn 6 to not let him get away and to settle down and hit my marks.
It took me a whole lap and a half before I was able to finally real him back in enough to almost make a move on the brakes coming out of the carousel and heading into the bend. It was just too close and I thought better of the idea, he was just running so well. I fell in behind him going into the quick left and right and onto the long back straight. With the help of a little drafting, I was all over him through Canada Corner and turn 13 and was able to square it up into turn 14 enough to get a good drive and draft past Dustin at the end of lap 2 at the start / finish line.
We went elbow to elbow down the last half of the long front straight, Dustin on the outside and me on the inside. I had the line. I leaned over on him a little pushing him closer to the edge of the track hoping he would come off the throttle a bit. It wasn't happening, he just leaned right back. I could hear my heart beating in my ears as we flew down toward turn 1. At that moment, I made the decision to not lose. I was prepared to give as much as it took to win this thing.
I looked down at Dustin's right hand and decided that I was not going to brake until he did. After what seemed like an eternity, I saw him start to move his right hand and I immediately grabbed a big handful of front brake and three downshifts and threw the bike into turn 1 long before that bike had settled down.
I put my head down and put in a strong 3rd lap, hitting all my marks and coming out of Canada Corner so hard on the throttle that the rear tire was starting to come around on me. I got a good drive out turn 14 and tried to crawl under the paint going down the front straight. As I crossed the start / finish line my lap timer showed a 2:24:79, far faster than I had ever lapped at Road America.
The last lap seemed to take forever. I didn’t see the white flag and I was not sure if it was the 3rd or 4th lap. With every corner I fought the urge to check up on the brakes and just forced myself to hold that throttle open as long as possible, to get that bike as close to the apex as possible and to get on that throttle as early and as hard as possible.
I had no idea where Dustin was and as I exited the bend onto the back straight I snuck a peek over my left shoulder and there he was … inches from my rear wheel! I put my head down and twisted the throttle harder against the stop but I was already giving her everything she had.
I hit Canada Corner perfectly and as I came out of turn 13, I saw another rider ahead of me half way between 13 and 14. I carried as much corner speed through turn 14 as I could and drafted that rider up the hill. As I passed him I saw the checkered flag and saw my crew and family going nuts on the side of the track!
I later learned that Dustin was maybe a bike length behind me. There is no way I would have pushed that hard without him pushing me every inch of the way. It was not the "beating Dustin" that felt so satisfying after all we are not enemies but friends! Instead, it was knowing that I had went far beyond anything I had previously done. It was the back and forth racing and the close competition that took both of us to new places in our riding…the thrill of the raw battle.
It was the very best of what road racing is about and it tasted sweet indeed.