March 9th, 2007Daytona International Speedway is recognized the world around as the epicenter of motor sports. Home of the Daytona 500 Nextel Cup, the 24 hours of Daytona and other renowned events, the famous speedway serves as the centerpiece of “Bike Week” and showcases two of the most grueling races of the year in the Daytona Supercross by Honda on Friday and the Daytona 200 by Honda on Saturday. Team Solitaire/Kingdom/FLY Racing Honda would be competing in the former in hopes of attaining our best results of the season on the rough and tumble Dirt Wurx designed course.Thursday night we all took in another discipline of racing at the nearby Daytona Stadium for the annual Dirt Track event. These guys absolutely rip around this very short oval track on their big four-strokes. With 24 guys all gunning for the podium on a track that tight, there was non-stop action and some pretty crazy crashes. That stuff looks dangerous! I’ll stick to whoops and triples thank you.Practice: By the time Ricky and I took to the course it was obvious that this was going to be a grueling track. The different soil types that make up the course keep you on your toes for the entire time you circulate the course. The sandy sections break down and rut like the gnarliest outdoor national, while the hard packed jump faces and whoops square-edge and leave you feeling like your riding a bucking bull and not a motorcycle. Ricky and I both took to the track well and posted top twenty lap times putting us in good position for the night program.”Lites” Heat One: Ricky was on the far side of the box and absolutely shot out of the gate like a Cape Canaveral rocket. He shut off a tad early going in the corner but jockeyed for position and came out great. He was in around fifth just on Townley and the lead pack and making aggressive moves going forward. He tipped over in the tight on-off tabletop section, losing a few positions in the process. By lap six he was ninth with a huge gap on the rider behind him. He rode it out to advance to the main event.Supercross Heat Two: I too had a great jump off the gate and turned it into a top ten start.I made some very good decisions on the first lap and moved up quickly. On lap two I moved past Antonio Balbi and Grant Langston to secure fifth place. I broke free of that pack but couldn’t shake David Vuillemin, who passed me on lap six. I settled into a good pace and rode the last two laps to chart sixth position and a direct transfer to the main event.”Lites” Main Event: In only the third Supercross of his young career, Ricky Renner got a taste of what it is like to run up front. After an incredible jump out of the farthest outside gate, Ricky rounded the first corner fourth and proceeded to pass into third. For the first four or five laps he ran between third and fifth, but gradually slipped back a little further. Being the most grueling Supercross of the year conditioning plays a huge role in being successful at this track, and Ricky is still learning about what it takes to ride an entire main event at full race pace. Despite getting a little tired, Ricky rode a fantastic race and crossed the finish line in 11th. After the race, he told me that “my arms felt like huge logs on those first few laps”. I wouldn’t have know from the way he was riding, as he was on it and looked comfortable running at the front of the pack. We are all working on getting him acclimated to this new longer program as quickly as possible, and see a top ten in the very near future. He has impressed us all with his riding and work ethic, and we look forward to helping him onto the podium.Supercross Main Event: I was just a touch outside of the middle of the gate and had a good line leading into the first corner. My jump wasn’t great and I got pinched quickly once we got onto the grassy first straightaway. I managed to sneak by several riders the first lap and was around 16th. I didn’t get up to speed as quickly as I wanted, but around lap four I began to pick up my pace, running some 1:16 lap times, my quickest of the night. I could see Heath Voss and Michael Byrne about eight seconds up the track and began to chip away at their lead. I was only about two seconds back from Voss when he got by Byrne and began to pull out a small margin. Byrne picked up his pace and gapped back out on me a few seconds, but as the race wore on I closed back in. On the final lap he made a mistake through the whoops and I went for broke trying to make the pass. He regrouped quickly and shut me down once again. I crossed the line just about a second and a half back from Byrne in 13th place. I felt that I rode very well and was happy with my speed and conditioning. A better start would have helped, but I can honestly say that I am pleased with my riding and having a lot of fun on my Honda CRF450.Summary: What a great weekend. The pit area was bustling with fans despite the awkward pit setup. Being from nearby Mulberry, Florida, Ricky had a lot of friends and fans, which made for a lot of excitement in the Team Solitaire/Kingdom/FLY Racing Honda pit area. We both posted solid results, moved forward in the point standings and emerged uninjured and looking forward to next weekend’s race in Orlando.Other Notes:
-Ricky worked with Thom Smith from Coppersmith on his Ohlins Suspension at nearby riding area Croom on Wednesday and came up with a great setting for this event. The riders have to run a softer setup for this event than most Supercross races, as it combines obstacles from both Supercross and Motocross.-I wore the recently popular Leatt neck brace for the first time this weekend. I decided to try it in the second practice on Friday and honestly could not feel it at all while I was riding, so I opted to race in it. Thank you to Jason and Geoff from Leatt for their support and bringing a great product to the market.-We had a small scare on the semi this weekend as Rick Williams, our transport driver, discovered fluid pouring from the engine on his way from St. Louis to Daytona. Fortunately, it was only a gas line that had worn and he was back on the road quickly.-I stayed with Robert Morales and the ASV Inventions crew this weekend and saw some of the cool new products they are bringing to the market in the next few months. In addition to their revolutionary folding levers, they now have some other incredibly cool and useful new tools and motorcycle parts to bring to the moto industry. Kudos to Bob and the crew on their success.-The Daytona 200 on Saturday is an amazing race to spectate. I had to catch a flight at 12:30 PM but was able to catch practice in the morning. With my AMA rider credential I am able to walk right into the hot pit and see firsthand what goes on down there. Needless to say it is an impressive display of rider talent and technology that allows those guys to tear up the track at such a high rate of speed. Again, I’m sticking to whoops and triples.Thank you to everyone for your continued support! See you next week.
Ryan ClarkTeam Solitaire/Kingdom/FLY Racing Honda is an independently owned and operated professional Supercross and Motocross race team based in Phoenix, AZ. Our 2007 marketing partners include: FLY Racing, Kingdom Clothing, American Honda, Dragon Optical, WPS, Dubach Racing Exhaust, RideNow.com, Ohlins by Coppersmith, HoyFox.com, Michelin, Vortex, Team Hawg Racing, ASV, Coachseiji.com, Dirt Pro, Polisport Plastics, Enjoy Mfg., Ride Engineering, Boyesen, Pivot Works, Ready Filter, Sano Systems, Twenty20, Pro Honda Oils & Chemicals, RK Chain, Excel, Group D, DC Auto Wraps, Champion Tool Storage, Motion Pro, OGIO, Ron Davis Radiators, Crank Works, Hot Rods, CP Pistons, Barnett Clutches, Sidi Boots, RPM Science, NGK Spark Plugs, QTM/Brembo, Pro Grip, Hammerhead, IMS Products, USA Sport, Cytosport, Cometic, Lakai and Fletcher Chiropractic.