Technically Jeff Alessi is a rookie, at least when it comes to supercross racing. It has been more than 14 months since Jeff shattered his feet. After two surgeries, 12 months of not riding, and growing to six feet tall, Jeff is back to riding full time and, as of Daytona, was just happy to have a few rounds under his belt.Why East: "This is really my first year, and I thought it would be better to be riding on the same coast as my brother, Mike. Plus, I actually like the dirt a lot better even though we're from California."Expectations: "The goal is always to win, but realistically, I'm not 100 percent ready yet. And I would be happy to get top five in points and make it through the whole season without getting hurt."Riding a 250F: "These guys are fast! I'm learning more each race. You have to be smart, especially when it comes to conserving energy, because Lites riders have to work the bike so much more."Future: "I'll go back to the West series when I'm ready, but my ultimate goal is to get back on the big bikes. I think I'm more of a 450 guy anyway. I rely on the power a lot more. In the big class, it's more about the rider because all the bikes are so fast."Mike Alessi
Even though Mike is in his third year as a professional, it's only his second year in supercross. Last season he rode the West Coast and finished fourth. In '07, the kid from the California desert switched to East and opened the season in Atlanta, where he actually popped his shoulder out in the main event and finished 21st. He hit the podium in Daytona, but he's still after that first win.Why East: "I chose the East Coast for several reasons: I don't like the dirt in the West, there's more traction in the East, and the tracks are more similar to what we see in the motocross series. I also wanted to try something different. It'll prepare us for the future and give us a perspective of both sides."Daytona Heat Race: In a very bizarre incident, Drew Askew crashed behind Mike and somehow got his leg tangled in Mike's bike. Alessi dragged Askew for about 40 yards down the start straight. "Oh, that was weird. I blame Jeff for it! At first, I thought something was wrong with my bike, and I looked over to the left and saw his bike. Then I looked to the right and found him underneath me. I'm just glad he was OK after that."Expectations: "I want to win one. I showed I have the speed and endurance. But it's more than just riding well. You have to mentally be there. It takes everything to win, and I just have to piece it all together."First Daytona: "It was gnarly! I felt stronger as the race went on. I started eighth and finished third. I think I could have caught up a little more if the race had been 20 laps. Aside from the racing, I really liked the city and beach. It was neat to finally see Bike Week."Darcy Lange
Not only is Darcy Lange not supposed to be in this position, but he's battling his own teammate for the championship. After winning two arenacross titles, the British Columbia native tried supercross last season and his best finish was a fifth place in Anaheim. Without a ride in '07, he went back to arenacross, won another title and found himself in the right place at the right time.Why East: "As the arenacross season was wrapping up, I got a call from Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Mitch Payton. One of his riders, Brett Metcalfe, was injured, and he needed a replacement. As soon as I finished the AX series, I was out West testing and practicing on the bike."What If: "I had nothing going on. If Mitch hadn't called, I would have gone home. I had no plans to do supercross at all or even the outdoors. I just bought a new house up in Courtenay, British Columbia, Canada, so I was planning on relaxing, which I'll start doing when supercross is over."Transition: "For arenacross training, we actually practice on supercross tracks. But still, arenacross laps only take 25-30 seconds . There is still an endurance curve."Expectations: "Coming in, I just wanted to be in the top five. I was surprised to set the fastest lap in practice in Atlanta and then to get second in the main; I really impressed myself. Now I want to stay up on the podium and be there every race."Ben Townley
BT101 is supposed to be in his second year of racing in America, but '06 was a wash. The New Zealand native destroyed his knee while preparing for the '06 supercross season, tearing everything-the ACL, PCL, NCL and cartilage. He spent a long time off the bike. But the former World champion is a fighter, and the fact that he trains with RC and rides for Payton can only help his drive.Why East: "Even though I'm not from America, I'm living on the East Coast (Florida), and it's easier for travel. It also depended on things with the rest of my team members, but thankfully Ryan Villopoto and Chris Gosselaar were both healthy, so I got to stay here."Why America: In Europe, Townley was a contender for the MX1 championship, the premier class for World motocross racing. "I was willing to leave it all to come live my dream. I knew I was going to have to take a step back in class, but I also knew that it wasn't going to be peaches and cream. I just tried to remain positive. This is where I've wanted to be ever since I was young."Atlanta Disaster: In his first-ever American supercross, while running second behind Dungey, Townley's bike quit. "In one way Atlanta was a victory for me. Even though the bike expired, I was riding well, and that left me relieved."First Win: "I come from a small country and a really small motocross community. To be able to call home and tell my friends that I won in America was an unbelievable feeling. And then to win Daytona, where I didn't even know what to expect-just awesome."Ryan Morais
Ryan who? After two rounds, Morais was leading the points with 4-2 finishes in Atlanta and St. Louis. After Daytona, where Morais finished fifth, he was still leading the points. Close followers of the sport might remember his name tracing all the way back to '02, when Jeremy McGrath hired him on as the second rider of his Bud Light/Yamaha team. Morais' season that year lasted all of 70 yards: He crashed in a qualifier at Anaheim and broke his wrist. He has since ridden on no less than four teams and even did a stint on his own as a privateer. In '07 Morais landed on the reorganized Yamaha of Troy team.Why East: "I actually crashed in September and broke both of my arms. I didn't get to start riding until the middle of November and didn't feel that I'd be ready for the Western series."Injuries: "I'm finally coming into a race season 100 percent healthy for once. When I broke my wrist in '02, it took three surgeries to fix it, and I still don't have 100 percent movement. The ink was barely dry on my YoT contract when I broke my arms. I got to do a lot of thinking after that one, and I knew I had to turn it around."Goals: "I want an injury-free season. I just want to make every race healthy. I want to stay top five each week. I'm not going to stress myself out about getting a race win. If I get it, then great, but I just want to be up front."YoT: "I knew one of the mechanics, Chris McAvoy, who is now the team manager. I talked with him at Washougal , and he got me a test day at Glen Helen . From there we went to the SX test track. They were happy with that, and here we are now."