The 2018 Glen Helen National—close, but no cigar. If you read my last article about racing the Hangtown National, it was very apparent that I was disappointed with my poor performance. However, Glen Helen was a big step in the right direction. I began the race weekend by having my parents take my van and my racebike, Dirt Rider’s 2018 Yamaha YZ450F, to the track for Friday’s tech inspection. With my position at work, it’s hard to take time off because of the large workload I have as a project manager. I worked a full day on Friday and left that night around 6:00 p.m. with my girlfriend.
The trip started off, let’s say, interesting. I forgot my Saturday morning breakfast at home as well as a case of water. No biggie, right? I’ll just eat breakfast at the hotel. Unfortunately, hotel breakfasts don’t start until about 6:00 a.m. at the earliest, and I had to be at the track before 6:00 a.m. to get all of my stuff set up, so that wasn’t an option. So I stopped at a store and got a microwave breakfast for Saturday morning only to realize when I got to the hotel around 10:30 p.m. that they didn’t have a microwave in the room. To make a long story short, they left the door open into the breakfast room at the hotel and I had no option. I looked through the cabinets and found some Lucky Charms. Score! I found the bowls and I had bought milk the night before to drink with my microwave breakfast, so I made a makeshift breakfast of champions. Once we finally arrived at the track and got everything situated, I felt a lot better about the day. I think all that running around made me a lot less stressed about the race and feeling like a lot of the pressure was off my shoulders because it had already become an adventure.
It was kind of misty and sprinkling for morning qualifying, which was nice, especially during the early summertime. My first timed qualifying went well and I felt much more comfortable than I did at Hangtown. I was pushing through the muddy sections and ruts much better than I did the weekend prior. I can see the advantage the guys who do this week in and week out have over guys like myself who can only race a few select nationals each year. Just being able to ride on a track prepped that deep every weekend is a huge advantage. I was sitting in about 10th place after that practice. There weren’t as many riders at Glen Helen as there were at Hangtown, so that position seems a little better than it really is. In the second timed qualifying session, I was in the same spot, and not in a qualifying position. The upside was I become more comfortable pushing the YZ450F through the tough track conditions in that second practice. The Race Tech tuned suspension definitely helped on a gnarly track like Glen Helen. The big jumps and huge braking bumps were made much easier with the better holdup and increased bottoming resistance of the Race Tech modified KYB suspension.
The Consolation Race, or LCQ, came around and I didn’t get the best of starts. Although, for some reason, everyone was shooting for the inside of the first turn when the outside was wide open. I shot to the outside in the first quarter of the Talladega first turn and it paid off. I went from the back of the pack to a decent position in one corner and a straightaway. Coming up the first hill, I went outside and avoided the carnage on the inside where a few guys got bottled up. I came around the first lap in 9th place and stayed in that position nearly the entire race until the last lap when someone fell on one of the hills, so I finished 8th. The best I had previously done at a Pro Motocross National was an 8th in the 450 Consolation Race in 2016, and that was the last time I raced a National before this year’s Hangtown National due to an ACL injury I sustained in 2017.
When I saw I finished 8th, I figured I was done for the day, as only the top four finishers in the Consolation Race transfer into the motos. However, as I went to one of the AMA officials to give him my transponder, he told me that 5th through 8th place finishers should hold on to their transponders as they may be selected as alternates for the motos. My dad and I looked at each other with wide eyes as there was still a slight chance I could get in as an alternate if four riders dropped out of the first moto. The three other alternates (the 5th, 6th, and 7th place finishers in the Consolation Race) and I went down to the line and watched as everyone lined up, hoping some would not make it so we could take their spots and race against 40 of the best premiere class motocross racers in the world. Two riders didn’t show up for moto one, so they used two alternates. They would be automatically transferred into moto two and I just needed two more to drop out for moto two to make it in.
Later on in the day, riders began lining up for the second moto, and they took the third alternate (the rider who finished in front of me in the Consolation Race) because someone didn’t show up when the gates were being filled. I was next in line and the last alternate that could get a chance to line up for the first 450 class moto of my career, and it happened! They called me up to the line due to another rider not showing up in time. At this time, all four of us alternates are lining up for the race. My dad was packing my gate and we set my Works Connection holeshot device. My dad and I looked at each other like, “Wow, this is about to happen!” I could see my mom and girlfriend in tears as they were witnessing me about to do something I have been dreaming of and working towards for 16 years now. We were getting ready to start the bikes and I heard some commotion going on behind the starting line, but I was not concerned with it.
A few seconds later, I hear my name called as I was sitting on the starting line on the far outside. They were calling my name because someone showed up to the line late, and I got the boot. One minute before the gate drop, I got kicked to the curb. I left the race as quick as I could after that and headed for home. I didn’t want to see another dirt bike ever again at the time. I had never been so heartbroken, but I have no one to blame but myself for putting myself in that situation. If I had gone a little faster and pushed a little harder, I wouldn’t have been in that position and would have been in the motos. But hey, we live and learn. After that happened I wanted to sell every dirt bike I owned. I just wanted out. Once that feeling passed, I instantly changed. The feeling of wanting redemption overpowered me, and all I could think about was wanting to do even better and get in the show for my first time. I had a long talk with my dad in the days following the race and he made me look at the situation a lot different. What if that was the heartbreak I needed to finally kick it up a notch and get to that next level? He told me to use that feeling as motivation to find a way to improve, adapt, and overcome this gnarly sport we all love so much.
Racing the Hangtown and Glen Helen Nationals on Dirt Rider’s 2018 Yamaha YZ450F has been quite the experience to say the least. I would like to extend a big thank you to Dirt Rider for giving me this amazing opportunity to race the 2018 YZ450F as well as everyone that helped with this project racebike. It wouldn’t have been nearly as fun of an experience without all the companies that came together to help with this, including: Yamaha, Rekluse, DeCal Works, Works Connection, Race Tech, Dubach Racing Development, DT1, Mika Metals, Shoei, FXR, Alpinestars, Pro-Tec Coatings, Grants Heating and Air Conditioning, Idea Printing and Graphics, and Total Nutrition.