GEICO Honda’s Blake Wharton is literally going back to where it all started at this weekend’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series stop at Reliant Stadium.
The Supercross race signals the beginning of the Lites East season, but for third-year rider Wharton this particular event means much more than just the start of a new year.
Blake Wharton (Honda Supercross) says: "On top of me being born in Houston, this was the site of my first Supercross race in 2009. I’m excited. It’s my home race. I’ll have family and some friends out. It’ll be cool.
"It has all the normal excitement of it being the first round of the season, plus being my home race, and I’m just excited to go out there and ride my kind of race in a place where I’m really comfortable."
Houston also carries significance for legendary 450cc rider Kevin Windham, a Louisianan by birth whose home base is now in Centerville, Mississippi. Like Wharton, "K-Dub" will have a large number of family members and friends from nearby Louisiana Mississippi.
Kevin Windham (Honda Supercross) says: "Houston is always a good one for me because I’m always excited to be racing close to friends and family. Right now I’m hoping to find the podium there so we can have a better party afterwards.
"We’ve got our work cut out for us with the level of competition this year but this GEICO Honda team is ready to get there. I just let them down the last couple of weekends."
Windham currently sits eighth in the Supercross standings after five races.
Like many fans, Wharton has been watching the Supercross West Series races unfold and said he’s confident the action will be just as exciting in the East. The Supercross Lites events are separated into eight West and eight East events.
Blake Wharton says: "The new GEICO Hondas are looking good. I haven’t raced one yet, but (West teammate) Eli Tomac has done well with his and it obviously has the power. I feel confident with the bike and team and I feel good about my practicing.
"I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to get to see the way the tracks are laid out in the West before you ride in the East. It gives you plenty of time to adjust your training program."
Wharton’s Lites East teammate Justin Barcia is still riding high from his victory at the Bercy Supercross in France late last year and says settling into his own new corner of the world since his return should pay dividends.
Justin Barcia (Honda Supercross) says: "I’ve been riding really well the last few weeks building up to Houston. I have my own track now in Florida, a layout done by Jason Baker at Dream Tracks, and since it’s on my property I can ride whenever and however I want.
"He built in all the elements I’ll see every week on the Supercross tour so I’m able to practice everything. It’s been so nice."
Barcia said he really wants to make his mark on the Lites East this season.
Justin Barcia says: "This is probably my last year on the East tour, next year I’ll do West, so I really want to win because I’m an east coast guy. It all starts now and from the pictures I’ve seen the Houston track will be a great first test. The layout is sick and looks to suit my style of riding. I’m just ready to get started."
The doors at Reliant Stadium open at 12:30 p.m. CST Saturday for practice and qualifying runs. Opening ceremonies begin at 7 p.m. The Lites East race will be shown via tape delay on SPEED at 3 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST on Sunday. The Supercross race will be shown on CBS affiliates nationwide at noon Eastern on Sunday.