Baker talks Daytona Short Track
March 3, DAYTONA PRACTICE DAY: The day before the first national, AMA Pro was kind enough to put on a three hour practice for us at the new short track. This was really helpful because it gave us a feel of the new track and an idea on bike set-up. By the end of the day, I was dialed in and ready to go for the national.
March 4, DAYTONA GNC – ROUND 1: Finally, it was the day that we had all been waiting for since the last GNC race of the previous season. I was especially excited because this was the round that I had won my first grand national last year. I started off the night well by qualifying second behind a suprising fast qualifier – Mike Poe. I then went on to win my heat race overJames Rispoli and put myself in the new Pro Singles Dash for Cash. In the dash, I lined up second over next to JD Beach.
I nailed the first start and jumped out to an early lead – only to have it be red-flagged for a downed rider. On the second start, I got off third behind JD and Steven Vanderkuur. I was able to get by Vanderkuur on about lap three, but by then, JD had a couple of bike lengths gap. I also had hest from behind from Carver who was working the high line. On the last lap, he was able to get the drive and barely nip me to give me third.
Finally, it was main time and I was ready to win! I got a good start – right behind JD, which I thought would be a good place to be. It didn’t last long though, because coming into turn three on the first lap – JD laid his bike down right in front of me. I had nowhere to go except to hit the deck with him to avoid smashing him. This didn’t make me very happy when I lined up on the fourth row with sixteen riders in front of me!
I spent the rest of the race weaving through slower riders. I think that in one lap, I passed five riders. By the end of the race, I had worked my way all the way up to fifth – with fourth place and the rest of the field in my sights, but no time left. All in all, it was a good salvage for what I went through – but it cost me valuable points and money. It was great motivation for the second night because I was more than ready to redeem myself!
March 5, DAYTONA SHORT TRACK – ROUND 2: The next morning, we woke to a much better day – with the sun shining high in the sky. I again started off the day great by setting fast time in the pro singles. My time would have been sixth in the expert class. After the three hour break, it was time for my heat race. I won my heat race and the pole position.
Unfortunately, the track was going away from my riding style as the night went on because the hard-packed surface was getting slicker and slicker. I was still ready to give it my all and get on the podium. I nailed the start – with JD right on my heels. We battled it out for six laps, but JD was able to work the low line better than I was.
Eventually, he worked his way around me and pulled a pretty good lead. I also had pressure from Jeffrey Carver and Steven Vanderkuur for second. Steven was able to get around me on his crazy high line, but I would pass him right back. On the last lap, I thought I had second covered, but Jeffrey got another drive on me and barley got by me at the line. I ended up with the last podium position.
After all was said and done, it wasn’t a bad trip of racing. I came away in 5th place overall – 12 points behind the leader. Hopefully, I got most of my bad luck out of the way and I can start winning some races!