Photos and Words by Mike Emery | @emeryphoto
Every year, the Monster Energy Supercross Season rolls into Daytona Beach to pay a visit to the iconic Daytona International Speedway. In years past the round was known as more of an outdoor national than a Supercross (thrown right into the middle of the series) and seems like in more recent years has leaned more toward the Supercross side when it comes down to course design and bike setup. Regardless, the round is always gnarly with a capital G. This year was no different, and may have been the most exciting round yet of the 2018 season. Let’s dive into it…
Hands down the biggest story line of the week was SmarTop/MotoConcepts/Honda's Justin Brayton's big Daytona win. After a hectic beginning to the main, Brayton found himself with a sizeable gap that he maintained all the way to the checkers. Yes, he heard Tomac was coming, but that didn't deter his focus. It was a very well-celebrated and emotional moment for the veteran racer as it was his first professional Pro Motocross or Supercross win, and it's even more impressive that he carved his name into the record books as the oldest racer to win a 450 Supercross Main Event. The collective industry seemed to be just as happy for him as he was, and it will go down as a very memorable Daytona.
As always, rolling into the infield of the famed Daytona International Speedway has a special feel to it. Florida native Ricky Carmichael has crafted the Daytona circuit design for the past few years, and this year he added quite a few jumpy elements to it. In the post-race press conference Jeremy Martin even referred to it as "Quad City" with a laugh, but to be fair the Daytona circuit is always known to be gnarly. High-speed sections that claimed a few riders, and the usual beat up soil were just a couple factors that riders had to deal with lap after lap. In talking with a few of the top teams, the suspension and chassis settings that they approach the unique track with are the same as ay other weekend with few more clicker changes here and there. Its always tough to dial in comfort here, but that's Daytona in a nutshell.
There seems to be a very unfortunate trend in injuries this year (these past few rounds especially,) and Daytona saw a few more riders fall victim to our inherently dangerous sport. GEICO Honda's RJ Hampshire was the first scary crash in the 250 heat race one, and he was quickly taken to a local hospital where he was evaluated to find a broken rib, possible shoulder injury, and stable fracture of his T3 and T4 vertebrae. AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing's Jimmy Decotis also took a heavy hit in the high-speed section before the finish line to fracture his L2 and L3 vertebrae along with some ribs. AJE Motorsports' Cole Martinez also suffered a leg injury after a nasty crash in practice. There have been some downright scary moments this year, and there is becoming a trend in conversation regarding ways to make things safer. The topic is intricate, but a great road for all of us to go down with realistic hopes of safer racing.
One memorable moment of the night came in 450 Heat 2 when Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb came together in a corner (Eli being the aggressor) after the two had been battling. "There was a little bit of cross jumping going on coming across that rhythm lane. I got pissed off and I went for the takeout. That's all there was, plain and simple." Eli mentioned in the post-race press conference. The two both went down, and Webb even admitted he moved over on him a few times and knew he was mad and was coming in hot. "He told me welcome to the 450 class, and I just want to say, 'thanks.' I'm here." Cooper said with a laugh. We applaud them for their honest and humorous answers here.
Eli Tomac's main event charge was the second biggest story to come out of Daytona. A first lap crash left the #3 far behind in last place, and in he wasted no time remounting and finding unreal speed as he came through the pack. He even logged his quickest lap of the main on lap 15, which was a 1:12.811 (the only other rider to crack into the 1:12's was Marvin on lap's 3 and 4) and averaged a 1:13.871 –the only racer averaging sub-1:14 second lap times. After the main, we caught a glimpse of his extremely bent clutch lever from the crash and wondered how that didn't hinder his performance – scroll down for a photo! The crowd loved it even though his charge fell short of the win, and he further solidified himself as a threat any time the series rolls into Daytona.
With the bad news of Colt Nichols' broken humerus coming in late last week following Dylan Ferrandis’ Atlanta injuries, it unfortunately left the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha crew with no riders to race Daytona. Word from the team is they are definitely going to fill in the position (If you're thinking Wil Hahn –he's pointed out) and we should hear word soon on who they will have racing the blue bike. There seems to be a dark cloud following our series, and we hope it goes away!