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Racing The 2018 Hangtown National

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The 2018 Hangtown National was quite the experience for me to say the least. Starting from the Monday at the beginning of the week leading up to the race, I worked overtime at my job to do my best to get ahead on my work schedule so I would be able to take Friday off to make it to tech inspection on time. My schedule was 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Monday through Thursday to allow me to get enough ahead, so I would get all my work done so we could leave for the race early on Friday morning.

I got my graphics, number plate backgrounds, and seat cover from DeCal Works on Monday. When I came home from work, my girlfriend was putting the graphics on the bike, which allowed me to hit a little workout. On Tuesday, my dad installed some fresh Mika Metals grips, a new Mika Metals chain, and a Mika Metals front and rear sprocket. In order to stay fresh and on my game for the race, I went to my local track, DT1 MX Park, on Wednesday to put in some motos. That involved a few two-lap timed sprints and a 20-minute moto at 75-percent effort.

After work on Thursday, I loaded up my moto van and my dad, girlfriend, and I left for the race the next morning. We took the YZ450F through tech inspection that afternoon and a few of my hometown friends and supporters even came up that same day before the race to hangout. Friday night’s dinner included a hearty meal and my beloved Long Island iced tea to help calm the nerves and get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, it didn’t do any good as I found myself staring at the hotel ceiling until midnight.

Saturday morning came around and we got our pit set up and the YZ450F ready to go with the help of my crew—my mom, dad, and girlfriend. I was in the 450B practice, and when it rolled around, I was ready to go. I hopped on the track and admittedly rode a bit timid and tight. The track is always way worse than you think or what you can see from watching the riders in the practices before you.

I didn’t do as well as I had hoped, but the one thing I was happy with was the YZ450F’s performance. The Dubach Racing Development (DRD) exhaust system, Race Tech suspension, DT1 air filter cage, and assortment of Works Connection goodies worked amazing. The first practices are always pretty muddy, and the YZ450F plowed through the mud like nothing. This was also my first time riding with Works Connection titanium Pro Pegs, and normally when riding in the mud, your footpegs will get full of the heavy, wet soil quickly, and become slippery as well. Such was not the case with the Pro Pegs as my Alpinestars Tech 10 boots stayed glued to the super sharp footrests excellently.

The good thing about the Hangtown race was that the second practice was going to be faster due to the track drying out a bit. I was sitting in 28th place in the first 450B practice session, which was way too far out from making it into the top 36 who qualify directly into the motos and don’t have to race the Consolation Race, or last chance qualifier.

I knew I was losing time by not carrying enough speed through the deep rutted areas of the track and that held me back from getting a better qualifying time. I live in Tulare, California and we only have one local track to practice on. It’s mainly populated by vet riders, so the track is prepped on the tamer side and is therefore not as gnarly as some of the SoCal tracks and certainly not the Pro Motocross Nationals, which are even gnarlier. For that reason, I was a little intimidated when entering corners that each had a minimum of 10 ruts spread across the track that are deeper than your footpegs.

Now that’s no excuse by any means, but I can see how getting to ride at Pala Raceway on Tuesdays, Milestone MX Park on Wednesdays, and Glen Helen on Thursdays week after week—especially when they prep the tracks specifically for the pros—would be a huge advantage and help with bike handling skills and confidence in those conditions.

The second timed qualifying practice came around and I got roughly five seconds quicker, and went from a 2.28 laptime in the first practice to a 2.23 in the second practice. Unfortunately, that was not nearly enough to make the mains, so I had to go to the Consolation Race. My rule of thumb is that if you can hold up your timed qualifying position on one hand, you are most likely making it into the motos. Well, I needed a lot of hands for the qualifying position I was sitting in.

I lined up about four spots outside of the doghouse, got a good jump, and was happy with my start. Coming around the first turn, I was sitting in a decent position, approximately 6th or 7th place, but myself and a few others on the outside got pushed and pinched off going into the second turn. I think it was the longest right hander I’ve ever taken. I was stuck behind people on the inside rut going no more than five mph helplessly watching other riders fly around most of us that got bottled up on the inside of the second turn. I came around the first lap in about 17th or so, and by the time the checkered flag waved, I finished 14th place—10 spots away from making it into the motos.

I was very upset with my result and went back to the pits knowing I’d have to go through a full week until the second round at Glen Helen before I was able to do anything about it and try to improve upon my result. We stayed and watched the first 250 and 450 motos, and then I went back to the pits and slept the rest of the day, not wanting to watch the rest of the races due to being upset with my riding.

All in all, I was pleased with how the Yamaha YZ450F performed in the gnarly national conditions. The Race Tech suspension held up great through the large braking bumps and the DRD exhaust system added the right amount of power where it was desired—mostly on the top-end. Also, the Works Connection Pro Launch Holeshot Device helped me get out to a great start, even though it was short-lived.

Lastly, I would like to extend a thank you to all of the companies and people who supported me and helped this project bike come together including Dirt Rider, Yamaha, Works Connection, Race Tech, DeCal Works, DT1, Mika Metals, Dubach Racing Development, FXR, Shoei, Alpinestars, Pro-Tec Coatings, Grants Heating and Air Conditioning, Idea Printing and Graphics, and Total Nutrition.