The inaugural round of the Race to the Championship was a historic night for the new AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross. After a wild night of action resulted in the second overall victory of the season for Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki, presented by Maxxis rider Zach Ames, the attention diverted to the championship standings. Entering the evening, just five points separated first from 10th in the Race to the Championship and after his big win Ames, who entered as the second seed, is now the new leader heading into this weekend’s round in Wichita, Kan., and INTRUST Bank Arena.
Another rider who is looking to make a splash in the Race to the Championship is Mosites Motorsports Kawasaki’s Michael McDade. The former Arenacross Lites Class title holder has been the breakout rider of the 2013 season, running toe-to-toe with longtime points leader Tyler Bowers and his teammate Ames atop the standings for the majority of the season. After suffering a wrist injury a couple weeks ago, McDade lost ground in the title fight. However, thanks to the Race to the Championship he is right back in the thick of the hunt, sitting just seven points out of the lead. Last weekend, McDade appeared to be back in top form, winning the first Main Event of the evening and going on to finish in a three-way tie for fourth overall.
Recently, the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner caught up with McDade to get his thoughts on the first ever round of the Race to the Championship and see how he will approach the remainder of the season and the battle to crown a champion.
You had a pretty good night last weekend to start the Race to the Championship, although maybe not as good as you were hoping for. With one race under your belt, how would you say things went for you?
“The first Main Even felt good getting the win. I had a decent race going in the second Main Event after starting from the second row on the outside after the 16-rider inversion. I was behind [Jeff] Gibson and went to pass him, but got pushed off the track and lost three spots. I ended up falling with a lap or two to go, ended up getting passed by two more people. If I would have finished where I was at before the fall, I would have been on the [overall] podium, which would have been awesome. I wasn’t happy with the track all day, so I was definitely excited to win the first Main Event. I’m excited for these next few [races]. With [Tyler] Bowers not doing as great as he has been last weekend, it mixes it up a bit and puts people I normally beat up ahead of me, which makes me a little more anxious. Hopefully I can continue to be on the podium and come out of this [championship] on top.”
The Race to the Championship is new for everyone and with only five races to crown a champion, everything is much more intense and much more important than it would normally be. Since you didn’t know really how everything would work with this or how your competitors would react to it, what were your expectations coming into it?
“The biggest thing to me was to keep thinking it was another race. A lot of us don’t go to the race with a plan of not winning. I’ve gone to every race wanting to win and just to have fun with it. The Race to the Championship seems to have mixed feelings with the riders, but for people like me and the ones who don’t get to practice or test during the season, it kind of gives us a chance to get everything set up before its time. It’s also like putting all your eggs in one basket. It doesn’t necessarily mean the best rider is going to win, but it definitely is going to take a lot of consistency. For me, getting my bike and everything set up in time for the points to start over is exciting. The same goes for other riders living in Ohio, like me, who don’t necessarily have the time to just go south and ride. Last weekend wasn’t the best for me, and I think it’s going to get a lot more aggressive. Everybody wants it now and the top 10 has a chance, so we’ll see what happens.”
It seemed like a lot of the names we’ve been familiar with seeing at the front of the field every round all had up and down nights in Little Rock. Do you think that’s attributed to the increased intensity and aggression out on the track? Do you think your competitors are riding better because they know they could win the championship?
“I feel like last weekend was a little different. I think a lot of people rode better because of the track. The whoops were huge. It was a jump set of whoops instead of a skim set and that put off a lot of people that normally would skim, like myself and Bowers. [Zach] Ames had a great night, but he didn’t have the best results. In my mind, I don’t think that someone is getting faster or getting more aggressive now because of it [the Race to the Championship], because like I said before, everyone is there to win. But at the same time, I guess a lot of people could have saved themselves to give a nice sprint for these last four or five races. Regardless, it’s still going to be about the start and getting through the lappers. I know it’s going to get aggressive, but I’ve been as aggressive as I’m going to get all year. Unless someone gets into me, which might change that, but as far as now, I feel like a few riders could be sprinting and going faster than normal while others are getting thrown off by it because they’re worrying about it so much. Bowers was so far ahead, and now it’s gone. I don’t know if it’s bothered him or not, but for me its great.”
Is your wrist better now? Are you able to ride at the full potential that you were competing at earlier in the season? Based on how you rode last week, it looks like where you want to be.
“Yeah, I feel great. I mean, its sore, but when I get out on the line it’s almost like everything goes away. It doesn’t hurt until the end of the night on my drive home. I think I’m as good as I’m going to be and there’s definitely nothing standing in the way. Everything is good and I feel great, so hopefully it goes as planned.”
How do you approach these final four races in the Race to the Championship? Do you take it race by race like you have from the start, or do you things any differently?
“For me it’s just race by race. I think I’m seven points behind Ames, so my biggest thing is going to be making up points each week and focusing on each night. If I had a comfortable lead, I might have some way of playing it. But, I’m behind right now, so I’m just thinking about winning each race and not even looking towards Kansas City or Denver yet. I just want to get through this weekend consistent and start chipping away at it.”
The Wichita stop of AMSOIL Arenacross, the second round of the Race to the Championship, from inside INTRUST Bank Arena kicks off Saturday, Feb. 23, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Broadcast coverage of Saturday night’s competition can be seen via tape delay exclusively on SPEED on Sunday, Feb. 24, beginning at 1 p.m. ET.
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