Wow! What a weekend we just had in Sonoma. After struggling last year, and then crashing my bike on the first pass of 2012, then fighting electrical gremlins in Houston and Chicago, I finally feel like we are on the right track. This past weekend in Sonoma, we not only qualified with a 6.99, but in the first round I made the best run of my career, 6.94. It's now three days later, and I still have not stopped smiling.
One of the biggest things I have learned racing Pro Stock Motorcycle, is how much it really takes to go fast. This weekend, it took a lot of amazing people putting forth their best effort to help me get down the race track. Jimmy Underdahl was my crew chief in Sonoma. It was really great having the opportunity to work with him. Jimmy is not only a talented tuner, but also a talented rider. So not only did he help give me a fast motorcycle, he is also great about teaching me to be a better rider. Ben Kriegsfeld also worked alongside Jimmy and he is another smart guy. Ben and Jimmy work very well together and that made my job a lot easier. It's so much easier to ride when the people around you are so calm and patient.
As good as it was, I won't say that our weekend went completely flawless though. In my first two qualifying passes, I was faced with some internal gremlins that I didn't even realize I was doing it until the guys saw it on the computer. Once I got the bike into high gear I was starting to roll off the throttle. After qualifying on Friday, Greg Underdahl came into the motorhome and asked me why I was doing it. I had to think about it for a while, but deep down I knew the answer. In my head I was concerned about getting the bike shut down. A lot of people don't realize it, but the shutdown is one of the hardest parts of riding fast bikes. When I crashed earlier this season, I was in the shutdown area when things went horribly wrong. Without even realizing it, I was rolling my hand out of the throttle and starting to shut down before I got to the finish line.
While I was struggling, Greg and Jimmy could not have been more supportive. When I explained why I thought I was doing it, all they told me is to ride in a manner that makes me comfortable. They both said that they’ve never been sliding down the track on their backside doing 170-mph, so they couldn’t blame me for what I was doing. However, all of us knew, unless I got this problem figured out within myself, we wouldn't run quick enough to qualify.
On Saturday morning, I was determined to fix the problem. Everybody was working so hard to give me a fast bike, and I wanted to be out there for driver intros on Sunday more than anything in the world. After my first run, you can imagine the smile on my face when I got to the top end of the track. I just knew that I had conquered the problem. When they handed me the time slip, and it read 6.99, you would have thought I just won a world championship. It was an amazing feeling. I could tell everybody on our team and everyone helping us felt great about it too. There were smiles all around.
I had the time of my life in Sonoma, especially when I think about getting to work alongside so many amazing people. It feels so good to know that they believe in me. I also have so much confidence in them helping me. I just really couldn't ask for a better situation in Sonoma. It looks like Indy will be my next stop this season, and after Sonoma, a month feels like an eternity. Thanks again to Doug Johnson for the opportunity to ride his bike. Also a huge thank you to my friends and family that came to Sonoma to support my dad and I. And, of course, thanks to Gary and Karen Stoffer, Greg and Tina Underdahl, Jimmy and Kelly Underdahl, and Ben Kriegsfeld. You are all so amazing!