The talk of the pro pits at the Steel City MX National this morning was the arrival of team AMSOIL/Chaparral/Factory Connection/Honda’s Kevin Windham.
The popular 250cc class racer was incommunicado all week, his home being just a little over an hour northwest of New Orleans (Centreville, Miss.). Windham, currently second in the points standings, was thankful for the fact that he and his family had rode out the storm and made it out of Mississippi safely, but was visibly shaken by what he and his neighbors had gone through this past week.
“My wife [Dottie] and kids are all doing fine,” said Windham. “We chose to stay and ride the storm out. The freaky part was that I was in Florida leading up to when the storm was about to hit. So when I was like the only car driving back west towards New Orleans, everybody, and I mean everybody was traveling in the opposite direction away from where the storm was about to hit. So I literally got home right as the storm was hitting.”
Windham said that sans a couple trees getting knocked down and being without power for five days, his farm didn’t get hit that bad. Nothing in comparison to the areas southeast of him, such as New Orleans.
“I’ve been in a fog all week,” he said. “Kind of the same way you felt after 9-11. The devastation is unbelievable. We’re so fortunate to only have suffered what I feel are some minor inconveniences compared to those people along the coast. I have my family with me and they’ll travel to Vegas [Honda Dealer Show] and Glen Helen with me. In the meantime, we’ve opened up our house to some friends that were hit much harder than us.”
Windham added that he didn’t ride all week. “Yeah, it’s been hard to focus,” he said.
Saturday’s practice sessions were all Ricky Carmichael in the 250 class. The series’ points leader actually arrived on Friday and walked the entire track, taking in some of the amateur racing, signing autographs and hanging out with the fans. His dominance of Steel City (2:24.197) was never greater as in first practice session he was six (6!) seconds faster than the second fastest rider, Ernesto Fonseca at 2:30.387 (Honda). Windham managed to shake the cobwebs loose and snap off a third best 2:30.767. The RC, Ernie, K-Dub lineup being the podium in the last two Nationals.
Rounding out the top five in the 250 class’ first practice session were Honda’s Travis Preston and Yamaha’s David Vuillemin.
The 125s were led by the always aggressive Grant Langston (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki), who broke out a 2:31.141, which was right up there with some of the fastest 250 times. Honda’s Andrew Short was about a half second back, followed by Makita/Suzuki’s Broc Hepler (on his hometown track) and Jim’s Cycle-backed Mike Brown (4th).
The second 250 practice session was again Carmichael, only this time Fonesca was able to cut into his time by a couple second. Still, with six and four-second leads in practice, Carmichael, as expected, should hammer everybody again on Sunday. Windham was right there with Fonseca, paving the way for what should be a good factory/satellite Honda team battle on Sunday.
In the 125s’ second practice session it was Langston’s teammate, points leader Ivan Tedesco, who stepped up, rocketing out to a 2:28.654, the day’s fastest practice time in the 125 class.
Some non-seeded 250 riders putting up some good times were Ryan Hughes (Honda), followed by Chris Gosselaar, who always rides real well at Steel City. Kyle Mace, Ryan Abrigo and Evan Laughridge will be the other non-seeded 250 guys to keep an eye on. The 125 non-seeded racers were led by international stars Joquim Rodrigues, Akira Narita and Eric Sorby, who’s back for his first National since Mt. Morris (wrist).
Wrapping up tonight’s events will be a freestyle jumping display by “Mad” Mike Jones, followed by the Great Lakes Powersports Mini Bike Nationals.