Corona Extra Honda’s Neil Hodgson is safely in Superpole after qualifying eighth in the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown at Infineon Raceway in his return to racing after suffering serious injuries in a motocross accident over two months ago.Hodgson has been out of action since separating his left shoulder, puncturing a lung, breaking ribs, and sustaining other injuries in a motocross accident just over a week after the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway. The most severe of the injuries was the separated left shoulder, which required surgery.Hodgson returned to the racetrack this past Monday for a shakedown on a track day at Willow Springs International Raceway north of Los Angeles. The shoulder was painful but not debilitating, and Hodgson made the decision to race in Sonoma. Though he said the shoulder remained troublesome he was happy to be back, happy to have qualified for Superpole, and looking forward to racing for the first time in over two months.”It’s really good to be back, first and foremost,” he said after American Superbike qualifying. “I’ve really missed racing. It’s been nine weeks since I crashed, I think, and eight weeks since I had the operation on my shoulder. It’s taken longer than I’d hoped. But actually everybody, all the experts, Dr. Tom Bryan who did the operation, said that it wouldn’t take this long anyway. But I’ve said this before; for some strange reason motorcycle racers think they’re super-human and they’re just going to… it takes three months for a normal person to get well after this and I’m like, ‘I can probably do it in a few weeks.’ I’ve realized that I’m not super-human, so I don’t repair like I did when I was 15.”Hodgson said the shoulder was “definitely painful, really painful. There’s just a couple of spots where it’s bad, I’d say. And that’s going into the (downhill left-handed) Carousel’s really hard as you come over the (turn five) crest to push the bike in. And also when, I think it could be turn seven, the top turn, when I’m coming back through the flip-flops (turns 8, 8a) it’s really bad through there. The hardest thing is…I obviously have got to push with this (left) arm and I’m struggling with that because it’s painful and weak, so I pull with this (right) arm, but in those spots I have to trail brake, so it’s really hard to modulate how much pressure I’m putting on the brake, while it’s pulling the handlebar, so it’s a bit sketchy that. But apart from that, the rest of the track’s not too bad. I mean, it’s uncomfortable and I’m not as quick on the bike as I’d like to be, moving my body position, but it’s better than it was on Monday at Willow Springs. At Willow Springs it was very tough.”With it’s constant turning and elevation changes, Infineon Raceway is a stern test for a rider returning from an injury, but Hodgson wouldn’t have it any other way.”Yeah, well I’ve got to say, I didn’t purposely choose Infineon, but my attitude was, if I can ride Infineon I can ride anywhere in the world almost,” he said. “Because it really is, on a Superbike, there is zero rest. There’s not one straight where you think, ‘Right, I’ll just gather my thoughts and have a breather.’ You’re literally fighting the bike all the way around.”Like I said, the positives are if I can do it around here I’ll be good everywhere else. So far, so good. I’ve set myself some goals. My first goal was to be able to ride, which I did. I realized it after the first session. Second goal was getting Superpole, which I’ve done. And my next two goals are to have just two really solid races, so just going to do all I can.”
Hodgson Happy to Be Back
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.