MT. MERIDIAN, Ind. (Oct. 9, 2011) –
The unexpected hero of Sunday's AMA Road Race Grand Championships at picturesque Putnam Park Road Course in Central Indiana, was 31-year-old Chicagoan Ricardo Valdez. Valdez was spectacular in his four events, riding his privately sponsored Yamaha R6 to a trio of wins and a second.Jake Lewis was the only rider to best Valdez in their first meeting of the day in Open Supersport, but Lewis crashed in his second race while battling Valdez for the lead. He was knocked out and taken to the hospital for observation. He was released and back at the track later in the day, but was unable to race. In spite of his bad luck on Sunday at Putnam Park, Lewis, 15, of Princeton, Ky., was awarded the prestigious AMA Horizon Award for his overall performance at the event.Valdez, a fifth-year racer who honed his skills racing a Blackhawk Farms, was solid all day. After finishing second to Lewis in Open Supersport, Valdez came back and led Lewis early in the Middleweight Superbike class. He made a mistake on the bus stop turn giving Lewis the opportunity to take the lead. The two were running nose to tail when Lewis suddenly dropped a rear wheel off the track at full lean on the high-speed turn six causing him to high-side violently.
"That was the scariest crash I've ever had," Lewis said when he returned from the hospital. "It came back to me when I was laying in the hospital bed. I had just gotten into the leadi and was pushing it pretty hard when I dropped my rear wheel off the track. The bike came around and spit me off and from there I don't remember anything. It was a pretty bad wreck. I'm just glad I'm OK. I fractured my thumb. Hopefully I'll be able to come back pretty soon."With his main rival out Valdez went on to score a total of three wins. Perhaps his most impressive came in Open Superbike where he beat a slew of 1000cc bikes on his R6 to take the win."That was a really fun race," said Valdez, a carpenter and part-time auto salesman. "I think I made a little bit too close of a pass on Gene (Burcham). We touched and I apologized to him for that, but it was tough to get around him. He was riding really well. It was a great feeling to win that race against the bigger bikes. Winning these races this weekend is the biggest accomplishment of my career so far."Valdez was awarded the AMA Racing Vet/Senior Award. He said he hopes to race AMA Pro next year if he can find sponsors.
Lewis, who earned four poles and won a race before being injured, was rewarded for his outstanding weekend overall with the Horizon Award."It's an honor to get the Horizon Award," Lewis said. "It's something I've wanted to win for a long time. I hated to end my day early, and I apologize to my parents for having to take a trip to the hospital, but that's the first time and hopefully I learned something from that."Look for additional coverage of the Road Race Grand Championships in the upcoming digital edition of Cycle News.