Round 9 is Set for Daytona International Speedway


3/3/2016

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When it comes to historic Supercross racing venues, few compare to the infield of Daytona International Speedway. This season, the Speedway plays host to Round 9 of the 2016 AMA Supercross Series. Despite all of the hub-bub about Daytona, though, we must first take a look back at list weekend's racing up the road in Atlanta's Georgia Dome.

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Serving as the opener of the 250SX Eastern Regional Championship, Atlanta's red clay didn't disappoint, serving great racing in both classes. Making their debut were the riders who'd been sitting in front of their TV's or computers all season while the west region drama unfolded, chomping at the bit for their chance to prove how hard they'd been working and how fast they'd become in the off-season.

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The bottom line was this: 250SX class veteran Martin Davalos led wire-to-wire for the win ahead of a hard-charging Aaron Plessinger and Malcolm Stewart. While Davalos wasn't necessarily a favorite coming in, the smiling Ecuadorian got the start he needed to get out front all alone, putting down 15 blazing laps while the rest of the pack worked out their differences behind him. 

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Jeremy Martin's teammate Plessinger landed on the podium, but Martin - the team's superstar and 250 outdoor motocross champion - had to prove his mettle back in the pack. Starting way behind, Martin worked his way through the field all the way to fourth place by the checkers, certainly making a point that his speed, endurance and race-craft were on-point for the long series ahead. As far as favorites heading into Daytona, Martin must certainly be the man with the target on his back, for all of the aforementioned reasons - the guy's a beast on outdoor mx-style tracks, and Daytona certainly is that. Look for Martin to make a statement this weekend.

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Atlanta's 450SX Main Event was one for the ages, especially when discussing the biggest heartbreak losses in the sport's history. (More on that later.) Defending champ and series points leader Ryan Dungey came away with another win, putting an additional ten points between himself and second in points Ken Roczen. This win, though, came at the expense of his teammate, friend, two-time FIM World MX2 Champion and 450SX rookie: Marvin Musquin.

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Just waiting for his true "breakout ride," Musquin was no doubt ecstatic as he rolled through the first turn and rhythm section solidly battling for the lead position. Once he gained it in the second corner, Musquin put his head down and proceeded to click off perfect laps while chaos ensued behind him. It took a few laps, but eventually it was his teammate Dungey who honed in on the Frenchman up front and started chipping away at the gap. As the laps ticked off, it became go-time. Dungey started showing a wheel here and there, helped out by Musquin's minor mistakes that allowed the gap to close. Unfortunately, when the battle reached its climax was right about when James Stewart (more on him below) found himself in the mix - but as a lapper. Clearly new at this experience, Stewart hung around in between the two leaders just long enough that an error was made by Musquin. The lead was lost to his 'always there' teammate, Dungey. Musquin will be hungrier than ever heading into a track he loves, in his adoptive state of Florida, just a short drive from home. 

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Another front-runner for Daytona is sure to be Ken Roczen, shown above putting a pass on Musquin in their heat race that was probably trying to show just a bit of attitude to his former GP foe. Also based in Florida and every bit as big of a threat on outdoor tracks as anyone in the paddock, Roczen needs to start closing the 33 point gap between him and Dungey or it's going to be too late. 

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Chad Reed made another impressive podium appearance in Atlanta. He is another Florida-based rider with a load of experience at Daytona and in the sand in general. Having been a winner there before, and also living within a short drive of the Speedway, it's starting to sound like a broken record here but watch for Reedy to legitimately threaten for a win in the sandy, high speed and whooped-out, Ricky Carmichael designed track.

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Depending on one's perspective, James Stewart's return to racing could legitimately be considered both a success and a failure. Effectively out since Anaheim 1, the #7 chose Atlanta to come back because he felt he was ready, and probably also because it was a reasonable drive from his central Florida home. Plus the fact that he's had a lot of wins in the Georgia Dome in the not-so-distant past. Bottom line is: He did show up to race, he made it into the main event in quite a stacked field (and after a solid heat race ride), and he made it to the main's finish line with no more bumps or bruises than when he'd started the race. The downside is that it just didn't seem the same watching THE James Stewart get lapped after not even crashing or having any major incidents on the track. He raced a safe, uneventful 20 laps and that puts him 20 laps closer to the Stewart of old than before he arrived in Atlanta. Can Stewart improve in Daytona? Magic 8-ball says "Seems Likely."

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Round 9 of 2016 AMA Supercross again promises to be a great night of racing. Look for complete coverage on our Facebook page AMA Supercross Championship, Instagram @AMASupercross and AMASupercross.com for Live Timing & Scoring. If you're a SUPER Supercross fan, download our $0.99 smartphone app: "AMA SX" on iTunes and the Google Play store. TV schedules are available at Supercrossonline.com.


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