After spending most of the year watching GEICO Honda teammate Justin Barcia zoom to the top of the world in the AMA Supercross series, fellow Lites East rider Blake Wharton of Texas is hoping things continue to turn his way when he makes a much-anticipated return to the Lone Star State.
Wharton, of Pilot Point, earned his first podium finish last Saturday in Toronto when he raced to a third-place result at the Rogers Centre. On April 2, he’ll go for two in a row when the Monster Energy tour hits Cowboys Stadium.
“It’s kind of weird how it works,” Wharton said. “I’m gaining momentum, for sure, but I feel like I’ve been strong all year long. I just hadn’t finished strong until last weekend.”
Wharton will have a huge cheering section as dozens of students from his hometown will make the 60-mile trek to Arlington to cheer on their No. 1 rider. These students have been tracking their hometown hero since his career began and are thrilled to see him race in person.
“I’ve never raced Dallas before,” the fifth-ranked Wharton said. “We’ve done Houston and racing down there is always cool. I was actually born in Houston. But Dallas will be even closer to home for me. It’s where I fly in and out of every weekend and I know a lot of people in the area. I grew up here. I know I’m going to see a ton of friends.
“The track is good and I won’t have to fly. I probably won’t sleep good the night before because I’ll be home and not know what to do. I’ll be extra pumped up. It wonÃ¢Â€Â™t feel right, but hopefully I’ll get some rest so I can be in top form. I want to show everyone what I can do.”
Barcia also might lose some sleep before Saturday’s race, but for an entirely different reason. With two wins and four runner-up finishes on the year, Barcia is the Lites East points leader and holds a fairly comfortable 16-point margin over Dean Wilson, but with the strange way this Supercross season is unfolding, Barcia knows no lead is safe.
“Every race has been a fight,” Barcia said. “I want to win the championship more than anything I’ve ever done in my life, but I’m sure the other guys are thinking the same thing. No one is going to give an inch on the track and I wouldnÃ¢Â€Â™t want it any other way.
“It’s a great stadium in Dallas and there’s usually good dirt there. My bike has just been awesome all year. I’m stoked to get out there and race.”
Including the riders in the Lites West series, a GEICO Honda rider has finished on the podium in 10 consecutive races.
The team’s 450cc rider, Kevin Windham is looking to straighten his riding out as the home stretch of the season begins. The 17-year veteran is in a tight battle for sixth in the season standings with Justin Brayton Ã¢Â€Â“ three points separates the two riders.
“We’ve just been a little bit off,” Windham said. “But with as tight as things are, a little bit here and there adds up quickly. We still want to get on the podium a few times before the year is out and we’re never going to stop working until we get there.”
Practice for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series stop at Cowboys Stadium begins at 12:30 p.m. CDT Saturday with opening ceremonies starting at 7 p.m. The Supercross race will air on CBS affiliates across the country at noon EDT with the Lites race broadcast on SPEED at 6 p.m. EDT that same day.