Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Blake Baggett made his return to racing on Saturday night in front of a great crowd of fans at the prestigious Daytona Supercross inside the sparking confines of the newly revamped Daytona International Speedway.
Baggett rode the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 to a 13th-place result to earn his second Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championship finish of the 2016 season.
Baggett’s team-mate James Stewart wasn’t as fortunate. The former champion had a big crash in his heat race, causing him to miss the Daytona Supercross Main Event.
It was a night of ups and downs on the most gruelling track on the Supercross circuit. Baggett has traditionally done well at Daytona as his relentless riding style suits the hybrid Supercross/ Motocross-style track perfectly. He’d twice won the Daytona 250 East Supercross class and scored his first career AMA Supercross podium with a third in the historic race last year aboard his Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing RM-Z450.
But Baggett’s expectations for this year’s Daytona were a bit more modest. Shoulder surgery just before season started, and then a re-injuring of that shoulder after a fall in Oakland five weeks ago, left Baggett with the goal of simply qualifying and finishing this year’s Daytona Supercross. He came through on both counts.
After qualifying ninth, Baggett got into the Main with a strong semi and then in the Main ran steady.
“It was good to be back riding again,” Baggett said afterwards. “I just started riding on Monday before the race, so it was about four weeks since I’d been on the bike. I rode Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then showed up here. I had pretty good starts. I had the speed, but just faded. It’s a good start. I’m coming out of here healthy and now I’m jumping in the season at the halfway point. I’ll try to build from here. Each week I hope to get more time on the bike and gradually get my fitness back. I got 13th tonight and now I’m looking forward to Toronto.”
Stewart qualified 12th, but tough luck struck again in his heat when he suffered a hard get off. He was checked out in at the track’s medical facility and it was discovered he’d suffered deep bruising to his lower back. Stewart hopes to be racing in Toronto next Saturday, but at this point the team says it’s too early to tell.
The series now heads north of the border next week, Saturday, March 12th, with its annual visit to Toronto, Canada and the Rogers Centre.
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