As you may have noticed, Draik hasn’t been able to send out a race report this season; this “Pro” stuff is the real-deal and is busy! Also, Draik is continuing to fund several aspects of his racing and this has been his busiest mowing season so far. So I, Kurt (Draik’s dad) am dropping you a line to get you up to speed with how things have been going. As you may know, Draik has been given the opportunity to be on a rider development team known as “Quarterly Racing: On track development”. This has been such a blessing; Draik is getting the type of support and coaching he really needed to progress, and he has.
The first KTM round in MotoAmerica was at Road Atlanta, a track Draik is familiar with. This was Draik’s first time to ever run qualifying where he put himself in the middle of the show with a P14 spot. In his first race he battled it out for a 11th place finish. This was encouraging considering he was able to move up in the field from his starting spot and see for the first time his measure in this spec class. The bike started having some issues on Saturday that we worked through with the help of KTM support at the track but put Draik on edge for race two, where he brought home a 13th.
Round 2 was held at a cold, windy and wet New Jersey Motorsports park. This was the first time we’ve ever been to the NJMP but Draik did his research, watched videos and felt like he could learn the track quickly. After a cold practice, a wet first qualifying session, when the second qualifying session was finished Draik ended up 15th in the field. Every time out his times improved and in race two he was able to finish with an 11th place. Sunday’s race was a very wet one. Draik loves riding in the rain and he was feeling very confident going into the race. Within the first couple laps he had moved himself up to a battle for 4th place. Unfortunately, he showed a little too much impatience, grabbed one too many downshifts and when he went to roll back on the throttle, he lost the rear end and ended up on the ground. Due to a broken clip-on handle bar, he was unable to finish the race. He did learn a lot and understands the importance of finishing the race.
The next round was back a track where Draik has some experience and really likes, Virginia International Raceway. Being back to a familiar track and continuing to learn the bike; he was able to qualify in the 11th position, encouraged to be drawing ever closer to the top 10. Race one was very exciting with Draik in a group of about 6 riders drafting and battling for the 8th position. Draik was able to pull out a last second draft move and come out the best in that particular battle for his best finish so far in 8th. Sunday’s race he was right back in the same situation but this time there was a three bike battle for 8th. Although the last time across the line he was in 8th, there was a red flag that prematurely ended the race and the field reverts to the last completed lap, so he was credited with a 10th place finish.
The latest round was held this past weekend at the beautiful track, Road America. This was his first time there and, wow, what a place! The track itself is huge and the facilities and grounds around the track are like nothing we’ve ever seen. Draik had been doing a lot of “research” for this round by playing the video game “Ride” that offers a chance to learn the track even on a virtual KTM 390. It must have worked, Draik was able to put himself into the 8th qualifying spot after dropping 4 seconds in one lap! Mostly though, it came from a new, completely different set up on the bike the team had figured out. The bike feels much better for him now and he is coming to terms with it. With the limited amount of testing time, his track time has been very limited so far. This means all the changes the team has tried are tested during the race weekends which have a very limited amount of time to test and change. The new set up was GREAT in the dry but Saturday’s wet race, the bike didn’t feel as good as he hoped. Draik was still able to get the checkered flag in 8th position. Sunday was dry and windy, making the draft very important. In the first lap, Draik was in the top 9 freight train that had developed. When a rider had an issue in front of him and the bike in front of him, two bikes lost the draft. In the next couple laps, Draik and a second bike started reeling back in the front group. Once again, a slight mistake had a great impact, the bike Draik had been drafting with, ran wide off track leaving Draik by himself. As difficult as running by yourself in the class is, Draik was able to keep his head down and maintain his position despite a 6 bike train trying to chase him down. Draik was able to finish the race with his best one so far, a 6th place finish.
This past weekend was a real turning point for him. Not only was this the second weekend in a row with 2 top 10 finishes, he has moved up to 9th in the season championship. Most importantly he has gained a ton of confidence on the bike with the new set up. He is going to Barber Motorsports this coming weekend feeling very strong. Barber is his favorite track and it’s where he has the most experience. The last time he raced there he brought home the WERA National Challenge Championship, so we are hoping for great results. But in typical Draik fashion, he is humbly confident and will, as always, do his best.
February 25, 2014
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!