Suzuki Racing Press Release:
It was a good night for Suzuki riders at Atlanta II in front of 53,537 fans in the Georgia Dome. RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Broc Tickle proved that he’s back to full strength after an early season injury. Tickle had an outstanding ride to fourth on his speedy Suzuki RM-Z450. It not only marked his best finish of the season, but also matched his career best in the premier AMA/FIM Supercross class.
Finishing just behind Tickle was fellow Suzuki rider Blake Baggett in fifth. It continued Baggett’s remarkable consistency during his rookie 450 Supercross season, scoring his seventh consecutive top-10 finish aboard his Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing Suzuki. Series contender Ken Roczen bravely raced in spite of an injured foot and came home eighth on his RCH Suzuki keeping his championship hopes alive.
With Tickle, Baggett and Roczen, Suzuki placed more riders inside the top-10 at Atlanta II than any other brand. The race was also attended by several of NASCAR’s biggest drivers, with both championships racing in Georgia’s capital this weekend. Jimmie Johnson, who is a six-time champion and winner of 70 Cup races, served the Grand Marshall at the race Saturday night.
In addition to the strong night by Suzuki’s Big Three, Smartop MotoConcepts Racing’s Mike Alessi (14th) and Nicholas Schmidt (21st) on his Team3br dsc magiksc both made the Main event.
Congratulations go out to Ronnie Stewart, Alexander Nagy, Dustin Pipes, Tevin Tapia and Robert Lind who all qualified Suzuki RM-Z450s into the evening program in the 450 class, as did AJ Catanzaro aboard a Suzuki RM-Z250 in the 250 East class.
Vicki Golden saw huge improvement in her quest to become the first female racer to make an evening program at an AMA/FIM Supercross event. Even though she came up short, it was a morale victory as Golden turned competitive lap times on her HRT Racing/ACM Services Suzuki RM-Z250 and qualified ahead of nine other competitors.
Tickle’s Best of the Year:
After suffering a back injury during the Oakland Supercross way back on week four, it wasn’t looking good for Broc Tickle. He sat out round five at Anaheim III and then decided to make his comeback at round six in San Diego, even though he was not 100 percent. After scoring a pair of ninth-place finishes in his first two races back, Tickle showed great improvement last week at Atlanta I with a sixth. This week it was an even bigger breakthrough with Tickle returning to peak form. He started with the ninth gate pick, but blasted forward using the power of his RM-Z450 to emerge fifth on the first lap. From there Tickle simply rode a strong 20 laps to finish the night in fourth.
Tickle has put himself in a great position to finish the second half of the Supercross season on a high note.
“It was one of those days where my riding felt effortless,” Tickle explained. “The track came to me real easily, so I knew I just had to go out there and ride smart. That’s what I worked on all week, making sure I wasn’t clipping things and just riding clean. Towards the end of the main event the track really got blown out and for a lap or two I tightened up, but then was able to clean up my riding and close out the last five or six laps really strong. I’m looking forward to Daytona. I got a fourth there last year. I’m looking to finish the season strong.”
Baggett Bags Another Top Five:
Blake Baggett made the biggest jump of any rider who finished in the top 10 on Saturday night. He got caught up in traffic at the start of the Main and ran tenth on the first lap. Baggett always seems to get stronger as the race progresses though and such was the case in the Georgia Dome. He steadily sliced his way up through the field on his nimble handling Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 to move all the way up to fifth by the checkered flag. It marked his second best finish of the season.
“I’m definitely learning to be patient on the bigger bike,” said Baggett, the top-finishing rookie in Atlanta. “It’s a little bit bigger, but with all the power it’s a lot to handle and I’m just learning to be steady on it and keeping it on two wheels. I’m plugging away, trying to learn every week from the guys in front of me and the guys around me. I’ve got to give it up to the whole Yoshimura Suzuki team for bringing me on board. I’m hoping to work my way up to a podium by the end of the year.”
Both Tickle and Baggett were featured in post-race TV interviews on the Fox Sports broadcast.
Roczen Solid In Spite of Injury:
For RCH Suzuki’s Ken Roczen, he knew from the start Atlanta II was going to be a challenge. His left foot and ankle, injured the week before, were still tender. The RCH Suzuki rider got caught up behind a crash by Weston Peick in the final, which cost him valuable time and positions. In the end, the No. 94 recovered and gutted out a solid eighth; overall a good night considering the numerous obstacles he had to overcome. Roczen remains solidly in third in the championship points standings.
A Look Back:
It was Throwback Night in Atlanta and the track was made to an old design. Many past riders were on hand and some teams wore throwback gear and livery on their machines. We caught up with former Suzuki champion Greg Albertyn. Now 41, the South African, who is now in sales representative in the utilities industry, said he’s amazed at the progress of the bikes. He contrasted the machines of today as compared to the two-strokes he raced in the 1990s.
“The RM-Z450 is much easier to ride obviously with all the torque it has,” said Albertyn, who still likes to get out and twist the throttle on occasion. “You had to be an artist to keep the two-stokes on the powerband, but with the modern Suzukis you can just point and shoot and you have instant power.”
The series moves to the World Center of Racing next week at Daytona International Speedway. Roczen was runner-up in last year’s race, and Tickle has a good history at Daytona as well, scoring his other career best fourth-place Supercross finish at Daytona in 2014. Baggett may be looking forward to next weekend more than anyone. He’s excelled on the grueling track, scoring two victories at Daytona in the 250 class, and he’ll be looking to continue his strong performances now on the 450s.
Daytona’s track is designed by former Suzuki great Ricky Carmichael and promises to be the most challenging circuit on the schedule. That track seems to always hold surprises, so if you can’t be there live you’ll want to tune in to Fox Sports 1 on Saturday, March 7 at 7:30 pm Eastern.