I make the effort to get heat into the tires on the warm-up lap by pushing as hard as I dare. I get a crappy start and find myself behind Joe on the EX and Scott McKee on his blisteringly fast FZR, third into Turn 1.
McKee will soon clear off leaving us like the turds we are, so this means all I have to do is follow Joe around and look for a place to pass. In spite of this knowledge I simply cannot keep up with him. It's as if he has miraculously gotten faster since the last race. This is patently not the case. The only thing that has happened is I have gotten slower. The crash has surely rattled my confidence, and the lap times reflect it, losing 1 to 1.5 seconds a lap to Joe. My mind starts fucking with me and I know it's over. I remember seeing brand new tires on Joe's EX right before the V5 race and my thoughts wander back to my own tires, with several weekends on them. And just like that I defeat myself. A page is turned, the switch is flipped and somehow I accept defeat at the hands of Joe, again.
This is not how the story is supposed to end, rather a tale of a heroic comeback after a crash, vanquishing the foes and standing triumphant. This is not one of those stories.
The choice to settle for third place is not an easy one, it goes against my better nature, but somehow I know that it is just not in me to fight anymore today. And third ain't so bad....
The problem with settling is that you usually end up with less than you bargained for. After mounting an unsuccessful, half-hearted attack against Joe for the first lap, I dial it back a notch and just bide my time turning laps until the checkers. The last lap comes and I prepare to take third place. Fate has another outcome in mind.
As I approach Charlotte's Web for the last time today, I hear the angry hum of a four cylinder engine on my left. As I begin to head for the apex of the turn, a red motorcycle takes the inside line and passes me. And just like that Fate, laughing and grinning, smacks me right in the mouth and shows what happens when you stop fighting, even for a second.
This rider had been stalking me, lap after lap, quietly assessing and biding his time, never showing a wheel, knowing I couldn't hear his motor over my noisy twin.
And he beats me, handily shoving yours truly back to the fourth spot, but it feels like 44th.
The day ends for me as ignominiously as it began. 2 DNFs and a lousy 4th place. It never gets any easier.
Kurt Kesler, stalking me, waiting to take third.