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2008 XDL Sportbike Freestyle Championship Round 2: Nashville
After three years in existence, the XDL series finally held its first Midwest event in the middle of the Nashville summer heat and humidity in front of thousands of new fans at the Music City Motorplex. If this was any indication of things to come, then XDL has a bright future in this part of the country. Athletically, XDL Round 2 was a showcase for the professionalism, dedication and innovation of the riders, and it foreshadowed a close points race for the rest of the season. Unfortunately injuries were a big part of the Nashville storyline.
NY winner Nick Brocha had crashed in a practice session only a couple weeks prior to Nashville and rode the event with 20 stitches in his elbow as well as a bruised shoulder and bruised ribs. Fellow “Death Squad” rider Ernie Vigil who had suffered a horrific crash in NY and broken his collarbone was at the starting line with a special brace that supported his arm and shoulder. Every session was painful for him but Vigil soldiered on for an 11th place finish to stay sixth in the points. Series favorite Chris “Teach” McNeil severely injured his hand performing at a BMW dealer demo a week prior to the competition and was unable to ride.
During Friday practice for Nashville Josh Graham from Kentucky crashed performing a backwards wheelie, seriously injuring his hand and had to be rushed to the hospital for emergency medical care. Also in practice, Eric Stafford from Atlanta took a spill and had a foot peg injure his ankle, but was able to take private transportation to the hospital. The injuries show how competitive the field has become, pushing athletes to ride at the top of their game and working through pain to salvage a decent finish and maintain their position in the points. Stunt riding has grown up and XDL competitors are real athletes.
Saturday greeted the riders with more heat, and qualifying served up a shocker or two. Most notably, young gun and 2006 champ Aaron Colton had a miserable run and failed for the first time ever to make the main event. Japanese sensation Shin Kinoshita who placed 10th in NY also failed to make the cut, as did NY eighth-place finisher Jesse Toler who voiced his dissatisfaction by saying: “I was disappointed in my freestyle run. I wasn’t mentally prepared for this weekend”.
Brocha surprised the pack by taking the top qualifying spot and clinching the valuable bonus point despite his injuries. But while qualifying was a highlight, the Individual Freestyle main event proved to be more of a challenge for Brocha who had to settle for eighth which was still good enough to keep him third in national points.
'Saturday greeted the riders with more heat, and qualifying served up a shocker or two.'
The overall win went to Connecticut rider Luke Emmons who separated himself from the field with a 92-point run after qualifying third. Emmons has ridden a lot with fellow Northeast rider McNeil and has always been on the fringe, waiting to break through. His careful style helped him avoid any mistakes on the way to a clean run and the win.
“This is the first competition I’ve won so I’m really, really excited about it,” says Emmons.
Rounding out the top five finishers were Bill Dixon from Florida in second, “Drastic” Dan Farris also from Florida in third, reigning champ “El Conquistador” Alex Flores from California in fourth and Rick Hart, also from California in fifth.
With his fourth place finish, Flores takes over the points lead, Emmons moves to second and Brocha slips to third. The winner at each XDL event earns 45 points, while a 15th place finish only garners three points, which means the championship is still wide open and everyone down to the 11th-place Andy Niles still has a shot at the title in November. XDL also allows riders to drop their lowest score of the season, further giving those that do well late in the season a chance to come back.
Though happy to be in the lead, Flores wasn’t entirely satisfied with his performance saying: “I think I could’ve done a cleaner job. I’m going go home and train hard for Pomona, hit the gym and ride all I can.”
After long-time domination by Brocha and his “Vegas Strip”, Sickest Trick finally saw a new winner in Emmons’ “endo into an-on-the-wall burnout”, a new trick that took him a year to learn. Emmons says the logic behind the new trick was that “everyone loves endos and burnouts, so I just combined them”. Brocha retired the aforementioned “Vegas Strip” for SPEED TV and you’ll be able to see that moment, along with the rest of the competition in October on Tuesday nights at 10:30pm and 1:30am EST on “Hot Import Nights: The Series”.
Andy Niles establish himself as the circle king, taking his second Circle Challenge win in a row by getting to 10 rotations faster than anyone else.
“It was a hot day, but it went real good. I won,” says Niles. “I’m real happy. I got some gas money in my pocket. With Individual Freestyle I didn’t do so well so I’d like to get back in the top five.”
The Tandem class had a solid field and in a tight battle, Bill Dixon and girlfriend Destiny beat out the competition.
“Every time we come out for tandem, there’s a lot of good teams out there and they’re doing new stuff every time,” says Dixon. “With tandem, there’s no end to it. You can do so many tricks and make it look so good. It’s always a toss-up who’s gonna win.”
The highlight of the competition came at the very end of the day when Freestyle Burnout saw drift king Jesse Toler do a full lap burnout in third gear on the .6 mile Music City Motorplex oval. The trick left people cheering in amazement and Toler admits the whole thing was a spontaneous decision, which makes the feat all the more incredible.
“It is always fun to show people that cars aren’t the only machines that can drift. I started (my run) with some basic stuff. Everybody was cheering me on, I looked back and noticed I was smoking pretty good,” says Toler. “I had just put a brand new tire on my bike. It was the first time it had ever touched the pavement, so I knew I had some rubber back there, so I just hoped I wouldn’t get in trouble and went for it.”
Despite the heat and humidity, Nashville once again showed the emerging professionalism of sportbike freestyle and provided the fans with a spectacular show. Pomona, CA on will offer more of the same Aug. 9 when the field tries to hunt down Alex Flores who predicted he will earn first win of the season.
“I’m gonna win it,” says Flores about Pomona. “Watch out, the Conquistador is coming for you.”
For complete results, points standings, schedules and more information on the Pomona event and the series, please visit XDLshow.com.