AMA Arenacross Series Interview of the Week - Airide KTMs Daniel Blair
AURORA, Ill. (February 9, 2012) – Only three rounds remain in the 2012 AMA Arenacross Series, and this weekend the championship hits the west coast for the first of two rounds in the Pacific time zone. Fresno’s Save Mart Center will host the 10th stop of the season and one rider is eagerly awaiting his opportunity to return to his native state and race in front of the hometown crowd.
Airide KTM’s Daniel Blair has experienced up and down season in 2012, but last weekend he posted his best effort of the championship, finishing second in the Arenacross Lites Class Main Event. Blair has had the speed all season long, but for the first time the pieces all came together.
As a native of Lodi, Calif., Blair is a Central California resident, meaning the chance to compete is Fresno is a welcome one. He’ll look to take that next step on the podium on Saturday night and potentially grab his first AMA Arenacross Series victory.
Arenacross: Daniel, you’re coming off your best finish of the year last weekend. Talk about what it feels like to finally get onto the box after this much of the season.
Daniel Blair: It felt good. This season has been really hard for me. I came in pretty unprepared. I got my bike the week of Round 1 and my endurance wasn’t up to par coming into the season because of my injuries last year. So, it’s been an uphill battle all year. I’ve had a few potential podium rides, but just never seemed to put it together. Whatever nights I feel good, I get bad starts, and whatever nights I don’t feel good, I get good starts. It’s been kind of a pain.
I finally put it all together and got a good start and I felt good on the track. My conditioning is coming around. I’m glad I was finally able to get on the podium.
Arenacross: You’ve been fast enough, but the series is very deep in talent this season and things just didn’t pan out for you. Has it been just a matter of missing a few pieces of the puzzle?
DB: That’s it exactly. I’ve actually been the fastest qualifier in the Lites Class probably like four or five times this year. I’ve just never been able to put it together in the main event. Two of the weeks where I was the fastest guy, I ended up messing up in my heat race and had to start in the back row, and that pretty much takes you out of the running. It was just a combination of everything.
In Kentucky, I was the fastest qualifier. I had a good heat race, so I got a good front row spot. I got a good start in the main and ended up second. The only guy out there I didn’t beat was Kevin Johnson, who is riding awesome right now. Speed wise I think we’re the same, but his overall package is a little better than mine right now – his conditioning and his starts. I’m getting there, and I hope to get there this weekend in Fresno because it’s kind of my hometown race. I feel like it’d be a good opportunity to get my first win in the Lites Class this year.
Arenacross: This is a good time to get the momentum going heading into your hometown race. What does it mean to have everything sort of falling into place?
DB: Everything is coming together right at the right time, when I have two weeks at home. It definitely would mean a lot to me to get a win. I have a lot family and friends coming out, and like I said, it’s just perfect timing. Everything is starting to finally click. It’s been a tough year for me, but I hope to end it on a high note because I hope to do arenacross next year. If I could end this season on a high note and take the momentum into the offseason, it’ll just be a confidence booster for next year. Hopefully I can end with a win in Fresno and hopefully a couple wins in Reno.
Arenacross: How are things going in the Arenacross Class? We’ve have four different winners and really intense competition. How have you fared in the premier division?
DB: The season started out horribly. I think I made only two main events before the New Year. But since then, I think I’ve made almost every single one – actually every one but one. It’s been going ok. That class is so tough because everyone is going so fast. Like I said before, I came into the season unprepared. My bike came in the week the season started, so its bone stock and really underpowered, which has killed me off of the starts. My speed has been good in that class and I’ve been practicing inside the top 10 there as well, but out of the gate, it’s really hard to do anything. Even though I’ve been able to make the mains and ride smart to get in them, I haven’t even been able to have a front row start once this year. It’s just been like an uphill battle all year. I just want to get out of the season, get into the summer and prepare for next year.
Next year will be a whole other game. I’ll be coming off a full year off of injury and I’ll come in with a way better bike program. Just with a whole year of arenacross behind me and learning the ranks, things will be a lot different. I’m really looking forward to next season.
Arenacross: How have things been for your Airide KTM teammates Jake Locks and Brian Alquist? They are California natives as well.
DB: Jake’s been struggling. His speed has been good, especially the last few weeks, but he’s been making dumb mistakes. The problem that he’s having is that he’s so motivated to turn his season around that he’s been making impatient mistakes, and that’s been messing him up. For Brian, this has been probably the worst year ever for him. He actually separated his shoulder before round one and has basically been riding completely injured all year. He’s even had his shoulder pop out a couple times during the season. For him, it’s been an absolute nightmare. For all of us, it’s been a touch year. Things haven’t gone the way we thought they would coming into the season. But, things are coming around and things are going to be ok. I think we’ll be fine for next year. I hope both those guys will be able to finishing things well out at home the next couple weeks and move into the offseason more prepared for next year.
Arenacross: It sounds like this will be a welcome homecoming for the entire Airide team.
DB: We’re excited to be home. It’s been tough the road. We’ve been out there in a van with just our one bike each and just getting through it. Now, to come home and get to freshen up our stuff and sleep in our own beds, hopefully we’ll be able to get some good finishes.
Arenacross: Your one of the riders with a family that you have to spend a lot of time away from. How hard is it to be a professional arenacross rider and deal with being away from the ones you love?
DB: It’s really hard. I have to be honest with you, it’s a major distraction. My son is about two years old right now, and he’s at the stage where every day he says or does something new. To have to be gone and be on the road all the time, it’s hard. It makes things difficult. It’s just distracting pretty much. I want to be there and be focused, but I’ve got my wife calling me and telling me all the stuff he did that day and it sucks. I just feel relieved that I get to be home and he gets to come to the race. I also get to see my family. I blame my son a little bit, because he’s ruined my interest in traveling and racing, because I used to love. Now, I hate being gone more than a day and I blame him, 100 percent (laughs).
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