Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Blake Baggett made a strong surge through the field at Saturday’s ninth-round AMA/ FIM World Supercross at Atlanta to score fifth position in front of 53,537 fans in the Georgia Dome.
Baggett’s solid finish followed up an eighth the week before and another night of consistency for him, marking his seventh consecutive top-10 finish and his second best result of the season. Baggett was also the top-finishing rookie on the night.
He started the day in Atlanta by finishing 11th in timed qualifying: “I was focusing on bike set-up in practice,” Baggett explained. “It was definitely slippery in a few sections so the start is going to be key. We watched some film and we made a few little changes getting ready for the Heat race.”
From there he was able to qualify directly into the Main by finishing fourth in his Heat.
The Main event started with some difficulty, as Baggett was bottlenecked at the start. He emerged running 10th on the first lap, but that simply cleared the way for the best charge of the night among the top-10 finishers. He used the celebrated agility of his RM-Z450 to work his way through the field, climbing all the way to fifth by the end of the 20-lap final.
“I just kept it steady,” Baggett said of his strategy at Atlanta II. “The track was super technical tonight and it got really slippery. The rocks started to come up, so it made it really tricky to get in and out of the turns without washing out the front wheel. I just stayed out of trouble.”
Baggett admitted the early going could have been a little tidier, but he was happy with how he rallied to finish strong. “It was not the cleanest night on the first few laps, but I came away with a fifth and I’ll take it. I’m looking forward to playing in the sand next week in Daytona.”
Brandon Anderson, Baggett’s mechanic has also been a key part of helping him make a smooth transition to the 450 class.
“I think what some people don’t realise is that half the battle this year is being consistent and staying on two wheels,” Anderson said. “That’s what Blake’s been doing. He’s only had one crash where it took him out of contention. I’m pretty pumped and happy with how he’s been riding. You don’t expect a lot from someone in their rookie year, but I think Blake’s been doing really good.”
Baggett now turns his attention to the grueling Daytona Supercross, a race he won two times in the 250 East class. You can almost always expect the unexpected at Daytona and Baggett is hoping to carry his skills from the 250s on the track over to the big class next weekend.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart was also on hand to sign autographs for the fans in Atlanta. He spoke about the difficulty of watching from the sidelines and his anticipation at returning to racing.
“I’ve been missing racing,” Stewart said. “I’m looking forward to doing a little outdoor testing, helping the team in any way I can and waiting for the go ahead to return. Besides being able to hang out with some of the fans, it sucks not being able to ride, but I’ll be back. In the meantime I’m wishing Blake and the whole Yoshimura Suzuki team good luck.”
Baggett will take that momentum with him to Daytona International Speedway next Saturday for round 10 of the AMA/ FIM World Supercross Series, a track where he’s twice won.
Atlanta II 450 Supercross Results: 1. Ryan Dungey (KTM), 2. Eli Tomac (Honda), 3. Trey Canard (Honda), 4. Broc Tickle (RCH Suzuki), 5. Blake Baggett (Yoshimura Suzuki), 6. Josh Grant (Kawasaki), 7. Chad Reed (Kawasaki), 8. Ken Roczen (RCH Suzuki), 9. Jason Anderson (Husqvarna), 10. Weston Peick (Yamaha).