BEST OF JODY’S BOX: THE EXPERTS YOU MEET WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT

BY JODY  WEISEL

I was working on my bike in the pits before the second moto when a guy came up and leaned on the seat of my bike and said, “Hi, my name is Steve Nitski. I’m vacationing in Southern California, and I came here to show you West Coast guys how to ride. Me and my mechanic are staying over by Disney World.”

“Disneyland,” I corrected as I shooed his arms off my bike.

“Yeah. Doug Dubach told me to come out and race at this track when I got to SoCal.”

“So you’re a friend of Doug’s?”

“I’ve known Doug since he was Ken Bradshaw’s teammate at Team Yamaha.”

“Damon,” I said.

“Yeah, I used to weld pipes for Doug in his shop in Temecula.”

“Corona,” I said.

“How come nobody is jumping those triples over there?”

“Because they are so far apart they have their own zip codes,” I said.

“Eli Tomac showed me a trick for clearing jumps like that with no problem,” he said confidently.

“That’s strange, because Eli was testing here last week and he didn’t jump them,” I said.

“Yeah,” said the guy. “That’s part of the trick. You never show all your stuff in practice or testing. You save it for the race.”

“I MOVED TO THE OTHER SIDE OF MY BIKE AND SCOOTED HIM AWAY, HOPING THAT HE WOULD GO BOTHER SOMEBODY ELSE.”

I moved to the other side of my bike and scooted him away, hoping that he would go bother somebody else. As I stuck three fingers under my chain to see how tight it was, he said, “You better tighten that. Cooper Webb’s KTM mechanic Carlos Santana showed me a simple way to check the tightness.”

“Rivera,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said as I put a wrench in the sprocket before retightening the axle bolt. “I want to see all the famous tracks I heard about on this trip. I’m going to go to Paris next weekend…”

“Perris,” I corrected.

“Then drive over to New Mexico to see Carlsbad.”

“Carlsbad’s in California.”

“And then Bob Hannah invited me up to his place in Sun Valley, Iowa, to go flying with him.”

“Idaho,” I said almost automatically.

“Hey,” he said with alarm. “Your left grip is ripped. I’d fire my mechanic if he set my bike up so shoddily.”

“I need the job,” I said jokingly.

“I could do a port job on your bike’s head for you that would make this thing rip,” he offered. “You know, I ported Barcia’s CRF450 last year.”

“Justin rode a YZ450F last year.”

“Yeah, he was so impressed with my work that he wants to send me to the factory in Japan this winter.”

“So do I,” I replied.

“While I’m in SoCal, I’m going to go over to Yamaha and see about getting a support ride for 2020. From riding the 450 Nationals last year, I have a close relationship with team manager Keith McCarthy,” he said.

“McCarty,” I said as I pulled my helmet on and climbed on board my bike. “If you’re in the Vet race, you better get to the line,” I yelled as I rode away.

As I pulled up behind the gate, I knew one thing and one thing alone—when that blowhard Steve Nitski showed up, I was going to blow his doors off. Unfortunately, that idiot friend of mine Jimmy Mac chopped me off in the first turn and knocked me down. By the time I got going, I could only struggle to an inglorious—but valiant—17th place. I never saw Nitski. Once I got back in the pits, I went over to the sign-up board to see what place Steve Nitski got. Surprise, he wasn’t signed up. Finally, I found his name. He was in race five, 250 Beginner.

I admit that I wanted to give him a piece of my mind, but just then Jimmy Mac came running up to me. “Jody,” said Jimmy, “you’re not gonna believe it, but the guy who ported Justin Barcia’s YZ450F head is going to do mine for free. Can I borrow some tools to get my engine apart to give my cylinder head to him?”

“Sure you can,” I said. “Let me get them for you.”

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