DAYTONA BEACH — Daytona International Speedway is holding more than a race Saturday night. It promises to be a super motorcycle celebration.
The 50th Daytona Supercross, held in the grassy, tri-oval area, will get Bike Week 2020 off to a roaring start. The opening ceremonies are set for 7 p.m. with racing for 250cc and 450cc machines at 7:30 p.m.
Roaming the Speedway grounds are several past Daytona SX champions, including the winner of the 1971 inaugural, Gunnar Lindstrom, and record five-time winner Ricky Carmichael.
Carmichael’s last victory was in 2006, but he has stayed active in the sport as a broadcaster, course designer and promoter.
Once the professional riders are finished Saturday night, Carmichael will hold amateur Supercross, run Sunday and Monday on the same course, which he designed.
This course has several interesting features including a beach sand area, a twin tunnel jump, a pit wall jump and of course the signature big jump at the finish line.
“There are different elements (to this course),” said Carmichael. “We have some iconic stuff coming back for this event, including a wall jump, back in the day when they’d jump over the pit road wall.”
“It took me more than a month to design it. Heck, we started looking at it last year after the Supercross was finished.”
Eli Tomac has won three of the last four Daytona Supercross races as he chases Carmichael in the Daytona record book.
LOOK BACK: 2019 Daytona Supercross gallery
There are two riders sandwiched between Carmichael’s five triumphs and Tomac’s three. Jeff Stanton and Ryan Villopoto each scored four Daytona wins during their careers. Stanton scored his consecutively from 1989-92.
And Tomac won’t be the only three-time winner in the field. Chad Reed, who will be making his farewell start at Daytona, has three victories. He scored his last Daytona Supercross victory in 2009.
Daytona could provide a springboard to the AMA Supercross Championship.
Ken Roczen pulled the hole-shot and smoked the field in Atlanta for his third win of the season and 14th of his career.
The victory moved him into a tie for the points lead with Tomac going into the Daytona round, where both riders will wear the red plate. Each rider has 200 points.
“I have never come to Daytona with the red plate before, so I’m looking forward to doing my best,” Tomac said. “We’ve always had a good run here. This is a place I really enjoy racing.”
Roczen said there is a lot of racing left on the schedule, so he is looking at Daytona as just another race.
“Having said that, Daytona for me personally has always been one of my favorite races,” he said. “I haven’t managed to get a win here yet and I’m looking forward to getting that done.
“Eli is always good here; he and a bunch of other riders. I’m going to put in some extra focus here and hopefully get it done here.”
A handful of riders got to take a few laps over part of Carmichael’s course during a media day Friday afternoon.
It may be a bit different from recent courses, but as Tomac says, it’s still Daytona.
“This course is more open than we’ve had in the past,” Tomac said of this year’s layout. “Either way, it’s going be the broken-down surface we get here at Daytona. That’s the main thing here; being able to adapt to the changing surface.
“When the night comes and the surface breaks down, it becomes more of a motocross race.”
When Lindstrom won the inaugural aboard a Husqvarna in 1971, the course was over near Turn 3 of the tri-oval.
“When we did this, it was in its infancy,” he said. “The Speedway was much different. We were all out there on the grass. We had a great time.”
Lindstrom was 27 when he captured Daytona’s first Supercross flag.
“They hadn’t even come up with that word (Supercross) yet,” he said. “It was invented later in the year when they had a ‘Super Bowl of motocross’ in Los Angeles.”
Lindstrom is amazed how the sport has changed over the last five decades.
“It’s unreal,” he said. “To see the jumps they make and the suspensions these bikes have is unbelievable. It’s great fun to see.”