Gary Bailey Trackside - Analysis of Stewart's Daytona Crash
by The "Professor" Gary Bailey
Well, this week I have heard it all about why James Stewart crashed during the Daytona SX. Some have said Stewart was riding over his head. Another theory is that he was on his arches and that if he were on the balls of his feet he would not have crashed. I don’t think Stewart was riding over his head or out of control. And, I think his position in or out of his arches is irrelevant to the crash as well.
The simple fact is, Stewart is sometimes in a league of his own. Stewart has gone to a level of riding that most don’t know and aren’t even willing to try. Whether you are a Stewart fan or not, you cannot watch Stewart without being amazed at how he is always finding unique ways to finesse the track to go faster.
Stewart was doing just that at Daytona, finessing the track to gain speed. Stewart was doing a small wheelie onto the face of the takeoff ramp, so he could get a little more compression and rebound to clear the center jump and land on the back side of the third one.
When you do this, it is very important you set the front wheel on the face of the jump, about a foot or two from the top. The front wheel touching the top of the jump helps get more lift and keeps the front end a little higher as you leave the jump.
To understand, picture this. It’s a little like going over a log. If the front wheel touches the log, it helps keep the front wheel up. But, if the front wheel does not touch the log, then when the rear wheel hits, it throws the front end down and this makes the rear of the bike come up.
Now that you understand the strategy, here is where it went wrong for Stewart at Daytona (in my opinion). As James came out of the turn, he got a little too much traction (a small miscalculation). As a result, the front wheel came up too high and missed the top of the jump. This may have been okay if the takeoff jump were smoother or flatter. But because the jumps at Daytona seem to get ruts and a little cupped, it causes a kicker, so it was not smooth or flat enough to allow Stewart to get by with this small miscalculation.
So Stewart was not over his head or out of control, he knew exactly what he was trying to do in using the compression and rebound to land further on the backside of the third jump. He just got a little too much traction and at that speed a little mistake can be costly.
You cannot go as fast as Stewart does without commitment on a level that most of us are too scared to even think about. At least Stewart has the confidence to try to get every ounce he can out of the bike and the track. If you ask me that level of commitment takes courage when Stewart is smart enough to know that at his speed even a small miscalculation can put him on the ground. If you question Stewart’s level of commitment, why did no other rider even try that hop over that big wall he was jumping at Daytona?
Here is a wide look at the triple jump Stewart had the crash on.
photo: Gary Bailey
In this photo James is doing the jump early in the day when they where doing double, single. At this time it is not important to do a loft or a wheelie onto the face.
photo: Gary Bailey
At this speed and only doubling, it’s easy to keep the bike flat just by having the right body position.
photo: Gary Bailey
Here is a clip from the big screen showing two different angles. Watch both and you will see the front is too high and misses the jump, so the front end cannot get rebound to keep the front light. As Paul Harvey would say, AND THAT’S THE REST OF THE STORY.
It's really interesting to listen to Emig at the very end of the Speed broadcast clip. He reiterates exactly what Gary is talking about - Virtual Trainer
Thank you for checking out this article. Other similar articles can be found in the archive section. I hope all of my articles help you become a better, safer rider no matter what your skill level. Because I am in semi retirement after 43-years teaching full-time, I only do private one-on-one coaching or with a small group of riders. Most of my time is spent in Virginia, however, if you are on the west coast I do spend some of the winter months in California visiting my kids and grandkids. If you are interested in scheduling a coaching session shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to my website. You can come to the mountain or the mountain will come to you!
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