Last week before the rash of postponements and cancelations affected every facet of motorsports, NBC Sports caught up with Garrett Marchbanks to discuss his dramatic first victory in the Daytona Supercross race.
In racing, the thing that matters most is the last thing a racer does.
Win the last race before a break and he can stand tall for a couple of weeks. Win that last race of the season and he has bragging rights for the entire offseason.
“I just need to put my head down and ride every race like it was my last one,” Marchbanks told NBC Sports last week before the Covid-19 outbreak put the 2020 Supercross season on pause.
As it tuned out, his words were prophetic.
In his second professional season, Marchbanks had one podium finish in 13 races before Daytona. He wasn’t exactly on a lot of radar screens, but only one person has to believe in a rider’s ability to win – the rider himself.
“Before the heat race I felt good, and when I feel good it’s going to be a good night,” Marchbanks said. “I wasn’t really nervous that night, which was crazy because I’m usually a pretty nervous person on certain nights. I haven’t felt like that since I was an amateur rider two years ago.”
Despite having only one podium, Marchbanks has been getting close.
In the 250 East opener at Tampa, he finished fourth, only his third career top five. He added another the next week in the Triple Crown race in Arlington, Texas. The following week, he was seventh in Atlanta.
Most riders get their start on outdoor tracks. Marchbanks was no exception. And that familiarity proved to be important.
With its long straights, the course at Daytona is a hybrid. It is a transitional race that allows riders to bridge the gap between their amateur days and their profession.
“The week going into Daytona we ran some outdoors, some sand tracks on my SX bike, and I was feeling really good,” Marchbanks said. “We went into the day, I was around seventh my first practice. My first qualification, I qualified fifth. In the second qualification, I felt really good. My time wasn’t there with the top two guys, but personally I felt really comfortable.
“When I lined up on the gate for that heat race, something just clicked. When I was behind (Jeremy) Martin it was just natural to me. I got to the lead and after that I didn’t want to be that midpack guy anymore. I wanted to win really bad. Then, getting the holeshot in the Main event was awesome. Leading every lap. It was the best feeling ever.”
Notably, Marchbanks’ first podium came in another transitional race. Last year he finished second to Adam Cianciarulo on a sloppy, heavy track. A downpour leveled the playing field among the riders and gave Marchbanks an early taste of success in his fifth 250 start.
“Last year as a rookie I wasn’t very experienced with Supercross,” Marchbanks said. “I’ve always been a good outdoor rider, so the mud definitely was on my side. This year I have a way more experience in Supercross. Daytona was a little more outdoorsy track of course, but there were some difficult sections. My outdoor riding played into it.”
At the time of the coronavirus hold, Marchbanks is fourth in the standings, a point behind RJ Hampshire and nine points behind second-ranked Shane McElrath.
Marchbanks was 10th last year in the 250 West division as a rookie. Jalek Swoll currently holds that position, 37 points in arrears, so Marchbanks is headed toward a career high. No matter what, he has earned that elusive first win, and he has a while to relish it.