Supercross: Legendary trainer Aldon Baker prepares to shift focus

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In a typical year, riders put a lot of thought into the transition from supercross to motocross. This season is anything but typical. Everyone is still struggling to decide the best way to prepare for what essentially has been two off seasons.

Ralph Sheehen and Ricky Carmichael caught up with legendary trainer Aldon Baker to get his insight into the unique challenges faced in 2020. Baker is partially responsible for nearly 30 combined 450 supercross and motocross championships.

The full interview can be viewed by watching the video above.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 break, Baker was forced to shut down the riding part of his training.

Partly this was to keep the riders safe. A trip to the hospital for a broken bone might prove catastrophic. But also to keep from stressing a supply chain that stretched to Europe for the KTM and Husqvarna brands. At the time, Europe was the frontline in a shifting battle against the illness.

Usually, the plan is to peak one week before the supercross season begins and maintain that conditioning through May.

“We almost had to go back into a holiday period, but also not lose a certain amount of fitness and then figure out when are we actually going racing,” Baker told NBC Sports.

At the moment, riders are eight weeks away from a return to racing. If the latest schedule remains in place. Everyone who has been waiting through this break knows just how big that if can be. But there is plenty of time for Baker to put his plan into motion and execute it.

The riders are well-conditioned athletes who are doing a variety of things to stay in shape during the break. Physical conditioning will not be an issue.

Baker is much more concerned with their mindset once racing resumes.

“I want the guys to obviously be fresh mentally going into the racing,” Baker said. “Because now we are going to have a very limited offseason (between motocross and supercross) and then go back into it. As a trainer, I’ve got to look at each guy’s individual mentality and their experience. How are they going to cope with it and what are we going to do to still be ready to go racing and be in good fitness and good on the bike, but not be mentally fried by the time we get back to supercross.”

There could be hidden positives in the break. One of his riders, Marvin Musquin is recuperating from an injury during the offseason. Cooper Webb is 29 points out of first in the supercross standings and can use this time to reset for a seven-race charge on Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen once that series returns to action.

And then, there are the intangibles. Those silver linings everyone looks for around every dark cloud.

“We actually get a period now where we can work on the things that are tough to work on when you’re under the gun, like technique, not using rear brake or no clutch,” Baker said. “Stuff like that when you’re in the middle of the season and you’re trying to maintain and keep up intensity, that’s a little tough to do. So I’ve got to get creative about not only how I maintain a certain level, but get the guys mentally (focused) on riding.”

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Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.