By Keleigh Acosta |Staff Writer|
A recent motorcycle crash left professional Supercross rider Blake Baggett with head trauma and memory loss.
Baggett, 19, rider for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, was doing his daily training at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino during the fi rst week of March when his day took a turn for the worse.
The San Bernardino native was getting ready for the Daytona Supercross race which was scheduled fi ve days after the accident.
After riding four laps at the practice track, Baggett was thrown head first into a dirt wall after his front tire struck a large rock.
“I was coming around a right hand corner, and inside the rut there was a rock,” said Baggett.
“As I was exiting the corner the rock popped my front wheel up causing me to lose control of the front end and tossing me into the face of the jump,” he continued.
Baggett was rushed to Redlands Hospital by his mother Leann Baggett.
“My biggest concern was making sure there was no bleeding in his head and no broken bones,” said his mother. “In this sport it is better to be on the safe side and know the facts. I focused on keeping him calm and answering his questions to help his thinking catch pace.”
A major concussion left Baggett unaware of where he was, how he crashed, along with the names and faces of those closest to him.
“I started to remember little things on the drive home from the hospital,” said Baggett. “I knew my balance was off and my depth perception was also pretty bad.”
Doctors released Baggett with strict instructions to rest up and let his body and brain recover.
“I didn’t remember anything from the second the crash happened until leaving the hospital. Bits and pieces would come and go throughout the next few days. I still don’t remember anything after the crash. I’m able to put it together, but only from what everyone has told me.”
After numerous tests, CAT Scans, and plenty of rest, Baggett slowly regained his memory.
Thursday morning, three days after the crash, Baggett was instructed to test his ability and see if he was ready to get on the bike.
Baggett is a member of the most prestigious team in the sport. He has been on the team for less than a year and is second place in points for the 2011 Supercross Lites championship, thus making the Daytona race a big deal to rider and team.
After observing Baggett’s test ride, team owner Mitch Peyton informed Baggett that regardless of his previous injuries, he would be racing in Daytona.
“The crash was obviously unexpected. It definitely threw my mental thinking off. I was off schedule and I was not on my normal routine. I didn’t know how I was going to feel the next time I rode,” said Baggett.
On race day, Baggett managed to keep his routine consistent. He mentally calmed himself by watching his breathing, following his daily nutrition plan and focusing on his strengths.
“All I kept telling myself was that I rode strong on Thursday. No questions asked, you rode good Thursday, you can do it again,” said Baggett. “But I was definitely nervous.”
Most riders agree the Daytona track is not only physically demanding but exceptionally dangerous.
“It’s definitely the scariest track out of all the supercross and motocross circuits to me,” said Baggett.
“It’s so physically challenging because it has beach sand, clay, grass, and regular dirt. It’s not just plain dirt like we are used to. All those elements combined make it hard to adjust our bike setup.”
Due to his previous injuries Baggett’s team and family prayed he rode smart and not only focused on winning, but kept his mind on safety.
“I can’t sit still when he races,” said sister, Bayley Baggett. “I worry about him, but his crash is the past, race time is positive thinking time.”
Once again, Baggett immediately took the lead. “I did get the holeshot, meaning I was up front fi rst. I rode some protective lines the first lap because Barcia, my main competition was on my tail,” said Baggett.
“The first lap he was breathing down my neck. I kept telling myself to ride smart.”
By mid-race, Baggett was able to pull away from Barcia and maintain a considerable gap ahead of him. He led the rest of the race with a fi fteen second lead.
“All that goes through my head is I want to win. I knew I had it, I just needed to focus on staying up. Two laps to go I was thinking, don’t throw it away you just led this whole race.”
As Baggett passed the checkered fl ag it took a moment to realize he had just won his first victory of the season.
“When I passed the fi nish line it didn’t sink in. I rode over to my mechanic and my family, and it fi nally started to set in when I saw all the team and fans cheering.”
“I would say the crash made me push harder. I had put in all the training in the weeks before, and I knew I had a good opportunity to win Daytona. I couldn’t let a crash get in the way of me winning. “
Baggett plans to start his next week of training with the mind-set that getting hurt is not an option.
“My expectations are high for the next race. There is no reason I can’t win. I want to carry over confi dence from Daytona and race smart.”
After an amazing, yet terrifying week, Baggett plans to lead his team to another victory at the next supercross race in Indiana.