Sports

February 13, 2014

Texas Supercross rider a race favorite in his favorite place

Texan Blake Wharton enters the East Lites Series opener in Arlington as one of the favorites.

Motocross rider Blake Wharton has come home to Texas, but not for the reason many people come home to Texas.

“I like cold weather,” he said.

Texas can at least offer that. California, where he has trained the past five seasons, rarely does.

Combined with shorter flights and a chance to be around family and home-cooked meals, the home-state change of seasons made Pilot Point the ideal place for him to live as he begins his sixth season in AMA Supercross, starting Saturday night at AT&T Stadium.

“I’m a Texan. I was born in Houston. I’ve won in Houston. I’ve been second in Dallas,” he said. “So any time I’m here, I like it. It’s always nice to go and come back, because it always makes you open your eyes and go, wow, I’m in Texas again.

“I’ve done well here. I’d like to carry that zen or whatever you call it, keep it going.”

Wharton enters the East Lites Series schedule as one of the most experienced riders, and so as one of the favorites.

He is back with the team, Geico Honda, that signed him as a rookie. And he has potentially his best mix of talent, health, experience and equipment.

“I’d like to think I’m a favorite,” he said. “I’m a favorite in my mind. That’s all that matters, right?”

The door is open for Wharton because the defending series champion is out with a knee injury suffered in December. Wharton, sidelined by shoulder injuries three years ago, said health matters, along with being able to improve technically each season.

“As racers, we want to continue to improve, no matter what,” he said. “We want to feel it. If we don’t, we feel like we’re stagnant. Last year, I definitely had to take a step back, look at some things. Maybe it’s the sixth year that it takes. It takes all those years of experience to figure out what you’re doing. No worries or complaints right now. I’m healthy. I’m ready.”

The East Lites schedule has eight races for the 250cc class motorcycles.

The premier series, for 450cc bikes, is led by three-time defending series champion Ryan Villopoto. Arlington is the seventh stop in the 17-race series, which ends on May 3 in Las Vegas.

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