Rider Spotlight: Chris Clark

NEWS April 12, 2012

Rider Spotlight: Chris Clark

Photo by Brian J. Nelson

AMAP: Where are you from?
CC: I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada. Born and raised here my whole life. My family has been here since the 1930s. My grandfather started up a beverage company when they first got here. He and a partner were the distributors for all the alcohol in Southern Nevada. From there, it broke off and went exclusive Anheuser-Busch. We cover most of Southern Nevada, which is a pretty big portion. We also had a car dealership for 70 years and motorcycle dealership, which both just recently closed down.

AMAP: How did you get into riding motorcycles? Was it something you do with your family, or is it all you?
CC: As a kid, I didn’t really have an interest in racing. It was actually my brother who was into racing. When we were 10 and 11, we got into bandolero racing. From there, we moved into go-karts and junior drag cars. It wasn’t until I was 15 that I got into motorcycle riding. My brother wasn’t that into it, but I’ve been doing it since.

AMAP: You’re the 2008 Horizon Award winner. Tell us about your progression through the road racing ranks through the years.
CC: My first year racing was 2007. I won the 2008 AMA Horizon Award, and in 2009, I rode for Pat Clark and Bazzaz Performance and had Ben Bostrom as my teammate in 2010. 2011 was the first year with the Y.E.S./Graves/Yamaha team. This year, I’m riding for Yoshimura Suzuki with Blake Young as my teammate.

AMAP: You’ve been on a SuperBike for quite a while. Do you think there’s a big learning curve riding in AMA Pro National Guard SuperBike?
CC: Well, all the top guys are in SuperBike. You never have a day off for anything because they’re always on it. I think it’s tough, but great at the same time because your learning curve is much steeper running with them, because you’re learning from them. It’s a bit of a struggle, as you kind of get thrown off into the deep end, but I’ve always enjoyed the 1000cc bikes more than the 600cc bikes. The sport’s really fun, and I’m always learning from the other riders.

AMAP: In previous seasons, you’ve campaigned on the Yamaha YZF-R1, and now made the switch to Yoshimura Suzuki and their GSX-R1000. At Daytona, you finished in 7th place.
CC: I wasn’t sure what to expect going from the Yamaha to the Suzuki. They are quite different, but I was surprised how well I adapted to the Suzuki. The first time I rode it was at the Dunlop Tire test at Daytona last season. I ended up going one second faster than I’ve ever gone there first time on the bike. I was really amazed how quickly I could pick up speed. We tested at Chuckwalla, and the Suzuki’s a great bike. I was a little disappointed with my finish at Daytona, but I was a little nervous and over rode it a little bit. On Saturday (Race Two), I was a little more relaxed. When we tested at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and we weren’t too far off from the front runners. I’m excited to head to Road Atlanta and keep the momentum moving forward.

AMAP: Our next round is at Road Atlanta for the Triumph Big Kahuna Atlanta. Is that a track that you would say you’re excited to head back to?
CC:  It never used to be one of my favorites, but I think just going back there so many times, we’re becoming friends. I’m looking forward to heading back. In 2010, I rode for a an endurance team, and one of the races was at Road Atlanta. I got some good track time and felt pretty comfortable with it. It is also the first track that I got a top-ten finish at in AMA Pro SuperBike. Hopefully I can break into the top-fives this year.

AMAP: Last season, Josh Hayes was your teammate .. What’s it like having Blake Young as your teammate this year?
CC: They’re definitely two different characters. I think that one of the biggest advantages this year that I have over last year is that, I didn’t quite have the same bike as Josh, whereas this year, Blake and I have identical bikes. Just by looking at the data, it’s a lot more relevant. Any changes that Blake makes are more relevant to me. The whole package is more comfortable. I need to ride well!

AMAP: Out of all the racetracks that you’ve ridden, what would you say is your favorite?
CC: It would definitely have to be Miller Motorsports Park. Any track that is more European-styled, I like. I like New Jersey Motorsports Park, because it feels more like that style of track.

AMAP: Out of all the motorcycles that you’ve ridden, what would you say is your favorite?
CC: I was able to ride a few races in 2008 on a Suzuki GSX-R1000. After riding the Yamaha R1 for two years… the first year, I kept trying to make it feel like the Suzuki. Once I figured out the base settings that worked with the Yamaha, I was able to improve, which showed in 2010. But, I think that’s one of the reasons why I’m able to ride the Suzuki really well. When I was learning to ride a bike, I was one the GSXR-1000, so I felt more comfortable on it. The GSX-R is very fast, fun and easy to ride.

AMAP: What expectations are you setting for yourself in 2012 riding with Yoshimura Suzuki on a new bike?
CC: I really want to finish top-five in the championship. We’re only a few points from that right now. We need to go to Atlanta and put in a few good races and beat those guys that are ahead of us. I’d also like to get a podium this year too.

AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or speed?
CC: This sport’s a lot of fun. Once it stops becoming fun, and isn’t where I want to be, that’s when I’ll be done. Of course, I’ve always been competitive as a kid, and I hate getting beat. So, I think that drives me to do better, both on and off-track. It’s also an adrenaline rush.laughs.

AMAP: Who’s your racing hero?
CC: There’s quite a few.. I first started riding motorcycles in 2006, and that’s when Nicky Hayden was out there winning the MotoGP Championship. Colin Edwards has always been great to watch too. Then watching Ben Spies race was impressive. There are so many, so I couldn’t pick just one.

Click here to check out pictures of Chris from the 2012 AMA Pro Road Racing season

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