Local motorcyclist C.J. Weaver, shed his rookie title and began his first season as a veteran racer March 14, racing in the American Motorcyclist Association Pro Series season opener in Florida.
Despite some early-race issues, the talented young racer showed that he belongs in the upper echelon of competitors with a second-place finish at the Daytona International Speedway.
After qualifying in 13th place March 14, Weaver was unable to improve his position in the March 15 qualifier due to high winds and cold temperatures. After witnessing several crashes and slower qualifying times being posted, Weaver and his team, comprised of his father, mother and sister, decided not to race in the second qualifier.
Later that day, Weaver, set for his first race of the season, ran into mechanical problems before the race started. The bolt on the top of the triple trees had worked itself loose, said Jeff Weaver, C.J.’s father. Unfortunately, the repairs took too long, according to an AMA official, and C.J. Weaver was forced to start in 59th, last place, rather than 13th.
Starting from the back, Weaver wasted no time moving through the field and into 25th by turn one. Through the next three laps, C.J. worked his way through more riders, putting him into 20th, but heading into a turn, C.J. shifted into a false neutral, forcing him to go wide. Once back on the track, C.J. had a tough time shifting due to a missing toe pierce on the shift lever. C.J. is forced to pit and did not finish for the first time in his career. The silver lining in the race was that C.J. recorded the fastest trap speed, 179.8 mph.
On the final day, C.J.’s practice run hit an early snag, but he was able to overcome and place second, leading into the 10 a.m. race that was set to follow. After taking a corner too fast during the practice run and fishtailing in the grass before hitting some hay bails, C.J. and his crew frantically inspected the bike. After a quick overview of the bike, to which there was no damage, C.J. was back on the course, moving from 15th, to sixth and finally into first. A later racer posted a better time in the morning practice by .01 seconds.
When the green flag fell for the race, Weaver was off to another strong start, quickly moving into 10th place. Heading into turn 15, where C.J. had his problem earlier that day, a racer in front of him crashed, and another five racers fell right behind him. Red flags stopped the race, and riders headed into the pits. When the flag dropped again after the track had been cleaned up, Weaver slid into 11th place and eventually into sixth place with five laps to go.
With two laps to go, C.J. passed five more riders, slotting himself in second place. As the white flag waved signaling the final lap, C.J. was still battling at the front. A racer passed C.J. for second, but C.J. got a draft in the final sprint to pull ahead and place second overall.
The trip to the podium was C.J.’s first of his professional career, a feat that puts him among the best racers in the nation.