Andrew Short never stopped believing.
In 11 years of racing, the 29-year-old Colorado Springs, Colo., native had never won a premier division race in the AMA Supercross Series, which returns to Salt Lake City on Saturday for its annual stop at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
Until last week in Seattle, that is.
The popular Short, in just his second race back after a dislocated shoulder kept him out of seven events, led from wire to wire in front of 52,731 fans at CenturyLink Field to win for the first time since moving up to the “big bikes,” the Supercross Class, in 2007.
“It was a lifelong dream of mine to win a major race, and to accomplish that was something I will never forget,” Short told The Salt Lake Tribune earlier this week.
“There were times when I wondered if it would ever happen, but I never stopped believing in myself and my team.”
In a sport dominated by big names such as 2011 series champion Ryan Villopoto, 2010 champion Ryan Dungey and veterans Chad Reed and James Stewart, Short’s victory was seen as a surprise, and the current resident of Smithville, Texas, says there is no reason to believe he can’t duplicate the feat in Utah this weekend.
“It was really unexpected, but that made it really sweet because I have been so close to winning a race the past few years,” Short said. “But this year, I have had a lot of struggles and I haven’t even been close to the podium, and then to have things turn around like they did in Seattle was really cool. I have been trying to win a race for a long time and for a lot of years, and that drought made me really appreciate it and enjoy it for what it was.”
Before Seattle, Short’s last podium finish came in 2010 at Rice-Eccles. He placed fourth behind winner Kevin Windham despite some of the worst conditions imaginable, as snow and rain made the track a muddy, slippery mess. Villopoto won here last year, and also in 2009.
“Yeah, I love Salt Lake,” Short said. “I grew up in Colorado, so I really love the altitude, and the surroundings, and the city. It reminds me of where I grew up, and it is really difficult with the bikes because the altitude takes away some of the power.”
Short said because the stadium is 4,657 feet above sea level, the Salt Lake City race is harder physically on the riders than any other race on the 17-stop circuit.
“I always seem to excel because the conditions are what I grew up with as a kid. It reminds me of home and it makes me happy, and I think it is a great place. I really like the city, and you combine all those factors, it is a race I have always enjoyed and done well in,” he said.
Villopoto has already clinched the series championship this year, but is coming off a mishap at Seattle that Short humbly says enabled him to get his breakthrough win. Villopoto went down on the first lap, suffering an apparent leg injury, shortly after Short earned the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot Award for being the first rider out of the gate.
“I don’t know if I can put a finger on it, but the start was good, and then Ryan went down on the first lap, which really helped,” Short said. “But also the track conditions were very difficult with the ruts and that made it hard to pass for the other riders. The combination of everything just went in my favor. It was something I have never been able to quite capture and so it was really cool to have it all kind of come together and finally win a race.”
Short injured his shoulder in the eighth race of the season, at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. He said having to watch those seven races helped him appreciate the sport he’s participated in since he was 5 years old even more.
“Having fun and loving the sport got me to where I am today,” he said. “I love motorcycles, and I love what the sport is all about. It is really family-oriented. I spent a lot of time with my mom and dad at the tracks, and driving to and from races. It is a great outdoor activity and especially in Utah, you guys have a lot of great places to go experience motorcycles, and that’s a great thing.”
Utah’s AMA Supercross Race
When • Saturday, 7 p.m.
Where • Rice-Eccles Stadium
Who • World’s top supercross riders, including 2011 champion Ryan Villopoto and last week’s winner, Andrew Short
Tickets • Purchase online at www.utahtickets.com or charge by phone (801-581-UTIX)