Chad Reed is set to break one of the most impressive records in motorsports, but it's not the mark he wants most.
The Dade City resident and native Australian has started 227 main events in the Monster Energy Supercross 450 cc series, tying former rider Mike Larocco for the career record. And in Saturday's event at Raymond James Stadium, Reed will break the record if he qualifies out of the heat race.
"Larocco has one record that I want," Reed said last week, before he tied the record at a race in Arlington, Texas. "He is the oldest winner of a race. That record is what is important to me. This one (for most starts) is a record that was always going to happen, I just love racing. But man, I want to win another race so I could be the oldest winner. So that's my goal, to get 100 percent healthy and then come out swinging and be the oldest guy to win a Supercross race."
Reed's most recent victory came at Atlanta in 2015 at age 32. Larocco won in 2004 in Indianapolis at 33. To show what a young man's sport Supercross is, only four riders have ever earned victories after age 30, according to racerxonline.com.
But Reed, who turns 36 on March 15 and is the oldest rider in the series, says the thought of setting the mark for most series starts does bring him satisfaction.
"I just love it," Reed said of racing, which he has done since age 12 in Australia. "It gets the adrenaline, the blood, it gets everything pumping for me. … I don't plan that this is my last year so I feel like the number is going to be a big number. I'm going to set the bar high."
Reed remembers watching Larocco — "on DVD, or actually on VCR tapes," he said with a laugh — and later competed against him.
Now Reed gets a chance to break Larocco's record at his home race, not far from his Dade City residence. It's all the sweeter because the series has not held an event in Tampa since 1999, so even a long-tenured rider like Reed has not raced here.
"You could not have wrote it any more perfect if you tried," he said of breaking the record in Tampa. "I have a lot of friends and all my family there."
As for setting up shop in Pasco County, where he has plenty of room to ride and for his wife and their three children, Reed said it just felt natural.
"I grew up in a small town, way smaller than Dade City," Reed said. "It just has a homey feel, it's just a nice, small town. I have property where I can do training and riding. My three kids go to school."
Reed broke his ankle last year and hadn't raced since May, and he has struggled to find top form. His best finish this season on his new No. 22 Husqvarna bike was 13th in San Diego on Feb. 10. The two-time series champion holds 44 victories on 450 cc bikes, fourth all-time.
But the pain — both recovering from injury and from his unaccustomed struggle to be competitive so far this season — will all be worth it as his record stands testimony to Chad Reed's love for the sport and his endurance.
"I feel really good about where we're at and what I've been able to achieve this year on so little training and bike time," he said. "I didn't always show up 100 percent but I showed up and gave it my 100 percent. I think that that was always key."