Take a couple steps backwards and look at this year’s season from a distance you should be able to see a shining spectacle like nothing we’ve ever seen before. It’s going to be on live television, there are going to be Hollywood actors, NASCAR superstars, stick and ball studs, and all manor of celebrities in attendance watching the boys go to work. They’ll all get to stand witness to the most incredible line-up of supercross riders the sport has ever produced. And as I glance over to the old weather website it looks like they’ll all get to watch them play in the mud. What? No rain delay? No jet driers or tarps to pull over the track? Hell no. Not in our sport. First there was motocross, then came Supercross, and if there are three words that have held true from the first drop of the gate until the fireworks explode into the Southern California sky this Saturday night, they ever so boldly shout, “Rain or Shine.” Think back to your first mud race. Close your eyes and remember what it was like laying awake in your motor home, trailer, or hotel room as you heard the rain pound relentlessly on the roof. Remember watching your Dad putting duct tape on your air box and throwing on the 990s.
Hey man, what makes writing this column so much fun is that 90 percent of you reading this know exactly what I’m talking about. There is a very, very slim chance that the track might miss the forecasted torrential downpour, but the tingle in my gut tells me those boys better be spraying WD-40 under those fenders and busting out the mudpaws. Regardless, the first round of the 2008 season is here. Let’s get it all the way up on the pipe in this joint and get Revved Up for Anaheim 1, baby!
It’s almost ridiculous how stacked this class is. I remember a time when there were maybe five guys that had a chance of winning or getting on the podium. No messing around, any one of the cats you see lining up for the main event this weekend have a chance to pull down victory if they bang a holeshot. There are some stand outs though…
With rain in the forecast I’m going to throw down and say that the wild man, #338, otterpop-eating, long haired, hessian aggression of Jason Lawrence stands a great chance of winning his first supercross main event. Broc Hepler is probably a safer bet on the Factory Yamaha, but J-Law would be a more popular win. Then again, you have to look at the mean green machines of Brett Metcalfe, Austin Stroupe, and Tommy Hahn. Hahn knows how to ride the mud and Stroupe, well, we don’t even know what that kid can do yet. All we know is he’s fearless and faster than hell. What about Ryan Dungey, Josh Grant, and the rest of the boys? If it’s muddy they all have the same chance. The only certainty is that these kids will be going for it in a big way!
Saturday night’s main event will mark the first time in 10 years that a gate will fall in the premiere class at A1 devoid of one Ricky Carmichael…save for the 2004 season where he took Supercross off to patch up a knee. We all know who won that year. How does that play into this weekend’s race, you may ask? Well, quite a bit in my opinion. I watched RC pretty much mentally dismantle every rider he faced from 65cc machines all the way to the Supercross championship. He just got into their head and wouldn’t leave. And (again in my opinion) he was in Chad Reed’s head. Well, he’s gone now and I believe we’ll see #22 riding with more confidence than ever. With mud on the horizon, he’ll need every ounce of confidence he can muster, because I’ve yet to see Speedy Reedy raise many eye brows in the mud. Who is a good mud rider among these boys?
One of my all-time favorite posters was the Fox Racing David Vuillemin poster of him winning in the mud at High Point. DV12 knows how to ride in the mud, ladies and gentlemen. His new teammate is no slouch either. Mikey Boy seems like an unlikely mud specialist, but I’ve said all along that he is one of, if not the smartest riders on the track. Smart riders are always good in the mud, especially smart riders with a penchant for holeshots like ole #800.
Then again, as we sit on the cusp of what has the making to be a mirror of the 2005 event, one cannot look past the winner of said mud bog. That being the “Ragin Cajun”, Kevin Windham. Kevin knows how to get it done in the muck and the memories of his last supercross victory have to be sitting pretty in the back of his head as he eyes the weather forecast.
Be that as it may, James Stewart is the most incredible mud rider I’ve ever seen. Remember his ride in Hangtown in 2003? Remember his win in San Francisco in 2006? He has more balance and sheer will power and determination than any rider on the track and he’ll be very hard to stop, rain or shine.
It’s all going down, folks. Motocross is the soul of our sport, but Supercross is the square jaw, chiseled abs, and bulging biceps on the body that has grown into a massive marketing warrior that is making big things happen for all of us. But, as much as it glitters and shines as it will this weekend, what makes it pure is that those boys will take those months of precision tuning and training and push priceless machines out into the soaking wet mud and ride them like wild animals. This weekend is going to be off the chain, guys. Rain or shine.