Racerhead #26

June 27, 2008 9:26am

Twenty-six Racerheads down, twenty-six to go. Kind of crazy to think that we’re already halfway through the year.

Before we get into Racerhead, I just want to apologize for the problems we had earlier this week with our website. I guess there were some "corruptions" within our server, but hopefully all of that is behind us. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

DC has been pretty busy working on a few big projects, so he's out of the Racerhead loop this week, but I think we have it handled.

First off, tomorrow night is a major milestone in the history of AMA motocross here in the U.S. as the first modern nighttime national is kicking off at Lakewood, Colorado’s Thunder Valley MX Park. We’ve been hearing nothing but positive feedback so far, including this from Promoter David Clabaugh and the NPG's John Ayers:

Get your free Racer X sticker at Thunder Valley

"Everything looks fantastic. Everyone has done their homework and they were out there till past midnight messing with the lights. Ryan Villopoto went out on the track with them and offered some suggestions, as well as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s team manager Mike Fisher, who said everything looked great and couldn't wait to see how night MX turns out."

If you’re not going to be able to make it out to Lakewood, don’t worry, we got you covered as Racer X and Toyota will be presenting the telecast of the first set of motos as well as the WMA moto LIVE on Motocross.com, beginning at 6:00 p.m. Mountain Time (8 back East and 5 on the West Coast). It’s free to watch; you just need to sign up over at www.live.motocross.com, and when you do, we will also hook you up with a free digital edition of the August ’08 issue of Racer X Illustrated.

After that, make sure you turn on the SPEED channel, as the second motos will be broadcast live, starting around 11:30 p.m. Eastern! Man, it’s going to be a great weekend for motocross. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

The Musco Lights are ready for action

photo: Ryan Holliday

We’ll also be back with the Racer X Motocross Show on Motocross.com Presented by Toyota Trucks, where Colorado native Paul Lindsey will be joining the fray!

With this weekend’s night race causing some concerns among riders in regards to the lighting, Road Racer X’s CJ pitched in with this road race perspective:

Back in March, MotoGP kicked off its 2008 season with the first-ever nighttime Grand Prix, in Qatar. There was a lot of skepticism about how good the visibility would be, and for good reason—these guys race at 200 mph, and with no less than 3.36 miles of circuit to light up, it wasn’t unreasonable to expect that there might be some problems.

In the end, though, things turned out great by almost all accounts. Iowa’s Musco Lighting—the same guys doing the Lakewood job—were the ones tagged with the responsibility of what people were calling the biggest sports-related illumination job in history (Musco also lights up Daytona International Speedway, but a long road course presents many other problems). They had less than half a year to complete the project, and when you consider that they had to ship everything across the ocean to the Middle East, that’s a pretty tight deadline. When the bikes took to the track, though, riders noted that they could see at least as well as they could in full daylight, and shadows weren’t an issue. If forced to pinpoint an issue, most pointed to the chilly temperatures or the unusual schedule. The reflection of lights off helmets and fairings even made for a cool, clean look, not unlike supercross, actually (“It reminds me of being a kid out on the motocross track,” said American Colin Edwards, and 2006 world champ Nicky Hayden said, “I think it’s cool; I hope some more tracks decide to get some lighting systems going.”) Sponsors were happy as well, as the illuminated trackside signs showed up better on TV.

Most importantly, the riders were able to perform at their usual level—better, in fact: both the pole-earning lap time and the winning race time were faster than last year’s daytime Qatar Grand Prix. The only ones who faced a stiffer-than-normal challenge were we journalists; MotoGP photographers aren’t used to shooting at night (no flashes were allowed, not that they’d have done much good with 600mm lenses), and deadlines were tighter since the race finished up early Monday morning.

Anyway, perhaps motocross will present special challenges, but based on my experience in Doha, I’d put money on Musco (whose nickname is “The Light of Speed”) doing a solid job and almost everyone being happy with the unique format when it’s all over. For an in-depth feature on the Qatar nighttime MotoGP, call 304-284-0080 and say you’d like to buy the May 2008 back issue of Road Racer X, or visit www.racerxbrand.com and buy the issue there.

Thanks, CJ.

In other news, we caught the release on www.cyclenews.com about the MIC looking into alternative possibilities for the AMA Superbike Series, but this likely won't affect AMA Supercross, which has a deal thru 2019, or AMA Toyota Motocross, which is doing just fine….

Last week we ran some Gary Semics trivia in which one lucky winner would receive a Gary Semics DVD. Chris Galloway from Mt. Holly, NC, was the lucky winner, as he correctly answered that 1974 was the year Semics won the 500cc AMA SX championship. Your DVD is in the mail, Chris.

Win this DVD!

This week’s question: How many career 500cc MX wins does Gary Semics have? Email your answer (along with your NAME and ADDRESS) to online@racerxill.com.

We received a phone call this week from Irish Saunders, father of Eric Saunders, and he informed us about Eric’s participation in the Props portion of the Cartoon Network. This from www.cartoonnetwork.com:

Cartoon Network is giving Props to 20 of America’s most talented kids. All of the finalists have been revealed, so watch the videos, pick your favorites, and come back on June 30th to start voting for the six kids that you think most deserve their Props!

What’s going on up north? Racer X Canada’s Danny Brault checked in with this:

Danny B (right) and friends

Hello, from Canada! The Monster Energy (Canadian) Motocross Nationals are well underway, with four rounds in the books. Blackfoot Yamaha’s Colton Facciotti is the story in the premier MX1 class. Despite missing the second round at Gopher Dunes because of a broken collarbone, Facciotti has been perfect in the other six motos – and he’s only 17 points back of series leader Tyler Medaglia. The third-fastest guy in MX1 has to be Cernic’s Kawasaki’s Dusty Klatt, but he needs to turn it up big-time in speed and fitness to catch Lightning Bolt Colt. He sits in third in points.

In MX2, KTM Canada’s Eric Nye is running away with the points lead. Nye has three moto wins, six podiums, and holds a 38-point lead in the championship. He hasn’t been the fastest guy, but he’s consistent and has kept it on two wheels more than most. Three-time X Games gold medalist Tucker Hibbert raced the Morden and Regina rounds, finishing 1-1-2-1 for both overalls. Hibbert will now head back to the US for select AMA nationals.

If you’re looking to take in some action from the Canadian nationals, then tune into the Racer X Canada/Destroyer Films Moto Show! It’s kind of like the RX Show on motocross.com, but with Canadian flair. Destroyer Films has done a wonderful job behind the lens, and Ryan Gauld, Steve Matthes and I have all chipped in for interviews and race recaps. Check it out here.

Another Canadian sent us this:

For everything that happened in Regina read this.

I journeyed up to Canada for this race and enjoyed it a lot. The guys are fast and they are there really for the love of the sport. Heck, the rider that got third overall in the MX1 (get used to those names people) Simon Homans was his own mechanic and everything! The atmosphere was laid-back, and I couldn’t help notice how the top riders walk around and go under their competition’s awnings looking to just hang out. Everybody is friendly with each other and trying to make the series grow.

As far as American riders, Eric Nye (remember him from Mach 1 Yamaha in ‘03?) is leading the MX2 series, Teddy Maier has won a MX2 round and Tucker Hibbert just won the last two races before pulling out to focus on his USA racing.

The MX1 class has Jeff Northrop and Ohio’s Jeff Gibson racing against Canada’s Dusty Klatt, Colton Facciotti and Tyler Medaglia.

Thanks, guys. Now some news from Steve Cox:

It's official: Hamblin is now a member of Team Yamaha for the next few races

photo: Simon Cudby

Remember that movie The Replacements? Sean Hamblin could’ve starred in it. Starting this weekend in Colorado, Hambone will be (finally) grabbing hold of a factory Yamaha YZ450F, vacated by either his buddy Grant Langston or Broc Hepler, to see what he can do with it. It’s reportedly a three-race deal to start with, and it may continue down the road if the three races go well. This is the second time Hamblin has been the benefactor of team injuries, as the first time he ended up on the factory Suzuki squad in 2002 when Travis Pastrana and others were out due to injury. That turned into a three-year stint on the Suzuki squad.

I called Hamblin yesterday to get his take on the deal, and he declined to comment on the record, as he has yet to sign his contract. He says he should have it signed before practice today, though, and he sounded really, really happy.

Suzuki City/OTSFF/Rockstar's Cody Cooper

photo: Simon Cudby

So what about Jeff Alessi and Cody Cooper? The other two privateers that are giving the factory riders hell this summer have yet to solid up a factory ride. Cooper, at least, is reportedly getting some factory parts and assistance kicked down from the Suzuki factory squad, but Alessi isn’t getting anything, and this weekend’s race may be his last of the season if he doesn’t find a good ride for the final seven rounds of the Nationals. With Ben Townley reportedly out for the summer, Honda does have an extra bike sitting in their pits….

That’s not to say that Alessi will get that bike, though. As Steve Matthes pointed out during the internet broadcast at Freestone, sometimes the factories don’t take it as a compliment that privateers are beating their riders. Factories have a vested interest in the riders they hired, so although it seems like a long time coming for Hamblin to secure the ride with Yamaha, Yamaha doesn’t necessarily like it when a privateer on a Yamaha beats their factory riders. For this reason, factories can actually be reluctant to help out a privateer who is doing well on their machines.

It also doesn’t help that Jeff is still viewed as Mike’s “little brother.” I think if his name was Jeff Jones and he was doing this well on a privateer bike at his age, a lot of people would be beating down his door already. However, since he’s the “lesser” of the two Alessis, he’s not perceived to be as valuable.

Rumor has it that he has had some offers from Europe, and as was pointed out in the Between the Motos interview he did with David Pingree, he really would rather race here at home. He told me the same in passing at a recent race. It’s hard for any American to go race in Europe – or for any Euro to come race here, for that matter. Obviously, that would have to be Alessi’s second choice to the USA – especially since he’s so good at supercross. Who would want to leave their home country and family and everything else when they have good options to stay home and race at home (ask Sean Hamblin)? It’s difficult. However, racing in Europe may end up being the best option for him, anyway, since he may be able to get out from under “Mike’s little brother.”

Jeff Alessi is a full privateer struggling to make ends meet

photo: Simon Cudby

I’m excited about this weekend’s race in Colorado. One way or the other, good or bad, it’s going to be different under the lights, that’s for sure, and with my Nikon D3, and its low-light capabilities, I plan on having a wide array of shots to choose from for wallpapers and race-report images early next week.

One thing I know I’m going to like, though, is the race is on Saturday! I don’t know why all of them can’t be on Saturdays. I’m just a journalist, so I don’t know the inner workings of the Nationals and whatnot, but why not have all of the first-day practices on Friday, the main race on Saturday, and then amateur racing on Sunday? That way, the amateurs don’t mess up the tracks for the pros, and the people traveling to the race will have all day Sunday to get home, relax, and get ready for work on Monday (you know, recover from hangover and heat stroke, among other things). It might even be better for TV, depending how things turn out. Maybe, like supercross, Saturday’s race can be packaged for TV the following day throughout the season. Just a thought. If any of you fans out there agree or disagree, why don’t you send in some ideas of why it would or wouldn’t work?

Right now, I’m off to Invesco Field at Mile High to buy some 2008 gear from the best football team on the planet…

Thanks, Steve.

A few injury updates:

Honda Red Bull Racing's Ben Townley recently underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff. Read the official press release.


photo: Simon Cudby

SPIKE Hardcore Energy Toyota/Yamaha rider Gavin Gracyk tore a tricep and will sit out this weekend's race to heal up. Read the PR.

Gracyk is having a tough start to his 2008 outdoor campaign

photo: Simon Cudby

Now here’s Jason Weigandt:

We’re approaching Friday afternoon here in Colorado, and, well, we’re still at the hotel. The Racer X Motocross Show crew (on motocross.com, presented by Toyota) gets to enjoy a late start to the day, as does everyone else in the industry. That means I actually get a chance to contribute to Racerhead!

Hey, did anyone hear that Sean Hamblin is getting a Yamaha deal? Oh yeah, seems like everyone knows that. So let’s move on.

The Can-Am GNCC tour returned to action last weekend in North Carolina, and Australian sensation Josh Strang busted through for his first career win. Strang’s win was overdue, though, since he had logged 2-2-2-3 finishes at the last four races. While Strang and his FMF Suzuki RM-Z450 teammate Paul Whibley are surging, defending GNCC Champion David Knight is running into one problem after another. This time he missed a portion of the track on the first lap and had to take a penalty (GNCC officials made him run the missed section of the track twice on the second lap) which dropped him from first to fifth. He could only climb up to third by the end of the race. Strang and Whibley and keeping Knight honest in series points, but Knight is looking forward to next weekend’s round in Pennsylvania, because that track is loaded with boulders. Technical stuff is Knight’s specialty.

In the XC2 Lites class, a complete unknown won the race, although he goes by a familiar name. Welsh rider Jason Thomas (no, not that Jason Thomas) won the XC2 class as a complete privateer. Thomas had been stuck back in Europe for 11 months trying to get his visa sorted. He was able to hang out in Canada for a bit (yes, a rider named Jason Thomas racing in Canada - Matthes, control yourself) and then got clearance to come to the U.S. two weeks ago. Then he shows up and wins the GNCC. I am going to dub him JT Lack Of $ because he says he doesn’t even have the cash to get to the next race, but I saw a bunch of team managers talking to him after the race, so I think he’ll be fine.

Okay, time to roll out to Thunder Valley. I know everyone is all hyped up on the live video feed from the first motos, but don’t forget that we will still run an audio webcast from every moto just like always. Pre-race show starts at 5 p.m. Mountain Time (7 p.m. East, 4 p.m. West). Most of you would probably choose to watch the video, so we’re going to make life difficult for you by offering up some swag to our loyal listeners on the audio end. We will throw out some trivia during the first motos and offer up Racer X swag to those who can guess right. Our man Mike Farber has Racer X shirts and hats ready to send out to five lucky and smart listeners, so feel conflicted: watch the first motos, or listen to the first motos and possibly win stuff.

Okay, off to the track!

Will we see Mike Brown today at Thunder Valley?

photo: Max Ludwig

The 2009 Grand Prix schedule has a September 20 date carved out for a US round, track to be named later. It will likely be matched up with Youthstream’s FIM pro-am cup deal, which is still in the planning stages.

And what’s up with Mike Brown? By now you surely know that he was released from his CAS Honda ride overseas and came back home, but now what? He’s pre-entered in the AMA Motocross class this weekend, but rumors have been swirling that he’ll be aboard a Yamaha of Troy YZ250F today. Wait, we can confirm those rumors. Jason Weigandt just called us from the track and said he talked to Yamaha of Troy and there is a #3 YZ250F under the awning. Believe it or not, this is the fourth different time Brownie has ridden for that team! Weege also said that both Zach Osborne and Tyler Bowers are out with injuries.

We got this note from MX for Children’s Paul Gross:

We have been able to nail down lots of details for the 4th Annual MX Ride for Children which will take place on August 3, 2008 from 10 am to 4 pm at Pacific Raceways.

We look forward to seeing you at this year’s ride event! Start raising pledges now if you want to win the highest flyer award! This year, any one who raises $500 or more automatically qualifies for the Inside Line Experience at Seattle Supercross.

Just a reminder that Round 2 of the Racer X Inter-Am Vintage Motocross Series will be held at Washougal this weekend. Weather forecast is perfect and the track will be mint!

Check out Pro Circuit’s 2008 Loretta Lynn’s commemorative sticker.

Longtime FORXI (Friend of Racer X Illustrated) Bob Williams and his band Junior Pezz are reuniting for the summer to play a few select shows in the Morgantown area. Check out Big Bob running a Racer X T-shirt in today’s issue of the Dominion Post. {Image attached}

Bob Williams (right) representing RXI!

Well, that about does it for Racerhead. Practice is getting underway in Colorado today, and I’m headed to Pickerington, Ohio, for the grand opening of the AMA Motorcycle Museum’s new exhibit, MotoStars: Celebrities + Motorcycles, which will spotlight over a hundred of the world’s most recognizable enthusiasts. For more information on the exhibit, click here.

Thanks for reading Racerhead, and we’ll see you at the races.

Rupert X displays Shift's 2009 line