The penultimate round of the 2008 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF arrives at Southwick, Massachusetts, in a two-tire drift for the 32nd running of Motocross 338. The baddest track in the land. Want to talk about separating the men from the boys? Southwick is gnarly. If you have the juice to give it a thousand-yard stare and tape it wide for 30 minutes plus two laps, you are truly a member of the Gnarlboro County Commission.
Riding the sand requires a special effort. There are privateer specialists, there are guys who are fast, and then guys that will be looking for the moto to be over well before the cross flags come out. Ah, but Americans are the best at it. And more to the point, we are by far the best at riding in it at Southwick. If you arrive at the track around 7 a.m. and walk down to the starting line, you’ll find some cool shit. Listen closely and you can hear Doug Henry slaughtering the throttle on his CR125. Look to your right and squint your eyes and you can see Carmichael flying over the finish line, 100 feet to the flats, with no feet on the pegs, wrist-locked in a blood-curdling 450cc panic rev. Look up on the hill and you’ll find John Dowd dragging his clutch lever three inches deep around Buckley Berm.
I’m just a little fired up right now about what the Dutchman said. “I can beat all of the Americans, except James.” My, my, what a bold statement. The other day I was researching photos for the Number Cruncher and found a #118 from Joel Smets riding Southwick in the wake of a similar boast. I also saw #971 Alessio Chiodi and #917 Bolley in there in the “Southwick” binder. No doubt, Marc de Reuver is a bad dude. But wait till he gets a load of the ‘wick.
I’ve got a lot on the brain right now, folks. Some of it’s sand, some of it’s concrete, all of it’s steel. Big weekend. You know what time it is.
If I learned one thing in my years on the track, it’s that guys from Texas ride the sand very well. Keep an eye out for the Blake Wharton to take the #721 on a two-moto charge and back up that top-five from a week ago. It’s crunch time for a lot of boys. We are going to see some desperation from riders all over the track. It’s going to be hairball in the first turn, and there are going to be boys picking up their bikes in the apex of berms. Four more motos to show what they’ve got.
What about ol’ Dungey? Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey has been through a lot of business this year. Big crashes, badgering from J-law, and bad luck have gotten in the way of a supercross championship and hope of taking RV Park down to the final moto. But he’s gotten a little back. Homeboy has nailed down two overall victories in a row. I promise you, he would like to close out the year winning. The man he has to beat does not have a good track record at Motocross 338.
The rest? Well, GEICO Powersports’ Josh Grant rides this place very well. Want a dark horse? Martin Davalos has been getting good starts, and if he can keep it on two wheels, you might see him on the steps with his MDK KTM. It’s always hard to predict Southwick. The track is different every lap, and sometimes if a guy gets a good start and finds a rhythm, he can make magic. There is always a surprise hard-charger.
James “Bubba” Stewart? Forget about it. Game over. Good night, Irene, kiss the kids, and Katy bar the door. But behind him lies quite a conflict. There are several groups of riders making moves in the 450 class right now. Guys like Michael Byrne, Andrew Short, and Timmy Ferry have been up front all year. Then it gets messy. Now we have the return of Ivan the Terrible. The Iceman is back in the house too. Then there’s this heavy pack of wolves like Matt Goerke, Gavin Gracyk, Jeff Alessi, and Antonio Balbi that are all hungry and looking to close out the season strong. I think de Ruever will be doing a double take when he looks behind him and sees the pearly whites of a guy like Shaun Skinner shining through his sand beard while he dogs him. Florida boys are quick in the soft stuff too, man.
Then I’ve got Bristol.
I have to throw in a couple sentences for the 07. Bristol is the last true Coliseum in the world. Twice a year it hosts 43 gladiators. Each one has a battle cry of 850 horsepower. There will be 160,000 sets of eyes staring them down while they beat, bang, and brawl. You couldn’t fight the goosebumps even if you wanted to try. We’re out of time, folks. It’s three races to go to make The Chase and we’re 26 points out. Time to go. Clint’s past three finishes are 8-3-3 inside the world’s fastest half-mile. Last time at Bristol he and his RCR boys went 1-2-3. He’ll be up on the wheel this weekend.
So it’s pretty much a full-blown Pantera scenario around here, doctor. Sandblast yourself. Climb into it with me and take it around with you this weekend. Motocross 338, baby. Front tire clean, rear tire sugar-cookie. The only number plate you can read is the one in the lead. Time to see who’s tough.