Stewart actually looked a little nervous in the second moto as he wrapped the series up—Tim Ferry finished closer to him than any has all season. Then he was all smiles again afterward, and already looking forward to next year, when he’s going to have a whole new program.
Villopoto had a shitty day at Steel City, but his five points after bending his shifter in the first moto and then crashing into a fallen Blake Wharton in the second wasn’t as bad as his season started—remember his collision with Josh Grant at Atlanta, where he ended up with zero points? And there was a parting gift from the rest of the class: The last RC Hard Charger Award of 2008, which he earned with his 36th-to-16th-place rise in the second Lites moto.
Villopoto was hoping to get away from it all and take it easy by spending this week in the Bahamas, but even that is under threat from the moto-inspired Hurricane Hanna(h)!
So what’s the future with Saturday nationals? Who knows? The NPG is meeting here in Morgantown in a couple of weeks, and it’s one of many topics for discussion, along with the present two-day format, timed qualifying, class names, and more. I’ve been gathering a lot of information and ideas from moto friends and general fans, and I think there are some really cool things on the horizon for American motocross.
Congrats to Ben Townley, who is tying the knot back home in New Zealand with longtime girlfriend Lucy tomorrow. Cody Cooper, fresh off his fifth in the final AMA Toyota Motocross rankings, is headed home for the wedding, then in a couple of weeks he will join Josh Coppins and Darryl Hurley on Team New Zealand at the MXoN. Last year, the team didn’t get off the starting gate before Townley and Hurley both got hurt, and Coppins was hurt before he ever showed up! Best of luck to a better trip for the Kiwis this time.
By the way, the 450 class from Steel City will be airing tomorrow, September 6, at 10:00 p.m. ET on SPEED, and the Lites class will air September 9 (Tuesday) at 2:00 p.m. ET.
Loretta Lynn’s will also be on TV this weekend on Versus. The show is one half hour covering all the action from the ranch, including race highlights from champions such as Darryn Durham, PJ Larsen, Justin Barcia, Blake Baggett, Adam Cianciarulo, Doug Dubach, and Keith Johnson, as well as clips from freestyle, skydiving, wakeboarding, concerts, and all of the off-track activity that makes the Air Nautiques AMA Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch the World’s Greatest Motocross Vacation. It will air in the following time slots, all Eastern time: Sunday 9/7 at 2:30 p.m., Monday 9/8 at 3:30 p.m. and Thursday 9/11 at 4:00 p.m.
Mike Alessi is headed back to Europe for a few international supercross races. According to his father, Tony, the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider is solid right now, working with Roger DeCoster on his 2009 program, where he will ride the 450 class in both AMA Supercross and AMA Toyota Motocross. Mike will be the featured rider at the races in Sheffield, England, and Madrid, Spain.
As for little brother Jeff, he upheld the family name well for the summer after Mike’s Red Bud crash, missing out on seventh in the final AMA Motocross standings by just one point. He’s still on the market for a ride next year, and if he can stay healthy, he would be top-ten in SX too.
Our Peanuts cover has generated a lot of mail from folks who remember the whole motocross series that Charles M. Schulz created back in 1975, as well as the TV special You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. Which leads to this small piece of related news: Bill Melendez, the voice of Snoopy and the animator who had a hand it pretty much all of the Peanuts cartoons, passed away on Tuesday. He was 91 years old.
Quick trivia answer: James Stewart wore AXO when he rode Yamaha Y-Zingers in 1993.
For everyone inquiring lately about Justin Barcia and his plans for 2009, here’s a video where he and Rick Zielfelder, owner of Factory Connection, talk about racing the nationals next season.
Marc “Calimero” de Reuver posted a pretty cool video from YouTube of the 2007 Grand Prix at Donington Park, which will host the 2008 Red Bull Motocross of Nations in a few weeks. The track has likely changed since then, but as we’ve been hearing all summer long, it looks like the kind of track Team USA’s James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Tim Ferry will really be comfortable on as they go for a fourth straight MXoN win. Here’s the preview.
In other MXoN news, rumor has it that Team Italia’s David Philippaerts may join injured teammate Tony Cairoli on the sidelines, but not due to an injury. Apparently, the Italian team doesn’t want the Yamaha-backed Philippaerts to wear “Yamaha” prominently on his blue team jersey. Philippaerts is trying to become the first Italian since Andrea Bartolini to win the MX1/500 Grand Prix title.
With Cairoli hurt and Philippaerts possibly sitting out, scratch Italy from teams that will contend for the win. Right now, it seems like Australia (Chad Reed, Brett Metcalfe and Michael Byrne) or even England (Billy MacKenzie, Shaun Simpson and U.S.-bound Tommy Searle) and the always-competitive Belgians (Steve Ramon, Ken De Dycker and Jeremy Vanhorebeek) will be the primary challengers.
And congratulations goes out to Red Bull Honda rider Ashley Fiolek, who clinched the 2008 WMA Championship with a first-moto win over five-time champion Jessica Patterson at Steel City. Ashley’s not resting on her laurels: She flew off to the Netherlands for the last round of the women’s championship over there in the mean sands of Lierop. (Hopefully, Calimero will give her some pointers!)
In a completely unrelated piece of women-in-motocross news, the search is on for Miss Supercross 2009, and you can check out the talent up for the job right now over at Supercross Online. All of the girls are shown, including my personal favorite, the pretty girl who wears Fox when she races and has a wonderful Australian accent.… Who do you like? Go vote today.
Back to Europe: Looking for a cool old-school site to check out Grand Prix motocross from back in the 1980s? Former GP rider Rob Andrews has the photo-based site www.robandrewsmx.com. He says the site is “a celebration of those glory years, with comments and stories which give an intriguing insight into what it was like to be there and be part of the show, from the perspective of both a privateer and a factory rider.”
And before I head back over to my MX Sports desk, I want to share a note I received this week from Amy Ritchie:
While riding at RedBud on Labor Day, Matt Thompson crashed and suffered an ultimately fatal neck injury. He passed away at the hospital on Tuesday evening. According to Matt’s mom, his father also raced back in the seventies; he even raced at RedBud. She said her son died doing what he loved. The thing is, Matt’s dad died in a car accident just before his son was born. If there’s a dirt bike gene, Matt definitely inherited it.
Here’s a link for info on the services this Saturday, and a trust fund established for Matt’s four-year-old son, Ryley. Please keep Matt’s family and friends in your prayers.
Amy also wanted to say thanks to Mike Koger at Smooth Industries for getting a care package together for Ryley, as well as Kevin Windham, who heard about the unfortunate accident and immediately signed a jersey and FedEx it out of rain-ravaged Mississippi for the little boy.
Let’s go out west to our man Steve Cox:
Grant Langston finally got to run his #1 plate at a National. Unfortunately for him, it was just during opening ceremonies at Steel City. Langston has never even tried to defend a single championship. After he won the 2000 125cc World Championship, he moved to the USA. After his ‘03 AMA 125cc National MX Championship, he moved up and out of the class. Then, after moving back to the 125cc/Lites class, he won 125cc Regional SX titles on each coast before moving back up for 2007. Now, after finally winning a title you would’ve thought he would be forced to defend, he came down with the eye ailment that has hindered him all year.
“The thing is, the diagnosis [on my eye] has changed,” Langston told us. “Originally, it was diagnosed as a hemangioma, which is basically a blood clot in or somewhere around the eye, and I had it kind of a little bit behind and in the eye. It was leaking in there. That’s what was causing the problems. I did cold-laser treatment, and what actually happened is – I don’t know all of the ins and outs of it, but I don’t know if it developed from this, or if it was just coincidental – it’s now a full-blown tumor.”
After going to all kinds of eye doctors all around the country, Langston says he’s now busy seeing tumor specialists to figure out if it’s cancer or just benign. There have been rumors that Langston would have to go into early – even if only temporary – retirement until his eye is sorted out. “At this point, every day I lay in bed and think about these things,” Langston said. “What do I do? Sponsors want to know, friends want to know, my family wants me to be healthy regardless, and it’s like, there are so many scenarios going through my head, and I until I know for sure exactly what the outcome is going to be or what I have to do [to fix it], I don’t want to make any comments like that.”
Langston seemed genuinely touched by the fans’ support at Steel City, and he also seemed to enjoy sitting in on the Racer X Webcast, along with Jeff Stanton, Branden Jesseman, Trey Canard and Jason Lawrence (more on that later).
James Stewart finished off the 2008 MX National season having led 369 of a total of 382 laps in the 450cc class. The other 13 were led by Mike Alessi. That is a record that will never be beaten, in my opinion. And how about the way he turned everything around? For years, he couldn’t do much of anything right in the class, but then all of a sudden, he couldn’t do anything wrong. Congratulations to James on probably the most dominant season in motocross history. Now let’s take that dominance to Donington Park.
Finally, from what I heard and saw, the Saturday National at Steel City seemed like a hit among teams and crew. I ran into a few of them in the airports on the way home, and the outlook on the Saturday racing was all good. We all couldn’t believe we were getting on planes on Sunday morning, and people like Mitch Payton could be in the office on Monday, which is a big benefit for him and his business. I hope it sticks around for next year.
Dear Racer X:
I just wanted to comment on the latest Bench Racing: RC vs Bubba. Tim Ferry made the comment that James has been winning by a larger margin than RC. Well, not all the players are there. I know injuries are part of racing but, had just Alessi been there through the end I believe the margin of victory would have been much smaller and the points gap not as large. In short I think RC had much tougher competition than James did. Also, when James did race RC in 05, didn’t RC still win every overall?
Sincerely, Mario Andreini
Mario, thanks for the note, and yes, RC won every race in 2005 as well, but not every moto.
Carl Stone sent in a bunch of photos this week as well as this funny note about Ashley Fiolek: “Talking to her dad afterwards, I said it was a cool coincidence that Ashley won her WMA title in her rookie year just as her ex-boyfriend (and still good friend) Trey Canard won his first East Region Supercross title. Jim said the funny thing about that was this: Trey’s title was one of her biggest motivating factors to get her WMA title! Her and Trey were and are so competitive she did not want Trey to get one up on her!”
At the end of the day at Steel City there was an auction held for the Shasta Johnson Breast Cancer 3-Day Walk team, benefiting Susan G. Komen for the cure. Many of the teams and riders donated items to be auctioned. Shasta presented all the items for auction and they even had an official auctioneer that was invaluable! The auction was a huge success, raising over $7,000 dollars.
Believe it or not, Tag Metals is up to something big. I can’t remember the last time anyone talked about Tag in Southern California or anywhere else for that matter, but my old buddy Shawn “SND” Norfolk is making waves over there for sure. Apparently they have amassed an impressive team for 2009: Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, Kevin Windham, Trey Canard and a few other well-known guys will be using Tag in 2009 and beyond. Who would’ve thought? Anyway, I heard rumors about a new “Rebound Technology” grip, so I called to find out what the hype was about.
Apparently, it’s a grip that virtually guarantees no blisters on the palms of your hands. Shawn says it acts like “suspension” for your hands and that it reduces fatigue by 40 percent as well. Plus he used a bunch of other big words that didn’t make any sense to me. I’m not sure if it works or not, but I’ll find out soon, as SND is sending me some to test. Since I’m not the physical specimen that I used to be, I hope I can last 40 percent longer! Anyhow, here’s the grip. It looks pretty gnarly and it will be here in October.
Speaking of cool products, Alpinestars has officially included their neck-support system to their line of products. You can find out more about the Bionic Neck Support System at www.alpinestars.com.
I got this letter this week regarding last week’s Ask Ping column:
I love reading “Ask Ping” and thought that I should tell you that the Dan Cortese’s whiskey throttle episode did air back in “the day” and thanks to the power of the Internet it can be found on Youtube.
Thanks, Matt Fletcher
If you happen to remember who Dan Cortese is, you will get a warm, fuzzy feeling inside when you see him fly over the bars in that clip.
Jason Lawrence was in Pennsylvania for the final round of the series. The YOT rider is still under a license suspension and couldn’t compete but he made an appearance on the webcast and stayed out of trouble all day long. Lawrence was cheering when Nico Izzi passed Villopoto back, and he didn’t have a lot of nice things to say about Ryan (or anyone else) during the race. After the first moto he ran over and high-fived Izzi for the pass. Ahhh … the high road.
I did hear that J-Law’s agent Scott Sepkovic paid his last fine, and that Lawrence is now basically off suspension but will likely be on probation until we start racing electric bikes.
Jeff Ward is dusting off his boots and racing this weekend in Salt Lake City, the fourth round of the AMA/XTRM Supermoto series. Wardy took a little time off to take care of some health issues, and he is looking forward to racing again this weekend. He will have to deal with Troy Herfoss, who has been on fire this season. Herfoss has won the last two events and currently leads the points chase. Provo, Utah’s Cassidy Anderson will also be a contender on his home track. The races are this Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park in Toole, Utah. For more info on all of the event s happening at MIller this weekend click here.
Here’s Andy “Restrictor Plate” Bowyer:
There has been a lot going on over here on my side of the building. On the ATV side of things we had the 2nd Annual ATV Open at Steel City, where Team Rockstar/Yoshimura/Pro Taper/MSR rider, Chad Wienen raced to the win, and a $5000 check. Check out this interview I did with Chad.
The shock waves of the ATVs could be felt all weekend, and even went so far as to make the Racer X/Answer Fan of the Week! I received quite a few inquires as to who the gorgeous girl in the short shorts was. That is none other than Michelle Natalie, wife of factory Can-Am ATV pro John Natalie Jr. Michelle might look like a model, but she is in fact one of the fastest Pro Am Women ATV riders in the world. She won a moto and finished runner up in the 2008 ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA National Championship Pro ATV Competition.
Meanwhile, we have been keeping our eye on the Amateur Publications and found this piece that Vurb Moto’s Brent Stallo put together on Blake Baggett, who was at Steel City racing amateur day. Brent has quickly become one of my favorite reads.
also had another big week with the Shift Number Cruncher. If you haven’t guessed by now, the “Mystery Man” was none other than Steve Wise. Mr. Wise himself sent us this e-mail: “Thanks for the photo! Yes, that’s me: Unadilla 1981 250 GP. Hannah & I had a good race. It was nice being on my game when he didn’t have his best day. Made it somewhat easier, though 45 minutes was never easy for me—training wasn’t my favorite things to do. Appreciate the old stuff you send my way! Hope all is well for you my friend.”
Finally, you ever get one of those text messages that make you nervous? Well, if you have ever gotten one from Travis Pastrana, you have. Just received one such text from TP telling me about the latest version of the Nitro Olympics he is holding at his house this coming Monday and Tuesday. NASCAR’s Jimmie Johnson and Brian Vickers are scheduled to attend along with Dave Mirra, David Knight, and the usual Nitro Circus. Event’s include, rally car race, driveway big wheel competition, pit bike race, and several other fun (and I’m sure HIGHLY dangerous) events.
The final round of the Toyota AMA Motocross Championship attracted many Canadian fans down to the Steel City track in Delmont, PA, and those who couldn’t make the trip were no doubt glued to their computer screens. No, Celine Dion wasn’t singing the national anthems, but three of our best racers qualified for the event. Recently crowned Canadian MX1 Champ Colton Facciotti was there along with teammate and mentor Blair Morgan, his mechanic, Jeff Mason, mom, girlfriend, and his Blackfoot YZ450 race bike, looking to test his speed against America’s (and the some of the world’s) best. Facciotti started the weekend off well, qualifying 10th behind Jimmy Albertson. Fellow Canadian MX1 racer Tyler Medaglia was one second behind Colt in 13th.
Many Canadian pundits predicted a top-10 finish from Facciotti, but he came up a little short. In the first moto, the Blackfoot Yamaha rider crashed twice before finishing a 28th. He rebounded in moto two, however, coming from around 26th to finish 13th. His hard-charging efforts didn’t unnoticed and Facciotti was awarded the Muscle Milk Recovery Award and a $1,000 check. Facciotti is now back in Canada, preparing for the Montreal Supercross on September 20 and the MXoN the following weekend.
Suzuki/OTSFF/Rockstar’s Medaglia had, well, a crappy weekend at Steel City. After a dehydrating appearance at Southwick, the 21-year-old lost a bout with the “Kiwi Killer” Cody Cooper in the first 450 moto and then ran out of breath in moto two. Medaglia suffers from asthma and, apparently, it caught up to him at Steel City. Like his Canadian counterpart, TM is also looking ahead to Montreal and the Des Nations.
Tyler’s younger brother, Jeremy, was once again racing for Yamaha of Troy in Delmont. Despite another week of training with Ryan Hughes, riding with the SoCal gang, and getting accustomed to his Yamaha, little “Jer-Bear” was unable to duplicate or better his 15th moto finish from Southwick. Tyler said Jeremy had terrible starts in both motos and a run-in with Kyle Keylon that pushed him off the track in moto one. He ended the day 25th overall with 25-20 moto scores. Jeremy reminas in California, testing and training SX with YoT. He also won’t return my phone calls.
It’s too early for the Canadian silly season to begin, but that didn’t stop me from calling some team managers this week for updates. As stated in a PR, Billy Whitley’s Vision One Motorsports and Paul Carpenter’s Atomic Racing programs will combine forces for the 2009 AMA Supercross Series and CMRC Canadian Nationals. Carpenter had won the Canadian MX1 title for Whitley and the Cernic’s Kawasaki team in `07, and they look to repeat that success next year. Paul’s cousin, Jack, will also join the new team and race East Coast SX and a 450 in Canada. A third rider has yet to be named, but rumor has it that New York’s Bobby Kiniry could be taking in some poutine and Tim Horton’s coffee next summer.
Where does that leave Jeff Gibson and Dusty Klatt who raced AMA SX and Canadian MX for Monster Energy/Cernic’s Kawasaki? I’m not sure, but some have speculated that Klatt may end back up with Blackfoot, the team that led him to three national championships. Some words did float through the pits as well that Leading Edge Kawasaki, who fielded a three-man MX2 squad this year, was interested in bringing on an MX1 guy, and that guy could be Klatt. Makes sense: British Columbia-based dealership and a BC kid. Suzuki OTSFF team owner Andre Laurin has shown interest in Klatt, who finished second behind Facciotti in the MX1 series, but #5 plate holder Kyle Keast and Simon Homans are on Laurin’s list as well. Keast seems like a good fit for the team, as he lives only an hour away from OTSFF’s shop in Vaughan, Ontario, and has a longtime relationship with their suspension tech, Adam “Stu” Robinson, who used to work at Machine Racing.
After a lackluster second season with Suzuki, Mitch Cooke will most likely end up on the open market. In fact, he isn’t even scheduled to race the Montreal SX. Jeremy Medaglia is also not riding yellow anymore after racing Southwick for YoT without permission from his team. That means there are at least two spots to fill on the Suzuki/OTSFF/Rockstar team. “Obviously, we’re going down the list and looking at guys like Kyle Beaton in MX2, and Klatt, Keast and Simon Homans in MX1,” Laurin said. “But we haven’t got around to sitting down with one of these guys yet.”
I spoke with Blackfoot’s race director and suspension guru, Joe Skidd, and he gave me the impression that Blair Morgan would stick around following a fourth overall in the series. “Blair’s a great rider capable of being up front and he’s also a great mentor for Colton,” said team manager Dean Thompson. Who will BBBF hire to chase the MX2 title? Thompson says they’re pretty happy with their man from this year, Nevada’s Aron Harvey. “He was just so into it,” says Thompson. “He wanted to stay at JSR’s place; he always wanted to get better. He was appreciative, too, and made sure to say thanks to every guy on the team following a race.”
And what about Andy White’s Royal Distributing/Thor/Riverside KTM Canada team? After winning this year’s MX2 championship, which was transformed from two four-round series into one nine-round campaign, Eric Nye has earned an extension to his contract. (Fact of the day: Since KTM started producing 250F motorcycles in 2005, they’ve won three MX2 championships in Canada (Willard (2), Nye (1).) Rumor has is that Ryan Lockhart is coming back to race MX1, but White couldn’t confirm anything. He did say that Mason Phillips has a deal for MX1, however.
Oh, and before I go, don’t forget to check out the legendary Montreal Supercross on September 20 at Olympic Stadium in Montreal, Quebec. It’s only an hour from the New York border (I believe). All of the top Canadians will be there, along with last year’s winner, Ryan Clark, Jeff Gibson, Michael Willard, Daniel Blair, and Jeff Northrop. Then toss in the crazy Autocrossers and ATV guys and it turns into quite the spectacle. Check out www.montrealsupercross.com for all your info.
Okay, that’s all from the land of love!
Scott Wallenberg sent us this: “When DeCal Works’ Ron Joynt heard that the rink at Indy will not be torn down during the ‘09 trade show and that the Racer X hockey challenge will be held after all, he immediately took to the ice to start training. Here he is getting advice on how to make a fist from his new personal trainer Talon Joynt.”
A tip of the visor to the entire Wonder Warthog Racing nation, which made it across the finish line at the end of the 2008 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship. “We made more main events than any other team in history, by far,” wrote Scott Kandel, one of the driving forces behind WWR. “We’ll be back next year, bigger and badder than ever.”
The MDK/MediaZone/Warthog Racing Academy is accepting applications for tryouts for the 2009 season. Email Scott right here.
Warthog Racing by the Numbers: Supported 25 total riders out of the rig—21 men and four WMA girls. WWR riders qualified for 96 races overall. Jeff Alessi finished eighth as second privateer in the 450; Kyle Cunningham finished seventh in the 250 class as top privateer
Shand Garcia with Holeshot Magazine sent this:
Attention pros, $35,000 East Texas in October! There are two races, two weekends and 40 apart in East Texas, with a total of $35,000 pro purse money between the two races. $25,000 – 17th Annual Texas Pro Challenge October 4 – 5 – Swan Raceway Park www.swanmx.com
$10,000 – 1st Annual Shock Sox – Buffalo Creek Easy Money Texas Pro-Am October 11 – 12 – Buffalo Creek MX Park www.buffalocreekmx.com
Sunday, September 7, at Argyll MX, there will be a Jim Pomeroy Benefit along with the OTHG Double Points Race. Contact Randy Law of the Sierra Chapter regarding donations for this event. Gates at 6-6:30 with practice at 8:00.
Check the SierraOTHG and BayOTHG websites for more information. www.SierraOTHG.com and www.BayOTHG.com
Finally, if you’re bored this weekend and want to check out some old-school moto videos, here’s a link my old friend Johnny Spring sent.
That’s it for Racerhead. Now it’s time for everyone here at Racer X and MX Sports to get ready for the big wedding: Jason Weigandt is tying the knot tomorrow! Weege and longtime girlfriend Alisa are getting hitched tomorrow night in Morgantown, and it’s going to be quite a party. Good luck to Weege and Weegette! Thanks for reading Racerhead; see you at the races.