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Racerhead #37

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Welcome to the off-season, or as it may soon come to be know, Press Release Season (look for the PR on that later). The industry is in full swing as it prepares for 2009. Riders are switching teams and clothes and continents with seemingly great urgency. Teams are battling for the attention of sponsors and benefactors. Series promoters are gearing up for an increasingly competitive bids for riders and sponsors and fans.

It’s a lot different than it was just a generation ago, when Cycle News or maybe, if you could afford it, 1-900-INF-MOTO were the only ways to shortcut information gathering. Now everyone has an iPhone, Blackberry, laptop, whatever. That puts the pressure on those trying to get the message out as quickly as possible, because today’s handheld devices are your telephone, fax machine (remember those?), mailbox, desktop, and news broadsheets.

This week’s virtual bombshell, of course, was the James Stewart-to-Answer announcement, followed by interviews from the respective sides. First, Jody Weisel at MXA conducted a revealing interview with Pete Fox about the breakup between Fox Racing and Stewart, where Fox talked about the importance of outdoor motocross to the company and the sport as a whole. That was followed by James’ interview with Bill Ursic here at Racer X Online where the rider told his side of the breakup.

 

Add them both together, take out the emotions that accompany any breakup, and you are left with this: business. That’s really all it came down to—what was best for the companies involved and what was best for the fastest motocross rider in the world (though he may not be doing much as motocross next summer as he did this time around). Fox is a proud company with deep roots in motocross, and Answer is trying to grow their own roots deeper. Stewart is a proud champion in the midst of a complete overhaul of his career: the King has new clothes, plus a new bike, a new team, a new everything. The bright side? The race for the 2009 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship just got a whole bunch more competitive—and it was already going to be a whole new race, what with Ryan Villopoto moving up, injured stars like Ben Townley, Broc Hepler and Mike Alessi coming back, plus Short, Ferry, Millsaps, Tedesco, Byrne, Grant, Cooper and maybe a couple of other heroes reemerging in the thick of it….

The dark side? We may not get to see Stewart defend that #1 MX plate, nor battle with three-time 250 class champ Villopoto, who took his Kawi ride, or BT101, or any of the other guys that could have made ’08 more of a series.

So I’m bummed that Stewart might not be there in 2009. But I also think of it as a challenge for the whole AMA Toyota Motocross series to do the things it takes to get everyone back on one starting gate. TV, prize money, format, comfort—those are all things that need another look, and they are some very dedicated and talented people working on those things.

As I have written before, riders in America are lucky enough to have two major series to compete in, and 30 races can be a chore for anyone, so when someone makes the decision to narrow their focus on supercross (or even motocross, for that matter), rather than kick them in the ass on the way out the door, I think it’s better to leave a crack in the door for them to come back when the situation changes. There will be a place on the starting gate for Stewart at Glen Helen, but if he’s not there to take it, someone else will take it, they’ll drop the gate, and we will still see a great motocross race.

Motocross survived without Jeremy McGrath, GP motocross survived the departure of champions like Greg Albertyn, Sebastien Tortelli and Grant Langston, motocross in Europe and America both survived the retirements of Stefan Everts and Ricky Carmichael. It will survive this too, and even grow stronger as a result.

One thing on MX-only contracts: They really aren’t any in America, but do you realize that Michael Byrne, Cody Cooper and Ben Townley did not make a single SX race in ‘08 due to injuries? And next year, incoming British rider Tommy Searle is planning on sitting out SX in order to learn it at his own pace while staying healthy for outdoors. Mike Alessi just broke his tib-fib, so it looks like he may miss a large chunk of the SX season again.

Speaking of Alessi, it was painful to hear what happened to him on Wednesday at the Suzuki SX track.

  • Tyler Bowers to CAS Honda?
Tyler Bowers to Europe and CAS Honda? That’s what they posted on Moto Verte’s site - that he will team with the Flying Scotsman Billy MacKenzie on the same team that Mike Brown rode for before quitting Europe in the middle of the summer to go to Yamaha of Troy briefly, and then a KTM off-road deal. Bowers, as it turns out, was Brown’s teammate briefly upon the veteran’s return to the U.S., but then he split ways with Yamaha of Troy, as did the other American headed to Europe for ‘09, Zach Osborne. Zach will ride for U-Tag Yamaha, which like CAS, is based in England.

Racer X publisher Scott Wallenberg sent me a YouTube link to some extremely old footage from the early days of American motocross, specifically the 1976 AMA 125 National at Appalachian Highlands in Keyser’s Ridge, MD. It was the second national track my dad and mom built but it only last a year due to the harsh, rocky conditions. The silent footage features shots of Bob “Hurricane” Hannah and Marty Smith at the height of their rivalry, plus glimpses of Billy Grossi, Don Kudalksi and more. Check it out.

Quickie trivia: Who won the 125 National at Keyser’s Ridge that day?

  • Steve Wise
This footage reminds me of one of the most powerful audiovisual pieces I ever saw. It was at the Fox Racing display at the Indy Trade Show, back in maybe 1990 or ‘91. Pete and Greg Fox had grabbed some old videos of their dad and friends racing in the early 1970s, then synced the footage to some old songs by The Smiths. The shots would bounce around from one screen to the other, sometimes on four screens, sometimes eight. It was so cool and well conceived that I can still remember it all these years later!

The winner of the ‘76 Appalachian Highlands National at Keyser’s Ridge was Steve Wise, who was riding a privateer Honda that day.

Over on his website blog, Chad Reed talked a little about next year—his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki mechanic will be wrenching legend Mike “Goose” Gosselaar—as well as Mike Alessi’s unfortunate accident. “As most of you have probably read online that Alessi got hurt today which sucks as he only just got back from his ugly crash at redbud!” wrote the 22. “It was a pretty bad crash but could of been really bad; he got off better than it could of been! I started jumping this quad in a combo section and he tried it (I told him not to try it!) and he came up short and went flying off the berm and landed on his feet, breaking his lower tib-fib! It’s a real bummer and I hope he makes a speedy recovery!”

To read more on Reed’s pre-season testing and MXoN prep, check out www.chadreedracing.com.

Reed also got a rude welcome to motocross promoting back home in Sydney, Australia, where a group of five “spoilsports” basically shut down a round of his upcoming series due to noise concerns—this after the event in Australia’s largest city had already sold 10,000 tickets!

  • Mike Alessi suffered more bad luck
According to the Daily Telegraph, leading the campaign to shut down the race was the Parramatta Park Trust. The objection said: “The motocross will be a noisy event, far noisier than a football game with industrial levels of noise which will carry across the open landscape.” Other objectors included Government House, the Catholic Education Office and the Sisters of Mercy.

Here’s another article from the perspective of one of the five spoilsports against Reedy’s deal.

This year the press tent at every Outdoor National was decorated by some of the best photos from various photographers coming from the previous race. Since the only people seeing the photos were credentialed press and industry insiders, we figured we’d share the photos with you. You can check out a couple of wallpaper galleries here.

Steve Matthes sent us this:

This week I was in on a conference call with none other than Jeff “Chicken” Matiasevich, he of the two 125 supercross titles, and a multi-time race winner. Why would I be listening to Chicken when he’s been retired for a good 10 years, you ask? Well, in case you didn’t know, Chicken is racing the Legends Race at this year’s U.S. Open and he’s lining up against his archrival Damon Bradshaw. After watching last years battle with Mike LaRocco, Jeff Emig and Damon Huffman, I didn’t know how the folks at Live Nation were going to top it, but I think they’ve found a way!

Bradshaw and Matiasevich were bitter rivals, and Jeff admitted on the call that their personal vendettas probably cost both of them a SX title (Jeff in 90, Damon in 92) and that they recently spoke for the first time ever at the MotoGP in Laguna Seca.

Jeff said he’s been riding once a week for a long time and is now stepping up his program with the help of Kawasaki and their SX track. I don’t know if it was the idea of PR guru Denny Hartwig or if Jeff really doesn’t like Damon, but man, it really sounded like the battle will be on! Jeff commented that last time they raced in Las Vegas, Damon put him over a berm and that he owes him one for that - and what better place to exact revenge than Vegas. Jeff went on to say that once the helmets went on, the race would be on. Seriously, Jeff was sounding a lot like El Pollo Loco and I think this race will be great to watch and a lot of fun. Fun, Jeff. Please remember that.

  • Check out RV's MXoN bike
In wrenching news, it looks like John Mitcheff will be moving over to Kawasaki to work for his current rider Ryan Villopoto whenever that gets announced. There was some speculation in the pits that with Kawasaki seeming to be full with mechanics (Mike Williamson and Dana Wiggins) the man nicknamed “Throttle” wouldn’t be able to go with RV. I hear Ryan insisted that John be a part of the package, and I like to hear that. A lot of riders would forget their wrench-men’s phone numbers when pressured by a team. Good for Ryan and good for Throttle. I remember the first time I met Mitcheff. He was working at The Edge shop outside Chicago, and I was working for Kelly Smith. John told me that working for Brian Mason wasn’t going to cut it, and that he wanted to do what I do. I just wrote it off to drunken ramblings, but it looks like, with a bunch of national titles compared to my Summercross and Mt. Morris 2000 win, John’s the one laughing now.

What’s going to happen to Williamson and Wiggins? Well, with Kawasaki being a pretty cool company, I bet Mike moves over to being a crew chief or back with his old guy Ferry (that hurts me to type that…seriously).I’m sure that both of these tuners will still work at Kawasaki in some capacity.

Racer X reader Steve Ionescu wrote this short note: “Not sure if you surf the Mac sites as often as I do, but I just came upon this, and thought you might want to see it.”

Here’s a YouTube video of the Salt Lake City press conference with Chad Reed and Utah’s Governor Huntsman.

UK reader Paul Harris sent this note our way: “A very nice chap called Fraser Law here in the UK has created an online petition to try and get the name of the Motocross Of Nations changed back to the Motocross Des Nations. I doubt if anything will come of it, but it’d certainly be interesting just to get an idea how many people would like to see the des Nations restored to its former name.”

Check out this belated story in last Sunday’s New York Times, about an off-road riding area closes in New Jersey. The riders and off-roaders did everything right but still got the short end of the stick.

  • Bambie holds protest at Snowshoe GNCC!
Yesterday, Buren Hamrick was taking a break from helping lay out the course at the Snowshoe GNCC, which is high in the mountains of southern West Virginia, when this deer stepped out of the woods to check out what was going on. He seemed friendly enough, so they offered him some M&Ms, “E.T. phone home”-style. The deer hung out a little longer, then stepped right back into the woods and disappeared.

Speaking of the Snowshoe GNCC, RacerTV’s Jeremy Saylor put together this video report from last year’s Snowshoe GNCC, which saw David Knight win one of gnarliest GNCCs in recent memory by nearly 10 minutes!

Let’s turn it over to Danny Brault for the Canadian beat …

Thanks, DC. This week I caught up with Kyle “KD Beets” Beaton to see what he’s been up to since the final round of the Monster Energy MX Nationals in Walton, Ontario. As it turned out, the Clearbrook Yamaha rider wasn’t up to too much. “I haven’t ridden since Walton,” said Beets, who finished second overall in the MX2 series. “I’ve just been hanging out, doing some wakeboarding and boating. I’m flying out to the Thompsons’ place near Toronto this week to start practicing for Montreal. They have a supercross track so I will ride that until later next week.”

Beets is coming off his best year yet, winning the Nex-Trax Canadian AX championship, qualifying for three AMA Supercrosses, winning motos at the Canadian Nationals, and finishing second overall to Eric Nye in the Canadian MX2 championship. Considering those accolades, he surely has to be on some Canadian teams’ shortlists for 2009. “I’ve talked to pretty much everybody,” said Beaton. “Leading Edge Kawasaki is interested but I need to get back to them; I’ve talked to Blackfoot but if I rode for them, I couldn’t do supercross; Suzuki OTSFF is looking for a guy after [Jeremy] Medaglia was let go, and with those guys, I could probably race supercross; I called Billy Whitley too, but I don’t think he’s interested.”

Beaton also added that he’s been invited to race the Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open in Las Vegas October 10-12. But before he can even think about soaking up the sun in Vegas and hitting the tables, he needs to focus on winning his first Montreal SX in the all-Canadian MX2 class. Surprisingly, considering Beaton’s indoor skills, his best finish at Montreal was a fourth-place last year.

  • JT Foreign $
Speaking of Montreal, the 31st running of the event kicks off next Saturday, September 20 inside historic Olympic Stadium. The top 10 finishers in the Canadian MX1 series are all signed up (except for Cernic’s Kawasaki’s Dusty Klatt, who is taking time off to rest his ankle and prepare for the MXoN the following weekend) along with a handful of American standouts, including 2005 and 2007 winners, Jason Thomas and Ryan Clark.

Five-time Canadian champ and four-time Montreal winner Jean-Sébastien Roy is also returning for his final Montreal SX. “The King of Canadian MX” believes he can challenge for the win and says he is expecting nothing less than a podium finish. While he is in semi-retirement right now, JSR has been racing local outdoor events and raced his one and only national at Walton on a YZ250 two-stroke big bore. He’s traded in his two-stroke for a thumper at Montreal, however.

One rider that will be missing in Montreal is Canada’s journeyman Doug DeHaan. The former Butler Brothers Honda rider and his wife, Claudia, are tucked away in Austria taking care of their new son, Kobe. That’s right: Big D is now a big daddy! Congrats, guys! DeHaan only raced a few regional events and two nationals this summer in Canada, before flying back to Austria for the birth of his son. This weekend, he’s planning to race an Austrian national on a Kawasaki and he has some German SX lined up this winter.

  • FCR/GEICO Powersports replica Trey Canard bike that Jimmie Johnson's team had at the Fontana Sprint Cup race.
If you’ve never been to a Montreal SX before, then grab your passport, some Canadian beer and Advil at the border, and get your butt up north! The “show” is unlike any other indoor event in the world (and so is the nightlife). Not only do you get to watch top American, Canadian and international supercross riders battle, but there’s also the crazy autocross dudes who usually clean out every flagger, an ATV race featuring North America’s best four-wheel racers, and a freestyle contest that leaves the Coors Light-fueled fans wanting more.

The Montreal SX is the longest-running indoor race in Canada and possibly the world. The first race dates all the way back to 1977, when Can-Am’s Jimmy Ellis won. Check out this impressive list of 250cc/MX1 winners from Montreal: Marty Tripes, Mark Barnett, Ross Pederson, Al Dyck, Allan King, Fred Andrews, Jim Holley, Dean Matson, Doug Henry, Scott Sheak, Brian Swink, Kyle Lewis, JSR, Casey Johnson, Brock Sellards, Mike Craig, Nick Wey, Jason Thomas, Dusty Klatt, and Ryan Clark.

For all the info on Montreal, click here.

From Ping:

  • Check out Tim Ferry's MXoN boots
We scooped the whole selling of the supercross series thing, now I’m getting some dirt out of Chicago that will put a very different twist on the “Supercross” class this year. Apparently, the premier class is going to be open to 450s, 250 two-strokes, AND 250Fs this year. The open format, which is very similar to the U.S. Open’s, will allow riders to choose whatever bike they want to ride in the premier class. The bikes must be homologated, though, and that means you can’t blow out a little bike to a 350 and run that, like some teams have done at the X Games the last couple of years. Obviously, most of the best riders will opt to ride the 450s, but where this rule will come in to play is when Lites riders want to get some time in on the opposite coast. For example, if Trey Canard wants to ride a couple of West rounds to get warmed up, he can sign up in the Supercross class on his 250F and compete. Or if Brett Metcalfe wants to keep racing once the series goes to the East, he can do the same thing there. Remember the problem they had last year with gates not being full in the 450 class? This could help remedy that problem.

Speaking of Metcalfe, it looks like the speedy Aussie is not going to stay at Pro Circuit as expected. My sources say Brett has already signed a letter of intent (possibly a contract) with the GEICO/Factory Connection team. They lost Josh Grant to JGR and have quite a bit of money to play with (about $850,000) to hire another rider. Good news for Brett. That leaves a spot open at Pro Circuit, and I don’t even think Mitch Payton knows who will fill it right now.

We all know that YoT and Star Racing are merging. Their riders will be Jason Lawrence, Matt Lemoine and Darryn Durham. The final spot has yet to be filled, though Broc Tickle would like to stay, I’m sure. The team will be called the Boost Mobile Yamaha of Troy Race Team from what I gather, but much of the Star staff will stay.

  • Anderson 15, Fillmore 11, Herfoss 99
Nick Wey has been spending some time back in Michigan with his family since the final round. He says he doesn’t have anything done yet for next year, but he has been talking to Factory Connection about a possible spot there. I’ve also heard through the grapevine that he could be back at MDK but on a separate truck and not on a KTM. We’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

Troy Herfoss continued to dominate the AMA XTRM Supermoto series last weekend in Salt Lake City. The Australian sat patiently in third for most of the main event as Cassidy Anderson and Chris Fillmore bickered over the lead. Herfoss followed Fillmore around Anderson with a few laps to go, and when Fillmore slid out in a turn, Troy assumed the lead and never looked back. Anderson maintained second while Mark Burkhart picked up third position. Herfoss now leads the series by eight points with two rounds left to go.

Finally, DC called in to say he just got off the phone with Trey Canard's mom, who said Trey is a bit bummed about not getting the 2008 Rookie of the Year Award, but he understands that Nico Izzi had more total points. She also said Trey is off his crutched and is already looking forward to defending his #1 plate in the SX2 East.

That about does it for Racerhead. Thanks for reading, and we'll see you at the races.
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