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Observations From The U.S. Open

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The Rockstar Energy U.S. Open of Supercross in Las Vegas has always been a boom-or-bust kind of race—much like Vegas really. Obviously in the beginning it was an exciting, vibrant event with a huge purse and lots of potential. The race’s founding father, Eric Peronnard, was a visionary and someone that keeps on thinking outside the box to help grow American motorcycling. After a change in ownership, the Open became kind of stagnant in my opinion and, judging by the crowd back then, I wasn’t alone in that thinking.

  • James Stewart went 1-1 in his L&M Racing San Manuel Yamaha debut
The last few years, however, with the track being turned around on the second night, with the addition of a Superpole qualifying, opening the track to 250 riders, Legends racing, and some other small changes, the U.S. Open has made a comeback and regained its former glory. With all this in mind, we saw two of the world’s biggest motocross stars debut brand new rides in America, and this alone made the event a must see.

The track was pretty good, although over watered for practice (maybe Skip fell asleep in the water truck?). They had a tabletop section that separated the top guys from the pack. It was an on-on-on rhythm that had the fast line being skipping across the top. That was always my problem with the old tracks—everybody was doing the exact same rhythms! There were three different ways to do this section both nights and when you came up on a lapper, the best guys couldn’t always do it. If they kept this same layout next year, I think it would still be good. Whoops were big and I think Dirt Wurx did the best they could do with the room they had, but I would still like to see the over-under tunnel come back from exile. What happened to that thing? Did a freestyle guy burn it down? Does Todd Jendro have it in his backyard?

If I have to complain (and my wife says I do) it was the fact the program dragged through the night. There were simply too many races… Maybe the riders need to be cut down to a smaller workable number. To have three heats, three semis and two LCQs is just too much. The cut-down process is okay, but maybe three heats, two semis and one LCQ with almost full gates would help out. Also the screens needed to show more information on how many are taken to the main, because, as we all know, you cannot always hear the announcers. Now onto the races…
James Stewart came as close as you could getting the extra 150K for sweeping everything a rider could (two Superpole wins, two heat race wins, two main event wins, two puppies adopted) but he just missed out on the second night holeshot. He looked good on his L&M Yamaha and it’s funny because if you were color blind, you might swear he was still on a Kawi.

James was all alone in the first night after Chad Reed DNF’d but the second night, he had to earn it. He came out fourth or so and had to hunt down Reedy in a short amount of time. He made said time up in the whoops and also by busting out this ridiculous triple-triple section during the main event. I’m pretty sure he didn’t do it at all until the main and the landing was pretty tall. It reminded me of that double-try in Texas this year or the quadruple in Atlanta a couple of years ago, and also reminded me why Ferry once called Stewie “Crazy Balls.”

  • Now that's a future Thor ad
James pressured Reedy for 5, 6 laps and it had to have been nerve racking for Reedy to have the dude right on him and jumping that section. It’s hard to focus and think about racing when the crowd is going nuts and you know he’s jumping something that you’re not… Anyways, Reedy cracked and cross-rutted on the face in the triple section and flew off sideways, temporary being separated from his Suzuki. This allowed James to go on to the win. I heard through some sources that Stewie wasn’t totally happy with his bike but it looked pretty damn good to me.

Speaking of bikes, when the RM-Z450 debuted back in the day, we at Yamaha used to be amazed at how much it popped and sputtered. You would think that with EFI you would not hear that from a machine but this weekend the Suzukis sounded at times like one of Orville Redenbacher’s machines. I suppose it’s a result of mapping and being over-revved but you never heard it with any other bike as much.

Reedy has nothing to be ashamed about when he looks back on his weekend. James was just a tad quicker than him throughout the weekend but not so much that Chad would leave the race thinking that James has him covered when the big dance begins in January. I think after the horrible MXDN race that Reed had, this was quite an improvement and Chad knows what he needs to work on. At the press conference, Reedy was sniffling quite a bit and telling me how he flew across the world in the last few weeks and has more travelling planned (with his Supercross series going on in Aussieland.) I have to think that being a promoter and racer all over the world is going to take a toll on the always outspoken Reedy.

As far as the first night’s race goes, a first turn crash by Ryan Dungey caused Chad’s rear brake line to be cut by Dungey’s handlebar. The crash caused Ryan’s grip to be ripped off but in true Hannah style, The Dunge picked up his bike and came from dead last to fifth with no freaking grip on!! I didn’t know this until after the race on Friday and can’t believe it, what an amazing ride.

  • Ryan Dungey was tough on the 250F
Speaking of that crash, Dungey collided with his riding buddy Stewie and that’s why Ryan was picking his bike up in the first turn. The Dunge thought Stewie went in a little hard and let him know that after the race with some harsh words that he wasn’t happy. I thought we might’ve seen the biggest buddy break-up since that one Lethal Weapon when Danny Glover got pissed at Mel Gibson’s antics and requested a new partner. These words caused Stewie to go over to the Suzuki truck and have it out with The Dunge and that’s when I saw Larry Brooks outside the truck waiting for the end of the meeting (It’s like the Godfather movies when the top riders get together) and when James came out, I can tell you he was still not very happy. Which kind of sucked for me because Brooks had just gotten into this story about a race in 1988 when he had to go….

Steve Cox was joking with Ivan Tedesco last year and said he called him Ivan “The Terrible (on 450s).” They had a good laugh about it I guess but I was thinking that might not be bad too have on the back of his pants after watching practice on Friday. Ivan fell a few times, couldn’t make it into the top eight either night to qualify for the Superpole and basically it looked like his miserable 2008 would just keep on keepin’ on. Did I mention that he couldn’t finish top three in his heat to make the main? But this is why they run the races, because Ivan got a break in the Dungey first turn crash to go from dead last to second in .4 seconds and held it there until the end. It was a great ride and had to help out his confidence.

Second night Ivan got fifth and second overall. Again, he got some help to get 2nd overall but after all the bad luck he’s had, he deserves something to go his way; the karma gods were dishing out goodness to Hot Sauce this weekend for a change, and showed that he can still do it. Good for him and good to see he has a sense of humor about things when he asked me if I was going to talk shit on him again when he saw me on Friday.

  • Teammates going at it!
Speaking of Hot Sauce, despite me talking poop on him for his ride at Southwick he came through with a complete set of gear for Blair Morgan’s auction. Also I want to thank Victor “Slasher” Sheldon, Ro-Jay Larsen, Michelle Dungey, Andrew Short, Josh Hill, Reedy, Stewie for getting me gear for this deal. It’s great to see and look for this to be set up soon with gear and some other goodies for the man we call Superman up in Canada.

On Friday night, Tedesco’s teammate Andrew Short caught up to the number nine and in usual Shorty fashion he let Ivan know that he was there and would like to pass. Some might say it was aggressive but I would counter that with its arenacross and that is the ONLY way to get by a guy that is close to your speed. So anyways Ivan, like any good racer would, decided that he would also be aggressive with Shorty and these two got into a block pass match for a lap or two before Shorty took them both down before the finish (I’m pretty sure that I saw Doc Bodnar administering CPR to Erik Kehoe at this point.) They struggled to get up and also took down fourth-place Justin Brayton in the whole deal, which allowed Josh Hill to go from fifth to third in one turn! Then I saw what might be the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while which was Hill fist pumping in the air after getting that lucky break!

I know tempers were high in the Honda pits but I think once both Ivan and Shorty calmed down, they would realize that its arenacross and you have to do what you have to do. Which I think happened after they met the next day. It’s just good racing in tight confines, that’s all.

I don’t know what happened to Short’s bike the first night, he DNF’d after that crash with Ivan but he did rebound for a second on the second night after Reedy’s crash. He was good and I think he was the third fastest guy this weekend, all things considered.

  • You could tell this guy raced arenacross before
You know who was really fast? Like surprisingly fast? Like a guy that you knew was good but this weekend was really good? Justin Brayton, that’s who. KTM have to maybe thinking that they may have made a mistake leaving the friendly Iowan (I had to Google that to see how you say it) in the 250 class. Remember that he also put in good 450 rides at the X Games and at the end of the Supercross series as well. Justin went 4-9 for 5th overall. He was very quick on Friday night and got “tangled up” with Hill on Saturday night.

After watching The Dunge this weekend, there is NO WAY he loses a 250 race next year. He looks like a confident, aggressive rider that’s throwing that bike around. (Keep in mind I thought there was NO WAY you could lose on Enron stock as well.)

The Feld Entertainment people (that felt weird) lined up a Legends race this year between “The Beast from the East” Damon Bradshaw and Jeff “Chicken” Matiasevich. It was a hit last year with Larocco, Emig and Huffman, so why not try to capture that magic in a bottle again? Bradshaw, who was one of my childhood heroes, was noticeably faster than Jeff from the first time they took the track and the race really didn’t work so great. It’s not that Jeff was bad or rolled anything—he looked good—but Bradshaw was clearly faster. The race was over when the gate dropped. Damon tried to make it a race on the first night by slowing down and looking around to wait for Jeff but it was pretty obvious that he was trying to make it a show. Anyways, it was still cool but maybe next year we can get more guys to make some racing happen?

  • Austin Politelli won the 85cc Invitational
The 85cc race was also brought back from yesteryear and it was pretty exciting really. To listen to a bunch of crazy kids pushing their bikes to the limit reminds me of my mosquito-filled youth. Suzuki’s Austin Politelli ended up winning the thing with a 1-2 but it was exciting when Joey Savatgy was in position to win when he crashed near the end of Saturday’s main, giving Politelli the win. Savatgy is a Red Bull athlete and is obviously a fast and promising rider but I think needs to work on his podium speeches a bit, or maybe just try to stay awake during them, which would help.

Canada’s favorite Gnome, Kyle Beaton, got the chance to race at the U.S. Open and I thought with his AX experience and his tiny stature KD Beets could possibly go 1-1 (okay, I’m kidding about that but I thought he wouldn’t finish last anyways.) He was one of the few on a 250F and there were some obstacles (see beginning of this column) that could only be done by a Ryan Dungey or a 450. Anyways, Beets just missed the night show on the first night but rebounded in the second night to grab second in his LCQ… for two turns before getting punted by Heath Voss. It was a great learning experience for Beets and I’m glad he got the chance to race.

Along with the new bikes for some riders, new numbers, new gear there was also a press conference from the new organizers for the outdoor series. Now obviously we all know that MX Sports is owned and operated by the Coombs family and that Davey Coombs started this very website, so clearly I’m a little biased. With that in mind, I know DC is going to bust his ass to make the series better and I applaud all the changes. When I did a rider survey two years ago about what the guys would like changed at the nationals, I got overwhelming response that the riders wanted a one-day format. They now have that, and the TV package will help expose the sport also. There will always be the complaining about changes but you have to try new stuff and see what works and what doesn’t. The no-number-needed on the side plate is cool and it should be interesting to see what the teams do with it, as some will probably just keep their numbers.

Out of the twenty-four spots open for the two nights main events, only four spots changed over the course of racing. Daniel Blair, Chris Blose, Kyle Chisholm (who debuted as Stewie’s teammate) and Matt Boni were the only guys to make one main event and not the other. In other random facts did you know that elephants are the only mammals that can’t jump?

  • Get well soon, JT!
Bad news for the pint-sized warrior that we all know and love Jason Thomas. JT$ went down in a multi-bike pileup in the second turn during Friday night’s heat race and broke his tibia and fibula. He went to the hospital but checked himself out to come back and watch Saturday night’s action (?!?). He went in for surgery on Monday in Florida and will be out for a while, tough break (literally) for Thomas.

Troy Adams also qualified for the night show but he didn’t line up for the race. I saw him in the crowd and I’m not sure what the deal was but too bad we didn’t see him out there.

“Dandy” Dan Reardon had a tough weekend also, he qualified for both mains but it wasn’t easy. He had to go to both LCQs which I’m sure wasn’t easy on the nerves. He rode a 450 in the race but was also in Australia last weekend with Reedy so I’m sure he was affected a bit by the travel. I just thought he’d be better that’s all.
In the who’s-riding-where rumors, there’s indications that Sean Hamblin is close with KTM to ride the 450 for them and new sponsor Jagermeister. There are also strong indications that Jason Lawrence is out at Yamaha because his people are already putting together a 450 program with Fox gear. Stay tuned to see if “The Teflon Law” actually does get fired this time.

All right, thanks for reading and feel free to comment below or email me at matthes@racerxonline.com . I’m not sure when the next column will be up as I have no plans for any races but maybe I’ll dig up an old Supercross and observe that.
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