Observations from Anaheim I

January 7, 2009 1:10pm | by:
We’re back! After a long off-season, the Observations columns are coming back and hitting the ground running. I was going to do some off-season stuff but realized that I’m running out of jokes and have to take it easy. Thankfully, the new supercross season brings me so much ammo to reload, it’s ridiculous. So you can look for these things after every week from here on out. And did ya also notice we got a sponsor? That’s right, I think this PRO column is the ANSWER, there’s no way that a Man Should Really miss this thing, as it never TAPERs off….

Anaheim Uno is always an exciting time. New numbers, new gear, who got new implants, as well as see who had been doing their off-season homework. I think the track was pretty good. A few riders told me it was really easy and pretty fast but the lap times were generally over a minute, and for supercross, that’s long. The only beefs I have with the track are that if you’re going to lay sand out, make it so that the sand is a factor. Dump it in a turn and make it really affect the guys. On Saturday, the guys jumped three-quarter-ways into it and then were out.

And another thing: when you go to Reed or Ferry’s house or wherever, you see the tracks are always finished on the back sides of berms and on the sides of the jumps. I wonder why the Dirt Wurx guys don’t do this. It looks oh-so-pretty. I also would like to see the over/under bridge return and my house be made out of gingerbread.

  • Maybe it was a given that Josh Grant was gonna win. After all, the team is named after him.
  • It was nice for JGRMX that Grant won, now no one will ask what happened to Cody
  • It was a real Hallmark moment down at the podium, and that's cool.
What can you say about one of the wildest races we’ve seen in years? Wow, that was crazy, and after all the smoke and carnage cleared it was Joe Gibbs Racing’s Josh Grant taking home his first 450 SX win. Grant rode 450s last year at a few, so it’s not his first crack at it, but he sure showed more than a few people (myself included) that he can be a real threat in the class. He was fast in every practice and he was even in the unseeded one. Has a rider ever won when he was in that practice? Congrats to the whole team - they are a great bunch of guys and deserve it.

Before the night show I was talking to Alex Ewing, Grant’s mechanic, and he said that Grant has been working hard but has a tendency to overreact and try to “make back” any seconds he loses when he makes a mistake. This inevitably leads him to make more mistakes and Alex thinks he still needs to lose that 250F mentality. Josh was never pressured in the main, except when that Tuff Block cover almost tackled him at the end, so we never got to see if he’s been working on what Alex is trying to help with.

Scary moment near the end when he caught that banner in his wheel and was having his rear wheel lock up on him around the track. It seems like the banner thing in the wheel gets the guys 50% of the time, and this time the odds worked out. I’m sure it was scary for Josh, but I have to say it looked pretty cool, leaving a jet-stream trail of smoke wherever he went like a spaceship or something.

What happened to James Stewart and Chad Reed? Most of us reading this saw that after passing Reed, James bobbled a bit entering a whoop section and Chad clipped his rear wheel, sending both of them sprawling all over the track. I think it was a racing incident, and neither guy was upset at each other for it. Reedy ended up with a bent rotor and a third-place; Stewie ended up not being able to start his bike, pushing it inadvertently into Kevin Windham and getting KO’d. James starts the season with a 19th and an uphill climb to reclaim his supercross title (see Ricky Carmichael ’02).

If you injected Sodium Pentothal into me before the main I would’ve said that James has Chad covered and unless Stewie makes a mistake, it’s his title to lose. Well, that was before the main event, because Reed showed us why he’s got that big Number One on him. James grabbed the start and was probably trying to check out when Chad put in what might have been the two fastest laps in the history of supercross—he was like a half-second faster! He was desperate to show James that he’s not going to walk away with this title. He caught and passed James by just diving into the corners harder and exploding out of them like he was shot out of a cannon. He even set the fastest lap of the night in these two laps with a 59.4, half a second better then James could muster and almost two seconds faster than Grant ever did. He did all this when the track was at its worst as well. Then he got third with a wheel that barely turned due to a bent rotor. I know because I saw Goose trying to spin it in the impound area. Very impressive ride by the two-two.

  • Stewie was there. He looked different, but still very fast. He may not want to hear this, but thanks for making it interesting James!
  • Reed showed me something. He showed me that his brutal MXDN ride is in the past and that red looks good on him.
James was pretty damn fast as well. He obviously looked different, and one trackside observer said to me that he now looks like every other rider out there, whereas before he really stood out with his bright gear and riding style. Not sure if I agree with that but he does look different. That usually happens when a guy CHANGES EVERYTHING BUT HIS GOGGLES. Speaking of gear, I liked the Answer stuff that James was wearing; it featured his signature “ANSR” logo with the “S” backwards. That will be a designation that its Stewie special edition stuff.

Jake “The Snake” Weimer won the 250F class in his debut ride for Pro Circuit and J.C. Waterhouse, the manager of Jake’s team last year, was last seen measuring himself for a noose. You see, they thought they had a deal with Jake, only to see him bolt last summer to the green team. It would be like you owning a baby horse since birth, nurturing it, giving it the love and attention it needs and cleaning up its poop for years. And just when it’s going to be the next Secretariat, somebody offers the horse more carrots and it wanders over to another stall.

Jake just has to concentrate on qualifying for this week’s main (he won Phoenix last year) and he’ll be all good. Congrats to Jake’s mechanic, Shawn Irwin, as well - he’s a friend of mine and now he joins the Race-Winning Mechanics’ Club with me (we meet every third Tuesday in my mind).

What happened to the odds-on favorite, Ryan Dungey? He had a rough night when his bike broke on the face of a jump and he endoed pretty hard. He came back to win the LCQ and even though he had a bad start due to his gate position put his head down, came from tenth to third, and had himself a pretty good night from what could have been disaster. His ride did nothing to deter the oddsmakers from moving him off the board as the favorite. But what kind of gear will he be wearing in Phoenix?

Andrew Short had a good opening round, finishing second. He was there to take advantage of Stewie and Reed’s mistake, and at one point was slowly catching Grant before settling for second. It had to make Andrew feel good to reel in Tim Ferry, pass him, and leave him in the dark. When I texted Shorty the day after, he said that it was “just one race,” that “your dog” will be there in the end and that “I better not be in your column.” Sorry, Andrew, but you rode great and I have to talk about you or I just wouldn’t be doing my job.

  • I really like the looks of the new Suzukis. They get the title of Best Looking Bike in the Pits.
  • Looks like James is still under the
  • Here's Brooks consoling James after the main
I’ve been hard on the 2009 Thor gear when it debuted last year during the nationals, I know the late Mr. Blackwell never called me about fashion advice, so you should all take what I say with a grain of salt. I was impressed with Reedy’s Thor/Rockstar getup. It looked good and was a big improvement on the stuff he had been wearing. I also liked Wey’s MSR stuff, Ferry’s stuff he wore in practice, and the ONE Industries gear was strong as well.

Speaking of One, there was a lot of pit chatter about Ryan Dungey, the poster child for One gear, being upset with One signing his archenemy, the one Jason Lawrence. He was supposed to be getting out of his contract, wearing Ocelot, burning all his One gear after the race or racing in long underwear, depending on who you talked to.

I could imagine that Lawrence was probably texting Dungey all week asking if his new teammate was ready and that he could hardly wait for the photo shoots. This is something I’m sure Lawrence would do and would also be pretty funny.

Ryan Morais was good—really good. It seems that everyone forgets about the kid, but all he does is prove that he’s a solid rider year in and year out. It seems that he’s broken that injury bug (besides that freak blood disorder thing last summer) that dogged him for a few years and now on the powerful Monster Energy/Pro Circuit team he may just be one of those dudes who rides around in third or fourth and finds himself a chance to win a title at the end of the day. Did you know I was Ryan’s mechanic at the 1999 Mini Olympics and that he only lost two motos all week (one to Stewie) and that I got screwed out of the Golden Wrench Award? Now you do.

Tim Ferry had an okay race. He got fourth, but he wasn’t happy that Shorty and Ivan Tedesco passed him during the main. He mentioned to me that the track was really rough and that he pumped up enough that his “grips felt like paper-towel rolls.” He was losing some time when he wouldn’t triple in the section before the finish, but when I asked him why he didn’t jump it, he said he did a lot early on but then quit later on. I never saw him do it, but I tend to believe the guy who was actually riding. As usual, Red Dog will be a player in this series before it’s all over, and we should all cheer on seniors when we can. It’s good for them to have goals.

J-Law crashed with Trey Carnard on the first lap and came from the back to finish fourth in a great ride sans visor. J-Law was then docked five seconds and one position after the race for getting out of control and cutting the track. I think that was an appropriate penalty. He definitely didn’t make an effort to get back in where he exited, but the teams that were calling for five positions or even a DNQ after the race were a little out of line in my opinion. The section that he cut out didn’t even take five seconds to go, through according to the FIM referee John Gallagher. It was a fair penalty in my mind.

  • Lookee here, Mitch found an up and coming star. Shocker.
  • Looks like the dominator showed up this weekend. He just has to make next week's main event. I don't think thats going to be a problem.
  • Jake
Canard had some bad luck, crashing in his heat and giving the win away. Then his crash with J-Law on the first lap set him back a long ways, as he couldn’t get his bike started and was down a lap. Poor Trey, first he breaks his leg at Washougal, then he can’t race the East series with the #1 plate because his teammates are all hurt, and he goes out and struggles to a some-teenth at the first round. I do think that when the dust settles in a round or two we’ll see a green (Weimer), red (Canard), yellow (Dungey), orange (Justin Brayton) and whatever color Lawrence is on (Black? Blue? Monster green?) battle for the championship.

So I wander into the pits of Lawrence’s teammate Nick Wey to encourage him and wish him luck when Nick says to Lawrence, “Hey J-Law, look, it’s Matthes!” Here is a transcript of the conversation that followed:

JL: “I know who you are. you called me and Hill ‘Cheech and Chong.’ I don’t like you. All you do is write negative shit.”

Me: “I’m just talking to Wey, and sorry about that, but it was funny. Are you one of those riders that never read or remember the positive things I write about them?”

JL: “No, I never read anything. I don’t need negative people around me.” [I can barely hear him over Wey laughing, because if any of you know Nick, you know he lives for this kind of situation.] “Do people make fun of you for being fat?”

Me: “Yes, all the time, actually. Give me your email - I’ll send you all the stuff I said that talked about how great you rode last year.”

Then he threw me out from under the tent. It was actually pretty funny.

Speaking of the team that I shall no longer name, Nick Wey had a debut ride that was just … okay. In a surprising interview on Racer X before the race, Nick mentioned that he was still battling some bike setup issues and that he’ll need the first few rounds to shake everything down. He rode well in practice, getting the ninth-best time, and came from fourteenth to ninth in the main. He was kind of bummed out but I think he’ll get better and better as time goes on.

  • Here's a guy to cheer for. He was about a month away from working at 7-11 and now he's on the podium at Anaheim.
  • This could be the
Hey, Bobby Kiniry of the Cernic’s Kawasaki team is a pretty good 450 rider! The diminutive New Yorker ran up front in his heat race and looked like he belonged in the big boys’ class. He had some bad luck in the main but still surprised me with his speed this weekend. If you would’ve told me that Bobby would have qualified and Travis Preston, Josh Hansen and Troy Adams would not have I would’ve said you were nuts.

The Cernic’s team has a unique deal where they wear Moose gear in the USA and Shift gear when they go to Canada this summer for the nationals. Their other rider, Paul Carpenter, was pretty much invisible to me—he came through the LCQ—but when I looked it up, Pauly got tenth, so that’s a good ride.

The privateer battle is shaping up to be pretty good between Heath Voss, Nick Wey, and Paul Carpenter and they went 7-9-10 respectively this week. Speaking of the team that I shall not name, they do not have a stitch of blue on their Yamahas and therefore are not eligible for contingency. I cannot see how the riders agreed to this, as that’s a lot of money to be giving away for the simple fact of a color of a fender. There are exceptions to the rule, but my sources said that Yamaha already denied the color scheme and the team that I shall not name did it anyway.

You know how we all loved John Travolta in Staying Alive and Welcome Back Kotter? Then he faded out and we all figured he was dead or working at a 7-Eleven in Barstow? Then he came back and turned into a big-time player when he was in Pulp Fiction? We remembered why we loved him and embraced him once again as the epitome of cool. The same thing is happening in music right now with Axl Rose and Chinese Democracy. Go get it—it’s really good. Seriously, Axl is back and I can’t stop listening to this disc, the man is brilliant. Check out Axl’s posting on his GNR forum.

(Editor’s note: Matthes must still live in the nineties, because his choice of music leaves much to be desired; someone get him the Kings of Leon or MGMT for comparison.)

The new rule letting anyone race a 250 in the 450 class saw one guy take advantage of it, and that was Butler Brothers MX’s Kyle Keylon. Kyle didn’t qualify, but you had no idea he was on a 250 because his number plates were black on white. I think they should keep the same color as the 250 class so the announcers can play it up and the fans can cheer for the underdog. So does referee John Gallagher, so look for that to change soon.

  • Ol' Red Dog had one of those nights where you didn't really notice him (well I did of course) but he ended up with a fourth. Nice way to start a season. Don't look at his boots, nothing to see here. Move along.
  • I hadn't seen him since he saved America and he wanted to give me a hug. I also didn't know Cox would invade our little private moment or I would've looked up.
Seeing as how Broc Hepler broke his collarbone in practice and once again is out for a little while, I think we all need to agree that Broc should just never race in California again. He’d be better off for sure. Poor Hepler - the guy needs to wrap himself in bubble wrap, and I know I used that joke with BT101 last summer, but I still think it’s funny.

Hepler’s teammate Josh Hill is still riding himself into shape from a shoulder injury and is about 80% right now. He joins the Please Don’t Bag on Us on the Internet ‘Cause We’re Injured Club with Mike Alessi and Travis Preston (who had no chance to qualify after that big LCQ first-turn crash).

Preston told me he just got back from his hand injury and that it will take him a little while to get into the swing of things on the new KTM. He mentioned that he is not racing the nationals and is just going to concentrate on testing the rumored all new 2010 linkage equipped KTM 450 this summer. He also said his donkey Bunny is doing well but there’s nothing new to report as far as anything interesting.

Presto’s teammate Josh Summey had a freak thing happen to him when, six laps into the main event, he had some suspension problems and was forced to pull out. His incredibly bad luck at the opening round streak continues.

There are always some fast dudes who show up at Anaheim and nobody knows who they are. This year those dudes were Cedric Soubeyras (16th in the 250 main) and Cyrille Coulon (who would’ve qualified in the 450s but crashed out late in his heat). Both riders are from France and somewhere, DV12 was smiling. Check out Coulon’s website here. My favorite part is where he says he’s a fan of Mike Brown.

I know people are in an uproar about the decision to pull the webcast out from the world, and I even got some emails asking me, a total peon in the SX world, to help out (seriously, how desperate must you be to listen to Weege and Holley that you think I have any say with anyone?), but I think something might be in the works—there were some big-hitters whispering about a trimmed-down package that would still get the word out, and also the expense (rumored to be 200K) down. The sound guy came out to pack his stuff up but they told him not to call the shipping company just yet. Hmmmmmm….

A few rules that were changed in the off-season: The weight limit went up in both classes (that’s a good thing, as the 450s were not there yet and the teams were spending thousands trying to meet it), the 250F class was cut to 20 guys in the main (I don’t agree with this as you should give the privateers and teams all the spots you can), and you have to use the stock valve angle now in your bike. So no more getting blank cylinder heads from the factories and making your own angles, which is something that gives you the ability to really tune the power to the upper RPMs. Almost all the rule changes were made to bring the cost of racing down.

Look at TLD Honda’s Chris Blose getting fourth in the main! Good ride for him, and no doubt having former vice-champion and Anaheim winner David Pingree for a manager and mentor contributed greatly to his finish. As usual, the TLD bikes and setup were cool-looking and cutting-edge.

Another team that had a great pit presence was Hart & Huntington Honda. There were cool-looking bikes, a DJ booth, smoke machines, loud music, half-naked girls, and people playing beer pong under their tent. All in all it was a cool scene, but that’s about the entire highlight of the team’s nights, as Troy Adams and Josh Hansen failed to qualify for the main event. Adams crashed in that LCQ first turn and Hanny battled arm pump, according to team manager Kenny “The Original K-Dub” Watson. I remember in my KTM days there would be days where all four guys wouldn’t even score a point at a national, and that’s not a good feeling….

{LINKS}That’s it! That’s all I’ve got for Observations, and if you made it to the bottom of this, congratulations. I want to thank the people who stopped to talk to me, and the guy who got his picture with me should immediately get professional help. Send me an email at matthes@racerxonline.com and I’ll try to answer back if I’m not too busy working out. See you at Phoenix — look for me under the … wait for it … Boost Mobile AM/PM Monster Energy Troy Racing team tent!