Observations from Phoenix

January 14, 2009 1:21pm | by:

  • This is a shot of the actual track on Saturday night. Look how smooth everything is!
The Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Series moved onto Chase Field in Phoenix, which has to be one of the nicest covered stadiums in the world. Back in the day when Randy Lawrence didn’t let MC know that David Vuillemin was coming, and he was passed by The Cobra for the win (just kidding RL), the Phoenix dirt was some of the best. Very tacky, rutted up nicely and was always a big, fast track. But then something happened to the dirt; it got Anaheim-ish. The last few years, it has turned hard, slick, crumbly and not so good...

But for 2009 the good ol’ days were back! Dirt was great, layout was great, and almost everybody I spoke to was happy about the track.

There were a couple of things that proves without a doubt that Dirt Wurx reads Observations. The backsides of the berms and sides of jumps were finished all nicely like I mentioned last week, and the sand section was great! Okay, I’m sure I’m delusional about them reading, but still, there were also two full corners of Lommel-style beach sand that helped change the complexion of the race. Love it! Now about that over/under bridge...

Before I get much into it all, thanks to Feld Motor Sports for bringing back the webcast, even if there is a small fee involved.  Somewhere, Weege must be blogging about how he happy he is to be back on the airwaves, or netwaves.

  • I think this part of the Yamaha test track will be very beat up by the end of the week. Even with his troubles the guy still won! Let's not forget that.
Stewie got his first win, but it wasn’t easy, that’s for sure. He grabbed the lead on the first lap and led all twenty laps, but Reedy closed up on him and gave him a hell of a race. It was awesome and set the stage for what I think will be a great season of racing between the two. James had a bit of a disadvantage because he was the first one to catch up to the lappers, so they would maybe hold him up a bit, but once he went by at mach five, the lappers realized they should probably look around for Reedy. He also had the 22 (who was wearing #1 of course) breathing down his neck, and that’s stressful.

I’m probably going to get some dirty looks or maybe even beat up by the always-intense Larry Brooks, but I really don’t think James’ bike looks that great yet. The whoops this week were big and nasty (they were nasty like that pit Rambo was in with all the pig poop and leaches, and that’s pretty nasty) and caused The Seven problems all day. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like it’s a P.O.S., but James doesn’t look (dare I say) Kawi-ish on it yet. He can’t seem to bend gravity as easily and always stay straight in the whoops... yet.

Ryan “We Are” Dungey had a rough week in the court of public opinion, but his off-track clothing deals will soon be forgotten if he keeps going out and winning. He took advantage of Jake Weimer “Heimer” falling and clicking off nine perfect laps to grab his first win and the points lead. He was fast all day and I never saw him make a mistake all night. That had to be such a relief for Ryan as his arch enemy (and defending champ) Jason Lawrence struggled with crashes and didn’t make the main.

  • There was this guy that once switched gear in the middle of the season and the internet exploded. Then six weeks later, nobody cared and Dungey kept on riding great.
  • Reedy was so bad at the MXDN, I thought that it was Craig Dack on the bike. Now I would have to say that it was a good move and he looks fantastic.
Beeker at Fox Racing just keeps stirring the pot, as his new rider Dungey showed up with “Perfect Fit” on his butt this weekend. I’d like the see “One and Only” on the back myself, but I’m funny like that... In talking to Beeks after the race, he was very touched when Ryan signed his winning gear and presented to him after the race, which he said none of his riders had ever done for him. Awww, they’re going to make such a cute couple.

This just in: The Chad is back! Reedy was awesome this weekend in making up some valuable seconds in the main and giving James a race. He looks really good and the bike looks really good as well. He told me in a podcast this week that he was not going to lay up and protect his points lead but I honestly didn’t believe him. Well, I was wrong as he was attacking the track, consequences be damned. He was cutting tenths off by getting his front wheel over the sand whoop when exiting that section and going faster in the whoops as well.

You know what was great? Seeing James and Chad give each other the thumbs-up right after crossing the finish line. I don’t think these guys are going to see “Marley and Me” together anytime soon, but it’s nice to see they respect each other like that.

This was the email last week from Tom McGovern, the Monster Kawasaki PR guy “3842 words in ‘Observations’ and not one that said ‘Villopoto’ anywhere.” That was it; pretty succinct and to the point, I think. I guess I better talk about him this week. After all, he’s going to be a frontrunner one of these days. Ryan had another frustrating night after a poor start and a crash when he ran into the rear of a tiring Mike Alessi and fell down. I’m a bit surprised that he hasn’t done better yet, but it’s only two races and he’ll get the hang of it soon. He is trying very, very hard but that is part of the problem. Hmmm, where did we hear that before? Maybe RC in 1999?

Another thing that I like about RV is that at Anaheim and twice this weekend I saw him just walking around by himself. That may not seem that big of a deal, but trust me with these top guys, it’s huge. No entourage at all for RV and when I mentioned it to him, in typical Ryan fashion, he just shrugged and said, “Why would I always have people with me?”

Jake Weimer was good again and looked like he’s going to be up there all the time this year. None of this up-and-down racing for him anymore. He was riding great and had it not been for him falling over in the sand, we might’ve seen two epic main events. I also thought that he would’ve been more aggressive on the last lap to grab third if it hadn’t been his teammate Ryan Morais in third, and Morais told me the same thing afterward.

  • Ryan was his usual
  • The Dominator and I had a nice phone call where I answered the phone
After the race, I saw Ryan Morais at Denny’s by the hotel and he told me that the bike is unbelievable and that he was not far away from having to get a real job before Mitch signed him. I told him that he may just win this thing with his consistent riding and he said that was the plan. Ryan is good people for sure.

Andrew Short had a quiet race as he started eighth, passed Troy Adams, Mike Alessi and Kevin Windham and got fifth. This is off his very quiet second-place last weekend. I asked him if he was bummed that not a lot of people were talking about his second after that epic A1, but he said that was okay and that the bonus check still cashed. I noticed some cuts around his eyes and asked what was up with that. He told me that on press day he tried to triple in on the section after the second triple and came up short so much that he nailed his noggin on the bars. Tough guy... and I’ve just divulged an injury to a top rider. I hope a sniper doesn’t get me.

I’ve made fun of some of the intro music in the past because it seemed that whoever chose it didn’t realize that people recorded music after 1995. I have to say that this weekend the music was really good. There was even some new GNR used, which made me happy that someone else has discovered the brilliance that is Axl. I did notice that for the show opening they used the Canadian band Nickleback and it was the same song that is also used for the opening of the longest running sports show in North America, “Hockey Night in Canada.”

I think they need to do something else in the course of the night show to keep the people entertained. The freestyle show is somewhat of a success, judging by crowd reaction and I love the guys in sumo suits—that’s just funny to me. One idea I read was a race that consisted of some guys that didn’t make the night show, like a C main that maybe doesn’t pay much but allows the riders to showcase themselves a bit. I dunno, it just seems like there should be more racing...

  • I know this is done at every kind of sporting event but I like it. It makes me giggles every time.
  • This is the freestyle team,I don't find it that exciting but I think the crowd does and they pay for the tickets and I get in free.
Speaking of Denny’s after the race, I also saw Ivan Tedeso there with his family, and that was good to see Hot Sauce celebrating his best 450 SX performance (fourth) since 2006 at such an upscale establishment. I’m happy for Ivan. He deserves some things to go his way, and even though he constantly reminds me that I talked crap on him last year during the nationals and makes me feel bad, I do like him. He seems to tolerate me, but I also don’t think he’s calling me to go to “Marley and Me” anytime soon. He said that it was weird because he didn’t feel good all day and yet ended up with a great result. He went on to say that there are days as a rider that you feel awesome and then go out and stink it up and it was cool because he was speaking to me as if I was a rider and should know the feeling. Just two champions (him SX and MX, me Manitoba provincial series) talking about the psychological side of being a winner at a Denny’s at midnight...

While I’m on the subject of my titles, I don’t know why I just don’t open up a motocross school with all my knowledge. Timmy Ferry had a good heat race going until he caught up to Josh Summey and couldn’t get by him. Red Dog lost his mojo trying to find a way by, including casing a triple big-time and almost going down in the sand. He got rattled, and Tedesco got by to try his luck on Summey (he couldn’t do anything either; Summey rode great all night and looks more comfy on that KTM then he ever did on the JGR Yamaha). So I get a text after his heat race asking me “Is this another time where I suck in the heat and then get a podium?” from the number 15. His ability to pull podiums out of his rear when he makes it through the LCQ is another story, but I text him back and say the usual rah-rah stuff and mention that he should start to the right of the box because unless you get the jump—and he’s never been known as a guy that gets any jump whatsoever—you can hold it on a sweep the first turn and get to the front. It happened in every race all night and I thought it was a good strategy.

  • He's Charles in the results but he's still Josh to me. Summey rode great all night and got a 12th. Good for the tattooed warrior.
So for the main Timmy lines up far inside, gets a horrible jump and comes around the first lap in seventeenth. And Grant, Alessi and Windham all sweep the turn and end up out front (Mike was so far out there, he could’ve reached out and grabbed a hot dog from a fan). Shocker. First thing Ferry says to me after the race, “You were right, I should’ve lined up outside.” Send in $49.95 and I’ll send you my book, “I May Not Be Able to Do It, But I Can Tell You How To.”

It’s interesting to see that, despite Honda releasing an all-new CRF450R this year, a couple of top privateers are choosing to ride the 2008 model. Steve Boniface bought an ‘08 because he got a deal on an ‘08 practice bike and doesn’t want to practice on a different bike than he races on. He also just brought his own bike to the TLD team, which is weird, and won’t let the TLD mechanic crack the engine open because he doesn’t know him. Also, after Anaheim I, Antonio Balbi switched back to a 2008 model.

I can’t believe I’ve gone this far down and haven’t typed anything about JGR’s Josh Grant, who followed up his win last week with a holeshot and a third place, proving he’s a legit contender in the class. He still hasn’t been pressured, and his modus operandi through two races is to get a good start and sprint away from the other dudes. He’s here and he’s for real, people. The bigger question is, JGR has a Snicker’s sticker on their airbox and I want to know what they do for the team because I looovvvve Snickers.

  • Grant was fast again and pulled the holeshot. Maybe we have another Jeff Stanton here...ok on the smaller bikes but blossoms on the big bikes.
  • Cody
It’s also good for JGR that Grant is doing so well because no one notices Cody “Chicken Coops” Cooper’s rough adjustment to supercross. Take that same sentence and replace JGR with San Manual, Grant with Stewart, Cody Cooper with Kyle Chisholm, and supercross to 450s if you like.

Good to see KTM’s Justin Brayton get on the box in the 250 class. He was fast at Anaheim as well and I think we’ll see him get his first win this year. The last few laps had Brayton, Morais and Weimer all separated by a couple seconds and it looked like it was going to be really, really exciting, but then the checkers flew.

The new techie thing that the teams are doing is having a second shock reservoir that mounts in the airbox (if you’re a top factory team) or up by the header pipe if you want people to see it so you can sell it (Factory Connection and Enzo Suspension). This allows the teams more adjustment options for the rider as well as helps shock fade. Some reservoirs have adjusters in the bottom (more than likely to control a needle for monitoring the amount of fluid to the main body) and some do not. I can’t get any definitive answers from any teams I talk to about how useful these are, so I’ll just be quiet now (or risk sniper fire).

One more thing: Yamaha is the only team that doesn’t have these bottles (although James has tried it) because they feel their system with the two-piece shock reservoirs to change bladder size is just as good.

  • See that grey thing by the header?That's the mystery shock reservoir that no factory dude will talk about. Nick Wey runs one that will be available for sale sometime soon.
There is a new team in the pits that nobody has really talked about much, and that’s the Ti-Lube Honda team which is owned by the guy who used to own Atomic-22 Titanium, Joe Murphy. The team has the old Moto XXX truck and riders Ben Evans and Alex Martin. Evans has quietly been a surprise with two ninths in the first two rounds and is the highest-placing non factory guy in the points (if you don’t count the impressive Blose brother that is managed by former 125 missile Ping. And I don’t count them because, well, I just don’t).

I happened to be watching Alex Martin in the LCQ and he almost bought the farm big-time when he seat-bounced a rhythm section and nosedived. Then he went on to pass Chris Gosselaar in the last turn to grab the final spot in the main. From pooping your pants in fear to peeing them with excitement—that’s supercross! (Yes, Feld, you can use that in commercials.)

Here’s why you read Observations: It’s the little things that I point out that make you a more knowledgeable supercross fan. I was thinking about how much life is easier for the mechanics during the opening ceremonies due to the advent of thumpers. The riders can now idle around the stadium and wave, point, flick other riders off and anything else they want to do because the bike won’t stall. In the two-stroke days, I would be so stressed about really warming the bike up good and even turning the idle up so my guy wouldn’t stall it in front of 40,000 people. Now there’s no worry at all. Observations: the column that informs!

Bridgestone’s Doug Schopinsky told me at the beginning of the day that he’d never—repeat, never—seen Ferry ride better than this week at the Kawi track. Judging by Ferry’s start and his ninth-place, I don’t think I’m going to ask Doug who he likes in this weekend’s football games...

Cedric Soubeyras, the French Jr. SX rider, has gone 16-8 in the two mains and has already attracted some team’s attentions.

  • Hambone is back! I'm bummed that he ran #105 instead of 32 but he said he had no say in it. Yamaha just got the backgrounds made. I think if you don't use your assigned number you should lose it and some other lucky dude will get that hard earned national number.
  • Very bad start for Trey this year. First J-Law takes him out last week and in Phoenix, he takes himself out trying to make an impossible pass.Oh well, he will probably be very mad this week and very fast.
Sean Hamblin came back, proving once again, that his career management is brilliant, as he once again found a spot under the Yamaha rig as a replacement for the injured Broc Hepler.  Hamblin literally is just off the couch (he told me that on Sunday he’s playing Socom video game online with Langston and the next day he’s at the Yami SX track) and he rode pretty good. He got the Racer X Gas Card and will get better as he goes on. He’s also wearing Alpinestars gear. Just goes to show that you never want to burn bridges with the factory teams, because you never know when they will need you again.

Trey Canard has had a rough start to his SX season. He forced a pass on Michael Hall in the heat that he had no business doing and took them both out. He flew over the berm in spectacular fashion and pulled out of the night with an injury. Too bad for “Ice” Trey, he’s been fast for sure. I’m also sure his whole body was covered in ice afterward, so the nickname is appropriate.

Chris Blose was fast again as well finishing fifth, and he is fifth (!!) in the points. Super manager Ping must be really working the motivational techniques to get such a performance out of the journeyman racer. I spoke with Ping on the phone the other day, and listening to him complain about some of today’s riders is just classic. It was one of those “If I could only go back in time” moments.

Also, this is what I wrote about Weimer in my last column: "And just when it’s going to be the next Secretariat, somebody offers the horse more carrots and it wanders over to another stall". Well, I got a call from the Dominator himself and he wanted to let people know that he didn't get more carrots over at the green team, he just wanted some different color carrots. He actually got less carrots than he would've gotten at the red team. I should've written "different" instead of "more". Jake isn't a carrot grubbing rider like I portrayed, even though he could've been because his contract was up and that would've been his right to do.

  • One time Red Dog went up and rode with all the MTF guys and he said all they wanted to do was try and take each other out all day. Maybe that's his problem?
I dunno about Davi Millsaps right now. We’ll give him a few more races before I make jokes about him. Remember, he started slow last year also before ripping off some wins.

Something weird happened this weekend in my travels: I never waited in line at the airport one time. Vegas airport was dead at 6:30 Saturday morning, same with Phoenix on Sunday. No security lines anywhere! A dream comes true. Not-so-good was me trying to break a hundred dollar bill at three different places and being refused. When did cash not be accepted at a concession stand, parking lot and grocery store?

Thanks for reading, I appreciate the comments (good and bad) and I just have to share this email I got this week. Man, it made me laugh big time:

Dear Steve,
Why do you have to be immature and try to bring Jason Lawrence down, let alone have the nerve to go under his team tent and try to mock him. You are a nobody and I’m glad he treated you like one. You should never talk down on a champion like that no matter how much you judge him, you're lucky he is a professional because I know he would have beat the s**t fat out of your lard ass with all the s**t that comes out of your mouth.

{LINKS}Classic! One of the best ever for sure. Email me at for any requests, donations or well-worded insults: matthes@racerxonline.com. See you all at the Big A next week!