Racerhead #3

January 16, 2009 4:46pm | by:
Controversy, controversy, controversy…. So far, the 2009 season has seen more drama than Britney Spears (actually, speaking of her, check out the photo from her website, where she is spotted baring her midriff underneath a 2008 Loretta Lynn’s Pro Circuit motocross shirt here). We have so many dramatic storylines going on right now, from San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart beating Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed on Reed’s old bike in Phoenix (fresh from their crash together at Anaheim 1), to the Ryan Dungey/Jason Lawrence Fox/One Industries deal that saw Lawrence miss the main event in his first race as the sole One Industries gear rider, while Dungey went on to win it in his first race as a Fox rider. Then there’s the intentional takeout move Mike Alessi put on Ryan Villopoto in the Phoenix main. For that, here comes DMXS Radio’s David Izer to kick us off:

  • Yesterday's minicycle stars have grown up, but old rivalries never die
Factory Suzuki’s Mike Alessi was a guest on DMXS Radio this week, and even though he has only been back on the bike a few weeks and is riding himself into shape, his defining competitiveness is as sharp as ever. He made it clear he was not going to lie down for anyone, including his longtime amateur rival Ryan Villopoto. The two riders came together in the main event at Phoenix and Mike was not exactly apologetic about the incident.

Mike was asked if he brake-checked Villopoto on purpose, and he responded, "Dude, I’m doing what I had to do to make sure guys don’t pass me, so yeah, pretty much. I mean, I’m not just going to let some guy ride around the outside of me without putting up a fight, so I did whatever it took to make sure the guy behind me wasn’t going to pass me. But at the end of the day it was a racing incident.

"I’m not going to be pushed around,” he added, “and I hope it happens again this weekend and I look forward to it. I hope he comes trying to take me out because I’m ready. I’m not scared of him at all."

When pressed later in the interview if he had heard the holeshot comments Villopoto made at Anaheim, Mike responded, "Yeah, I heard it and that’s why he got some payback this weekend."

After only two races, this SX season is certainly not lacking any plotlines on and off the track. Anaheim 2 should be a great race, and not just for the podium.

Thanks for the update, Izer.

The difference between Alessi and Villopoto, though, is that Villopoto is racing forward because he’s genuinely going very fast. He finished second in his heat at Phoenix behind Reed, and if not for the horrible start, he would’ve been a podium threat for sure. Even though Alessi took him out on purpose while racing behind him, Villopoto still got up, got going, and passed Alessi again only four or five laps later. I told him I expected that he was going to take Alessi out when he went back by, and this was his response: “Well, I was going to take him out, but he’s too damned slow! He’s a little slow to race the guy. You come up on him and he’s got an anchor tied to him and you just blow past him. You don’t have the time to take him out!”

Obviously, we need to keep an eye on what happens at A2.

  • Tim Ferry is hoping for a better finish in Anaheim
Villopoto’s teammate Timmy Ferry hasn’t shown his speed of 2008 quite yet, either.

“I think to take a step back, there’s a little bit more competition in the class, and I think everybody’s healthy, so just an okay start is not good enough anymore because there are so many guys to pass,” Ferry said. “So getting a good start will be number one. Last week, I thought was okay. It could’ve gone a little better, but I could’ve had a lot more go wrong, so it was okay. This one was my fault, though. Matthes told me to go to the outside and I didn’t do it. Summey was in front of me, and he was five from the outside, but I didn’t really want to go that far. I thought it was a little too risky, so I went to the inside – me, Ryan, and Josh Hill, we all spun together. So that was kind of a rough start to the main event.”

After he said that, I turned off my recorder and made a comment that a lot of people expected him to be battling inside the top five more, and he told me to turn my recorder back on. Apparently, I struck a nerve.

“Turn this thing back on, okay, Steve Cox?” Ferry said. “I don’t think I’ve actually really ridden up to my potential yet. I’ve had spurts of my old self in a way, but I haven’t quite found it yet. But it’s a long season, and I’m definitely going to get stronger as it goes. There are a lot of good guys, and if you take three of those fast factory guys out that were hurt last year, and I’d have been three spots higher tonight. The class is kind of stacked, and that’s good for the sport.”

Staying with the green guys, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Ryan Morais finds himself only 3 points out of the championship after two rounds, using consistency to remain in the hunt.

“I think consistency this year is going to be key,” Morais said. “Unfortunately, I know Trey [Canard] is really fast and he should be up there, but he’s just having a string of bad luck, and it’s really difficult to get out of that when it’s going – I’ve been there. The same with Jason [Lawrence]. I know he had bad luck tonight, and this championship’s going to go to whoever is the smartest.”

Late in the main, he had to fight off his teammate Jake Weimer, who won round one and crashed out of the lead at round two.

“My teammate was coming hot,” Morais said. “I closed on [Justin] Brayton, and I think I had a couple spots where I could’ve done something, but it was like, Do I chance it and try to pass Brayton and then screw up and Jake gets me? I didn’t know what to do. So I just rode it out, and Jake snuck her in there on me before the whoops, and it was really close. When I saw him coming, I was like, I’m just going to leave it on, and either both of us are going down or I’m staying up and getting third, because I’m not going to just hand this spot to anyone. It had to be an inch that we missed each other by. It was really close. But it worked out.”

“Unfortunately, we only go 15 laps, so…” Weimer said of catching Morais. “I just put my head down and tried everything I could to at least try and salvage it and get back on the box, but I fell about two bike lengths short, so it is what it is. Take it to next weekend and let ’er rip.”

Weimer was pretty bummed about crashing out of the lead, but he says it’s too early to be counting points just yet. “No, not yet,” Weimer said. “It’s a bummer when that happens just for the race alone. Just to be in the lead…. I would’ve rather battled it out or something, rather than just fall and hand it to him. It’s a bummer, but it is what it is.”

  • Cody's had a rough introduction to supercross
Joe Gibbs Racing/Toyota Yamaha’s Cody Cooper had his second forgettable SX appearance in as many tries. After failing to make the main at Anaheim 1, he went down in a heap at Phoenix and looked to be out with a hurt left leg, but he actually lined up for the Heat race – although it didn’t last long.

“I just sort of cross-rutted up the face of the jump, and I overjumped it a little bit, and my front end was up and I was sideways, and I came down and it flicked the other way once I landed, and it was over then,” Cooper said. “I sort of threw the bike away and spun around and hit my left knee on the steep part of the berm and went over the berm. My knee is pretty sore, but they gave me an injection at the Asterisk [Mobile Medical Unit], and I don’t know exactly what it was, but it made me feel better. I was quite dizzy for a while, but I felt better, and I was walking around on it, so I figured I’d give it a go because I felt pretty good. Then, on the line, I felt good, but once I got going I noticed it was sore straight away. I felt I’d give it a go and give it a few laps anyway, but landing off the triples and stuff, it wasn’t good. I was having fun, and I wanted to ride, but I was hurting.”

Cooper says he should be back racing at Anaheim 2.

And what’s going on with GEICO Powersports Honda’s Kevin Windham? At Anaheim 1, he may have had a shot at winning if not for his collision with James Stewart, who was down in the whoops at the time, but at Phoenix, he never quite looked comfortable.

“I’m kind of back to the point where every time I go out we’re changing something and we’re really struggling to find a solid base to work from right now,” Windham said. “It’s a work in progress, and I’m the kind of rider that I really need to be comfortable and feel really good about where I’m at in my settings and this sort of stuff. We’ve been changing some things, and everyone’s been working really hard…. I feel like I’m getting better and that I’ve got the speed; I just need to find that happy place where I can turn laps. I guess that’s one of my biggest criticisms of myself – that I’m not the RC or the whatever that goes out there and kills it no matter what. I think you could take the shock off and Ricky’s still going to go pretty damned fast. I guess it’s just one of those things we’re working on. At the end of the day, it all falls on me, man, and I’ve got to overcome some of my uncomfortable feelings and find the box.”

  • The Racer X Kart Night at Pole Position Raceway
  • Ashley Fiolek has been busy
  • Sean Borkenhagen at the Racer X Kart Night
His teammate Trey Canard had a second bad race in a row too, as he went down while battling for the lead and knocked himself out. He took full responsibility for the crash, much in the way Lawrence took full responsibility for the crash with Trey at Anaheim 1. He hopes to be back and ready for Anaheim 2, but we probably won’t know for sure if he’s been cleared until Saturday.

Bobby Kiniry’s 2008 wrench at Team Solitaire, JR Boyd, is now Mike Alessi’s practice mechanic. Congrats, JR.

Anaheim 2 almost seems like the beginning of the season, as the week leading up to the race had all kinds of craziness going on in Southern California. Thursday was by far the most eventful, as there was the Kawasaki team intro at the Kawasaki headquarters in Irvine, the Red Bull Ride Day at the Red Bull Compound, a Red Bull-backed autograph signing at Answer/MSR in Corona, and then the Racer X Kart Night at Pole Position Raceway, also in Corona.

The Red Bull Ride Day was promised to be a fun ride day for everyone, but the reality was that we had to consider the source, as Red Bull is the same organization that thinks up things like the last two years’ New Year, No Limits events in Vegas and the Ronnie Renner half-pipe hit on the Santa Monica Pier. Those of us who have to be concerned with trying not to get hurt on our motorcycles showed up at the Red Bull Compound and found that the “outdoor” track had doubles so steep that you almost had to stop in order to roll over them.

It’s probably a lot of fun for guys like Renner, and even David Pingree, who was on hand and will talk more about it later.

  • The Answer/MSR autograph signing
  • Michael Byrne
  • James Stewart and Aldon Baker
  • Kevin Windham
  • Nick Wey and Ronnie Faisst
  • Grant Langston
The autograph signing at Answer/MSR featured some serious talent, as James Stewart, Kevin Windham, Nick Wey, Ronnie Faisst and Michael Byrne were there signing things, and Byrne said he just started riding yesterday from his broken hand/wrist and hopes to be back racing in a few short weeks – maybe even before the series leaves California permanently.

Larry Brooks went on the VitalMX.com message board this week to let everyone know that Stewart has been testing this week and they have found some new settings for him come Anaheim 2, so it will be interesting to see how that plays a part in the Stewart-Reed action.

Then there was the Racer X Kart Night. Industry insiders flocked to the facility to put in some laps last night, including new Honda factory rider Ashley Fiolek, Shoei’s Bret Milan, TLD’s Sheri Ridenour, a bunch of Pro Circuit team members, TLD Honda team members, Todd Ballard of NXTAgency, Doug Dubach and Terry Beal from DRD, Shawn Norfolk of Filtron/Sunline/661/TAG and his son, the AMA’s Jeff Canfield, and many, many more.

Now I’ll turn this over to DC:

First off, Congratulations to Adam Wheeler and his wife, Nuria, on becoming parents. Jordi Wheeler was born in Spain this week, a big road racing country, which fits Andrew’s long-term plans for the boy perfectly: “I think I might have to guide him towards road racing (less broken bones!).”

  • Jordi Wheeler
Now let me throw a couple of things out there. One: the way the track is set up this weekend, the finish line is maybe two-thirds of the way around the course, which means the first time around will likely count as the first complete lap, even though it’s not really a complete lap—the AMA usually counts a lap if the finish line is more than halfway around the circuit.

And Jeremy McGrath began the “Showtime Era” of supercross in the third race (also at Anaheim) of his rookie season in the premier class. This weekend will mark the third race of Ryan Villopoto’s career in this division.

Talk about your cover curses: Ryan Villopoto showed up on the covers of Dirt Rider, Transworld, Dirt Cool (Japan) and MX (France) and has yet to reach the podium. Okay, he’s still doing pretty well, in a very talented group. Just trying to shift the focus off that other cover jinx….

Also, as soon as it was announced that the Supercross Live! webcast was back, albeit with a small fee, I got out my credit card and signed up. Racer X has paid the tab on the webcast for the last few years in the AMA Toyota Motocross Series, and it’s not cheap. With the economy being what it is, seemingly everyone in the sport has cut back a little, and Feld Motor Sports is no exception. But they heard the fans and the riders and the industry loud and clear, and this was the best alternative for everyone. I doubt the subscriptions will get anywhere close to paying for Weege and Holley, the sound engineer Alan Selk, Linda the show’s producer, all of their travel, the bandwith, and all of the other little costs that must be factored in, so I’m just thankful it’s there again. I know I was listening and enjoyed the heck out of that race!

  • Dirt Cool
  • MX Magazine
Cycle NewsPaul Carruthers and David Holther and I got an interesting letter from Cycle News contributor Warren Price this week:

DC, Paul and David,

I have just completed a blog article about covering local events for publication. It contains a recommendation to contact David Holther at Cycle News. DC, I know you guys are in full stride now but hope you will find some space to mention my blog again. David, if DC gives me a shoutout you probably will be swamped with guideline requests. It seems you could use more Regional Coverage from the Texas area? Paul, thanks for allowing me to include Cycle News in my blog. All of you may find the article interesting.†I'm sure many of your readers are wannabe moto journalists. Maybe Cycle News could find room to mention my Motocross Photography Blog and the "old school" motocross that I have been writing about.

Above is a link to the latest article.

Again, thanks all for the support.

Warren Price

So those of you who would like to take up moto journalism, check out Warren’s blog. Maybe he can help you take that step.

And in a final note, get-well-soon wishes go out to Robert Pastrana, who dislocated his hip in Panama jumping out of a speedboat while filming some Nitro Circus footage with his son Travis and a friend, according to Ronnie Renner, who just returned from the trip.

Now we turn it over to Billy Ursic:

Earlier today we ran some Flash Trivia asking you to name the rider in the photo for a chance to win one of five limited-edition Racer X Pro Grip goggles. Said rider turns out to be Englishman James Dobb. That year was 1995 and he was aboard a Honda of Troy-backed CR125. Thanks to all who participated and congratulations to Chris Radzinski, Tom Hartigan, DJ Hite, Justin Vanderwerff and Norm Lamacz for being the chosen winners. Your goggles are in the mail!

What’s Mad Mike Jones up to? Unfortunately, he’s in the hospital right now. His good friend Jason Sims sent us a note telling us that Mike was up in New York snowmobiling recently when he hit a tree stump pretty much wide open. The end result was a compound fracture of his tib/fib, and he’s currently laid up in the Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh. Get well soon, Mike.

  • Can Josh Grant carry the points lead through round 3?
  • Sean Hamblin is back (again) and he left Phoenix with the Racer X Gas Card
Earlier this week, we talked to Jeff Stanton and asked him: How much money would you have bet after two races—forty laps—that Josh Grant would be our points leader?

“It’s awesome for our sport,” Stanton said. “I would’ve never have guessed it. Josh is great racer and he has great potential. He proved that to us when he was on our Honda team a couple years back when he won so many of those Lites races. He maybe got a little lazy last year and had some bad results, but Josh has got the potential. He’s a young, talented kid. It’s just putting him in a good situation and a confined area and saying, ‘Hey, we’re going practicing and we’re going training.’ Quite honestly, that’s what a lot of those young guys need. They need the reins pulled back on them and some guidance and proof that it works right there.”

Sean Hamblin’s return to supercross probably wasn’t what he or his fans expected, but if there’s any consolation, the Yamaha factory replacement did score the Racer X Gas Card and an extra $750 by finishing third in the LCQ.

One of the Gas Card sponsors from Phoenix had his son, Danny Gonzalez Jr., tell us about his experience:

Dear Racer X,

First off, thank you for the awesome tickets. I got to meet James Stewart!!! We also met Jim Holley, Johnny O’Mara, and Jeff Emig. I got tons of autographs and got to sit in the press box.

Once again, thank you,

Danny Gonzalez Jr.

The Racer X Gas Card sponsors for Anaheim 2 are Craig Potter and Todd Snider. Thanks again to everyone who supports the program.

While everyone’s focus is on AMA Supercross here right now, we decided to drop our good friend Josh Coppins a line to see what’s new. “My training is going good,” began Josh, who will be looking for that elusive MX1 World Championship in 2009. “I’m just back from Italy, where the weather was good. I will do some preseason races next month, so it’s just the basic training till then.”

We also asked for his thoughts on supercross so far. “I was surprised with the first two SX races! I mean, I think everyone expected Bubba to walk away with it, but I think Chad has something for him; maybe not in outright speed but over a championship, and it’s cool to see Josh Grant in there too.”

  • Rob Kinsey's latest painting
Earlier this week, Rob Kinsey sent us a picture of his latest painting of Ryan Villopoto from the 2007 Red Bull Motocross of Nations at Budds Creek. “Since the MXoN at Budds Creek, I’ve had this image and composition bugging me that I wanted to paint to honor what Ryan Villopoto achieved that awesome weekend,” Kinsey said. “Finally, during the holidays, I got it down onto canvas, and I’m very pleased with how it’s turned out. I sent a half-finished preview to Ryan’s mum and [his girlfriend] Kristen and she said it was so beautiful it made her want to cry!”

The Butler Brothers are always looking for ways to set their team apart from the others, and new for 2009 is a liveblog from each race! Be sure to check out their live race-day blog right here tomorrow.

Next weekend is the Travis Pastrana MX Challenge in Puerto Rico, and one rider who’s going is Oregonian Devin Watson. “This will be my first-ever SX race,” Devin told us in an email. “I got my SX endorsement with the AMA a couple years ago but then got hurt and since I didn’t renew (because I was hurt) the AMA wont give me my endorsement back. BS if you ask me. I got a couple finishes just outside the top 5 in the AMA AX two seasons ago but that was the closest I ever got to SX, so this should be crazy! I will provide updates off my wife’s phone or a laptop down there if I can get internet access.”

Did you check out this week’s online poll? With two rounds in the books, several riders sit lower in the points than we expected, so we asked you which rider you think has been the most surprising disappointment so far. It’s close, but Trey Canard is leading the poll with 26% of your votes, followed closely by Ryan Villopoto (23%) and Davi Millsaps (22%). If you haven’t already, hit the main page to vote.

Ryan Villopoto 23%
Davi Millsaps 22%
Trey Canard 26%
Kevin Windham 9%
Josh Hill 3%
Jason Lawrence 16%

And finally, if you’re not able to make it to Anaheim this weekend, be sure to tune in to CBS at 12:00 p.m. ET on Sunday to catch the AMA Supercross class. The Lites class will then air on SPEED at 6:00 p.m. ET. Then switch back to CBS to catch the Pittsburgh Steelers earning a trip to the Super Bowl over the Baltimore Ravens….

Here’s Matthes:

In case you missed it, you can check out Ping and me talking about a lot of stuff in our podcast.

  • Don't let that white plate fool you; Daniel Blair is on a 250F
The whole “250 in the 450 class” thing hasn’t really been in full effect yet. I thought there would be more guys, and I’m sure Feld Motor Sports thought there would be more as well. One rider who has taken advantage of it (and I read on Vitalmx.com that Daniel Blair will be doing it tomorrow) is DNA Energy/BTOSports.com/BBMX’s Kyle Keylon. So far, he hasn’t made either main, but when I talked to him about lining up against 450s he had this to say: “It’s been okay, really. I’ve been getting out-motored really bad but it’s great for me to get time on the track for when we get to Houston. Nothing replaces actual racing for practice. There’s been nothing that I haven’t been able to jump but have to take a little different lines.”

When asked what the other riders had to say, Kyle said guys have told him they can hear him coming more easily, and he was battling with Troy Adams at Anaheim and Adams didn’t know he was on a 250F.

I do think the riders should run the white numbers on black plates, because that way the crowd can tell a difference and the announcers can pump it up, but what do I know? When I asked Keylon about this, he said, “I don’t care.” Clearly, I’m not going to get Kyle to sign my petition any time soon.

In more BBMX news, the second-shortest rider on the circuit (he lost his title this year to Ti-Lube’s Alex Martin, who was actually mistaken for an Ewok at Phoenix), Jason Thomas, is back on the bike like I reported last week and getting ready to make his return. You know how Rocky went back to his original gym in Rocky 3 because Apollo thought he got soft and needed to return to his roots? Well, the same thing happened to JT$. He had to bring it back - all the way back to the place where he cut his teeth, Hard Rock Cycle Park in Ocala, Florida, where JT has put in 8 million laps in his career. And you literally could cut your teeth if you crash there. It’s not called “hard rock” for nothing.

So JT is out there pounding laps, and who does he come up against? None other than the second-best rider to ever come from Canada, Jean-Sebastien Roy. Roy, who is pretty much retired these days, was just riding for fun when his Montreal Supercross nemesis joined the battle. JT was happy to say that he has a retired, 36-year-old Canadian on a 250F covered on his 450. Let the comeback begin!

And finally, here’s Pingree.

If you don’t think #1 plates are heavy, maybe you should ask Jason Lawrence or Trey Canard. Neither of the current #1s made the main event in Phoenix, as a result of crashes. Trey tried to make a motorcycle fit through a hole the size of a lima bean, and Jason kept getting tangled up in the first turn. Trey hit his head really hard and pulled out of the race for the rest of the night. From what I’m hearing, he isn’t going to line up this weekend either. Jason never seemed like himself after the first crash, and I kept hearing that he might have hurt his arm. No reports ever leaked out, but I guess we’ll find out tomorrow.

  • Renner's quarter pipe
  • One of two enormous foam pits
  • Red Bull Hondas
  • Fiolek is now a full blown factory Honda rider
Factory Honda has a new rider, and she is probably faster than most of the people reading this. Ashley Fiolek has been signed as the fifth rider on the Honda Red Bull Racing team. She will compete in all eight WMA national events here this summer as well as some women’s GP rounds overseas. Good for her. Am I a little jealous that she is going to ride faster bikes than I ever have? A little. Still, that is very cool for her and for women’s motocross.

A quick reminder, folks, that retro night has been canceled this weekend. I’m sure there will still be a few people in some old-school getup, and they will be getting some strange looks all night. And with the warm, dry Santa Ana condition we’ve had out here, and the generous usage of Aqua Net that it takes to get your hair into a 1980s style, you are creating a serious fire hazard. You’ve been warned.

Red Bull invited the media and all of its teams out to its compound in Valencia yesterday. The site boasts two supercross tracks, a motocross track, two foam pits, and about a million ramps littered all over the place. It really is an amazing place if you’re good on a motorcycle. They also have Ronnie Renner’s quarter-pipe contraption from his Santa Monica jump out there. There wasn’t any way I was hitting it, but we asked Robbie Maddison to show us how it’s done. He promptly crashed in his demonstration, dusted himself off, and then nailed it the second time. That’s a lot more difficult than it looks.

Maddo was hanging out with his buddy from Oz, Jake Moss. Moss is recovering from a broken back earlier this fall and his first time back on the bike was yesterday. He looked a little sore but at least his rehab is underway. There is also some very cool trail riding out at the Red Bull facility, and Dane is making the place better every day. Thanks to all the Red Bull crew for inviting us up. If you haven’t seen Simon’s video yet, check it out here.

So that’s Racerhead for this week. Stay tuned.