Observations from San Francisco

February 4, 2009 12:25pm | by:

This week the travelling circus moved on to San Francisco, your favorite radio city, the City by the Bay, the city that rocks, the city that never sleeps! Forgive me for quoting Jefferson Starship cheesy lyrics but I guess I’m excited…. San Fran really is a cool city and if you have never been there, you need to try and make it happen. One thing that’s weird is there is something in the airport called “The Free Speech Booth” where you can go behind there and promote whatever you want (as long as you don’t hand out flyers). I jumped in there and started yelling “JOSH HANSEN FOR SECRETARY OF DEFENSE!!!” but was quickly removed.

As I always do, I try to use the second paragraph of this column to talk about the track. My mom also told me that if I don’t have anything good to say I shouldn’t say anything at all….

  • I liked A2 but the riders didn't. They haven't been happy the last three weeks. If you don't see Winkler this weekend, check to make sure he hasn't been duct taped and stuffed in a motorhome closet somewhere.
But I can’t help it! The boys at Dirt Wurx, after coming out of the gate strong have served up some less than stellar tracks in the last two weeks, in my personal opinion. There’s always a big patch of grass in center field that they don’t use (I’m sure it’s the ballpark who says no) and it seems the actual dirt used isn’t as much as other places. They had some sort of fiasco a few years back about moving the dirt in and out of the park, so this race has seen its fair share of issues. None of the riders I spoke to thought much of the track, as everyone was doing the same things and it was really, really hard to make time up and pass.

Want some proof? There were nine guys within 1.3 seconds of James Stewart’s best lap. Nine! That never usually happens and is all the proof you need that the track was easy. There’s a fine line between a good track and bad; maybe an over/under bridge would help out?

James Stewart won his fourth in a row with another dominating performance and closed to within six points of Reed. This one was easy (relatively speaking) as he grabbed the holeshot and sprinted away from the pack. Interesting to see him and holeshot machine Mike Alessi start right next to each other in the main. I watched intently when the gate dropped and James got the jump on Mike, but then lost a bit of ground five feet out. Then held it on longer into the turn and that was the whole race. James rode flawless after that; I never saw him make any mistakes the rest of the way (though on TV he did almost get caught up in some Tuff Blocks.

There was a fairly big section of whoops that caused Stewie a little bit of trouble one time in practice but by and large his bike looked good and maybe we’re done with that topic for a while. He looks confident, but to be honest, I think Reed could’ve won on this track had he grabbed the start. I think that maybe nine other guys could’ve won had they grabbed the start. But they didn’t grab it, Stewie did, and now things are getting interesting going into the Jeremy McGrath-designed track at Anaheim 3.

  • Stewie should just have
Some teams were complaining that the whoops were bigger in practice and then mysteriously were run over with a dozer for the night show to make them smaller. They contend this was done to keep the racing closer but I say that’s hogwash, it’s all to make the track prettier for the fans at night.

Chad Reed should’ve know his day wasn’t going to go that well when he drifted over off a triple and landed on a tuff block causing him to cart-wheel down the track, in practice, on the first lap. Hey, it could’ve been worse for Reedy—he could’ve been Josh Grant, who nailed the prone RM-Z450 and flew into the berm, landing hard. Very scary moment. Reedy has always been the guy to just jump a triple first lap and not ride over it first. It used to drive us crazy at the Yamaha track when, after changing jetting or forks or something, he would grab his bike and just blast over a triple as fast as he can. We’d all wonder why he just wouldn’t putt around for a bit to make sure no one screwed something up on the install. I guess he’s just not scared.

Onto his riding, The Chad got by Ryan Villopoto early and was all over his teammate Mike Alessi. It took him a while to get by and when he finally did, James was checked out. He’s lost a little bit of his mojo but the last two tracks haven’t helped him either. One thing with Reed is he will NEVER give up and concede anything to James. I kind of think Mike should’ve let Chad by easier but then again, it’s a race and we’re early in the season.

  • Reedy just could not get by Mike early on in the main. I wanna see Chad and James 1-2 off the start, we haven't seen that since Phoenix. I would also like to have a ginger bread house.
Speaking of Mike, after a great ride last week in Houston, he absolutely crumbled after getting passed by Reed this week. He dropped all the way back to ninth on this easy track, suffering the indignity of being passed by the injured/slumping Josh Hill and Davi Millsaps. I’m not sure what was up—maybe he tweaked something or his bike had problems—but there was no way he should’ve dropped as far back as he did. He was like a stop gap, wherever he was on the track, there was a bottleneck of crazed 450 riders all bunched together behind him. He’s apparently got a lot of stuff going on in his life right now and he’s been doing well to block it out. Until this week, anyway.

I wrote that Jake Weimer needed to win this week to make sure that things stay exciting and he did. It was a great ride in both the heat and main as he had Ryan Dungey breathing down his neck and he stayed strong. That’s a hard thing to do, ride around with some dude all over you and you have to focus and hit your marks. You just knew last year that PC was getting a young rider on the upswing and by combining him with the PC “program” would create a future race-winner, and maybe title-winner. When you watch Jake, nothing he does really stands out as being great; it’s just the total package. Like Mr T in the eighties, who could act (Rocky 3, A-team), lift anything (pick-up trucks) and scare you straight (those anti-drug commercials), Jake just does it all.

According to Tom Carson (the former Montreal SX winner on bikes AND quads) Weimer forgot his prescribed CTI braces this weekend and had to get a pair of off-the-shelf Asterisks braces for the day. With riders being so weird about different stuff on their bodies, I’m surprised that Jake adapted to them so quickly. Wanna bet he doesn’t switch back next week?

  • Amazing photo!!!!!!! This looks like that ad for CTI back in the day!!!!
  • Jake had some new braces this weekend but it didn't stop him from winning. Jake is a good kid,too bad he's friends with Cox.
One other Asterisk note: When he got up on the box for his heat race win, Stewart called Asterisk out for a special nod, saying something to the effect of, “If it wasn’t for Asterisk, my knees would be done.” Could it be that he was thinking about what happened in the first turn at Houston? I didn’t realize it until I saw the photo on Alessi Weekly, but check out Bubba’s left knee—the one that cost him the ’07 AMA Motocross title and a chance to defend his AMA Supercross title last year.  He made it through the corner and went on to win, but if he didn’t have that brace on, uh-oh!

I spoke with Josh “Knotting” Hill this weekend and the midweek reports are true: he crashed and hurt his other shoulder last week. He’s now got two bad shoulders and cannot practice during the week, so he just does therapy and shows up at the race. He really didn’t make any excuses, saying that even with not riding he should be doing better then he’s been doing. His supercross season is basically a wash, but I’m at least happy he talks to me now.

Tim “Take the” Ferry, in an effort to break out and get on the box, wore red O’Neal gear this weekend for the first time. It actually had the opposite effect on him as he went down in the whoops during the first practice pretty hard. Then in the heat he got a great start, was making the second turn and was probably going to come out in second or third when he got torpedoed from behind by his buddy Andrew Short and went down. The pack ran him over—how cool that Josh Summey was running the helmet cam when he plowed Tim into the ground!—and he hobbled back to the semi. In the LCQ, he was on the outside, got a bad jump and crashed in the first turn. Just like that, his night was done. The tears flowed, the pain in the guts hit, the gnawing feeling of not making the main came on and that was just in the press box where I was sitting. Red didn’t make a main event for the first time since Anaheim 1 2006. I spoke to him on Monday and he had a sore lower back from Summey’s front wheel but otherwise was fine.

  • Heath's finishes this year are 7-DNS-14-12-11. Pretty good for a rider that NOBODY talks about.
What a 450 LCQ it was! Ferry, Millsaps, Summey, Nick Wey, Heath Voss and Matt Boni all lined up and only two men were getting in. It was like those cage matches back in the day… Twenty men enter, only two come out!  Millsaps and Voss got out, the others went home. Crazy when four riders in the top twenty don’t make the main. That’s two weeks in a row for Wey and that’s not good, in case you were wondering.

It’s races like this that prove the provisional should come back, worst decision ever to get rid of that rule…. I’m kidding, I railed against that rule all last year and now it’s come back to bite my favorite rider. I’m now going to punch myself in the groin over and over.

It was a tough night to be me. Ferry, Summey, and Wey all didn’t make the main and Jason Thomas was supposed to begin the comeback in San Fran but he suffered a little setback in his recovery from a broken leg and didn’t show up. Did I walk under a ladder or something?

There were drug tests issued by the FIM after the race for the first time, in like, forever. The guys tested were the odd placed top five finishers, as Stewie, Villopoto and Short all had to pee in a cup. The 250 class is exempt from testing because it’s not a FIM class.

Josh Grant won his heat and got fourth in the main event, even after his scary practice crash. He hasn’t finished outside the top five all season and is proving to be a much better 450 rider than 250. He would get a good start in the 250’s but just end up making a mistake and going backwards or just be so worried about the guy behind him that he’d start weaving around. Those things are in the past now as he charges the whole race and looks really good on the JGR MX/Toyota Yamaha. He’s always had skills to die for but is really backing it up this year, so good for him.

Trey Canard was back in action after having a horrible start to his season. I’m sure he wishes he could just hit the reset button and start over but, in case you readers didn’t know, you can’t do that. He was good all day and finished third in the main. He wasn’t really a threat to win as Dungey and Weimer were better on this night but he also stayed in third-place with no problem. Good ride for the Okie.

  • Good to see Trey back, even better to see Trey back and stay on his motorcycle all night. When he doesn't fall off it, he usually does pretty good.
I think Kyle Cunningham might be the fastest rider in the 250 class with absolutely nothing to show for it. He’s been fast and up there but for whatever reasons, hasn’t stayed up there.

Jason Lawrence didn’t race because he contracted food poisoning and according to a press release put out by his peeps, he got an IV, which made him ineligible per AMA rules. There’s just one problem with that: the AMA rules don’t say anything like that. The only way an IV makes you ineligible for the race is if you get it during the event for performance reasons (because they help a ton). If you get an IV because you’re throwing up and pooping (like, say, from food poisoning) you can be cleared by the AMA doctor to ride. The AMA people I spoke to were not happy the PR puts the blame on them for J-Law not racing. After all, if the AMA was going to stop him they wouldn’t have allowed his bike in the technical inspection—which they did.

Despite being sick, Lawrence went with Josh Hansen after the race to confront TLD’s Steve Boniface about something Boniface crossing over in front of Hanny early in the main event. Hansen wasn’t happy and let Boniface know it in so many words, and according to two people that I spoke to that witnessed it, Boniface was contrite and trying to say sorry but eventually gave up and just head-butted Hansen. (Maybe Boniface read my whole “SX should be like wrestling” thing last week?) Then the brawl was on! Boniface had a friend in the mix, Lawrence jumped in and the gong show began. When everything was sorted out and people were calmed down (a bit anyways), Hansen sucker punched Boniface and it was on again. Somehow Lawrence found the energy to participate in the brawl but couldn’t muster it up to race. Look for fines and suspensions from the AMA, FIM and anyone else to be announced soon. Or maybe not.

DNA Energy Drink/BTO Sports.com/BBMX rider Matt Boni had been in every main event so far before not making it in San Fran. He was in qualifying position in the heat when he made a mistake and went flying off the track. He worked his way back up and might’ve been in qualifying spot again but caught up with Kyle Partridge. When I say caught up, I mean literally caught up, as Kyle was wedged in between Matt’s rear fender and tire. Boni dragged Partridge up the finish line before his bike wouldn’t go anywhere because there was a body in the drive-train. Scary moment. Partridge didn’t come back out for the LCQ, I hope he’s ok.

  • Seely was pretty good this weekend despite the actual finish position. You can see he's talented and is getting the hang of SX.
Cole Seely got a couple of great starts on his Fun Center Suzuki machine. Unfortunately he couldn’t stay up there in the main and finished 11th. The thing with a kid like that is he now knows the speed those guys are going and will hopefully learn a little bit each week, instead of just being a revolving door going to the back.

Did you know that Stewie hasn’t raced in the same set of gear all year? It’s been different colors every week. This is why you read Observations, little things like this.

I haven’t written a word about Paul Carpenter this year but he’s been riding well. His heat race was great this weekend. Paul was out of a transfer spot but put his head down and charged hard through the pack. He was bouncing and slamming off riders on his way to the front. He fought his way past Dan McCoy and Jake Marsack in the closing laps to get the last spot to the main. Exciting ride!

I haven’t written anything about Heath Voss either and he’s one point in front of Carpenter for top privateer despite missing a race. Heath is just quietly going about his business, getting eleventh this weekend and when I saw him in the airport Sunday morning, he told me that he has a ton of fun (and makes lots of money) racing in Europe. He didn’t have much good to say about the track and he reminded me again how he’s one of the nicest guys out there. Look for a Privateer Profile with Heath tomorrow.

I saw JGR’s Jeremy Albrecht walking the track and he told me that Cody Cooper is coming back soon, but they wouldn’t let him fly to San Fran because his leg had a hematoma on it from running into the wall last week. When I mentioned my theory that maybe they should park Coops and let him heal up for the outdoors, J-Bone was adamant that he’ll get the SX thing figured out and be a factor soon. While you readers ponder that statement, I’m going to go and plant my money tree. Both have a chance of happening I suppose….

I’m just kidding, he’ll get the hang of it. In other JGR news, J-Bone told me that Eric Sorby quit working there and is now back out trying to make it as a professional racer. I couldn’t believe it as Soreballs has told me many times that he really enjoyed working there as a practice/test rider/shop guy.

Dave Dye, the AMA’s new technical inspector made the top three guys take off their swingarms after the race for inspection. I’m glad the AMA is making the teams do something after the race; I don’t think they’re cheating but at least it lets the OEM’s know that there will be some form of checking done.

Finally, the San Fran race is usually the one that gets wrecked by the weather, but we made it through with a perfect race weekend. That does not appear to be in the cards for this coming Saturday night in Anaheim. Check it out.

That’s what happened this week in San Francisco, email me at matthes@racerxonline if you’d like to tell me what you think about this race or anything else on your mind. Crazy people, please keep your thoughts to yourself. Thanks for reading!

P.S. I have a webpage now to put some stuff that no one wants to have. It's basically like a Myspace page or something like that, only I don't want to use it for hooking up with anyone. Take a look, have a laugh and lemme know what you think – pulpmx.com