Observations: San Diego

February 18, 2009 4:35pm | by:

The 2009 Monster Energy Supercross series came to San Diego and for the last time in 2009, to California. I can’t believe it but we’re almost halfway into this thing. This was round 7 of 17 and, on one hand, if you hadn’t seen any races you’d think it was an exciting race, what with the top two riders separated by three points. But if you’d actually watched any of the races, you know that there have been a few runaways by James Stewart and that points spread was a little misleading. The leader, Chad Reed, had to step up and run with James (like he did at A1 and Phoenix), which is something I’ve been saying for a few weeks but has yet to happen. What would go down in the Golden State on this night?

  • This was not the track that we saw on Saturday night and I'm still mad about it.
Once again I had issues with the track. It was Rick Johnson designed and more of an arenacross track, but I’m fine with that—I like the fact that it was different. Anything that involves changing things up, I’m ok with. It was the fact that they lost some S-turns that were on the original track map and who knows for what reason? The turns would’ve added something to the track in my opinion (and also get away from a sub-50 second lap time, which should NEVER happen) but what really made me upset was what happened after the first set of practices.

The crew completely wiped out a turn! Originally you raced parallel to the starting gate, bounced off a little berm and made a left onto the start straight. After the second practice, it was modified to just turn left right after the rhythm section and go into the first turn. It was about a one-second difference and made the first practice times completely irrelevant. What if you were Shaun Hillion of Big Bear, California, who was in the top forty after the first practice and then, maybe due to bike problems or a crash, was unable to go that one second faster in the second session and missed out on the night show? You cannot change the track that much after one practice!

I’m not sure why it was done but I have a hunch it was to give a better run for the freestyle guys. Not cool at all of whomever decided this. You should allow the competitors to ride on the same track all day, both practices. And allow them to have over/under bridges, of course.

We should change James “Bubba” Stewart’s nickname to “Sneaky” for the move he pulled this weekend. Very clever of the San Diego winner and co-points leader, and looking back it all made sense. Y’see, there was a rhythm section with two tabletops and five jumps and there were two ways of doing it. You could double-in, then double the two tables and triple out, or you could double-in, jump onto the second table, step-off it and then double out. I timed the two ways to do that section but they were pretty much the same time.

But when I was walking the track I noticed some ruts and bumps on top of the first tabletop and wondered if someone had went triple onto the tabletop, step-off onto the other tabletop, step-off that and double out. The advantages would that you would stay lower and maintain your speed; the disadvantages would be that you could crash like Evel Knievel in Vegas. Then when I heard Stewie did press day and when I saw him and Larry Brooks lingering in the section during track walk, well, you didn’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to know what was up. Stewie did it on press day and was eyeing it up on the walk….

I watched in practice and maybe saw James do it once, but I was on the other side of the stadium and couldn’t tell for sure. Plus I was eating cotton candy and was distracted. Then I for sure saw Josh Grant do it but never timed whether it was faster or not. It did look visibly faster though.

Fast forward to the main and the third lap Stewie, with series points leader Chad Reed not far behind, tripled onto the table and sped off and in effect, sped off with the win. My stopwatch came out and it was about a half second faster to do and even though I do not believe it was the difference in James winning the race, it was significant and had to have helped out. When I texted (is it texted or text?) James on Sunday he said that it was the plan to be sneaky, that it wasn’t very hard (yeah right!) and that he was surprised no one else was really doing it. Very sneaky, Stewie… Oh, and impressive.

Give Reedy credit, he jumped the section a few laps later for a little bit but didn’t do it more times than not. It’s this kind of stuff that makes you appreciate how good all these guys are. Imagine your Reed, you’re rich, your wife is hot and you’re a millionaire. Okay, never mind that. Your arch enemy just jumped this section that you haven’t done and is pulling away, you grab your balls and realize you have to jump it. That’s pressure people!


Stewart's line was significantly faster through one of the San Diego rhythm sections. Here's video proof.

Maybe Chad is hurt. Maybe he was still thinking about his recent trip to the Grammys. Something has to be wrong, doesn’t it? He’s not the force we saw early on and didn’t have anything for Stewie this weekend. As a matter of fact he was fifth in timed practice! When was the last time he was fifth in the times? Probably the last time he tried to ride with his eyes closed. I’m not sure what’s going on but he is getting closer to the next group of guys and I predict that if he doesn’t find his form soon, he’s going to have his hands full battling off Ryan Villopoto, Josh Grant and Andrew Short.

  • The
Ryan “Throw Him in the” Dungey needed a win in San Diego to ward off Jake Weimer’s assault on the 250 west title and he got it. Ryan had a perfect weekend to go with his perfect hair, as he was fastest qualifier, won the heat, grabbed the lead one corner in and took off for the win. He’s now the points leader in a series that has way more drama in it than the main one. The Dungeymaster needed to answer the critics and he did in a resounding manner. Now the long nine-week wait to determine this championship starts.

The old series leader, Jake Weimer, didn’t get the start he needed and couldn’t catch Dungey despite having a faster lap time on the night. I think Jake could’ve won had he gotten the start and Dungey was in fifth but that’s racing and that’s why they have gate drop starts. He also had some problems with lappers along the way but that’s what happens when you‘re a big time fast guy.

I got a bunch of emails about lappers and the Larry Brooks’ MXA online column where he suggests the lappers should be shot by a sniper upon being lapped (kidding of course). I don’t have an answer for what the solution should be but I do think Larry was spot on with his comments about lappers using the blue flag to their advantage. I’ve seen it many times and even have been pumped when my rider(s) did it. Doesn’t mean it’s right however….

Just a smidge, and I mean a smidge behind Dungey and Weimer is Ryan Morais. Ryan got second again this weekend and after the race, told me it’s his eighth career podium in the 250 class with no victories yet. He agreed with what I wrote last week, that he lacks the sprint speed and is working on it during the week, but like he reminded me, it’s not easy to turn your brain off and berserk it around when you’ve spent years of your life in plaster like Ryan has. We spoke about the outdoors and he said he wants to keep his ride and has to do good outside. I mentioned that no matter what, he’s probably secured his spot and he said I was crazy, that there were five guys on the team for motocross (Stroupe, Weimer, Pourcel and Rattray, plus himself) and that Mitch would have to chop a guy no matter what.

  • Poor Paul Carpenter, he'll be out for a while. He was riding good also. His Moose gear looks good in this photo though.
It’s crazy out there in the 450 class. Without the provisional rule in place there are more top guys missing the main than ever before. This weekend Josh Hill and Paul Carpenter joined the RGGWDMM group (that’s Really Good Guys Who Didn’t Make the Main) and again, it shows that anything can happen. Hill was the third fastest guy in timed qualifying! Carpenter got the worst of it as he went down in the first turn and suffered broken ribs and a bruised lung. He’ll be out for a month or so which is too bad, because he’d been riding well.

Nick Wey had his best ride of the year, in my opinion. He finished ninth and was charging hard and looking like the Wey of old. It’s probably still not where he wants to be, but you have to start somewhere, I suppose. It was a good night to a day that didn’t start off so well: when Wey tried to get his guest pass from the AMA he found out he wasn’t signed up! His team apparently forgot to take care of this small detail and he had to fork over the entry fee. Just another day over there at J-Law Racing, Inc.

A couple reasons why I think we’ll see improved performances from here on out for the two-seven. He has an all new motor package that works well for him and he has hired Nathan Ramsey to be his man-friend. Nate Dawg will just help Wey out with bike set-up, lines, video watching, and whatever else can help Nick. Funny how Racer X did a story all those years ago about kinda being like brothers and now, here they are.

Justin Brayton was quick but didn’t get the start he needed and was buried on the first lap. He soldiered on to pass Chris Blose on the last lap and grab a well earned sixth. I had him 16th on the first lap so it was a good ride for Brayton. Who do I want to win their first SX more, him or Morais? That’s a tough one but probably Morais because I go way back with him (Matthes + Morais = 1998 Mini O’s champion of the world), but it would be great if both could do it in 2009.

Speaking of things that don’t really matter in life, I couldn’t help but laugh when announcer Irv Braun told the stadium that Ben Evans was a “five-time Arizona Cycle Park Champion” and that someone else had “numerous Ponca City titles.” Irv was really pumping up the Mini Os titles as well, did I mention that Irv runs Arizona Cycle Park?

  • JG wore a Chargers jersey out for opening ceremonies but the moto gods must've been Raider fans because Grant hit the deck twice in the main. Once, really, really good.
The only other rider to jump that rhythm section that Reed and Stewie did was Josh Grant and he was impressive again. Too bad for JG that he fell in the first turn and while coming through the pack, crashed hard in a rhythm section. He got up, so I took my eyes off him and ten seconds later, he was collapsed on the ground with medics all around him. Just like that, his top-five streak ends in spectacular fashion. Last word was that he was going to be ok.

Also down in that first turn with Grant was Ivan Tedesco and Tim Ferry so it was a rough start for those guys (the combined salary of riders down in the first turn was probably enough to buy a medium-sized country somewhere). Ferry’s just having one of those seasons where last year he would’ve snuck to the inside of that pile-up and come out top three. Now he’s in them. The three guys were wayyyy back and Tedesco recovered the best with a tenth while Red Dog made some mistakes and got fourteenth.

Timmy has told me a couple of times this year that he feels good out there, looks up and sees that he is out of the top five in times in practice. He’s battling a couple of injuries (suffered at A3 and San Fran, thanks Shorty!) but is just trying to work through it. He did finally wear the Scott boots this weekend and loved them. Scott’s Adam Greene can now come off that bridge he’s been on for the last month.

A couple of big-name factory guys came back this weekend and their names were Michael Byrne and Broc Hepler. Both riders were pretty fast considering the layoffs but Hepler couldn’t keep in on two wheels and crashed out. At one point, Broc was in third and really riding well but crashed 40 more times before going out with an injured wrist. I texted Broc on Sunday and he’s ok, x-rays didn’t show anything and he should be back at Atlanta. He told me that he got better every time on the track and was looking at the positives (running 3rd, looking good) then the negatives (crashing, hurting wrist). That’s good Broc, leave the negative stuff to us media.

  • The Byrner is back! He was worried about his wrist and his fitness on the Thursday before but they both looked pretty damm good to me. My man-crush on Byrne begins.....now.
  • The Iceman came back also! Broc was pretty good but had this little problem where he would fall off his bike during the race. Shorty helped him out one time.
Byrne was really good and had consistent lap times all main event. I spoke to him on Thursday and he had nothing but respect for the class and the depth of it. He’s a nice rider to watch out there, he has great talent for jumping. He got eighth and that’s nothing to sneeze at.

Can’t believe I went this far down without talking about Shorty. He won his heat and finished on the box in the main event. This was his first time back on the podium since round one so the Shorts will be receiving a nice bonus check soon. Despite hitting Ferry and knocking him down in San Francisco, I still like Shorty but was fearful there would be a fine in his future. Why? Because right before the main, he had to pee and ran behind the gate to relieve himself, which is a no-no for the AMA. Last year, Antonio Balbi got fined 500 bucks for not doing it in an outhouse. After confirming with Short that he was okay because he did out of AMA Karen’s site line and in private, I want you readers to thank me for texting a guy to see if he was going to get fined for peeing. Take that, Woodward and Bernstein!

He also apologized on the podium for taking Broc Hepler out which was nice but probably doesn’t mean a whole bunch to Hepler. They were both called “smiley faced assassins” by Stewie on my podcast show, so if one assassin takes the other out, is that ok?

Somehow, I got suckered into this game in the Pro Circuit pits with Roadblock, Pourcel’s mechanic. The deal was to see who had the best “MXDN” line up in your phone’s contact list. The catch was they had to be listed in a row, so it had me, Roadblock and Mitch Payton scrolling through our phones looking like idiots. I thought I won when I had Red Dog, Reedy and Rich Taylor (still fast) or Summey, Swink and T-Hahn but Mitch topped us all with RC, RD and RV. When you’re outside the tent and see three people huddled together, it might not be valving specs or piston burn rate, it could be a battle of phone contacts MXDN.

I talked to KTM’s Travis Preston and he will be out for a month or so with a torn rotator cuff suffered at Anaheim 3. He said it sore but when he went to brush his teeth on Sunday and couldn’t push down the toothbrush, he figured he should get it checked out.

Wil Hahn now knows that I like him and told us a story about how he has a baby calf that I think he bought on eBay. Here’s the thing though: if Will Hahn does something dumb, I’m going to write, and laugh, about it. It’s nothing personal, that’s just the way I am.

Preston told Will Hahn not to worry about me not writing good things about him because he said that he could be watching the six o’clock news and see a bank robbery taking place with Ferry wearing his jersey and I wouldn’t write anything negative…. The whole story with Preston narrating was pretty funny.

  • Troy was looking really good in his heat and went on to get a top sixteen in the main. If you guessed that he got sixteenth, you'd be correct.
  • This was the race of the night for me. Hanny and Boniface in the LCQ, who could forget that only a few weeks ago, they were rolling around on the ground trying to gouge each others eyes out. Boni got by Hanny clean and then Josh entertained us on the mic. Good times.
Breaths were held, hands were sweaty and nerves were on edge when we saw Josh Hansen and Steve Boniface in positions two and three in the LCQ. Remember, only two make it and remember, they were both on probation from their fight in San Francisco only a couple weeks ago. Hanny had the spot but Boniface passed him clean for the last transfer spot. A war was adverted.

I did get to hear Hanny on the podium tell Terry Boyd he “was riding like a bitch” and that he wanted to thank Carey Hart for “putting up with my shit” on the podium before Terry took the mic away. Hanny wasn’t done and attempted to grab it back. Good times.

I noticed that Hart and Huntington’s Troy Adams was running a 2008 front number pate and front fender on his 2009 CRF450. That tells me he’s running some different off set clamps that maybe aren’t available yet.

I ran into “Factory” Phil Lawrence and long time Canadian privateer Jason Frenette in the pits at San Diego. Good to see them both and Phil told me that it would take him three months to get ready to race again and that was too much work to do anymore. Phil’s good people and Frenette is a mid- to late '90s after-party legend, even now years later.

Dan Reardon crashed while in third in the main event and when last seen, he was looking for a reset button for his SX season.

Troy Adams was looking good in his heat and I was thinking we could see him turn it on for the main but T-roy twisted his troublesome knee early in the race and finished sixteenth.

Something that  was nice to see on the TV show was Stewie throwing  out some props to his gear and his gear guy, Roger “MX Culture” Larsen who was at the Indy dealer show. Nice to know that James is thinking of his little guy freezing his ass off 3,000 miles away trying to sell dealers riding gear that James designed.

  • Hahn's got a good deal over there at Canidae Kawasaki. He gets to ride out of the truck, gets a bike but yet gets to make his own gear and boot deals. Sweet for him! T-Hahn is quietly pretty good methinks.
Tommy “Gun” Hahn was happy with the mention in last week’s column but admitted that I probably wouldn’t be writing anything good this week as he ended up twelfth. I asked him what was up with his delayed comeback as I’d heard Houston for sure. He said that he just didn’t want to come back until he was 100 percent. I mentioned to him that he was fast in the whoops last week and he reported that his bike is working real well for him there.

Like I’ve been reporting endlessly on, Jason Thomas came back. Sort of. Although anxious to show off his new number 45 (his childhood idol Bradshaw’s first number) JT$ felt not quite ready to show everybody what he has and just rode practice. He pulled out but will be at Atlanta and there he will hopefully ride when people are in the stands.

That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading this little column and send me an email at matthes@racerxonline.com and tell me what you thought about the race. Also don’t forget if you want more things Matthes, check out pulpmx.com sometime.