Observations: Atlanta

February 25, 2009 5:32pm | by:

I didn’t go to the A-T-L this weekend. I was home alone with the dogs as my wife took off for Phoenix, so it was a good time to hunker down and watch live supercross on Saturday night. Imagine that: live SX racing on a Saturday night…. I bet you didn’t think you’d see this day back when you were calling 1-900-INF-MOTO at $.50 a minute.

I started by stopping off at the deli and picking up some chicken fingers (the good kind) and when I was waiting to get served, I drew #15 out of the little dispenser thing. I immediately decided that it was going to be a great night. But before I get started, you know what really bugs me about Bullseye Bar-B-Q Sauce? It’s that when you take too much (like I did on Saturday) you have no way of getting it back into the bottle. It’s a trick to get you to waste sauce and therefore have to buy more sooner…. I’m on to you, Mr. Bullseye.

  • If you were playing that game where you take a shot every time you see the green claw, you'd be absolutely hammered right now.
I thought it would be funny to take a shot every time I saw a green “M” claw on TV, but decided not to very early on for health reasons. The intro to the show was cool, though I would have been smashed by the time I saw Erin Bates for the first time.

Our first opening shots are of Ralph and Fro, and let’s all keep in mind that covering the races on TV is very hard and doing it live is even harder. I just want to get that out right now before Ralph or Fro find me and tag team me like they were “Hacksaw” Jim Duggen and the “Honky Tonk Man” after reading this.

We see James “Bon Jovi” in the fog doing his thing. Love it. Best. Opening. Ever…. But it’s time to change it up. One of the biggest regrets in my life was not riding out in opening ceremonies for Wey when I worked for him. Imagine me squeezing into Nick’s jersey and having the crowd elbow each other and look down while simply refusing to acknowledge Wey’s sudden weight gain—it would’ve been awesome! The Live Nation guys okayed it and everything, but I passed.

The 3-D track map is on the screen right now, but as we know that isn’t necessarily going to be the track that the guys race on. I’m just sayin’... And I don’t see an over/under bridge anywhere.

We see some interviews of the guys and Austin Stroupe and Nico Izzi sound like little tiny Spicoli’s while Reedy has earrings in that cost as much as my house. Still no mention of the 1999 Summercross winner….

Right before we go to commercial to promote the series, Ralph and Jeff do a little promo to, errr, promote the series. It ends with the 1997 SX champ (Emig) telling us it’s going to “be off the hook!” I bet he’s the only SX champ in history to ever utter that phrase.

  • Izzi had a rough start to his day with a practice and heat race crash. I like that he's pushing his bike off here, lots of guys would just leave it. The moto gods rewarded Izzi with a second for his kindness to the bike.
Erin Bates (finally) informs us that Izzi had a bad practice crash but will try to race. Then we see his crash as he runs into the back of Matt Georke in the whoops and answers an age-old question about pro riders: No, they don’t look ahead very much.

Jeff tells us that Brett Metcalfe is out with a broken collarbone and this confirms that sometime in Brett’s life, he stepped on a crack while under a ladder trying to avoid 13 black cats.

Fro tells us that the first round at Houston doesn’t mean much and it was just a shake-down to see where the riders are at and then tells us that Stroupe “has to get back into this.” Wait, I thought it was just a shake-down? And fourth wasn’t so bad, was it?

The start goes off, and I mean off, as the riders enter a different time zone—it’s that long. Vince Friese and some other guy grab the start, but for the 1,496th time, we see the difference that factory suspension makes as Stroupe blows by Vince in the whoops and into the lead.

Izzi crashes again and is pushing his bike back to the pits. Tough start to the night for him. Erin interview’s Nico and his helmet looks ten sizes too big.

Georke on the final lap has maybe the strangest crash ever. He just high-sides coming out of a corner, which sucks for Beef; he was in fifth and looking good. Stroupe “Loops” grabs the heat win.

Stroupe on the podium thanks EVERYBODY but the guy that made sure his axle nut was tight and kept the wheels from falling off. I wonder if forgetting to tighten the axle nut and making a protein shake wrong have the same consequences…. THANK YOUR MECHANIC, PEOPLE!

  • They had a deep sand section which was giving the guys fits.
Heat two is off and again there is a big pileup on the outside of the first turn. Christophe Pourcel’s first followed by Matt Lemoine “Aid” and “Scuba” Steve Clarke. Clarke’s from England and is no doubt feeling very cheerio about his start.

Moto XXX’s (ha!) Daniel Blair, Augie Lieber and Mark Graddy all pile up in a turn and Tyler Wharton passes all three. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 250F class!

Pourcel grabs the win and Pro Circuit wins both heats and both riders look great. This “Mitch” guy seems to know what he’s doing with this team of his…. Pourcel keeps charging hard after the checkers, which means he didn’t see the flag or this is a strange new French victory celebration—kind of like Bo Jackson running all the way through the endzone and the stadium tunnel on Monday Night Football.

The first 450cc Heat is on the line and I just finished my chicken fingers. The guys talk about Tyler Bowers and his new team and I see Cody Cooper. “Chicken” Coops is back! Hopefully for a while this time.

Reedy leads early on in front of Villopoto. Ralph says that he was speaking to Mike Fisher and Fish said that RV has been putting pressure on himself and that the Kawi team itself hasn’t put any pressure on Ryan. How much you want to bet Fish said all this with a coffee cup in his hand?

  • The Iceman cometh (back)! Broc was really good and my spies at Atlanta tell me that this was Red Dog's best race in a while, despite the eighth. Nice boots on the one five.
YES! Finally a Tim Ferry sighting as he is right behind Broc Hepler in the heat. Red Dog is wearing the Monster O’Neal gear which he thought was the reason Steve Cox didn’t take any pictures of him in San Diego. Personally, I thought he needed to brighten his look up but yet chooses the Monster gear again?

Josh Hill and Broc Hepler are duking it out and seeing them made me wonder if there have ever been two factory riders with higher numbers on the same team: 60+75=135, which is about 125 higher than the entire five-man Factory Honda squad in any year in the ‘80s. (DC’s note: George Holland was #1, Guy Cooper #10, Mike Kiedrowski #762 and Larry Ward #971 were all on Honda’s 1989 125cc MX team, and that equals 1,744.)

Reed takes the win and we briefly see the least appreciated guy in the whole industry (according to him), Scott’s John Knowles. Knowles is first to the podium, even before Goose. Knowles was also in the “Phone MXDN” thing I wrote about last week. I forgot to include him in the story. Now everyone can sleep easy.

After Reed’s interview, Ralph says that he could see Reedy’s eyes a few weeks ago and that they were “empty” and that “he was feeling a little bit down.” That’s deep, Ralph… They cut back to Reed on the podium and Ralph says, “Oh yeah, the sparkle is back.” I wonder if Ralph can see my eyes rolling over and over right now?

I like the sand section, even though it’s one-line in the turn. There, I said it.

Erin interviews Reed while he watches Stewie demolish his heat race and Chad says James is “an amazing rider” which sucks for me now that they like each other. It was better when they were mad and flipping each other off every other week.

  • This is a really cool picture but how is there sand in front of James? Is the flagman just throwing it on him? Pesky lappers...
  • I've heard of toys and boobs but never heard of a guy getting a camera autographed.
Stewie wins by eleven seconds over Ivan Tedesco and Jeff says that the other riders are going to have to “dig deep to beat James.” Yes, digging deeper would help but I don’t care how deep the hole is, twisting the throttle more would be better.

The results still show Josh Summey as being “Charles” a year and a half after he changed his name back. Someone needs to alert the crew on this hugely important matter.

On the podium, James is sure sweating a lot. Weird because it didn’t look like he broke one that whole race.

I can’t help but notice all the crowd shots tonight and the people freaking out in them. There’s a shot of a good looking chick and her significant other is throwing the “devil horns” and wagging his tongue like he’s Ozzy Osborne in ’83 on the “Crazy Train” tour. He is the epitome of “that guy.”

Lites LCQ on the line and the gate is held for five minutes. Then the red flag is thrown because of a gate malfunction and Mark Graddy eats poop over the finish line. Just chaos folks!

On the restart, Blair and Bryan Johnson are involved in a pile-up and get royally screwed by the gate malfunction. Izzi gets royally rewarded as he is first. There’s a lesson here, folks, thou shall not expect the same events to occur twice in a Lites LCQ.

Goerke grabs the second (and last) spot when the number-three rider takes the number-two rider high, allowing the number four rider (Goerke) to pass them both. Again, the Lites class is just silly. The Lites LCQ is even sillier….

  • NYK is going to be better from here on out, you watch. Nate Dawg will help him and if there was still Pontiac on the schedule, there would be no stopping Wey.
  • Here's Wey with his old manager, Steve Lamson. When Lammy was the manager at MDK and he had Wey and Vuillemin, there was more laughs being had per minute then at any time in the history of the sport.
Erin gives us an update before the 450 LCQ and it proves that she does read this column as she tells us about Wey’s new motor settings and that he’s hired a new man-friend (Nathan Ramsey). You can debate the use of the word man-friend on live TV all day long and the fact that it might make the casual viewer think they were watching Logo, but I for one was proud of my little Canadian girl when she busted that out.

I’m going to have some ice cream with chocolate chips sprinkled on top (who am I kidding, they are anything but sprinkled) for a little desert before the LCQ. Thank God for DVRs.

Once again, the 450 LCQ is stacked. Wey, Voss, Summey, Byrne to name a few. Like I said a few weeks ago, I would be pooping bricks if I was a big-name rider and in the LCQ. Anything can, and usually does, happen.

Summey grabs the start and Coops is briefly second before disappearing into the back. He probably really wishes he was at Unadilla right now.

“Charles” Summey wins the LCQ and in honor of Wardy at Atlanta 1990, he gives it a fist pump. Byrne and Voss do not qualify, and once again, we see that there are really only two riders in the whole field that are guaranteed to make the main. Poor Byrner, it’s his new hometown and probably has his whole little town cheering him on.

Did Matt Lemoine really just say that he was “black and trapped in a white person’s body?” Am I overdosing on ice cream and chocolate? Mental note, hang out with Lemoine more, could be lots of column inspiration.

  • He's not
Speed has a little bit on now about trainers and all they do for the riders. Millsaps’ guy is on there saying that Davi was struggling with the bike in the beginning of the year but with some small changes, is much better. I’m sure Honda is pumped about that. Some people might say that Davi is doing better because he’s raced himself into shape, but I wouldn’t. Now we see Randy Lawrence and Aldon Baker talking about the importance of training but I like to think that no matter how good of shape a rider is in, if there is no motorcycle under them, they are going to have a hard time winning. Back in the day, it used to be the wrenches and other team guys were so important, but there definitely has been a switch in the last five years so now it’s the team and then there is the rider’s “team” and that’s kind of sad to me…. I’ll get off my soapbox now.

Ok, I’m back on it again as Ralph and Jeff are going on and on about trainers. Look, I’m sure training is important and all that but the great riders of yesteryear never had trainers; they just got off the couch and did it! There’s this perception that you have to have a trainer following you around everywhere to show that you’re the man. (And don’t get me started on how many times I’ve seen a trainer in the bar with his rider!) I don’t get it. The most important aspect to a rider doing well is how he rides the motorcycle and getting the motorcycle set up is the result of thousands of man-hours put in by the team. Clearly, I’m biased here (and judging by my physique, I’m not much of a trainer, nor can I afford to hire one), but seriously, it bugs me that these guys can’t hire a guy to set up a program for them and then just check in with them once in a while. If the rider wants to do the work, then he does it and he wins. If not, whatever, that’s his choice. And shame on RL for not mentioning the team and mechanics in his interview. He should know better. Whew... That felt better.

Okay, the Lites main is now getting going. Erin tells us that Stroupe has 200 friends and family at the race. Wow, that’s crazy. I don’t think I even know two hundred people in my life. Talk about pressure. Some interviews now where Blake Wharton says you have to look at this race like the second round, which, well, okay, he’s a rookie... He goes on the say that he did the first one and now he’s at the second and he’ll see how it goes. Sound thinking under that Hairmet.

And they’re off! Somehow Izzi grabs a third-place from way on the right-hand side. Fro correctly predicted that he could do it from out there and if anyone knows starts, it’s F-R-O. To no one’s surprise, it’s Pourcel and Stroupe out front.

  • Poor Stroupe, he was gone by all accounts and now has an uphill battle to get this title. And he had 200 people there and everything.
That sand dragon back section is a real momentum killer for the Lites guys if you can’t jump out. Stroupe is gone. They show a start replay and how come I’ve never noticed the different color flames coming out off the start? Was it just CGI’d in?

Emig tells us about the deep rut on the inside after the finish and I’m surprised he doesn’t get into detail about how sometimes halfway through the main, it gets so deep that it hits the plywood, thereby making it way slower. A rider that figures that out first usually has an advantage…. But then again, he’s watching from 100 yards away, on a TV screen smaller than the one you’re watching this on.

Oh no! Stroupe stalls the bike while all alone in front. Heartbreak, sports fans. Of course, it doesn’t fire right away and he drops back. If you’re Mitch are you sad about this or happy that the previous round’s winner is now winning and will widen his points gap and thereby maybe win you a title? Hmmmm...

Lemoine just got passed by 17 guys in the whoops and is fading fast, but come to find out on Monday that he lost his rear brake around halfway. Bad break for the black man in the white man’s body.

Wharton and Davalos are having a battle of death right now!  Great race between the two and, and…. they cuts to Pourcel just idling around and crossing the finish. Then Emig says “Wow... that was crazy, that was awesome” but we at home HAVE NO IDEA what happened. Replay? No? Okay.

What a great story Christophe Pourcel is. Think about it, a world champion, about to come to America to compete and fulfill his dream. A disastrous crash in Ireland knocks him out for a year and a half and then he comes back and does this? Good for him.

The Kawi guys tell me that when Pourcel is at the track with his teammates he just moseys around like it’s his first day riding. Then by himself, he absolutely tears it up. That sneaky Frenchman…. Wait, isn’t that what Jean-Michel Bayle did too?

  • This trick is still cool and good to see Reed bring it back once in a while. I remember when people would lose their minds when MC did this.
We see a graphic telling us that Reed’s average position at the end of first lap is 5.41, which is a cool thing to know. Good job on that one, Denny.

The gate drops and Hill hits it, causing everybody to get jacked up. Stewie grabs the start and it’s see ya time. Broc Hepler is second! Good for the Iceman and at this point, Billy Ursic has tears streaming down his cheeks.

Reed works through the pack in his usual fashion and RV still can’t get by Hepler. Reed makes up some big time space on RV, proving to all of us that he’s not going to let go of that “Second Fastest Rider on the Planet” title easily.

Great battle between Hepler, RV and Reed. Hepler looks like he let RV by to try and set RV up but it doesn’t work. RV gets by Hepler and Reed sneaks through at the same time. Very clever and Ursic’s tears of joy turn to tears of pain.

Reed is all over RV. Villo makes a mistake and can’t jump the triple, allowing Reed to get by. Then Troy Adams accidently gets in the way by and stops Chad from jumping the finish line, which allows RV to get by again. Good racing!

Awesome! RV jacks up the whoops and Reed flat tracks around him in the next turn, this is supercross at its finest, folks.

Hepler and Andrew Short are going at it and Short sneaks through without incident, which is amazing between these two “smiley faced assassins,” as James calls them, in one of the best quotes ever.

  • Ivan was kinda quiet this weekend but doesn't it seem that a different Honda guy is fastest each week?
  • Shorty and Hepler battled for a bit and I was expecting a bloodbath but thankfully, Andrew made it out alive.
They show a replay of the start and you can see Short flinched, which caused Hill to go and hit the gate. Reed got a horrible jump and I’m not sure if it was because of Hill moving or just a lack of confidence, which to me is the biggest thing with starts. I really believe starting is mostly mental.

Tedesco and Grant are down in the sand. Tedesco landed on Grant when Josh didn’t jump the dragon-back. Man, Grant’s had a few bad weeks here. He’s still been damn impressive though.

That’s it. It’s over, Stewie wins again, Reed gets second again and RV rounds out the podium. Man, it was cool watching the race live on a Saturday night, and despite my joking here on the announcers, trainers, man friends and Lites riders, I appreciate the fact that FOUR HOURS of supercross was on TV. There wasn’t nearly enough Ferry for me, but I’ll be all right.

Thanks for reading and send me some emails and stuff at matthes@racerxonline.com. See you next week from the Indianapolis RCA…oops, I mean Lucas Oil Stadium.