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Racerhead #9

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Racerhead is on the road this weekend. It’s a six-hour drive from Morgantown to Indianapolis, where the ninth round of the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series goes past the halfway mark. In fact, the cross-flags in this race will be the exact halfway point in this 17-race series. With Indy being so close, a whole caravan of Racer Xers are headed to the new Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the Indianapolis Colts and the coolest concourse known to stadiums. That’s because it’s loaded with all kinds of Lucas Oil powered racing vehicles, planes, tractors, motorcycles, etc.

Can James Stewart make it eight in a row? Can Chad Reed stop the runaway train that’s become the #7 San Manuel Yamaha? Will Jason Lawrence bring as much drama to the racetrack as he’s brought to the internet? Can’t wait to find out, and neither apparently can a huge amount of supercross fans, as ticket sales here are said to be going at a record pace.

Speaking of ticket sales, with all of the bad news our industry has been hit by lately – the ridiculous lead law, the slowing economy, land closures, devastating crashes – this Monster Energy Supercross series has been a huge success so far. The ticket sales have been well above the projected numbers, and Atlanta last week looked like the Super Bowl. All of the naysayers that were talking about teams folding, empty grandstands, and jobs lost all over the pits, well, thank goodness they were all wrong. Feld Motorsports really deserves a pat on the back from the motorcycle racing fans.

And there’s more good news on the way. Tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. MX Sports is holding a press conference in Lucas Oil Stadium to discuss the shape of the AMA Motocross Championship, which begins in a little less than two months at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, CA. Check out the web tomorrow morning for some cool stuff.

  • Congratulations Cody Gilmore
Also make sure you check out tomorrow night’s race on the web by listening to the Supercross Live! Webcast beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET with the racing kicking off at 7:30 sharp. That’s on www.supercrosslive.com. You can also open a window and follow the laps all day long on www.amasupercross.com.

If you want to watch it on TV, there’s next-day coverage on SPEED beginning at 5:00 p.m. ET with the 450 class, followed at 6:00 p.m. by the Lites race.

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the week, a tip of the visor to MDK/Warthog Racing Academy rider #374 Cody Gilmore. You remember Cody – he’s the pro rider who has been fighting cancer for the past two years. Last Saturday in Atlanta, Gilmore finished seventh in his Lites heat race to make the main event, where he finished 19th and scored two points – two of the most impressive points ever scored in Supercross history.

“He won our hearts and minds and he, for now, has beaten his toughest competitor – CANCER,” wrote WWR’s Scott Kandel. “Look for the #374 to surprise the hell out of you the rest of the year. The kid is special. And special thanks to Jeffery Tomlinson, Warthog Racing’s Chief of Logistics for funding Cody’s ride this year with the Warthog Racing Academy.”

  • Pourcel's looking for #3 in Indy
Also, two of the most impressive wins we’ve ever seen have now gone to Chris Pourcel, the French import who overcame Doug-Henry-at-Budds-Creek-sized back and hip injuries to get back on track and out in front. Pourcel took advantage of teammate Austin Stroupe’s mid-race mistake to go 2-for-2 in 2009 – not bad for a kid who has not raced supercross since January 2007.

And a reminder for everyone involved in this entire sport from Scotty B. of FantasyMoto:

As a friend, family member, supplier, sponsor, customer, and supporter of motorcycle, ATV, and snowmobile recreation/racing – I need your help today.

Please take five minutes to visit the site below and submit a form letter to your senators and congressmen (the form will automatically find them and submit the letter, all you need is your name, address, etc.) urging them to support the petition submitted by the Motorcycle Industry Council and Specialty Vehicle Institute of America to exclude youth OHVs from the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (CPSIA) lead content requirements. The whole process will take you less than five minutes, I promise.

  1. Click on this link.
  2. Click on the “Take Action” button in the lower left portion of your screen.
  3. Scroll down to “1. Compose Message,” fill in your information and submit it.
  4. If you will, submit one for each member of your family, and ask your friends to do the same.

Okay, I’ve got some work to do here in Indianapolis, so let me turn this over to David Pingree.

  • Josh Hansen has parted ways with Hart & Huntington
Josh Hansen and Hart and Huntington have parted ways. If this seems like déjà vu, it’s because Josh cut ties with the JGR race team after only a handful of rounds in 2008. I don’t know if Josh will now have the H&H tattoo that he got on his neck removed, but there is a rumor - and it's just a rumor - that he is planning on riding a Yamaha 250F at the rest of the east coast rounds for… wait for it… wait… here it is… Jason Lawrence’s team! No word on whether or not Hanny will get a J-Law tattoo on the other side of his neck or not.

Hang on folks, because it gets better. Josh needed a gear sponsor since the J-Law racing program doesn’t have a designated gear sponsor and guess who he called? The same guy that he was throwing swings at just a few weeks earlier, Mr. Troy Lee. We’ll see how that works out. A good source tells me that the rider most likely to fill the void left at H&H by Josh Hansen is BBMX’s Matt Boni. Boni and the Butler Brothers are rumored to be parting ways and his two twelfth-place finishes in the 450 class this season make him a perfect candidate.

It is official that Ben Townley is taking some time off. What hasn’t been discussed is just who is filling in for the injured Kiwi. Well, I think I have it figured out. With Justin Barcia set to jump into the national motocross series for the GEICO Powersports Honda team, it’s getting pretty crowded under that awning. That brings the total number of riders under there to, like, a lot. I heard rumors early in the season about Dan Reardon riding a 450 in 2009 and it looks like they might be partially true. While I’m just speculating here, we might see Reardon move into the empty position at Honda Red Bull and Barcia fill his shoes on the 250 squad.

Here’s Steve Cox.

After a while, you tend to forget about what happened at Anaheim I between Chad Reed and James Stewart. For those of us who have been chasing the series as it runs around the country, and who have been watching Stewart get starts every week while his rival Reed comes from behind for second, it’s weird to look at the points standings after Atlanta and see three points separating the two. It’s almost unbelievable.

  • After Anaheim 1 we thought we were in for a season of racing like this
What that means, mathematically, is that the series isn’t over, and I’m sure both Chad Reed and James Stewart know that. But that means that if Reed pulls off a win this weekend, they’re tied in points again.

Reed’s plan is still to win.

“The gameplan is to win the race, and if you can’t win, be second,” Reed said after the race. “That’s all I can do. From week to week, I take it as a new race, and this race was basically the first race of the season. Next week, we’ll go into it with a clean slate and be motivated. It’s not a lack of confidence or a lack of anything, it’s just me putting myself in good positions and riding to my full potential. Hopefully that puts us up front with James and we can have a good battle. That’s what it’s about. I’m sure he’s getting as bored as shit out front, because I’m making it so easy on him.”

Stewart isn’t getting bored, though. As RC used to say, a boring race is good for somebody.

“I always like to race, but trust me, I ain’t getting bored out there,” Stewart said. “I would never say that. But I love to race everybody. I’m a racer. It’s always good. But I don’t get bored at all.”

I asked Reed after the race in Atlanta if he was frustrated yet, finishing second to James seven times in a row.

This race sucked. I’m pretty pissed off. I felt like I had a good battle in me tonight, and the last few weeks, I just kind of felt off and didn’t feel that great. Tonight, I felt good,” Reed said. “I felt like I had a shot at it, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get out front and go with James. He’s doing everything that he needs to do, and hat’s off to him – he’s getting good starts and putting clean laps together, and he’s winning these things. I just need to keep my head down and try to get a win.”

“Reed really believes he can still win this thing.

  • Chad and the Atlanta sand didn't get along
“If I didn’t think I had a shot at this thing, I wouldn’t sit up here and tell you guys that I’m trying to win races,” he said. “I actually think that I have a shot at it, and I’m giving it everything I’ve got. I’m healthy, I’m in good shape… It’s just about putting it in the right place at the right time and taking the battle to James. He’s making good choices and he’s coming out looking like the hero right now.”

Stewart said he doesn’t believe in momentum because he figures hard work is its own momentum of sorts, but then I asked him if he believed in things like luck or jinxes, or putting one boot on before the other, and he said he did, although he asked me to not put it in here (before relenting).

“I do stupid things like that, but don’t put this on there,” Stewart laughed. “Okay, you can put it on there, but I don’t believe in momentum, but the left boot has to go on first. [Laughs]”

The sand section in Atlanta was not popular among the racers. Stewart liked it, but probably because he was out front. Reed hated it.

“[The sand section at] Anaheim I, it was great,” Reed said. “I think they did a great job of it, and it was a good part of the track, and it was fair. Phoenix, what a joke. Tonight, what a joke. That’s everyone’s feeling. I’m bummed tonight, so I don’t want to sound all pissy or whatever, but it was really hard. Basically, I went in there and played follow-the-leader and put my head down and followed the sound. I ran out of tear-offs. I started the race with 21 tear-offs and went through all of them. That’s not a good thing. You want to pull the whole thing off because you’re all pumped to be out front. I’m making it tough on the Scott guys. Times are tough these days and I’m using up all their tear-offs.”

Speaking of tough times, I feel really bad for Brett Metcalfe. He’s a buddy of mine and he was flying at Houston, despite his ankle injury. Then, on like the first lap of practice in Atlanta, he broke his collarbone. This could’ve been the year for him indoors. But it still can be outdoors.

  • Heal up, Metty
And finally, it was brought to my attention this week that the AMA rule for Lites eligibility changed this year for supercross, and it’s insane because they didn’t inform anyone of this change. What happened is, instead of the old rule that said a rider had to score 100 points in three consecutive years before getting bumped, it has been changed for 2009 so that any rider who scores a TOTAL of 225 points over three years is bumped up (page 24 of the rulebook).

Now, think about that. That’s 24 races, if the rider is healthy and races all of them. So, if he raced all of them, he would only need to average a finish of 11th place and he would be permanently bounced from the Lites class. Or, check this out, if a rider averages seventh or better, he’ll be bounced after just two years. For example, Blake Wharton, at his current pace, would be bumped to 450s in 2011. That just seems ridiculous to me. It seems to me that three is the magic number – Ryan Villopoto raced Lites for three years, as did Stewart, and even Ricky Carmichael said he wished he would have. This is going to take all of the decent talent out of the Lites class in no time, which will make Lites championships worth nothing.

And even better, this rule is retroactive to the beginning of 2008. So, any rider (are you listening, Austin Stroupe, Wil Hahn and Nico Izzi?) who accumulates 225 points between 2008 and 2009 will be forced to be on a 450 in 2010 or not race at all.

How about them apples?

Alright, your turn Matthes.

  • D'oh!
I spoke with Hart and Huntington team manager Kenny Watson this week and he hinted at the fact that Josh Hansen needs to get some things sorted out in his personal life before coming back to the professional motorcycling racing scene. Watson reiterated that it was a mutual decision and that he and team owner Carey Hart stand behind Josh and will help him out in any way that they can. Ping is saying that Josh is going racing for J-Law Racing in two weeks, so I guess we’ll see. Hansen has missed more mains then he made this year, but the depth of the competition has caused quite a few riders to miss mains. His best finish was a sixteenth and his worse place was the Troy Lee truck after the San Francisco race. I’ve been a critic of the hundred a time or two (or four), but I know his personal life is chaos and I wish him the best. There are more important things in life then racing motorcycles, that’s for sure.

I can hear you guys now, please Matthes, give us some Ferry and JT news. Ok, fine, twist my arm. Red Dog has been out in California trying to get his motorcycle working a little better for himself. With Ferry, I know that his being happy with his bike is a big part of the equation. He’s not one of those guys that can ride through something. He’s very picky about bike set-up and the suspension on his Kawasaki is one area that he wanted to work on, so he did and we’ll see the results this weekend.

Jason Thomas is dropping down to the 250 class this weekend for the remainder of the East series. His season is just getting going after a broken leg and JT feels like the tiny 250 bike suits his tiny frame. The Butler Brothers Racing team is also thinking about going to an all 250 program next year, so I suppose this will be a good test for them as well.

I got a lot of letters for the Observations column this week and a reader named Justin McLosky sent me this book cover. I’m not sure if it’s real or if he meant it for me, but it’s pretty funny anyway.

Thanks to faithful Observations reader Lyle for telling me how to get the Bullseye Bar-B-Que sauce back into the bottle.

Some guy named Carl from New Jersey was at the supercross and sent me this photo of Josh Hill hitting the gate in the 450 main. Looks like a good photo, keep it up Carl. You might have a future there.

Check out pulpmx.com when you’re bored

  • If you haven't discovered our podcasts yet, McGrath's is a great introduction to them
One of the things that’s great but also sucks about Racer X Online is that we have so much killer content on the site that if you’re a fan that just checks it out every couple of days or even just once a day at night, you sometimes don’t have time or see everything that our web guy Keith Burgie puts up. So in that vein, here is the Jeremy McGrath podcast that I did. Take a listen, it’s a good one.

[Editor’s note: We’ve started a weekly newsletter to combat this content dilemma. Scroll up and you’ll find a newsletter signup box on the right side of your screen. Once a week you’ll get an email with highlights and links to stories that went up over the past week.]

Finally, here’s the man who escaped this van, Jason Weigandt.

The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicks off this weekend in the sand of West Gate River Ranch in Lake Wales, Florida. If you live where it’s cold and haven’t been able to do much riding lately, feel free to come down to Florida and ride so much that you’ll be glad to go back home and park the bike in the garage again.

The sandy track is bound to get rough, but the River Ranch facility should be superb. This place is a full-on resort that handles corporate retreats, and it includes a ton of amenities on site, including paved parking.

  • David Knight will race his BMW in Europe
The riders that are ready are hungry, because this has to be the most wide-open GNCC season ever. David Knight won’t be racing the series this year as he returns to his native Europe and the World Enduro Championships, and that means everyone has a shot. Paul Whibley, Josh Strang, Nathan Kanney, Charlie Mullins, Jimmy Jarrett, Glenn Kearney, Thad DuVall, Barry Hawk and Kurt Caselli are the favorites — that’s nine guys right there! Bikes will practice on Monday and race on Tuesday it’s all part of the wild time that is known as Daytona Bike Week. Check out www.gnccracing.com for more details.

I’ve written enough this week, check out Blogandt if for some reason you want to hear anymore from me. See you at Indy!

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Sally Gilbertson, wife of Funny Car racer Bob Gilbertson, passed away Monday, Feb. 23, at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. She was 52.

She is survived by her husband of 33 years, Bob; son and daughter-in-law Rob and Kristen Gilbertson; daughter Sandy Ann Gilbertson; son Jake Gilbertson; grandson Luke Gilbertson; brother and sister-in-law Greg and Betty Shaffer; sister and brother-in-law Sandy and Dale Willocks; mother-in-law and father-in-law Maryann and Keith Manley; numerous nieces and nephews; and several loving and well-dressed dogs.

Memorial contributions may be made to:

Gaston Humane Society
P.O. Box 2334
Gastonia, NC 28053-2334

Here’s a video we spotted online: “One Day with Chris at Atlanta,” which features the Atlanta winner Christophe Pourcel as he gets ready to go out.

Thanks to both Doug Goins and Jake Ridenour for stepping up and supporting this week’s Racer X Gas Card for the Indy SX. Looking ahead, we still have one spot open for the New Orleans SX, so if you’re interested in becoming a Racer X Gas Card sponsor for that event, click here.

We send our get well wishes out to Amber Hughes, who suffered a broken tib/fib at this past weekend’s Motorama Arenacross in Harrisburg, PA. Hughes is a former top woman’s racer who was racing in the Minibike class when she crashed. Amber has been in the hospital all week and we wish her a safe and speedy recovery.

Buck Ford, a former Nor-Cal A-rider, decided to give up racing last year after injuries got the best of him. He’s now pursuing a country music career. Watch his video on YouTube and let him know what you think.

Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races.

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