Observations: Indianapolis

March 4, 2009 12:16pm | by:

The show must go on and it did this week in the beautiful circle city of Indianapolis, as the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series made its ninth stop out of 17. The drama was thick as James Stewart had just taken the series lead over Chad Reed by three points. Think about that: it took Stewie seven rounds to erase his disastrous opening round. That’s a lot of work folks and the consensus in the pits was the Stewie train was going to keep rolling right through to Las Vegas, where you can stay where the stars stay at Planet Hollywood. But in the words of Chris Berman, This is why they play the games…

  • This unique track was a big piece of the delicious pie that was the Indianapolis SX
First a word about the track; it was really good in my opinion. It was co-designed by Mike Larocco and featured (wait for it!) an over/under bridge! Kind of. The Rock just decided that the riders would go over it but still, it’s a start and we’ll see the entire thing used at St Louis at the Travis Pastrana-designed track (which also features fire hoops, shark tanks and loop-de-loops).

Back to The Rock’s track: I always find you cannot trust the riders when it comes to talking about the tracks because, well, they’re riders. I thought the design was cool, gave some different options and the whoop section were nasty. That caused the riders fits as most guys gave up blitzing by the end of the night and jumped through them. The Lommel-like sand section beforehand was cool in the way that it didn’t allow the guys to get momentum before the whoops, but bad in the fact it was one-line. I heard from Nick Wey and Ivan Tedesco that they didn’t like the sand but again, I’m not listening to them.

The streak stops here! The Australian wombat known as Speedy Reedy broke Stewie’s streak and grabbed his first win of the season, which means the points race is tied up again and things are getting exciting! The Yamaha consecutive wins was also broken at eight so their ad budgets will get a break this week and all hail the coming of the EFI bikes! Yeah, that’s it…

Reed grabbed the start and then, in an impressive display of cojones and skill, immediately doubled out of the first turn (there was a little kicker before it that made it damned impressive) and tried to get away as fast as he could. We know that Stewart crashed twice but a win is a win and Reedy earned this one. What might have impressed me the most was when Stewie finally got by Reed on lap 14, he gapped The Chad a bit and with everything that has happened the last seven weeks, it would’ve been totally expected to think the race was over. However, you knew something was up when the Suzuki rider regrouped and closed up that gap with a suddenness that wasn’t expected.  Stewie then hit his front brake lever on a (funnily enough) Yamaha Tuff Block and went down before the finish, handing Reed his first win of the series and us a battle to the end.

  • Chad Reed's got kangaroo blood
I thought that it was admirable the way Stewie handled the loss on the podium as he was quite happy that the fans got a race and that he tried his best. I expected him to be a little madder and a little more bitter at his loss but good for him. I texted him the next day and he said that he realizes he’s a role model and that he can’t go up there and swear or anything like that. He said he rode his ass off and can’t be upset at that… Actually, now that I think about it, Reed has handled his consecutive second-places pretty well also, which is a change from a few years ago when it seemed Chad was very angry at not winning.

Earlier in the day in practice, Davi Millsaps had the nerve to set the fastest time and it seemed the Monster Energy leader board changing to 18 on top had the same effect as poking James with a skewer as he immediately laid down a lap that was half a second faster than Davi’s best. The weird thing was that for the longest time, James’ second-best time had stood up but then as soon as it was not the fastest, he must’ve sensed it and knocked a lap out just like that. Just something I noticed and was impressed with.

I think that Reed will build on this and it has to give him some confidence going into Daytona, where he always rode strong against Carmichael. I also think this will make James pull a Bill Bixby and get very angry (he might even turn blue!) which will make this weekend’s race a great one. I’m not sure if the Ricky Carmichael-designed Daytona is going to be more like the old-school one or the new-school of the last few years; he did design it last year but we never really saw what it would turn out to be as we were all too busy building arks during the rain.

Speaking of RC, he was a little upset at me as his people probably told him that I was saying in my Stewie interview and MC podcast that it bugged me that RC was called the GOAT as, to me anyways, there are two different disciplines called motocross and supercross. They should be treated differently as you would not compare Barry Bonds (home run record) and Rickey Henderson (stolen base record) and determine who is better than the other. Sure, Rickey hit home runs and Barry swiped bases but they are both great and I say we just sit back and admire each guy’s greatness. I realize that you might have a different opinion and that’s fine—that’s what makes this thing we call sport so cool.

I never thought of this but nobody hated losing like RC. Maybe he’s still upset about losing Budds Creek first moto to Ferry/Matthes?

  • Mike Alessi tries to roost himself
Mike Alessi got his first podium this season and I’m happy for the little guy. He got some luck as Andrew Short was all over him when he got a rock in his brake and Kevin Windham’s bike broke but hey, he earned it. I know Mike is having a tumultuous year off the track but he is proving that he never gives up and always tries his hardest every time he takes the track. I almost ran down to the podium to give him a paper bag to breathe in as he couldn’t seem to slow down and speak coherently  or really take any breaths for that matter. It’s awesome to see him so excited and seemingly thanking anyone that he ever spoke to.

Did you know that Mike is the seventh different rider to finish third this season? Good to see the podium’s final spot is up for grabs so much and also did you know that Indianapolis is the first race that Mike’s dad Tony has ever missed of Mike’s? I can’t help but feel that it’s too bad a father missed his son’s first-ever SX podium but yet I can’t help but feel the events might be related.

DC spoke to Alessi yesterday for this interview.

Austin “City Limits” Stroupe grabbed the win in the 250 class and with his domination last week, it’s really looking like the PC boys are rising to the top of the field on the east side (kind of like they are doing on the west side).  Stroupe rode flawless and if he had won last week (which he should’ve) he’d be only one point back of the Flying Frenchman. But as it stands now, he’s 15 points back and he’s probably really wishing that he had electric start at Atlanta.

Christophe “-erson” Pourcel was not feeling good all week and fighting some sort of sickness when he decided to just tough it out and get second this week according to team manager Mitch “Walter” Payton. When he saw that on the last lap he was still close to Stroupe, he knuckled down and blitzed the last lap which resulted in a 50.3 lap time! He closed to within a second of Stroupe and his last lap time was almost a second better than Austin’s best. In fact, his lap time was third-best in the entire night and it was achieved on the last lap when he was sick all week. Amazing!

  • Pourcel's last lap of the night was one of the fastest in either class
On that note, its funny how Pourcel was actually thinking strategy out there and how he dogs it at the test track when his teammates are there. That’s a total Euro move as JMB is famous for his exploits and I remember Joel Smets and Shayne King telling me how they attacked and then maintained at different times in the GPs. Here in America we have a strategy as well, it’s called “Ride your balls off and go as fast as you can for as long as you can.”

For the second week in a row, we saw a red flag (remember last year when it seemed we saw the red flag more than we saw the checkered?) as the 250 main was halted after a first turn crash that seemed to take out half the field. Nico Izzi and Will Hahn were the only big name guys to really survive the carnage and were hurt by the restart. The whole thing was started when Darryn Durham went in a little hot and did a nose wheelie by mistake and came over and wiped the pack out. At first I saw no reason for the flag as there was only one bike that was still on the ground as the leaders came over but upon sleeping on it, I changed my mind. It’s a split-second judgment call, and I suppose it was good to error on the side of caution. There were some people calling for whomever started the crash to be pulled out of the race but that’s not an AMA rule.

Before the next start it was discovered that Durham had a busted water-pump and left the staging area to try and fix it. He came back but that’s a no-no to the AMA. Martin Davalos also had a DNS as his KTM was in no shape to make the race. I felt bad for the mechanics as they all had to walk pretty far to the mechanics area and then back again for the red flag, then turn around and walk back to the  their remote outpost. Their original area was moved in between practices as there was no chance anyone could see their boards and it was a little unsafe on the backside of a wall jump.

It was a wild 450 main as it seemed that every time you looked up, there was a yellow flag flying somewhere. Short was all over Alessi in third when he somehow found the only rock in the sand and it wedged in his rear brake (and Emig spotted it perfectly and saw it on TV before Short could find it). Then Ferry tried to pull the same move on Michael “Sun” Byrne as he did in the heat and he high-sided, Wey went down hard late in the race and broke his helmet, got black eyes and broke some blood vessels in his eye. Josh Grant tipped over, Stewie went down twice and Hepler was either crashing a lot or practicing for a pick-up-your-bike contest as he was down a bunch. I’m sure I’m missing some guys in there as well. Crazy night!

  • Ryan can't be too disappointed with his 9th in Indy
Ryan Villopoto was sick all day and throwing up into garbage cans, which would explain his seventh-place qualifying, his crashing and then his ninth-place main event placing.

Kevin “Windstorm” Windham had some terrible luck as he was all alone in third-place when his CRF 450 transmission let go and he DNF’d. This goes along with his broken transmission in practice or a rock in the sprocket causing a broken transmission in practice. Whatever it was, there were two bike-related problems KW faced. Too bad, I do have to say that the moto gods will not be happy with Kevin just leaning his bike against the wall and walking away; stay with the machine or try to push it back you riders!

Couple of things from last week’s column: I got cornered by a couple of trainers about my rant last week and one of them, Michael Johnson (Stroupe and Short’s guy) made some valid points that the kids of today need a guy to tail them around as they cannot do the work without it. Call it the ADD generation or something, Michael made the point that with all the money these guys get and all the distractions they have nowadays that the older guys didn’t have, it was in the best interests to have someone there. Fair enough I suppose.

Also, I got a couple of mechanics that said my non-thanking of the tuners was great and that more guys need to do that. I was remiss in not saying last week that Davi Millsaps almost always thanks his guy Carlos on the podium and that, to me, is cool. Carlos is a friendly guy and a dying breed of mechanics that stick with their riders.

We got sixteen laps out of Jason Lawrence this week and out of those, there were a few impressive ones for sure. J-Law had the combined fifth fastest time and everybody, and I mean everybody, was looking forward to seeing how his 450 debut would go. He is a small guy but rides with a ton of body English and I don’t know if throwing around the bike is the right words but he sure did look good and stood out among the riders in his “B” group. But as we all know, Lawrence was too sick to come out for the heat race—he obviously had what Villopoto had, but he’s not in the points race and didn’t want to risk going out there in that condition.  He did look fast out there and I hope this weekend we finally see him out there at Daytona.

  • If Reed hadn't won one of the greatest races ever, J-Law would be our hot topic this week
Jason “Isaiah” Thomas made a return to the 250 class and it didn’t go so well as the Rolling Tank fell in the first turn in his heat and then got a bad start in the LCQ. He didn’t qualify but for the first time in eight years he is now a 250 rider. Did you know that he got sixth in 1999 on a 125? Ten years later, he’s trying to duplicate that feat.  And twenty years since Bradshaw ran the 45, JT is going to try and honor The Beast by bringing it to the front. At least that’s what he told me.  

Good job to Ben Coisy-moto on his sixth place in the 450s and also to Levi Kilbarger on his sixth in the 250 class. Both great rides and other dudes in the “Didn’t actually place that good but still caught Matthes’ eye for some reason” category include Bobby Kiniry, Tyler Bowers, Will Hahn and Kyle Keylon. Hahn won the first heat race of the night and might have been on the box in the main if not for the red-flag start, then he went down on the restart.

I had a good talk with Mitch Payton this week in the pits and was asking him about his bikes but he kept saying that they were stock and that Kawasaki just made a good machine. So I got nowhere with that but after the race he told me they were “so lucky” the red flag was thrown. He also had some good ideas for the MX nationals’ Bottom Line show and he was very excited to help me pull them off.

The pits this weekend were indoors for most people but the factory guys stayed inside their trucks for the most part. Except for Ivan Tedesco that is, his mechanic Frankie wanted to be inside so he just hauled his tools and parts into the catacombs with the rest of the privateer teams. The pits reminded me of Bercy really bad, except I was able to see across the room due to the lack of cigarette smoke.

Ugly scene in the Jagrmeister freestyle show as one of the dudes came up horrifically short and hit the deck hard. This was something that I thought was inevitable at some point and seriously, since the tragedy of Jeremy Lusk, I’ve been thinking about these dudes and how freestyle has gotten out of hand. I think the guy was alright although their leader Kenny Bartram still seemed really, really excited when being interviewed—I don’t think he knew the last man in the daisy chain had gone down hard.

  • Matt Lemoine pushed himself just a little too far trying to get past Izzi on the last lap
Matt Lemoine is a throttle jockey and, like Kyle Cunningham on the west coast, is a guy that should have way better results then he’s been having. Star Racing itself isn’t having a very good season in its debut as Yamaha’s 250F effort. They seem to have the riders but maybe Broc Tickle next week at Daytona will help things out.

I don’t understand the lack of letters that I got about the Excitebike thing in my San Diego column. That was pure awesomeness by Keith Burgie, the online guy here at RXI. It was crazy how he did and as I sit here and write this at the palatial Racer X offices, I wonder if you people don’t realize how much that was pretty much the coolest thing ever. Shame on all of you.

Andrew Short was questioned by the AMA about his peeing in San Diego and whether or not it was done out of sight. How did they find out about it? From reading my column! Observations, the column the sanctioning bodies read!

Reedy, Dave Dye (his old mechanic) and I were shooting the poop about the old days when Reedy complimented me on the Stewie interview on pulpmx.com and it looks like we’re going to do one sometime soon.  How weird is it that the best riders in the world read the message boards and internet columns? Can you see Terrell Owens going up to some writer and saying he enjoyed the Randy Moss piece? I’m not complaining at all, it’s cool but strange to me.

Ferry executed a nice block pass on Michael Byrne in the heat race and knocked him down. It wasn’t dirty but I wanted to check with Byrner if we (Team Ferry) were going to have a problem down the road. He said it was okay and that he knew Timmy didn’t try to knock him down. In the main Ferry was coming up from a bad start when he tried the same move on Byrne in the same spot but he hit the Suzuki and this time, Ferry went down. Afterwards when I tried to blame Byrne he said I was “too emotional” when it comes to Ferry and that he was looking ahead and not worried about dudes behind him. Whatever.

  • Sorry Mike!
Check out pulpmx.com if you’re bored and have nothing else to do. I’m serious about the nothing else to do part.

Thanks for reading and next week we’re in Daytona and I’m going to try and stay for the whole race this year. I’m driving down to Florida this week to hang with Stewie, Reed and Ferry so I should have some good tidbits this week. Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com and thanks very much for reading, without you guys reading and DC giving me this space, I’d just be some nut job on the internet…