Racerhead #11

March 13, 2009 6:44pm | by:

Racerhead this week is coming from all over the map. Steve Cox and Steve Matthes are in New Orleans, Ping is out in California, Keith and Bad Billy are back at the office, and I am on my way to Washington, DC. As I’ve mentioned every week since the CPSIA ‘lead law” went into effect on February 10, the entire motorcycle industry has been rocked by the youth bike ban. There are people all over the country trying to get the law overturned, or at least an exemption for motorcycles and ATVs, which are not something that kids eat (dirt is a different story).  As a result, I think I’ve learned more about bills and laws and regulations than I have anywhere since “Schoolhouse Rock.”      

Turns out the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation is Senator Jay Rockefeller IV, who happens to represent the great state of West Virginia. And U.S. Congressman Alan Mollohan, a very well respected member of the U.S. House of Representatives, grew up about 15 miles down the road from the Racer X office in Fairmont, West Virginia.  So this afternoon MX Sports has a meeting in Mr. Mollohan’s office to discuss the devastating effect the CPSIA has had on the entire motorcycle industry—the MIC estimates a $1 billion annual blow to the U.S. economy alone, not counting the thousands of jobs in motorcycle dealerships that are being lost due to the loss of such a large segment of the market—and to just see if there’s anything that can be done. That will be followed by audience with Commerce Committee, which oversees the CPSC.

The AMA’s main man in Washington, DC, Ed Moreland, and the MIC’s Paul Vitrano will also be there as we basically climb the Capitol steps and exercise our right to be heard. So will Cobra Motorcycles’ Sean Hibbert, who bought a plane ticket and suit yesterday in Dallas so he could fly from the Spring Classic at Lake Whitney to Washington to tell these officials the effect its had on his business It’s a longshot, but its worth a try.

It was actually a good week on the political landscape for dirt bikes as the ridiculous “Flowers Bill” in Illinois, which would have made it illegal for anyone under 16 to even ride an off-road motorcycle, was shot down. And the AMA and ORBA announced that a Senate bill that would have effectively shut down 2 million acres of public land to off-road vehicles was also shot down, though that one may come up again soon.    

Amazing that I made it this far down without mentioning Jason Lawrence….

Okay, some AMA racing rules for you:

James Stewart was not penalized for outside assistance when he got help in the first turn at Daytona because the AMA allows outside assistance for downed riders up until the first obstacle…. Hey, here’s a question: If it was illegal, would Hill have been DQ’d because Stewart picked up his bike?

Next, ten people must have asked me what would have happened if Stewart had gotten Hill’s bike started and ridden away? Jeff Canfield told me he would have been black-flagged, but not DQ’d, because a black flag means “Stop, there’s a problem,” and if he fixed the problem—gotten back on his own bike—he would have been allowed to continue.

Why was Chad Reed not disqualified for passing on the yellow at a recent race? In AMA Pro Racing rules, the yellow flag does not mean “do not pass” or “do not jump,” it only means caution, someone is down in front of you. The red cross flag, or red lights on a supercross track, does mean “no passing, no doubling or tripling.” The yellow flag means other things in other disciplines of racing, as well as in other organizations, but what Chad Reed did was not illegal.

Why wasn’t Jason Lawrence docked or DQ’d for cutting the inside of the corner when they massive pileup happened in front of him in the main event? For the same reasons that Tim Ferry and Ivan Tedesco were not DQ’d or docked—when there is nowhere else to go and riders are forced off of the track, they must re-enter at the next possible area (many areas are blocked because of Tuff Blocks) without gaining an advantage… Okay, that one is grey area because J-Law definitely came out with some advantage, but as long as the AMA allows all of those team managers, photographers and course workers to be on the inside of the first turn—and only Daytona allows them to be right there—seems like a rider should be allowed to cut through the inside when there is a pileup blocking the whole track, which there pretty much was.

To his detriment, Ferry tried to ride over a Tuff Block and ended up stuck on it. As for Tedesco, he went down in the pile, and once he got up he rode backwards on the start and followed J-Law’s path back on the track. There was some advantage there—it was shorter and he got away before a couple of other guys—but it was largely overlooked because everyone was either watching Lawrence out front or Stewart trying to take off on Josh Hill’s bike.

Love him or hate him, you have to give Lawrence credit for what he did from that moment forward, which was to basically outrun everyone else by Chad Reed. It was just a wild night for the sport’s wild child, and I busted out laughing when he mentioned Razzle’s, the notorious Daytona Beach nightclub, on the podium. The whole sport’s just more interesting when that guy’s around, especially if you’re a journalist!

One thing that wasn’t mentioned this week: Lawrence stayed at the track in his motorhome after the race, and in the morning, he woke up and went out and walked the whole track, along with his agent Scott Sepkovic and his friend Josh Hill, just reliving the night and talking about every lap, every corner, every jump. Was it a fluke? We’ll have a better idea this weekend in New Orleans.

I do know that if Lawrence rides the 450 outdoors, which he is seriously considering, that class just got even more interesting!

Congratulations to Nathan Ramsey, one of the sport’s all-time good guys, in getting the gig with JGR MX/Toyota Yamaha. Ramsey, who had retired in December, pending something unexpected coming his way, never stopped riding and staying in shape. And when Cody Cooper got himself too beat up on the steep learning curve that is supercross, the team called Ramsey to fill in for the rest of the series. Nate Dawg finished fifth in the ’08 AMA Supercross Series, only to be dropped from San Manuel Yamaha after Chad Reed split from the team, replaced by James Stewart and Kyle Chisholm

  • Nate's back on blue!
You know, there’s still some animosity between Reed and his old team manager Larry Brooks, though it has only surfaced in the occasional interview. But with Reed now back on top of the rankings following his two straight wins, I wouldn’t be surprised to see things get a little more abrasive between the title contenders...

Daytona, by the way, was Stewart’s 50th career AMA Supercross in the 450 class, and he got there with more wins—32—than anyone else in the history of the sport. And yes, counting the last two weeks, he’s crashed at least once in the other 18 races.

In case you’re wondering, that stat does not count the world supercross rounds in Canada, where he once got beat by RC in Vancouver without a crash, though he was riding hurt after being T-boned by Travis Preston, after he tangled with Chad Reed at the finish line and went off the track, then came back on as Travis was coming down.

Did you check out the global TV deal that’s coming together for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships? If not, here’s which networks and broadcasting partners you can tune in to this summer to see the best motocross riders in the world battle it out for 12 rounds.

Okay, time to shut this down, hit send, put on the suit and tie and head to Capitol Hill.  Wish us luck. If you haven’t contacted your congressman yet about the CPSIA, please write him or her—our future as a sport depends on getting something done about this so kids can continue to enjoy motorcycling.

Steve Cox can take over from here.

I was hanging out at Kevin Windham’s house most of yesterday shooting photos and video for Racer X. This being a hometown race for K-Dub, though – living less than two hours away from New Orleans in Centreville, Mississippi – he found himself quite busy doing other things, like talking to local news affiliates on the phone or things like that. Still, he had enough time to give us a tutorial on nose wheelies and do a quick video interview that should be up in the next day or so. So keep an eye out for that, and check out our Kevin Windham Lap Time contest.

  • Kevin's looking forward to this weekend
  • On a whim, Kevin Windham decided to shave his head yesterday, but in true Mississippi spirit, he left a little out back.
  • After cutting his hair, Windham tested how his helmet for this weekend (nice paintjob, huh) fit by jumping on a Moto Stick. The result was inconclusive.
While I had heard about the pink bikes that Hart & Huntington is going to run this weekend, originally, the rumor was that it had something to do with Carey Hart getting back together with his wife, Pink, but K-Dub straightened me out. It turns out it’s all part of the Make It Right Foundation’s Pink Project, which Brad Pitt put together to help rebuild in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It’s a great charity, and for more information, go to www.makeitrightnola.org. Pitt is also, not coincidentally, a big motocross buff, so this just fits with the race in New Orleans this weekend.

Now, let’s do the math on the Chad Reed-James Stewart championship chase. So far this year, Reed not finished off the podium, and his worst finish was third at Anaheim 1 – when he went down with Stewart. He followed that with seven straight second-place finishes and two wins. If we assume that he will not finish worse than second from here on out, with seven rounds left, that only leaves 10 points to spare for Stewart if he wins every round. However, if Reed wins one, it drops to four points; if Reed can manage to win two of the final seven events and finish second in the rest, he will successfully defend his 2008 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship. In essence, if Stewart is to win the title, and if Reed continues to finish – at worst – second, Stewart needs to lose no more than one remaining race. It can truly go either way at this point, which is what makes this such a great season of racing.

Not a lot has been said of Stewart’s great ride at Daytona. He obviously hit his head a bit in the gnarly first-turn crash – as evidenced by his trying to board Josh Hill’s bike in the melee – but he still got up and charged to seventh with a completely twisted bike. They say your championships are won on your bad days, and Daytona may have been that day for Stewart. When I was going through my photos after the race, it looked like Stewart had either broken his left pinky badly or somehow gotten both his pinky and ring fingers stuck in the ring finger of his glove. It turns out the second was the case. Apparently, he almost lost his glove in the crash, and when he put it back on, he got two fingers in the one finger of the glove and rode the rest of the main like that. No visor, clutch glove not on right, and a twisted bike, and he still managed the second-fastest time and seventh place from dead last. It’s pretty great.

After the race, I ran into Grant Langston, who indicated that he is, indeed, racing the 2009 AMA National Motocross Championship. Apparently, things are looking up for him – and for us.

In the Lites East, Christophe Pourcel is looking like a runaway winner at this point. He’s now won three of the four rounds, and his career supercross record looks like this: six races, four wins, and two second-place finishes. His teammate Austin Stroupe made the championship a bit easier on Pourcel by crashing out of Daytona last weekend. It’s Pourcel’s title to lose at this point.

  • When will we see Ben on the track again?
  • Check out the left pinky finger.
Bad Billy’s up next.

The Racer X Gas Card program resumes this weekend at the New Orleans Supercross, and special thanks to the sponsors for this weekend: Carlos Basto and Steve Lewis of Rollon Throttle.

We spotted Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ben Townley hanging out at the Daytona Supercross this past weekend and asked the former world champion for an update. “Status quo,” said BT, whose last AMA race was the 2008 Hangtown National, where he went 8-7 for sixth overall in the 450 class. “I’m still not happy with my shoulder. It’s at a point where it’s not 100 percent but I can go out and ride a motorcycle, but I can’t do my whole program. I can’t do all my training, I can’t go to the gym, go riding, and expect to get up the next morning and do the same thing. It’s not at the level I need it and I can’t maintain it day in and day out. That’s not a way to go racing, and I don’t want to do that.”

Unfortunately, we received this sad note from our friend Wes Parker today:

The last thing I wanted to be doing this week was writing to you about another MX-related death. Washington lost another rider last weekend and this one hits home and was as close to me like no other. Thirty-eight years old and had been racing since the early ‘80s. I know he was a weekly Racerhead reader, and I was hoping you guys could take a minute to add something today.

The old picture I took really sums up Matt Larson. Miserable day at Washougal in ‘96, cold, bike is trashed, gear is soaking wet, mud in everything, so slick you can hardly stand up and he’s flashing a big smile and a peace sign. Always optimistic, no matter the circumstances. He played a big-brother role in my life.

His love for his family, riding, and for the many friends he had is indescribable. He always found a way after work to water and have his track ready for his buddies to come over, anyone who showed up always had to stay for dinner, there was always a way to fit another bike in his van if someone needed a ride to the races, your starting gate was always swept or packed. You were never hungry, thirsty, or without a laugh or a good song on the stereo when you hung out with Matt Larson. He was the guy that took me out on my 21st birthday, the best mechanic I ever had at the few Nationals I did. Always an open door to come over and watch a race or the Super Bowl. Whether we were playing basketball or pounding laps in the deep sand of Mabton, you never once realized or heard Matt bring up the fact that he was doing it all with just a thumb and an pinky on his left hand. An amazing guy and an example of how we should be to each other.

  • Matt Larson
Here’s a link to his obituary.

Godspeed, Matt.

Here’s Ping.

Hey, what ever happened to Damon Bradshaw coming back to do the nationals? I know there aren’t many teams right now that can afford to just add another guy to the mix, but this is the Beast from the East we’re talking about! Maybe I’m just showing my age, but I’d guess he would have more fans than most of the factory riders currently lining up at Glen Helen. Even if he hovered around tenth, it would be worth it for a team just from an exposure standpoint. Well, I hope someone jumps on it.

If you are headed to New Orleans this weekend, you’re probably going to want to check out the Hart & Huntington pits. Carey Hart and his crew have something special planned for this race, and it includes an A-list celebrity. I’m not talking about Fabio or Lyle Lovett or someone like that, either. The bikes are going to have a very unique theme, and it’s all for a great cause.

I got a chance to check out the main office of Lucas Oils, the new title sponsor of the AMA Motocross series, this week and I was amazed by how many different forms of racing the company is involved with. I’ve seen their logo on a couple motorsports programs on television, and I remember that they were involved with the Star Racing program a couple years back, but they have been slow to enter the motocross market … until now. Their commitment to the nationals shows that they intend to be a player in the sport on many different levels. They also have an amazing in-house production studio, where they create all their own programming. It was very impressive. While I was there I even bumped into Chet Burks, the producer of almost all motorcycle racing over the years and my long-lost twin brother, Scotty McLemore. Anyway, I left the guided tour feeling like the nationals have a great partner to work with over the next several years to bring our sport to the masses.

Well, it’s official: after last weekend it is going to take extensive plastic surgery to remove the smile from Scott Sepkovik’s face. Jason Lawrence’s agent and pal should also be releasing new T-shirts soon via the internet that read simply, “Hey, how’s that foot taste?” I’m sure that will be a hit with all the J-Law fans on the World Wide Web.

  • What will J-Law bring to New Orleans?
Jason was flat-out amazing last weekend, and regardless of what you think of the guy on a personal level, you have to appreciate his talent on a bike.

You know how they say that heroes never die, they just slowly fade away? That’s a bunch of horse crap. At 48 years of age, Jeff Ward is returning to Supermoto racing. No, I didn’t hit the wrong keys there; that really is a four and then an eight right after it. He says he’s feeling good, and the fact is that the TLD team needed a guy that could win the title. With several riders leaving the series to chase road racing and other ventures, Wardy was the obvious choice for the team. The series kicks off in a week at California Speedway in Fontana and is being held in conjunction with the AMA Superbike round there. Mark Burkhart is also competing, but he will be on an HMC KTM ride this year, replacing last year’s champion, Troy Herfoss. Needless to say, he will be a title contender.

Now onto Danny Brault.

The Toronto Supercross means a lot to us Canadians. It’s the only time we get to watch the world best supercross riders in our backyard, and we really appreciate Feld Entertainment for continuing to bring the series to Toronto, where it’s been coming since 2004. Ricky Carmichael played a big hand in its initial success as well; he basically motivated the other contenders to follow him north the next year, and now we have the best 450—and 250—supercross riders competing inside the Rogers Centre on March 28.

I can’t wait. It’s been a cold winter, and the only indoor racing we’ve had in Canada is a three-round series in Chilliwack, British Columbia, and a five-round regional series in Western Ontario at Wallaceburg Indoor MX. Between that, we fill our days with polar bear races, beer, and donuts, so the TO SX really breaks things up. Hopefully the drama from the last two rounds gets even wilder in Toronto. Maybe this time James Stewart will actually make a lap on someone else’s bike. Or maybe we’ll see another epic battle between Stewart and Chad Reed like 2006, when they went back and forth until the final lap when Reed bumped Stewart, and Stewart went flying off the track, only to be slammed into by Travis Preston as he reentered the track. Carmichael charged through pack after falling in the first corner, Reed won, Stewart was third, and Kyle Keast got more air time than everyone with his spectacular “berm jump.”

  • Oh, Canada.
If you pull into downtown Toronto a little early, stop on by the Loose Moose Tap & Grill Friday, March 27. Our small DMX crew is throwing a Pre-Race Social from 8 PM to 2 AM, and we invite everyone who loves SX to join in on the action! The bar is located right across the street from the Rogers Centre. Check out the Party Page for complete details. See you there!


Check out the video of Nico Izzi that English filmmaker Mikey Neale made on a recent visit to the U.S.

We’ve been tracking Ricky Carmichael’s new career in NASCAR truck racing with the Kevin Harvick Inc. team, as have a lot of people in the motocross industry. Now you can show some support for RC’s drive to the top, and also maybe add to your collection of #4 memorabilia with some KHI merchandise.

FMF recently welcomed a new addition to its family. Ellie Rain Love Thornberry was born February 21 at 8:18 pm, weighing 6.9 lbs. and measuring 20 inches. To FMF Racing’s proud new parents Joel and MaryAnn Thornberry, congratulations, and you can see the new Rider Support team member at a race near you.

EJ sent us a link to this hilarious video about RC car racing. Watch it to the end - it’s pretty damn cool how it turns out.

If you were a motocross fan back in the seventies and eighties, you likely recall the name Tom Mueller. Tom was one of the main motojournalists back then, working the infield with the likes of Jody Weisel, Jim “The Greek” Gianatsis, Charley Morey, Tom Riles, and more. He was also a great marketer, and he helped bring some of the early outside sponsors to AMA Supercross and Motocross, including the Wrangler GNC Championship that his lifelong friend David Bailey won in 1983. Tom is now a PhD candidate at the University of Florida, and he drove over to Daytona to hang out with friends new and old and watch the races. He talks about some of his travels, working with the likes of Bailey and Johnny O’Mara, as well as his favorite habit, endurance training, in his blog.

Check out this week's Toyota/Racer X Power Rankings!

Here’s a wedding announcement for the Gen-X-Games generation.

Interested in a Motocross Vacation?