Observations: New Orleans

March 18, 2009 11:31am | by:

Here where the Mississippi quits,
where it’s still got a bit of Minnesota in it.
If New Orleans is beat, where does that leave you and me?

- The Tragically Hip

So the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series came back to New Orleans for the first time since 2002. I can remember those old New Orleans SX more for the after-race stuff then for the actual racing. I remember that the last year we were there, the attendance was not good at all and I think some industry people got arrested for drunken fun and games. I took four cabs this weekend around the city and asked the drivers what they thought of the city and its comeback from Hurricane Katrina and opinions were mixed. I do know there used to be a mall beside the SuperDome and when we came back this year, it was vacant. The city has flavor for sure but on the other hand, there seems to be places that I wouldn’t want to go. Being the fearless reporter I am, I did go to Bourbon Street, and at 4:30 a.m., it seemed like everybody was really happy to be there, myself included.

Enough of the Steve Matthes’ City Guide. This would be my first race A.F. (after Ferry, my BFF, got hurt), and it did seem the whole day was a bit of a downer, to be honest. I tried unsuccessfully to get Feld to cancel the rest of the series in honor of Timmy’s demise but Dave Prater informed me that he wasn’t dead, he just had a broken heel.

  • I didn't mind the track too much, the riders I talked to didn't like it. It was kinda like an AX track and the dudes HATED the sand, especially Bobby Kiniry.
The track was okay, as I still think they need to haul in more dirt for the tracks. Way back when I remember the dirt being soft and getting really rutty (probably because the city actually sits below sea level) but in 2009, the dirt seemed better and held up good. There was lots of sand brought in and it resulted in a super-deep sand corner and then coming out of there, some huge whoops. There was no over/under bridge, by the way.

The track didn’t offer a whole lot different for the guys to do. There was a section before the first triple where you had a dragon-back and then two doubles, or if you were one of the top guys you could jump up to the top of the dragon-back and then single off, then triple/triple. Or if you were James Stewart and you were in the main, you could jump all the way from the very bottom whoop of the dragon-back over the next single and then triple/triple. He busted that out in front of Reedy, and to Chad’s credit he did it the very next lap.

So as we all know, James won. It was an impressive ride and not without some close calls but in the end, he rode off with the victory and closed up the points race, from 11 down to 8. So I told you guys about the dragon-back thing that he busted out but another impressive thing was right off the start there was a tight turn with four jumps and generally off the start the guys stayed tight to the first turn, rolled one and then doubled-single out. Well, in the main James rolled the first jump and Reed was on the outside and doubled in. I have no doubt that Reed would’ve controlled the track by going double-double to Stew’s single-double-single. But…

James probably saw Chad on the outside so what did he do? He simply tripled out! It was a gnarly jump that hadn’t been done all day and really made a statement. James remained in the lead and then a lap later, jumped that dragon-back thing. And then it was champagne time about 15 minutes later.

I don’t know about you guys but that’s the thing that really gets me excited when I watch the races: We all know that racing at this level is so psychological, that it’s about “breaking” a guy down, and that’s what we’re seeing now, going back and forth. James did it at San Diego, and he was crazy-balls off the start this weekend and then tried to get in Chad’s head by whipping the dragon-back jump out. But he couldn’t because Reedy stepped up and answered the bell. It’s just really interesting watching these two go at it.

  • In my opinion the whole race was decided within the first two corners. Here the guys are barreling down into the first turn and you can see that despite starting way outside, Mike Alessi is up front. Afugginmazing as his biggest fan would say.
Also interesting to see that the two big dogs had gate picks one and two and both believed the better start would come from opposite ends. Stewie on the right by the box and Reed further inside.  Seems they were both right as they came out one and three, with Mike Alessi in between, of course.

Reed rode pretty conservative, I think. Here’s the thing with Chad: he knows that he needs to pressure James to maybe get him to make a mistake and if he can’t do it, he’s not going to kill himself trying. He’s got the points lead and right now can get second with one eye closed (unlike earlier in the series, when I thought Shorty and RV might get up there). When I was at his place he was knocking off pretty fast times, and then he did one lap blitzing everything on his track and his body english totally changed when he was going balls-out. I didn’t see balls-out this weekend, to be honest. Ok, enough talk about balls.

HEPLER, HEPLER, HEPLER!! The unassuming one grabbed his first podium of the season in a steady, fast ride. He rode just in front of Mike Alessi and Josh Hill for the first half and then just in front of Kevin Windham the second half. Nobody could really make any time on the Kittanning Killer and I’m not sure if it’s a coincidence but when we were at Stewie’s house before Daytona, Broc had just gotten there and is spending the weeks down there until Jacksonville…. But that’s not the only man helping Hepler.

On the webcast interview afterwards, Broc credited Weege for his good start because Weege had helped him set his starting hook the day we were there. But what Broc left out was that it took Weege a few attempts to push the button, causing Billy Ursic to get disgusted and set it perfectly each time. So I’m not sure if Weege does deserve the credit; maybe him and Ursic should share the imaginary award for helping Hepler get a good start two weeks later.

Check out Weege "helping" Hepler at the end of this video

Funny to hear James refer a few times how happy he was for Broc to be up on the podium and that down at the Stewart compound they “build champions.” After being there I agree with the champion’s comment, but I also think that you would have to be a complete loser to not get better down there, and if I was James, I would’ve added “We also build a little city down there.”

Austin Stroupe “de Doos” did to his class what James did to the 450’s, which was grab the holie and lead every lap for the win. With my pre-race practice pick Nico “Where” Izzi not qualifying (now you know why I don’t play fantasy moto), Stroupe moved into second in the points. He’s been really good and probably should have three wins to his teammate Pourcel’s two and they’d be tied right now. Except he stalled his bike while out front in Atlanta and couldn’t start it fast enough. He’s a really aggressive rider who seems to just attack each corner like it was his last one.

It was going to be interesting to see if James was going to be able to overcome the James Bon Jovi wig curse. What was that? Well, every round that he had not worn the wig when he came out in opening ceremonies, he lost: Anaheim 1, Indy, Daytona were all wig-less. And this week he was wig-less again, as I guess nobody can find it at Feld (I heard Terry Boyd had it). But he broke the curse and we’re all relieved now. And this is why you read Observations—these little nuggets of information like this.

  • Brad Pitt didn't show but this guy is a celebrity according to my wife. She has this weird celebrity scale thing where Ferry is not a celeb but the guy that is a bodyguard for, say Paris Hilton, is. Anyways, I don't get it and I have to say that the H&H bikes and gear looked awesome. I wonder if Glover approved?
The pits were abuzz with talk that Brad “Open” Pitt might actually make an appearance at the race to support the Hart & Huntington Honda team’s pink motif, and also help the crowd count by bringing all of his kids. The H&H guys pinked it up big time for the “Make It Right” foundation that is helping New Orleans rebuild from Hurricane Katrina. The bikes and gear were really cool, the team even powder-coated the spokes pink!

Anyways, I knew about this at the beginning of the year and was sworn to secrecy but with my wife Angie “lina-Jolie” Matthes a celeb-follower of the stalker status, I was determined to get a picture of me getting adopted by Brad. But he never showed (he was probably filling out adoption paperwork for another Canadian kid, or home in bed with his wife…) and everyone was bummed. I bet Team manager Kenny Watson was probably ready to strangle the next dude that asked him about it.

The H&H team also switched from Leo Vince exhausts to Yoshimura at this race as well.

Nathan “St. Louis” Ramsey is back! I knew that he never really wanted to retire but was kind of forced to when he couldn’t get a ride after the L&M team decided to go with a younger guy. Anyway, for the rest of supercross he’ll be on the JGR team while other team rider Cody “Not Guy” Cooper heals up (I don’t want to say told ya so, but I did tell J-Bone at San Fran that they should park Coops before he did more damage to himself) and it had to be sweet for Nate to beat the young rider that replaced him, Kyle Chisholm, right off the hop. Nate rode pretty good for only having three days on the bike.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must mention that I build the EKS (X) Brand goggles for Nathan. I do it on the side to help get me to the races so I will be up on all things Ramsey for the next little while. His goggles worked flawlessly I must say and when he won the LCQ, he had them on his neck and gave the company a shout out and everything. Scott’s John Knowles, where you at now? First race as a goggle guy, first podium! Check them out at thexbrand.com if you want. I also do some work for mergeracing.com and ihaveathousandjobs.com

  • Here's my guy that I build the goggles for. Nathan Ramsey rode pretty good really, and his goggles were amazing.
**DISCLAIMER**JGR MX is an Oakley sponsored team and I was told by J-Bone to not write that Nathan is choosing X-Brand goggles over Oakley because that would go against what he is contracted to wear. The team is allowing Nathan to wear X-Brand because they are great guys and do not want to hold a rider back in any way, shape or form from making a living. So just to be clear, JGR MX is an Oakley team and X-Brand would like to thank JGMX for all they do and Coy Gibbs is the best team owner in the history of the sport…. Sweet, now I can still eat there. **END OF DISCLAIMER**

Once again, Matt Lemoine snatched defeat from the jaws of victory when he went from eighth to seventeenth on the last lap when he crashed. Just like Indy when he went from fourth to eighth on the last lap when he crashed there. I think one of these races it’s all going to come together for the Four-One and he’ll get consistent. He’s certainly fast!

And that crash he suffered in the heat race when he ran over the downed Martin Davalos’ legs in the heat race? That was ugly!

Lemoine’s  teammate, Darryn “DDT” Durham had a career-best top five finish in his grasp but looked to me like he got tired, allowing Will Hahn (who rode great in charging the whole race) to zap him on the last lap for the fifth spot. It’s still a good ride for the rookie DDT and, quietly, Hahn is having a good season as well as he is now in fifth in the points with his 6-6-15-5-5 series scores.

Will’s brother Tommy broke his shoulder and missed the New Orleans race. I texted him (Hi Andy!) and he told me he’s going to try and race St Louis. Tough injury and tough guy!

Speaking of broken shoulders, Michael Byrne had to have surgery after his Daytona crash and will be out four to five weeks. His shoulder was dislocated and they had to knock him out at the hospital to put it back in! Poor Byrner can’t catch a break. He didn’t just cross a black cat; I bet he hit a whole pack of them or something.

Jason Thomas is feeling the heat from everybody in the industry as he is octo-rouple points or something like that in fantasy moto since his switch to the 250 class. So far he’s DNQ, then a first turn crash at Daytona left him with a broken throttle housing, and then this week his motor let go in the second turn. So that’s two main events and zero laps for the 45. (Next week I heard the goal is the third turn in the main.) The team is going to take some real little baby steps. I guess he just has to get like nineteenth to get these fantasy points or something like that, so it’s just heartbreaking to all the fantasy dorks. Weege and Denny, I’m looking at you guys.)

Man, I went to town at the Kawi truck this week. I had a couple cups of coffee, some delicious pasta (thanks Big B!), M&M’s, I took the last Reese’s Pieces cookie and a pack of gum. Then I went upstairs to Ferry’s locker and sobbed. Thanks guys!

  • Mike is a racer. That's probably the best compliment you can pay a guy, he never gives up, he works hard and sometimes things like taking a wide line in the sand and colliding with Josh Hill and going down in a heap, happen.
I saw Mike Alessi during track walk and he was upset that I never wrote anything good about him last week in Daytona. I told I just couldn’t do that after seeing him take the same slow line in the whoops and he agreed. He said that he knows the whoops are his weak point and he’s going to practice them all winter next year. He was also wondering why he was ranked so low in the Racer X Power Rankings (17th!). I tell you, these power rankings really get the guys rankled up…

I was kind of scared for ol’ Mikey as these whoops were nasty and deep. Poor little guy. But to my (and probably his) surprise he handled them pretty good most of the race before getting knocked around by Josh Hill and falling halfway through the race. As usual, he kept his bike running and eventually got sixth. I don’t think I’m alone when I think he and his team manager Roger DeCoster keep their fingers crossed every weekend so he doesn’t get hurt, because outdoors, he’s going to be up front often, battling his old minicycle Ryan Villopoto and the rest of them.

This was a funny letter that I got this week -


As a huge fan, I am extremely sorry to hear about your broken heel. I know this will ruin the rest of your season. I only hope that you get completely healed up with time to practice and get ready for the outdoors where I know you can reign. You are the best and I hope to see you ready to go at Glenn Helen. Get well soon.

P.S.- Tell Timmy to hurry rehab so you can get back to normal. I truly believe you feel his pain, because in the shot of him on the side of the track, there was not an ounce of pain in his face. Thank you for channeling his pain directly to you. There is no better Man Friend than what you provide to Timmy. TAKE HIS PAIN!!! TAKE IT!!!

Sincerely from a fan of the greatest Man Friend,


Observations… the column that guys named “Itchy” read!

Funny that the guy said Red Dog didn’t look to have an ounce of pain on his face because on Monday he texted me (Hi Andy!) and said, “For all the pain I didn’t show at Daytona, I’m getting it now”. Red had surgery and I was getting texts from his wife Evie and said that all he kept asking was “How’s Phil Nicoletti doing?” Clearly the pain meds were in effect.

  • IT was buried at the back most of the race, he crashed early on but I missed it. It was him and his teammate Millsaps bringing up the rear the opening laps.
Ivan Tedesco is working with Johnny’O, I forgot to report that like, seven weeks ago. The O’Show is one cool dude for sure and with Ivan also bringing the infamous Doc G to the races along with Beeker hanging out with him non-stop and also Ivan’s wife, that’s a lot of people and pressure in the IT camp. I’m not even going to get into his mechanic Frankie and his wicked temperament. 

Johnny O’, who of course is most famous as a coach (he’s also famous as a Team Honda superstar, a Team USA hero, an AMA Supercross champ, an AMA 125 Motocross champ, and a mountain-bike champ) for his work with Ricky Carmichael. He also got a shout-out from NO SX Lites winner Austin Stroupe.

KTM finally had Justin Brayton line up on a 450 and the results were pretty good.  #114 led a heat race, finishing third, ran fifth for a bit in the main, had the tenth-best time of the night and ended up eighth by the end. I think that’s his best-ever 450 finish in his third-ever 450 race. This guys for real and MDK/KTM should consider just leaving him in the big-bike class. There are only two West rounds left and in six months will anyone care whether Justin gets fourth, fifth or sixth in the West series?

In motocross news, Antonio Balbi turned down a full-factory Honda of Brazil ride to stay in America and ride the series as a privateer. Carry on…

I know I’ve harped on this before but man does it ever bug me when the people at Subway either totally ignore or can’t comprehend what you ask for on your sub. These people are not “sandwich artists” like the commercials tell us; they are often just minimum-wage workers dreaming of the clock hitting whatever time they need it to be to get off work. On my way to the race, I had a sub in Vegas airport and mentioned just a little mayo (trying to help the figure out, y’know?) and the chick gave me a mayo sandwich. Then I said just a little bit of green peppers and when she finished my sub looked like a Christmas tree with mayo all over it. The guy beside me even made a crack about it. Also, I’m not sure how this is even legal or allowed by Jared but every sandwich that was a foot-long was over eleven bucks! I understand that the prices in an airport tend to be a bit higher, but double? C’mon Subway…

Lemoine’s move of tripling right in between a doubling Pourcel and Hahn was very scary. Kid’s got some balls and is not scared to twist the throttle.

Remember the MXA thing where Larry Brooks talked about riders taking advantage of the blue flag and making passes? I backed him up online and I happened to notice that this weekend Nathan Ramsey went out of his way to make room for Stewie and Tedesco (who was battling Ramsey) slipped right through. Just thought I’d point it out, as it does happen all the time.

Ryan Villopoto had an off-night, qualifying twelfth fastest and then getting a horrible start—like, come-around-the-first-lap-in-eighteenth horrible start! He worked his way up to ninth but you can tell he wasn’t into it all day. I guess he’s still dealing with a sickness of some sort.

Heath Voss switched to the Moto Concepts team after they sent Dan “Surreal” McCoy home to Australia for performance reasons. I wondered why they would sign McCoy in the first place (it’s not like the MC team has a line on some super fast Aussie that NO ONE else knows about) when there are lots of very fast Americans that could use a ride, but anyways, Voss just used his bike and his old sponsors and will hopefully start using Pirelli, FMF, etc., soon. Ben Coisy was sick (like team manager Steve Lamson) and just rode practice before being forced to pull out.

  • Here's a little shot of the 2010 Answer stuff. I'm telling you, soon the only time you see a guy in the current years gear will be in the off-season.
James was wearing some 2010 gear at Daytona and also at New Orleans.  It used to be that the 2010 gear got introduced at Red Bud, then it became Budds Creek and now it’s Round Nine of the SX series. Pretty soon the guys will be showing up at A1 with the next year’s gear on and cause mass panic in the motorcycle dealer world, as it will literally make one full year of fashion obsolete faster than you can say “baggy pants.”

Andrew Short surprised the hell out of me when he jumped the triple in the opening ceremonies this week. It was pitch dark and he aired it out people! Anyways, he went pretty long on it and I thought he was going to maybe shoot off the berm into the stands. Now THAT would be an opening ceremony to remember!

Shorty and Windham had a bit of a battle in the main and it got a little testy between the quasi-teammates as they set each other up a few times. Not many people beat Shorty at these kind of battles but in this case, KW played with the bull but didn’t get the horns as he executed a beautiful pass on the 29 for fourth.

Rumor is that Kawasaki might put factory test rider Billy Laninovich on Ferry’s vacated KX450F.

It looks like the Supercross series will see the return of Josh Hansen, as he apparently has a Suzuki City ride lined and up and might ride this coming weekend at St Louis.

So that’s it. The rain coming down and the way everyone was parked really hurt my hanging out time this week so I apologize for the lack of hard hitting stories like what team cooked what. I’m not going to St Louis so I will not see you guys there. Send me mail if you want at matthes@racerxonline.com and thanks for reading. No serious, thanks. Check out PulpMX.com okay gotta go bye!