Racerhead #14


It’s been a while since a new American city hosted the Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour, but it’s happening this weekend down in Jacksonville, Florida. And it could not be happening at a better time for fans there, as the Chad Reed-James Stewart duel for the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is just getting better and better. Stewart’s win last weekend in Toronto got him back within eight points of Reed, but any more mistakes and Reed will be able to control his own destiny. More on that later.

I spent the first part of this week in Tennessee, checking out Loretta Lynn's Ranch and looking forward to this summer's 28th Annual AMA/Air Nautiques Amateur National Motocross Championships. The track, which is always off limits to motocross riders the other 51 weeks out of the year, was already looking like a golf course. I can't wait to go back there in late July for the biggest race of all. Here are a few photos from John Hanson

The Jacksonville Supercross gets next-day coverage on SPEED starting with the AMA Supercross Lites class at 5:00 p.m. ET, followed up by the AMA Supercross class at 6:00 p.m. ET. Make sure you check your local listings. You can also listen tomorrow night to Supercross Live! featuring Jim Holley and Jason Weigandt; they start chatting shortly before 7 p.m. EST on www.supercrossonline.com

Last week, the news was still breaking on the plane crash that occurred in Montana that took the lives of fourteen people. We would learn, unfortunately, that the plane was not only owned by Glen Helen Raceway owner Bud Feldkamp, but it included his two daughters, their respective husbands and children, and some close friends. Our sincere condolences go out to Bud, and we will certainly be thinking of them as we get closer to the summer motocross season.

Meanwhile, over in Europe, the 2009 Women’s World Motocross Championships are kicking off in Bulgaria and … actually, it’s like the whole FIM World Championships are really starting this week! Last Sunday’s muddy mess at Faenza, Italy, will certainly go down as one of the nastiest mud races of all time, and the organizers wisely decided to end the affair after the first moto, rather than muddle through another engine-drowning moto. Now they go to the popular Sevlievo circuit in Bulgaria, with surprise points leaders Tanel Leok (MX1) and Gautier Paulin (MX2).

  • Ashley Fiolek is racing in Bulgaria this weekend.
And now the girls start, with American Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ashley Fiolek going up against her friend and rival Livia Lancelot, the defending Women’s World Champ, plus all of the rest of Europe’s fastest girls, plus her regular rival here, Tarah Gieger. The WMX second heat will air live on Freecaster.tv, along with both motos in the men’s classes on Sunday. You can watch Tarah and Ashley (as well as MX2 contender Zach Osborne) right here on Sunday.

Good luck to both of the Yanks, and also here’s hoping the GP regulars get a dry race this weekend.

Here’s a great story on just how screwed up the lead law is and the effect its having on not just the motorcycle industry, but the whole toy industry.

According to the article, there was exactly one case in 2008 of an American child suffering lead poisoning from a toy … and zero cases of anyone eating a motorcycle or ATV, I might add.

Earlier this week, Chase Yentzer, the son of Doublin Gap MX owner Rod Yentzer, traveled to Washington, DC, with his father and Tim Cotter of MX Sports, where they participated in a rally about the lead ban. Chase, a 6-year-old rider, stole the show when he pleaded to be allowed to ride his bike, then promised not to eat it!

Chase was interviewed by the Associated Press, and the story broke nationwide. Here’s one television report on his day on Capitol Hill.

  • No Fear and Thor are bringing out special gear this weekend
No sooner did I write that the CPSC chairperson Nancy Nord released a statement saying that the lead ban should get a stay of enforcement for at least one year, based on the fact that more accidents are likely – and more danger to children – due to kids riding oversized ATVs (and motorcycles) than the remarkably low chances of lead poisoning. Check it out here.

What does this mean? I think we’re going to start seeing bikes and ATVs and parts and all back on the floors in the short term, for at least the next year, as we continue to sort through this mess.

Sign of the times: The Orange County Register reports that American Suzuki cut more than 15 percent of its staff across the U.S., with the majority coming from its headquarters in Brea, CA. The cuts reduced Suzuki’s U.S. staff to 475 from 570.

Some Utah lands are under siege again, this time it’s the “Utah red-rock wilderness bill.”

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the week in our sport, the Travis Pastrana-driven Nitro Circus monster truck debuted at Saturday’s Monster Jam NGK Spark Plugs World Finals in Las Vegas with a score of 26 out of 40, which was good for a fifth-place tie in the freestyle competition of the World Finals.

Pastrana is not the only one racing around in trucks. Carey Hart, Jeff Ward, and Brian Deegan are joining the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series when the new series kicks off in Primm, Nevada, at the Primm Valley Motorsports Complex tomorrow and Sunday. For tickets, schedule and information please visit lucasoiloffroad.com.

And finally, check out some footage from this really, really cool video game for iPhone, developed by Stephane Roncada. “We're finally done with version 1.0 of the game,” he posted on his site, Ronronmx.com. “We're waiting on apple to review and approve it, so it should be on the app store within the next few days. I'm pretty excited!”

Here’s Steve Cox….

  • That’s Travis Pastrana, once again having more fun than should be allowed!
You gotta love April Fool’s Day. Last Wednesday marked the tradition on the motocross web, and for the most part, all was quiet. The saying is that April showers bring May flowers, though, and the showers showed up in Florida just in time for the first Jacksonville Supercross. It has been raining pretty heavily for much of the week, but according to Weather.com, rain isn’t in the cards today or for race day tomorrow, so depending on how well the track was covered and what kind of dirt the track is built with, it may just end up being another regular supercross race.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a good thing. We still have at least one more “wildcard” race in Seattle, but personally, I don’t want anything to mix up the 450 class too much at this point. We’ve got one of the closest championship battles in the sport’s history right now, and I want it to stay that way. We’ve gone over the math ad infinitum, but I’ll go over it again to illustrate my point. Right now, Chad leads James by eight points with four rounds left to run. If Stewart wins the next three rounds and Reed is second all three times, Stewart will go into Las Vegas with a one-point lead. That would mean that the winner of that race will be the winner of the championship. I can’t think of anything better than that. So, while I’m officially impartial as to who wins the title, if I had a vote, this is how I would want it to go down.

Christophe Pourcel’s story is in the next issue of Racer X, which will be hitting the streets shortly. It’s honestly incredible. Most of you have no idea what he has gone through, which is why we did the story, but make sure you pick up the next issue if you’re not already a subscriber. It’s a doozy!

Pourcel has now clinched his first AMA title, in his first attempt. On Monday following this weekend’s Lites Eastern Regional SX finale, Pourcel is going into surgery to remove a screw from his collarbone, which has been bugging him all year. He told me that it’s supposed to be a minor surgery, but I don’t know if that means he will or won’t be racing the East-West SX finale in Las Vegas on May 2. I do know that he is not pumped about running the #1 plate in Vegas. He ran #377 in his World Championship defense in 2007, and he considers that his number. But AMA rules do state that defending champs must wear the number-one plate, so if Pourcel wins any other titles, or defends his East title next year, he won’t be allowed to run 377.

  • Pourcel can put it on cruise control in Jacksonville.
A lot of racers fantasize about getting the “dream ride.” “If only I got a shot at riding for Pro Circuit,” they say. Well, Daniel Blair got that shot this year with the Factory Connection Racing, and while he has ridden strong, he has become aware of what comes along with a ride of that magnitude: pressure. The team doesn’t put pressure on Blair, as far as I’ve seen, but Blair puts pressure on himself. You hear a lot of riders say they just tried to ride their own race or just “have fun” and things like that. That’s because they’re trying to put the pressures out of their head and just go ride. A lot of riders do better in practice during the week than at the races, and by extension, they do better at the races when they either do not put pressure on themselves, or just don’t care. They just go ride.

So, with two races left on his supercross-only replacement contract with Factory Connection Racing, Daniel Blair finds himself in a position of wanting so much to do well that he is having trouble getting out of his own way.

“I’m in a funk right now,” Blair said. “I’m just making dumb mistakes on the first laps of the heats – just a little too antsy – and I guess I’m just desperate to have a breakout performance, and I keep putting myself in the wrong situation. It’s a mix of being over-anxious and trying too hard.”

And when you’re in a situation like Blair’s, it’s difficult to go out and not put pressure on yourself and just not care, even though that’s probably exactly what he needs to do. If he did it, I’m convinced he has the speed definitely to be in the top five, and possibly to be on the podium. Ultimately, what separates the Pourcels from the Blairs is mindset, not necessarily speed. At the test track, they would be much closer than they end up being on race day.

Is he or isn't he? That's the J-Law question of the week: Is he riding Jax SX or not? We have no clue.

And for my final thought in this week’s Racerhead, we need to do something about Toronto. The track is a mess every year, and it’s not Dirt Wurx’s fault, or really anyone’s fault. It’s just the location and the weather. When the dirt is brought in, it’s frozen and worse than the year before. This year, it had basically nothing to hold it together. It came apart constantly. I watched a guy in practice try to double one of the triples, and when he landed – perfectly, on what should’ve been the downside of the second jump – his bike stuck and he went immediately over the bars. Supercross is difficult enough without things like this thrown in. For next year, we either need to source different, better dirt for Toronto or move the event, because we’re going to end up hurting riders, which hurts the racing - and the championship.

  • Daniel Blair wants more from himself
And speaking of Canada, here’s Steve Matthes…

I spoke to Geico Honda team manager J.C. Waterhouse this week and asked him about Dan Reardon. There is talk about Reardon being bumped up to the Honda Red Bull Racing team for the outdoors to fill in for the injured Ben Townley, but JC confirmed that “Dandy” Dan is staying with the 250F team for the summer.

The speculation started when Reardon showed up at Glen Helen and was riding a 450, and there was some interest from Honda, but in the end it didn’t happen. Waterhouse told me that, just like the Pro Circuit guys, they will be going into Glen Helen with five riders under the tent when you include amateur standout Justin Barcia. That’s a lot of guys to fit under a tent all summer, but more than likely, someone will go missing at some point, so the teams look pretty smart doing this. And it’s always smart to make room for riders like Tyla Rattray and Barcia!

I feel that I have to talk about the track in Toronto, because everyone else is. In speaking to Feld Motor Sports SX Series manager Dave Prater after the event, he indicated that the dirt will be stored under an overpass for next year and they will sift for rocks, but regardless, in 2010 it will be soft and rutty again. The track was better than last year, according to pretty much everyone.

I like to think of it as a mud or sand national, just something different that the riders have to deal with, and that makes it interesting to watch for sure. I think it’s okay to not be able to triple every lap. Remember the old days? I asked Dave if the riders wanted to kick his ass, but he said that he got very few complaints, as the guys just accept it for what it is and deal with it.

I do think the 250 race should be open for the local Canadian riders and whatever American guys want to show up. To me, the race lost some flavor in that regard. Yes, the dudes went slower than the guys we saw on Saturday night, but with the American 250 teams complaining about having to go and the lack of Canadians to get the crowd really excited, I felt something was missing from last year.

  • Indoor mud
Speaking of getting excited, the fans really seemed to be jazzed for the opening ceremonies - they surprised me with their reactions. Maybe the Canadians were amazed by seeing the Jumbrotron in color? I’m kidding. In closing, I would just like to say: VIVA CANADA!!!!!!!

Next up is Weege.

Jason Weigandt here en route to Jacksonville but speaking of Toronto. Since I didn’t get to hijack Matthes’ Observations this week and my budget won’t allow me to write 3,500 words on Blogandt.com (I pay myself per word, and I use A LOT of words) I’ll just put some stuff together here.

First, I like Canada. For once, girls get to dig on my foreign accent, and they swoon over tales of exotic lands like New Jersey and West Virginia. If I wasn’t already married, the next Pam Anderson would be working me over for U.S. citizenship right now.

I also liked the SkyDome - ooops, Rogers Center - ooops, Rogers Centre track. The dirt is pretty bad there, because the stuff comes in frozen but then thaws, creating a muddy indoor race. From what I saw and heard, it was much better than last year, but it was still tough, and that made for good racing. In the Supercross main, a bunch of guys put good laps together but then later fell out of rhythm. At one point I thought Andrew Short was going to finish third, then I thought his teammate Ivan Tedesco was the man, then Josh Grant came on strong, and then Josh Hill came on stronger and grabbed his first podium of the season.

Halfway through the race, Hill’s lap times were matching Chad Reed’s. Although, by then, Reed had gone through a few uncharacteristic near crashes, and had backed it down. And James Stewart was long gone, doing what he has to do to try to win this title. For more on that, read the 450 Words I wrote on Monday.

One thing I noticed through the last three races: Reed has been able to keep pace with Stewart for the first half of the main, but around lap 11 or 12, that’s when #7 gets away. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but I do know that it has happened almost the exact same way in the last three races. Unless it’s Reed deciding to wait and take his chances next time, since he’s the one with the points lead!

I also like the people in Canada. They call themselves Canadians. I got to reunite with my AMA Arenacross Series TV co-host Ryan Gauld, whom I haven’t seen in two years. AX TV will be back on SPEED soon, and if you watch the shows you would swear Gauldy and I are there going back and forth from the booth to the floor, but the reality is that we’re never in the same place at the same time.

  • The Jagermeister FMX crew is always a hit
Also, a big shout-out to my new friends from www.thevemp.com. These guys own a track in Canada that is supposedly awesome to ride. When I cruised over to my favorite sausage/hot dog vendor cart at 2 a.m. on Saturday night (thanks, Johnny and Foxy O’Hannah), I met The Vemp gang and suddenly had new best friends. They even invited me back to their $2,000-a-night suite inside the Rogers Centre, where we bench-raced while watching Dirt Wurx disassemble the track. They were still working at 4 a.m.

The Dirt Wurx crew had gotten a late start, because at 11:30 p.m. after the race, the Rogers Centre had to be evacuated due to high carbon monoxide levels. That’s right, all the pyro, bikes, and such had smoked the place up, and supposedly, the stadium exhaust fans weren’t working right and the roof could not be opened. I didn’t feel any ill effects, but either way, we all had to clear the building for about two hours.

The Rogers Centre was the first stadium to ever include a hotel built right into the building. It always seemed like a cool idea, and I have never understood why other stadiums didn’t follow this. But for everyone who got booted from their hotel room at midnight and had to wait until 2 a.m. to go back in, the hotel in the stadium probably doesn’t sound too cool.

Sadly, this made big headlines on the Toronto news, and people probably watched thinking, Those darned motorcycles, always causing problems.” What’s next, banning tear-offs?

By the way, the tear-off ban was an April Fool’s joke. I can think of about ten people right now who are going to try to rip my head off over this tear-off thing this weekend. Hey, it was DC’s idea!

Thanks Weege, here’s Pingree

I bumped into Mike Metzger this week. The Godfather of freestyle motocross has moved up to Idaho and is in the process of promoting his latest venture, the Sensory Overload Tour. This FMX/BMX/skate/music tour follows NASCAR and IRL races around the country and performs at each venue as part of the pit entertainment. Many of the events will be televised on SPEED with behind-the-scenes footage of the tour. Mike is still drumming up sponsors for the tour, so if you’re interested, get in touch with him via the tour website: www.sensoryoverloadtour.com.

If you’re looking for a race in SoCal, or if you’re going to be anywhere near Starwest Motocross Park this Saturday, you should check out the Safety Expo Race benefiting the Brett Downey Safety Foundation. Any company that makes safety products for motocross is welcome to attend and display their products. Riders and families are encouraged to check out all the latest safety gear offered in our sport. No membership is required and entries are $20. For more info go to www.mxsafety38.org.

Ryan Villopoto got back on his bike this week—finally—after taking some time off to recover from some type of mystery virus. To put it in food terms, it’s like having Epstein-Barr for dinner and washing it down with some chronic fatigue syndrome with a twist of mono on the rocks. My guess is that he will take a couple weeks to make sure everything is good and then hit the last three rounds of supercross. But what do I know?

The Lucas Oil Off-Road Truck Racing Series gets underway this weekend in Primm, Nevada. The motocross talent is starting to add up with Jeremy McGrath, Brian Deegan and Jeff Ward all set to compete. Jeremy and Deegan have some races under their belts already, but this will be Wardy’s first race. His initial testing has been very positive, and those who attended the tests were blown away at how fast he was right away. Between his years driving open-wheel cars and his motocross background, he should be a major player in that series right away.

The distance-jumping thing has gotten completely out of hand in the motocross world. Capes and Maddo have pushed the limits of how far a bike will go and I don’t think they are done yet. Ryan told me that they still have a ways to go before they reach an unbreakable distance. Well, the same trend is happening in the snow. Paul Thacker just set a distance record by jumping the length of a football field on a sled.

While we’re talking about snow, I want to send my condolences out to the family and friends of Shane McConkey. Shane was a pioneer in big-mountain skiing and one of the very first Red Bull athletes. He was a fan of all things action sports, including motocross. He died last week performing a ski jumping stunt in Italy in the Dolomite Mountains. Godspeed, Shane.

And lastly, here’s Miki Keller:

  • Sherri Cruse is a badass too!
  • Cruse goes big.
  • Sherri Cruse leads the WMA pack as Pastrana flips them all
Last week’s Racerhead had a photo of two women racers getting ready to sign autographs at the St. Louis Supercross. The caption read “Jolene is becoming a star with the Nitro Circus” (by the way, she has a recent interview on MTV.com). That was fitting to the story, but the girl sitting next to her in the AXO shirt was Sherri Cruse, and she didn’t get a photo credit. No harm, really, but I thought it’d give her a rebate. Sherri has been on the East Coast for the past month training alongside Travis Pastrana as he was getting ready for SX.

Sherri is part of the crew of women pro racers who are taking their training to whole new level. In addition to daily training at Davi Millsaps’ track, she cycled every morning and had trained with Todd Jacobs in the evening. This year at the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Nationals she is riding a new number, #3, on a Cernic’s Suzuki.

Ashley Fiolek and Tarah Gieger also fit into that mold of racers upping their training programs, and they will race their first moto of the ‘09 FIM WMX World Championship at Bulgaria tomorrow (Saturday). The program for the women changed a bit from the year before, and now the women are racing one moto on Saturday and one on Sunday. The change was made to accommodate the television package that now includes full coverage women’s pro racing. The women are now running blue backgrounds and white numbers like the WMA. Ashley and Gieger will race with the top girls in Europe who almost all have factory rides – Steffi Laier is on Red Bull KTM, Livia Lancelot is on Kawasaki, Elien DeWinter is on L&S Honda, Marie Franke is on Kawasaki Elf Pfeil’s and Larissa Papenmeier is on Teka Suzuki Europe. Check out the live web cast on Freecaster.tv.

Another American woman racing in Europe is Aubriana Dunn. She had been injured the past few years and didn’t race much in the WMA, but she did race Washougal last year, getting a tenth. She is now living in Europe racing the GPs and the German Championship for Diga Racing KTM. It’s the first full women's European race team that will be competing in all seven WMX GPs. Good luck to her as well.

  • Sarah Whitmore has been putting in time on a KTM
Good news from Sarah Whitmore: she has just about finalized her bikes and support for the nationals. Whitmore finished third in the 2008 series, but after the changes with Suzuki, she found herself without a program for the upcoming season. It’s good to hear she will be back in action at Glen Helen. Look for an announcement in the next few weeks.

Speaking of Sarah, who is one of the best at sign language in the WMA (not counting Ashley, of course), she was with Ash at a recent PR function for a deaf community organization Ashley was invited to attend. I don’t have all the details of the event, but apparently, Sarah was being interviewed and went to sign that she was “embarrassed” but did a sign that looks similar but means … well, it’s a slang for “the world’s oldest profession.” Even more funny was that Ashley had just told the audience that she taught Sarah all the signs she knows.

Finally, we would like to dedicate this column to William Robert Meyer, father of European motocross reporter Geoff Meyer, who passed away last Sunday. Mr. Meyer was a motojournalist back in his native Australia—it’s how Geoff got the desire to become one of the most prominent scribes on the Grand Prix circuit.

Godspeed, Mr. Meyer.

Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.