Racerhead #15


Happy Easter and happy off-weekend to everyone in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. They finally get a weekend at home, after three solid months of racing. It’s been a fantastic series, no doubt about it, and Jacksonville only added to the excitement that should reach fever pitch by the time everyone gathers again in eight days. I missed Jacksonville, but I listened and watched on TV and just got to say we’re lucky to have this kind of climax building to this championship tour.

First of all, I can’t believe that any fan would not be absolutely thrilled with all of what’s going on between Chad Reed and James Stewart, and I can imagine the people at Feld Motor Sports are feeling pretty good about their whole series. Our sport needs rivalries, and I don’t think we have had one with this much tension and drama since Jeff Stanton and Damon Bradshaw and Jean-Michel Bayle—blame the long reigns of Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael for that.

But did it go too far? Absolutely not, in my opinion. But it seems like it because people are really weighing in on this online and in interview—people who you wouldn’t expect to be part of the story here but have now inserted themselves into it—it’s about to turn ballistic.

  • Mmmm mmm, that's good tension.
I have known Larry Brooks since we crashed together in a heat race at the 1985 Atlanta SX. He’s always been opinionated and insightful, and he’s not afraid to say what’s on his mind. Apparently, he’s not afraid to type what’s on his mind either, as his MXA blog has once again proven, and that’s only adding fuel to the raging fire that burns between his old rider (Chad) and his new rider (James). There are five degrees (well, points) of separation right now and Brooks is the tie that binds. I just hope that if Chad does win another race, Ellie has their dog down there near the podium…. Now that would be funny.

And then there’s FIM Supercross official John Gallagher, who gave Transworld an interview on what happened at Jacksonville, though he did it without apparently speaking to Reed for his side of the story (or non-story, as could be the case). With the FIM’s position on this undecided, it just didn’t seem wise to me for an official to discuss the case in public without talking to the other side…. Again, it will only add to the drama. 

What did they say to each other on the track? What did they say on the podium? What did they say when they went at it in practice? Neither of the championship opponents seemed eager to explain, though I thought James came off very cool when he joked with our own Steve Cox, “We were just talking about who was going to win the race tonight... That was it... No, I mean, the championship’s on the line, and there is tension. If I threw dirt at him, or he threw dirt at me, we’re going to flare up, and it’s just part of racing. He rode great tonight. I can’t take anything away from him, and for me, I just came out on the better end. I have a week off to regroup, and we’ll see what happens.”

James Stewart is riding so good right now, it’s ridiculous. And Chad Reed is right there with him. If you can make it to one of the last three rounds of the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Cage Match, go! One of these guys is going to win, and he will have earned it.

Speaking of cage matches, I thought we might have one on our hands yesterday as we drove to Washington D.C. for another meeting on the lead law. This time it was in the office of CPSC Chairperson Nancy Nord, who is at the center of the whole lead law issue. The meeting was organized by Ed Moreland of the AMA, who has been in the trenches of this from the get-go. AMA President Rob Dingman was also there, as was Cobra’s Sean Hilbert—another tireless worker in this battle—and my mom and sister.

The meeting went very well, somewhat surprisingly, and I can tell you that Mrs. Nord is fully engaged in the matter and wants to see some kind of resolution sooner than later… And sooner could be any day now.

In other news on the whole deal, anti-CPSIA crusader and motorcycle hero Malcolm Smith, who has been leading the charge on the West Coast, took his cause to the airways as a guest on The Glenn Beck Show on the FOX NEWS Network. Malcolm was his usual candid, funny self, and he’s doing exactly what you’d expect a champion to do in this whole ordeal: Fight for the rights of motorcyclists and their families. As always, well done Mr. Smith.

We’re starting to turn some of our attention here to the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships.  Travis Steward & Wes Williams of Vurbmoto.com pulled together this commercial as a preview for the opening round at Glen Helen on May 23:

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Christophe Pourcel is having a good week. Not only did he win the last round of the East Region after he had already clinched the title, he also launched his website this week: www.christophepourcel.fr. It’s in French right now, but the note we got says an English version will be available soon.

  • Don't know French? The pictures are still cool!
“Welcome to my personal website,” says Christophe in the release. “You’ll find all the info you need about me, races results, Jeff Kardas’ great pictures, training videos and many more. I think it’s important to stay in touch with my fans all over the world and thanks to Alexandre, my webmaster, that’s what I’m going to do all year long on christophepourcel.fr. Thank you all for checking it out.”

Look for a feature including Ricky Carmichael on this Sunday’s “Speed Report” on the Speed Channel. It airs at 7:00 p.m. ET/ 4:00 p.m. PT and then again throughout Sunday night and Monday. It will focus on the Camping World Truck Series rookies and includes an interview shot with Ricky at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March.

Can-Am GNCC bike racing makes its 2009 television premiere this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET on the Versus Network. The show features Charlie Mullins' impressive win at the Parts Unlimited River Ranch GNCC in Lake Wales, Florida. For those of you with high-definition TVs, be sure to tune into the Versus HD channel as the shows are shot and broadcast in high-definition for 2009. For a complete Racer TV schedule go here: http://www.gnccracing.com/pages/gncc-television

Looking for something fun to do this weekend? Something motocross-related? Check out “Slackercross” from the comfort of your couch: http://slackercross.com/

Here’s Steve Cox from the SX circuit:

JGR/Toyota Yamaha’s Josh Grant had a funny reaction when he caught me taking his picture on the back of the Asterisk Mule in Jacksonville, as he was being carted off with what appeared to be a broken left wrist: He flipped me off! Josh and I are actually buddies, so don’t read into that too much. I think he was just upset that perhaps his season was over, and then people like me are taking his picture to document such a fact. It’s my job, of course, to do so.

  • Josh tells Steve he's #1
  • Kevin Windham was happier than a pig in... mud.
But Grant, it turns out, just had a “stinger” in his arm. His arm went dead for a minute, which gave symptoms of perhaps a broken wrist, but the reality was, after he was checked out in the Asterisk/Shock Doctor Mobile Medical Center, that he was basically fine and should be ready to go for the final three rounds.

And that’s good news for him, as he’s now tied for fourth in points with GEICO Powersports Honda’s Kevin Windham, who finished third in Jacksonville. Unfortunately for Grant, Windham has been faster than him the last few weeks, and now it looks like Windham might have his starts figured out, too. Grant’s going to have to beat Windham heads-up to beat him for fourth in the title chase.

Kevin Windham is one guy that never misses plugging his sponsors, by the way, and he’s so smooth about it that you don’t even realize he’s done it. He talks about running for mayor of Centreville, Mississippi, someday. He’s definitely enough of a smooth-talker to do it.

The most unlucky guy has to be Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Nico Izzi, who ran third for most of the main (and for most of all of the mains on the east coast) in Jacksonville, only to hit either neutral or false neutral on the face of the last triple on the last lap of the last race of the Lites East and go over the bars, destroying his right heel. He will be out for quite a while, although the story from a source said that by the time Grant got to the medical center, Izzi was in high spirits, no doubt with help from the pain meds he was on at that point.

You’ve got to appreciate San Manuel Yamaha team-manager/co-owner Larry Brooks’ passion. His rider is his rider, and he’ll do anything in his power to help them or back them. When that rider was Chad Reed, he did. Now that it’s James Stewart, he still does. However, after Jacksonville, he said that Reed grabbed Stewart by the neck in his online column on the Motocross Action website. Many people have speculated on message boards and the like that Reed choked Stewart, but the reality is that Reed did grab Stewart by the neck as he rode up behind him, but it was the back of the neck. While it can be considered a bit out of line, I don’t think it’s fair to consider it an assault or anything like that. Hopefully nothing happens that would mess up this championship chase for all of us, and I kind of doubt anything would, outside of an actual fistfight.

  • Give Broc a break
I’m also compelled to point out that, at least on the Speed broadcast, Stewart didn’t thank his team or sponsors, which I think is fine because other things were on his mind. However, also in his column on MXA a week before, Brooks absolutely berated Broc Tickle for thanking his girlfriend and dog and not thanking his team, which to be honest, I thought was out of line. Then, when Tickle’s girlfriend, Jess, emailed Brooks, Brooks actually posted her email and made an example of her and Tickle yet again, which was way out of line. Tickle is a good kid, and when you get your very first podium, it’s hard to have your thoughts together and speak perfectly and make every point you want to. Just like with Stewart in Jacksonville, there were other things on Tickle’s mind on the podium. Give him a chance to get a few more (and he will), and you’ll see him get it right most of the time, I think.

Believe me, I know what it’s like to write something when you’re fired up, and then not get it all right because you’re blinded by your emotions. It happened with my latest column in the magazine concerning the new eligibility rules for Lites SX, so I sympathize with Brooks. He’s a passionate guy, like me, and as such, things like this happen. Hopefully, like me, he learns from it and minimizes its chances of happening again.

“My point was never to hurt Broc Tickle in any way,” Brooks said when reached for comment. “I was just trying to make a larger point that sponsors are what pay the bills, and as a team manager, I go to sponsors and tell them that my riders are going to do certain things for them, and one of those things is to mention them on the podium, so when it doesn’t happen, I see it a bit differently than a lot of people do.”

He also said that when Stewart was cut short at one question for the Speed broadcast and didn't get to thank his team and sponsors, he knew he was going to "get it", but he stands by his point, which is valid.

Ping’s turn:

  • Nick's not hanging it up
Nick Wey is not quitting, folks. I heard from a few different people that were in Jacksonville that Nick wasn’t racing anymore. He says that he was making a joke and a little frustrated after getting another Racer X Gas Card and people took it the wrong way. Wey has been testing for the nationals already and they are planning on racing all summer.

Jason Lawrence continued his bi-polar ways last weekend. I’m not talking about him loaning a bike to Tyler Wharton (good) then punting Broc Hepler and pulling off the track (bad). Apparently Jason cut down sections of the fence at the Honda test track and has been jumping over and riding the track when nobody is there (bad). When he was approached about it by Erik Kehoe he handed him $1,000 cash and told him it was for track maintenance (good, I guess?). The Jason Lawrence Show continues.

There is a new company breaking into the motocross market. Nate Adams, Nate Hawley, and Logan Darien are introducing a glove company called Deft. They got the idea from Grenade, a snow company that focused on making gloves and became an industry hit. With Logan doing design, Nate Adams wearing the gloves and Nate Hawley working the marketing side of things, they might have a hit. Keep an eye out for some photos of the gloves soon.

Honda did some outdoor testing this week and it was interesting to watch all of the guys ride together and pace one another. Despite the many rumors of where and what Dan Reardon will ride this summer, I think it is safe to say he will be on a 450. He was testing the big bike and looked very fast on it. He’ll be a sleeper in the 450 class, for sure. The usual suspects looked fast too, but one surprise was Justin Barcia. I haven’t seen him ride much before but he was flying. His pace was every bit as fast as Trey Canard’s and if Justin can stay upright he is going to find himself at the front of the pack right away.

Next up is Steve Matthes.

  • Preston's podium speeches are legendary
If you really think your luck isn’t going so well, try to think about Travis Preston and maybe you’ll feel better. The former 125 SX champ has had an injury riddled season so far on the MDK KTM and it just got a whole lot worse. He’s coming back from a hand injury and started to ride motocross when he had a crash last Tuesday. He had to step off the bike in mid-air and ended up with 12 fractures (!) in his right foot, one in his left foot and he’s pretty sure his knee is damaged (MRI to follow). Safe to say we won’t see TP back on the track anytime soon which sucks for guys like me that like to write about things he says. Heal up Travis!

A few injury updates for you people: Matt Boni of the Rockstar/Hart and Huntington team hit his head pretty good in Jacksonville but should be ready to go for Seattle. He does have a broken finger but is just going to deal with it. The race for top privateer is getting good with Heath Voss pulling back in front of Boni, but don’t forget about Ben Coisy and Kyle Chisholm. There’s 12 points separating the top four guys and with the money that’s at stake, it’s like a little (big) race inside the race.

Josh Grant is okay and should be ready to ride. That kid has taken a beating this year but is going fast and is not scared to twist the throttle. Check out this podcast with Josh Hill.

Check out the archived Racer X Canada podcasts for some more good stuff here

I’m still trying to get that Lady GaGa song “Poker Face” out of my head, someone help me!

Finally, happy birthday to the Canadian woman who started everything, Debbie Matthes. Happy b-day mom!

Matt Ware got an email response from THE Billy Mackenzie in reaction to the Privateer Profile we ran with Tyler Bowers earlier this week. Here’s what Billy, a GP contender, had to say:

  • Check out Tyler's Privateer Profile
“The real story is he came over to try the CAS bike, I was appointed his babysitter for the day, and he stayed at my house. I tried to break the ice by being a bit ‘laddish’ talking about girls and things, getting to know him a little and see what kinda guy he was, you know, just trying to get a personal level with him, which I did pretty well and we were getting on cool. But after he thought we were best buddies, he just DID NOT stop talking the whole time I was with him!

I was driving the rental car stuck in a massive traffic jam in Holland, real early in the morning after catching an even-earlier flight, while he was just talking talking, talking non-stop in my ear (I’m not a morning person, and I was pissed off with the traffic), talking just absolute irrelevant crap while I was doing everything for him cause he was new and what not. Eventually I lost my cool and started being short and a little rude with him, he got the message and didn’t like it so it seems!

I dunno what the hell he is on about with the J-Law thing, I think J-Law is a pretty interesting character, and I was laughing at a few stories he was telling me about Jason, but as far as being as mad as him? I don’t think so!

I dunno why I’m even biting on this, but that annoyed me. I done my best for Tyler while he was over here, but it was on a lead-up to a race and it was a stressful day. If all he can remember is me being a little short with him, then he needs to have a quiet word with himself. I can’t have people thinking I’m as crazy as J-Law, and I ain’t gonna have Tyler talking shit about me after I had him staying at my house and stuff, that’s just ungrateful.”

Here’s Weege:

  • Kailub Russell is really breaking out this year
The Can-Am GNCC was back in action over the weekend in South Carolina. The Pirelli Big Buck GNCC threw some heat and humidity at the riders, and in that helped whittle the six-rider lead pack down to three near the end: Charlie Mullins, Josh Strang and Paul Whibley. All three have already won races this year, so this one came down to desire. Strang, the 20-year-old Australian, made the right moves down the stretch to pass Whibley and get the win. That’s a big breakthrough, because Whibley is known as the fittest and strongest rider on the circuit, and this time Strang pulled it out down the stretch. How hard are these guys pushing? They both turned their fastest laps of the race on the last lap—three hours after the race started!

Maybe even more impressive was the rider behind them—XC2 Lites leader Kailub Russell. KR pulled way out on front of his XC2 comp and just kept digging, and he spent two laps leading the race overall on adjusted time – on a 250F! KR eventually drank all the water in his drink system but kept it pinned anyway. Strang and Whibley’s last lap charge moved them back to the top two overall spots, but Russell held on to collect third overall—he collapsed of exhaustion at the finish line when it was over.

Good racing so far this season. And the race drew 1304 different riders—not different entries, but 1304 different riders. The next race takes place at the legendary Loretta Lynn Ranch – expect more action, and more heat and humidity.

Time to say congratulations to sometimes Racer X contributor Josh Coppins, who scored his first overall of the 2009 FIM World Championship last weekend in Bulgaria – his first win since last year in Germany. “It’s been about eight GPs since I last won, I’m up to eleven GP wins now in MX1,” Coppins wrote us. “I’ve been feeling good at the first two rounds. I crashed Saturday at the opening round and hurt my ribs a bit so I know I’ll get better and better as heal. It feels good to win so early when I wasn’t really mentioned as a preseason favorite. Most people had written me of and expected me to sit back and cash in on what they think will be my final year. But that isn’t my style; I want to race to win and fight for the title. Otherwise I’d already be back at home in New Zealand.”

  • We just couldn't let this one go to waste...
Also this weekend, the GP Series continues with a race in Turkey—the first-ever Motocross GP in the old Ottoman Empire. You can watch the races live on www.freecaster.tv with the first MX2 moto going off at 4:00 a.m. EST here in the states, and the last MX1 race at more reasonable 8 a.m.

Racer X European correspondent Matt Allard has been busy with his real job with the airlines, but he wanted to offer this thought on the once-again-riding fortunes of the French:

“With Christophe Pourcel winning the East Coast Lites the emphasis may soon switch back to U.S. teams signing fast French kids rather than Australian ones and of course at the Bulgarian GP suddenly there were a load of French kids running up front of the MX2 class. Now you mentioned Gautier Paulin as the surprise leader of the class in the FIM series after Italy and surprise it certainly was to many people. But you know what if I had to pick any of that French pack (Tarroux, Musquin, Aubin, Boog, etc), he would be the one. Gautier is an ex-BMX champ and just has the same air about him that I remember in a young DV12. He’s tall, wouldn’t be afraid to sport a mullet and has plenty of speed with some serious skills. And he ran third at Namur as an unknown rookie in 2007 for half a moto before his chain came off (or something broke on the bike).”

As I mentioned before, Gautier was here in the states at one of the early SX rounds to check out the surroundings and put out some feelers should he decide to head this way again.

Miki Keller of the WMA was up VERY late watching last weekend’s Bulgarian GP and turned in this report on the girls:

The American women that are racing some of the rounds of the FIM Women’s World Motocross Championship got their season off to early start last weekend at Sevlievo, Bulgaria. The new format for the WMX class has the women racing on Saturday later in the day, and then Sunday mid morning.

  • Satchwell and Patterson at Budds Creek in 2007
Tarah Gieger came in to the opening round of the Women’s Championship with the 2nd fastest qualifying time behind defending champion Livia Lancelot. Unfortunately, the setting sun may have affected the visibility somewhat in the first moto and she cross-rutted on a downhill jump in the first lap. Tarah charged back from dead last to 14th. She had a better moto on Sunday and finished 6th behind Marianne Veenstra, the young racer from the Netherlands that came out and raced Steel City a few years ago.

Ashley Fiolek got the holeshot in both motos on her L & S Motorsports Honda and led for a few laps before Laier and Lancelot passed her. She finished third on the podium on both days and got third overall. Freecaster.tv had comprehensive coverage of the women’s racing including pre- and post-interviews and the second moto in its entirety (yes, I was up at 1:00 a.m. watching it live). Ashley is back in the states now and will soon head to the west coast to be ready for the Nationals, where Tarah is staying overseas to race the next two GP’s before heading back for the WMA opener.

Sarah Whitmore finalized her contract with KTM Motorsports this week. She will be riding factory bikes at the 2009 WMA Nationals and will race both the WMA and the WORCS series in 2010.

Here’s a different sponsor in the women’s motocross: Jessica Patterson is sponsoring 2001 WMA Champion Tania Satchwell to race the Maxxis Mini Moto in Vegas. She is covering her entry fee and loaning Tania her personal pit bike to race the event. Tania broke her back practicing at Perris Raceway over a year ago and sat out the entire 2008 season. She is planning to race at least the Washougal round of the 2009 WMA Championship.

Another new-comer to the WMA Nationals this season will be 16-year-old Vicki Golden. I spoke to the 2008 Loretta Lynn’s Women’s Champion this past week and she is planning on racing all eight rounds of WMA Pro Championship this season. Like many of the women, she will be a full privateer riding Honda’s sponsored by Resnel Builder’s and Hardware. Look for the #214 at Glen Helen.

That’s it for now.

Warren Price sent over a short report and a few photos from last weekend’s Brad Lackey Vintage AM International Motocross Competition, which took place in Texas as part of Diamond Don Rainey’s AHRMA Riverport National.

Carl Stone was on the spot when the Villopotos asked him to shoot some photos of a surprise party inside Ryan’s rig at Jacksonville. Here’s what CStone sent us:

This past weekend was Freddie and Frannie Villopoto’s s 50th wedding anniversary. Little did they know that the family was planning a surprise party for them at the Jacksonville SX. They gave me a heads up about it a few weeks ago and asked if I could get some photos of the occasion.

Just before practice Saturday morning they called Fred and Fran up and told them to come to Ryan’s bus because Ryan had something he wanted to show them. All of the family was inside the bus, and Freddie and Frannie had no idea what was about to happen. Spencer went outside and made them close their eyes as they made there way into the bus. When they got inside they were told to open their eyes and everyone yelled “Surprise!” And surprised they were!

Among the family that was there was Ryan’s cousin Broc, who is in the military and just flew in last week after being in Iraq for the last eight months. They had no idea he was back either. He flew into Jacksonville to celebrate and surprise them. (He has to return in about to weeks to serve three more months.)

Afterwards the family had arranged for all of the family to have a suite in the stadium to spend the day with everyone and celebrate. After some photos outside, Ryan was going back into the bus he was spotted and swarmed on by the fans. But he stood outside and signed many autographs for everyone.

Finally, our local motorcycle community lost a good young man this week. Blake Kelley, 24, of Mt. Morris, died at 12:45 a.m. Sunday, April 5, 2009, from injuries he received in an auto accident in McHenry, MD. Blake was team manager for the Celtic Road Racing Team based out of Manhattan, N.Y. For the past two years, he worked as a salesman for Fastenal, an industrial fastener company out of Sabraton, West Virginia, just one exit away from where I type this.

Godspeed, Blake.