Observations: Seattle

April 22, 2009 3:55pm | by:

After a week off to look for Easter eggs, the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series resumed in the beautiful city of Seattle. I love the Pacific Northwest as I’ve spent some time up in Victoria, Canada, and also worked for a privateer named Ty Birdwell who was based in Oregon. Anyways, enough about my inconsequential past life stories and onto the race!

When we last left you, James Stewart was a dirty rider, Chad Reed choked the hell out of Stewie, Broc Tickle’s dog was big news, Jason Lawrence was suspended, Ryan Villopoto was sick, and I was very pleased with Kawasaki’s steak and pasta dinner. What would Seattle bring us? The only thing I could guarantee was that I was probably going to eat in somebody’s truck.

  • Seattle'a nice city. I could live there for sure, lots of yummy little coffee shops.
This race always has a black cloud hanging over it. Literally.  Seems as the weather is always a factor for this race but for the second year in a row, the sun was kinda out and the rain stayed away. I’m pretty sure it was all new dirt this year, as it seemed really sandy during track walk. As usual, the jumps rutted up big time (although not as bad as Toronto) and the ground was softer then tapioca pudding. 

As far as the layout is concerned I think the Dirt Wurx guys tamed everything down preparing for the rain and made everything real doable. There wasn’t much difficulty for the guys but they had enough trouble with the ruts and holes, never mind the obstacles. The whoops were pretty small and one-lined in practice but for the night show, they were built up and gave the riders some trouble for a while before getting chewed up. I really think that with the soft dirt you might need an obstacle that has a solid base. Like, say, an over/under bridge.

Ryan “Small” Villopoto had quite a bit to deal with this weekend, let’s count all the obstacles that he had in front of him shall we?

  1. He was coming off a sickness that caused him to miss a couple of races.
  2. He was without his long time friend/ mechanic, John Mitcheff who had to leave the race for a family emergency.
  3. He broke up with his longtime trainer, Randy Lawrence.
  4. D.) It was his hometown race
This was like Rocky III, Rocky IV, the new one (Rocky Balboa), and the original Rocky all combined together. In Rocky III, his long time trainer (The Mick) died, then in numero IV Rocky loses his long time friend (Apollo) and in the new one he has to overcome a sickness (dementia) to once again triumph. And way back in the first Rocky, the fight was in his hometown (Philadelphia).

  • Here he is folks, the fourth different winner this year, Ryan Villopoto. He deserves it and earned the win. It reminded me of Big Bird's win in Seattle back in the day.
Well, Ryan toppled his own version of Drago, Clubber Lang and Mason Dixon because despite all those incredible odds against him, he went out and straight up won his first-career supercross, and in what’s basically his hometown race! RV passed a suddenly very game Mike Alessi (who had the fastest lap of the main event, which was very impressive and looks good heading into outdoors) when Mikey fell and then held the lead to the end in a great ride. What an amazing season we’ve had because when RV is on his game and riding fast, he was crashing and not getting it done, but when he comes back with nobody expecting much of him, he rides great on a difficult track to grab the win.

It kinda makes me think that maybe his earlier problems were in between his ears because I have no doubt that he wasn’t feeling much pressure just coming back; he was probably relaxed, comfortable with all his hometown friends and family around.

I have another theory that the outdoor-ish feel of the track also helped him out but that’s just me. He went out and got the job done in a convincing fashion and congratulations to Ryan, his girlfriend Kristen, and of course his dog Winston!

And congrats to Randy Lawrence as well, though it had to have been a little bittersweet for RL to see RV up there with Jeff Spencer as his new trainer, and it was cool to see Villopoto thank Randy pretty much immediately upon getting on the podium.

What happened to Drago and Clubber Lang? Well Clubber (Chad Reed) went down hard in the first straight/corner and Drago (James Stewart) almost went down and was buried in the pack. The streaks are over, folks, as for the first time ever in his career, Stewie lost a main event that he did not actually crash in, though he sure got sideways a few times and even stalled his bike but he did not fall.  And Reed’s long streak of consecutive podium finishes will have to start over again at zero in SLC.

I really thought he was going to catch Ryan right when he got up to Davi “Run of the” Millsaps about halfway in but after that, he almost bit the farm a few times and settled in to get second. Smart move and his second combined with Reeds lackluster, head in a fog induced seventh puts James into the points lead by three with two to go.

  • I don't know what was up with Reedy this weekend. He wasn't his usual sooper-dooper self but y'know, when you count the guy out, he usually surprises.
Reedy never really looked that comfortable all day. He was fairly far back of Stewie in timed practice (okay, almost 2.5 seconds!) and struggled with the sand. Not sure what was up, I do think that he hit his noggin pretty good in the main but I can’t back that up because my DVR didn’t record the CBS show. (Note to Steve “Do the” Matthes: Fro said he had a stomach virus on CBS.)

When I texted Reedy (Hi Andy!) he seemed ready to move on and just said that he has to forget this race.

Great ride by Millsaps to finish third. He actually attacked back at Stewie a bit. It was impressive and his third podium of the year. Next week he might not even qualify, though, because you just never know with this talented man-child.

In the 250 class, we all had to reacquaint ourselves with the numbers but one guy everybody knew was the One-Oh of Ryan Dungey “Cord”.  The Dungenator won his fourth race of the West Series and positioned himself to be on the brink of his first title. His main competition Jake “Brake” Weimer got a bad start in the main and could only work up to a fourth by the end of the night. The other guy that could win, Ryan “Mount” Morais, rode his usual fast and steady self to a second.

So the gap is nine points going into the final round in Salt Lake City this weekend, so if Weimer wins, all Dungey has to do is finish fourth or better. That seems pretty doable for the Minnesota Maverick but no matter what, it has been a great series on the west side.

When is Morais going to win one of these things? I hope soon. Maybe he’ll win the Vegas East/West shootout and give me his truck in lieu of me getting shut out of the golden wrench award all those years ago? Probably not.

Did you ever read those Larry Brooks MXA columns? Well, treasure that last one and frame it because it will likely be the last one. Brooks told me he’s done with the weekly updates because he just gets too much shit for doing it. He was trying to educate and entertain readers on what happens in a weekend but as we all know, he basically got buried for giving out his honest opinion. I think I know how he feels! Here’s hoping MXA replaces him with Jessica Brewer…

  • Rough night for the MDK/KTM boys. Sipes was pretty fast for a while before he crashed. He's also a guy that could surprise this summer.
Poor MDK KTM. They did not have a good night. Their star rider Justin Brayton didn’t qualify and Ryan “Mill” Sipes was running in the top ten when he went down over the triple and looked like he knocked the wind out of himself. He was down for a while and his crash caused Kyle “Richie” Cunningham and Mike Horban to both be docked a position after the race was over for passing over the triple when Sipes was lying there getting attention. MDK KTM has had better nights for sure.

What about the Troy Lee Designs Honda team? I’ve been pushing for Ping to get the now imaginary team manager of the year award because before the season started, all his riders got hurt and his replacements, Steve Boniface and Sean “Puffy” Borkenhagan were both fantastic along with Chris Blose. Well, since then they got Jake Moss and “Top” Jimmy Albertson back from injury, kept Borkey and in Seattle all four guys ran near the front.  Moss even won a heat! Three riders in the top ten is pretty good, methinks.

When Jake “Pete” Moss got back from his back injury he was scary out there, just not scared to pin it and flail around out there but with the break he seemed to calm down a bit and keep the speed. His whole day in Seattle was impressive and again, Ping has my vote for imaginary team manager of the year for his successful scrambling.

You know how in those Bugs Bunny cartoons, where Wile E. Coyote orders up the perfect device from ACME Distributing to catch the Road Runner? Whatever it is—an anvil, a canon, a giant mousetrap, you name it—it always ends up backfiring. The trap looks perfect, works perfect in the test but when it comes time to do it, always squishes Wile E. like an accordion and Road Runner goes free. That, my friends, sums up Dan Reardon’s supercross season. He looks good, his equipment is good, he seems like he should do well but disaster always follows Dandy Dan. I hope his luck changes on a 450 in the motocross season, he needs it.

  • I like Dandy Dan, I feel bad writing about him sucking but I really believe that he's trying hard and doing the right things. It's just not working this year. Maybe outside on the 450 it'll come around, that is where he first made his mark down under.
There were only 30 riders lined up to race in the 450 class and a LCQ with 12 riders in it doesn’t look good. How did we get from having too many riders to not enough so fast?

When Tim Ferry got injured, Monster Kawasaki gave test rider Billy “NCY” Laninovich Ferry’s bike which would make one think that Dana Wiggins, Ferry’s mechanic would work for Billy right? Well, no because it was pretty late when they decided to get BL in there and Wiggins didn’t have a plane ticket to that race (St. Louis) but Mike Williamson (who was Stewie’s mechanic last year but is now in charge of… something over there) did and he knew Billy, so Mike stepped in for the 132 at the races. Then RV’s mechanic John’s father passed away—all of our condolences, John—and he had to suddenly leave Seattle and the decision was made to move Mike up to work for Ryan at Seattle but Wiggins couldn’t fly in because he was already on vacation. Kawasaki then flew the test mechanic Casey “James” Stewart in to work for Billy. Confused? Me too.

I was talking to the Honda guys about their outdoor testing and if they had been going hard during the break when I was informed that Jeremy McGrath has been working his ass off riding and testing for the Red Riders. Seems that MC wants to get in real good shape for Mammoth this year and I found it funny that the guy that pioneered the SX-only deal is back outdoors now, riding more than ever. The Honda guys said he is only a second or so off the pace of their regular riders so it’s a great way to work out settings and parts ahead of time because his speed is very relevant.

I really thought Trey “The Duck” Canard was going to win the whole damn thing. I even called it when I was watching practice! He never had the best time but to me, he just looked really aggressive and comfortable out there. When he charged into third and was all over Morais for second I thought that just maybe he could win and I would pretty much look like “Jimmy the Greek” Nostradamus. But then The Duck washed out in a turn and would have to settle for third but he looked really good getting that third!

Speaking of washouts, man it seemed that every time you looked up, some dude was down in a turn somewhere. The sandy surface had the guys thinking it was okay to charge in hard but when they would hit the berm, poof! It would go away and the guy would tumble to the ground. Tricky track!

Happy birthday to Jim “Bells of” Holley and Steve Cox as both guys celebrated their birthdays on Saturday. I’m sure Jim celebrated by taking lots of pictures during the night.

  • First picture we have ran of Voss all year. He deserves it and right now is in the lead for privateer of the year. I have a jersey signed by Heath where he wrote some nice things on it for me.
In the race for Top Privateer, it’s win-or-bust, as only the top points scorer gets a big bonus. It will come down to Vegas (how appropriate?), as Heath Voss took the lead over Matt ”Zam” Boni at Jacksonville and widened his points lead to five after his twelfth and Boni’s fourteenth this weekend. Nick Wey, Kyle Chisholm and Paul Carpenter are all right there also if something really bad happens to either guy like, say, missing a main event which is very easy to do.

Have I written less about a guy that deserves more than Heath “Cliff” Voss?  Probably not and I don’t know the reason for it. I suppose I just don’t really notice him out there but then when you look up, he finishes just outside the top ten. He’s a solid, underrated rider that is an asset to any team he’s on no doubt about it. I also bet he doesn’t read the internet all that much and probably doesn’t care about my stupid column. Oh, and he’s signed up to race the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships this summer with Moto Concepts Honda.

The 450 class this weekend saw the return of a long time privateer and all around short guy, Jason Thomas. JT$ made the main and placed fifteenth after a spirited race with his former BBMX.com Honda teammate, Matt Boni. JT told me that the track was pretty good for about the half the main and after that got real choppy and sketchy. Thomas’ team, DNA Energy drink/BTO Sports.com/BBMX, lost Shaun Skinner for the year and needed a 250 rider. So they offered the ride to Ben Lamay for the last three races but Ben failed to make the main event (he was pretty close though!). JT’s East Coast 250 teammate, Kyle Keylon, also moved up to the 450s with him and probably set the record for the biggest difference in height between two teammates.

I was going around and asking people what they thought of Jason Lawrence’s suspension as I thought it was a little on the harsh side but when I mentioned that I would’ve just fined him an official told me that a fine would do nothing for a well-off guy like Jason. Then I was informed that there is probably going to be more punishment for Jason from the AMA. This seems rather silly to me as he wasn’t in the AMA-officiated 250 class when the offense took place but it was explained to me that everybody that races a supercross is under the AMA’s umbrella and that everybody has to get permission to ride the 450 FIM class. Look at it like this, you’re a sixteen-year-old kid that has a learner’s permit to drive but you get busted for speeding, the DMV takes your license away (which represents the FIM) but the real punishment is going to come from your parents who pledged their faith in you that you could handle a license (the parents being the AMA). In short, the AMA rules everything.

  • If there's one thing that I know, it's that the TLD team will have nice looking helmets. They might look better with a Aero 2 visor.
But I still don’t agree. You shouldn’t punish a guy twice and I wrote about the referee confusion in the new issue of Racer X. I don’t think Jason’s Jacksonville moves were very smart but let’s not all pile on now. Can we get one referee as well, please?

Quick hits…

-I thought Troy Adams rode the best I’ve seen in a while.

- Last Observations I was pretty proud of the fact that I pointed out the KTM WP shock preload thingee on Sipes’ bike but I was informed by Donn Maeda that TWMX did something on it a long time ago. …I never promised you guys breaking news!

- How about Ivan Tedesco winning a heat? That’s awesome and good to see Hot Sauce do that, because it ain’t easy to win one of those things.

- My favorite band ever, The Tragically Hip, released a new disc last week and I have to say my first thought was the lead singer lost his balls in a farming accident because it’s really, really mellow. But after 800 listens, I think it’s pretty good. Check them out at thehip.com

  • This is what I missed in the Fun City Suzuki pits. My reputation proceeds me, I have other teams sending me their menu items.
- Paul Carpenter is another guy that I don’t talk about much. He was going pretty fast in the beginning of the year before getting hurt. He’s been back for a few races and has been getting better. I know one thing, Carpenter is a tough, old-school racer.

- His teammate Bobby Kiniry was very impressive at the beginning of the year but lately hasn’t been as good. Mostly because it looks like he’s been practicing his bike picking-up skills. Bobby is really talented and I think will surprise some Canadians this summer.

- You know the gun that Rambo uses to blow up that entire town in First Blood? I’m sure after winning a 450 supercross, that will be in the back of RV’s truck soon.

- Rick Sheren sent me a pick of the Fun Center Suzuki dinner set-up which consisted of fresh crab legs that looked like they were off some massive mutant crab. I missed out for sure.

- I texted Windham about doing a podcast last week and just said whenever he got time would be great. He found me this weekend and said that if I said it was urgent, he’d get back to me within two weeks. If I said whenever (which I did) he would probably never call me back. Gotta admire the honesty and look for an urgent podcast soon.

- Elevation of Salt Lake City 4,330 feet. That’s pretty high and although I don’t think it will be THAT much of an issue based on previous experience, keep in mind Stewie has a carburetor and Reed does not. I’m just sayin…

That’s all I got, thanks for reading. Praises, compliments and atta-boys can be filed at matthes@racerxonline.com. Concerns, complaints and you sucks can be sent to ping@racerxonline.com.