Observations: Salt Lake City

April 29, 2009 2:35pm | by:

For the first time in five years, the AMA Monster Energy Supercross series, an FIM World Championship, returned to beautiful Salt Lake City for the penultimate round of the series. I can remember the last time we were there like it was yesterday. My rider Tim Ferry pulled the holeshot with RC and Reed breathing down his neck. Oh, the fun we had seeing RC double-single the triple and jump so far off the single that he landed on Ferry’s back and cleaned him out, followed by the loving way that Ferry tried to clean RC out when he was being lapped. That move is burned in my memory, followed by RC thinking it was to help Reed (when in fact it was because Ferry had Dunlop tracks on his back) and stopping me after the race to, um, threaten to shoot me. And who can forget Ferry flipping RC off right after he was done talking to me? Good times for sure, and this year we saw some more exciting controversy and more talk of team tactics. Is it the thin air that makes people go a little crazy?

  • The second set of practices were canceled, which made the guys have to get on it early. The city of Salt Lake seemed to be pumped to have SX back, even though they didn't get a half-time freestyle show.
I’m not even going to talk about the track because we have a lot to get to. It was tight, Dirt Wurx did a god job covering it for the weather, and it had no over-under bridge (Ping says I need to let this go - he says it’s dumb, but a man has to take a stand). Oh, and the whoops were big and deep but pretty short.

So James Stewart was ahead of Chad Reed by three when we last left you, and this round would definitely cement someone as the odds-on favorite to be a champion next week in Vegas. The gap between first and second is three points, so unless disaster struck, it was going to be six-point lead or tied. This was like Hogan and Andre the Giant meeting in Pontiac in ’87, and just like a lot of wrestling matches, there was a surprise visitor to the ring with the proverbial chair.

First, the good: Reedy grabbed the start and Stewie was in fifth or so around the first bend but quickly made his way into second before the first lap was over, and it was on. Stewie stalked Reed, and just like these two have been doing all year, somebody saved something for the main event. There was a rhythm section behind the start that the guys were doing 1-2-3-1. The fourth jump of the section was tall and was meant to be the takeoff for the triple, but when Stewie was behind Reed, he started going 2-3-2, which was really fast because you tripled over the tall fourth jump and stayed low. The downside is you could clip your back tire on that fourth jump and end up in Row 12.

So James used this to his advantage to pull close to Reed and actually make the pass one time, only to have Reed strike back and re-pass The Seven. But once again, like he has pretty much all year, Chad started jumping that section. It continues to amaze me that these guys just move to the next level in the main event trying to outfox the other guy. Cool psychological stuff! Eventually, James used a super-sick finish-line scrub to get by his archenemy and was in front when some silly stuff went down.

  • Once again, these two put on a good race. Remember at the beginning of the season Reed had something for James? Then he didn't, and now he does once again. You know what would be awesome but has as much chance of happening as me riding a unicorn around at the Vegas SX? Getting these two guys on a podcast together after the season!
Chances are, if you’re reading this, you know what happened. When James and Chad were lapping Stewie’s teammate, Kyle Chisholm, the kid got real close to Reed at the top of the berm and caught his front tire on Reed’s footpeg and momentarily (and I mean just momentarily) hung Reed up. The actual act of what Chisholm did probably didn’t slow Reed down as much as what happened the turn before, where he rode into Reed after letting Stewart by, but it for sure screwed with Chad’s mind, and it’s not a coincidence that James opened up a bit of a bigger lead right there and went on to win the race. The decision was made to black-flag Chisholm and disqualify him from the race, which was a first for me: I thought I’d seen everything once Britney shaved her head.

Here are a couple of videos, judge for yourself.

Look, maybe I’m a naïve Canadian prairie kid, but there are certain things that I believe in my life. I believe that Sylvester Stallone is an underrated actor. I believe that Axl Rose is a genius. I believe that no woman has faked anything with me. I believe that McDonald’s double cheeseburgers are made in heaven. And I believe that there were no team orders from L&M telling Kyle to try to take out Reed. If you were Kyle and under “orders,” why wouldn’t you finish the job and completely clean Reed out? Why wouldn’t you hold him up more in the corner before that when it was certainly very one-lined? I don’t know Kyle real well, but he seems like a nice kid, has a nice family, and is a past Canadian champion (had to throw that in there).

But (and there’s always a but) I think Kyle comes off as looking extremely bad in this deal. He saw the blue flag, pulled over for James, and then started racing again when he was beside Chad—who was right behind James at the time.

I spoke to Larry Brooks on Monday after the deal. He knows how it looks and said that he thinks Kyle “dorked out” and kind of lost his mind. He basically said, why would he do that, as James has proven to be faster than Chad this year, and that worse case, the two guys are tied going into the last round, and he likes his team’s chances if that happens. He said the mechanic told him he didn’t write anything on a pit board but has no proof of that. He swore to me he didn’t say anything and I believe him. I guess I’m biased because Larry’s a friend of mine, but I like to think I call them like I see ’em.

  • Sorry all you conspiracy people out there, I just don't believe that Kyle is behind the grassy knoll.
You can see Kyle is on the brakes hard going into the turn, and although it was a bad decision by the 38, I don’t believe there was malice. I said that to some people in the Reed camp after the race and almost got thrown out. They clearly don’t think it was an accident. In times of mass hysteria, things often get overblown, and this is one of those, I believe.

Like I said, I really don’t know what Kyle was thinking. It was not a smart move and doesn’t look good, but if we can forgive a guy for standing on another rider’s bike and trying to shut it off, we can forgive Kyle.

Back to the racing, and we saw good racing in both mains, no doubt about that. The West Region 250 championship was decided this weekend and the champion is Ryan Dungey! Going into the race, “Dungey Cord” was nine points ahead and needed a fourth to secure the title if his main rival, Jake Weimer, won. Dungey got the start and Weimer didn’t, and the chase was over for the most part right then and there. Dungey rode a smart race and grabbed the lead when Jake Moss (more on him later) went down.

But being the smart little cookie Dungey is, when a faster Trey “The Duck” Canard caught up to him, he let him by and decided to get second. Then, when a faster Weimer came up, he really, really let Jake by to grab third. But then Ryan Morais was on him in the last lap and he let Morais go and get the last podium position. It didn’t matter: the title was won long ago with dominant rides in San Diego and Seattle. Congrats to Ryan and the whole crew on a title that was a long time coming after last year.

  • The 250 class was exciting! Canard, Weimer and The Dunge put on a great show. Weimer and his XS helmet came up just a little short but there's always next year! (But that's what Bradshaw probably always said)
I predicted last week that Canard was going to win, and I guess I was a week off. Trey rode really great and was attacking the track and charging so hard in between the jumps - you could see he wanted it bad. The last lap was thrilling, as Weimer was all over him and trying to make something happen. Congrats to Canard for grabbing a win in what has been a frustrating season for the uber-rookie from last year. Now he can buy a whole bunch of these with his winnings.

Weimer just took too long to get going. His first few laps, when he was in ninth or so, were pretty slow, but he picked up some momentum around lap five and put in a charge. He was really good at the end of the race, and although he lost the title, he can hold his head up high, because he had a great season and will be right in the mix next year.

I about threw up in my Fruit Loops when I read this quote from Davi Millsaps last week on this very website:

RXI: So, where have you been? What’s going on?

Davi: I don’t know, man. It’s been a tough season, but I’m trying to end it pretty good. I don’t know, I got this new tattoo on my arm last week that says, “Live, Laugh, Love” and those are the three main things that I really do live by. I wasn’t living by them for a while, and I really wasn’t having fun. I wasn’t loving it. I just wasn’t doing anything, you know? Finally, me and my agent and my trainer and my fiancé and my mechanic, and they were just like, “You know, why don’t you just give it your all? Why don’t you just give 110 percent and just try your best and see what you can do? What will it hurt?” So that’s what I’ve been doing.

I mean, c’mon, Davi, you make more money in a year riding your dirt bike than most people make in twenty years and you have to be talked into “giving it your all” and trying your best? WOW. I’m sure there were some eyebrows raised at Honda over this comment, but give the kid some credit, because since the pleading he received, the boy wonder had two straight podiums and was challenging Reed this weekend in the heat race (although Reedy had a front brake problem). He rode a great race and switched gear this weekend to One Industries as well. I’m no Gary Bailey, but I would like to offer some advice to Davi: Keep trying!

  • Davi's been really great the last two weekends. He's looking good in his new ONE gear and is now refocused on working hard, which is not good for his competition.
After the heat race, team L&M changed an engine, as a shifter bent and Stewie had to ride around in third gear. They also hid an anvil in the airbox for Chisholm to use later. I’m kidding, people!

Jake Moss of the Troy Lee team grabbed the lead early and led the first seven laps before washing out in a turn and ending up seventh. He looked really great in the process, and I would bet a podium was almost “buaranteed,” in the words of his team manager. He’s really looked great the last couple of weeks, and if the TLD team isn’t careful, he might be too pricey for them next year. TLD rider Chris Blose finished sixth in another solid ride, and his fifth overall in the points might be the most unexpected ride out of any rider either class.

The winner last week, Ryan Villopoto, was hoping to keep the ball rolling this week, but a poor start in the main event was the culprit in his fourth-place finish. He started eighth and was really fast, but it was too late to make a push on for the last box spot. He was quick, though.

His teammate Billy Laninovich was very happy with the way he rode. BL132 finished thirteenth in the main but felt that his ride was better than when he got tenth a few weeks back. He had to get to the main by winning the LCQ, and therefore his gate pick wasn’t very good. In my eyes, he was absolutely killing it in the whoops.

One rider who didn’t make the main event was Mike Alessi. I don’t know what his problem was this week, but there was definitely something wrong; maybe he was sick or something, but to go from leading last week to fading to the back indicates that something was amiss with Team 800. He didn’t grab his start in the heat or the LCQ and had no fight in him. I saw him earlier in the day, and when I mentioned that he might’ve won last week if it wasn’t for the fall, he said he would’ve won, no doubt about it. Then Reed made a crack wondering why I was there since they put the food away already, and I left immediately thereafter.

  • Something was up with the 800 this weekend. Maybe some bad sushi or something because for Mike to not qualify AND not at least get a start means the world should be ending soon. Or he was just sick.
Kevin Windham was on the move in the main and worked his way into sixth by the halfway point but seemed to stall right there. He even got passed by a charging Josh Grant on the last lap, though it turns out he had some clutch problems that prevented him from riding hard. He told me the bike was almost stalling and he had to really keep his momentum up and nurse his bike to the end. So considering that, he had a good race. The things you learn in Observations.

Heartbreak and joys in the second 250 heat. On the last lap, last corner, Grey Davenport slammed Ben Evans and took the last transfer spot. A great race by Davenport, who came from the back a bit, and Evans won’t be so cavalier the next time he’s in that spot, I’m sure. Evans did make it through via the LCQ.

Which was won by a Canadian! Brady Sheren of the Fun Center Suzuki team put in a dominating performance and showed everyone in the pits why Canada, not stupid Australia, should be the hunting grounds for the scouts of the sport.

Do you remember what I wrote about “Dandy” Dan Reardon last week? How everything looks good, but like the coyote in Bugs Bunny, it all seems to go so wrong for him? This is a true story of his Salt Lake City weekend. Show up and get the twelfth-best time in qualifying. Grab the holeshot in the heat race. Immediately go down in the slick first turn and restart last. Go to the LCQ. Be a little more careful in the LCQ start and make your way into third, but no worries because you’re Dan Reardon on a factory bike and you have two guys in front of you who aren’t as good and are on worse bikes. Then the dude in fourth clips a jump and cartwheels into you, knocking the crap out of you and sending you over a berm and ending your night. This guy must’ve walked under a ladder while eating a warm bowl of black-cat stew.

One of the cool things that the top teams have is this new technology that can overlay another rider on top of video footage of your guy. Like a ghost image or something where you can see different lines and how a guys bike is working compared to yours. I dunno how exactly it works, because no one is inviting me into the semis when it’s video time, but it sounds super cool and extremely helpful.

  • Me and Ping hugging it out at the TLD truck. It's like that Bugs Bunny cartoon with that bulldog and his little buddy. Notice me throwing the
You can call me a lot of names, but you can’t call me an ungrateful user. I was thinking about all the coffee that I drink at the Kawi truck the other day and decided to replace the Keurig coffee pods with a brand new box of the same brand. I think Team Green was impressed with my gesture, but if they think I’m also buying pasta and steak to replace the stuff I eat, they’re out to lunch on that one. Also, my super-secret strategy to buying a whole box of pods is that now I can go in whenever and grab one of “my pods.”

Two riders who have been riding better here at the end of supercross are Troy Adams and Bobby Kiniry. Not sure why, but both had midseason dips and have picked it up in the last few weeks.

The greatest rider ever not named Ross Pederson was in the house: none other than Monster Jam champion Damon Bradshaw! It looks like the outdoor ride he’s been looking for isn’t going to happen in these tough times, but it was real—he was shopping around and serious about it. Anyway, Damon had a black eye and somebody told me it was from doing some Ultimate Fighting with his buddies. There is no truth to the rumor that he beat up Bayle, Matiasevich, and Stanton at the same time.

Last week I wrote that there was only one award given to the top privateer, which was a change from past years where they awarded the top three non-factory guys. Well, I was wrong and my source will be shot. Jayme Dalsing from Feld informed me that there is a top-three award, and right now, going into the last race, Matt Boni is ahead of Heath Voss by one point and Nick Wey is ahead of Paul Carpenter by one point for the third and final spot. This is another thing to keep an eye on this weekend. It’s a race within a race!

  • Here's two of my bestest friends in the world battling it out. Wey was not happy with me this weekend until RV had my back. NYK and my relationship is volatile, like that one couple that everyone knows that always fights.
Rain was predicted all day Saturday, and now that I am doing some work for X-Brand goggles, this directly affects my life. So I was a busy little beaver on Friday night building roll-offs and stacking the tear-offs on. The predicted downpour never came, although it rained during practice and pretty heavy afterward. The decision was made to cancel the second set of practices and the first times stood. My rider Nathan Ramsey ran roll-offs, and although they worked flawlessly, he wasn’t able to make the main for the third week in a row. Hope it’s not me jinxing him or something.

When I was building them, I needed a little advice to make sure I was on the right path and I turned to a friendly competitor, John Knowles at Scott, and he gave me a little advice. Goggle guys stick together, broseph!

There’s a new fantasy moto league for all you dorks out there. It’s called ProMotoFan.com and their website isn’t 100 percent done yet, but you can check it out and start trying to be the best fantasy moto geek in the world. I know Weege will be drooling over it.

That’s a wrap from SLC, where I was once again on trail of news, gossip, and information. Hope you enjoyed this column, and thanks for reading. Whatever’s on your mind, send to matthes@racerxonline.com, and to all those people who have written me in the last little while, I’m sorry for the no replies. I try to answer almost every email, and I suck at it lately. Keep writing in!