Observations: Las Vegas

May 6, 2009 2:46pm | by:

And that’s a wrap folks! The 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series came to a thrilling end in Las Vegas. Having the last round in Sin City is always cool because the riders and everyone else that follows the series can really let loose afterwards and have some fun. And also because I live here and can be sleeping in my bed 20 minutes after the checkered flag falls. Not that I do that, but you know what I mean. If you were lucky enough to be at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino around 5:00 in the morning on Sunday, then you know what I’m talking about when I say some riders “have some fun.”

  • The champion and eleven race winner, James Stewart! Congrats to him, his dad, his mom, his fiance, Ratto, Malcolm, his practice bike guy, Paggio, Aldon, Roger, Paul, Larry, Oscar, Lauren, his peeps and sorry to whomever I forgot. There's alot of people behind a champion, I remember when I won Summercross..ZZZZZZZZZZZZ.
The track is always pretty cool in Vegas. The Dirt Wurx guys do some cool stuff and this year, once again, the start was outside the stadium. We had some high, high-speed dirt track sections when the riders left the fans view. There was also some sand thrown down, a catapult jump (that was like the old Coca-Cola Catapult they had in the ‘80s when Rollerball and Holley would always win) and a ski mogul section. There wasn’t anything overly difficult out there but if I was pressed for an “observation” it would be that I don’t like the start outside as the first turn is a very exciting thing to watch for me, I loved it when they jumped over the building back in the day and there was no over/under bridge.

What’s my deal with the over/under bridge, you finally ask after 17 rounds? Well, I just love it because it offers options to the designers to route the track a different way. It’s another jump that doesn’t need a lot of dirt, which means you can use the dirt elsewhere, and they look cool. There, those are my reasons and I’m sticking to them.

You should know what happened in Vegas if you’re reading this, so I’ll spare you the semantics of what went down. James Stewart is the champion and rightfully so, as there is no doubt that he was the fastest rider (eleven main event wins prove it) and anybody that says he doesn’t deserve the accolades is just dumb.  Hate to be so blunt, but it’s true. James rode awesome all year and once again showed everyone that he can make a motorcycle do things that just weren’t meant to be done.

James rode a smart race in Vegas. He grabbed the lead and led for a few laps, and when Ryan Villopoto came up to challenge, he backed off a bit and settled into second. He had a six-point lead and didn’t have to win the race after all. Then when Reed came to challenge, he tried to back off but Reedy wouldn’t go by. It turned into a comedic “who’s-on-first?” routine but eventually Chad caught James again and went by in the high speed sweeper. Chad took him a little (ha!) wide (and practically off the track!), but Stewie kept his cool (managed to stay on the bike) and rode home to a third-place and with it, his second AMA Supercross championship.

Another two-time Supercross king is Chad Reed, and he didn’t get those titles by not being calculated and a thinker. He was thinking so much on how he could win the title and he knew that he had to pressure James into a mistake and hope for a crash. When James slowed down and tried to let him go, there went that strategy out the window! So he took matters into his own hands in the back sweeper and forced James off the track. It was dirty, and deep in Chad’s heart he knew it wasn’t going to work, but I’m sure after last week he wanted James to know that he was pissed off about the whole Kyle Chisholm deal. What if James had fallen and broken a clutch lever or whatever and couldn’t start his bike? I guess we’ll never know, but I was surprised James just didn’t come to a complete stop on the inside of the turn. The move set us up for a great 2010 SX season, that’s for sure. These two dudes really don’t like each other and Reed and Larry Brooks won’t be doing the “Lady and the Tramp” spaghetti noodle thing anytime soon.

  • Reed's got nothing to be ashamed about. He was awesome and I would think that if you hooked James up to a lie detector, he would say that Reedy gave him a run better then he ever expected.
I have to say that I was very impressed with Reed this season; I honestly thought he wouldn’t have had anything for the seven. He gave him a hell of a run at a lot of races and dug deep to show me that I’m an idiot. Here’s the thing with Reedy, and I was talking to KW and Shorty about it as well: just when you think he’s going balls-out and can’t go any faster, he reaches down and grabs another half-second or whatever. KW and Short were making sure that I knew that to do that was very, very hard. Reedy, I know you read this column and I just want to say that I was wrong and you can hold your head up high for helping give us fans a great season. I’m sure you lost out on some massive bonuses but maybe my kind words are worth just as much. No?

At the Hard Rock Hotel early Sunday morning, Reedy and Michael Byrne let me know that they love my column. They love that I call it like it is, but that I really blew it in the Salt Lake City Observations.  That’s okay, I could be wrong about the whole thing but I stick to my opinion.

Ryan Villopoto rode great and is kind of the forgotten man in the whole race but let’s not forget he won the damn thing. It was the second win in three races for the 20-year-old. The first win can be hard, but after you do it a few times, you know what it takes and it gets easier. RV was challenging James a bit in the heat, so you knew that he was on it. He rode a great race, and after having a big lead last year and letting Ryan “Git ‘Er” Dungey chase him down in the shootout, one might think he doesn’t like the Vegas soil, but I think he does now! Good job RV and nice to go into the outdoors with some momentum.

Speaking of the shootout, for the first time in ten years the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team captured first place in the Dave Coombs Sr. Memorial East/West Shootout. It’s always a great race and it usually overshadows the 450 main in my opinion. Dungey, Andrew Short, and Nathan Ramsey are just a few of the surprise winners over the years. Seems like the reigning champions always have problems (remember two years ago when RV and Ben Townley DNF’d within a lap or two of each other?), and that’s why I picked Ryan Morais for the win during the day.

  • Every year (but not this year) I look forward to the 250 shootout more than the 450 race and as usual, it didn't let me down. It was a great race but the pressbox was going absolute NUTS for Dungey. Not Canard, not Pourcel but Dungey. Ryan's a great kid and all but did he rescue some orphans sometime that I missed?
When “Flyin” Ryan shot out from behind the stadium with the lead in 250 heat one, I thought it was on! Unfortunately, he hit the tuff block in the second turn and washed out. A bad start in the main meant a fifth-place. Oh well, Ryan will have to wait another year to get his first win on the track, but he’s taking a big win off the track this weekend by marrying Shorty’s sister, Hannah. Congrats Ryan, and I know my invite was probably lost in the mail along with the Golden Wrench I should’ve won when I was working for you in ’99…

The man who should’ve won the race was The Duck, Trey Canard. The GEICO Honda rider led the most laps and looked real aggressive all day. If it wasn’t for a little bobble three laps from the end, he would have a new Toyota Tundra in his driveway, instead it’s just a new Snuggie for Trey as he ended up finishing third.

Christophe Pourcel will be sure to drive by Trey’s place and give a little honk and a wave in his new Toyota Tundra as he took advantage of the bobble and grabbed the win. Pourcel continues his storybook season and his Vegas race was so, so typical: Just ride speedy, smart and steady and let the race come to you. I have no doubt that he can do 15 lappers all day at a comfortable speed and just look so smooth doing it. Like a JMB, but I don’t want to go quite there yet…

…Because JMB will be in the house in a couple of weeks! The man who swept ‘em all in 1991 is going to be training Motoconcept’s Ben Coisy for the upcoming outdoor season. He’ll be hanging out for a while and will be going back and forth from France trying to help out Coisy “Moto.” Ben was good for a lot of the season and even led the privateer points for a bit but then crumbled bad the second half.

Ryan Dungey had won this race twice before and almost got the hat trick (that’s a hockey term for you. The playoffs are on right now by the way. Maybe some of you should watch. We need 50 people to double the ratings!) You could see Ryan was desperate and pouring it on because he was kind of out of control. The rear end of his Suzuki swapping sideways like he was Luke Perry in 9 Seconds.

The whoops were big and deep for the second week in a row and the 250 guys had some problems in them. Actually, the 450 guys had some problems in them too. After one set was a left hander and then those tricky Dirt Wurx guys put a little bump before the second set and the fast way was to wheelie down the backside right into a wall of whoops. This took skill and balls to trust your bike. The meek just rolled down the back and jumped through them.

  • Mike told me during track walk that he wasn't going to pull any shananigans to help Reed. Just that he was going to try his hardest and see what happens. What actually did happen was a holeshot, getting passed by 18 guys in the whoops and knocking Andrew Short down. But besides that, not too much.
Mike Alessi was comically bad in those whoops and this has always been a problem for Mikey for some reason. Reedy was telling me that at the Suzuki track he’s in the wrong gear and just won’t trust the bike to stay on top of them for some reason. They trade start secrets for whoop secrets. One of them is getting the better deal, if you ask me.

The best 450 guys I saw through them were Reedy, RV and Stewie, I know that’s an obvious trio but that’s what my notes that I wrote after the heat said. In the 250 class the whoops were owned by the Pro Circuit boys and Pourcel was flying through them. He was actually accelerating through the first set which is hard to do on a 250. PC suspension guru (and Saddleback specialist) Bones Bacon reached deep into his bag of tricks for this race.

Scary moment in practice when Davi Millsaps, who no doubt was trying very hard, either got whiskey throttle or his throttle stuck on the landing to the Coca-Cola Catapult and flew off into another rider. If I made you guess what rider would just be innocently cruising around the turn not worrying about anything, only to get cleaned out by an out of control CRF450 and a 200-pound man, who would come to mind? Dan Reardon? No, but good guess. How about Broc Hepler? Yup, bingo on that. The man that crashes seemingly at will was completely innocent here but this stuff happens when you’re Broc Hepler. B-Hep took the night off but according to Tim Olson at Yamaha, he is okay.

Kawasaki test rider Billy Laninovich broke his collarbone in practice and will be out for a while. That sucks for him since this was his last race replacing Ferry and he probably wanted to go out with a bang. Just not this type of bang.

Another rider who may or may not have raced his last supercross ever was JGR’s Nathan Ramsey. Nate Dog has struggled a bit in his return to supercross and is proof of how hard it is to just jump in midway through the series. As many of you know, I do some work for X-Brand which happens to be the goggle of choice for Nathan and I gave him a pep talk before the night show. I just reminded him that it could be the last one and to make it count. He was moved to tears and we had a Hoosiers moment and hugged it out…. I completely made up the last sentence but the old man went out and finished ninth for his best season finish! I’m a regular Anthony Robbins, I tell ya.

  • I really wanted to run a photo of Keith Johnson here but instead all we got was Kevin. So folks, this guys brother retired this weekend. Kevin got the gas card and is racing a Kawi this summer in Canada.
The sport of supercross has lost one of its good guys and one of those guys who doesn’t get a lot (or any) press, but who we need to fill the gate each and every weekend. Bobby J Yamaha’s Keith Johnson told me Saturday morning that he was done racing professionally. He did Arenacross this year and wanted to ride a few supercrosses to end it all.

I actually was supposed to wrench for Keith in the 2000 season but when I took him to Staben Ranch for some pre-season testing in 2000, he forgot the track layout and cased a step-off, breaking both of his wrists. Sorry about that, Keith! Later on that season I worked for him at Dallas at the infamous 125 West race where Ping lost by two points. KJ got a twelfth the main. Just thought you would care.

Anyways, Keith is a cool guy. He had many low national numbers and was a consistent privateer week in and week out for many years. He even captured the top privateer award one year and won a truck and some other stuff. He was a good solid rider that will be missed. Geez, I’m writing like he’s dead instead of just opening up a new Bobby J’s shop.

I dunno what happened between the two, but I happened to look up and see Mike Alessi just clean out Andrew Short in the corner after the whoops late in the main event. It was a pretty dirty move and uncharacteristic of Mike to do that. I asked Shorty afterwards about it and he said that he had no idea why Mike would do that. He said he passed Mike in the off-camber aggressively, but that there was no contact made. Short was not happy about it, riding over to FIM referee John Gallagher after the race to complain, but I have to think Mike was frustrated at something to do what he did.

Michael Byrne is back riding as of last week and is getting ready for the outdoors. Hopefully he can duplicate last year when he started with an injury and then once he got better, rode stronger than ever in the outdoors.

  • This is a cool thing that Cannondale/Kawasaki/RV is doing. On July 1st, there will be an Ebay auction for this bike and all the proceeds will go to help out Team USA at the MXDN. Whew, just justified Monster Tom giving me passes to the Monster Party at Hard Rock.
Every time I talk to Bruce Stjernstrom from Kawasaki, I think about how funny he must’ve been as a team manager back in the old days. He was regaling me with some stories and telling me who he really, really wants to sign next year. Bruce is good people.

I wrote about this in Racerhead but thought it deserved another mention, Cliff White of American Honda is retiring shortly and he was a legend in the mechanic world. Cliff and Mike Gosselaar are apparently tied in titles for all-time. There is no official record kept but in asking around, everybody seemed to think so. Anyways, I just wanted to wish Cliff good luck and also tell him that when I worked for FMF Honda in 1998 he used to just cruise by and look at my bike without saying a word and scare the crap out of me.

Did you know that Cliff worked in Canada once upon a time, following the series when he worked for Kawasaki? Now you do.

Lots of stuff going on at the last supercross. Feld spares no expense as they had giant dice filled with balloons, ramps for the riders to ride down from the scoreboard with, a new video for Reed, fireworks before and after the races, fighter jets flying overhead, balloons, confetti, unicorns, dancing hippos… They go all out! It was cool to see Tedesco and Windham ride down the stairs for the opening ceremonies also. And the champions’ flags out front of the stadium were really cool, listing Names like Jeff Ward and his title years.

Lots of new gear also for Vegas as Fox debuted some flo-yellow neon stuff which was cool because it came with boots also. I liked Stewie’s 2010 reflective blue gear as well as the No Fear of the JGR Toyota Yamaha team.

Jesse Casillas is a KTM privateer that joined the series late and put in some good rides. He made the last two mains and I noticed him the last few weeks because: A.) He was riding good and B.) He was on a KTM.

  • Everywhere you looked, there was special gear and bikes. Fox came out with this cool stuff that looked really good when the rider had the matching boots. The Dunge almost won his third truck but came up short much to the chagrin of EVERYBODY in the pressbox.
By now we all know everything we want to on “Chisholm-gate” but just in case you needed something else to chew on, there was also “Press Conference Gate.” This would be the bru-ha-ha caused when James missed the Friday morning press conference. Larry Brooks told me it was his decision because he wanted to avoid the circus that it could turn into. I told him I thought James should’ve been there because the PC should’ve been re- named the “The 2009 Monster Energy Back-the-Bus-Over-Bubba Press Conference.”

Look, I don’t have a problem with Reedy saying anything, because the brash Aussie doesn’t care whose feelings he hurts, he calls like he sees it. My problem was with members of the media who grew a set because James wasn’t there. Don’t say anything that you wouldn’t say in front of a guy, y’know?

It was a bad move for James to not be there. He could’ve defused any questions about “Chisholm-gate” by just saying that he didn’t know what Kyle was doing, he was up front and looking to win the race and end of story…. James is good with the media and knows the game, but I’m sure the Feld people weren’t happy, and I know the press guys weren’t happy and it, so it was pile-on L&M/Stewart once again. That’s the LAST thing they needed although I’m sure Larry Brooks doesn’t give a flying yahoo what others think. Check that, I KNOW he doesn’t care.

However, seeing that James showed up in the press box doing THQ voice-overs while the other guys who attended the press conference went out and rode, well, that could not have gone over well with the series organizer either. At least he got to see Reedy and Shorty and the Lites champs do some laps in the sun.

One last thing, you know what really bugs me in this industry? It’s when we (fans and media) are just taken for fools with stupid press releases. Like how dumb do these people think we are? Here’s the L&M PR on Saturday after the “The 2009 Monster Energy Back-the-Bus-Over-Bubba Press Conference”

Statement From Team San Manuel Publicist (Cheryl Lynch)

Re: May 1st Press Conference Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas - Supercross Event

LOS ANGELES, CA, (May 1, 2009) - It is imperative that media and others associated with the sport, be apprised that James Stewart's non-participation in today's press conference, in advance of the final race of the 2009 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, an FIM World Championship, was a decision made by L&M Racing's Team Management, not by James Stewart personally.

Additionally, it was communicated to those organizing the press conference, both written and verbally, that any media requests stemming from press day, for James, should be directed to my attention, so that we may respond and/or schedule accordingly.

Media outlets with requests for James, may still contact me directly at XXX@XXXX.com or phone me directly at 555-123-4567 I will be on-site Saturday, starting at noon, at the Team San Manuel semi, for any subsequent race-day media requests.

It goes on to say that we media people can contact her for any James Stewart interview requests that we have on RACE DAY. Um, yeah sure…. I have no doubt that James will be jumping around for that in between practices, sleeping, an autograph session and racing in one of the biggest races of his life. But not to be deterred, I got my reporter for Pulpmx.com to call the PR person and it went straight to voicemail and the call was never returned. So no interview from James and no call back to even shoot me down. Thank goodness I wasn’t Carson Daly… Er, well, scratch that.

I certainly don’t blame Stewie and wouldn’t expect him to do anything on a race day. Oh yeah, did I forget to mention that Brooks wrote in an MXA column that he doesn’t like James doing media things on a race day? I just want people to call a spade a spade and not insult the intelligence of anyone or the jobs people have in this industry, whether it’s organizing the series, shooting photos or television film, asking questions to hype the event and just help in the food chain that is the economy of any sport.

And I’m out! Thanks for reading all season and any emails for interviews or appearances can be sent to matthes@racerxonline.com. Just be warned that I don’t do anything on days ending in a “Y” and I’m really, really busy. Thanks again and see you guys in two weeks at the hills of the Helen!