Observations: Hangtown

June 3, 2009 1:29pm

The second round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship visited beautiful Sacramento and the treacherous Hangtown track. Hangtown has come a long way even since I’ve been on the scene; I actually think it could win an imaginary “Most Improved Track” award. When I first went there (and in the old races I’ve seen on tape) it was hard, slick, dusty, and not much fun. It’s now loamy and spectator - friendly. The Dirt Diggers were calm and in control this year. It was a great event.

  • The track was sweet and I really think it was the best Hangtown I've ever seen. Serious. A few complaints of one-lined here and there but the soil and direction and other stuff was great.
The track was run the opposite direction from last year and that’s a good thing—2008 didn’t impress anyone, really. They were back to the traditional direction and the guys brought in some sort of sawdust/dirt - chip substance (rice husks) that really held water well and didn’t rut up too bad. There were complaints about being one - lined in places but no complaints about the direction, the jumps, the soil or really anything that we saw at Glen Helen last week.

The Northern California track seems to always draw a good crowd and this year was no exception. The laid - back attitudes of the people made this national seem about 180 degrees different from Glen Helen. Not to bag on The Helen, but things are run a little different there in regards to the track security, stands and things like that.

I’ve been going around and quizzing some people on the Saturday format and I think it’s a positive change. The fear was that you were missing out on some practice but it really wasn’t that big of a deal to ride those 30 minutes on Saturdays. The buzz is still around and the guys get on the track plenty. The teams and riders I have spoken to love being at home on Sunday to spend a bit of time with their families. Just like Friday SX practice that went away and no one cares now, that’s what I’m predicting the old Saturday practices will be like. The Cinderella song “Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone” does not apply here.

Congrats to Mike “8%” Alessi on his 1 - 2 (actually 1 - 1, but we’ll cover that in a bit) performance at Hangtown. It allowed him to get his first overall victory in the 450 class and vaulted him into the points lead. Mike went down first lap in the first moto but quickly recovered to hunt down everyone that had passed him to take the win. He had to come from a little ways back to get Ivan Tedesco and deserves full props for the win.

The second moto, Mikey followed Josh Grant around and although he didn’t make the pass he put pressure on Josh to see if he would make a mistake. Smart moto by the 800. He’s in the points lead, and based on last year’s results, it’s his to lose right now.

  • Here he is, your series points leader! I wonder if Mikey used the Camelback? I don't think so. I think Mike needs to lighten up a bit in the press conference, he's so serious.
Cool moment: I was waiting by my plane gate on Sunday morning by what looked like a father and daughter (or old dude with a hot young girlfriend that ventured into creepy territory) when the girl walked away and then came running back very excited. She had seen Mike and gotten his autograph and sounded like he even talked to her for a bit. He also gave her an “Alessi 800” shirt. That’s a nice thing for Mikey to do and the girl was really, really excited.

One of the reasons Mike grabbed the points lead is because Ryan Villopoto, who went 1 - 1 last week, fell in the second turn and could only manage a sixteenth. Something just wasn’t right with RV when I went by the Kawasaki truck, and he was limping noticeably. Turns out that Ryan had an old injury and when riding this week, he G’d out in between two jumps and finished off his ACL. He’s going under the knife and it’s a real shame to lose the kid but he’ll be back in 2010 for another crack at it. Heal up, RV!

The big winner in the 250 class was Christophe “Columbus” Pourcel who once again rode a great and sneaky race. There isn’t another guy on the track who rides as in control and as fast as Pourcel. He simply doesn’t look like he’s pushing it out there. In the first moto, GEICO Honda’s teen hero, Justin Barcia, was quicker than the Frenchman and sprinted out to the lead. There was no panic in the 377’s riding, just a careful measured attacking of the track that eventually, just like he planned, led him to catch a tiring Barcia and grab the moto win.

Pourcel had nothing for Ryan Dungey in the second moto but he still finished second for the overall. Did I say second? I meant third because Pourcel got docked just like Grant did.

Why did these two and a few other 250 riders (Searle and Rattray to name a couple) lose one spot in the final results? Because there is a new flag out there that is a traditional yellow with red boxes across it and it means there’s a rider down and your wheels do not leave the ground. This is meant to avoid any nasty Alessi - type crashes again (this new flag would’ve helped Ricky Renner from delivering the coup de grace on Mike, as well as the entire pack from using Austin Stroupe’s bike as carpet at Thunder Valley). Some riders seem to be having trouble registering which flag it is, because they are still jumping when they see it. It’s going to take a bit of time before they adapt. It cost Josh Grant a podium spot this weekend and it might have a bigger cost down the line for someone else.

  • Here it is, the dreaded flag that upset alot of teams and riders. At the end of the day, they'll get it because it's a good idea. Maybe change the color to solid or maybe a cattle prod on the end. The riders can get poked with it and then they'll slow down.
At first many online complained about Grant being docked one spot based on what they saw on the live SPEED broadcast, where it appeared that the course marshal with the no - jumping flag was on the takeoff of a drop-away double, right across from another guy with a regular yellow flag, who was trying to point the riders away from the downed rider and paramedics. But then yesterday MX Sports released three different angles of what went down. Check it here (Windows Media file).

It could possibly be another solid color to signify it better, and I hear red and white will likely be used from now on, based on what the riders and teams have told race officials.

This thing called the outdoors is not coming easy for Chad Reed. In two out of the four motos this year he has been buried and eating dirt and rocks for half the race. His first - moto start was something out of the “C” class as Reedy missed a shift and gave everyone five bike - lengths, just five feet out of the gate. He soldiered on and got up to sixth. Second moto he again didn’t get the start he needs and rode great to catch up to Grant and Alessi but he couldn’t make the pass. He’s due for a win, but he’s already 19 points behind Alessi.

Imagine one of those T-shirt cannons filled with rocks and dirt. Now picture some dude just firing this thing at you for twenty minutes straight. That’s about what it’s been like for the Aussie. Chad Reed “’Em and Weep” deserves some credit — trust me, he’s not making much money — because he’s digging deep and looks to be trying his hardest to me. He’s also not winning but I would look for that to change soon.

  • Here's Reedy, good for him to come out and just get face-fulls of dirt. He's going to win soon, that's my prediction. I know, really going out on a limb here.
My buddy Tim Ferry is not having a good 2009 season and the old saying “When it rains, it pours” applies to Red Dog here. The guy can’t catch a break (or maybe he is and that’s the problem) because in practice he highsided and went down right on his melon. He was seeing Tweety birds for a while and the decision was made to hold him out for the day. If I had to guess the combo of his head injury, his heel not being 100%, his lack of seat time and everything else - I bet you don’t see him for a few weeks while just gets better and pushes “reset” on his year.

What was really jacked up of the Kawasaki guys was them telling me that he hit his head so hard he completely forgot the years 1999 - 2005, which just happens to cover the four years I wrenched for him. That’s not funny at all if you ask me.

News flash: Kawasaki is bringing in Branden Jesseman and off - roader Ricky “Martin” Dietrich for at least the next round or two to fill in for RV and Ferry.

I’m going to start calling Justin Barcia “Sugarbear” because the kid rides like he’s taken a Freezee out of the freezer, let it thaw, and drank 629 of them before the motos. He just rides like a spaz, throwing the bike around, revving it out, and using what looks like a ton of energy. The #151 was really fast again before hitting the wall (although a little later than last week) and getting passed by Pourcel. The second moto he was blazing fast coming from about fifteenth to fifth before getting tired and crashing with Austin Stroupe. It took him forever to start his bike and a twenty - ninth was his best that moto. He’s going to figure this stuff out…soon.

I remember at some supercross this year when Wes “Sherwin” Williams, the amateur motocross guru and director of the Racer X Motocross Shows, was telling me that this kid was going to run top - five. I wanted to drug test him right then and there. Partly because Barcia is so young, partly because the nationals were going to be his first exposure to pro racing, and partly because Wes loves the amateurs he covers on www.vurbmoto.com. Well, Wes might have been onto something with this kid.

  • The new Sugarbear! This kid is figuring it out. I saw him in the pits for the first time and thought he belonged in the mall hanging out at Orange Julius, not leading the moto. Nice find GEICO Honda!
I’m hesitant to devote that many words of my column to a guy who hasn’t completed two laps out of four motos this year, but Jason “I Fought The” Lawrence’s Hangtown was incredible—and it has nothing to do with his moto scores. He crashed in the second turn with RV and broke his brake pedal, so that was it for moto one. While in staging for moto two, he decided to take a little test run to see if his brake was working okay. That’s always a good thing to do - but not when you’re already in the staging corral. For leaving the area, the AMA took away his gate spot and gave him the last pick, which coincidently was also the same pick he had two years ago after getting into a fight in practice here with RV. Jason wasn’t happy with this, so he squirted an official with water and went to the far outside.

But then he jumped the gate like, really, really bad, and what I can’t figure out is if he was really trying to get a great jump or was basically saying “F You” to everyone. A black flag soon followed—wouldn’t want to risk another Mini Moto SX ramfest - for - fun—and all this already makes for an exciting race right?

But wait, it gets even better. Earlier in the day, a friend of a friend needed a radiator for his Honda. Jason went over the Moto Concepts team to borrow one and was told no. The radiator was a special one and the MC team only had one spare set. No matter, Jason walked in and grabbed the radiator and walked away. Then he got into a shouting match on the starting line with the team owner, who wanted it back. Yes, I’m serious. I can’t make this crap up, I promise you. I’m not talented enough.

So as you can imagine, the team was not happy when they discovered this and soon after that there were some meetings with Jason, the owner (Mike Genova) and manager (Steve Lamson) of Moto Concepts, and race officials. Jason said a mechanic gave it to him, the team said otherwise, and Jason’s probation was extended until 2023 (or somewhere around there).

I know he won’t do a podcast with me right now but I have a feeling that ten years from now he will and we’ll be talking about how he pissed everything away with his bad choices. When does this stuff just stop and the actual racing begins? We’re all waiting.

  • Cody
In 1994 the band Counting Crows released a debut album August and Everything After and it was a smash success. With songs like “Round Here,”“Mr. Jones,” and A Murder of One it went on to sell seven million records and to this day, remains in my iPod and one of the very best driving - across - the - country CDs I’ve ever listened to. Anyways, where I’m going with this is that they have never had another success like that and probably won’t ever reach those heights and become the supergroup people were pegging them to be. Well, Gavin Gracyk hasn’t qualified for either of the first two nationals and I really hope 2007 wasn’t his August and Everything After. So far, his 2009 has been Hard Candy.

The forgotten man, Cody Cooper, is not going to be forgotten much longer. Coopster rode great in the first moto, he had a podium spot until two laps to go when Andrew Short got by him and second moto not sure what happened but was wayyyy back. Anyways, Hangtown was where he really opened some eyes last year and he did it again. He’s going to just get better also. Good for JGR MX/Toyota Yamaha to finally have things going their way with both guys on it.

I don’t even want to write this but I have to and have the blessings of the JGR guys. It seems that earlier this year Coops, who is from New Zealand, was in his hotel room and pushing the “message” button on his phone and asking the front - desk girl for a “massage.” I’m not sure if there were any cops called when he was asking that but just goes to show you, even English - speaking nations face a long and difficult adaption to this country.

YES!!! Finally, “Dandy” Dan Reardon has some luck and things go his way. He’s jumped up to the 450s and, judging by Hangtown, that was a smart move for him. Dan went 7 - 5 on the day and good for him. It’s been well documented in this space all his troubles and it’s only fair to bring him up when he does well. Remember, he made his name over here by battling Reedy in Australia—on a 450.

  • Dandy Dan was good last weekend and better this weekend. He also needs a strong season because it's contract year for him. I bet he wants to stay over here and not have to go back to Hungry Jacks.
Speaking of GEICO Honda, they’re on fire right now. Reardon is doing well, we’ve covered Barcia and let’s not forget Trey Canard’s solid 3 - 2 day and Brett Metcalfe’s 5 - 4. Blake Wharton put in a good moto as well with a fifth the second time out. Every start has seen the GEICO 250s up front and charging hard. It’s a complete change from their supercross season and couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guys. Third, fifth, sixth and eighth in the points (with Reardon seventh in 450s) is a nice start.

Tommy Searle “Life” and Tyla “Go The” Rattray were really close in speed last year in the GPs and they are still real close over here in the USA. Both motos they were riding by each other at Glen Helen and also at Hangtown. The KTM of Searle blew up in the first moto but they were right by each other and second moto, Rattray got Searle on the last lap for seventh. These guys are going to be sick of each other real soon.

Ivan “Ho” Tedesco podiumed Hangtown last year and then got hurt. Something about the place just suits “IT9” because he made the box again and hopefully the getting hurt part won’t happen. I think the nine laps Ivan led in the first moto were the first 450 national laps he’s ever led. Good day for him and his ace tuner, Frankie “Pot Stirrer” Latham.

I thought Andrew Short rode great in the first moto as he passed Cooper late to get the third spot on the podium. Second moto was a sixth - place, which is a pretty good day, but Shorty wasn’t very happy with it for some reason. He’s going to be there all season long and going to Texas, his new home state track, he should start getting on track and run at the very front.

I've been around quite a few riders in my time and getting them to box something up, make out a label and go to the UPS store is pretty much like asking them to split an atom. It just isn't going to happen and I suppose after a life led where magical brown boxes show up at your door everday with cool, new shiny things, the little things like wondering how the boxes got there is too much. Well, I do some work for X-Brand goggles and was supposed to get some of our Nathan Ramsey's back after Vegas but I forgot. Then I was supposed to ship him a pre-paid box where he could put the goggles in and ship it to me. But I forgot also (too busy Twittering I guess). I texted Nate and asked him to ship me some asap for me and I pretty much wrote it off. I would never get the goggles and Rich Taylor (owner of X-Brand) would fire me. Except Nate text me back this morning with one word that restored my faith in humanity and riders- "Shipped". Wow, I now love Nathan Ramsey more than life itself. Thanks Nate!

I stopped by Troy Adams’ setup and talked to him for a bit. I’m hoping the deal I set up for him to go to Canada for a race happens, and we spoke about that and his outdoors tour. Troy’s mechanic has a buddy with a box van and Troy and his mechanic are driving the whole series in it. I knew he was planning on doing them all but I figured he’d fly in and out like most riders. Nope, he’s staying on the road and that makes an old box - van warrior like myself appreciate Adams even little more. He told me that he wants to do nationals because he actually missed them. He must be really missing them to live in a box van all summer, that’s for sure. Troy didn’t qualify at GH because of being sick but went 20 - 12 this week. He was the first true privateer this weekend.

  • This is a guy that people should cheer for. He's really doing it on his own with limited help. Troy Adams had a great second moto and don't forget, he's in a box van!
  • Another top privateer, Ben Evans. Ben turned down a decent ride in Canada to keep paying to race down here. That's dedication and the Idaho native is doing well for being a bigger kid in the 250 class.
And the first true privateer in the 250 class was Ben Evans. Ben is doing all the nationals on his own dime and trying to make a go of it. He had a supercross - only ride and for guys like him and his SX teammate Alex Martin, it’s a tough deal but you HAVE to ride nationals. Riding seven or eight races in supercross and no nats will get you forgotten quickly — like Josh Hansen quickly. It’s a catch - 22: Ride the nationals to get a good ride or not afford to ride the nationals because you don’t have a good ride. Anyways, good for Ben and he went 13-14 and is thirteenth in the points after two weeks.

Matt Goerke was fast this weekend and so was Tommy Hahn. Again. Tommy is the top - placing Kawasaki rider right now and is an early-season surprise. And Tickle Me Broc would be the surprise in the 250s on his Division 7/Star Racing Yamaha.

In the Women's MX class, we are seeing two things: a growing rivalry between the Have's (Ashley Fiolek) and the Have-Nots (Jessica Patterson), as well as the rise of some very fast younger girls. Fiolek, who is a full-blown Honda Red Bull Racing factory rider, has the best bike and the best support; Patterson is basically a privateer, doing what she can to keep up with the light-as-air Ashley. At Hangtown she pulled it off in the second, ending Fiolek's '09 Lucas Oil AMA Motocross winning streak at three motos in a row.

But the first moto cost JP$ the overall when she simply could not get around the pro rookie Vicki Golden "State", who hails from California. Golden, last year's Loretta Lynn's champ, was solid on her own Honda. She's one of a very fast young crop of girls that are trying to stay with the Patterson/Fiolek freight train out front. There's also Sherri "Tom" Cruse, Sarah Price "Is Right," Jacqueline Strong, Elizabeth Bash, Penni "Lane" Cyrus (thought I was going to say "Myley" didn't you?) and many more.

That trend is going to continue as WMX has its own TV coverage on Versus, courtesy of the all-in Lucas Oil folks, as well as an eight-race schedule this season that is fully integrated into the men's championship. After all of the bitchin' and moanin' about the girls taking too much time and room at Glen Helen, Hangtown went off like clockwork.

  • The WMA shoots off the line. Fiolek looks like she has just a teeny-weeny better jump than #33, wouldn't you say.
  • Jessica rode great to the second moto win.
Now it's on to Texas, where Ashley battled to beat Jessica so hard that she vomitted on the race track afterwards (I know, not a polite thing for a girl to do in public, but she's motocross racer, and a damned good one). With Ryno training Patterson now, I'm going to have to say this one is a toss-up! 

A couple of KTM hometown boys (and bound for Canada next weekend as well), Jeff Northrop and Eric Nye, both rode great and scored points. NorCal was up front in the first moto for a long time. Both of these guys are on the KTM team up north and will both be factors in their classes.

Check out pulpmx.com but only if you have read everything on RXI and remember I’m on Twitter now for some reason — me and Stewie and Terrell Owens. I’ve got 60 guys that are cool (read: have no life) signed up for updates. Go to pulpmx (lower case) on Twitter.com. The HT updates were handy, right guys? I think I broke the news on J-Law’s gate jump after I picked my jaw off the ground…. Er, wait, it was on live TV.

I went to the Las Vegas Supermoto race with to see Jeff Ward and heard some stories about when he had to take cover from the dinosaurs. It was a sparsely attended but very exciting Supermoto final race. Wardy got third but claimed the points lead with two rounds left. I wish I was half the man that Wardy is (on the scale, he’s half the man I am, maybe even a third). There’s a photo report on Pulp from the race, check it out.

That’s all I’ve got from Hangtown. Next week you readers are in for a real treat, as I’m missing Texas and going to Kamloops, British Columbia, for the first round of the CMRC Canadian nationals. I’ll be observing up there and bring you a full report. Email me your ponderings at matthes@racerxonline.com and we can chat back and forth.