Oh I wish I was in dixie, away, away
In dixieland I take my stand to live and die in dixie
Cause dixieland, thats where I was born
Early lord one frosty morning
Look away, look away, look away dixieland
Round four of the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships descends upon historic Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, this weekend. This race, and area of the country, is some of the most historic in the entire union. The first-ever High Point National took place in 1977, but way before that, the nearby area stood witness to some of the most important (and bloody) events in American history. Just a couple hours to the East lies the hollowed ground of the Antietam Battlefield, site of the bloodiest single-day battle in all of American history. President Lincoln was going to issue the Emancipation Proclamation and the Confederates were marching their way North in an effort to thwart his speech. Read up on it. It's heavy.
The Mason-Dixon line also lies mere miles from the starting gate at Mt. Morris. The invisible boundary separated the North from the Dixieland of the South. "An American Trilogy" is a culmination of three Civil War-themed songs that Elvis made famous during his "Aloha" concert in Hawaii. The struggles of war are unique and incomparable, but when I look at the recent events of this year's outdoor series, it seems like we're in the midst of a modern day "American Trilogy." My, my, the red plate has become quite a burden to bare. Attrition has removed the title favorites, but the fight not only lives on, it intensifies.
Time to throw on the big, gold shades, get the collar up, and prepare to spread the giant white cape. Time to get that upper lip in a snarl, and let the golden pipes wail. It's time to get Revved Up about the first East Coast event of the season!
Christophe Pourcel has won every first moto thus far. "The Crafty Frenchman" is simply amazing, but lacks the juice to finish them off in the second moto. This track's technical uphills, downhills, and off-camber sections will play right into C-Pour's wheelhouse. If he can ride strong for both motos, we may see a new rider wearing the red plate into round five.
Not if Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey has anything to do with it. Dungey is riding unbelievably strong, and has coincidentally won every second moto thus far. When you're training down there with Meanie Jeanie, 30+2 on a Saturday is the easy part. He's on a roll right now, but High Point has a penchant for producing big swoops in the title chase. Not to jinx him, because I want to see the first mano-y-mano, knock-down, drag-out battle between the #377 and the red #10. Ah, I do believe the High Point faithful would get a rise out of a new U.S.A. vs France battle royale.
As mentioned, surprises tend to emerge at High Point, and we may see a new rider holding up the first-place trophy. Could it be time for Justin Barcia to pull off a win? He beat himself up pretty good last weekend, but those teenagers bounce back fast. If #151 gets a couple holeshots, well, he might look like a certain #45 did back in 1989. Remember him?
I first watched Mike Alessi race at Ponca City in 1993. He couldn't have been more than 50 pounds and his helmet was half his overall mass. I saw most of his career all the way to his pro debut. He is/was the smartest rider I had ever seen. His small frame made him choose different lines, and he always knew the exact track position he needed to win the overall. Several times I've seen him let a guy go because he knew he had the title in the bag. It was the 2005 Broome-Tioga National where I saw him do something that dropped my jaw: He pulled the holeshot, then ate it in the second turn. It was like Kobe missing a clutch shot – it doesn't happen. The next time he shocked me was when I heard he broke his leg trying some gnarly quad jump at the practice track.
Glen Helen in the first moto with a huge lead. He crashed out of the lead again the following weekend as well. Then, at Freestone, he almost threw it away huge when he clipped that Scott banner. Apparently, it wasn't the banner, because the next lap he landed on the side of the same jump and almost crashed again.
Then came that awful news on Tuesday. Two days after the greatest weekend of his racing career, it's all over for Mike Alessi. He lost control over a seemingly simple timing section and flew off the track, into a gate. It was completely shocking to me. Villopoto in or out, Mike had earned his shot at this year's title.
What does it all mean? Kobe missed a game-deciding free-throw Tuesday night. Victory is never certain, and even the most intelligent and gifted athletes make mistakes. Things have an odd way of working out. Somehow, I don't see #800 or #2 winning the outdoor title without going head to head.
Now, it's all jacked up. "Oh, now Reedy can just cruise." Excuse me? He's going to have to start winning first, and thus far, even if RV and Mikey were out of the picture it would still be a big zero in the win column. The red plate goes to the "two-two" for this weekend, but for how long? Andrew Short has been consistent as usual, but Josh Grant has won motos. Well, not technically. The point is, both of them (and Tedesco) have proven they can beat Reed outdoors.
But maybe it’s time for Reed to step up. Remember the day the earth stood still at High Point in 2006? The day RC and Stewart went full Berzerko Baker? Reed was faster than everyone else but them by a mile. High Point has been pretty good to him. I'd look for him to get his grip around the title starting this Saturday.
High Point fans are special. You'll see guys bending their necks around the fence trying to make sure they see every single second of their favorite rider. You'll see towels and t-shirts, and ball caps hanging over the fences. The early-morning fog that hovers through the rolling, green countryside usually breaks right around showtime, and the weatherman says all should be gorgeous.
High Point is the favorite battle ground for some of the biggest names in motocross: from Hannah, to Johnson, to Emig, to RC. Beyond those four, there is a name that will bring the local fans to a "Donington Park" like frenzy. Think skull and cross bones, stars and bars, and animals from the east. Beasts, actually. Could he be? Naw... No way. But what if he did?
We have live televison to embrace again. We have both championships locked up tighter than General Motor's travel budget. We have U.S.A. vs everyone else. It's an American Motocross Trilogy if there ever was one.
T.C.B., baby. Who is ready to take care of business?
Thanks for reading, see you at the races.