First off, let’s start with some firsts. Tomorrow’s race at High Point will make its NBC debut at 4:30 p.m. ET with Jason Weigandt, David Bailey, and special guest Ricky Carmichaelin the booth. The first 450 moto will show during the first 30 minutes, followed by the live second moto at 5:00. And whoever wins that class will mark their first win in that class. Please set your DVRs and TiVos and VCRs.
I know it’s still early in the season and anything can happen in motocross, but after Mike Alessi’s dominant 1-1 at Freestone, the 450-class championship really looked like it was his to lose. Unfortunately, a freak practice incident in Pennsylvania on Monday resulted in a broken kneecap and another lost championship for #800, and it blows the series wide open. Aside from himself, his teammate Chad Reedhas been the second most consistent rider in the class and currently sits second, 31 points back. In fact, out of the top 12 in points right now, the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki riders Alessi, Reed and Byrne are the only riders to score points in all six motos so far, so good job to the boys in yellow. With Dungey leading the charge in the 250 class, the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship may be one for the books for Suzuki.
Earlier this week I wrote up some Bench Racing Ammo to post on our site, but we’ve been so busy that we never got around to posting it, so here’s a good place for it:
The Curse of the Red Number Plate
Prior to the gate dropping at Glen Helen, I’m sure everyone could agree that we all anticipated a knock-down, drag-out battle between Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopotoand Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Mike Alessifor the championship, but what we didn’t expect was the strange coincidences that followed this bitter rivalry.
Let’s begin with the good: Villopoto scored his first 450-class AMA national win at Glen Helen, which also happened to be his 450-class debut. A week later, Alessi scored his first 450-class AMA national win at Hangtown.
Now the bad: Villopoto, who was the current points leader, tweaked his left knee while practicing during the week before Hangtown. After a dismal first moto, where he donned the red number plate, Villopoto decided to hang up the boots in 2009 in order to get his knee repaired. Two weeks later, the new points leader, Alessi, broke his left kneecap while practicing the Monday after Freestone, forcing him out of the series.
The benefactor of these unfortunate incidents looks to be Alessi’s Rockstar/Makita Suzuki teammate, Chad Reed. An eleventh-hour entry into the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, Reedy has shown flashes of speed (he’s set the fastest practice lap time in each of the three nationals so far), but has yet to figure out that 30-minutes-plus-two-laps thing. Reed is currently second in points (behind Alessi), and he’s coming to the track where he scored the one and only AMA national win of his career, back in 2002 aboard a Yamaha of Troy YZ250F in the then-125cc class. Can High Point be another high point of his outdoor career?
And don’t forget Josh Grant. The JGRMX/Toyota Yamaha rider has been a very pleasant surprise in 2009 aboard the big bike, and he has already shown that he has the speed to win. Grant’s only previous AMA national win came in the 250 class at Mt. Morris as well, in 2007.
The Women’s Class of the Lucas Oil Motocross Championship on Versus gets rolling next week with coverage from the Glen Helen season opener on June 17, which is Wednesday. The girls get their own hour on Versus every Wednesday for the next four weeks, so keep an eye out for some very fast ladies, featuring Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ashley Fiolek, five-time Women’s champion Jessica Patterson, and very fast up-and-comers like Sherri Cruise, Vicki Golden, Sarah Price and more. And the following week, you will see the girls race at the Hangtown Motocross Classic.
Want to know more about Ricky Dietrich? Check out this video that Frank Hoppen put together from the Freestone National that includes an interview in between motos, just after he finished seventh in the first moto.
The WORCS rider, who’s filling in while Ryan Villopotoand Tim Ferryare out injured, did even better in the second moto, finishing sixth in the 450 class for a stunning fifth overall. Dietrich was supposed to miss the High Point National this weekend to do a WORCS race out west, but since the motocross race is on Saturday afternoon, he and Kawasaki PR man Tom McGovern will head straight to Washington for a Sunday off-road race. How cool is that?
We were surprised to see former supercross pit reporter Jamie Little licking her chops on the most recent episode of the Food Network’s Iron Chef America. Jamie was a guest judge for a battle between Iron Chef Michael Symon and challenger Gavin Kaysen. You can check out the episode tomorrow on the Food Network at 5 and 11 p.m. EST.
Okay, this next note is unfortunate. Bryar Perry had his van broken into and the thieves got away with two bikes, two helmets, a pair of boots and an iPod. “I was set to race the Colorado National in two weeks, but as of now I am bikeless,” he told us. “If anyone is in a position to offer any help at all or come across anything with finding my bikes, please let me know.”
Motorcycle scholar Ed Youngblood has pulled together an exceptional piece on the 50th birthday of Honda’s motorcycle efforts in the U.S.:
On June 11, 1959, the Honda Motor Company established a corporation in the United States, thus officially launching a venture that would change the face of motorcycling in America. In celebration of this occasion, we have asked nine noted historians, journalists, and experts to share their thoughts about Honda in America. To access this special Motohistory 50th Anniversary Tribute to American Honda, click here.
Let’s now turn it over to Steve Cox:
Last weekend’s Freestone National marked the best race I’ve ever seen Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Mike Alessirace, and then two days later came the news that he was injured and out for the series. That’s nuts. From the very top of the world to the bottom with the snap of a finger…. Motocross is a cruel sport sometimes.
His teammate Chad Reedwould be looking pretty for the title if not for his mystery illness. He gets sick just about every time he’s on the track, and plenty of other times when he’s not. But don’t worry, there are plenty of other Aussies to choose from. GEICO Powersports Honda’s Dan Reardonis hitting his stride, and Michael Byrneand Jake Mossare up there mixing it up as well. Honestly, I think Reed will be fine, although it may take until halfway into the championship before he’s feeling better.
And speaking of Reed, I interviewed him this week just after he had gotten out of his rally car. It sounds like there will be another Suzuki motocross/supercross racer competing in Rally X at the X Games this year. And if he’s there driving Rally, my guess is he’ll be racing his dirt bike as well.
Last Friday night prior to Freestone, I went to the NASCAR Truck race at Texas Motor Speedway to check in on the GOAT, Ricky Carmichael. He said he was a bit nervous going into the race because of his recent string of crashes, so at the beginning of the race, he fell back quite a bit because he was driving conservatively. But he ended up finishing 11th in a record-setting event there, so that’s not so bad.
The people at the race were very accommodating, with the exception of one cop who seemed to be on a mission to get as mad as possible by directing traffic. But the NASCAR folks were helpful and easy to work with, which is honestly the opposite of what I thought going in. You figure the bigger the sport, the harder the access, but not really.
A few of us from the mag are going to race amateur day on Sunday at High Point on the GEICO Powersports Hondas. It’s easy to get caught up in deadlines, traveling, and late nights writing and forget about how cool this job can be. Seriously, I’m going to be riding Dan Reardon’s CRF450R at High Point Raceway. How cool is that? I grew up in California, and High Point, Southwick, Steel City, Gatorback, and all of the other national tracks of my youth may as well have been on the other side of the world, because that’s how it seemed to me. I even rode one night this week, at Perris Raceway on Wednesday night, to prepare. I hadn’t ridden since the Dunlop Ride Day, also at Perris, and that was back in mid-February. Wednesday night proved to me (again) that I have yet to forget how to ride a dirt bike, so if only I can somehow magically stop my arms from pumping up in one lap, I should be fine at High Point. But maybe it doesn’t matter, because I gave up crashing a long time ago. I don’t do that anymore. So maybe I can just ride through the arm-pump and I’ll be fine. I guess we’ll find out! What’s the worst that can happen?
Oh, and I almost forgot about Andrew Short. What is it about Shorty that causes this? The guy is up front every week, and he never wears out. He was second overall last week, he scored more AMA points last year than anyone, and he’ll be in the running for that again this year (although Reed is making it tough on him), and no one notices. Hell, I’m not joking, there was an industry type who asked me what was wrong with Honda Red Bull Racing after Anaheim 1 this year, and Short got second there! It’s unbelievable. He’s like a ninja – a ninja who you could recognize in his ninja mask, by virtue of his crazy light-blond eyebrows.
And finally, as I was writing 450 Words this week, I realized that there were absolutely no 450cc winners left in the 450cc class. That wasn’t true at Glen Helen (Timmy Ferry) or at Hangtown (Ryan Villopoto, who won Glen Helen) or at Texas (Mike Alessi, who won Hangtown), but with Alessi, Villopoto, and Ferry all out, along with James Stewartand Kevin Windham, we know for absolute certain that we will have a first-time 450cc winner this weekend at High Point. And you know what? I’m going to go out on a limb and say we’ll have one in the 250 class, too.
The high temps and humidity in Texas marked the beginning of “bat wing” season here on the national motocross circuit, so be sure to pick up some baby powder before the next round. And since the next round is High Point, you might want to bring an umbrella with you and some of those hangover pills too.
The obvious surprise from last weekend’s race was the fifth overall of Ricky Dietrich. He is an off-road guy who clearly has some outdoor motocross skills. If you don’t believe me, just ask him. These excerpts came from an interview he did with Racer X this week:
“It’s been almost a year and a half now, and it seems like he’s( his trainer) taken me from being just a top WORCS guy to, I think, being the best WORCS guy, and possibly America’s best off-road racer that there is right now.”
“It seems like the last couple laps, those guys really drop off and no one’s really making any passes or going anywhere, and I’m still hauling ass.”
“I think that right now I’m establishing myself as probably the most versatile rider that can race and do good at anything you’d really throw at me on two wheels, so that’s kind of cool for myself.”
Wow. Hope his gear sponsor brings a couple XXL helmets with him to Steel City. I haven’t heard that kind of arrogance and bravado since Spencer Pratt talked himself up on last week’s episode of I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! Either way, he took off his bark busters and beat all but four of the world’s best motocross riders last weekend. Consider this a formal invitation for Mr. Dietrich to show up and race at Anaheim next January. If he’s the new “King of the two-wheel deal,” then supercross should be a snap for him. Or it will just snap him.
I got a call from an agent in the industry this week trying to find rides for his clients for next year. Some of them are very high-profile and others are younger up-and-comers, but he had some very interesting news about KTM. According to him, KTM is not going to be racing next year. They will do away with their 450 program and pull their factory support from the 250 class as well. I imagine they would still supply a team with bikes and parts for 2010, but I don’t know who that team will be. MDK has been struggling financially lately, and it seems hard to believe that they would foot the entire bill. Either way, there are going to be a lot of guys without jobs later this summer. It’s going to be like a game of musical chairs, except when the music stops, there are going to be fifty riders and only, like, ten chairs. Hey, Europe, you need some American riders? Because we’ll probably have a dozen guys or so who might want to join Zach Osbourne over there.
Are you a techie who just can’t get enough project bikes and product reviews? If so, be sure to check out www.jayclarkent.com. Jay is a Dunlop employee with a passion for building all kinds of project bikes for different applications. There’s some pretty cool stuff on there.
Racer X reader Mitch Simpson sent us this:
Just recently in Victoria, Australia, we saw the tragic passing of one of our fastest ever racers who never really got the chance to shine. Bronte Holland was born on the 15th of February, 1987, and throughout his young life had become known as one of Australia’s fastest young racers. As he turned pro during late 2005, early 2006, his blistering speed and determination saw him become one of the fastest guys on our national pro lites tour – he was one of the youngest riders in the pack but was looked upon as becoming one of Australia’s future stars to tackle America and the world, yet he suffered a career-ending spinal injury in early 2007 on his satellite team Yamaha whilst practicing, cutting short the dreams he held onto his whole life. Being the fighter that he is, the friendly country kid began a series of coaching days and opened a motocross techniques school that was widely successful in his state of Victoria, and he still attended races and was still widely involved in the industry, and had set his goals on being able to walk again.
Tragically, he passed away unexpectedly and suddenly yesterday, and the entire Australian MX scene is mourning the loss of a true inspiration and dedicated, fast racer who had his career taken away from underneath him. RIP Bronte #711
Our sincerest condolences go out to Bronte’s friends and family.
That’s all for this week – time to get ready for High Point. See you at the races.