Observations: High Point

June 17, 2009 1:54pm | by:

Alright, I missed round three but I picked up round four of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at the beautiful, historic and sometimes scary (I spent a night in a box van there in ’97 and consider myself lucky I lived—but those were the olden days) High Point Raceway. I’ve written this before but I always called it “Mt. Morris” because MXA did growing up, when I started working in the industry, everyone called it “High Point.” I kind of like Mt. Morris because cover blurbs like “The Mauling at Mt. Morris” always seemed pretty cool.

  • Sometimes no caption is better than a great caption. This photo speaks for itself and I ruined it.
The track was pretty sweet as was the weather. Beautiful skies and not too hot with no rain was the order of the day. The track got another reworking by Marc Peters and the jumps were big, fan-friendly and pretty safe. Chad Reed told me in the press conference that the lips were kinda jacked at times and caused you to nosedive, which is what he did on the first lap of the first moto. Trey Canard was a victim of the transitions while under heavy pressure, and he crashed out in an ugly get-off. The soil was great and I have to say that it was one of the better days I’ve ever spent at High Point. I know I said that for Hangtown also, but it’s true. (And no, DC didn’t tell me to write that.)

I do have a confession to make though: I only arrived at the track right before the first motos as my bag was lost the previous night in Pittsburgh. They said it would probably be there at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday so I raced there to pick it up and then get to the track but, of course, it wasn’t there when I arrived and I had to wait until the 10:30 a.m. flight to get a change of clothes and some shoes. So I missed practice but was pumped to get there to see the Legends Lap, but that didn’t happen because they were up against it with the live NBC coverage—something that’s never happened in American motocross. And I needed my bag because right after the race, I was flying to Eastern Europe, where I am right now.

The Saturday-only format cuts heavily into the hanging out time and this weekend missing practice severely cut into the socializing time... I know, it’s a rough world I live in. Guess I can always go to Allisports.com and just watch Wes “Sherwin” Williams’ Racer X Motocross Show masterpieces.

The battle for the 450 championship is turning out to be a battle of attrition and right now, Chad Reed is in the driver’s seat. First we lost the defending champion “Disco” James Stewart when he signed with L&M, then the round one winner Ryan “Ad” Villopoto went out with a knee and now we have the round two and three winner, Mike “Early Arrival” Alessi, out when he broke his kneecap practicing during the week.

Rumor in the pits was that Camp Alessi said to have a bike ready for Colorado because Mike’s coming back. I don’t believe it but with them, you never know. Tony Alessi will fly in the best knee cap expert in the world and in the words of the Six-Million Dollar Man, “We can rebuild.”  The latest Alessi Weekly shows the #800 already on an exercise bike!

  • Reedy laughed at this tricky double and turned it into a ridiculous triple
As far as Reedy being in the driver’s seat, well that would be because he swept Mt. Morris with 1-1 moto scores. I wouldn’t be crossing any black cats or helping any buddies move a piano in the next little while because going off what we saw happen, the 450 points lead is a very precarious position to hold. Chad was on it this weekend and rode a steady and smart race to get his first-ever 450 national win and the points lead. How is that Reed never won a race before, I can remember many, many races when he led or was up front. It’s simple really (and one word): Carmichael.

Reed was really making up time by airing out the step-up onto Bradshaw Boulevard and landing past the hole that had developed from the other riders. He would swing wide at the bottom, manual the last few stair steps to gain speed, then nail the double perfectly and sail high and far. I knew it was a hairy jump when he did right in front of Andrew Short  and Shorty, one of the top seven riders in the world, chose to not jump it. That’s pretty ballsy but would you expect anything else of a two-time AMA Supercross champion?

Also in the second moto in the downhill double section, Reedy was killing Short and Ivan Tedesco by being able to double all the way down, the two Red Riders were not able to carry speed and get cleanly over it like Reed. Hmmmm, Chad Reed good at jumps? Shocking!

It wasn’t a surprise to see Christophe Pour “some sugar on me” cel win at Mt Morris. I think the track really suits a rider that is technical, has good throttle control and can jump – which are things that the Frenchman is very good at. JMB was pretty good too, and he won here on a CR125 back in 1990. The Mt. Morris track never really lets you just go straight and hold it on for very long; it’s a series of off-cambers and ruts and things that make you think. Anyway, Pourcel was just a vapor trail to the rest of the competition in moto one as he checked out for the moto win.

Second time out he hunted “Serving” Trey Canard for thirteen laps, just rode behind him and in his sneaky way, watched and learned Canard’s lines. He needed to get Trey for the overall so you know he would’ve tried to force something, but he didn’t need to after Canard endoed off the triple/tabletop thing and broke his wrist. Pourcel rode another 2 and a half laps and took the win. Great ride for the Frenchman, who also grabbed the points lead away from Ryan “Over” Dungey.

  • This is not good. Trey got to his feet quickly after this crash, which makes sense since his wrist was the problem.
One thing that played into Christophe’s favor was the smoother track and cooler weather. He’s still affected by his crash two years ago and had seemed to struggle a bit in the second motos. Not this week however.

Poor Canard. He has been just off the top two guys’ speed but this weekend was proving that he was ready to be a playa in the 250 class. Just two and a half laps separated him from his first-ever overall before the broken wrist. That’s the way this cruel sport plays out: Sometimes you are the man and other times, you just break your wrist. Heal up and get back, Trey! Wow, that sounded eerily similar to what I wrote after Washougal last summer.

What happened to The Dunge? Well, I was talking to Mike Fisher at Kawi about the taco dip they had and I missed the start of the first 250 moto, but I heard Ryan crashed pretty heavily off the big double. This put him around tenth in the first lap and he had his work cut out for him, the Suzuki star worked his way into second very briefly before he tipped over and gave it back to Canard. Thus the working-his-ass-off thing earned him a third.

Second time out he was right there in third the whole moto but couldn’t get any closer than a couple seconds. He got second when Trey ate poop and is now two points back of Pourcel.

It could be a Dungey vs. Pourcel battle the rest of the way. Those two are separating themselves from the field right now. Two guys that I feel could match them, Canard and Austin Stroupe, are both out right now. Stroupe has a chipped bone in his hip and unlike last summer when you put quotations around his “mononucleosis,” he really does have a chipped hip.

I told Michael “Burn, Baby” Byrner that he was going to have a repeat of his 2008 season. You know, when he was hurt all supercross and then started recovering in the motocross season? By the end of last season he was a podium contender and riding very well. This year he started off slow from his shoulder injury sustained in the infamous “Evening Dew” Daytona crash and would be riding himself into shape. His Glen Helen scores of 15-14 were not indicative of his skill and here we are, round four, and although he’s been helped but RV, Alessi and Tim Ferry (remember him? I do…sigh) being out, his Mt Morris 4-5 day was awesome and is going to help the confidence. So is the fact that his mechanic, Tony Berlutti, has been working on the circuit since JMB was SX champ.

  • Josh Grant showed a lot of heart on Saturday, but he hit the ground and a pick-up truck a few too many times.
I was a little bit bummed in the first 450 moto when JGR’s Josh Grant came from fourth to second by reeling in and catching Andrew “Too” Short and Ivan “5 o’clock shadow” Tedesco. He moved into second and was motoring up to Reed when he cased a small triple and crashed violently and his YZ450 slowly rolled across the field and into a truck sitting on the other side of the fence. Too bad it wasn’t a Toyota, because that would have been a great sponsor plug!  

Now, although Grant rode awesome to move up into the spots, both of the Honda boy’s times dropped by two to three seconds after lap nine. It’s uncanny actually how the 29 and the 9 both settled into their spots so easily and when a faster rider caught them, they had no answer. Here’s the thing: I consider Short and Tedesco as legitimate championships contenders. Like seriously—one of them could win this title. And if you’re going to be the bad ass that wins an outdoor motocross title, you cannot be getting caught late in the race.

Having said that, kudos to Grant for being the man on the move and making a VERY impressive charge. Crashing spectacularly? Not so much. Second moto out, he fell in the first turn with Antonio Balbi and was wayyyyyyy back. He was on it as he caught up to eleventh and might have even won himself a RC Hard Charger Award. Man, this guy has hit the ground hard this year but he keeps on getting up and giving it his all. I wonder if the JGR guys will start charging him for all the bars, sub-frames and plastic he wrecks.

But just because I still want to suck up to the Honda guys, it was cool seeing Short go right back at Reed in the first moto and make the pass and Tedesco led the live-on-NBC second moto which had to make the Red Bull and Honda folks happy. Then he stalled it right after The Chad made the pass and then again a lap or two later which let Short by.

  • This innocent looking corner took down almost the entire top 10 in the 450 class. Steve Cox rounds it here without a problem. Wait, what?
We have to talk about the tree-rut turn. Just after the uphill step-up in the middle of the track, there was a deep rut that developed on the inside that had a tree stump-thing in it. No joke, like eight or nine top guys (Dietrich stayed up!) crashed there in two laps. It was hilarious and puzzling at the same time. Standing there I wasn’t sure if there was a magnet in the ground or a like a mysterious little miner dude from “Fraggle Rock.”

Josh Grant, Tedesco, Josh Hill, Reed among others all went down when their front wheels made contact and then tipped over. It was like a laugh-in or something like that. The crowd was going nuts and afterwards Doug from Bridgestone went to retrieve it but the stick was gone. No doubt it’s now going to end up on eBay.

Reed told me that he was sketched out in the early laps of both motos because of the water put down. He says that one of the skills he lost when he was away from the motocross for so long was the ability to trust your bike and tires to hook up. Once the water was pushed away, his lap times went from:

Lap 1:  2:25
Lap 2:  2:23
Lap 3:  2:24
Lap 4:  2:21

He also mentioned that I better write something good about him but that’s not going to be a problem I think. In the press conference he made everyone laugh when asked about his starts, he replied “Now that Mike is out, they’re giving me the good stuff.” And he also volunteered that he worked with Gary Bailey a bit on his starts.

  • Jake Weimer started his day with a holeshot. Steven Clarke didn't.
Jake Weimer did well at Mt. Morris last year and the same was expected of him this time around but it didn’t happen. The Snake was in second in the first moto before crashing back and second moto he worked his way to fourth before crashing out. Ol’Jake has been a bit of a disappointment this motocross season after a good showing at The Helen. The first round has been his best and I really thought he was going to take that next step up to that 3rd to 5th position but it’s not happening right now for the funny, nice Jake.

Tommy “Give him a” Hahn was puzzling in the first moto as he was really far back in the beginning and was making a charge before settling (?!?) for an eighteenth. Second moto he blasted his way around the track and finished a very cool fourth place—good enough for the Muscle Milk Recovery Award. The reason for his eighteenth? A bad start and he lost his rear brakes about halfway through. Great ride in the second moto to get fourth.

Billy Ursic told me “Broc Hepler WILL win Steel City this year.” No further message needed really.

Thanks to Kawasaki for letting me have some water, taco dip, a banana, Gatorade, a Pepsi and a turkey sandwich this weekend. Also, I watched the races from the lift-gate this weekend, helped out with the view. It’s funny but you would think with Ferry out, they would ban me but I still have an inside connection to the team…

And that would be fellow Moose athlete, Ricky “Carmichael” Dietrich! Ricky is now in the factory truck and might be the first ever factory rider to wear the antlers. And he’s doing us proud by scoring a fifth overall last weekend and this time around, a sixth.  It had to have been the quietest sixth ever recorded in the books because the guy was tenth or worse in twenty-two of thirty laps!  Like I said, if you weren’t watching, you would just think the WORCS Warrior was off his game and out of it but he just kept motoring and picking off riders slowly but surely, yes he got a bit lucky with a 8-9 adding up to sixth OA, but still.

“Dandy” Dan Reardon was up front in the first moto before going down and hurting his shoulder. I heard he’ll be out for a while. Add that to Canard’s injury and GEICO Honda went from being the chick that scored with Bret Michaels the first three weeks to getting booted off the bus in one day. Racing is cruel sometimes... Wonder what the area code for Mississippi is?

  • Ivan Tedesco seems to be getting his groove back.
My buddy Jason Thomas was just about as dead last as you can possibly be in moto one. I’m not sure what he was doing but clearly his reaction time is like mine after I eat some nachos and my blood turns to cheese. Anyways, he did what JT does. And that’s ride one pace the whole moto and end up in the points. Sure, some faster guys may pass him early on but you know what? He’ll see them at the end. In staging for the second moto, he told me he was going to holeshot and I immediately called the AMA over to administer a drug test.

Wouldn’t you know it? The pint-sized warrior almost, and I mean almost, pulled it from the outside and eventually rounded the first turn in fourth. It was like Babe Ruth calling his shot. Sort of. Maybe a little bit. Except for the fact he didn’t do exactly what he said he was going to do and there was no sick kid involved that I know of. Anyway, another seventeenth for Thomas in the second moto and he is twenty-ninth in points.

There was a kid who tried to race a Husqvarna but when he went through tech inspection he was not allowed to race. Seems that Husky didn’t homologate their models and that’s too bad as this year marked the ninth anniversary of Robbie Skaggs holeshotting Mt. Morris on a Husky.

After not scoring any points in the last three motos, rookie sensation Justin Barcia just seemed to want to play it safe at Mt. Morris. He was very fast as his 8-5 day can attest to but he wasn’t ragged and throwing the bike around as much as early on. That’s okay, hitting the ground is always the ultimate throttle stop. He’s still major fast.

Tyla Rattray and Tommy Searle were together most of the day and finished third and fourth overall on the day. Wow, what a shocker.

  • Congratulations to Nick on a 7th overall and a new baby boy
Everybody’s favorite REAL privateer, Troy Adams had a mixed day. He was running in fifteenth in the first moto until his knee popped out with two laps to go. That was a DNF for the 59 and he wasn’t sure he was going to be able to ride the second moto but he sacked up and scored a fifteenth for reals this time.

Speaking of privateers, here’s a nod to top 250 independent rider Steven Clarke and top 450 finisher Nick Wey, both of whom had excellent High Point afternoons. They each got big, fat checks for $2,000 in bonuses from Monster Energy, as this was the first round of the Monster Energy Triple Crown of Motocross.  And as it stands, only Pourcel or Reed can claim the really big checks if they win the next two rounds of the Triple Crown—Red Bud and Budds Creek, both of which will also be live on NBC.

And speaking of live, after this coming weekend off, everyone returns together at Thunder Valley for the fifth round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, which will air live on Speed TV. It’s a night race, which means Chad may feel even more comfortable than he did at High Point.

I’m supposed to keep my eye on Kyle Regal because people like him. I’d say a twelfth in the second moto and being the first real privateer is a pretty good showing for the kiddie. I’ll keep watching and maybe jump on that band-wagon.

  • Tommy Searle got the gift of points for his 20th birthday after another no-jump flag controversy
And finally, the AMA and MX Sports really need to get this new safety flag figured out, as two guys, Searle and Barcia, were penalized, and then they weren’t after officials review a videotape provide by Pro Circuit (ironically enough) and saw that the flagger was not in a very good position and also holding the flag in a way that some riders could barely see... It’s a good idea, but losing points to a judgment call can have a huge impact on deciding the champions. 

That’s all I have for now as I write this in a hotel room in Slovania—for real. It’s been a long day and sorry if it wasn’t that funny or in-depth. I missed practice and flew across the world, sue me. Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com and we can chat then.