Racerhead #27

July 3, 2009 2:09pm | by:

It’s been a bumpy week heading into our Fourth of July. The economy here in the U.S. is still stuck in a rut, with the jobless rate a little worse in June than expected. But motocross is still thriving, and on Saturday we will not only celebrate our nation’s birthday, but also the sixth round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at RedBud in Buchanan, Michigan.

  • Ryan Dungey hustles up through the pack past ’08 MX2 world champ Tyla Rattray at Thunder Valley
The RedBud National, which is also the second race in the Monster Energy Triple Crown of Motocross, will air live on NBC on Saturday afternoon, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET, and last 90 minutes. The first motos will once again be featured live on www.allisports.com, beginning around 12:30 p.m.

And if you’re going to Laguna Seca for the Moto GP, the online show starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday morning and the NBC coverage begins at 12:30 in the afternoon.

RedBud (they spell it as one word) is an American motocross classic. It’s been holding AMA Motocross Nationals since 1974, which was a race won by Kenny Zarht on a Bultaco (250 class) and Michigan’s own Mike Hartwig on a white works Yamaha Monoshock in the 500cc class.

Going into this one, there’s a strange anomaly at the top of the standings: For the first time since RedBud 2000, two foreign-born riders lead the AMA Motocross Championships. The sensational French rider Christophe Pourcel overcame getting hung up in the gate at Thunder Valley last Saturday to actually add to his points lead in the 250 class, and Australia’s Chad Reed may be struggling with stomach issues, but he’s still the points leader in the injury-ravaged 450 class.

  • Christophe Pourcel is the first Frenchman to lead the AMA Motocross standings in nearly a decade.
The last time we had that situation, it was 2000, and the points leaders were both French: Stephane Roncada (125) and Sebastien Tortelli (250). The race was held on July 2, and both won at RedBud and left as the points leaders. Will this be another 1-2 punch for the Rest of the World against the U.S. riders — on their home turf?

By the way, the 450 class will go first this time, in order for them to meet their live TV window at 3:42 p.m. ET. Can the Honda Red Bull Racing duo of Ivan Tedesco and Andrew Short once again lead the way?

Wow, I just realized that was the first time I ever wrote that…

There were two fairly large dramas that went down last Saturday night. The first one involved the Alessis (who else?) and Josh Grant; the second involved Chris Pourcel and the starting gate. And believe it or not, neither incident involved Jason Lawrence!

When the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki-backed Alessi decided to go to Colorado to salvage any hopes he had of holding on long enough to heal and speed up, I knew it was going to be either a hero-making moment for the kid with the cracked patella or it was going to end badly. After qualifying an out-of-the-points 28th, Mike went and promptly almost grabbed the holeshot! (As I told someone, he would have had a chance at the holeshot even if he lined out out by the airport.)

But after giving way to some of the faster guys, Alessi drifted wide on a right-hand off-camber while Grant came to the inside. You saw what happened next. The television images of Alessi sitting in the track, almost unable to scoot himself off the track, were almost as frightening to me as his Red Bud crash of last summer. His kneecap more or less fell apart, and he was on a plane back to his surgeon first thing Sunday morning.

  • Mike Alessi’s attempt was brave, but was it wise?
  • Josh Grant got wrapped up with an Alessi brother in each moto in Colorado
What followed was something out of a minicycle race, circa 2002. Mike’s younger brother Jeff was livid about what he thought was a takeout of Mike, and he lined up next to Grant on the starting gate for Moto 2 and they immediately began yelling at one another. It spilled over into the race, where Alessi the Younger rode Grant out into the banners off the start, but then he crashed himself and ended up with a dislocated shoulder.

As for Grant, he came off the track at the end of the race fuming. He rode straight up to the AMA officials and told them how he felt, why he felt it, and how it was either going to end right now or never. But then things calmed down and the whole situation seemed to simmer down.

I saw Mike in the hospital yesterday (his surgeon is in Morgantown, WV) and he was pretty bummed. He tried because he wants to win so bad, and he wanted everyone questioning his decision to know that he really thought he could stay out of trouble and get around tenth to stay in the points. (And I have to admit, with the way points leader Chad Reed is struggling with his health issues – he chased Valli Motorsports Yamaha privateer Kyle Summers for most of the second moto – Alessi probably would still be in this, points-wise, had he not fallen down. But that was a big risk, and now he’s out for at least six weeks, though I’m guessing it will be the season. But he should make a 100% recovery because there was no further damage, other than the fractures in his kneecap.

Drama #2 was more of mystery and I didn’t even see it happen at first, but I saw it dozens of times later. After nailing the holeshot from the gate right to the left of the starter’s box in Moto One, Pourcel led a freight train all the way to the finish. (Thunder Valley is an exceptional track, but it was too smooth for the first motos, in my opinion, which made it seem like everyone was going the same speed and there was little passing. But the second moto was amazing.)

  • Jake Weimer’s mechanic must have had the directions to the winner’s circle on that board because Jake finally found it.
So Christophe lined up there again for the start of the second moto, with Justin Barcia right next to him on the left. When the gate dropped, both took off, but then their two gates bounced back up a couple of inches. Pourcel, who had an excellent jump, hit the gate with his front tire bounced it back down, only to have it bounce up again, this time getting under his carriage and also catching his foot on it. He was dead last, and he was pissed. Barcia, somehow, was second—and headed into first.

What happened? Officials would later determine, with the help of the spot-on SPEED TV shots they saw in the truck, that the gate dropped fairly and equally for everyone, but really had no answer for why it might bounce up again for those two gates, other than the notion that it either hit an errant rock between the two gates and bounced, or the lack of dirt behind and between the two gates caused the metal-on-metal impact to bounce the lighter gates back up.

Either way, there was no red flag, and that caused some conspiracy theorists both on Pourcel’s side to claim that there was no red flag “because he’s French” or “because of the live TV schedule” and, my favorite, “he’s not Dungey.”

  • Broc Tickle earned an outdoor moto podium for the first time in moto one (and no thanks to his dog)
The rider himself seemed un-phased by it, and #377 took off on one of the best laps I have ever seen at an AMA Motocross race. He went from dead last to 17th on the first lap, on track that no one was passing on earlier. Once Pourcel made it to the top ten and Dungey, his title rival, caught a glimpse, they both took off, and the passing went through the roof. Along with Muscle Milk/MDK KTM rider Tommy Searle, GEICO Powersports Honda rider Brett Metcalfe and Blake Wharton, and Star Racing Yamaha’s Matt Lemoine and Broc Tickle, these eight guys were mixing it up in an eight-way battle for third, while the rookie Justin Barcia was trying to hold off Jake Weimer for the win. Barcia failed, but everyone watching won — it was an amazing race!

Afterwards, I took Chris to the TV truck to show him what happened — his team at first thought his gate got hung up on the drop, which certainly would have brought the red flag out. But it didn’t; it bounced, and no one from the AMA to the promoter to the gate man to anyone else had the definitive answer as to why.

Personally, I blame J-Law. And Matthes.

So Pourcel holds the front, and even seemed happy for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki teammate Jake Weimer, who won his first-ever AMA Motocross National exactly one round after scoring zero points at High Point. Jake spoke to Steve Cox afterwards about how it felt to win, what happened at High Point, and what comes next.

Meanwhile, over at Honda, the word on the streets has been that Ivan Tedesco might be the odd-man out between himself and teammates Davi Millsaps (injured) and Andrew Short (second on Saturday night). But with his recent string of good rides following zero points at Glen Helen with a concussion, seems like #9 might have the Honda Red Bull Racing guys taking another look. It was pretty cool to see this guy win after five lean years since he was the last “125” Champion.

If you have some free time this weekend, watch this very funny video from Vurb Moto’s merry band of videographers, featuring “Super Fans” Travis and Wes doing a meet-and-greet-and-stalk of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki and GEICO Powersports Honda team rigs at a rest area between Colorado and Michigan. It’s good stuff!

  • Chad Reed, here chasing after the very impressive Kyle Summers of the Valli Motorsports team, is having some stomach issues
And in news my wife will be pleased to hear, “Zack Morris” has finally agreed to a reunion show for Saved By the Bell! That’s according to none other than Time Magazine. Zach was played by Mark-Paul Gosselaar, who happens to be the brother of Rockstar/Makita Suzuki mechanic Mike Gosselaar, who has helped guide Steve Lamson and Ricky Carmichael to multiple championships and now works with Chad Reed.

And in energy drink news; there was a feature in USA Today on Thursday about the possibility of adding warning labels to them. It was discussed at a symposium on nutrition, only to be shot down when a grad student pointed out “thrill or edge-seeking athletes in their teens and 20s might be more attracted to the drinks if they have the added danger of a warning label.”

Check this out: The Red Bud KTM/FMF Motocross Fan Experience is sold out! Earlier this month, KTM and FMF partnered together to bring motocross fans the ultimate viewing experience, which means all-day pit passes, free parking, free catered lunch, free T-shirt, VIP viewing area, track walk, special autographs session… Anyway, it sold out for Red Bud, but if you plan on attending the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship season finale at Steel City on September 5, tickets are still available. Tickets are only $60! For tickets to Steel City please contact motocross@ktmusa.com or visit your local KTM dealer.

  • The new and enhanced Miss Lucas!
And keep your eyes peeled for the Two-Stroke Invitational that Pat Schutte and Amy Ritchie are putting together for this weekend. It will feature none other than Ricky Carmichael (yes, on a two-smoke), Jeff Stanton and Jeff Emig, who account for 25 major championships alone and, what, ten different Motocross des Nations wins for Team USA?

You will also see some Michigan favorites like Todd DeHoop, Kelly Smith, Randy Valade, Josh Woods, Josh Lichtle (remember him?) Matt Maximoff, and Larry Whitmer. No word on the Swinkster.

One more thing: We won’t see Kevin Windham at Red Bud like everyone hoped, but he will likely be doing several nationals as well as the X Games, according to sources close to the program he’s pulling together. If I were a betting man, I would factor in that there are two rounds coming up where he beat RC straight up in 2003… Betcha he’s at those two for sure.

Stephane Roncada was at Thunder Valley, shooting photos. What’s funny about that is that Stephane, once one of the most promising motocross riders in the world, is now one of the most promising photographers in the motocross world! Roncada has now joined part of the post-racing establishment of former factory riders who now work in the moto industry, like Broc Glover (Dunlop Tires), Mark Barnett (he built the Thunder Valley track), Mike LaRocco (Factory Connection), Jeff Stanton (Honda advisor), Jeff Emig (SPEED TV and CBS personality and new addition to the Fox Racing marketing department), David Bailey (SPEED TV and NBC analyst), Ronnie Lechien (Maxima), Johnny O’Mara (coach), Danny LaPorte (FMF), and all of the fast guys who still teach motocross: Gary Bailey, Donnie Hansen, Tony DiStefano, Marty Smith… I am sure I am missing some here!

Anyway, here’s a look at some of Roncada’s Privateer Pics of the Week from Thunder Valley.

You can watch the GP live on Sunday at www.freecaster.tv. Not sure if Zach Osborne will try to ride in Sweden or not, as he tried to go in Latvia, but then decided to just watch instead.

  • Tim Ferry made a quiet return to action last week
Here’s something from Matthes’ inbox:

Hey Steve,

I was watching the national this weekend and by chance looked up at the positions running across the screen and saw Tim Ferry running in the back of the pack…why is it that nobody gave us any kind of info about his return? Instead everyone was too busy making Alessi’s publicity stunt into an act of heroism. Alessi had no business being on the track, he was obviously a danger to himself and other riders. Back to Timmy, it’s a shame that a factoy rider, veteran, and all around fan favorite got no love. Was this intentional on behalf of Ferry to lay low, or did he get overlooked?

Scott Perry

Ocala, FL

  This is the reply from Weege- Well Scott, Matthes forwarded me your email on Red Dog (he, OF COURSE, agrees that we didn’t give the #15 enough love).

You’re actually on to something on both accounts. First, Timmy was trying to lay low for the weekend, and Kawasaki didn’t announce he was racing until Saturday morning (it was rumored, but not official, on Friday). Second, during the race, Erin Bates went to put in a report on the Kawasaki team during the second 450 moto, but we threw it down to her and her mic didn’t work, so Jeff and I took it back.

So, we meant to mention it, but Erin’s audio cut out, and we never got it fixed to get back to her on the topic.

Anyway, Timmy’s not fooling anyone now, and we’ll be on the lookout for him at Red Bud.

Thanks for paying such close attention. Matthes is proud of you!

  • Ronnie Renner wants to go bigger
Red Bull is up to another wild night of pushing the limits: Chicago’s renowned skyscrapers will share the sky with motocross superstar Ronnie Renner on Saturday, July 25. The Windy City will watch as Renner attempts to break his own Guinness World Record for the highest air ever attained on a motorcycle at Red Bull High Rise. He will go sky-high at Butler Field prior to Chicago’s annual Venetian Night, adding a new spin to an old tradition.

Renner is a respected freestyle motocross veteran whose credentials include a gold medal in Step-Up at the 2007 Summer X Games and the Step-Up world record. He set his original quarterpipe big air world record by jumping an amazing 59 feet, 2 inches in July, 2008. In 2009, he will attempt to beat this record by launching sky-high onto a massive custom-built steel landing ramp measuring 64 feet wide and 30 feet tall.

Here’s where I need to stop typing and start the long drive to Reeeedddd  Buuuudddddddd! Let’s turn this over to Steve Cox.

The Fourth of July is my favorite holiday of the year, and a lot of that has to do with the history behind the day. Unfortunately for me, I’m normally out of town at Red Bud on the Fourth. But luckily, as the fan of history that I am, I also know that the Continental Congress actually voted to declare independence from England on July 2nd. So, I get to celebrate on the REAL Independence Day, and normally I am home for that. The text of the Declaration of Independence, originally written by Thomas Jefferson, but edited by him, Ben Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston, was later debated and revised by Congress, and after they officially voted for independence on July 2nd, they finalized the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, which is generally the day people consider to be Independence Day. But not being one who worries about being different, I actually think Independence Day should be the day that the Continental Congress actually voted for independence, and that was July 2nd. So, Happy Independence Day yesterday, folks!

  • Sometimes you gotta know when to fold 'em.
The only other thing I really want to talk about today is Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Mike Alessi. It’s true that his desire to win pushed him to take a massive risk with his left knee in Colorado, but to be honest I don’t know if he even knew how big of a risk he was taking. I do know from people close to the situation that Roger Decoster advised him not to race, and I really believe that Roger ALWAYS has his riders’ best interests in mind when he makes those decisions. Obviously, he was a rider himself, and he’s sensitive to the interests and problems that come with being a racer. However, Decoster only gave his advice and didn’t stand in Alessi’s way, as he also understands that sometimes it’s impossible to convince a racer of anything.

However, I only have a basic medical knowledge that comes from EMT school and all of the reading I’ve done since, and I’ve talked to a couple doctors since last weekend, and the consensus is that there is absolutely no way that Alessi’s knee was healed enough to be strong enough to withstand any sort of blow only 18 days after surgery. But people close to the situation said that the Alessis were making a case to the Asterisk crew that they could somehow tell in the X-rays that it was “healed”. Obviously it wasn’t, as Mike had to go back to surgery to repair the damage, and instead of the original six-week prognosis (almost three of which had passed), the new one is eight weeks, which means he will likely be healthy enough to ride just a couple days before Southwick, the penultimate round of the championship.

  • Barcia is still looking for his first moto win, but a second's not bad.
And in my opinion, just his being 28th fastest in practice at Colorado should’ve told him that it wasn’t good enough to actually risk racing, as he was going to have a tough time just scoring any points at all. If he’d have stopped himself, or if someone else in his camp had stopped him, prior to the race, he could’ve actually been back by Millville, and if nothing else, he could’ve scored a few more wins and put himself on Team USA (provided there is a Team USA).

Also, in regard to Josh Grant’s collision with Alessi, it did look really bad on TV, but I was standing right there and that was an off-camber turn, which wasn’t obvious in the TV view. Essentially, Grant’s line up the inside was going to carry him to the outside no matter what because he was on the off-camber portion without a rut in which to carve a turn. So although there is no love lost between Grant and Alessi, I think it’s at least possible that it was just a racing incident. I also think that, just like the Windham/Vuillemin collision at Phoenix in 2004, Alessi should’ve seen Grant there as Grant was alongside and in front of Alessi for long enough that Alessi had ample time to slow down and avoid the collision. Maybe Mike was distracted by the pain in his knee, though. I know I would’ve been. But that’s just another added danger of racing in the physical condition he was in.

Mike is definitely tough, so you can’t take that away from him, but sometimes making the right decision is favorable to just toughing it out. Throughout history, champions usually are the ones who are able to be the most objective about their situation, such as James Stewart sitting out the 2008 Supercross Championship with his hurt knee, or Ricky Carmichael doing likewise in 2004. They were able to take a step back and accept that they aren’t healthy and that it’s not worth risking further injury, so they bowed out. So while a mark of a champion is toughness and tenacity, maybe a bigger mark of a champion is thinking objectively and rationally.

It’s tough when someone has to learn the hard way, but the important thing is that they learn at all. Hopefully Mike has learned from this because he has what it takes to win championships in every other way except for this one. Good luck, Mike.

Here’s Matthes.

  • Metcalfe scrubbed so hard here the ground ripped his foot off the peg
We’re off to RedBud this weekend and I think you would have a hard time finding a series regular who wouldn’t pick this race as one of the best of the series. The track is pretty sweet, there are big jumps and the crowd is always big and ready to let loose. Something about America’s birthday also plays a hand in it I think. This race will be a good one as Andrew Short made up points on leader Chad Reed and of course there was the ride by Ivan Tedesco last week. That was just a dominant ride, that in my eyes, was one of the most unexpected whup-asses I’ve ever seen (Tortelli GH ‘99 is the all-time followed by RC at Hangtown in ’97 because RC and Lamson split motos at Gainesville and then, at Lammy’s home track RC laid the smack down) and IT9 is going to be a factor. I’ve wanted to do a podcast with Ivan for a while but after I read his interview with Steve Cox where he said he’s just going to red button any of his new friends, I figured it wasn’t a good time to call. I’ll wait for the 17-13 day.

I wasn’t expecting Reedy to be so downtrodden and distraught over this stomach condition that’s been affecting him, and fourth overall isn’t anything to sneeze at, but after texting with him this week, I was surprised at how frustrated he is right now. One thing for sure is that he’s going to come out this weekend with a point to prove and I look for a Reedy to battle for the win this weekend. You watch.

We’re ten motos into the season, and RedBud will mark the halfway point. Christophe Pourcel has beaten Ryan Dungey in six out of the ten motos and stretched out his points lead to nine right now. There isn’t much to separate these two and they are clearly the bell of the balls in the 250 class. Dungey seems to not be able to get the starts and stay out of trouble in the opening laps while Pourcel is just as smooth as a caramel sundae. Dungey needs to make something happen because he went from eight up after the first round to nine down right now.

  • Evan Ferry is in training
As the letter we’re running states, Lakewood was the return of Tim Ferry and he wasn’t that pumped on his performance but I thought it was ok all things considered. He hadn’t been racing for a while and needs to get comfortable with his bike and riding motocross again. His 12-22 score was the best that he could do but look for him to get better from here on out. One thing that I should point out is that we appear to have another one of those “mini-dads” on our hands right now. Y’see, Red Dog and his son Evan have been going to the BMX track and Timmy’s been coaching Evan on how to race but apparently he’s got quite the temper as has been spotted accusing his son of fake crashing and not taking the right lines on the track (I wasn’t there but my witness, who shall remain nameless but rhymes with Wike Milliamson, confirmed all this). So if you’re at the Orange County BMX tracks and see a red headed dude wearing an Etnies t-shirt berating his four-year old kid, well chances are that’s your MXDN hero folks.

The Pro Circuit Privateer Payout contest is something that I’m pumped about and I would like to thank Pro Circuit and Racer X for helping make it happen. Actually it would never have happened without these two guys so we should pretty much thank them and them only. The deal is I want a privateer to write me a 250 word essay on why he should be the winner and the lucky rider gets all his expenses paid for that weekend (but the guy can’t present me with a receipt for the Learjet he just purchased to get to the race and expect reimbursement) and most importantly, I’m going to help the winner out. Whether that’s wrenching or making sandwiches, I’ll be there to hopefully help the winner do the best he can do.

Don’t forget to read pulpmx.com when you’re bored. And for all your Canadian moto needs, please click on directmotocross.com as that series has now completed its western swing and has a two week break before resuming. Points leaders right now are Eric Nye and Colton Facciotti, which just happens to be the defending champions.

As you read this there is only a few hours until the DMX Factory Rider for a Day eBay auction for a set of CTi OTS knee braces. Hurry up and get a great deal on a set of braces and all proceeds go to the FRFAD program. Help out Canadian privateers.

Oh, one last thing- my flight number to Chicago is 199 so if I don’t make it, well you know what happened.

  • There were far less lighting complaints this time around
Take it from here, Ping.

There is definitely an added level of excitement to racing at night. I don’t know what it is but I got the same adrenaline rush last weekend that I get when the stadium lights click on at a supercross race. I don’t know how the promoter at Lakewood makes a profit after covering the $110,000 nut he has to shell out for the lights but I guess he makes it work.

How do the lights actually work? Well, there weren’t many riders that complained but IMO (sorry for the text-speak) it was pretty shady. The faces of the jumps got big bumps in them and it was very difficult to see them clearly. It was my first time at a nighttime national though and, personally, I liked it.

Where is J-Law? DC just told me that his bike passed tech inspection and he's signed up to race this weekend, but I also know that he will be at his own sentencing on September 8th. Most of us have heard about the whole ear-biting debacle that went down last year with one of his former friends. Well, it turns out there are laws against biting chunks out of peoples ears. This is from the public county records department:

Case SWF027088 Defendant 1286276 LAWRENCE, JASON DANIEL

Arrest Charges

1 PC 245(A)(1) F Assault w/deadly weapon/instrument non-firearm produce GBI 08/07/2008 ACTIVE
2 PC 203 F Mayhem 08/07/2008 ACTIVE
3 PC 243(D) F Force/Inflict Injury 08/07/2008 ACTIVE
4 PC 245(A)(1) F Assault w/deadly weapon/instrument non-firearm produce GBI 08/07/2008 GUILTY CONVICTED

Case SWF027088 Defendant 1286276 – LAWRENCE, JASON DANIEL
Next Action: Sentencing
09/08/2009 AT 8:30 AM DEPT. S202 Deputy Report #: RSLE L08227087

  • Josh Summey has ventured off-road into the GNCC series
Looks like the bad boy of motocross might want to clear his schedule for this fall.

There was a race going on at Lake Elsinore Motocross Park last weekend but it wasn’t a motocross race. You could have still called it a motocross park though because it was motocross guys winning the Lucas Oil Off-Road Truck Championship on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Brian Deegan won the Unlimited Lites class final, marking the first time that Deegan has been on top of the podium. Another former racer, Robert Naughton (Honda support rider and 125 SX runner up a couple decades ago), was also on the podium and is a former champion in that class. Jeff Ward got his first win on Sunday in the Unlimited 2 class. Carey Hart was on the grid as well but finished further back. I guess driving off-road trucks is the cool thing to do now once you retire. Just be ready to let go of some cash because that sport is spendy. Check out www.lucasoiloffroad.com for info and results from that series.

Oh, and you thought that motocross has sound issues? Oakland has it worse. This is pretty dang funny: Watch Bubb Rubb and Lil Sis blow through a stop sign later in the video. The whistles go Whoo Whooo!

Josh Summey is back racing, though not on the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross tour. The former Jagermeister KTM team rider is now delving into off-road racing, more specifically the Grand National Cross Country Series. Summey rode the Snowshoe GNCC last Sunday and finished ninth overall after less than a week of preparation for this new field of racing for him.

Finally, congratulations to Evan Owen of Oneida, NY for winning this week's TGI Freeday contest. Evan won a chain and sprocket set from Pro Taper. This week’s prize is a MotoConcepts gear storage package worth $210.  Click here to enter the contest.

That’s it for Racerhead. Thanks for reading, and see you next week.

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