Minutes before this week's edition of Racerhead was published we received an email from Grant Casey, a reader from Delaware, Ohio. Three days ago Grant lost his cousin Zachary Taylor Myers, 21, when he and two other members of the 545th Military Police Company, Arctic Military Police Battalion, Alaska, were attacked in Baji, Iraq. Eight years later there are still young Americans losing their lives fighting for our freedom. No matter where you stand on this war, please remember to keep these soldiers in your hearts and minds.
Welcome to Racerhead, the first off-season version of our weekly roundup of all things good and bad in the motocross world. As you know, last Saturday marked the conclusion of the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, a series that I feel delivered on a lot of levels. We had great TV and online coverage, a compelling title chase in the 250 class, seven different winners in the 450 class, and a very entertaining addition in the Women’s Motocross Championship. The racing ended on Saturday afternoon in Delmont, Pennsylvania, then enjoyed a big night out on the town Sunday in Pittsburgh with our first awards banquet for pro motocross. Monday was Labor Day, and then we went to work immediately on the 2010 series.
What changes can we expect? MX Sports is visiting a lot of topics right now with the riders, the teams, the public, and our fellow promoters, both in outdoor motocross and Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Personally, I would like to see a revamped numbering system, I would like to see timed training count or qualifying motos count for gate pick only in the first moto (the second-moto lineup should be based on the first-moto results, in my opinion), pre-production equipment (why not let ’11s race beginning in May ’10, since they are pretty much ready to go?), maybe the addition of a regional youth class (19-and-under pro-ams?), two hours of TV coverage each Saturday, quieter bikes, better caution-flagging, less bannering, the two-stroke question is back on the table, and there are some areas of the country we just aren’t reaching (I hear you folks down south loud and clear), another look at the side panels, revamped press days (Thursdays would better, and they would attract more local press), and a more thorough drug-testing procedure…. That’s the short list, off the top of my head.
Things that won’t likely change? Saturday racing, two-moto formats, 30-second-card girls (but we do need more consistency), the minimum age moving up to 17, twelve rounds of racing, live NBC and Speed coverage of half the rounds, Women’s Motocross as part of the big show, and the one-day format…. Again, off the top of my head.
I would like to thank all of the riders and teams who stuck with the series in some very bleak times, and especially Chad Reed, who pretty much reinvented himself as a motocross rider and gave Rockstar/Makita Suzuki the championship he narrowly missed in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Reed was a class act all summer long. He was sincere and honest (when he didn’t like the tracks, he said so), he was engaged and playful (“SX Only?” on the back of his Thor trousers at Steel City was pretty funny), and he gave it all he had right up until the end. With James Stewartsitting out the summer and Kevin Windhamsitting out most of it, the fact that Reed came back, basically raced for free, then collected nearly $3 million in bonuses he leveraged against his own results, Chad was just what the series needed. I hope he comes back next summer, along with James and K-Dub. I also hope he found that extra fraction of speed he was looking for and stays with Stewart throughout the winter in stadium racing.
I think it’s safe to now say that Reed is the most successful foreign motocross rider the AMA circuit has ever been graced by, with more wins than the remarkable Jean-Michel Bayle, the globetrotting Greg Albertyn, the pioneer Pierre Karsmakers, and the incomparable Roger DeCoster. Thanks for coming, Chad.
I also want to congratulate Ryan Dungeyon a job well done, as well as his rival Christophe Pourcel. Dungey showed the heart he’s known for, and Pourcel showed more fight, ability, and perseverance than most might have guessed he had. I know he felt snakebit at times—losing a spot at Hangtown for jumping on the safety flag, getting caught in that bouncing gate at Thunder Valley, and getting fined $250 for missing the riders’ meeting at Millville—but no one was out to get him, I promise you that. He’s shown that he’s well past that career-threatening injury, and I would say his future looks very bright. Remember, JMB didn’t win his first year here either.
And then there are the girls. Ashley Fiolek is a badass. Jessica Patterson is not done by any means. Sherri Cruse, Vicki Golden, and Sara Price are going to be stars. The girls delivered some excellent racing from start to finish. I appreciate all that Miki Keller has done over the years to get them ready for their deserved place in the show, and I hope all the girls appreciate what she’s done for them over the years.
Thanks to AMA Pro Racing and Roger Edmondson for giving us the chance to take this series where it needs to be; thanks to the riders, the teams, and the industry and sponsors for having faith in MX Sports and our fellow promoters; and thanks to the folks at Feld Motorsports, the caretakers of supercross, for setting a high bar and showing us the support they have ever since we had our first little press conference a year ago at the MGM Grand.
Finally, there are the fans who stuck with us and, just as importantly, the ones who didn’t quite see the new direction, went home, and wrote out some constructive criticism and offered some interesting ideas for us to consider moving forward. And even the doubters deserve a pat on the back: the inspiration you gave us to work harder, work smarter, and be creative paid off in spades.
The biggest news of the week may involve Team Suzuki. The word on the streets is that the owner of the #1 plate in AMA Motocross (both classes), the Lites West Supercross Championship, #1 in AMA Superbike, and #1 ATV Pro Motocross is outsourcing its entire racing program to its longtime allies at Yoshimura. The setup would be similar to what we see with Pro Circuit Kawasaki and Factory Connection Honda, though this would encompass all of the company’s racing programs, meaning Suzuki would take on the role of equipment supplier to the outsourced racing program. The irony is, it comes after Suzuki had one of its best years ever on the AMA circuit. But the economy is still the elephant in the room.
The end is near (at least for now) for MDK. According to sources close to the team, owner Mark Kvamme gathered the team earlier this week to tell them the doors will be shut this coming Tuesday, which means every mechanic and technician and rider is now looking for a new job. Kvamme did say that when the economy gets better he will be back, but the stock market has been exceptionally tough on his company. What will happen with the riders? Justin Braytonis said to be headed for JGR MX/Toyota Yamaha to ride alongside Josh Grant, and Tommy Searlewill likely go in-house with KTM as they are planning on racing the AMA circuit in 2010. What Tommy might ride remains to be seen.
We mentioned the loss of former Yamaha factory rider Troy Blake, and the motocross world has been saddened by the loss of this son of Arizona. Reader Austin White sent this about Troy.
“My father being one of Troy’s friends for a long time was crushed by the news of his passing, so he decided to do whatever he could to help people remember Troy Blake with the making of stickers and the website, TroyBlake.com, where you can sign your name and leave a comment of this legend. Godspeed Troy Blake, you will be missed.” Chris O’Neal sent us this photo of former Suzuki, Yamaha, Honda, and Kawasaki factory rider Ezra Lusk along the fences! Lusk has been retired for a half-dozen years now but is planning to race the 2009 U.S. Open in October. Listen to Steve Matthes’s podcast with Yogi for the full story.
Good luck to Jenny Coombs. She’s moving from the motorcycle industry to a new gig in global e-commerce solutions with EC Suite. “I thoroughly enjoyed traveling this summer for the outdoors with GEICO Honda and now working with Anita [Button] getting details in order for our poker tournament,” she wrote in an email Wednesday. “The tournament is at a new venue, so we are excited!”
It’s never too early to start talking about supercross, and now that the track diagrams are already up on Supercross Online, here’s a good chance to start imagining what we might be seeing come January 9, 2010, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
(DIAGRAM Anaheim 1 ‘10 has e very tricky-looking first chicane.)
To check out all of the tracks, click here.
All right, time to move forward, and yes, we are already working on 2010. Got some ideas? DC@mxsports.com.
Let me turn it over to Mr. Matthes right here….
It feels a little weird knowing that I won’t be going to any races this weekend. In fact, the next race for me will be the Montreal SX on October 3. It was a hell of an outdoor season, of that there can be no doubt. I’d like to say good job to MX Sports on a pretty solid first year of promoting the nationals. I’ve been going to them since 1996 and this year saw the most significant changes in years. I’d say everything was run pretty well, and whatever glitches there were will be worked out. The expected confusion at Glen Helen was worked out by the second round, and things got better from there. I like the Saturday format, and for the two races I missed, the internet and TV shows were fantastic. I do miss that Bottom Line show, though….
But yeah, I know Racer X and MX Sports are closely related, and it could be misconstrued that I’m kissing ass here, but if I didn’t feel this way, I would just not write anything. So good job, DC, Carrie, and everyone at MX Sports on a job done well from a guy who’s going on his fourteenth year of going to the nationals.
Silly season is rounding into shape and Jimmy Button helped me figure some things out this week on the Racer X Podcast. Take a listen and get educated on things.
I spoke to Larry Brooks this week and he told me that the expected Josh Hill-to-L&M deal is far from done, but there is some interest there on both sides. He reported that the groundbreaking 2010 Yamaha is just that - groundbreaking. Of course the new model is always amazing (Remember MC on the cover of TWMXsaying he was “two seconds a lap faster on the KTM?”), but Larry says James has remarked a few times at how light the bike is and how it feels like a 125 - this despite the bike being on the heavy side. I asked how they’re going to do with the U.S. Open coming up and virtually no time to make parts for the new machine. Larry said they have a bunch of one-off works parts for the bike, and a fork and shock are already done up, along with an exhaust. Akrapovic has already made an exhaust for the machine (which I saw in Slovenia a few months back), and LB feels like they will be ready to go for the Open.
Check out directmotocross.com for all your Canadian motocross needs. Oh, and Pulpmx.com for all your Tim Ferryneeds. Thanks to Racer X for letting me plug it as well.
Speaking of Ferry, he’s off to Hawaii for a week with his wife to relax and unwind from a frustrating season. The 34-year-old American hero struggled all year - first with the new bike, then breaking his heel at Daytona - and never really got back up to speed. He’s going to find out soon if he’s going to be back at Kawasaki, and if Mike Fisher is reading this, I beg you to give him another shot. You’re going to see a whole lot less of me if he’s not there. How’s that for a threat?
Actually, that may have been a bad idea. Might have done more damage.
Just remember this: the Red Dog has many lives, as he was written off a few times already (when he lost his Suzuki ride and when he had 359 surgeries on his wrist) only to come back and prove people wrong. I guess we’ll see.
The Yogi Lusk podcast was really, really good. Take a listen if you have a chance. If you have an iPod, go to iTunes and download it for later listening when you’re at work.
Some other stuff I heard that may or may not be true: Ivan Tedescoto Kawasaki. Reed-to-Monster Kawi seems like it may happen, but it would be on PC and not the factory team from what I hear. Mike Alessiapparently has a KTM 250 SX-F that he’s been riding, so that appears to be done. Nick Weyto his old team or JGR. Kevin Windham to remain at GEICO, but there’s talk that he may get bought out of his deal. Grant Langstonis shopping himself around, as he and Sean Hamblin have some backing. Hambone would manage, though, not ride.
I pride myself in the Observations column on getting my facts right the first time. It doesn’t always happen, and this week, I erred in saying that Tommy Hahn’s KX450F does not have any works parts on it. Hahn did have a factory Nissin front-brake caliper on the bike. Not a massive thing, but still. I want to be right.
Now here’s Steve Cox.
Speaking of Timmy Ferry(Matthes talks about him so much that I can normally type that phrase without even seeing what he wrote for Racerhead), apparently he has sold his house in Florida to another redhead Kawasaki rider. That’s right, Ryan Villopoto will be moving in to Ferry’s house in the next few months, so Matthes, you may want to check with him to make sure he’s keeping your room available.
This doesn’t mean Ferry is retiring, though. From what I hear, he’s definitely not. And there’s no reason he should. When he’s healthy, he’s still a top guy. He just has to get healthy again.
I wish I had more silly-season stuff, but every time I ask someone, they just say, “I’m unemployed.”
Tommy Hahn, Ivan Tedesco, Brett Metcalfe, Michael Byrne, Chad Reed, etc. It’s the craziest off-season ever. It almost makes you wonder how prepared some riders are going to be at Anaheim 1. Guys who have rides for next year all handled, they’re going to be able to start testing as soon as the new bike is available, but what about the guys who are in a holding pattern? There are certain riders who may have a distinct advantage at Anaheim 1 because of this off-season nuttiness.
If I may editorialize for a second, I do want to say that I loved this year’s season from top to bottom. From the battle in supercross and the hatred between James Stewartand Chad Reed, to Reed taking on the Nationals – and winning (thanks for the Benjamin, Ursic) – and then to the outdoor 250cc title that went down to the wire between two very deserving, very dedicated racers, it was pretty epic. Throw in a little Jake Weimer, Justin Barcia, and musical chairs on the 450cc teams for replacement riders, and there always seemed like there was something to talk about. And depending on how this off-season goes, there’s going to be a lot to talk about for the next few months too!
Oh, and any of you riders who missed the end-of-season banquet for the Nationals, you missed out on a good time. Shame on you. David Pingree is up next. Ping’s daughter got curious and removed several of his laptop’s keys this morning, so check back later for your weekly dose of Ask Ping!
Would you believe me if I told you this was Doug Henry? If you know anything about his character, this won’t surprise you. The former national champion built this custom setup and has been twisting the throttle once again. Check out all the photos here.
What will become of Jason Lawrence’s team now that he’s behind bars until at least March of 2010? I thought it would fold without question, but I hear from sources close to the team that they have every intention of moving forward. Grant Langston is the rider at the top of their wish list. Langston has been trying to make a comeback for over a year after a bout with eye cancer and a torn ligament in his knee. His vision is compromised in one eye, but he insists that it’s good enough to race. The team’s manager of sorts, Scott Sepkovik, is also close with Sean Hamblin, so he could be a possibility as Langston’s teammate. Both riders have relationships with Monster, one of the team’s title sponsors.
Now on to theextras:
The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum is holding a free open house Saturday, September 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum is located at 13515 Yarmouth Dr. in Pickerington, Ohio (approx. 14 miles east of downtown Columbus on I-70 at Route 256). World-class exhibits include MotoStars: Celebrities + Motorcycles; Awesome-Ness, featuring the King of Choppers Arlen Ness; and the legends of the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. Also featured: motorcycle demo rides, a kids’ fun zone, a bike exhibition, and nearly 40 vendors from the Columbus area. For more information call Museum Operations Manager Katy Wood at 614-856-2222.
Want to see the 2010 Honda CR250 Elsinore? No, wait, there really is one! Check it out.
Reader Dan Lamb sent us this:
“Walt James was an old-time sprint car racer and one of the principal members that started the motocross park Indian Dunes (Valencia, CA)in the 60s. Walt passed away yesterday at 86 years of age. Because of his contribution to Indian Dunes, Walt was a integral part of the rise of American MX. Without Indian Dunes there may not have been Jeff Ward, Johnny O., Donnie Hansen, Danny Chandler, David Bailey, Erik Kehoe, Larry Brooks, Kyle Lewis, and many, many more. It would be real nice if you guys could mention Walt.”
R.I.P., Walt James
Finally, earlier this week I was in Utah, where I was a guest of our friends at Alli Sports as they got ready for their Dew Action Sports Tour event next week. While I was there, we took a drive up to Powder Mountain Ski Resort, which had what looked and sounded like a very successful motocross race a couple weeks back. The resort stands atop a mountain at about 8,200 feet, and just walking around was a chore. But what a beautiful place.
Sadly, on the way back down the mountain, we came upon a long set of skid marks in the middle of the road that gradually grew wider, then abruptly stopped, just before the road turned slightly to the left before a bank. Just above on the bank, atop a pile of rocks and shrubbery, stood a makeshift cross with a checkered flag draped over it. It marked the spot where the motor home carrying Tanner Krahenbuhl, a young Honda of Houston rider, ran off the road after losing its brakes on the descent down the mountain. I didn’t know Tanner very well, but I really wish I had. Everything I’ve heard and read about him since has made me realize we all missed a chance to know a great kid who also happened to be very good on a motorcycle. Rest in peace, Tanner.