Racerhead #3Friday, January 15, 2010 | 6:30 PM
Honda is the world’s largest manufacturer of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles, and the undisputed leader in motorcycle technology. More motocross riders have won titles on Hondas than on any other bike. When you’re serious about winning, Honda is the machine for you.
In this article…
- Blake Wharton
- Ben Evans
- Jason Lawrence
- Dan Reardon
- Rhett Urseth
- Kevin Windham
- Jake Weimer
- Josh Grant
- Jeff Alessi
- Weston Peick
- Drew Yenerich
- Ryan Dungey
- Ricky Carmichael
- Andrew Short
- Ryan Sipes
- Kyle Chisholm
- Topher Ingalls
- James Stewart
- Chad Reed
- Austin Stroupe
- Jason Lawrence
- Josh Hansen
- Ryan Villopoto
There’s nothing better than a great race, and Anaheim—the House that Jeremy Built—delivered. The race between defending champ James Stewart and class rookie Ryan Dungey was just fantastic. I was lucky enough to be sitting with Jeremy McGrath during the main event, and we were both on our feet at the end, cheering and yelling. I don’t think either of us cared who won, but like most everyone else, we were just pumped to see a great race.
So what does San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart do during the week following his Anaheim 1 victory? Pound out more laps at the Yamaha test track, of course. Simon Cudby caught up with James on Tuesday and posted this killer high-def video.
EJ just told me that right before Anaheim, none other than Ricky Johnson told him, “Watch out for Dungey, he’s going to be the guy.” Fast forward to Saturday night after the race, EJ saw Johnson again, and RJ punched Eric in the arm and said, “I told you so!”
“Okay, here’s what’s going to happen: James is going to win—he told me after the race that he wasn’t bothered at all by Ryan’s great effort and was very gracious in giving the kid a lot of credit. But James now knows he’s going to have to deal with him. Dungey is going to finish second, Chad Reed will be third, but I will tell you something: Reed is in a little bit of trouble. If you noticed on Saturday, he didn’t get one good start. Stewart and Dungey are going to get great starts and sprint away. If I were Chad, I would have been practicing twenty starts a day!”
“Another thing I noticed,” added RJ, who wore #5 to his own Anaheim runner-up finish back in 1986, “was that while everyone else stayed in the ruts, Stewart and Dungey stayed out of them, and that’s where they gained so much time.”
So, clip and save, and let’s see how this all-time great does with his PHX prediction!
I will let the other guys get into the Reed deal and the troubles he had at the opener, which have left him a 23-point hole to his rival Stewart. We do know that the other main player in the preseason—Reed’s Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Ryan Villopoto—was riding with an injured wrist, which he had to have the Asterisk Mobile Medics check out after practice. And there were rumors today that he was thinking about not racing this weekend, but that is not the case. He texted our own Steve Cox’s query to the rumors with a, “Haha, no, I’m good.”
And there’s JGR MX/Toyota Yamaha’s Josh Grant, who tried to go after last week’s violent crash but could not. Now he’s taking up to six weeks off to have shoulder surgery. As first reported here on Racer X Online, his Tuesday get-off was a bad one, and he’s now got the surgery scars to prove it.
Kevin Windham? How pumped was everyone for that guy? I texted the nearly 32-year-old a congratulatory note on Sunday morning for making the box, even after so many people had written him off, and he responded that he was super-pumped as well. Steve Cox got to talk to K-Dub right after the race for this excellent 5 Minutes With...
Matt Francis served up a fine video this week of GEICO Powersports Honda’s Blake Wharton. When you watch the video, toward the end, Blake mentions a new workout video of him on YouTube. It turns out the video is of him and a friend rockin’ out to a Rage Against The Machine song, which is pretty funny. Francis found the link for the video right here.
I spotted a couple of items in the MXA Mid-Week report about Jason Lawrence that really caught my attention. First, Lawrence gave 50 tickets for the opener to the Anaheim chapter of D.A.R.E. to hand out to kids. And remember that $5,000 he gave to the Danny “Magoo” Chandler Van Fund? J-Law remains the only current pro to have contributed to help the former Team USA leader and all-time motocross legend. He is trying hard to do the right thing, and I hope he gets some good results pretty soon, too.
The Racer X Virtual Trainer himself, Tim Crytser, spoke to Dan Reardon’s trainer, Charles Dao this week about the Aussie. Reardon had a spectacular crash in the banked turn between the two whoops section, right in front of rider seating. Officially, Reardon is recovering from a Grade 2 concussion and suffering from a mild strain to his right medial knee ligaments. Dao says Dan will miss Phoenix and is hoping to return for A2.
And to check out this week’s Virtual Trainer, “New Year, New You?” just go here.
On Monday, Daytona International Speedway and Racer X’s sister company, MX Sports, announced the new Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross Championship at Daytona, as well as the Ricky Carmichael Supercross Academy. The race will take place on Sunday following the Saturday-night Daytona Supercross by Honda, with the RC Academy—a training academy for 100 students conducted on the race track with Ricky, his parents and more—taking place on Monday. This will mark the first time in more than twenty years that amateurs have been allowed on the Daytona circuit, which will be built by Mark “the Bomber” Barnett (and, of course, tamed down for amateur use).
Entries for the race can get race tickets and pit passes for Saturday’s pro race, camp all weekend on the Daytona International Speedway infield, and even rent some of the NASCAR garages to set up for Sunday’s race. It’s going to be a unique opportunity to be a part of the Supercross world, and learning racecraft from Ricky Carmichael? That’s pretty special, too. I already signed up for the school, even though I once got eighth at Daytona SX myself, so I probably don’t need too much instruction on... Okay, I can use the school more than anyone!
For more info on how to be a part of the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross Championship, as well as the Ricky Carmichael Supercross Academy, click here.
Ping wanted to begin with an apology:
So, last Friday, I heard from a couple different people that there would be no contingency from at least three different manufacturers in 2010. I checked Honda’s website at noon on Friday and, sure enough, there was nothing posted regarding contingency the night before the season opener. I got diarrhea of the fingers and wrote something about it in Racerhead without calling American Honda personally. Bad move. Saturday morning, Honda announced that not only was their contingency back for 2010 but it was expanded to include 2008 and 2009 model-year bikes, something that Honda has never done. Needless to say, I felt like a total jackass. My apologies to Honda, to Chuck Miller, Keith Dowdle, Bill Savino, and everyone else in the racing and marketing departments, and all the readers that I stressed out during that twelve-hour gap.
“We [Honda] are doing something we’ve never done, and that is that we’re going back three years on product,” says Honda’s Powersports Press Manager Bill Savino. “So, if you have a 2008 or newer CRF150/250/450, you’re eligible for Honda contingency. We know that in today’s tough economic times, consumers are holding on to their bikes a little longer than usual. Our customers are important to us, so we really want to emphasize this change and hopefully this helps all levels of riders.”
To make matters even worse, I included Honda in a group of three other manufacturers – Yamaha, KTM and Suzuki – two of which have contingency for this year! Suzuki is the only one with no actual contingency, as it turns out. Yamaha’s contingency plan for this year can be found here, and KTM’s here.
So let me also extend my apologies to Bob Starr, David Docktor, Keith McCarty, and everyone at Yamaha who worked hard to make sure there was a contingency plan for loyal Yamaha racers, and also to the good folks at KTM, who did likewise. The plans were announced on Friday before Anaheim I in these cases, with the exception of KTM, and I didn't see them on the website, because they weren't posted yet. But still, it's totally my fault for jumping to conclusions.
Chad Reed was introduced, he got a mixed bag of cheers and boos. I mean, there were people clearly booing him throughout the stadium. I was standing next to Roger DeCoster in the Cuckoo’s nest and we both looked at each other like, “What the heck?” Then James is introduced and he gets the same treatment: Half cheers mixed with half boos. I know everyone is entitled to their opinions on different riders and maybe I shouldn’t let it bother me so much, but why would you boo these guys? They couldn’t have done anything—the season hadn’t started yet! I would really prefer it if the morons that were booing riders last week would just shut up and clap their hands the next time a rider is introduced. Be thankful that there are any race teams showing up in this economy and that there are motorcycle races being held at all.
Okay, let me hop off my soapbox...
Was anyone else surprised that the Kawasaki guys didn’t make an effort to change Reed’s wheel after his first-lap debacle? I know I’ve been talking about Ben Townley a lot lately, but do you remember when he blew out spokes off the start at High Point a few years ago while riding for the Pro Circuit team? He limped the bike around the whole lap, pulled in for a wheel change and then charged back to finish tenth in the moto. It was an amazing ride that kept him in the points battle with Villopoto. I know supercross is a shorter race but Chad could have certainly passed a few people back and gotten a handful of points. Maybe there was more to the problem than broken spokes... I don’t know.
My pit area was chaotic all day long. Troy was unveiling his new Steve McQueen helmet and the gear that was inspired by the iconic actor, and he invited a few... hundred... of his closest friends to celebrate. The problem there is that our hospitality area only holds around thirty people comfortably, so the crowd starts to drift into the working area of our pit and it disrupts the guys who are doing their jobs under the tent. Normally, I don’t mind being the bad guy and herding everyone back into the “party” side of the tent, but this crowd was a little different. There was Malcolm Smith, Bruce Brown (producer of a little home movie called On Any Sunday) and Steve McQueen’s son, Chad, and his entourage. How do you kick Malcolm Smith out of your pit area? That’s right, you don’t.
I just want to go on record here and say that Mitch Payton is getting soft. Scroll through your supercross program right now and tell me which two riders need haircuts really badly. Okay, there are three of them, but Blake Wharton pulls off the super afro-puff somehow. PC riders Jake Weimer and Josh Hansen look like Tom Hanks in that movie where he gets stranded on an island for several years and makes friends with a volleyball. The first time Hansen went by me with his helmet on, I seriously wondered if there was a WMA practice session I wasn’t aware of. Come on, Mitch, get your riders in check. If I had hair like that back in 1995, you would have punched me in the neck, fired me and then sent me a bill for the pipes I’d already used.
A couple of readers from the Phoenix area were watching Fox 10 News on Thursday morning when a live spot popped up on the screen (and thanks to Dave Tornell for his note). There was a reporter out at the stadium interviewing Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki riders Jake Weimer and Josh Hansen, asking each why people should come out to the races. Anaheim winner Weimer answered something to the effect of, “Because there is some great racing!” Hansen, on the other hand, replied, “To come out for the hot chicks and the fights.” The surprised reporter asked, “Between the riders?” And Hansen responded, “No, the fans! When they get a few beers in them, they start fighting.” Um, that’s not the right answer, but I have to admit it’s a pretty funny one!
Hangtown 2010, folks.
Here’s Jason Weigandt:
There was a lot of conjecture this week with some folks thinking Chad Reed or Monster Energy Kawasaki essentially gave up when Reed’s front wheel broke off the start in the main (he and Austin Stroupe came together, and Stroupe’s peg ripped spokes out of Reed’s front wheel). Why didn’t Kawasaki try for a quick wheel change? I talked to Team Manager Mike Fisher and got an explanation:
“Sometimes, when it’s only a few spokes, you can stop and rip the broken ones out and continue. But this wheel was really bad, and the spokes were going in different directions. You could literally hear the wheel pop when he hit Stroupe. Then the wheel was wobbling through the rhythm sections. It wasn’t safe to ride it that way.”
So why doesn’t Kawasaki have a Mule down there with spare wheels?
“When we’re racing outdoors, we have a Mule with a subframe, wheels, handlebars, levers, silencers...” said Fisher. “We could basically rebuild a bike during a moto. But in supercross, you don’t have that much space, so you’re not allowed to bring a Mule down there. We could try to just carry all of those parts down there with our hands, and have a big pile of subframes, silencers, wheels, but that’s a lot of stuff taking up a lot of space. I don’t even know how we could carry it all. And then how do you guess what you need? We’ve never had a wheel problem in supercross in the five years I’ve been team manager, so we could bring a front wheel down there this weekend, and we could end up needing a subframe, instead.”
So, don’t blame Kawasaki for not having a wheel ready—when you see those Mules loaded up with parts like spare wheels, you’re seeing that outdoors, not at a supercross.
The next factor is a rule that says the bike can’t leave the signaling area during the race. Reed dropped his bike just out of the signaling area, so essentially the bike was disqualified at that moment. But even if he had not done that, a mechanic would have had to run all the way out of the stadium and up the tunnel to get to the truck and grab a wheel and a stand. Fisher estimates the run to the truck alone would have taken up to five minutes, which would have totaled ten minutes for a round trip. Then they would need to take a few more minutes to change the wheel. Supercross main events usually last around 18 minutes (sometimes less!), and one lap had already been completed in the race.
And with all that, you’re working with hindsight to think riders were going to drop out of the race and allow you to make up spots. Note that in the Lites main, all 20 riders finished. Reed could have made up two more spots if he had salvaged five laps, but that’s hard to expect before it happens.
“There’s no excuse or real reason to make an excuse for any of this. Nobody gave up. None of the teams are prepared to do those things at a supercross. Everyone on my staff is asking if we’re going to carry a bunch of parts down there this weekend, and I really don’t know yet,” said Fisher. “And as far as giving up, we are there to race! Chad was incredibly frustrated and pissed about what happened. But there was nothing that could be done.”
As far as Reed giving up, remember, this is a guy who had a cracked shoulder blade in Detroit, and got checked out of the hospital after spitting up blood to salvage a few points. This is a guy who raced outdoors last year despite puking before each moto. I seriously doubt he threw in the towel one lap into the supercross season.
For everything else I learned about supercross this past weekend, check out our new weekly column, Racer X Redux here.
Be sure to tune in to SPEED on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. ET for the Lites class from Phoenix, followed by the AMA Supercross class at 6:00 p.m. As always, be sure to check your local listings.
And tune into the Supercross LIVE! webcast tomorrow night, as well, so you can be as up to date as possible on the racing as it happens.
And now, finally, Steve Cox:
Not too many people have talked a lot about it, but this year is the first time in 16 years (that’s the number I was told) that Terry Boyd was not the floor announcer in AMA Supercross (with the exception of a race or two he missed due to illness or something similar). I’ve made my fair share of Terry Boyd jokes in my time (“You get mud on them, and then, BAM! Clear vision.”), but the truth is that Terry Boyd was always a very good guy and only wanted to do his job. And he was good at it. Despite his stature, the new announcer, “Lurch,” has some pretty big shoes to fill.
However, I don’t know how many of you caught this on TV or were at the stadium, but after an emotional speech by longtime friend, coworker and talkaholic Erv Braun, Mickey Thompson’s grandson, Travis, gave an obviously well-rehearsed if not entirely accurate speech while wearing clothes that were probably too casual for the gym. Braun was in slacks and a nice shirt, and Boyd was in a sport coat, yet the youngest Thompson was dressed like he was lounging around the house on a Sunday morning. So, while the sentiment was very kind to give Boyd this award, all I’m saying is that if I were Terry, I might feel a little jilted by the nonchalance that the Thompson kid showed toward the occasion.
Moving on from that, though, one of the other big things that didn’t get a lot of hype over the weekend was the entirely new schedule, from practice on through the rest of the night. The first big change is the fact that the riders have three separate practice sessions, instead of two. Last year, there were two, but the first few minutes of the first session weren’t timed. This year, in a move that I think is a step in the right direction, the schedule was changed to where the first session is a bit shorter than the next two, but it’s entirely untimed, so riders can go out and just ride and get used to the track, their bikes, and even make changes before the timed sessions start. I think this is safer for all involved, and probably more fair, too, as the unseeded guys and the seeded guys end up on more of a level playing field in terms of achieving good laptimes.
Following that “warm-up” session, the riders all get two more entirely timed sessions, and I think this works much better. One rider even remarked that he felt like it would keep him from “getting cold” before the races started, because the last practice session is much closer to the night show than it used to be. This is good all-around.
Then, there are the changes to the night show, the biggest of which is that the LCQs are run basically immediately after the Heats. I think this is good because guys who do qualify from the LCQs have more time to rest before the mains, and guys who are forced into the LCQs don’t have as much time to “get cold” before the LCQ as they used to. I mean, in the 450cc class, it’s much easier to go out and race eight laps in the Heat, and then six laps in the LCQ than it is to go six in the LCQ and then line up to go 20 in the main. It makes sense. But I was caught off-guard a bit by how fast the program went by. I think the 450cc main was on the line at like 9:45 p.m.!
Not to mention the two times (that I know of) when a rider had to race all three races – the Heat, Semi and LCQ – and still managed to win the main event (Damon Bradshaw and Jeremy McGrath are the only two to do it, that I know of), man, that was some Herculean feat. It’s just cool to see it happen, and it could happen again.
But not until we bring back Semis!
Earlier this week came the news that Bruce Stjernstrom has left Kawasaki for a position at Monster Energy. Bruce has been at Kawasaki since I was three years old, and he has been awesome to deal with anytime I ever needed anything. I'm sure everyone else has the same opinion. But when I read that release, I had a memory pop into my head from Glen Helen in 2006, when I had caught the rumor that Monster Energy was coming on as the title sponsor to the Kawasaki factory motocross team (as Monster already sponsored the Pro Circuit squad). I asked Bruce if it was a big deal that Kawasaki was landing a big, outside sponsor like that, and he almost acted indignant (but in a nice way) and said, "We already have a big, outside sponsor: Kawasaki Heavy Industries. Isn't that big enough?!" Hey, times change, obviously, but it's just a funny story. Good luck over there, Bruce.
Kevin Windham’s, and while I wasn’t really skeptical about that fact, I was skeptical that it would work really well in supercross. Lo and behold, Windham grabbed a podium. And the Lites guys got second and fourth. Not too bad. I knew I liked my bike, but geez.
So, are we nearly past the days of factory unobtanium, where factory teams have better bikes because they have access to all of this crazy $100,000 suspension and stuff? Well, not quite, but I don’t think that’s why the factory teams have better bikes anyway. I think it’s more that the factory teams have all of the time and resources to test and test and test until the bikes are perfect for their riders. The resources help, but ultimately the bikes are great because of testing, not just having high-dollar parts.
And here we go, off to Phoenix for round two. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pumped. Probably nearly as pumped as former Miss Supercross, Sara Lipert (now, Sara Hamilton), who will be singing the National Anthem before the race. She’s the lead singer of a punk band called “One Less Zero”, and although I have yet to see her band perform, I have done “Summer Lovin’” in a duet with her on Karaoke, and her Olivia Newton-John was almost as good as my John Travolta, which is saying a lot.
Okay, some random notes to close…
Wow, we just got passed here on I10 outside of Blythe by a big SUV that then slowed way down, rolled down the window and waved—it was Jeff Alessi and friends! Simon was going to move over on them, Austin Stroupe-style, but then decided against it.
Speaking of Simon the Great, he recently completed a website re-design. It comes with an option for people to buy their favorite high-quality prints from the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships. Check it all out here.
Happy birthday to Donnie Emler, founder of FMF!
The Rock River Power Sports team wanted to let us know their official team line-up for 2010 includes Weston Peick (SX), Kyle Chisholm (SX), Shane Sewell (SXL), Drew Yenerich (SXL), and Travis Sewell (SXL). All of the Lites riders will be racing on the East Coast.
Do you think the supercross announcers have it easy? Well, they don’t. Take a look at some of the riders that were on the track qualifying for Anaheim 1:
Aden De Jager
And finally, on Sunday morning of last week, I drove down to a place called Bridges off the Bake Parkway where a memorial service was held for the late Dave Chase; a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who had a lot of friends. Hundreds showed up to bid farewell, including his old friends and co-workers Ray Conway (American Honda) and Mitch and Bones (all of whom spoke), riders he’s worked with like Jeremy McGrath, Andrew Short (he also gave a great tribute), Ryan Sipes and more, plus media friends and fellow desert rats like Jimmy Lewis and Ryan Dudek, along with a lot of old riding buddies from a club called The Shamrocks. It was a great afternoon and a wonderful opportunity to say goodbye a man who will never be forgotten.
Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races.