For the first six weeks of the SX tour, teams and riders have an easy commute. And you’re pulling from 13 million people from the greater LA area, so the stadiums fill up without any fans having to drive more than an hour.
But it’s 2101 miles from Anaheim to Indy; a big haul for the teams. And the fans come from everywhere. On my six-hour drive from Morgantown to Indy, it seemed like half the vehicles on the road had motocross stickers on them. Indy and Atlanta are big races, but not just because of Indy and Atlanta, but because fans from all over the Southeast and Northeast and Midwest know these are one of their few options. But don’t forget Toronto!
The long road continued on Saturday, as just getting to the main seemed tough. It started in practice. Jason Lawrence was back in body last week in Anaheim, but he had his full mind and spirit this time, getting into another dust-up with Ryan Dungey. From what I heard, Lawrence slowed up in front of Dungey a few times in qualifying, and Dungey got mad and ran into him. They argued, Ryan showed Jason all the cool new features on his Nike Air MX boot, and Snookie got punched by some dude in a bar. The AMA blew the dust off of their black flag and waved it, and I’m not kidding, one of the guys in our broadcast booth turned to me and said, “Wow... They have a black flag? What’s that for?”
Lawrence had to ride the B practice the next time out in order to keep he and Dungey apart. In a TV interview, Lawrence said that Dungey was “born mentally messed up.” He’s back, baby!
J-Law, DJ Pauly D, Mike “The Situation” and Ronnie had Dungey right where they wanted him. And certainly Josh Hill could have reaped the benefits of this “situation” but he seemed a notch off. I spotted his team manager, Larry Brooks, walking back to the pits after the final practice, and he was staring a hole into the wall. The last person to walk through Lucas Oil Stadium with that look on their face was Bill Belichick.
Hill won his heat race after Millsaps took a bunch of dudes down in he first turn. But that was his highlight; he just never got it going in the main, starting 12th on a bad track to get a bad start on, and not moving up much. (Although I’m still waiting for the mythical motocross/supercross track where someone says, “this is the kind of track where you really don’t need to get a good start.”)
Hill’s only bailout came on the last lap when “The Situation” slowed suddenly and Hill got by him. Lawrence went from a 54.765 on lap 19 to a 59.489 on lap 20. Hey, it’s only in his second race back, I guess he only had 19 laps of endurance in him.
Dungey seemed to shrug it off at night and rode better than he did last weekend. He says they had been making lots of bike changes for the last few weeks, but they didn’t work, so now they’re back to their old settings. He had a few shots at RV but couldn’t quite seal the deal for the win. As for the Lawrence, he said, “Yeah, I guess some people just really like the drama.”
Anyway, Lawrence is back in this series, which I think is cool at least for the comedy. The battles will now rage over if he is good or bad for the sport. Have at it!
Ryan Villopoto was also on the long road at Indy. RV went down in the Millsaps heat-race crash, and he got right up and rode straight back to the truck. We had Chad Reed joining us on the Webcast, and he joked, “Maybe it was a front wheel.” Chad also added, regarding the Lawrence/Dungey fracas: “Yeah, that was funny three years ago.”
Chad then swapped to his Kawasaki headset and told us RV had a broken water pump. What a do-it-all broadcaster!
RV had a bad gate pick for the LCQ and hence got a bad start because the dirt was crazy slippery in front of the outside gates. He carefully picked his way through the pack as if they were riding IEDs and he had an unarmored Humvee. Props to JT$ for giving the thumbs up over a triple and letting him by; Jason knows what riders have tracks to practice on in Florida.
Villo still had a crappy gate pick in the main, but he learned how to get enough traction on that slippery stuff to make it work. Dungey, Kevin Windham and Davi Millsaps looked fast and aggressive in the main, but RV was the fastest, and once he figured out how to make passes, he was on his way to victory. It wasn’t easy, though. Indy fans got to see Millsaps and Windham go at it, Villopoto and Windham go at it, and Dungey keep Villopoto honest all the way to the finish. The racing has been awesome these last few weeks, to the point where you keep rewinding the footage on your DVR to see how the passes were made. The wife loves it when I do that.
In the last four weekends, Villopoto has won three races, had the fastest lap time in all four mains, and made up 20 points on the leader. He’s the man right now, but remember what we said last week – with these guys, it could change any second. For example, RV was seventh after the first lap of the LCQ, and one mistake could have knocked him out of the main altogether. As always, you had to master the long, hard road at Indy.
Practice was also fun to watch in the supposedly wide-open East Region Lites Championship. But in reality, how wide open is it when you have the defending champ in the series out there? Kind of reminds me of Lites MX in 2007, when people were predicting a crazy, wide open battle and Villopoto had to be sitting there with the number-one plate thinking, “Um, hello, I’m right here, guys.”
But this was the debut of Justin Barcia, the ultimate X Factor. Could the scrubbin’ and revin’ rookie do it? Well, he played it smart. Two weeks ago we talked to Barcia in San Diego and he was super-pumped on the season. Saturday at Indy we talked to him again, and he was much calmer. Smarts crept in and maybe he realized he didn’t have to go out and win his very first race; just get a podium, ride smart and...
...there he was, the first rider out in timed practice, ripping off a 55-second and putting his new #17 to the top of the board. And there he was going nuts and trying to blow past riders in the first lap of his heat. There he was pinning it on the sight lap for the main. The kid is fun to watch and should be really popular with the fans. If you’re a teenager watching these races, would Barcia not be your idol right now?
The only problem is, Pourcel is still here. A lap after Barcia rang up that 55 in practice, Pourcel did a 53 and then parked it in the mechanic’s area. The rest of the field kept getting faster until Austin Stroupe, no slouch, finally topped the Frenchman’s time. So Pourcel started his bike, rolled back out and went even faster.
Was he just toying with the guys? I spoke to Christophe and his mechanic after that practice, he said he was not, but he did say I could tell the story like that if I wanted to because it was cool. So there.
The worst news for the competition is that Pourcel looked really happy to be at the race. If he came in pissed off about not getting a 450 ride, or hurt, or anti-America, or anti-whatever, he could be vulnerable. But he looked happier here than he did at any race last year. Sorry, guys!
Nice ride for Stroupe, though. He said he wants to be more consistent, and he actually only had the fourth-fastest time in the main en route to finishing second. Normally, with Stroupe, it’s the opposite scenario. Oh, and there is no love lost between Stroupe and Barcia after some run-ins last summer (Hangtown and Unadilla) and they got some slams in on each other in the heat race.
Barcia didn’t light the world on fire, but he was smart enough to take his podium (and holeshot check, which I accidentally said Stroupe got in the Thor Racer X Race Report on Saturday. Sorry, JB!). He rode well, but he did get a little gift when Ryan Sipes got jacked big time with lappers. In defense of the lapped guys, the track was one-lined and they were racing each other and that off-camber was like a hole in miniature golf where your ball goes into the water if you miss the main groove. In Lites, Chatfield was racing Kilbarger for 13th when Sipes showed up, and in SX, Chisholm was racing Byrner for 13th when Dungey got there. They really had nowhere to go. Still, combine this with his incident last year, and Chisholm may be inheriting the torch from Heath Voss as “craziest dude to lap,” an award that I think used to go to Kyle Lewis. One time, Lewis told me he started figuring out when Reed, Stewart and Carmichael were close because he could smell them coming – their clutches and bikes would be that fried late in the race!
Pour Ivan Tedesco can't catch a break. Crash on lap one in Anaheim last week and then nearly stuck in the gate this week. Basically that put him in 20th both times, so his results to indicate his riding. On the other hand, well done for Chris Blose, who got a good start, rode fast early, and then stayed strong to the end. Sixth! What a run.
Trey Canard did exactly what you didn’t want to see happen. He wadded it. Folks, Dungey made this transition to the big bike look too easy. The 450 is to be respected. I remember, back in 2006 when Honda tried Millsaps on the big bike for the first time, and he crashed in practice and didn’t even make the race. And Millsaps was a big kid! Just sayin’.
Millsaps, 2010 edition, hurt his shoulder during the week and then crashed again in practice and hurt himself some more. But you can’t deny that he and Windham were fast. Expert Webcast analyst Chad Reed said it looked like the Hondas were dealing with the slick track and setting up the corners really well. And yeah, how about Windham? He had the full repertoire going, driving to the rim and hitting from the outside. He looked fast and aggressive and relaxed all at the same time, and he got the start he needed. But alas, the kids just wore him down. Crazy that a dude who has won more SX races then Villopoto and Dungey combined needs to build up to a win one block at a time, but I think that’s what is happening here. Kevin is readjusting to being back in the mix – carrying the fast time in practice into the heat and then main. By the end of the season, K-Dub might be back into victory lane.
On the other end, there are lots of rookies in the Lites class, and Barcia not surprisingly led the way with his podium. Dean “Will Be the Pride of Canada Once the Olympics are Over” Wilson was a solid sixth, ahead of Kyle Regal, who was fast and impressive the whole day en route to seventh. Regal just keeps impressing. I wasn’t sure what he had in supercross, but what he brought to Indy looked good. Blake Baggett had a bad start and only took 11th, while Taylor Futrell was 15th, Tevin Tapia was 19th, and James “Roger” Decotis was 20th, but had one hell of a few laps in his heat race, even blitzing past Barcia to lead a few laps. John Dowd told me Decotis would be fast last week, but I didn’t think he’d be this fast!
Well, we’re off to Atlanta and the annual rendezvous with the DMXS boys. There’s a big party on Friday night at Door 44 downtown (just next to door 33, as it turns out) and the charity ride for AT on Sunday at Bremen MX Park. Come on out, I’ll be there with whatever voice I have left. And before anyone asks, yes it would be awesome to have an Atlanta II, but that stadium is booked solid way in advance, so it’s not as easy as you would think. I wish it were, though, because this is always a fun weekend. I’ll make party plans with you if you want, just shoot me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow my twitter @jasonweigandt or just send me a double shot of Jagermeister from across the bar like a guy did last week at Indy. Or don’t, if you expect me to actually remember the evening.