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Racerhead #27

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Happy Fourth of July Weekend, and welcome to Racerhead. This is when we Americans celebrate our Independence from England, declared way back on July 4, 1776. Since then we've pretty much been able to do things our own way in this country, which is why we still don't really get soccer, the metric system, or Susan Boyle. But we do get motocross—invented in England in 1924, when they dropped the "observed" segment of the Royal Scott Trial in Camberley—and we do it quite well, especially on this weekend.

Year-in, year-out, the biggest and best motocross race in America is the Rockstar Energy RedBud National. The race held on the Ritchie family's loamy farmland just above the Indiana-Michigan border is a true spectacle, with a huge fan base, an excellent motocross track, and a beautiful facility. It airs live on NBC tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., but you can of course watch the first motos live and free on www.allisports.com. That will start around 12:45 p.m. (and if they come on early and are still working on a few things, please overlook our mess). The 250 race will air on Speed on Sunday at 4 p.m.

  • Will we see Pourcel and Canard on the podium this weekend?
  • Can Eli Tomac get back on the winning train?
One unfortunate aspect of having this event on two different networks is that the TV truck has to take about a half hour after the first 250 moto to switch satellites over to NBC for the second 450 moto. The problem is, that's when the girls race—and it’s the first WMX race at RedBud. They are going to do their best to get set and then keep showing the WMX race, but if it gets clipped, I apologize in advance. We will do our best to give them extended coverage in the post-race videos.

Speaking of WMX, Cheboygan, Michigan's own Sarah Whitmore and Michigan native Ashley Fiolek (now from St. Augustine, Florida) have played a part in the pre-race media hype, including this news story that ran midweek:
One other really cool factoid: The fastest girl in motocross history, in my personal opinion, is not only from Michigan, she's worked at RedBud for years. Lisa Akin-Wagner came up through the amateur ranks racing for Team Dynamic and the Michigan Mafia. She won Loretta Lynn's plenty of times (usually battling tooth-and-nail with the other great of the era, Mercedes Gonzalez-Natvig). But in 1981, at the last AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship before the event moved to Loretta Lynn's permanently, she battled with the boys in the 100cc class at RedBud and even scored a runner-up finish, and that's back when everyone was "A" class in those amateur events.... I never saw Sue Fish race, so some of the real old-schoolers may have a different opinion, and new-schoolers could certainly make a case for Fiolek or the red-hot Jessica Patterson, but Lisa was just amazing on a motorcycle.

Speaking of Patterson, the DNA Shred Stix Yamaha pilot is perfect this season, and she was also invited to participate in the press-day activities. Why? The RedBud promoters didn't want to use Ashley alone and give her any sort of advantage in this race, so they asked JP$ along too.

I took a walk around RedBud this morning as part of a new feature we will be doing for the rest of the summer called Virtual iLap. It's basically a preview lap around the whole track, showing you what the riders are store for. Check it out here:
I was on a short family vacation last weekend, so I missed the Toyota Trucks Thunder Valley National. But I watched it online, with a whole bunch of other folks, while also trying to keep an eye on World Cup soccer (Team USA played great but lost while England did not play great and lost, so with my two favorite teams out, that's about the time I lost interest). I thought the track looked really cool, albeit narrow in some spots. And if the French don't send Christophe Pourcel to the Motocross of Nations, they will miss the best chance they've had to win in years—if Christophe even wants to race.

So let me turn it over to the other guys and get back to work here at RedBud. Happy Fourth of July, especially to Kevin Windham, who's spending his weekend shaking down the Honda Red Bull Racing factory CRF450R that belonged to Davi Millsaps until Davi’s tough crash at Budds Creek. While #18 is on the mend (get well soon, Duke!), Windham is going to sub for him and race the rest of the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. So he's spending his holiday weekend working, and I can't want to see how he does starting at Spring Creek!

Okay, here's Ping:

Troy Lee Designs opened their first retail store this week in a cool center of Irvine called The Lab. I have no idea where that is, but I’ve seen the plans for the shop and it is going to be pretty cool. Steve Cox stopped by the opening last night to check it out, so I’ll let him tell us what he saw.

  • Dungey is hard to beat...
  • But Josh Grant did in the first moto at Thunder Valley.
  • Andrew Short has been showing signs of good things to come.
How about the points spread in the 450 class right now? Dungey has a pretty solid lead, but behind him, things couldn’t be more bunched up. Second position all the way to seventh are practically on top of each other, and the racing between all of them has been pretty good. I know everybody wants to have a battle to the last moto for the title, but that might not happen here if Dungey doesn’t start grenading bikes on a regular basis. What is shaping up is a big fight for the next six spots between six guys that really want to win. Throw KW into that mix from here on out and you have a very exciting big-bike class for the last half of the series. How about Windham? He struggled to find the pace last year when he jumped in late and took a beating in the Lites races he did. How will he fare in a class that is very competitive right now? We will know better twenty-four hours from now.

Jessica Patterson is actually more dominant than Dungey right now. She hasn’t lost yet, and I don’t really see her giving up too many wins from here on out. She gets good starts and is flat-out hauling ass. Why is Jessica killing them so badly? I think a big part of it is because they are running the girls at the end of the day. Tarah and Ashley are both as quick, if not faster, than Patterson in qualifying … when the track is smoother. But as the ruts get deep and the bumps stack up, they can’t throw down like Patterson. She can probably bench press more than Ryan Dungey, and if she had a grappling session with Pourcel, I’m not sure who I’d put my money on. Regardless, Fiolek, Gieger, and the rest of the gals better find another gear soon unless they want to just post up in the number two and three spots for the remainder of the season.

There was a 101 convention of sorts going on under the TLD tent last week in Colorado. Obviously, BT was there doing his thing (landing on the podium in the process. Nice.) and I was there doing my thing (sweating heavily every time I had to hike up the hill, despite the moderate weather) and David Knight was there supporting his girlfriend, Tarah Gieger. It was the 101 trifecta. Now, where in the world is Michael Pichon when you need him?

The Moss brothers just can’t get a break this year. The Aussie boys, who looked like they were going to take the motocross world by storm at the end of 2009, have had more bad luck in the past six months than any rider should endure. Jake snapped his wrist in the Australian supercross series and has been struggling to find his form again; Matt broke his wrist at the end of that same series and has lost most of his mobility in that wrist. He is still working on it, but he is in quite a bit of pain when he rides, and it’s showing in his results. Jake’s bad luck continued in Colorado when a crash broke several spines off his lumbar vertebra. Heal up quickly, boys.

And now from Weege:

First off, if you feel you missed something from last week’s Thunder Valley National in Colorado, I’ve most likely found it in my weekly column, Redux presented by Renthal. Click HERE for 2200 words on analysis from the weekend. Don’t worry, all the words are short. Also, check out Motion Pro’s Sign of the (Lap) Times for some interesting data from the race—did you know Jake Weimer’s fastest lap in both motos came on the last lap? That’s what helped him earn the RC Hard Charger Award this week.
 
Lots of talk about the foreign invasion in the 250 class, with France, Scotland (or Canada), and South Africa holding down the three top spots in the series. The series is racing on Independence Day Weekend and America is looking for a rebound. But this year is nothing compared to the French Revolution witnessed at RedBud ten years ago. Back in 2000, Frenchmen Sebastien Tortelli and Stephane Roncada swept both the 250 and 125 classes and left the race leading the points in both classes. And with "Le Cobra," David Vuillemin (the #934 version), looking like a future potential SX champion, France appeared to be taking over American racing.
 
It didn’t quite work out that way. In the second half of the 2000 season, Americans Ricky Carmichael and Travis Pastrana rallied to win both titles. France has yet to get its AMA National Championship, although Pourcel sure came close last year (and looks good this year). But did you know that Roncada had a big points lead in 2000 and Pastrana had to win the last seven motos to run him down? Did you know that Jeff Emig twice kicked off come-from-behind title runs at RedBud, once from over 50 points down (125 class in 1992) and once from 40 points down (250 class in 1996)? Stranger things have happened, and the championships in both classes are not a lock, even though Pourcel and Ryan Dungey seemed locked on a 2011 collision course right now.
 
Here’s what to watch for at RedBud this weekend.

 


First, let's hope there's not a wind storm tonight, like there was in Colorado.
Photo: Carl Stone

 

 
1. They Almost Had Him: The Budds Creek win two weeks ago might have been Ryan Dungey’s most impressive win of the season, but at Lakewood, he was only thirteenth fastest in practice. Josh Grant was straight-up faster and won the first moto. Andrew Short was even farther ahead in moto one when he crashed. The field, for a moment, had The Dunge on the ropes. But he kept fighting, capitalized on mistakes, and won again. Still, Grant, who won RedBud last year, has to feel like he can get him this weekend.
 
2. A Slump? I once read something in a dirt bike magazine (with a name that basically is Dirt Bike magazine) from a very sage council whose name rhymes with Doger ReCoster. He said motocross racers don’t go through slumps like baseball players do, and if they’re not doing well, it’s not a slump—it’s a sign that something is wrong. So is something wrong with Chad Reed? As far as I know, nothing is wrong. Health is good, fitness is good, bike is fine. So are we watching an amazing collection of bad luck all rolled into one, or is Chad just off the pace? We should know soon enough. By the way, same thing with Mike Alessi. How many more finishes off the podium before we have to start asking what’s wrong?
 
3. Pourcel Finally Clears the Double: Christophe Pourcel seemed to ride like he kinda didn’t care about winning both motos at the first few races this year. But in Colorado, he looked very determined (based on his usual standards) to get that second moto, and he put on some aggressive passes and hard charges to get through his teammates and catch Trey Canard. If he keeps that up, that’s bad news for the rest of these guys, because I don’t think anyone in the 250 class can beat the 377 if he’s on. Now I hope someone in the class reads that, gets all mad, and tries to prove me wrong this weekend. That would be exciting racing.
 
4. LaRocco’s Leap: Dude, it’s huge. Must-see. ‘Nuff said.


 
5. Everybody’s Favorite: Nowadays RedBud is the automatic answer when you ask someone "What’s your favorite national?" The track is great, the dirt is awesome, the fans are nuts, the weather is great. It really doesn’t get much better than this. Hope to see you there.
 
As an added bonus, I’m fired up because the two points leaders in the Can-Am GNCC Series, Josh Strang and Kailub Russell, are both racing the 450 class in their pro MX debuts this weekend. I have no clue how they will do—last weekend they were taking on 80 miles of rocky, muddy, hillclimbing hell at the Snowshoe Resort for the MotorcycleUSA.com GNCC. Moto is a far cry from that, but they both practice a lot of MX during the week and I’ve heard they go pretty good. Hope they represent! Also, KTM will have Mike Brown on Tommy Searle’s 250SX-F. Brownie back in the small-bore class, at the track in which he last won a national (2004). Let’s see what he can do!
 
At that GNCC over the weekend, FMF/KTM’s Nathan Kanney scored the overall win and a $10,000 bonus. Right on, Nate Dawg! Also, Suzuki gave away Josh Strang’s points-leading RM-Z450 (don’t worry, he has a new one to race this weekend at RedBud). We put together a hilarious interview with the bike (yes, we interviewed the bike) for GNCCRacing.com this week. Check it out here:
Don’t forget we’re on NBC with live coverage this Saturday afternoon of the 450 class. Jeff Emig, of 1992 and 1996 comeback fame, will be in the booth with me, and we’ll be joined by BMX hero Jamie Bestwick, who’ll put a cool new angle (and accent) on the action. And Speed will host the 250 show on Sunday. Doing live TV on Saturday is probably the most fun thing I’ve ever done.

From Steve Cox:

Check out this article from SI about Chris Henry. Turns out he had brain damage from multiple hits to the head:
I have to admit that I didn’t know what to expect when Ping up there told me that I should go down and check out Troy Lee’s store opening at The Lab in Costa Mesa, California. I thought I did, but it turns out that I didn’t. I thought it was going to be a pretty straight-forward TLD-style shop, similar to what you see when you go to the Troy Lee headquarters in nearby (but like 2 hours away in 91-freeway traffic) Corona.
 
And I have to say that what I found when I got there was a pleasant surprise. The new TLD store is more like a boutique than anything. It’s a little 600-something-square-foot store in a very stylish "mall," if you can call it that, right up the street from the South Coast Plaza. It’s a great location, sitting right where a lot of the foot traffic enters the shopping center, and the feel of the place is simultaneously hip and retro. Retro-chic? I don’t know. I’m not a fashionista (fashionisto? How does that whole "masculine/feminine" thing work with made-up foreign words?).
 
One surprise is that when you get inside, you quickly start to notice that it’s not exclusively Troy Lee Designs clothing. Essentially, as Troy put it, they kind of found clothes that they liked, and if they thought that was something that they would buy, they tried to offer it in the store, so there isn’t just moto stuff (although obviously it’s heavily moto), but there is surf and more. You have plenty of the moto racing memorabilia that you would expect to see from Troy Lee, but you have Persian rugs and brick walls, tastefully lit. You have Steve McQueen stuff – the legendary actor/racer is becoming a staple of Troy Lee’s style diet – and you have new old-school, like the open-face helmets that adorn the entry way. Lee’s line of open-face helmets will be hitting retailers soon, if they haven’t already.

  • Troy Lee, Doug Bunting and Mondo Marron in the TLD store they designed.
  • TLD artist Jay Stemska. The hand-painted Racer X helmet will probably be added to the display of memorabilia in the store
  • Inside the store.
  • You have plenty of the moto racing memorabilia that you would expect to see from Troy Lee.
The inspiration for the store, from Lee’s perspective, is that he has seen sort of retro moto lifestyle stores pop up in Paris and London – I’ve seen them there, too – over the years, and he just thinks the timing is right for him to take a similar step with his own brand (and others).
 
The end result is a store which (it may be a bad thing) makes you almost just want to come in and hang out in the atmosphere he provides.
 
It probably isn’t a bad thing, though, as I managed to leave with a couple of Triumph shirts to go with the bobber I’m building – one for me and one for my wife. So, with taxes, I’m already "invested" in Troy’s idea, to the tune of about 50 bucks.
 
If you’re in the OC – visiting or resident – and you’re a moto guy, you really do owe it to yourself to check out Troy’s store. Leave it to Troy Lee to take a step like this, and with this kind of style.
 
Here's a few other randoms from this week:

Congratulations to our RedBud contest winner - John Kibbe of Zanesville, Ohio. John subscribed to Racer X and won a weekend at RedBud that includes VIP tickets, a tour and meeting with the GEICO Powersports Honda team, hotel accommodations, an Ironman pass to ride all of the amateur events, and he even gets to drop the gate on the WMX moto!

Want to win a trip like John? Just subscribe or renew now you'll be entered to win a VIP weekend at the Red Bull FIM Motocross of Nations at Thunder Valley Motocross Park!

For you dedicated two-stroke fans, keep an eye on New York privateer Mike Leavitt, who hails from Gardiner, New York, and is a regular in the Southern NY/MSC circuit. Riding under the www.projecttwo50.com banner and wearing #794, Leavitt is going to try to put a 2009 YZ250 two-smoker into the RedBud 450 program, as well as the remainder of the East Coast nationals. It is worth noting that a few other local riders have tried qualifying a two-stroke at various rounds this year, but none have actually done the deed and made the final motos.

Project Two 50 was put together by John Nicholas and group of guys from New York. One thing worth noting: you might not see too much smoke coming from the bike, as the group is running a premix ratio of 200:1 with a 205 main (and that’s super lean for you fuel-injected guys). Mike’s sponsors for the program include Kinetic Audio, Microblue Racing, Amsoil, FMF, DK Construction, Ben Star Racing, and a host of others.

We just got an update from our friends over at Dream Traxx about their trip to Russia. Jason was asked to help out with the Red Bull event by course designer Dane Herron of DHI. Dane, Jason, and crew built a masterpiece freestyle track at the historic Red Square in Moscow for the Red Bull X-Fighters event. Jason wrote a great blog about what happened behind the scenes as the build took place, and posted some awesome pictures. Check it out at www.dreamtraxx.blogspot.com or www.facebook.com/dreamtraxx

 


Red Bull X-Fighters in Moscow.

 


Sarah Whitmore in the Detroit Free Press, Michigan’s largest newspaper!
Longtime motocrosser Dane Batty #242 from Portland, Oregon, has turned from racer to writer and book publisher and released his first book, Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber: The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI’s Most Elusive Criminals on June 309. The book is not racing-related, but he’s hoping his moto family will support a book privateer! Wanted is a true-crime biography of his uncle.

Here is the book description:
Les Rogge, number seven on the FBI’s most wanted, robbed more than 30 banks without firing a shot. In Wanted: Gentleman Bank Robber: The True Story of Leslie Ibsen Rogge, One of the FBI’s Most Elusive Criminals, Les details his adventures from Alaska to Antigua, the Chesapeake to Cancun. But it all came to a halt when a fourteen-year-old in Guatemala forced him to turn himself in.
 
The print book is available at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615268455/?tag=nishpublcomp-20

For more info, visit www.nishpublishing.com



After his run-in with Jake Weimer last week, MotoConcepts Yamaha's Vince Friese took some heat. He decided to write us an email and asked that we share it with everyone here:

Hey, guys, with all the talk going on on the internet, I feel I should comment and give my take on it. First of all, I have nothing but respect for Jake Weimer and all my fellow racers out there. We’re all out there putting our lives on the line and giving it everything we’ve got, and sometimes things can get aggressive. I would never intentionally take out another rider or put someone’s health at risk. I'm always up for a good battle and can take a hit just the same as I can give one—it's called professional racing. Everyone has their own opinion and I can appreciate that, but if you want to survive and be in the top ten in a class as stacked as the Lites class this year, you have to ride defensive and fight for your position. This is motocross, and I've never known it to be a non-contact sport. When you have 40 riders on the track and all going out there for one common goal, someone is bound to come together at some point and go down. That’s why motocross is one of the most exciting and best sports out there.

Finally, there was also a tragic accident last Friday afternoon at Lakewood when a cameraman named Stuart Keene fell off a lift as they were placing the cameras for the television broadcast. Mr. Keene did not survive the fall. He was 57 years old. Our sincere condolences to Stuart's family and friends.
Thank you for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.

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