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Racerhead #33

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Welcome to Racerhead, and happy Friday the Thirteenth—Black Friday, if you were a Templar Knight following the Crusades. But I digress.


Like a lot of motocross fans, I've been waiting for this weekend for a long time—almost two years, to be exact. After a hiatus from outdoor motocross that lasted nearly that long, James Stewart is coming back to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross tour. The last time he raced a national, it was to cement a perfect 24-0 season in 2008. Then he switched teams and went supercross-only, and it seemed like he would never come back outside to play.
In the time he's been away, James won an AMA Supercross title, starred in a popular realty show on Fuel TV, collected some more really nice automobiles, jumped into Miami Bay with a parachute ... but he also suffered a serious wrist injury that cost him his shot at defending that #1 plate in SX.
 
But in the time he's been gone, a lot of people have been doing a lot of work on the AMA Motocross tour. The reasons James went SX-only in the first place (as well as Chad Reed and Kevin Windham, with still others considering it) had become obvious. The weekends were too long, the TV and internet coverage not moving forward, and the exposure just not worth the effort for some when compared to AMA Supercross.
 
Fortunately, the series doesn't really look the same as it did when James took his leave. When he made his exit, the athletes and teams had to travel on Friday, set up and practice Saturday, practice again on Sunday morning, race Sunday afternoon, then travel back home on Monday. There was little live coverage to speak of it, and what was there was online. Everything was on a smaller network, with one-week delays at best.


James Stewart will be back at the track this weekend, and not just signing autographs.
Photo: Simon Cudby
 
Now the races take place on a single day (albeit a long one) and that day is Saturday. The events all air live on the internet (first motos), followed by live or same-night coverage for 450s, some live and the rest next-day for the 250s. For instance, tomorrow's Rockstar Energy Unadilla round will have live NBC Sports coverage, which follows the first motos live on www.allisports.com. And the audience is growing in on-site attendance, online viewers, and television coverage all over the world. That's all changed dramatically since 2008. (I know some of the moves it took to make all that happen didn't go over well with everyone, but I also believe the benefits of those moves are now readily apparent.)
 
As I wrote before, motocross needs to thank Chad Reed for being the first superstar to turn around and come back outdoors, and it paid off with the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Then Kevin Windham came back in order to fill the spot at Honda Red Bull Racing left open after Davi Millsaps' accident at Budds Creek.
And now James Stewart is back. And to make things even more interesting, Jason Lawrence is back, and Grand Prix star Clement Desalle is at Unadilla to once again test the waters on the AMA tour.
 
I also think a lot of credit goes to the Ryan Dungeys, Ryan Villopotos, Andrew Shorts, Brett Metcalfes, and everyone else for continuing to make the series relevant, even while the bigger stars at that time were not participating.
Anyway, I hope in these last four rounds that Stewart enjoys himself again, puts on a great show, and gets some respect from the fans for coming back to motocross. Thanks, James—and Chad and Kevin—for coming back out to the races.
 
Now if we could only get L'il Hanny back out there.
 
Worldwide coverage of James Stewart's return/Ryan Dungey's march/Clement Desalle's working vacation begins at 12:30 p.m. Eastern Saturday on www.allisports.com. It's live and it's free. Then at 3:00 p.m. move over to your couch and the big screen as NBC Sports presents live coverage of the second moto from Unadilla. In the booth will be Jason Weigandt and Jeff Emig.


Clement Desalle will be joining in on the fun at Unadilla.
Photo : Sara Gutierrez
 
If you are coming up to Unadilla this weekend, make sure you take note of the revised start time for the first moto: The gate will drop on the 450cc class at 12:40pm on Saturday. Normally the gate drops at 1 p.m., but because of the Live NBC broadcast, it was moved up a few minutes.
 
There's also a 250 National this weekend, where Trey Canard will continue to try to reel in Christophe Pourcel in the chase for that championship. The GEICO Powersports Honda rider has won three races in a row, though the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki-backed Pourcel has been smart about covering his losses with decent finishes. And he's coming up tomorrow on his favorite track in the world, and the weather should be reasonably cool. Add it all together, and TC has his work cut out for him. After a three-week break, it's going to be awesome seeing everyone out there racing again.
 
Also, welcome to Clement Desalle. The Teka Suzuki GP rider from Belgium is back for more, having come across the ocean for last year's Washougal National and acquitted himself very well—third in the first moto, and not too far behind the winner Chad Reed. He was on a privateer Honda, with help from Ryan Clark, and got two short practices in before he went out and took his licks. And rode extremely well!
 
Now he's under the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki tent, and he took part in yesterday's press conference and press-day ride, which means he got about a good half-hour on the Unadilla track. What I am saying is that Clement looks much more confident and comfortable and could have himself a very good afternoon tomorrow.
 
Ron Lechien is also having a pretty good week. The Dogger is on the cover of the Moto Verte summer issue, with a killer photo by Stephan Legrand. Lechien, an American motocross original, is still working in the industry, helping run his family's business, Maxima Oils.


 
Also, here's a cool video of Dogger's cover shoot: LINK
 
Turns out it's Malcolm McCassey's week in the barrel. After a story came out about him being "that guy" in motocross circles on ESPN.com: http://espn.go.com/action/fmx/blog?post=4209891
 
Some not-so-positive blogs and posts started coming out from the OC and sites like TheDirty.com. Like this one:
I've had weeks like that before, Malcolm. Hang in there.

With that, let me turn this over to Weege:
 
After two weeks on the road at X Games and Loretta's, I'm pumped to be back to a good old one-day event this weekend at Unadilla. But before you put Loretta's behind, check out this week's Redux (LINK) presented by Renthal. I know what it's like to read through the results of a big amateur national and really have no clue what it means, so I've broken down this year's race class by class, and show you the historical significance of what those wins really mean. Win on a PW50 and you've got a 50/50 shot at best of making it. Win at age 12 or 13 on a minicycle and it's pretty much guaranteed. Click ReduX for more.
 
As for Unadilla, here are five things to watch (besides the live NBC show on Saturday and the 250 show on SPEED on Sunday).
 
1.) Remember This? At High Point in 2003, Mike Brown and Ryan Hughes put on the battle to end all battles in the 125 class. Two motos side-by-side the whole way. After that one, people said it was impossible to ride a 125 faster than those two did, and when defending national champ James Stewart returned to the series from a broken collarbone, he would have his hands full.
 
Well, he showed up at Budds Creek a few weeks later. His hands were full, but only because they were formed into clenched fists, and he then completely knocked out the competition. Not only did James come from about last to first in the first moto, he perfected the Bubba Scrub, and then went on to win every single moto for the rest of the season....
 
2.) Break's Over: Unadilla marks the return after the longest break of the season—three full weeks if you didn't race X Games. And if you're Josh Grant and raced XG and won, and even piled on a Surfercross win, not taking a break was a good move. In general, the field should be rested and ready this weekend. Although we always say that after and off weekend and the results rarely changed. Except for Ryan Dungey from Hangtown to Texas.
 
3.) Remember this? James Stewart missed almost the entire 2008 Monster Energy SX tour with a torn ACL. After going under the knife for the knee, he had only five months to prepare for the AMA MX opener at Glen Helen, and the ACL injury is supposed to be a six-month deal. Many wondered if he could be ready by GH, not to mention all the conspiracy theorists who thought he wasn't even hurt at all and was just holding out due to some Monster/Red Bull/Kawasaki contract or money issues (and if you were one of the people saying he wouldn't race for Kawi for the rest of 2008 over an energy-drink deal, boy do you look dumb now).
 
Lo and behold, James did show up on a Monster Energy Kawasaki at Glen Helen, and he not only raced on it and his bad knee, but he dominated. Then he won every single moto for the rest of the season.


Stewart went 24-0 in 2008 on the Monster Energy Kawasaki.
Photo: Simon Cudby
 
4.) A showdown looms: Trey Canard has won the last three 250 races, and I heard he and Tim Ferry have taken their relationship to the next level—he's been staying at Timmy's house to get some sand lessons in to prepare for Southwick. He's on a huge roll. Yeah, Christophe Pourcel could just let Trey win these races and hold onto the title if he finishes second in every moto, but that kind of math is useless in this sport. Racers aren't robots, and CP is well aware that you can't simply count on a 2-2 every weekend (remember Southwick last year?). He's one first-turn crash and an eighth-place finish from making this a fight to the finish, so he knows he'll need to beat Canard at some point. And with the likes of Wilson, Rattray Barcia, Wharton, and others in this field, getting second isn't an automatic, either. And Canard winning isn't a given. This is racing, and anything can happen. Unadilla is Pourcel's favorite track. He's going to try to win this weekend. Racers aren't robots, they race to race, not to crunch numbers.

5.) And speaking of....: Oh yeah, Ryan Dungey has a massive points lead. It's tempting to say he'll just cruise and let James Stewart win races to be sure he stays safe. That is totally ridiculous. Dungey didn't get this good, either, without being a competitor. And he's not going to just let someone come off the couch and win. It would ruin the credibility of his whole season. Maybe you've noticed riders mention the word confidence quite a bit? This will be a battle or confidence, will, and head games for 2011. Stewart isn't coming back because he likes eating Unadilla rocks or Southwick sand. He's coming back to give Dungey something to think about for 2011, and if Dungey just lets him go, it will be mission accomplished. Racers aren't robots. Dungey isn't going to dial up a pace of exactly 92.3 percent, stay safe and accept second. If everyone makes it into the motos healthy and everyone is ready, you're going to see some racing, not points tabulating.
 
Now lets swing it over to Steve Cox:
 
I’m going to start out talking about the same thing everyone who knows anything about Unadilla is talking about: Yes, it’s true, they put in an AT&T cell tower in New Berlin, New York! I haven’t gotten there yet (traveling today), but this may be the first time that speaking to someone while at the Unadilla National doesn’t require you to either alternate cupping your hands around your mouth and ears, or to hire a medium.
This may also be good news for our Twitter followers, as DC and I will be keeping you up to date on the happenings from Unadilla via Twitter if AT&T cell service works there. [I tried it, and it's a bit dodgy—DC.)
Yesterday, I posted some breaking news that Jake Weimer would be sitting out Unadilla with a couple "burnished discs" in his back. Well, the person who sent me the text telling me that tried to type "herniated" in their phone and it auto-corrected to say "burnished," and I didn’t know what a "burnished" disc was, so I Googled the term, and it popped up with a reference to prosthetic spinal discs your back, so I figured, "Heck, it must be something then!" But then the person sent me a correction and said, "No, herniated! They’re herniated!" So, sorry about that. It was quickly corrected. And burnished.

We don’t know when Weimer will be back racing just yet, though.
Photo: Steve Cox
But how about this silly season that’s going on right now? I still think the only people who didn’t already have deals for 2011, but have signed for a team in the 450cc class, are still James Stewart (staying where he is) and Trey Canard (Honda Red Bull Racing). But I’m starting to understand what’s going on a bit better now. Of the guys who are moving up to 450s next year, the hottest commodity is 250cc points leader Christophe Pourcel, and it sounds like he’s the one holding up the train. There are several teams hoping to hire him, but his salary number, from what I hear, is too much for the teams to stomach (rumor says it’s about 2 million bucks per).
So what we have going on is we have a bunch of teams with their budgets of X, and they don’t want to spend that budget until they know Pourcel is no longer available. But the teams aren’t willing to give Pourcel the amount he is looking for, and Pourcel isn’t budging either. What’s left is that there are a bunch of teams hoping that Pourcel with budge and his number will drop considerably, at which point perhaps they can hire him, but they might not be able to fit Pourcel into their remaining budget if they hire, say, Jake Weimer in the meantime.
So there are a lot of very frustrated riders out there right now waiting for news about who they’re going to ride for next year—and for how much—so that they can move to the next step, which is to begin gathering gear sponsors and other personal sponsors ... at least for those who land on factory teams or satellite teams that don’t have existing gear deals.

  • Justin Bieber might be taking over MX...
  • Bob Bieber
  • Bubba Bieber
  • Jeremy McBieber
  • Justin Wharton
  • Ricky Bieber
  • Roger DeBieber
Waiting in line behind Pourcel, in no particular order, are the aforementioned Weimer (who beat Pourcel and everyone else like a at the Vegas Supercross—how easily people forget when someone has a streak of sub-par races), Brett Metcalfe (who is doing really well on a 450 right now), and 450cc vets Andrew Short (perhaps the easiest rider to work with in the entire pro pits), Josh Grant, Ben Townley (outdoors-only), Chad Reed (yeah, remember him?), Ryan Villopoto (probably staying at Kawi, though), Justin Brayton, Ryan Sipes, Kyle Chisholm, Nick Wey, Kyle Regal, Tommy Hahn, Kyle Cunningham (who could race on a 250 again next year if he chooses), Kevin Windham (likely staying where he is at GEICO), Austin Stroupe, Michael Byrne, Grant Langston, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few!
Now, that’s pretty insane, isn’t it? If we get all of those guys on 450s next year for Anaheim 1, along with Ryan Dungey, James Stewart, Trey Canard, and company, that’s twenty dudes just right there. That’s a main-event field. Racing is a tough game, isn’t it?
Now, just to touch on Unadilla and the return of that #7 guy, some people are saying that he has had a tough time at the ‘Dilla, and he has had a few tough breaks there, but if I remember correctly, he has always actually really liked the track and gone fast there.
The best thing about all of this is that despite the speculation as to who is going to do what tomorrow, as they say, when the gate drops, the bullshit stops. Speculation is fun. Bench-racing is sometimes what it’s all about. But the reality is that in about twenty-four hours, we’ll know the answer and speculation will no longer be necessary.
But how about this for speculation? I mentioned before that Stewart wants to be on Team USA in part because he wants to have it on his TV show. Well, what if he doesn’t get picked for Team USA? What if his fitness isn’t outstanding just yet, then Team USA is picked and doesn’t include him, but then his fitness comes together and he starts killing it? Will he do a Zach Osborne and race for Puerto Rico? If so, it’s actually possible that a team like Puerto Rico could win a moto or two at the MXdN! (Although, that’s assuming they can qualify for the A Main, as at least one of the other two riders on the team will have to put in a decent result in qualifying in order to do so, even if he wins.)
Just putting it out there.
Look for updates from the ‘Dilla tomorrow on Twitter (if cell service works) and on the website here (if we have an internet connection that’s worth anything).
Okay, here's Ping:
Does anything go together better than dirt bikes, energy drinks, iron structures, heavy metal music, and fire? I submit that the answer is no. And Red Bull tends to agree with me, apparently, because they are finally moving ahead with an event they have been trying to put together for a long time. This fall the first Metallicross will kick off at the Pala Casino Resort and Pala Raceway. What the hell is Metallicross? Great question. Though I’m sure that in your mind’s iPod you’ve already heard the gruff, cigarette-smoke-hardened voice of the Monster Energy Supercross announcer say "Are you ready for Metallicroooosssss?" Maybe that’s just me.
According to the boys down at Red Bull it is going to be a motocross race blending track designs from supercross, endurocross, trials, and freestyle with a little Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome vibe thrown in. The track will be designed by Travis Pastrana, James Stewart, David Knight, Ronnie Renner, and Geoff Aaron and built by Dane Herron and his crew at DHI. I don’t know what kind of torture device these guys are going to come up with, but their PR reads: "The track itself will feature a nearly two story drop into the first turn; a 12-foot-high step-up; dirt-to-concrete whoops; a creek crossing; stretches of sand; a stair set made of railroad ties; explosions and geysers of flame." Sounds reasonable.


Reasonable, I'm sure that's how most will describe Pastrana's section of the track...
Photo: Steve Cox
The format is completely unconventional as well. There will be several heat races, a last-chance qualifier, semifinals, and wildcard elements prior to the final that will keep the fans riveted to the action on the track and give every rider a true chance to prove themselves. They are also promising some major names to provide the music during and after the event. I heard rumors that it was going to be Danzig playing at Pala after the race, but we’ll have to wait until they announce it for sure. One thing I do know is that anything Red Bull does turns out good. If they can turn FlugTag into a viable, well-attended event then Metallicross is going to be a smash hit. I can’t wait. Saturday, October 23 is the date, so make plans to check it out. You can also get more info on the qualifiers and more at www.metallicross.com
So, the question on everyone’s mind this weekend is can James Stewart come off the couch and beat Ryan Dungey? Man, that’s a good question. My opinion is that he will be fast—very fast. But I don’t think he’ll have enough gas in the tank to hold off Dungey late in the motos. If you live anywhere near New Berlin, New York, or even the Atlantic Ocean, you should be there. Watch it on TV if you can’t be there.
Wil Hahn is back this weekend. Little Wilbur has been nursing a bum shoulder since Budds Creek and he’s finally ready to hop back on and go. Good luck, little fella.

In other news:

If you haven’t yet, you should check out ProMotoFan.com before the end of the MX season. $50,000 Cash by DeCal Works still up for grabs, and this is the real deal!
 
The Stefan Everts and Friends annual charity event raced over 40,000€ (over $50,000 U.S.). Check out www.evertsandfriends.be for more on the event.


If you're in the area, check out the Randy Childers benefit auction at 3 Palms MX.
Langers attended the Toyota Surfercross presented by Muscle Milk earlier this week, and he mentioned this:
"This footage was taken the same day as Surfercross at San O State beach which is about 1/4 mile from where we were surfing. The shark is a baby Great White. Probably about 9 feet long. I guess the area is pretty well known for having shark sightings of young Great Whites around this time of year:http://www.surfline.com/video/locals/great-whites-off-san-o_46403. Funny thing is, Cameron Steele and the other announcer were making jokes about Shark Week the whole time! Gnarly in the truest sense of the word!"
 
[I just watched that terrifying video that Langers posted up from the Surfercross event. On a related note I have a surfboard for sale if anyone is interested. Make me an offer. Any offer.—Ping]
 
Okay, thanks, Langers, let me close this out....
 
I spent last week at Loretta Lynn's Ranch, which is easily the longest week in motocross and, in my book, the very best one. It would be impossible to try to explain all of the cool things that happened there at the ranch, but the highlights included seeing Loretta Lynn herself make a surprise appearance at the riders’ meeting, getting to see Ryan Villopoto back on the bike during the Kawasaki 2011 intro, seeing Ricky do a few laps on the new 'Zooks, bench racing with old friends, way too many to count or list here. Loretta Lynn's is part convention/part vacation/part reunion—and all motocross.
 
And of course there were just dozens and dozens of motos that went off, with all of the next big things in American motocross: Jason Anderson, Ian Trettel, Gannon Audette, Justin Bogle, Cooper Webb, Adam Cianciarulo, Jace Owen, Dakota Alix—the list goes on.  


Bogle is boggling people's minds with his speed.
Photo: Matt Ware
 
Now it's all been overshadowed by a tragedy. Late in Thursday afternoon's races, two riders apparently collided over a camelback jump, one coming down on the other. The medics were right there, but the injuries to one rider were internal and severe. The rider was rushed by ambulance to a nearby hospital, then on to Nashville for further care. For five days, Ashlee Sokalski fought to live, but the doctors could not save her, her lungs and chest having been severely damaged in the crash. Her family and her friends in the motocross community will say goodbye to her this weekend in her hometown in Michigan, with the funeral set for Monday at noon in Sterling Heights. According to the stories I've read and heard about her, Ashley Sokalski's life was all about motocross. She was 19 years old.

 

Godspeed, Ashlee.

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