Racerhead #36

September 3, 2010 5:01pm | by:

Welcome to Racerhead, coming from a very busy Steel City Raceway, site of tomorrow's FMF Steel City National, round 11 of the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. I've been out here trying to help pull everything together, and if the weather holds, tomorrow should be a fantastic race. If you’re not able to make it out to Steel City tomorrow, you can check it out on SPEED Saturday night starting at 8:00 p.m. Eastern with the 250 Class, followed by the 450 Class at 9:00. Remember to check your local listings. And remember, you can watch the opening motos beginning just before 1 p.m. ET on www.allisports.com.

The week was an extraordinary one. A couple of the true pillars of the industry were shaken, one to the point of crumbling. First came the announcement of the retirement of Grant Lansgton, one of the most likable, charismatic, and popular riders in the motocross universe. Langston has struggled the last couple of years with health issues, and he even went the privateer route more or less this year. But the former champion—of AMA Motocross, AMA Supercross, and FIM Grand Prix racing—felt it was time to call it a career and move on to the next phase of his life. I truly hope that future includes work in the sport, and I hope it includes some television work.

Grant Langston has had a very successful career.
Photo: Simon Cudby
Then came the announcement that Cycle News, the weekly bible of American motorcycle racing, had shut down its presses. The publication launched more motocross journalism careers that Team Green has launched pro racing careers, and the lineup includes several Racer Xers, including myself and Eric Johnson and Jason Weigandt, all as many of our senior contributors. Cycle News became the victim of a tough time for both the motorcycle industry and the print industry. A weekly paper is in a tough race with instant internet reporting, and while Cycle News had an exceptional website—they were out front early with their Virtual Grandstand reporting—it wasn't enough to pay for the ink, the paper, the postage, the staff, and more.... I'm sure pretty much every person who was a racing fan in the seventies, eighties, and nineties has fond memories of opening Cycle News each week and immediately scanning In The Wind to find out just what has happened in the last week.
And then there was the news that Roger DeCoster had left Team Suzuki after nearly fifteen years, likely to take a managerial role with KTM, which is ramping up its presence in the U.S. market. DeCoster's work as manager there includes championships with everyone from Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Dungey to Travis Pastrana and Branden Jesseman. Again, times are tough, and there are constant reminders of how difficult it’s been for the OEMs to keep racing at the levels we’re all accustomed to. But with KTM, apparently, Roger will be able to really go to work, and chances are we will soon see an even stronger lineup of talent—likely a mix of U.S. and incoming young international riders—for the Austrian marque. By adding DeCoster's name to an already star-powered staff—Kinigadner, Beirer, and Everts run racing in Europe, and well-liked guys like Casey Lytle and Michael Sleeter are on the job here—KTM has never been better poised to compete on the AMA circuit. The next couple of years should be extremely interesting!

Roger DeCoster will leave Team Suzuki after nearly fifteen years.
Photo: Suzuki

Okay, I have to get back out on the track. With more about Cycle News, let me turn this over to yet another CN graduate, Steve Cox:
Last week, longtime Cycle News editor Paul Carruthers quit the company for reasons that are his to tell, and on Tuesday of this week, the decision was handed down from Sharon Clayton to shut the newspaper down after some forty-five years. This is a loss for the motorcycle community worldwide, but it's quite surreal for me, too, as I got my start (as did what seems like 90 percent of the motojournalist community) at Cycle News when I was 22.
People frequently ask me how I got into my profession, usually speaking of photography. "How did you get into motocross photography?" What they’re searching for is a path that I could tell them about that might give them a direction in which to head to end up where I have. But the reality is, there is no such path. My path will likely never be anyone else’s path, and it’s probably the same for anyone in a position similar to mine.
I was sick of working jobs that I hated, including various types of construction, sales, and desk jobs. I had gone to EMT school and graduated from the Mt. SAC fire academy, but couldn’t figure out why 4,000 people were lining up for like ten job openings that paid $25,000 a year, so I gave that up quickly. One day, I just called Cycle News, because I was an avid reader since I was a little kid. I asked if they had job openings and they said they had one in sales and one in editorial. I was sick of sales, so I asked for the editorial department, and I made an appointment to come in and try out for a proofreader position with Chris Jonnum, who is now at our sister publication, Road Racer X. I passed, apparently, and soon I was a proofreader at Cycle News. Down the road, the guys were going riding one day, and I said that I wanted to go, and one of them said something like, "Well, it’s not like you can just get on a dirt bike and ride it...." I showed them my results in the archives of Cycle News, and then they let me go ride.

Proof that I (Steve Cox) actually ride motorcycles.
Photo: David Langran
That led to writing a few columns, then eventually being set loose on the motocross and supercross series. Then, eventually I was canned for writing for the premiere issue of Mini Moto Magazine without permission.
Still, in the five and a half years that I was at Cycle News, I learned a ton. I had purchased a camera from Brian J. Nelson a few months before I was let go, just to use to supplement my stories, and once I was fired, I set out as a freelancer and, after losing a ton of money the first year in travel expenses and whatnot, eventually made it work. It would’ve been impossible to "make work" if not for the education I received at CN University.
More than ten years after my first day at Cycle News, I can honestly say that I love my profession and I feel lucky nearly every day to be doing what I do – mainly because I am. I got lucky. It’s not to say that I didn’t work hard, because I did and do, but the series of events can probably never be replicated. However, the main thing I’m lucky for is that I was able to work under a group of guys that included Paul Carruthers, Scott Rousseau, Kit Palmer, Chris Jonnum, and eventually Blake Conner. It was like going to college that you get paid for.
Thanks again, guys, and hopefully something bigger and better comes out of this for everyone involved.
The new National Arenacross schedule was announced earlier this week, and the entire series is taking place simultaneously with supercross. That’s interesting, isn’t it? It looks like the days of racing AX and then hopping into the Lites East or whatever are over. The hope is going to have to be to prove yourself in AX so that you can get a ride in SX the following year.
Now let’s turn it over to David Pingree:
Southwick always delivers the drama, doesn’t it? Someone’s bike always melts down or someone yard-sales down a whooped-out section and hurts a shoulder or something. Ryan Hughes actually duct taped his broken leg back together there once. This year was no exception, though I think there was a distinct lack of creativity when it came to duct tape usage. Metcalfe should have won that first moto but he ran out of gas. Short had bike problems and missed qualifying, then crashed in the opening laps and then ran out of gas. That’s a bad day. Townley was flying but got impatient and crashed trying to run up the inside of Metty. Then he flew off the track with Short later that same lap. Then he has a rock break his water-pump cover. There are exactly nine rocks on the entire track at Southwick and somehow one found its way to BT’s motor.

Will Brett get his win at Steel City this weekend?
Photo: Steve Cox
Meanwhile, up at the front of the pack, Ryan Dungey was Forrest Gumping his way to another win. I’m not saying he doesn’t deserve it, because he has been amazing all year, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time, doesn’t he? Good for him.
Side note on the fuel shortages: Southwick has always been a tough race that way. When I rode for Mitch, we used to mount the oil canisters from a KDX200 underneath the rear fender as a reserve. These guys have been racing all year and measuring fuel carefully to see how much is left at the end of a moto. They obviously thought the tanks they were using (which are not production, by the way) would get them through the moto. They were wrong. But literally the only other option would have been to run a huge desert tank on the bike, and some guys just can’t (or won’t) ride with those things.
My wish for the 250 Class is coming true. Canard made up more points on Pourcel and the title is going to come down to the last moto of the year at Pala. I can’t wait. I’m going to be up in the bleachers with a funnel cake and a lemonade, screaming like a Justin Bieber fan. They are going to have funnel cake at Pala, right? Right?

Trey Canard has 4 motos to make up 13 points on Pourcel.
Photo: Steve Cox
How about those Wil Hahn holeshots? The little guy has got it figured out, and it turned them into his best outdoor finish, a fourth.
Travis Baker had a bad weekend. After starting inside the top ten in the first moto, he smashed his ankle and pulled off. He did break a bone and will be in a cast for the next four weeks.
I was totally blown away by the news of Roger DeCoster leaving Suzuki. I’ve been asked by lots of people if KTM will ever be a race-winning team here in the U.S. like they are everywhere else in the world. Well, if they have Roger running things and Stefan Everts working with riders like Pourcel and Reed, that would certainly make a difference.
Honda introduced their 2011 CRF450R today at Jeremy McGrath’s Thing Valley Ranch. The bike features some updates to the suspension and chassis as well as the throttle body. If you missed it, you can check the video out right HERE. The technical report will be along shortly.
We rode the new bike and listened to a presentation from some of Honda’s technical staff in the morning. When we were wrapping up, they brought out a bunch of Team Associated RC10 cars that were designed with our names and magazine logos on them. They were pretty amazing. My driving skills, however, were horrendous. I was swerving all over the track like Lindsay Lohan racing down Mulholland Drive. My apologies go out to the Team Associated folks for crashing my car within the first six seconds.
Now lets hand this off to The Weege:
Yesterday, a few of the top riders and teams visited the University of Pittsburgh Medial Center for Sports Medicine. UPMC has a first-rate facility for athlete performance and injury recovery that is used by many top NFL and NHL players, and the center has put a lot of focus into concussion studies over the last few years. In fact, UPMC is now the official medical research center for concussion studies in the NFL, NHL, and Izod Indycar Series. That's big, and the good thing is that these doctors are motocross fans--Pittsburgh-area athletes Branden Jesseman and Broc Hepler have worked at UPMC in the past, and one of their heads of research, Dr. Brian Hagan, actually used to race local races at Steel City back in the day.

The press conference was helt at UPMC in Pittsburgh, PA.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson
The point is, through their work with the NFL, NHL, and Indycar, UPMC has developed a baseline study to determine if an athlete has really recovered from a concussion, and they'd like to bring that to motocross. Their primary doctor for this study, Mark Lovell, will be attending the Motocross of Nations at the end of the month to conduct more research and talk to more riders and teams. This is a relatively simple baseline test that does not require an athlete to actually go to the UPMC building, so essentially, any racer in the world could take it. Then, after a hard hit to the head, the racer could take the test again, and those results would be compared to the baseline to determine the presence of (or the severity of) the concussion. This could be a game changer in the future. Good work by the folks at UPMC to reach out to the sport and think about the riders.
The UPMC visit served as press day for the national, which is cool because the local Pittsburgh media had a nice additional angle on the race besides just saying the races are in town. And well done by the riders who attended and spoke about this weekend's race, including Andrew Short, Ashley Fiolek, Sarah Whitmore, local boy Shane Durham, and Honda 150 Cup racer Cooper Webb.

Ashley Fiolek rode press day at Steel City for the media.
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson
Yes, sad news on Grant Langston deciding to step away from racing, but with Grant's personality, you know he'll end up doing some great things in this sport even off of the bike. Few have been better to work from a media perspective.
And like everyone else in this industry, I must weigh in on the passing of Cycle News, which, like Cox, served as a launch pad for my moto journalism career. When I first moved here to Morgantown, DC told me to go cover a GNCC for Cycle News and his mom might like it and give me a job. So I did, I got a job, and now I've been here for ten seasons of racing. Much respect to the off-road editors at CN back then, Kit Palmer and our own Chris Jonnum, for taking that first story from the John Penton GNCC. Getting published got me in!
The pits are pretty quiet here at Steel City right now—amateur racing is going off on the track, so you won't see any of the pros walking the facility yet. Ryan Dungey is already here and and looking relaxed after icing that championship last week. I'm off to find our master of ceremonies for the weekend, Tim Ferry, who will help on today's Racer X Motocross Pre-Show--or since Red Dog is the emcee this weekend, I guess I'm helping him out.

Steel City is looking gooooood!
Photo: Andrew Fredrickson

Anyway, check out the pre-show on allisports.com, where we'll have Ferry give us some deep analysis of the racetrack here in Delmont.


And now for some random info:
Craziest photographer ever? Watch this video...

While you're checking out videos, make sure to watch THIS one of Mercedes Terrel (miss SX) from our friends at Moto Verte.
Also, congratulations to Racer X contributor Jim Kimball for being named Western Powersports Rookie of the Year for his work in West Michigan.
Nick McCabe sat down with legendary mechanic Brian Lunniss for the latest installment of our revitalized "Where Are They Now" presented by Bob’s Cycle Supply. Lunnis had an amazing wrenching career that spanned from the early 1970’s all the way through the late ‘90’s. He won races and championships with riders like Donnie Hanson, Bob Hannah, Rick Johnson, Damon Bradshaw, Mike Craig, Mike Kiedrowski and Damon Huffman. Today, the always outspoken man is now one of the guys now behind Mechanix Wear, and his interview is worth a read. Take a look right HERE.

We also posted our first, in a series of 4 "Matrix Concepts MXoN Trivia" challenges today. Take a look HERE. You could win a very cool Team USA mat and stand.

Here’s a note from DMXS Radio’s David Izer:
Roger DeCoster called DMXS Radio just minutes after the PR outlining his shocking departure from Suzuki was released. The motocross legend was understandably somber, but was forthright about his decision to walk away from the successful dynasty he helped create.
"I never thought this would happen, but it did happen," he said. "I’m really disappointed that, you know, that I always thought I would end my career with them." The trying economic times and uncertain future appear to have played a part in the contract negotiations. "I wanted to be able to have a long-term agreement, like a multi-year agreement, and probably because of the economic situation today, they could only commit to a one-year deal. I felt I needed a multi-year, or two or three years, and they could not make that commitment. So I had to make a choice and decided that I didn’t want that and I want to go where I can get a multi-year agreement and plan for more long-term."
Roger has always been a class act and is still appreciative of Suzuki’s role in his career: "I’m thankful to Suzuki because they gave me the opportunity when I was a racer, and we won many championships together and they gave me an opportunity after as a race team manager. I’m thankful they gave me many years. This will be twenty-five years that I’ve worked with Suzuki—nine as a rider, and this is the sixteenth as team manger."
Someone of Roger’s caliber wouldn’t be left on the market for long, and he addressed rumors that he would be going to KTM. "I have been talking to them—not for long, but they seem to be eager, and I feel they want to move quick and would like to know by the weekend," explained The Man. When pressed on the likelihood that it would be KTM, he added, "I think there is a good chance it’s going to happen," although he mentioned there are other interested parties.
DeCoster has built successful racing programs from the ground up before, and he sounded confident that he could find that magic one more time. "If I end up there, it will be a challenge to get them to where I’d like to end up, which is a serious contender in supercross and outdoors in the U.S.," he said. "They’ve had a good year in Europe with their first main-class world championship in motocross, and I believe they have the capability to do it. I feel from talking to them these last couple of days that they are eager to do it and they want to move forward."
"I definitely believe it’s possible to succeed," DeCoster said. "Otherwise, I wouldn’t have considered it."

Here’s a note we received from Troy Lee Design’s Shawn Norfolk:
I’ve had numerous requests for a "video tour" of Troy Lee Designs. There are so many buildings, departments, and employees on the campus that I was struggling to find a creative way to show everything and everybody in a video tour. We’ve got the Museum, the paint department, the race shop, the warehouse, the design studio and so much to show. Well, here you go…the Troy Lee Designs tour. (the two minute version). Enjoy!

If you're on Facebook and still haven't "liked" the official Racer X Online Facebook page, please head over to http://www.facebook.com/racerxonline and hit that little button. We update our profile multiple times a day, many of which have content that's exclusive to our Facebook page. Case in point: the Old-School Moto Photo of the Day. We're at nearly 126,000 fans and counting, and we hope you'll join us there.

The Old School Moto Photo of the Day feature we've been running on our Facebook Page has been a hit! We love it too!

While you're at it, also check out the Facebook page for the upcoming film Moto 2, which will be presented by Racer X. Taylor Congdon is getting crazy footage for this film, and it's going to be incredible. "Like" the official page to keep up with the film as it develops. We really think it's going to be something special.
Finally, racer Eric Saunders suffered a broken back and is recovering in an Indianapolis hospital after crashing at his home track while practicing for the Steel City pro national. Eric’s spine was initially thought to be severed, but his father, Irish Saunders, confirmed that it was in fact only stretched. Eric was initially taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend and was airlifted shortly after to Indianapolis so he could receive the best possible care. He underwent surgery Sunday night, with doctors placing rods along his spine. Since that time, Eric has also had surgery to repair a bleeding spleen and is getting additional treatment for other injuries. Family and friends are seeking donations to help with the insurmountable medical bills and aftercare for Eric. For more information on Eric’s condition, and to see how you can help, please visit www.ericsaunders.net.
That’s it for this week. See you at Steel City!