Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from Hangtown's pro paddock, smack dab in the middle of the opening round of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships. The long off-season (well, only two weeks, but it seemed like much more since Monster Energy Supercross was wrapped up so early) is over, and tomorrow we will start to see some questions answered at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic.
How well will Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin stack up against #1 Dean Wilson? Will the sheer speed and power of the GEICO Honda team carry over to outdoors in the 250 class? And Tyla Rattray on a 450? He looks fitter than ever—maybe because he doesn't have to diet as much now! Ryan Dungey outdoors on the orange #5 KTM against you-know-who's #7 'Zook? And what about Ashley Fiolek and Jessica Patterson and their never-ending rivalry? What about Ivan Tedesco back outdoors, back on a Pro Circuit-backed 250? How about Mike Alessi, who looked very fast yesterday after getting through the entire SX season relatively unscathed?
You can watch it all tomorrow, the first motos live on FUEL, or online (and free!) at www.allisports.com. And then the second motos will air on NBC Sports Network later on Saturday night—as new kids on the block we didn't get the times we wanted right off the bat, but good news is coming (and that includes most of you in Europe waiting for a more comprehensive package). The races start at 1 p.m. out west, 4 p.m. in the east, and should be fantastic.
Ken Roczen's press-day whips were downright mind-blowing.
Simon Cudby photo
IMPORTANT: Allisports.com will be using the new “Silverlight” technology from NBC that will allow you to check out different angles, and highlight clips that you can watch as the races are going on. It's a free download and will make watching the online races even better. Here is a headstart (CLICK HERE) but look for a Breaking News piece shortly with information on how it all works and where to download it on Allisports.com.
And we will also be posting the archived motos and the aired second motos as soon as possible, after the races.
The Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club has once again went over and above the call of duty in prepping this track, and as you probably saw in Simon Cudby's gallery of photos, the track and soil look amazing. A tip of the visor to the work of all the Dirt Diggers this week. They are volunteers, they work hard and they do good work.
But there have been some hiccups in getting here; biggest of all the crashes and injuries that have sidelined top stars like defending champion Ryan Villopoto, former champions Chad Reed and Trey Canard. Ashley Fiolek announced that this will be her last season on the WMX tour, which should only add to the drama. And even our new pit reporter Georgia Albertson has been sidelined briefly as she gets all of her paperwork in order (for now, look for her on the Racer X Motocross Show, which will appear on Sunday as we collaborate with our partners at Vurbmoto to give you a better show than ever, with all of the race highlights and exclusive interviews).
The track is looking prime and ready to go!
Simon Cudby photo
Obviously this has been a pretty hectic week for everyone, and I have spent most of it here at the track working with MX Sports and the Hangtown staff. There are a lot of things that can and will go wrong, but as long we have good weather and a good, safe race, hopefully it will be the start of an extraordinary summer.
I am also proud that the event and the rest of the series will host an area for people to sign up for BeTheMatch.org, as people all over the world—and from all sorts of motorized sports—are trying to help find the match for a possible bone marrow transplant for Kim McGrath, the wife of Jeremy, who is battling leukemia right now. If you come out to the races, please try to stop by and sign up to be a possible donor. I did it last Friday at the Lake Elsinore Pro Ride Day and it was quick and easy.
What wasn't quick and easy was last weekend's first Grand Prix of Mexico. Sebastien Tortelli, the promoter and a very good friend of mine for some 15 years now, had a lot of challenges and obstacles to overcome in trying to make a good new race in a very tough situation. Things got a little sideways down there, and as a result Sebastien has had a tough week, as you can tell in his open letter (READ HERE). I just wanted to say here that I know how much goes into trying to pull off a big event like that, and I am sure Tortelli put his heart and soul into it. He deserves the benefit of the doubt, and I really hope he has much better luck in his next racing endeavor.
Okay, I have to get back to work on some of the last-minute stuff here, so let me turn it over to the rest of the guys.
James Stewart makes his return to the outdoors tomorrow.
Simon Cudby photo
Let's start with Jason Weigandt who just arrived at Hangtown:
What a beautiful day here in Rancho Cordova, home of Hangtown and the opener for the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. You couldn't ask for better weather and the Prairie City OHV Park, which contains the track, looks awesome. But we are always excited on the eve of the Nationals, even though we are dealing with a weird situation with 450 Champion Ryan Villopoto out for the summer.
Beyond that absence, this year's field is full of intrigue. We have talked to death about Ryan Dungey and James Stewart, and also the "Big 2" of the 250 class, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki and GEICO Honda. But I think we may see some surprises beyond that.
Josh Grant is one of the most intriguing riders coming into this series—even though hardly anyone is talking about him. He's been out of the spotlight for a long time, but he has actually been healthy for a while and has given motocross his full focus for the spring (he pretty much wrote SX off and just went through the motions at the races). JG hauls at this track—he won a moto here on a 450 a few years ago—and really, really needs a breakout summer to reestablish himself. He could do some serious damage if things finally start to fall his way.
Josh Grant could be a dark horse in 2012, if he can stay healthy.
Simon Cudby photo
In the 250s, it seems like many have tempered their expectations for Ken Roczen because he only won one supercross this year. And yes, he has little acclimation to Eastern U.S. heat and humidity, and doesn't know the tracks here. But you know what? Those are mere details. Talent is talent and speed is speed. We may be making a huge mistake to judge Kenny's 2012 outdoor potential based on his supercross season.
Same with Blake Baggett. Baggett's best strength outdoors is his line selection, and the ability to go where other riders don't. It almost looks like he's riding a track with 50 percent less bumps than the others, at times. But that skill doesn't apply in supercross.
Bottom line is we only have the indoor season in which to use right now to make outdoor predictions. And that info could steer everyone in the wrong direction. Remember no one would have expected the PC boys to dominate outdoors last year—their supercross season was merely average at best.
Heck, you can't even judge the series from Hangtown alone. Remember Ryan Villopoto couldn’t stick with Dungey or Reed here last year. And while Dungey won the 2010 title, he struggled mightily here, while Reed and Mike Alessi took the moto wins. Reed won the 450 opener the last two years but didn't win the title either time, while he did win the '09 title after struggling a bit at the opener that season.
It's going to be a long, fun summer, and one that could change at any moment. That's what makes the racing fun to watch.
Blake Baggett looks to rebound outdoors after a sub-par supercross campaign.
Simon Cudby photo
In case you're wondering, the Racer X Motocross show will be back this year with the usual post-race Internet show extravaganza. We've even got the original crew handling the technical work behind the scenes, with Wes Williams and the boys from Vurbmoto. We are going to party like it's 2005 but also enjoy more reliable Internet upload speeds. We will have the first post show posted here on Sunday morning. Don't miss it.
Steve Matthes, who just made the unofficial deadline, is up next with some pit chatter:
Whew, just got this in by the deadline! I’m here cruising the pits at Hangtown bothering the teams and riders while they get ready for the opening round of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Here are some tidbits from the pit walk:
-The unofficial times from yesterday’s press day had James Stewart the fastest at just over two minutes. Tyla Rattray was a second off of JS and Ryan Dungey was a second behind Rattray. Also looking good was Mike Alessi, but I didn’t hear a time on him. What do these times mean? Nothing really, it’s foolish to judge anything on these things but I’m just passing it along.
- Nick Wey is in the house doing the first of four nationals this year for the Motosport.com Kawasaki team. He’s doing Hangtown, High Point, RedBud and Millville in 2012. He’s a little behind the eight ball with lack of testing and preparation due to an injury he suffered while racing SX but he’ll be here, he’ll be wearing a Mafia vest and I suppose that’s cool.
- Some pit scuttlebutt that had people talking was the use of Renthal bars by James Stewart on the Yoshimura Suzuki team when the team is supported by Pro Taper. Plenty of talk about how Pro Taper is definitely not happy about this (and I checked with them and they’re not) and how James wears Answer gear which is owned by Tucker Rocky, the same company that owns Pro Taper. The deal is PT didn’t make a bar that made Stewart happy (he’s been a long-time Renthal guy) and that he asked if he could use them. Obviously Suzuki said yes and here we are. Weird deal for sure but I suppose Suzuki’s stance is that James (or a second rider) isn’t listed on the contract that Suzuki signed so maybe this is a technicality. I don’t know for sure, just spit-balling here but it’s got people talking.
- The GPS sensors that caused all the commotion in supercross last year with the L&M team are legal to use outdoors and perhaps front and rear wheel sensors as well. What these sensors can do is tell the team on what part of the track the bike is doing what. It’s invaluable and was not allowed in supercross but outdoors, they are. Interesting stuff.
-Look for Chris Blose to be a fan favorite this weekend and not because he’s out front and winning but because he’s going to be on a Yamaha YZ250 two-stroke. Yep, Blose has decided to make his racing laps miserable and try his best on a machine that will be at a disadvantage out there. The cool thing for me is Pulpmx.com is his main sponsor this weekend so, go Chris go!!!
- Talked to Ryan Hughes for a bit and he’s committing to Hangtown this weekend and will see how it goes from there. If he wants to do more Nationals, the Rock River/Moto Star Yamaha team has committed to throwing a bike on the truck for him. Hughes himself (he’s 39 by the way) isn’t sure and for now, this is a one-weekend deal. But with Ryno, you never know. I spoke to some teams that said they have been surprised at his speed at Glen Helen on Thursday practices leading into this race.
Now over to Aaron Hansel who caught up with Pro Circuit's new rider, Ivan Tedesco:
We’re less than 24 hours from the first gate of the year dropping at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic, and I can’t tell you how excited I am. The start of a fresh, new series always carries a lot of enthusiasm and anticipation, and this year is no different. Ivan Tedesco is returning to action with Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki, the same team he won the outdoor 250 title for in 2005. I’d be lying if I said this situation didn’t especially interest me, which is why I gave Tedesco a ring this week to find out a little more about it.
Racer X: We’ve all been hearing a lot about you riding a Pro Circuit 250F this summer. Tell us what’s officially happening with this situation.
Tedesco: I’ve ridden the bike about five or six times, right after Vegas was the first time I rode it. We started talking about it a little before Vegas, not joking around, but just thinking it’d be cool to race one of these things again. A week later they needed to shuffle some guys around because [Ryan] Villopoto got hurt and I threw my name into the hat, and things worked out.
Are you excited to be riding with the Pro Circuit team again?
I’m super pumped. I’ve worked with those guys throughout the years since I’ve left the team, but to be on the actual race team again is really cool. I get along with all the guys really good, I’ve worked with Bones and Mitch in the past with some success, and it’d be cool to go back there and have some more.
They have got to be excited, because you definitely won a few titles for them in the past.
Yeah, I won two supercross [Lites] titles and one outdoor title in those two years that I rode for them. It’s just cool to ride a 250F again. It’s been seven years, and it was a little weird at first, but I’m starting to get the hang of it and hopefully at some point I can get up there and be a contender.
What about the people who say you should be on a 450?
Yeah, you know, to some of the people that are asking why I’m riding a Lites bike, this is the opportunity I had to ride outdoors. My deal [with H&H] is supercross only, and when I got hurt, I thought to myself that I should race outdoors this summer, because if I take another summer off, I’m going to be way too far behind next year. I need to be on the starting gate, so I put some feelers out there, and this was my only good opportunity, and I’m going to take it. Anybody that has any questions about me being on a 250F, I don’t really know what to tell them.
I think you just did tell them. How does this affect your contract with Hart & Huntington?
All that’s good, we worked all that out. Basically I’m going to ride for Mitch from Hangtown until Elsinore, which is the last outdoor race, and then I’ll go back to Hart & Huntington and finish out the rest of the year with them, with the Monster Cup and whatever else.
Will you be in Thor or Shift gear?
I’m gong to be wearing the full Pro Circuit kit (Thor), the whole deal. We worked all that out with the Hart & Huntington guys, and things actually went pretty good, smoother than I thought they would when I brought it up to those guys. I want to thank those guys for letting me take this opportunity. I think they realize that for me to be the best I can be next year, I need to be at the races this summer, and it’s cool that they let me do it.
The GEICO Honda stable of Hahn, Bogle, Barcia and Tomac look to capture the teams first outdoor title since Trey Canard in '10.
Simon Cudby photo
How’s the finger?
Finger’s all good. That was a rough injury for just being a finger. I had three months off the bike, and we were expecting six to eight weeks. When I got the pins out, the thing wouldn’t bend, and it took a lot of therapy and a lot of pain to get that thing to where I could actually hold onto a handlebar. It’s all good now, it’s just a matter of seat time, and I’ve been riding every day. I just need to get my fitness up and we’ll be good.
What’d we miss?
I’d like to thank Mitch for the opportunity, and the Hart & Huntington guys for letting me take it. And thanks to all the fans that are supporting me. On Twitter (@ivantedesco) a lot of people are pretty pumped, so hopefully I can have a cool summer, have some good races and have some fun.
Let's kick it over to our intern Haley Whisennand who has an update on privateer Gavin Faith:
I checked in with privateer/professional fill-in rider Gavin Faith the other day after I noticed that he wasn't listed for Hangtown. For the past couple of weeks, he had been waiting for offers to ride the Nationals. But now, Faith has decided that he's going to head down under for another year in the Australian Super X Series. Last year, he finished second and now, with the experience from the U.S. supercross circuit, expect him to make a big showing.
As for next year, though, Faith doesn't have any plans. Will we see him back for supercross in 2013? I personally hope so. Faith showed a lot of promise this season, and maybe if he got picked up by a team for a whole season and had time to test, he would be able to get the consistency and results that he is capable of.
Now some random notes to close:
Jessica Patterson has a new ride for 2012.
Simon Cudby photo
There are only 300 of these passes available, and this is the only way for you to get into the pro pits past noon. Spend five more hours in the pits!
For $40 you get 12 issues of Racer X plus an all-day pit pass, good from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. You can get the subscription for yourself or send it as a gift when you fill out the subscription information on the order page. If you need to buy more than one pass you can get a multi-year subscription to the same address.
With Lil D at the helm, the FMF apparel launch party kicked off at La Jolla Group in Irvine, CA this past Wednesday night with some heavy hitters in attendance including X Games Gold medalist Kyle Loza, JGRMX rider Davi Millsaps, Jeff Emig, Coy Gibbs, Donnie Emler along with a host of industry types and pretty girls. Red Bull provided the liquid refreshment with an open bar, while popular OC cover band "Flashback Heart Attack" kept the crowds entertained with some classic '80s tracks. The popular exhaust company has come out with some fresh casual wear, which is available now at apparel.fmfracing.com.
Racer X and Pivot Works have teamed up and are giving away a brand new 2012 Honda CRF250R (see below). All you have to do is visit the Pivot Works Facebook page, HERE, and enter the sweepstakes. The sweepstakes ends July 4, so make sure to get a head start and sign up today!
Sign up today for a chance to win this new 2012 Honda CRF250R.
While all eyes are on Hangtown this weekend, our friends back on the east coast at Unadilla are busy putting the final touches on the MX Rewind event, which is going off June 1-3. MX Rewind celebrates motocross history, and the number of past legends who are scheduled to appear is impressive. With Larry Maiers back on the microphone and calling the action riders like Jeff Stanton, Ron Lechien, Trampas Parker, Donnie Hanson, Chuck Sun, Mark Barnett, and many, many more will once again be front and center. In addition to the vintage racing, there is a number of other really cool off track events, including the MX briefs, which are motocross inspired classroom sessions that focus on a variety of historical topics. Our own Davey Coombs will be hosting one, and talking about some of the old AMA Trans-AM and Trans USA series. For more information, please visit www.mxrewind.com
Thanks for reading Racerhead, and I really hope we have a solid, exciting and safe race here at Hangtown.