It's almost time. The track is almost built. The pits are already jammed. The preparation is almost over. The starting gate is ready to drop on another year, and there's not a person in this sport who isn't looking forward to what tomorrow brings.
When the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship lights off at Anaheim, all the talk and speculation and second-guessing and bold-new-year predictions will be muffled by twenty screaming engines. And aboard those state-of-the-art motorcycles will be the world's best supercross racers. Ryan Villopoto is back. Chad Reed is back. James Stewart is back. Trey Canard is back. Kevin Windham is back. Josh Grant is back. Andrew Short is back. Josh Hill is back. And guys like Ryan Dungey, Mike Alessi, Justin Barcia, Broc Tickle—they never even stopped on 2012! The points are all tied and everyone is ready to put all of their hard work to the test.
Angel Stadium in Anaheim is the capital of the supercross world. This sport may have been born in the Los Angeles Coliseum, but it made its way south in the eighties and nineties and now it's permanent—and that's a good thing. Most of the industry is here, most of the the riders are out here, and most of the magazines are here. That's why this place deserves all three rounds it has (sorry, Dodgers Stadium) and the name of the town alone screams “Are you ready for supercross?!!!”
Ryan Villopoto begins his quest for a three-peat tomorrow night.
Simon Cudby photo
There are so many things to look forward to that it's hard to put into words, but fortunately Simon Cudby was out at the stadium all day yesterday (press day) and today (load-in) to illustrate it for you. I am also out west for a few rounds, having bailed on the beautiful 20-degree weather of Morgantown, West Virginia, for the grinding pace and stifling comfort of Laguna Beach to be close to all the action. You can watch it all live tomorrow night, thanks to Feld Motorsports and Speed TV, and you can even preview some of it live tomorrow when they stream practice (more on that below).
Here's where Racerhead usually riffs around some topics we’ve spoken about during the week, but we’re working on a new format for this Friday function that has become a weekly staple. So I will tell you something you haven't heard much of, but will likely start thinking about sometime tomorrow.
Supercross is a tough game. There is so much pressure now in both SX/MX that it's truly major league. Anaheim is like the Super Bowl for the young athletes in this sport, and as a result the feeling in the air is one of tension, excitement, even danger. The stakes are so high with this race and the series that follows that we forget about what the riders might be up against—not just on the starting gate but in their whole existences. The investment these men and their families and sponsors have made over the years is beyond measure, and when it all goes well, their joy and pride are also off the scale.
But when it all goes wrong—and it can and will go wrong in racing motorcycles, and sometimes even practicing—there are many who are quick to criticize and even insult those riders for their failures and defeats, but not so many are there to help lend a hand. That's why it was really cool yesterday to see Dave Prater of Feld Motor Sports hand a check for $100,000 to Doc Bodnar and former pro and longtime Asterisk man Tom Carson to help support the Asterisk Mobile Medics throughout the coming tour. Those guys keep an eye on our heroes (and sometimes a stethoscope and even a cast), and before we get into all of the winners and losers of Anaheim, let's remember the risk every single rider takes for our entertainment, and who's there to help them when they’re down.
Justin Barcia makes his much anticipated 450SX debut tomorrow night.
Simon Cudby photo
Anaheim 1 is like a homecoming race for our whole sport. In the last twenty-four hours among non-racers I saw Roger DeCoster, Broc Glover, Johnny O'Mara, Jeff Emig, Ernesto Fonseca, Sylvain Geboers, Ryan Hughes, Eric Geboers, Gunnar Lindstrom ... too many guys to count. But one guy I didn’t see was Erik Kehoe. It appears that Honda Muscle Milk did not bring back one of the most familiar faces in our sport. It's a sign of the times, Kehoe not being here for the big race. I hope someone finds a role for this man—he would be a valuable asset to anyone.QUESTION MARK: - by Steve Matthes
There’s a storm brewing under the Chaparral Honda tent, and for now no one is really sure what’s going to happen. Sources tell us the Jeremy McGrath/Larry Brooks-owned team is struggling with funding. (You may remember that last year, the team’s primary sponsor, Supercross.com, stopped paying and the team didn’t make a few races before securing Chaparral and racing the rest of the season. The team even won the Seattle SX out of a van!) As of right now, the team and rider Andrew Short will be at Anaheim “in some fashion,” but beyond this weekend, the future is murky. There were photos circulating of Short working out of a pickup truck at Anaheim press day, but that doesn’t mean much, as some teams didn’t bring the big rigs out for press day. Then we spotted it rolling in about 8 a.m. Friday.
Team manager Larry Brooks did not respond with a comment, although our sources say he won’t be at the opening round. Short’s agent, Fred Bramblett, offered up this: “No comment at this time other than looking forward to Anaheim 1 and starting the season. Andrew really loves the 2013 Honda and is looking forward to having a great season....” So not a denial or confirmation.
Andrew Short and the Chaparral Honda rig are not only at Anaheim, they are on the brand new cover of Racer X.... Where they are next week is a source of much debate.
There’s been talk of putting the #29 Honda rider under the Chad Reed TwoTwo team (Reed himself didn’t confirm or deny that these talks have happened), and one source said he wouldn’t be surprised if Andrew ended up on a KTM as a teammate for Ryan Dungey. Yes, there are that many different theories going around! We’ll have to wait and see what happens from here, but there’s no doubt trouble with the team, and that’s never a good thing for the sport and for a rider the caliber of Short.
MEDIA WATCH – by Jason Weigandt
Good thing energy drinks sponsor this sport, because you need to go to your local convenience store, pick a six-pack of your favorite, and get ready for what could potentially be thirty-six hours of racing on the web, Speed, and Fuel.
Ready? It starts tomorrow with the three-hour Supercross Live! show at www.supercrossonline.com, where my old buddy Jim Holley and Kevin Barnett will provide scoops and interviews as well as live shots from practice. The show runs from 2-5 p.m. local time every week—we're Pacific here in California. Take a short break and then turn your TV to Speed at 8:30 Eastern for the debut of live AMSOIL Arenacross coverage, with Robbie Floyd and Grant Langston in the booth. That's a one-hour show, followed by a one-hour Monster Energy Supercross pre-race show at 9:30 Eastern, then the race starts at 10:30 p.m. and runs for three hours.
Tomorrow night will mark the beginning of Kevin Windham's 19th professional season.
Simon Cudby photo
Hopefully you have a good SX-watching party planned and perhaps you'll switch to something different than an energy drink. Well, when you wake up hung over, turn the TV from Speed to Fuel and get ready for an all-day marathon of 2012 SX races starting at 7 a.m. (probably better than Speed's 7:30 a.m. show, Gearz. “Old trucks and other junk.”) The Fuel TV SX marathon concludes at 7 p.m. Sunday night with a re-air of Speed's A1 show. Work on Monday will suck compared to your weekend.
The Number: 0 – by DC
Zero is a number we never make much mention of in sports because we reflect the successes and victories more than the defeats or lack of accomplishment. We saw a big goose egg wiped off the record books last September when Germany won the Motocross of Nations for the first time since, well, ever. Sixty-six years they held that race, and Germany only stepped to the top of the box once.
But that's not the only zero that jumps out. Did you know that in all of his years being the featured rider in the Hang-Ten 500cc U.S. Grand Prix of Motocross, Roger DeCoster never actually won the race? Or how about the fact that Jeff Ward, maybe the most versatile rider SX/MX has ever seen, never won the Daytona Supercross, which back in the eighties was among the premier stops?
Trey Canard is healthy, and ready to make his return to racing.
Simon Cudby photo
Which brings me to Anaheim and the opener and, again, a Ricky Carmichael mention: In his career as a premier-class rider, do you realize that Carmichael never won the SX series opener? RC was 0-8 in AMA Supercross openers in the big-bike class. Zero wins, but he still took five titles. It all goes back to that old adage that you can't win a title at the first race, but you can damn sure lose it in one race. There's a lesson there for everyone lining up tomorrow night.
OF NOTE – by Jason Weigandt
There are lots of cool events going on in Southern California this week. On Wednesday night, James Stewart launched his Seven gear line, which brought out heroes like Johnny O'Mara, Ernesto Fonseca, and more to support James' new line. On Thursday, Anaheim's Garden Walk cinema hosted the premiere of Trey Canard's Revival 41 film. Canard was joined by fellow Honda Muscle Milk standout Justin Barcia and GEICO Honda riders Will Hahn, Justin Bogle, and Zach Bell. Action sports “it guy” Sal Masekela served as host for the event and was also a producer of the film.
It's a great piece of work which really shows the sort of soul-searching Trey has done to keep his career going after multiple set backs.
The 32-minute documentary is now available at www.REvival41.com.
How's Trey going to do this season? Everyone we have talked to, from Trey himself to his mentor Tim Ferry and practice and race mechanics, feel he's ready to roll. Is anyone not rooting for him?
THE BIG BUZZ – by Jason Weigandt
Hard to believe anything beside Anaheim 1 could generate a story this week, but the Ricky Carmichael Road to Supercross launch (which will require riders to race Arenacross before they can race supercross, starting in 2015) has done it. There was some confusion over how this works, but we cleared up as much as we can in an interview with RC yesterday. What do our guys think? We asked our staff ex-pros David Pingree and Jason Thomas, and also DC.
The Ricky Carmichael Road to Supercross was announced earlier this week.
Simon Cudby photo
Ping: “At first glance this seems a little bit of a stretch to me. Directing riders to compete in a little-brother series that is very different from supercross seems like more of a ‘voluntary’ training camp that's actually mandatory in other sports, but there is a genuine concern for the preparedness of the riders. This path does get some gate drops in for these kids, and maybe they learn a thing or two about racing in a confined space before they roll into Angel Stadium.... And maybe they’ll learn a thing or ten about getting knocked down by a gorilla-sized man-child. Yeah, I’m talking about you, current Arenacross champion Tyler Bowers. The big winners here are the fans of Arenacross and also Feld Motor Sports. Once the big amateur names have to start competing in races in 2014, it is going to make for an interesting, and successful, series.”
JT$: “Personally, I think it is a shrewd move by Feld. Interest in Arenacross has been waning in recent years with declining attendance, manufacturer withdrawal, and sponsorship reduction all contributing. The powers-that-be have changed displacement, formats, tour stops, etc., in an attempt to revive a once-thriving SX spinoff. This may be the change that actually finds some traction. Sending the sport’s best and brightest youngsters to compete in Arenacross may add some intrigue to a series that has a storied history but needs a jumpstart. All in all, I think it is a savvy attempt to renew excitement in Arenacross that may just work.”
DC: “I'm no Ping or a Jason Thomas when it comes to my brief professional racing days, but I do know there is absolutely nothing in our sport as mind-blowing as riding into a stadium for the first time for a real supercross event. The pressure, the noise, the jumps, the spotlights, the rush of everything—it was a lot to handle at first, and that was in 1985! Fortunately, I had raced the amateur days at places like the Pontiac Silverdome, and I had done my fair share of arenacross races with folks like Drew Wolfe, Mike Kidd, and more.
“There really is no amateur SX now, and not every young rider has access to a real SX track before they turn pro. If this new Road To Supercross works to help get young riders dialed in on what it's like to race a few mini supercross events—‘SX in a bottle’—then I am all for it. Think about it: In motocross, we have a big circuit of major amateur events like Loretta Lynn's, the Mini Os, Ponca City, Mill Creek, Oak Hill, World Mini, etc. None of those are indoors, and none of them take place at night. But they really help kids learn to ride smart, work hard, behave in the pits, speak well on the podium, and learn how the game is played. Ricky Carmichael has long known that indoors needs something like this, and I think Feld Motor Sports has too. I can't wait to see arenacross became a true step to the top, and not just an afterthought.”
Seven, the new gear James Stewart will wear in 2013 launched this week.
Garth Milan photo
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS – by Chase Stallo
It’s the week leading up to the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross, so as you’d expect, Racer X Online has been loaded up with goodness. In case you missed some pretty cool stuff, here’s a quick rundown of some of this week’s highlights.
Cole Seely is back and ready to rumble. After his nasty get-off at Salt Lake City in 2012, Cole is set to contend for the 250SX West Region title in Monster Energy Supercross this year. And you know what? We think he has a chance at the title. He started last year with a win at Anaheim, and that red plate he ran at Phoenix matched the red of his TLD Honda pretty well. Sure, the class is stacked, but Seely just might have the juice to pull it off. Ping checked in with him for Alpinestars’ Monday Conversation.
Three is a magic number. Or at least it could be, if Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto can mange to win Anaheim 1 for the third year in a row. Only one rider has ever won three straight openers, and it's no surprise that Jeremy McGrath is that man. Aaron Hansel broke down the history of the round-one hat trick in this week’s version of Motorex’s Bench Racing Ammo.The maverick sounds off. MotoConcepts team owner Mike Genova is never one to mince words. He's a straight shooter and has no problem sharing his opinion on matters. Racer X contributor Nick McCabe talked with Genova this week about the upcoming 2013 season, and as usual, Mike delivered a very candid interview.
The wild, wild West is a scary place. The depth of talent in the 450SX class this season is unprecedented. With ten former race winners lining the gate, there’s a ton of talent ready to contend for supremacy in the 250SX West Region. GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac, Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett headline the class, but there's plenty of talent to go around as Chase Stallo explains in this 250SX West Region Preview.
Help Your Fellow Riders - by DC
Florida shooter Rob Koy sent us this note: “A friend of mine named Steve has been asking for me to contact you guys on an issue that has taken place in Brooksville, Florida. He has a Dreamtrax-built private MX track on his property that I and many pro riders got to ride in the past. The neighbors started to complain about the noise to every local agency until one finally listened. As a result, he has been told not to use his track by this agency. He has started A non-profit organization to fight and protect property owners’ rights to have an MX track in Florida and the rest of the country. Please check out his site at letusride.org. He has Travis Pastrana's support to get more people to sign the petition on the site. Instead of just giving up, my buddy Steve has a strong passion to fight this until he wins for himself and all private MX track owners.”
Trey Canard is big in the dairy section!
HEY, WATCH IT!
A ton of cool videos have come across our desks this week. Here are some of our favorites. Make some popcorn and enjoy!Monster Energy Supercross Animated Track Map: Anaheim 1
Behind the Scenes: Red Bull KTM Photo Shoot
Beyond the Finish Line: Episode 1
James Stewart's Seven Gear Intro Video
Dream Ride 2: Hawaii feat Malcolm Stewart, Josh Cachia and Chase Bell
Twitch, Josh Hansen and Bobby Lee at Reche Canyon
IN YOUR FACE(BOOK)!
As the buzz for the start of Monster Energy Supercross ramps up, so does activity on our Facebook wall. Here’s a photo Simon Cudby posted last night, as well as some of our favorite comments. If you’re a Facebooker—and most of you are—head on over, give us a like, and join in on the convo.
Zoe Auxier: Dungey is such an inspiration. Really makes me want to try harder to make my dreams come true, not only as a rider, but in life in general.
Jason Spencer: Dungey on his 'A' game in Anaheim!
Jeff Simpson: New year, new mind set. Title hopes for 2013.
Chuck Lenhart: Shifter? Check.
Tommy Carey: It's hard to comment when there's no visible mistakes.
Timothy Beaty: Target practice.
Paul M. Mutuc: Can Dungey deal with the full bench?
Mitchell Moore: From nobody...to rookie...to champion...because of faith, hard work, and the belief in ones self.
Steven Fettinger: New rear air shock!
Michael Flinchum: Does this more consistently then anyone: staying on the bike.
That's it! Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.