We've all suffered brain fades before, whether it's forgetting to turn the gas on before a moto or pulling off a lap early after confusing the white flag with the checkers. But on Saturday night we saw two very, very costly brain fades at the wild and fun Monster Energy Cup, which inspired this list.
First, Ryan Dungey was trying to stay with Ryan Villopoto on the last lap of the first of three motos at the MEC. It was mandatory, however, that each rider use the Joker Lane once per race. Neither Villopoto nor Dungey had done it to that point, so Villopoto tucked in the last time around, while Dungey did not. In fact, Dungey didn’t realize he’d forgotten about it until RV himself told Dungey, with the whole stadium watching and reacting to the news with Dungey!
And then you know what happened next: Villopoto is chasing James Stewart in the second race, neither hits the Joker Lane until the last lap, and when Stewart ducks in, RV keeps going! When he realizes his mistake, he crashes, effectively first throwing away a shot at the Million Dollar bonus, then throwing away a shot at the $100,000 winner’s check. It was highly unlike either Ryan to suffer such mid-race brain fade.
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The beneficiary of the two mistakes, Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart, has suffered some lapses in judgment himself, but none as spectacular as the time in 2005 at Unadilla when he landed on the back of Ricky Carmichael as they dueled for the lead in the 250 class. Stewart got the worst of it.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson was well on his way to winning his first outdoor national at Freestone in Texas when he decided to be a nice guy and slow down and wave his teammate Tyla Rattray by. He’d just lapped Rattray … or so he thought. Turns out Rattray was in second place! Before he figured his gaffe out, Wilson made another one, slowing down enough at the finish to let Broc Tickle past him as well. That left Deano with 3-3 scores and gave the overall win to Christophe Pourcel, who finished 1-5.
Team USA had a twelve-year winning streak going at the Motocross des Nations in 1993 in Austria, but after one moto it seemed like the Italian team might have us covered. But then, prior to the second moto, team star Alessandro Puzar arrived late at the parc ferme, and an official promptly closed the gate—Puzar was DQ’d! Team principal Franco Acerbis said afterward (loosely translated), “We have seventy people here on Team Italia but apparently no one was wearing a watch!”
There are too many nonsensical things that Travis Pastrana has done in his racing and FMX career to narrow it down to one—crashing on the last lap at Unadilla comes to mind, as does his post-clock crash and injury at the X Games on a trick that would not have counted anyway, and even that backflip in practice at the Daytona SX. But we will never forget the Indian Air he tried to pull on the parade lap of his debut AMA Supercross, at Indianapolis, crashing into the TV camera platform. As always, Pastrana got up with a smile!
There is no way not to include Mike Alessi's attempt to take out Ivan Tedesco at the 2005 Glen Helen National finale, followed by his subsequent attempt to shut off Tedesco's bike and hold it down as he tried to get up before him. The takeout appeared deliberate, but what followed was just pure brain fade—and unfortunate.
Grant Langston was a lap away from the record books in 2001, trying to become the first KTM rider to win an AMA Supercross 125cc main event, at the Houston Astrodome. The reigning 125cc world champ decided to wave at the crowd, but when he landed he washed the front end in the next corner and crashed, handing the win to Travis Preston—making Preston the first rider to win a 125 SX on a Husqvarna!
Marty Smith always had great style, except that one time at the Coliseum...see below.
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Ironically, this same type of deal—snatching defeat from the jaws of victory—would happen at the X Games this past summer to Meghan Rutledge.
At the top of this, we mentioned mistaking the white flag for the checkers and pulling off. Seem crazy? This happened to one of the smartest, most experienced racers ever, as Kevin Windham slowed after the finish a lap early at the 2007 Washougal National. Tim Ferry snuck past him to take second place in the moto, enough to give Red Dog the overall.
At the 1982 Luxembourg 500 Grand Prix, which was to settle the world title between Brad Lackey and Andre Vromans, the Belgian went the wrong way in the first turn, which was bannered differently and used a different piece of the track, and thus never got the chance to battle Lackey in that last round. Lackey would thus become the first American to win an FIM World Motocross Championship.
Maybe the ultimate brain fade for old-schoolers was Marty Smith forgetting where the first turn was at the start of the 1975 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum and suffering an incredible, frightening endo into the whoops at the end of the start straight. Here's a link for a look: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKqklJr3TGk
Here's a screen grab of Smith's crash.
Damon Bradshaw lost his temper at the ’92 Vegas SX and jumped over the berm and into Jeff “Chicken” Matiasevich at Vegas SX '92, dropping himself back to ninth. That would lead to an even bigger meltdown at the series finale at the Los Angeles Coliseum, when Bradshaw basically choked under the pressure of his title bout with Jeff Stanton and rode horribly, costing him the 1992 AMA Supercross Championship.
At the opening round of the 2013 Monster Energy Supercross Championship at Anaheim, Josh Hansen was toward the back of the field in the LCQ, well out of a transfer position, when he decided to take out the man in front of him, privateer Alex Ray. Hansen hit Ray so hard it snapped his knee brace in half and knocked him completely over the outside wall berm. Hansen was fined heavily by the AMA for his unsportsmanlike conduct and his team decided to park the truck before the next race at Phoenix.
Bradshaw's career might have been much different if not for a few defining moments.
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At the Salt Lake City SX last April, Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson crashed into the back of Ryan Sipes on the start straight during the sighting lap before the main event! Sipes got the brunt of the bruises, but oddly, the duo ended up becoming teammates at Rockstar this season. Then Anderson, a year later, won the Salt Lake the main event.
We have to give it up to the Rockstar Energy girl drafted into holding the 30-second board at the 2009 Budds Creek National, right when the rains hit at what seemed like a monsoon level. Her task was to hold the starter's board for thirty seconds, but it was raining so hard that she decided to turn the board sideways after just seven and used it to cover her head. Panic ensued on the start, and as she was trying to walk off the track, the starter dropped the gate rather than let all the bikes wind out for the next half minute. A red flag followed, as did an endless run of jokes about being able to count to thirty.
Finally, the Joker Lane at the MEC wasn't the only detour in motorsports that led to a massive brain fade over the weekend. Just hours after the double trouble in Vegas, the Phillip Island MotoGP round went off in Australia. A new track surface created conditions that were extremely hard on tires, prompting race officials to cut the race to nineteen laps and require that riders not go more than ten consecutive laps without pitting and changing to a bike with fresh rubber. As race leaders Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez approached pit lane, each on their tenth lap, Lorenzo pulled in but Marquez stayed on the track, much like what happened with the Ryans at the MEC—although Marquez's error would prove far more costly. Marquez, who came into Phillip Island with a 43-point lead, was black-flagged. Lorenzo went on to win the race, cutting the points lead to just 18 points with two races remaining in the championship.