Welcome to Racerhead. Here at the Racer X offices, the countdown clock is already ticking—not just toward the arrival of Santa Claus (that clock runs all year), but for Monster Energy Supercross. The opener is now less than thirty days away, which means the hard work is happening now for every factory or team rider—training, testing, photo shoots, etc.—as they hunker down for the challenges to come. The folks at Feld Motor Sports and Dirt Wurx just released diagrams of each of the sixteen (The Daytona Supercross map, which is will be designed by Ricky Carmichael, is coming later) rounds, and we will have them for you below.
Of course all that work in riding and training means the chance for injury is always there. This week we found out that both Trey Canard and Davi Millsaps are hurt, and Ivan Tedesco will return to the track as Millsaps’ interim replacement. We’ll have more on this below as well.
We wanted to get Racerhead out early today so that everyone out in Southern California can make their respective ways to Glen Helen for the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day, where they will celebrate Kurt’s extraordinary life and racing career. I am guessing they will have a massive crowd for the event, as Kurt was respected and admired by so many.
Everyone probably knows by now that Caselli passed away after colliding with a small animal during the Baja 1000. Ironically, or maybe just in a terrible coincidence, longtime Cycra brand manager Ryan Longstreth collided with a deer the very next day and lost his life. I bring this up because the new cover of Time magazine shows a deer contains a feature called “America’s Pest Problem,” about our growing problem with the type of humans-and-animal collisions that claimed both Ryan’s life in Ohio and Kurt’s in Baja, Mexico. Anyone who lives in the Northeast knows this, as deer seem to be everywhere this time of year—but mostly dead on the sides of roads. It’s not their fault that we’ve slowly pressed the suburbs out into the forest, but it’s something that needs better managed, whether through increased hunting culls or more wildlife management.
And then there was yesterday’s sad news that Nelson Mandela passed. He lived a life that saw him go from activist to prisoner, revolutionary to historic icon. The good news is that he was 95 years old, a long life for a man who spent twenty-seven years in prison fighting for respect and civility in South Africa, where apartheid laws made the existence of the great majority of the population cruel and difficult. There was a place in heaven waiting for Nelson Mandela.
I bring Mr. Mandela up because there is a motocross tie here: Back in 2004, when James Stewart was the dominant young rider in the 125 class as well as our sport’s first black rider to win races and championships, James received an invitation signed by Mandela himself to come and race at the FIM Motocross Grand Prix at Sun City, South Africa. The hope of the organizers was that the American superstar would become a role model for young South Africans. Due to the logistics and timing, Stewart could not go, but the engagement speaks volumes to one Mr. Mandela’s key beliefs:
“Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”
If you want any further inspiration from the likely-to-be-sainted Manedela, check out the film Invictus about the 1995 Rugby World Cup, featuring Morgan Freeman as Mandela and Matt Damon as the captain of the South African team. It’s powerful stuff.
Let’s get back into the SX prep with the rest of Racerhead.
There is already a huge line at Glen Helen for the Kurt Caselli Memorial Ride Day.
TRACK DAY! (DC)
Feld Motor Sports has released the track designs by Dirt Wurx for the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Championship, and not a moment too soon. For bench racers like us—not to mention the riders and teams—these diagrams will be studied in great detail, everyone trying to imagine what the tracks will be like, what they might do in one section or another, and to just get comfortable with the task that will be at hand beginning on January 4, 2014, at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. You can see all of the tracks right here.
The Anaheim 1 track will be busy and long, as they have seemingly used up a lot of real estate to make a spectacular and epic first-round challenge.
The series is returning to Detroit, this time with a trip up into the grandstands as a nod to the old Pontiac Silverdome circuits.
The series is also returning to the New York City area and East Rutherford, New Jersey, with what looks like an extremely long start stretch.
Look, no Joker Lane! The Ryans will be stoked! Actually, we all knew they wouldn’t have that element for the actual series event.
TRAINING TO PEAK (Jason Weigandt)
From 2002 through 2007, the FIM World Championship part of the supercross campaign actually kicked off right about now, in December. For a few years, two races were held in Europe, and later the December dates turned into Canadian races in Toronto and Vancouver. Ironically, now that we’re all starved to see some action, the idea seems kinda cool….
Anyway, those races introduced the term training to peak into the bench racing lexicon. Some riders hit the December rounds 100 percent ready to race; others were still in the middle of testing and training. After taking a loss to Stewart in Toronto one year, Ricky Carmichael’s camp sent us a photo of Ricky wearing a heart-rate monitor during the race, noting that he was still in training and building mode. Indeed, once the AMA races began in January, he seemed to have stepped it up a bit.
In the heat of the bench racing, a lot of people argued that the “training to peak” thing was just some BS dished out to diminish a loss. But it’s been proven time and time again in other sports. Just last week I read a New York Times Magazine story on the U.S. Olympic Women’s Ski Jumping team, where the coach says of star Sarah Hendrickson, “The only issue with an athlete like Sarah is that she doesn’t peak before she has to… Sometimes you have to hold them back.”
Brock Tickle is hoping to make a splash in 2014.
Simon Cudby photo
Now we’re into December, and talking to different riders, you hear different strategies. Some are ready and raring to go, while others are taking a more measured approach, trying to make sure they’re still fired up by January—and remember, from there they have nine more months of racing!
Broc Tickle told me there have been years where he was ready to race by Thanksgiving, and now he’s backing it down a tad so he feels “at my best during track walk at Anaheim 1.” Now into his third year in the 450 class, Broc wants to make a splash. Last year, our man Matthes wrote in his Observations column, “Broc Tickle is the cheese pizza of the 450 class. He’s not great, he’s not bad, he’s just there. I’m not walking past the cheese pizza if that’s all there is, but I’m also not specifically ordering the cheese pizza either.”
Indeed, Tickle didn’t have a bad 2013 season, but it wasn’t amazing either. This week, Tickle told me he actually agreed with Matthes on this theory. He’s had solid races but hasn’t done anything absolutely spectacular. He raced, but people probably weren’t leaving the stadiums saying, “Oh man, did you see Tickle?!” Even though the competition is going to be crazy tough this year, he hopes to come in with a little more fire and make some more noise.
Chad Reed showing off his new colors.
Simon Cudby photo
OFF-SEASON INJURIES (Steve Matthes)
When the off-season strikes! As profiled here yesterday, getting hurt before your actual race series isn’t anything new in this sport. This just in: racing motorcycles is a dangerous gig.
First we learned that Rockstar Racing KTM’s Davi Millsaps is probably out for the start of the year as he battles a knee injury. And the latest casualty is Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard. Seems Canard crashed in a set of whoops when he missed one and was then ejected over the bars—and he almost made it but the last whoop claimed the #41. If there’s good news about this, it’s that Canard shouldn’t miss too many races, as surgery was done, a plate was put in, and it was as “easy” as a break as one could have. Millsaps did post the following on his Instagram account yesterday:
“Just wanted to let everyone know that I'm taking my knee injury day-by-day and hoping for a speedy recovery. To clear things up, my crash had absolutely nothing to do with the bike. I just washed the front end out and my leg unfortunately got caught in the shroud. I'm excited to get passed this string of injuries and start getting after it for 2014.”
Details are slim on when Davi Millsaps will return and how damaged his knee is.
Simon Cudby photo
Interestingly, there was a video posted on Instagram by Pala Raceway, where the crash took place, of Davi crashing pretty much exactly like he posted it, but now it’s gone.
I spoke with Honda team manager Dan Betley and he indicated that they are not looking to fill the spot with anyone and will just wait for Trey to get back. But of course, this sport being what it is, Betley said his phone was blowing up with riders and agents offering to take Canard’s factory CRF450R off his hands (which Rockstar KTM has done by signing Tedesco as the temp).
And this just in: I still don’t know anything more about Millsaps’ injury. Guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I just can’t see the team bringing on Ivan and introducing him at the media intro if there weren’t plans to have him do more than a few races. By the way, it’s good to see the #9 back (and yes, he will still be wearing #9 even though he did not race last year).
KTM INTRO (David Pingree)
At this week’s launch of the KTM Factory Edition 450, I got a chance to catch up with a few of the team riders. Marvin Musquin was ready to jet off to Geneva, Switzerland, for the annual supercross event there. He also spent a good deal of time talking about his Jet Ski, which he really loves. Marvin is going to ride some of the West rounds on a 350 and then make a run at the title in the East when that 250 series kicks off. He’ll definitely be a favorite over there.
Red Bull KTM has a new member on board in Dean Ferris (#111) for 2014.
Cole Kirkpatrick photo
Ken Roczen explained that he needed to take his program up a level, and that’s why he made the decision to hire Aldon Baker. So far, according to Ken, it has been going well and he feels like he’s getting what he needs. I asked if there was any awkwardness between him and Villopoto since they’re now direct competitors and he said no: “Ryan has been great and we’re all having fun riding together every day.” Adam Cianciarulo is also tagging along in that group.
Ryan Dungey seemed really happy. I guess he’s always pretty chipper, but it seemed like he was happy with where he was at this point in the year. He and Roczen were both going to be testing in California all week and then heading back to Florida to make their last push prior to the season (Dungey up in Tallahassee, Roczen and friends near Orlando). One thing is for sure: KTM is looking strong in 2014.
Red Bull is brining back Straigh Rhythm as a competition in 2014.
Garth Milan photo
STRAIGHT RHYTHM RETURNS … AS COMPETITION (Chase Stallo)Red Bull announced on Thursday that its innovative Straight Rhythm event—that half-mile course with no turns (essentially one giant rhythm section)—will return in 2014 as a competition.
“For those of you wanting more, we’re proud to announce that Straight Rhythm will be a part of the Red Bull Signature Series in 2014, which will broadcast on NBC,” Red Bull said in the release. The event has been a hit since it happened, its video-game-like racing drawing comparisons to Mad Skills Motocross and Excitebike.
No announcement has been made on when and where the event will take place in 2014.RV AND MORE (Matthes)
I spoke with defending champ Ryan Villopoto this week and found it funny that in the Racer X comments and over on the VitalMX forums people were upset with the way Ryan answered some of the questions. I definitely could’ve structured it more like a basic Q and A but Villopoto and I have a good relationship and I think he’s a candid interview, so I left the whole thing “as is.” People complain when the riders are robots and people complain when they show some personality. Guess you just can’t win—even if you’re Villopoto!
Interviewing Brian Lunniss for the BTOSports.com Podcast presented by Thor MX earlier this week was pretty cool. Brian’s done a lot in this sport, and podding with him (that’s a real term, seriously!) was a trip down memory lane. Brian worked for Graham Noyce, Donnie Hansen, Bob Hannah, Rick Johnson, Damon Bradshaw, Mike Kiedrowski, and Damon Huffman among others. What a lineup! Makes my rolodex—Shaun Kalos, Ty Birdwell, Danny Smith, Kelly Smith, Tim Ferry and Nick Wey—look a little, uhhh, not as good.Do you live in Michigan and want to meet Carey Hart, Ricky Carmichael, Josh Hill, and Broc Tickle among others? Team RCH is having a huge meet and greet with the team on December 17 at Soaring Eagle Casino (new title sponsor when team is on the East Coast) and then back at Sycuan Casino (near San Diego) December 21.
RV is seeking his fourth consecutive 450SX championship in 2014.
Simon Cudby photo
Jason Weigandt and I sat down for a Pulpmx Classic Commentary of San Jose 1992 where things took a turn in the 250SX class. And some guy named McGrath comes from last to first to win the 125 main.
I asked for your Twitter questions and answered them over on Pulpmx.com.
And the great Jeff Emig told me all about his experience at Unadilla racing the 125 support class in 1989.
And here's the start of the 125 support class at Unadilla in 1989.
Thom Veety photo
NEW YORK? (DC)
Has anyone else noticed that New York City is getting more and more motorcycle events? First there was the news that Monster Energy Supercross is returning next April to the Meadowlands, across the river in New Jersey, for the first time in more than twenty years. Then Kawasaki did a big media intro at Times Square. There was also some negativity when The New York Times did a feature about the illegal street-riding, "Riders blend motocross speed and Evel Knievel daring on bikes…"
Next weekend the city is hosting the Progressive International Motorcycle Shows Tour (December 13-15). Besides hundreds of cool custom motorcycles and celebrity guests, fans will have a chance to see Ricky Carmichael, Kevin Windham, and Jeff Emig. According to the PR, the New York Motorcycle Show will be open to the public at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Show hours are Friday, from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission to the event is $18 adults $6 for children 6-11. Children 5 and under are admitted free. On Family Day, Sunday, December 15, all children 12 and under are free when accompanied by a paying adult. For more information, call 800-331-5706 or visit www.motorcycleshows.com.
OLYMPIC ORIGINS (DC)
In last week's Racerhead I mentioned the old location of the Winter Olympics (or Mini Os) as the Chicken Farm track in Homosassa Springs, Florida, and the event founder as the legendary Bill West. Turns out I was wrong. The history goes back even further, and my friend Kirk Layfield explained…
"Bill West actually purchased the rights to promote Mini O's from Pat Ray (the original founder of Mini Os) who owned a track called Palm Valley Raceway in Ponte Vedra, FL. Pat was ready to get out of the business and was selling his property for new home construction. Palm Valley Raceway was able to have all three events in one venue -- MX, hare scrambles and flat track racing. I raced the event a couple times there, including when the ‘Flying Freckle’ Jeff Ward was the hero. He was the only factory-backed amateur rider with Team Honda. Of course over the years the venue as well as events changed to what we have today. In 2002 when Wynn Kern bought out Jerry West, and I did a Mini O's history story for the event program and Playground magazine to show where it all started and the direction Wyn wanted to move the event. Not many people would remember these days of the Mini O's but fortunately for me I lived it and still here to tell the story!"
RJ Hampshire had a big week at the 2013 Mini Os.
Rob Koy photo
Here is a letter we received asking for help in locating a stolen motorcycle:
“This is a picture of my Grandson and his bike: 2006 RMZ 250 with pro circuit exhaust, gold excel rims, renthal handle bars and the #430 on side. On 10/27/13 at the Patuxent Inn in La Plata Md this bike was STOLEN out of the back of a pickup. This is located at 9400 Chesapeake St. LaPlata Md 20646. He was in that area to race at Budds Creek that morning. A Black Pick up (unknown make) and 2 Black males were seen leaving the parking lot with this bike. I feel the bike might still be in that area along with the guys that stole it. My feeling is the woman working there knows who they are but won't speak up. Run her name through Maryland and find a court report that she is on probation for theft. Can everyone please share this with their area's. He worked hard to get this bike and racing has been his passion since he was 5 years old."
Can anyone out there help?
Jeff Cernic spotted a YouTube video about a BYU student's innovation for measuring concussion impact via a new foam helmet lining. Check it out right here.
Our condolences go out to the family and friends of Eric Matthew Sauer of Minnesota. He passed away recently due to a stroke following back surgery. Eric had been prominent on the Minnesota racing scene, wrenching for Heath Voss as well as the Martin brothers. He also had his own performance company, ESR Mods. He was 33 years old. Godspeed, Eric.
And a get-well-soon from everyone here at Racer X and Racer Productions to Jane Caston of the AMA. She was in the hospital for a surgical procedure but is now home, where she will be working on AMA licensing and entries for Monster Energy Supercross. Anyone who wants to drop her a line or get-well card can send it to the AMA, care of Kevin Crowther, 13515 Yarmouth Drive, Pickerington, OH 43147.
Finally, tomorrow is another somber day of remembrance here in the U.S.: December 7 is the anniversary of the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. It immediately pulled the U.S. into World War II, the nastiest conflict in the history of the world. December 7 is not a national holiday, but it is an important day to remember.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.