Racerhead #3

Racerhead #3

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Busy are the days. As the 40th birthday celebration kicks into high gear for Monster Energy AMA Supercross, this weekend’s whole scene around Angel Stadium in Anaheim has been downright cool. Everyone is getting their retro on—or at least the folks who had the time to get something together—and all 22 of the past champions of this series will be on hand. Feld Motor Sports is really going all-out, even building out an Anaheim ’01-inspired track, with “modernization” to reflect the changes to the bikes. The race will air once again live on Fox Sports 1, so it’s a good time to get together with some racing friends, watch it live and party like it’s 1999 … or 2001.

The whole thing got started yesterday with a really fun press conference, hosted by 1997 SX champion Jeff Emig. I have to hand it to Fro—he was doing as much traffic control as stand-up comedy while he introduced a whole bunch of supercross legends: Pierre Karsmakers, Jimmy Ellis, Jeff Ward, Donnie Hansen, Johnny O’Mara, and current stars Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen. Emig sometimes gets grief for gaffes or small mistakes on TV—every broadcaster in the history of supercross does, actually—but he’s a true student of the sport, very passionate about it still, and could someday host a roast on Comedy Central.

undefinedThat's 1975 Supercross Champion Jimmy Ellis (left) and 1974 Champion Pierre Karsmakers, hanging out after the press conference.
DC photo

But what everyone was saying up there—how far the sport has come, how much they missed their days as competitors, how impressed they are with today’s riders, what it was like back in their day, how they went about their business—was a bench-racer’s dream.

Behind them, work was being done on the track, and this afternoon we finally got the question answered: no over-under bridge, because the track design is based on Anaheim 1 2001, not Anaheim 2, as many thought. But they have modernized it—hardly anyone was racing four-strokes back then, and no one is racing two-strokes now—and I got a lucky glimpse of it today as Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael made some laps together in an otherwise empty stadium. Thanks to Feld Motor Sports men Todd Jendro and Dave Prater for letting me sneak out there and watch the best private practice session in supercross history! However, I did miss Kevin Windham practice his transfer jump (but Eric didnt!), which is rumored to be a staggering 110 feet. Make sure you’re in the building for opening ceremonies tomorrow.

undefinedHere's a spy photo of Kevin Windham trying out his massive transfer leap.
Eric Johnson photo

After the press conference on Thursday night, Tom White invited everyone up to his Early Days of Motocross Museum, a truly astonishing place—maybe the best space in the entire motocross world—filled with a lifetime’s worth of great memories, from incredibly rare and cool old race bikes to jerseys and helmets, trophies and flags, magazines and program, and pretty much anything related to American motocross. (It was Tom, I should mention, who worked for years to help get MX Sports and Glen Helen Raceway get back together, so if you see him at the season-opener of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on May 24 at Glen Helen, give him a pat on the back!) All the past champs who came into town early were treated to the open house and an evening of bench racing, as well as some younger guys who race now that came up to check it all out, including BTOSports.com KTM’s Andrew Short and privateer hero Weston Peick. I will lay in some photos of the evening further down, but if you ever get the chance to go to Tom’s place, take it.

undefinedTom White's Early Days of Motocross Museum includes some epic bikes like this very rare Lito.
DC photo

And of course, there’s the Legends & Heroes of Motocross, who have been working for months with Feld to pull this whole reunion of a race weekend together for all of the past champs. Alex Moroz and his wife, as well his partner Michael Owens, work really hard to help keep the spirit of yesteryear alive, and I know it means a great deal to the pioneers of supercross, as well as fans from all generations. They went all out to help get everyone from Mark Barnett to Jean-Michel Bayle here for the race and I hope those guys can all relax when things finish up tomorrow night.

Last thing, but a terrible thing: I saw my longtime friend and colleague Steve “GuyB” Giberson of Vital MX there at the party, and we talked a little bit about the sad news of the week. You may have seen it on a board or one of the sites, or even on national news: a man in Florida, a former U.S. Navy petty officer named Chad Oulson, was shot and killed in a movie theater by a retired policeman after the two got into an argument over the fact that Oulson had his phone out during the previews. He was texting his babysitter back home to say goodnight to their 3-year-old, as he and his wife, Nicole, were on a movie-night date. When the man fired his gun at Oulson, it went through his wife’s hand—she was trying to keep them apart—and hit Chad in the chest. He died a short time later. Chad Oulson was a longtime motocross enthusiast who worked at a powersports business. He was also a Vital MX member and a big fan of the sport. He was 43 years old. Godspeed, Chad.

Here’s the rest of Racerhead.

undefinedNothing says "retro race" like the mid-seventies' Harley-Davidson motocross bike with rear forks for suspension!
DC photo

FAN FAVORITE (Jason Weigandt)

For this week’s Online Poll, we asked who you think will be the third winner of the season in the 450SX class. Even though Ryan Dungey has a pair of podiums, Justin Barcia has looked very fast, and Chad Reed and Justin Brayton have had shots at victories, James Stewart dominated the results, clocking it with nearly 45 percent of the vote. Barcia is second with just 23 percent.

THE NUMBER – 8 (Aaron Hansel)

With seventy-two wins and seven supercross titles, Jeremy McGrath has a stranglehold on the two most important records in the sport. Then again, you don’t rack up numbers like that without setting other records on the way, such as the number of wins in Anaheim. McGrath is tied with Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart for eight wins apiece in Angel Stadium, but with Stewart still active and capable of winning races (if not for a mistake in the whoops at the opener there’s a good chance he’d have broken the record already), there’s a real possibility we’ll see Stewart take sole ownership of that record tomorrow night. Still, Angel Stadium is the House That Jeremy Built, and it’s worth noting that Anaheim was not on the schedule for a couple of years in the late nineties because it was under reconstruction.

undefinedJames has a chance at a new record on Saturday night.
Simon Cudby photo

Interestingly enough, tomorrow night is Monster Energy Supercross’ official fortieth anniversary celebration race, and both McGrath and RC will be on hand to see their shared record either survive or go down. Of course, it probably won’t be on the forefront of their minds, as both will be busy taking part in the night’s festivities designed to honor the sport’s twenty-two premier class champions, all of whom will be in attendance. Heck, MC and RC are even scheduled to throw down a hot lap on the 2001-replica track during opening ceremonies. How cool would it be they come out on two-strokes?

RETRO MATTHES (Steve Matthes)

Yeah, it’s a retro race! Saturday night should be pretty sweet as the teams, riders and gear companies all try to take us back to a time when supercross wasn’t exactly the polished, well-oiled machine that it is now. We’ve seen the Hondas and Yamahas and I’m sure the gear guys all have something neat planned. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone has planned, but if they really want to take it back retro-style, here are some suggestions:

  1. Make sure the track is littered with plastic, specifically old tear-offs and the white plastic bags they used to wrap hay bales with. Have you ever seen some of those old supercrosses before they went to fresh dirt? [Editor’s note: Nice nod to online Mikeee P. there, Matthes.]
  2. Over/Under bridge! We sort of had one for this weekend and then it went sort of vanished, like free stickers, or maybe the 2015 Motocross of Nations that was supposed to be at Glen Helen. Seriously, I don’t know what happened but this weekend’s over/under bridge was glorious for the few hours it was in. I say it’s not retro until you bring that thing back for Jeff Stanton to loop out on when he exits it.
  3. Can someone, anyone, use a Quick Strap? Think of the time saved and think of the hassle you can avoid if you have a GoPro on your helmet.
  4. Boot gators! Bro, the advertising possibilities are amazing. That’s key space on those things, front, side and back.
  5. Open-face helmets. Johnny O’ ran it with no mouthpiece at nationals! That was when men were men. Also God bless Jeff Ward—he ran an open face WAY past its prime.
  6. Nick Schmidt is already on this boat, but have the guys sport some clip-on mullets out the back of their helmets. Nothing says “I’m bad-ass” like hair flying out the back while you triple. Makes me think of Mike LaRocco, Damon Bradshaw and white Yamahas.
  7. Two words: kidney belts!
  8. Jeremy will no doubt do a nac-nac during the opener, but everyone in the actual race should have to do one too—one per lap, that is.
  9. Free food in the press room. (That’s a personal suggestion.)

undefinedJustin Barcia's steed for the retro themed Anaheim 2. Fork boots?
Photo Courtesy Honda

ARENACROSS WOW, AGAIN! (Jason Weigandt)

The hopes that Amsoil Arenacross would become a playground for young, up and coming talent are starting to materialize. At the season opener, we had third-year pro Jacob Hayes take his first crack at the series and make a huge impact with solid results and some run-ins with Tyler Bowers, which we covered here in Racerhead last week. You also have rookie pro Colt Nichols racing as Bowers’ teammate on the Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Amsoil Kawasaki team. Nichols has been solid, leading Bowers to say this about him:

“I have tried to embrace mentoring Colt as much as I can, but the kid handled himself in Worcester and Baltimore like a seasoned vet. He studied the tapes coming into the season and finished off his very first night just off the podium in fourth.”

But the biggest news of all came over the weekend in Baltimore, when the first high-profile entrant to Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross emerged. Yamalube/Star Racing rider Aaron Plessinger, last seen crushing the B class live on NBC last August at Loretta Lynn’s, showed up and won both the Lites and the premier class against the best AX riders in the game! Plessinger went 4-1 to win Saturday’s overall. The Road to SX rules say riders have to race a few weekends to secure SX eligibility, so expect to see Plessinger at least one more time.

undefinedYamalube/Star Racing rider Aaron Plessinger had a great weekend in Baltimore.
Photo Courtesy Arenacross.com

You’ve now seen the model for how this Road to SX system is supposed to work. Plessinger is getting his AX time in now, during his last full season as an amateur. He’ll race A class through Loretta’s and then race supercross for Star Yamaha in 2015—so you’re essentially going to see next year’s rookies racing arenacross this year. That’s pretty cool.

Through all this, AX veteran Zach Ames is leading the early points, with Mike McDade, a guy who grew up whipping and scrubbing on the tracks near our Morgantown, WV headquarters, running second. Clearly, the pack is gunning for Bowers’ number-one plate with renewed vigor. “I learned in Worcester and Baltimore that this ‘target’ doesn't seem to be metaphorical,” says Bowers. “There must literally be some sort of target in my decals that I didn't get the memo about!

PRO PERSPECTIVE (David Pingree and Jason Thomas)

David Pingree: How about this Jason Anderson/Cole Seely fight for the West Coast 250 championship? Two weeks in a row Seely has been perfect for almost the entire race … almost. And in the closing lap(s) Jason Anderson has pulled the rug right out from under him. It’s incredibly exciting for Jason Anderson fans and excruciatingly painful for those in the Seely camp.

So what’s the deal here? Seely came into this series prepared to win and that has shown. To his dismay, Jason Anderson is of the same mindset. The two riders have outclassed everyone and the wins in the first two rounds have come down to inches in the final laps. At Anaheim, Cole simply eased up too soon. He didn’t realize that Jason was that close until it was too late. Anderson, on the other hand, made a late-race push and went for it where he saw a gap. In Phoenix, Cole made a mistake in the sand section that allowed Jason to close in. I don’t think Anderson would have been close enough to make a pass if Seely could have ridden the last two laps as well as the rest of the race. Anderson needs to get better starts and do everything else exactly like he has been. Seely needs to get the starts he’s been getting and finish what he started. The last three laps have to be his best laps. If he can do that he’ll win this weekend in Anaheim and tighten this title fight back up.

By the way, Anderson has been working with two-time SX champion and all-around legend Jeff Ward for the past few months. The work is paying off.

undefinedThe Anderson/Seely battle has been nothing short of amazing.
Simon Cudby photo

Jason Thomas: Anderson and Seely have stolen the show thus far in the 250 West Region. While pure results would make it look like Anderson has dominated, a closer look shows the exact opposite. Seely has led 25 out of 30 total laps and has seen the white flag first both weekends. That pesky checkered flag is a different story, though. Anderson has stolen victory away from TLD's Seely in dramatic fashion twice in a row.

The reasons for these were different in my opinion, although it appeared similar. The first weekend was purely lack of focus as Seely lost track of how close Anderson was and left the door open. It was very preventable and I am sure he knows it. Sure, Anderson may have kicked that door off its hinges but Cole should have never allowed it.

Phoenix was a different scenario altogether as Cole made a huge mistake in the sand and allowed Anderson to pull up to his rear wheel. Had he not run into the Tuff Blox, Jason would have never gotten close enough to make a move. Two different reasons for the same ultimate ending.

Going into A2, Cole knows he can't allow this same scenario to play out. He needs to make a statement and win the race. All of the tools and skills are there and I fully expect him to finally make good on his plan tomorrow night.

THAT'S NO GOAT (DC)

The retro-inspired 2014 Racer X Calendars have been a big hit, with long-lost photos of some of yesteryear's heroes of supercross, motocross, the Grand Prix series, and more. All of the photos were plucked from the Dick Miller Archives, featuring old friends like Broc Glover, Scott Burnworth, Mark "Bomber" Barnett, Brian Myerscough, and more. But one photo, shot by Mr. Miller himself at an early-eighties Unadilla 250cc U.S. Grand Prix had us scratching our heads in trying to identify a couple of the riders, particularly #43 on the Kawasaki. That's because back then riders used different numbers for their GP races, and we were stumped on who exactly #43 was. We were 99 percent sure that it was Goat Breker.

Which of course we now know it isn't! The eagle-eyed Randy Nagle of Pro-Vue just moved up in our bench racer-rankings by spotting the right man:

undefined
Number 43 is not the Goat, as in Breker, to Carmichael! It's Tom Benolkin.

Hey, this photo is in the new Racer X calendar I just got and the caption says Deiffenbach on the Honda (I agree) and Jobe on the Suzuki (again I agree) and I can tell that #34 on the Yam is Broc even though it doesn't say it, but.....it says Goat Breker on the 43 - I don't think so! - even if I couldn't see the BE on the jersey I'd recognize that style even if I was upside down inside a 55 gallon drum and blindfolded!! Please send me a new helmet for correctly identifying him, my Marushin that I won in 1984 from the MX Eyes contest is getting a bit crusty!

R.Nagel

HEADLINE OF THE WEEK

TICKLE LEADS RCH RACING SOARING EAGLE; CLAIMS 8TH PLACE AT ROUND 2 IN PHOENIX

HEY, WATCH THIS!

Check out THIS cool video from the Honda Muscle Milk team, showing you exactly what goes into setting up their pits for a race like Anaheim.

Here's a video from www.radmx.com, featuring young stars like RJ Hampshire, veterans like Tim Ferry, and a very cool private track down in Florida.

Want to really get good at railing rutted turns? Check out this ridiculous triple circle rut video from Shane Watts. Don’t get dizzy!

 

THIS WEEK’S WEB HIGHLIGHTS

The Racer X Online crew has been digging deep into the stories surrounding Monster Energy Supercross. Check out Jason Weigandt’s Redux: Getting Underdogs Over the Top for the inside story on Justin Brayton’s rise. It includes some great analysis from Brayton’s riding coach, Nathan Ramsey.

Jordan Roberts tracked down Australia’s Matt Moss, who we all assumed was here on a full-bore factory Suzuki ride. After all, he’s pitting next to the Yoshimura Suzuki truck. Turns out Mossy is buying and paying for almost everything out of his own pocket, including a $15,000 bill for year-old works suspension. Check out 450 Words: Outside Influence.

David Vuillemin wrote about what he thinks about Phoenix here.

Swizcore wrote about nice guys at Phoenix in his weekly Swizcorner column.

There was a hell of a Pulpmx Show last Monday: Nick Wey and Ryan Villopoto got on the line to basically talk trash and Brian Swink called up to wow us all. Not to mention privateer heroes Weston Peick and Nick Schmidt joined us here.

RANDOM NOTES

Headed to Anaheim this weekend? Make sure to come by the Racer X booth to subscribe or renew—and get your Racer X wall-cling!

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Only $20 gets you 13 issues of Racer X plus a giant, wall-friendly Racer X decal featuring Villopoto, Dungey, and Stewart—and as an added bonus, you can give a digital subscription to a friend! (Are you in the U.S. military? Bring your military ID and we'll give you $5 off the subscription price as a small thank-you for your service.)

GoPro announced this week that they have been awarded an Emmy in Technology and Engineering.  “An idea is just an idea unless you have an incredibly talented team of engineers who can make it a reality," said Founder and CEO Nicholas Woodman. Read the full press release here.

Here's a message we received on our Facebook page from James Rolland: "Saw this Evel Cow Neivel artwork in downtown Logan Utah while driving through today."

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And Rolland's Evel Cow-Neivel wasn't the only cool moto message we received in our Facebook inbox. Rick Cashman also sent over these old school High Point fliers.

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Okay, sorry this was a little late going up, gang. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.

undefined#tbt Blake Wharton as a youngin?

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