BTOSports.com Observations: Seattle SX

BTOSports.com Observations: Seattle SX

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Yeah, Seattle! Well, how about just … hey, Seattle? Because truthfully this supercross season is getting to the point where I’m ready to wrap it up. Or, at least, get a weekend off (thankfully coming here this weekend). It’s just that as Ryan Villopoto’s lead in the series grows, more riders getting hurt and more riders settling into their spot in the series, the less interest I have. Sure, the 250SX titles are still up for grabs, and, yes, the brand new race in New York is coming up, but to me, that’s just another race. I don’t share the excitement level of some that say New York is a big new frontier for the sport. Call me a Negative Ned, or whatever, but bring on the outdoors at this point.

And, oh yes, talk to me around the 10th round of the MX series and I’ll tell you that I can’t wait for Anaheim. So sue me…

This year’s Seattle track was good. It reminded me of the 2012 race when Andrew Short won. Seattle’s usual rain didn’t show up, and although the track had treacherous ruts, it held up ok. Again, (insert photo of me beating a dead horse here) tracks that have obstacles that only a few riders can do are a good thing. We had that in a rhythm lane that featured a quad only three riders did (to my knowledge). I liked it. I give the track builders and designers a bit of a pass for Seattle; they have to deal with dirt that breaks down pretty easy so they can only get so crazy with the obstacles.

What a night for Ryan Villopoto. He didn’t quite clinch the title in front of his home fans but he did everything else that he could. Villopoto just needs to ride around in the main event in New York to bring home his fourth straight supercross title. In Seattle he grabbed the holeshot and took off with the win in dominant style. One might say that he stamped it. On a track that could bite you at any time, Villopoto was steady, and when James Stewart was making up a little ground on him for a short time, he didn’t panic and worked his way around the lappers nicely. Eventually Stewart’s mistakes bit him and RV cruised home.

RV put his stamp on the title chase in Seattle.  Photo: Simon Cudby
RV put his stamp on the title chase in Seattle.  Photo: Simon Cudby

It was his fifth win of the series (tying him with Stewart) and second in a row. It was also the second week in a row that Villopoto had to go to the semi to make the main event, which gave him a bad gate pick. By the way, in the heat he was fourth from the inside and got a bad start. In the semi he was fifth from inside and needed to rail the outside to come out with the lead. Last week in the main event he was to the right of the doghouse and pulled a start. This week in the main event he was inside of the doghouse and pulled a start. So let’s see here: inside gates seem to equal bad starts for Villopoto, while gates further outside seem to equal good starts.

I’ve often criticized RV for his love of inside gate picks, as I feel like they’re a boom-or-bust selection. Starting by the doghouse or further outside gives you room to move if you don’t get the jump. Villopoto’s a great rider with a really fast bike. But if you lose elbow position to a rider none of that matters—you’re done. Why not give yourself some room to move out there? The #800 always does that and we’ve seen him pull start after start. The last two weeks Villopoto has had to take gates he doesn’t like but it’s worked out very well for him. I don’t think it’s a coincidence.

Lots of talk that Villopoto won’t be racing the upcoming outdoor nationals and although no one is really talking on the record I do think he’ll be out. And my sources tell me we’ll hear something soon as far being official. Seems that Villopoto needs some type of surgery and won’t be defending his #1 450MX plate from last year. What a bummer for him and his team, but I’m sure his four supercross titles and millions in his bank will help soothe the pain.

So what’s Kawasaki going to do? Jake Weimer will be back for New York SX and the entire outdoors, so there’s one rider. I would think they’d fill the spot with someone rather than just go the whole summer with one rider. Want to know something else I’ve heard? The fill-in rider will be Chad Reed. Yes, I’m serious! That’s out there floating around and no one is really denying it.

James Stewart finished second in a nice ride. He got into second pretty quickly and from there the race was on. Stewart was REALLY trying hard to reel in RV. He did everything he could, including a crazy-ass quad that really wasn’t any faster unless you tripled out (which I believe Stewart did one time). You could see James pushing into the corners hard to try and make up time. And he knocked about a second off Villopoto’s lead before losing some time the next lap, then a bit more and that was it. I think at some point Stewart realized that the track was getting sketchy, Villopoto was really riding well, he was going to crash and there is no championship on the line.

But it’s nice to see that Crazy-Balls Stewart still lives in there. We saw him in Toronto, we saw it in Seattle a bit and life’s better when you know that James is still capable of pulling things out that amaze us all. It’s like living with a dog that loves you most of the time, but every once in a while he’ll bite you for no reason. Keeps you a bit on the edge, y’know?

By the way, I was ALL IN on Stewart’s Seahawk-themed Seven gear this weekend. He even had the boots to match and it was sharp.

Cole Seely had to win in Seattle to keep his title hopes alive.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Cole Seely had to win in Seattle to keep his title hopes alive.  Photo: Simon Cudby

In 250SX West, Cole Seely was facing an 11-point deficit to Jason Anderson with two races left so there wasn’t much he could do other than just win the race and hope for some luck. Seely took care of his part when he moved into the lead early and took off. On a track that required precision and smart line selection, Seely schooled ’em and grabbed his second win of the year. It was a nice ride, but unfortunately for him Anderson salvaged a second, so the gap is eight points with one race left.

While Seely was smooth, calculated and precise, Anderson was ragged, raw and exciting. It was quite a contrast. Anderson didn’t get a great start, blitzed through the pack to get into second, crashed, got back into second, went off the track and had to pass into second again. And keep in mind his jersey was un-tucked and flapping in the wind the whole time. Anderson had a very eventful race, but you’ve got to give it up to him, he made it work. But it was also a lot of work for him!

The JGR Toyota Yamaha team started out at Anaheim with Justin Brayton and Josh Grant. They showed up at Seattle with Phil Nicoletti and Vince Friese. Before the season started I really thought having Nicoletti waiting was a brilliant move. You know Grant was going to get hurt at some point and Brayton has also dealt with some things. And last season on the N-Fab Yamaha team Nicoletti was pretty solid. So the whole idea was very sound and I thought Coy Gibbs had the innovator award at the season ending banquet on lock-down.

But I think none of us realized how tough it would be for Filthy Phil to just step into the races here and there. Never an incredible technique-based rider in supercross, it appears that Nicoletti needs the week-in and week-out racing to stay sharp and hone his skills. In his limited time as a bench rider Phil’s done a lot of crashing and not much else. You can see he’s fast and not scared to pin it, but he’s not sharp so when he makes a mistake, it costs him. I think better things lay ahead for Phil in the outdoors (he’s locked into doing the first three rounds), but this idea of a bench guy hasn’t worked out the way I thought it would.

I saw the JGR guys on the rental car shuttle and we were talking about Friese filling in. In my opinion this was going to be a really tough deal for Vince. He’s been riding a Honda 450 and 250 all season long and got ten minutes on a Yamaha YZ450F. What’s the lightest, slimmest most compact bike with the smoothest motor? The Honda. What’s the biggest, heaviest, hardest hitting and weirdest handling bike out there? The Yamaha. (Note: I didn’t say bad, I think the changes Yamaha made on the 2014 have worked and the JGR bikes look great but there’s no denying the Yamaha takes some time to get used to). So as I was telling the JGR guys how tough this was for Vince to jump into (still a great thing for Vince to do and accept and good job by the JGR guys to reach out to him) and they seemed a bit taken aback by my statement.

It was a tough weekend for the JGR Toyota Yamaha fill-in riders.  Photo: Simon Cudby
It was a tough weekend for the JGR Toyota Yamaha fill-in riders.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Okay, a guy jumps on a strange bike for ten minutes on press day (yes he’s ridden a Yamaha before, but that was a few years ago and I’m guessing it was quite a bit different from the full-works JGR Yamaha) and when I mentioned this would be difficult somehow I’m the guy that doesn’t know anything? I said he should make the main and from there who knows? Meanwhile, the JGR guys were saying he should be 8th to 12th place. Huh? He hasn’t been 8th to 12th place in any of his six 450SX races this year and they’re hoping for him to get his best finish of the year with ten minutes on a factory bike? But I’m the crazy man.

Let’s take a look at the results shall we?

250SX Results

1 21 Cole Seely Lake Elsinore, CA Honda CRF 250- By the way, if strong rumors are to be believed, Seely’s locked up a spot on the Honda Muscle Milk team for next year on a 450 next to Trey Canard.  

2 17 Jason Anderson Rio Rancho, NM KTM 250 SX-F- Anderson’s first lap of the main in Seattle was epic. It really saved him as he worked his way back from a so-so start (and through the TLD guys as well) and got into the lead pack right away. Great job by him.

3 35 Justin Hill Yoncalla, OR Kawasaki KX 250F- I would love to be inside Hill’s mind as Anderson passed him over and over in the main event. I wouldn’t have been surprised if Hill just T-boned the crap out of Anderson after the last pass in frustration.  

4 15 Dean Wilson Wesley Chapel, FL Kawasaki KX 250F- I tweeted before the main that Wilson will either holeshot and run away with this race or tip over and get 5th.  That’s where we’re at with Dean. Speed is not the issue here, but it’s the little things that have haunted him all season long and in Seattle, the little things got him. A crash in the heat (he still won) and a crash in the main equals a fourth. This off his big crash in Houston, his big crash in San Diego and so on and so on. Still, as Mitch Payton told me about Wilson: “We can work with speed.” He’s right.

5 50 Jessy Nelson Paso Robles, CA Honda CRF 250- The best race of the season for Nelson. Good job by him!

6 16 Zach Osborne Chesterfield, SC Honda CRF 250- I had high hopes for Zacho after a good practice and heat race. Then he got a bad start and this is what “we” get. Remember when Osborne started the series off with two straight podiums and “we” were looking good?  

7 37 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ250F- Quiet night for Webb out there. Seriously, that’s all I got. Anyone else?

8 66 Jake Canada Sun City, CA Honda CRF 250- Canada rode a nice race and here’s what I think should happen. With Dean Ferris going to miss most of the nationals with a wrist injury, how about Canada filling in on the factory KTM for the summer? Before a wrist injury hurt him at MCR, Jake was a top ten guy in many nationals. Can we just make it happen, Roger?

9 34 Malcolm Stewart Haines City, FL Honda CRF 250- Mookie and Osborne had a nice battle going on in the heat race, but in my opinion Malcolm took it too far by driving to the outside of a turn and stopping. There was also a stop and a look-over by Stewart and the whole time Dean Wilson was pulling away. And then Wilson crashed, so if Mookie wasn’t playing the “stop and go” game, he could’ve won the heat. I don’t mind the aggressive battling but it goes too far when you’re strictly racing the guy behind you.

10 87 Shane McElrath Canton, NC Honda CRF 250

11 89 Michael Leib Menifee, CA Honda CRF 250- Did you know that Leib broke his leg and tore some ligaments in his ankle a while back? Me neither. A crash while in seventh set him back to this finish and last week it was the same deal, another crash while in the top ten. I’m no Marty Smith, but you can’t crash while you’re in the top ten.

12 83 Dakota Tedder Surfside, CA Kawasaki KX 250F- Tedder’s got Josh Hansen helping him out and I’ve had more than a few team managers tell me that seeing Hanny in the managers tower with a headset on acting all serious is a little weird.  

13 84 Scott Champion Orange, CA Yamaha YZ250F- I have no idea why or how but Champion is riding the best he probably ever has in a pretty-deep 250SX West class. But as I’ve said a few times now, I doubt it helps him get on an “A” level team. They’ve already made their mind up about Scott. The difference between this 13th in the 250SX class and 13th in the 450 class (which Scott could get with the way he’s riding) is about $1900 dollars. Seriously. So why in the heck is he in this class? If I’m Champion I’m admitting the dream is dead and moving to the 450SX class where I can make somewhat of a living. Ok, rant over.  

14 565 Preston Mull Livingston, CA Yamaha YZ250F- I admire Mull because he crashed in the heat big-time and looked like some sort of Zombie as he crawled off the track. Seriously, either he was a zombie or a sniper got him. So for him to rebound and put’er into the main event is impressive!

15 222 Chris Howell Spokane Valley, WA Yamaha YZ250F- This was Howell’s best finish of the year and therefore he made Weege yell out “Look at Cairoli!” more than ever before. Watch out for the 222!

16 360 Aaron Siminoe Reno, NV Kawasaki KX 250F

17 329 Chad Gores Anaheim, CA Honda CRF 450- Last week Gores was featured in Just Short on Pulpmx.com and no doubt he used the motivation of appearing in a column about being the first rider to not make the main event to make sure he made the main this time.

18 65 Zackery Freeberg Riverview, FL Yamaha YZ250F- Freeberg ripped a start. No seriously, a really good start. And then it all fell apart for him from there.  

19 239 Ross Johnson Tenino, WA Honda CRF 250- Ross raced in Canada last year. The more you know.  

20 476 Collin Jurin Monroe, WA Kawasaki KX 250F

21 391 Ryder Steffy Edmonds, WA Kawasaki KX 250F- Wasn’t there a Pacific Northwest rider back in the 90s with the last name of Steffy? Is Ryder related to him? I’ve got to think so because “Ryder” is such a name that a racer would name his kid, it’s not even funny.  

22 275 Johnny Jelderda Murrieta, CA Honda CRF 250-It says on the sheets that Johnny didn’t start the main event. I believe this is his first ever main event and so to not start it, man that really sucks. If that happened. Poor Johnny.

Jessy Nelson had his best finish of the season in Seattle.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Jessy Nelson had his best finish of the season in Seattle.  Photo: Simon Cudby

450SX Results

1 1 Ryan Villopoto Seattle, WA Kawasaki KX 450F- Ryan told me after the race that there is still the Toyota truck up for grabs in NYC with the triple crown challenge. He’s one point back of Stewart in that three-race series and wants to win this Tundra so he can trade it in and buy a Raptor. That sound you heard is the Feld guys face palming themselves. Toyota is a huge sponsor and they’re putting up a free truck only to have RV win it so he can plug a Ford. RV is not scared.  

2 7 James Stewart Haines City, FL Suzuki RM-Z450- Stewart coming up short on the quad and not dying is the best ad for factory suspension money could buy.

3 5 Ryan Dungey Belle Plaine, MN KTM 450 SX-F- Earlier this year Dungey suffered his career-worst podiumless 450SX streak when he went (GASP!) four whole races without making the box. Yes, let’s all weep for him. Anyways, he had gone two races until this weekend in Seattle. Dungey is just Dungey, he’s so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so solid.  

4 3 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Honda CRF 450- Well, well, well lookee here. Tomac is coming around! I know he got a podium in Indy but this was, to me, his best ride of the year. Eli’s working out the kinks on the factory Honda and is starting to be “Eli Tomac” once again. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Indianapolis, St. Louis and this weekend’s track all had good dirt, some ruts and some traction in them to help Tomac out.  

5 51 Justin Barcia Pinetta, FL Honda CRF 450- What’s going on over at Alpinestars? Have you seen the gear that Barcia and Tomac have been wearing? I don’t understand it, maybe I’m old, maybe I’m not the most “fashionable” guy around but c’mon man. What happened to the company that used to make some of the coolest stuff out there? Is dropping acid mandatory over in Italy now?

6 41 Trey Canard Edmond, OK Honda CRF 450- Canard came around after lap one in 15th place. And I can vouch for the fact he started further back than that. Yeah, not a good start for the #41, so this finish is more than respectable. So far in his three races back he’s gone 5-4-6 and I’m still standing pat on my prediction of a podium in one of the last two races.

7 94 Ken Roczen Germany KTM 450 SX-F- Roczen’s lacked his usual magic for a few weeks and he’s admitted that the long season has worn on him a bit. I really hate to the be the bearer of bad news but there’s this 24-moto series coming up where you race for 30 minutes plus two laps in the heat of the summer. In other words, it’s not going to get any easier.  

8 29 Andrew Short Smithville, TX KTM 450 SX-F – Shorty made it happen with his third-gear starts. With the race up front basically settled the Short/Roczen/Canard battle was the most exciting thing to watch.

9 75 Joshua Hill Yoncalla, OR Suzuki RM-Z450- Hill rode well in the semi, jumped the big quad and let’s not forget, it’s his hometown crowd as well. As usual with this sport you never really know what’s going on, but it’s clear now that Hill being released by the RCH team after Vegas won’t be due to him missing a results clause like many of us were told. No, from what I gather he’s been very vocal about not liking his bike, he’s not meeting expectations away off the track and it all added up to the RCH team deciding to part ways with him.  

10 800 Mike Alessi Hilliard, FL Suzuki RM-Z450- MotoConcepts is based in Washington state, so Mikey had the Seattle Seahawks theme going with the gear and graphics. This is not to be confused with James Stewart running the Seahawks gear and meeting real Seahawk’s players and RV running a Seahawks butt-patch on his pants. There was a LOT of Seahawks love this weekend. The Boz would’ve been stoked.

11 40 Weston Peick Wildomar, CA Suzuki RM-Z450- Peick fell a couple of times out there and told me after the race that for him he’s either been in the top ten or he’s crashed out of a race so he’ll take the “two crashes and a so-so finish” because for him lately, it’s been boom or bust.

12 68 Chris Blose Phoenix, AZ Honda CRF 450- Another good night for Blose. You can see the riders above him are a little better than the guys below him. So in a sense, Blose was the best of the “B” group this weekend. When you look at the names above and below this position, you’ll note the names below rarely straight-up beat the names above—and note most of the names above are factory riders. Take it as a backhanded compliment if you’d like but I’m not typing it out like that. Chris has been riding very well lately and even if he’s just topping the B group, it’s still a good group of riders.

13 27 Nicholas Wey Murrieta, CA Kawasaki KX 450F- Wey didn’t ride very well to get into the main event and that was a bit strange to me because he can usually ride the tracks with ruts and traction pretty well.  

14 415 Nicholas Schmidt Marysville , WA Honda CRF 450- With finishes like this Schmidt can probably step up to the steak and cheese sub at Subway while his buddy Adam Enticknap has to stick to the cold cut combos as he’s not making the mains lately.

15 771 Kyle Regal Grand Prairie, TX Honda CRF 450- Regal rode better this week than he did in Houston which was his first race of the year.  

16 92 Killian Rusk Murrieta, CA Yamaha YZ450F- For some reason from a distance I get Rusk confused with Ben LaMay even though their numbers don’t look anything like each other (LaMay is #48) and LaMay wears different gear. It’s nothing they’re doing, it’s all on me—I’m getting old. Also, props to Rusk as he had just the 29th best qualifying time in practice and obviously got better all night.

17 606 Ronnie Stewart Easton, PA Suzuki RM-Z450- Can someone at Troy Lee PLEASE get Ronnie some different color gear than the TWO sets he’s been rocking all year long? Please? He’s in the main event almost every single week!  

18 38 Phillip Nicoletti Bethel, NY Yamaha YZ450F- I was talking to him on track walk and he mentioned that he really didn’t like the tuff blocks that line a track. I don’t blame him, they’ve bit him a few times.

19 211 Tevin Tapia Menifee, CA Suzuki RM-Z450- Tapia’s second main event of the year and he used good starts to make it happen in Seattle.  

20 374 Cody Gilmore Blair, NE Kawasaki KX 450F- Gilmore is having his best supercross series in, well, forever.  Gimore’s buddy Denny Stephenson really took the “Sleepless in Seattle” phrase to new levels this weekend.

21 42 Vince Friese Cape Girardeau, MO Yamaha YZ450F- As I said, kudos to Vince for just making it back out on the track after having to step off the bike in mid-air over a triple in practice.

22 792 Bracken Hall Rock Springs, WY Honda CRF 450- Pretty sure this was Hall’s first ever main event and he made it in style by winning the LCQ. And then he celebrated winning the LCQ like no other. Good to see they “Unleashed the Bracken” in Seattle.

Some other news and notes:

- So I was in the porta-potty Saturday morning doing my business. The Honda Muscle Milk guys thought it would be pretty funny to drive their Mule (or whatever the UTV they make is called. [Editor’s note: It’s Pioneer]. I know it’s not called a Mule because that’s Kawasaki’s name, but I’m mad at them so I’ll call it a Mule dammit) into the door to lock me in there. Yeah, so I was trapped in there and everyone around got a good old laugh at me. It’s a long season, I write for a living and revenge will be mine!

The Honda Muscle Milk team had some fun with Matthes in Seattle.  Photo: Simon Cudby
The Honda Muscle Milk team had some fun with Matthes in Seattle.  Photo: Simon Cudby

- TWO STROKE SIGHTING!!! I REPEAT: WE HAD A TWO STROKE SIGHTING … #474 in the program was Jake Anstett as he put it into the fast 40 of the night show with the 33rd best lap. Congratulations, Jake, you mixed the gas in many people’s hearts out there on Saturday night.

- For sure, from the start of the supercross season to the end there hasn’t been a rider who’s used the word “disappointing” in his podium speeches more than Dean Wilson. The season hasn’t gone that well for him but I do admire the way he owns the crashes and the arm pump problems. No excuses from the #15 and he’s working hard to figure it out.

Thanks for reading, we all really appreciate it and you can email me at matthes@racerxonline.com and we can talk.

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