Observations: Mt Morris

Observations Mt Morris

June 18, 2014 10:55am

Round four of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships took place at Mt Morris. Or High Point. Really, you can call it either one of these things. Motocross Action used to call it Mt Morris in the magazines while pit “insiders” called it High Point. Either one works but Mt Morris has a bit more nostalgia for me. No word on whether or not MXA wanted to add a tooth to Mt Morris’ rear sprocket.

First off, before I get into it, I just want to say that the weather could not have been more incredible for this race. Seriously, it was amazeballs. Like mid-70s with a slight cool breeze. I had to look around to make sure I was at High Point because this place over the years has provided the racers with some hellacious conditions. Who can forget the mudders of ’97 or ’00? Or all the other years that it rained cats and dogs at some point?

Because of the expectations of rain (I think) the track wasn’t ripped up deep like it has in the past. That made for a harder-packed Mt Morris High Point where the first practices were a bit sloppy and once all the slop was pushed off (from Friday’s rain) it was pretty hard underneath. The track was slippery, so keeping your momentum up, swooping the turns, picking the right rut (and knowing when to switch from your good rut to a new one) were all keys to having a good race. High Point is a tricky track to pass on and you have to set the passes up a few turns in advance.

I still miss the wood berm by the way.

Some medium-type surprises this weekend with Blake Baggett and James Stewart both going 1-1 and really, it wasn’t close. On this day, they were the best riders in their respective classes and I guess now we know why they’re past national champions. They’ve dropped a bomb on their classes and firmly inserted themselves into the points chases, too. Neither rider started the nationals off very well, but apparently, it’s on now. Let’s deal with them one at a time here.…

It was vintage Stewart at High Point. 
It was vintage Stewart at High Point.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Stewart’s been gradually improving since Glen Helen where, let’s face it, he was very un-Stew-like. He scored a podium at Hantown, a moto win at Thunder Valley and now a dominant overall win at High Point. What was impressive is that he didn’t look like he was pushing all that much, and when he lost any time due to mistakes or lappers he simply wicked it up that next lap and established his lead again. I don’t want to say it was easy, but, yeah, it looked easy. Stewie has a tendency to do that.

Stewart’s speed and fitness look to be on point and he’s now 22 points behind Kenny Roczen, which isn’t really much at all. Stewart mentioned after the race that he’s never done that well at High Point and it was good to get a win. And to that I say ‘Huh?’. He’s got a couple of wins and a couple of runner-ups at the track but he’s also had that one crash we all remember. Oh and his bike broke another time. I guess when you’re James Stewart and you “only” have a couple of wins at a track, that’s bad news for you!

Yeah, yeah the eternal debate over Stewart’s bike. It was being off and now, through the hard work of James and his team, the bike is working and that’s why he’s better is out there. That’s what people are saying. Well, if you’re a believer of this theory then you should look forward to the rest of the rounds being a Stewart runaway, right? Because we all agree that Stewart’s phenomenally talented so now that his bike is “ready” he should be the man from here on out, right? Yeah, I’m going to say that a couple of KTM riders and a Honda rider have something to say about that. Remember when a guy named Lance, that guy the entire motocross community drooled over at one time, said “It’s not about the bike”? Yeah, I’m with him. A talented rider can overcome a bike that isn’t working properly. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.

And now for Blake Baggett.

Is Baggett back in the title hunt?
Is Baggett back in the title hunt? Photo: Simon Cudby

I wrote last weekend that we saw the 2013 Blake Baggett in the first moto of Lakewood’s and then saw vintage Blake Baggett (that could be a wine, right?) in the second moto. It was everything good and bad about Baggett all wrapped up nicely in one race. This week was all vintage Blake Baggett baby! El Chupacabra was back as he caught and passed points leader Jeremy Martin (and Justin Bogle) in the first moto and took off for the win. Second moto, he blew by Jason Anderson and Christophe Pourcel like they had anchors on and checked out. And this, folks, is what I call the Blake Baggett conundrum. We saw this at Budds last year (although not quite as dominant)—when he’s on, he’s on. And when he’s not, well he’s just okay. Blake told Jason Weigandt (his personal media guy, it seems) that it hasn’t been that hot at the races the last two years so his fitness hasn’t been able to show. Well, it was cool as crap this weekend and he still was great. So reasons why Baggett hasn’t been as great as in the past—the eye, the wrist, the weather, the break up with Aldon Baker—have now been proven wrong by Baggett himself. Listen up, I’ve got my own theory and one that I’ve been working on since I first turned a wrench for a pro rider all those years ago. You ready?

He’s a head case. BOOM! I just dropped that on you, right? There are some weekends when he feels fast, likes the track, gets a start and he can go 1-1. And then there are the other weekends when he can’t get a start and isn’t as aggressive. That’s my only explanation really—because Blake himself is scratching all the other legitimate reasons off the list. Or maybe it’s the bike? Yeah, that’s it. The bike set up wasis holding him back (insert sarcasm meter here).

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

250MX Results

1 4 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA Kawasaki KX 250F 1 1- I keep hearing Baggett is going to leave Pro Circuit next year. I don’t know if it’s true or not but certainly a lot of people are talking about it. Red Bull KTM and TLD are the rumors going around for the #4.  

2 19 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 2 6- Martin told me after the races that his dad used to run a red plate when he raced cross-country races so instead of feeling pressure, he’ll just take the approach thatpretend that his red plate means he’s racing cross-country as well. Hey man, whatever works.

3 17 Jason Anderson Rio Rancho, NM KTM 250 SX-F 7 2- Anderson told me after the race that he loves to watch Pourcel ride a dirt bike but that he hates being behind him because the crafty (obligatory reference inserted) Frenchman seems to have eyes in the back of his head.

4 32 Justin Bogle Cushing, OK Honda CRF250R 4 4- I’m on the Bogle Bandwagon. I like his style and he really seems to be so close to breaking out with a win. Maybe not this year, but for sure next year. 2015 is the Year of the Bogle. Stamp it.

5 377 Christophe Pourcel France Yamaha YZ 250F 6 3- Pourcel had another decent moto/great moto type of day. He’s on the fringes of being in the title hunt and I think his comeback, through four rounds, has been a success for him and his Valli team. I don’t think he’s winning this title but consistently being in the top five is great.

6 37 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ 250F 3 7- Great first moto ride for Webb and how pissed is Cooper these days that in seven out of eight motos this year he’s finished one spot BEHIND behind Martin?

7 25 Marvin Musquin France KTM 250 SX-F 5 8- I called Marvin for a podium this weekend based on his great second moto ride at Lakewood but ‘twas not to be. In the second moto there were about 63 guys that were just in a freight train and Musquin was one of them.  

8 35 Justin Hill Yoncalla, OR Kawasaki KX 250F 9 5- A 9-5 for Hill, a 7-2 for Anderson—these are all scores from young riders trying to find that consistency moto-in and moto-out. It’s really hard to pull consistent good starts and be on your game every each and every weekend in the nationals.

9 21 Cole Seely Newbury Park, CA Honda CRF250R 8 9- Seely’s finishes and rides since we left California have been good, but we haven’t seen the same speed at the last two rounds that we saw at the first two rounds.  

10 55 Alex Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 10 10- Troll’s best finish this season and one he can build on. I guess he’s not going to retire after all.  

11 30 Kyle Cunningham Aledo, TX Honda CRF250R 12 11- Cunningham has talent and speed. It’s not that this is a bad finish—-because it’s not—- but I’m waiting for that Cunningham balls-out speed to show up.  

12 43 Joseph Savatgy Thomasville, GA KTM 250 SX-F 13 13- Joey’s third race back now after a long time off and it was an almost identical day to last week. Not that it’s a bad thing…

13 71 Zachary Bell Cairo, GA Honda CRF250R 15 12- Bell didn’t have a good race and scarily enough, I don’t think he got good starts. Zach Bell without good starts is like Superman wearing a kryptonite necklace.  

14 47 Kyle Peters Greensboro, NC Honda CRF250R 11 16- Good first moto for the privateer Peters who is also carrying Cunningham’s SmarTop MotoCconcepts bike around to the races.  

15 78 Matthew Lemoine Baton Rouge, LA Kawasaki KX 250F 14 14- I have been going around trying to find Matt after the motos and I can’t ever seem to locate the privateer. Matt, I’m going to need you to fly a balloon over your truck at Muddy Creek.  

16 371 Dakota Alix Jay, VT KTM 250 SX-F 18 17- The rookie had his best day as a pro at High Point.  

17 50 Jessy Nelson Paso Robles, CA Honda CRF250R 38 15- We had Jessy on the Pulpmx Show and hyped him up a ton as he’s been having a great season. Then he goes out this weekend and struggles with crashes. Is there such a thing as a Pulp curse? What’s that you say? There is? Oh, ok.  

18 99 Justin Starling DeLand, FL Honda CRF250R 16 21- Starling and his family used to play host to the great JSR every winter (That’s Jean Sebastien Roy, of Canada, kids). These are things you’re not going to read anywhere else on the internet this week people.

19 874 Zack Williams Elko, MN Honda CRF250R 20 18

20 449 Dakota Kessler Wall, NJ Honda CRF250R 17 23- Can we talk about how, for what has to be the first time in motocross history, THREE Dakota’s went 17-18-19 in the first moto with Kessler, Alix and Tedder respectively. That has to be some kind of record, right? Anyways, The Mick would be proud of this result.

Another solid weekend for Josh Grant. 
Another solid weekend for Josh Grant.  Photo: Simon Cudby

450MX Results

1 7 James Stewart Jr. Haines City, FL Suzuki RMZ 450 1 1- Vintage Stew this weekend, bro.

2 94 Ken Roczen Germany KTM 450 SX-F FE 2 3-Nothing Roczen did on Saturday made me any less of a believer of the kid’s chances to win this title. He didn’t get good starts but charged from the back to get second. He was, at many times, the fastest guy on the track and seemed to get better as the race went on.

3 41 Trey Canard Edmond, OK Honda CRF450R 4 2- Canard, like Dungey last week, probably should have gone 2-2 on the day if it wasn’t for a late race tip-over in moto one. Canard was very good at High Point and you would think that some of us media guys would learn not to overreact after every single race. Trey had nothing for the KTM guys second moto at Hangtown and Lakewood but this weekend, oh yeah, he had a lot for them.

4 5 Ryan Dungey Waconia, MN KTM 450 SX-F FE 3 4- Dungey’s had two late moto crashes the last two weeks, and also  that have hurt him. And at High Point he made a mistake in the first moto that he had a first moto mistake when he shot him off the track and cost him a spot. All told, two runner up spots and a third have been taken away from him late in motos. The two second moto crashes were front-end washouts and all the errors were of commission instead of omission.  

5 33 Josh Grant Riverside, CA Yamaha YZ 450F 6 6- We saw a clear definition from between the top four and the rest of the field to fifth place in each of the last three weeks. I know I just wrote that we shouldn’t jump to conclusions after one race but I have a hard time thinking someone is going to get into that mix without a mistake by one of the four. Grant’s the leader of the “next” pack right now and nothing wrong with that.

6 40 Weston Peick Wildomar, CA Suzuki RMZ 450 10 5- We all wanted to see what Weston could do if he got a good start, and some of us were worried about how Peick he would do on tracks that he hasn’t been on for a few years. Well, we got our answers:. Very good and it doesn’t matter.  

7 29 Andrew Short Colorado Springs, CO KTM 450 SX-F FE 7 8- I didn’t see Shorty after the race but I’m sure he was smiling and happy with his day and really, with his life.  

8 22 Chad Reed Australia Kawasaki KX 450F 5 10- Reed pulled both holeshots and his fifth in the first moto was a good finish. Second moto, not so good but overall CR22 made steps in the right direction with his ride at High Point. And now duringon the break Chad’s got his team and trainer down in Florida and it’s go time.

9 24 Brett Metcalfe Australia Kawasaki KX 450F 9 7- Metcalfe was not a fan of the track and says he never has been. Information that I wish I had known before picking him for 5th overall in my fantasy league.  

10 38 Phillip Nicoletti Bethel, NY Yamaha YZ 450F 8 12- I’m cheering for Filthy Phil as his six race deal at JGR has two more races to go. He faded badly in the second moto and I was ready to jump off his bandwagon, but then he told me he lost his rear brakes in the moto. Now I feel bad for thinking those terrible things about him while he was going backwards. By the way, Justin Brayton will be back next race.  

11 44 Matthew Goerke Sun City, CA KTM 450 SX-F FE 13 11- An improvement from Lakewood for Beef and as I said last week, he’ll get himself into the top ten soon.

12 48 Ben LaMay Wasilla, AK Yamaha YZ 450F 12 14- Solid day for LaMay as he breaks his crappy first moto/good second moto streak. I think Big Ben’s got a top ten or two in him.

13 39 Ryan Sipes Flaherty, KY KTM 450 SX-F 11 15- Sipes has been having a tough time as he races the GNCC series, but, hey, he showed he hasn’t lost his motocross skills as these finishes can attest to.  

14 80 Fredrik Noren Sweden KTM 450 SX-F 14 13- Yet another great race for the Swedish warrior known as Fast Freddie. He’s been doing well this summer on the KTM. This past weekend I awarded Noren $500 for winning the Pulpmx Privateer poll as we had a listener donate $250 for a signed Wil Hahn jersey and we put in $250 as well. Hope the cash helps, Freddie!

15 34 Malcolm Stewart Haines City, FL Honda CRF450R 38 9- We’ve been talking about Mookie’s consistency this summer and then he goes out and does this. But we will say his DNF in the first moto was not his fault. He hit a downed Jake Weimer early in the moto.  

16 92 Kellian Rusk Durango, CO Yamaha YZ 450F 15 16- Nice story developing here as Rusk and Fast Freddie continue to put in quality results as total privateers this summer. As a a former mechanic for guys that were at this level, I know the struggle is real.  

17 95 Evgeny Mikhaylov Russia KTM 450 SX-F 17 17- Kraor Meats!

18 761 Cade Clason Chesterfield, SC Honda CRF450R 16 18

19 123 Kevin Rookstool Bend, OR KTM 450 SX-F 19 19- Good finish for Rookstool who at this point is a jack-of-all-trades rider. I guarantee you that if there’s ever a giant truck tire crossing at a national Rookstool will kill it.  

20 606 Ronnie Stewart Easton, PA Suzuki RMZ 450 18 37- The Candyman cometh!

Rough day for Jake Weimer at High Point. 
Rough day for Jake Weimer at High Point.  Photo: Simon Cudby

more news and notes:

- Some heavy hitters had horrible days at High Point. Ivan Tedesco, Jake Weimer and Matt Bisceglia all crashed out in their first motos and didn’t come back for the second ones. In Tedesco’s case this is a case of the crashes adding up and he’ll definitely need the week off to heal up. And did you see Weimer’s injury on Instagram? Go search it out, it’s ugly.

- Pro Circuit has reached an agreement with GP star Arnaud Tonus to come over and race here next year. The Swiss rider has aged out of the GPs (Worst. Rule. Ever.) and despite being wooed (that’s a cool word. I hope to get wooed one day) by TLD Honda and factory Honda over in Europe he joins Mitch Payton’s crew and hopes to be the next Michael Pichon or Christophe Pourcel for the green guys.

- A lot of us have been talking about Fast Freddie Noren and his rides this summer. I just wanted to let you guys know that in the department of not-shocking-at-all the Swedish rider has Ohlins suspension on his KTM. The more you know…

- Lots of talk about a rider testing positive for a banned substance by WADA (World Anti-Drug Administration) during the supercross series and now said rider will face some sort of punishment. In fact this news could be out by the time you read this. I have two reactions to this. One: is what in the hell took them so long to get supercross test results back? And two: is I’m not happy someone got caught but it’s nice to see the system working. Oh and a third thing, how in the heck is anyone going to figure out this punishment if the test came during the AMA Supercross series governed by FIM but the riders are currently riding the outdoor nationals? Very confusing stuff and stay tuned, this is just starting to get nuts.

Thanks for reading, email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you want to talk about High Point and all that went on there. Just don’t ask me to talk about "Jaws IV"—I want to forget that ever came out.