Observations: New Jersey

Observations New Jersey

April 29, 2015 2:00pm

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The East Rutherford/New Jersey/New York Supercross just happened, and it was a combination of many things for many people. For the riders not in contention for wins or titles, it was the slow march to the end of a long grind that started the first weekend in January. For the riders that can actually, you know, win, it represented another chance to pad their pocketbooks and legacy. What it represented to me, though, as someone who doesn’t really care all that much who wins or loses (now that the Big One-Five has hung up the boots), it was the first daytime supercross since Daytona 2003.

Huh? Yeah, bro! In order to get some TV time with the Fox Network, Feld Motor Sports held its first-ever (Daytona is not promoted by them) day-time supercross race. Track walk was held at 7:30 a.m.…Yes, you read that right. And seeing as how this race wasn’t far from New York City, there were many people showing up without much sleep from the night before, myself included.

Around 5:30 p.m. the gate dropped for the 450 main event, and the opening ceremonies took place around 2:30. It was all a little weird, but the riders I spoke to didn’t mind the different program. It was a bit like the program at the Nationals. Some people I spoke to said they actually liked it, and one of the big reasons was because there were only two practices instead of the usual three. These guys have the track down pretty good these days, and I agree that three practices are a bit overkill. 

That part was good. The parts that I thought didn’t work were the opening ceremonies and the overall vibe of the race. In the middle of the day, with the sun out, the fireworks and rider introduction videos just weren’t really the same. The crowd also was pretty subdued—maybe they weren’t in the right mood for the action. Then again, maybe it was just weird to me because it was different.

One thing is for sure: If the ratings and interest are piqued because of being on one of the big five networks, and that helps the sport, then let’s do more of them. I have my doubts (people forget that ESPN was huge back in the day and played a ton of SX/MX on the channels, and we aren’t really in any better of a spot than before in terms of rides, purse money, number of teams, etc.), but I’ve been wrong before. If this TV time helps, then guess what? Welcome to daytime supercross!

The track was tough. It was a throwback to the days when the dirt wasn’t the same. With rains coming into the race, the New Jersey dirt was soft and got gnarly. The riders were having trouble doing all the obstacles every lap right from the start of the first practice. It was Seattle SX-ish, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The whoops were big, the dragon’s back onto a tabletop was a back-breaker for many riders, and at the end of the 450SX main event, the dudes in the back were whipped and basically just riding around. 

By the way, my idea of putting the bowl berms back into supercross with some catch nets behind to stop bikes from going into the stands is still solid. The corner before the triple was a prime place for this, as it was a left-hand flat turn where the riders weren’t able to do anything at all. Mount the nets there with the poles buried in the dirt and give us our berms back!

Musquin took the win and the championship in New Jersey.
Musquin took the win and the championship in New Jersey. Photo: Cudby

We’ve had two titles wrapped up in the last two weeks, and this week we completed the trifecta. Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin just had to finish seventeenth or better if Justin Bogle won, so it was a bit odd to see him put some serious heat on Bogle early in the main event before seemingly backing off a bit. But when it’s your year, it’s your year. Marvin slowly reeled Bogle back in, made a nice pass, and checked out. 

Bogle led ten laps but didn’t lead the last five after Marvin asserted his skill. He’s a throttle-control, precision-type of rider so the more rutty a track gets the better for him. He’s able to put the front wheel where he needs to, and apply the right amount of brake and gas at the perfect time. With this track, it wasn’t hard to see Musquin not winning. 

So what’s next for “Moving” Marvin “The Marv Attack” Musquin? Well, he announced after the race that he signed with KTM for two more years to ride in the 450 class. I heard there were talks with Honda, but I never took them seriously. I had talked to KTM management a while back, and they made it clear they wanted him to stay orange. He’s been with the brand for a while, and he’s delivered them a MX2 World Championship, 250SX Championship, and 250MX wins on both sides of the ocean. And like my buddy David Vuillemin says, Marvin needed to win this title. He’s actually just three weeks younger than Ryan Dungey, he’s got tons and tons of experience in this class, he’s on a great team, and really, he was racing against kids. Musquin may be one of those guys who get better on the bigger bike as well. 

Justin Bogle, the defending champion, had a nice season. He got a win and was on the podium at every race but one. Years from now, you’ll see the gap between him and Musquin was only 23 points, and maybe if you weren’t there, you’ll think that Bogle gave him a serious run. That’s fine. But if you were there every week, you saw that Marvin was noticeably better than Bogle pretty much every weekend and was able to catch and pass him more than a few times. Bogle was much better than everyone else in the class, but this was Musquin’s the whole way.

I thought that Cole Seely was going to win the 450SX race. He passed Andrew “hole” Short (a reader of mine came up with that on Twitter, and I think it fits) right away and sprinted hard. He almost ate poop after the finish one time, but it looked to be a carbon copy of the race he won a couple of weeks ago. He had about a five-second lead at one point, and Seely’s good when the track gets rutty.

Cole Seely started the race in front, but Eli Tomac charged hard for the win. 
Cole Seely started the race in front, but Eli Tomac charged hard for the win.  Photo: Cudby

But then Eli Tomac got on his horse after a great (for him!) start and got busy hauling ass. Tomac worked hard passing Justin Barcia, Short, and Weston Peick, and although it took thirteen long laps, he made the move on Seely and jetted off for his third win of the season. Like I mentioned, Seely’s good at the ruts and the technical stuff, but Tomac might be even better. Tomac’s a bit of a pin-it-and-hope-for-the-best type of rider, so you wouldn’t think he would be great at this stuff, but he is. I asked him about it after the race and he agreed with me somewhat. 

“That’s the thing. I want to say I’m a pinner, but at the same time when I get a big track like this where you can do the big threes and the combos, you’ve got to be a technical rider to do that stuff,” he told me as he signed autographs and posed for photos with fans. “I don’t know. When it’s rutty I seem to have decent balance. It’s tough to brag. It seems like I have good balance and I just like the ruts.”

It’s okay Eli, you don’t have to brag; your riding does it for you. Tremendous race by the #3.

The battle for third in the 250SX class was intense. Joey Savatgy and Jeremy Martin were going at it. Nice to see, although I suppose if you’re Jeremy, there was nothing nice about it. Martin was faster than Savatgy—that fact isn’t in doubt—but he couldn’t find a way past the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider, who was riding a very wide bike. Jeff Emig up in the booth must’ve been so proud!

At times the battle crossed over from intense to a bit dirty, as there was some stop-and-go, and at one point Savatgy just went straight to the outside of a turn and bumped Martin off the track. He probably figured he was done with the kid. Nope. Jeremy got back on it, reeled Joey in again, went for the no-doubt-kill-shot in the turn after the whoops, and washed his front end out with one lap to go. 

Afterwards I caught up to both riders to get their take on the battle and to thank them for a good time.

Savatgy ended up on the podium ahead of Martin.
Savatgy ended up on the podium ahead of Martin. Photo: Cudby

Martin: “It was unfortunate; he bumped me off the track, and then it just became a game to what he could do to hold me off tonight. He rode good. He did what he had to do.”

Savatgy: “[It was] one of those deals where it turned into a cat-and-mouse game. We actually probably ended up slowing both of us down. There are always two sides to every story. I look at it from my situation and my shoes, like, hey, he wants to get around me for a podium position and I’m going to make him work for it.”

Martin: “I was a little heated afterwards because I want to win, he wants to win. He wants to do good. It’s racing and we’re just going to move on.” 

Savatgy: “If he was that much faster and he could have made the pass stick, props to him.”

Martin: “He’s always been a little more of an aggressive rider, even when I raced him back in the amateur ranks. That’s kind of what he does. I respect that. It’s a good challenge. He did what he had to do to keep me behind him tonight, keep the 6 machine behind him. He did it. 

Savatgy: “But I look at it also like let’s change shoes. Let’s put Martin in my position. You’re going to tell me that Martin wouldn’t have done the same thing? He wouldn’t have ran it in on me to stop me from passing him? I’m going to go ahead and say no. He would have absolutely done the same thing, and I would have expected him to.

Like I said, if I see him I’ll let him know, hey man, I wasn’t going out of my way to do it on purpose, but I was definitely making it hard to get around.”

Joey Savatgy got the trophy, the chicks, the check, and the fame, and I’m sure Jeremy Martin won’t forget. 

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

250SX Results 

1. 25 Marvin Musquin; Corona, CA; KTM 250 SX-F – I didn’t go over to talk to Musquin, but I can predict that he was very happy and thanked everyone on his team and also the media for interviewing him. 

2. 1 Justin Bogle; Cushing, OK; Honda CRF250R – Bogle crashed hard in practice (same spot as Jimmy Decotis), so it was nice to see him go and lead some laps before he got caught by Musquin. The defending champion was very game this year and much better than anyone not named Marvin.

3. 37 Joey Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; Kawasaki KX 250F – Joe Dog is a good interview after the races whether he does well or not.

4. 6 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F – Jeremy’s out in SoCal for the next few weeks, and I imagine he’s not too pumped on that. Most riders these days will do anything to not be under the thumb of their teams and have to ride Glen Helen every Thursday.

5. 80 RJ Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R – Solid ride for RJ, and a nice rookie year for the GEICO Honda kid despite some trying circumstances. I’ve heard from some other people that they think Hampshire is a bit cocky, but I don’t see it. I see a kid who’s confident in his program and ability, but knows his competition is gnarly. When I asked him what he learned this year from supercross he said: “It’s not as easy as it looks!” Does that sound like a cocky kid? 

6. 55 Kyle Peters; Greensboro, NC; Honda CRF250R – Peters was quiet all season long, but put in solid rides. He’s a good starter, he’s got indoor skills, and he appears to stay away from big mistakes and crashes. His worst finish was a thirteenth, and this was his best finish, which got him seventh overall in the points. Solid, right?

7. 62 Anthony Rodriguez; Cairo, GA; Yamaha YZ250F

8. 52 Mitchell Oldenburg; Alvord, TX; Yamaha YZ250F – You see what I wrote about Peters above, right? Well, “Freckle” was the exact opposite of Peters in that he had plenty of flash, great speed, and caught your eye all the time. Which is great, except for he also had big crashes and ended up twelfth in the points. Still, in the world we live in, a guy like Mitchell will attract more attention than Peters…Don’t hate the player; hate the game, people.

9. 35 Kyle Cunningham; Aledo, TX; Honda CRF250R – Cunningham had a slow start to the season, but he picked it up as it went on. He had to go to the LCQ to get into the main and even fell while leading it.   

10. 343 Luke Renzland; Hewitt, NJ; Yamaha YZ250F – Solid ride for the hometown kid. He’s got grit. I like this guy. He’s been buried off the start more than a few times this year, and he shows a lot of heart working through the pack. 

11. 79 Jace Owen; Mattoon, IL; Honda CRF250R – Owen was approaching the dreaded “Shawn Rife MX fantasy killer,” where he looks great, has talent, and puts in good practices, but can’t do anything in the main event. Well, scratch that, as the light has gone on for this kid the last four rounds, and he’s logged some solid results. 

12. 77 Justin Starling; Deland, FL; Yamaha YZ250F – I don’t know what it is, but I’ve been absolutely crushing Starling’s exact finishes in fantasy moto—or getting it really close, anyways. Never mind the Dog Whisperer—I’m the Starling Whisperer. 

13. 64 AJ Catanzaro; Portland, CT; Suzuki RM-Z250 – When AJ was on the PulpMX Show a while back, I suggested he put “Lone Soldier” on his butt because he’s basically the only Suzuki 250 rider out there. This weekend, he did just that. I’m a trendsetter, bro. 

14. 73 Gannon Audette; Tallahassee, FL; Kawasaki KX 250F  

15. 78 Preston Mull; Livingston, CA; Yamaha YZ250F

16. 83 Levi Kilbarger; Logan, OH; Yamaha YZ250F

17. 471 Logan Karnow; Vermilion, OH; Honda CRF250R

18. 49 James Decotis; Peabody, MA; Honda CRF250R – Jimmy DDDDDD was great last year in front of his hometown-ish peeps, but this year he went down hard early in the first practice and struggled through the day at less than 100 percent. He’ll skip Vegas this weekend and race up in Canada this summer. 

19. 337 Nick Desiderio; New Vernon, NJ; Yamaha YZ250F – I didn’t know much about Nick before he got the ride on the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha team, and he showed some speed, but on a team like that, with a bike that’s good and with no worries, you’ve got to make more than two mains all year.

20. 393 Daniel Herrlein; Bethesda, OH; Honda CRF250R

21. 88 Dakota Alix; Jay, VT; KTM 250 SX-F

22. 812 Luke Vonlinger; Stanford, KY; Honda CRF250R

Kyle Peters didn't make waves this season, but he was solid all season long.
Kyle Peters didn't make waves this season, but he was solid all season long. Photo: Cudby

450SX Results

1. 3 Eli Tomac; Cortez, CO; Honda CRF450R – I know I’m old and that I wear cargo shorts and flip flops 90 percent of the time, but what’s going on with Tomac’s Alpinestars gear? Remember when A-Star made beautiful stuff that Mike Alessi and Musquin wore? What’s going on in Italy? 

2. 5 Ryan Dungey; Tallahassee, FL; KTM 450 SX-F – Dungey didn’t get a great start, but he did do typical Dungey stuff, where he followed Tomac through the pack of fast riders, and when it was all said and done, he had a podium. Seven wins on the season and fifteen podiums. Can he make it eight and sixteen this weekend to cap his best year ever?

3. 14 Cole Seely; Laguna Beach, CA; Honda CRF450R – Riders are weird. They never want to admit that they got tired (tight) or that they didn’t have the speed (bike set-up) or that they just weren’t that great (tight) on a particular night. So, when I went up to Seely after the race that he blew a pretty big lead and finished twenty-four seconds back of the leader, I was prepared for him to make excuses. I asked him how “we” felt about this race, and much to my surprise he said that third was good, the track was gnarly, and he would take it, which, to me, is exactly what a guy should say and what his attitude should be. I was just surprised to hear that and not the “I got tight” reason.

4. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Nice ride by Baggett to get the fourth, but on a track where the Tomac’s average lap time was fifty-four seconds, Baggett finished three spots back and an astounding thirty-two seconds back of him. That’s almost three-quarters of a lap!

5. 29 Andrew Short; Smithville, TX; KTM 450 SX-F – Another week, another holeshot from Short. Broc Tickle plowed into him after the finish when Shorty made a mistake and broke his kneecap. Andrew finished the last lap in pain and went in for surgery on Monday. That will keep him out, I would think, half the outdoor season. Bummer for me, because I had picked the over of twenty on how many holeshots he was going to get this summer.

6. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Last week Tickle was going for sixth when he collided with Barcia’s rear wheel and went down near the end of the race. This week Broc was going for fifth on the last lap when he nailed Short and flew over the berm. It was a pretty gnarly crash, and because Tomac was right behind him getting the checkers, Broc didn’t have to do another lap, which was probably a good thing since I’m sure he thought he was in San Jose or somewhere like that by then.   

7. 33 Joshua Grant; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Both Grant and his buddy Chad Reed missed the second practice. Grant was sick and Reed was having shoulder problems. I was told that there was a good chance that Josh wasn’t going to race, but that Chad’s shoulder (from a crash last week) wasn’t enough to hold him out. Well, actually Grant did race and did well, while Reed was forced to sit this one out. 

8. 11 Kyle Chisholm; Valrico, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F – I wrote last week that Chiz’s starts and practice times have been better lately. And this week he rode great to get a season-best finish. I can’t believe that Kawasaki is going to go to all the nationals with only one rider (Wil Hahn) after Millsaps was let go. Wouldn’t it be better to throw the #11 in there and have two top-ten guys on the track? 

9. 21 Jason Anderson; Edgewood, NM; Husqvarna FC450 – Anderson had a shot at the top five, but he went down about halfway through the race. He was fast, but this result doesn’t show it.

10. 23 Weston Peick; Menifee, CA; Yamaha YZ450F – Peick probably should’ve died after his crash in the heat race, but of course he didn’t. In the main, he got his usual great start and was up there until a crash. In almost every main that he’s raced this year, he’s been exciting to watch, good or bad. 

11. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 450 SX-F – McElrath barnstormed NYC, and although he had to go to the LCQ (which I thought was surprising, right?), he racked up this pretty impressive finish by staying upright and clicking off the laps.

12. 27 Nicholas Wey; Dewitt, MI; Kawasaki KX 450F – The NYK put in a nice showing on a tough track. I’ve been around his truck quite a bit (thanks for firing your rider, Kawasaki!) lately, and it’s been cool to see the fan interaction he still has. He’s not claiming it’s his last ever race this weekend, but I would bet it is. Since 1997, he’s participated in 396 SX main events and MX nationals, and the ride is almost over.   

13. 42 Ben LaMay; Austin, TX; Husqvarna FC450 – LaMay’s talking to teams in Canada and also trying hard to work with Munn Husky to try and stay down here to ride the nationals. Not sure what’s going to happen, but he’s a better outdoor rider than in, and needs to do the nationals. Let’s hope he can. 

15. 199 Kyle Partridge; Lake Elsinore, CA; Honda CRF450R 

16. 69 Ronnie Stewart; Easton, PA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – The Candyman had a huge contingent of people there wearing yellow and cheering him on, which was cool to see. He told us that he is separating from the Dirt Candy team, but he’s still racing outdoors, so we’ll see what he’s going to do. I vote he still gets to keep the Candyman nickname, though.

17. 181 Dustin Pipes; Madera, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Pipes rode very well in New York. He made the main from the semi race. From zero career main events in four years to four mains this year—good job Pipes!

18. 211 Tevin Tapia; Menifee, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450

19. 447 Deven Raper; Mesa, AZ; Kawasaki KX 450F – First career main event for Raper, who’s got a most unfortunate last name.

20. 51 Justin Barcia; Greenville, FL; Yamaha YZ450F – Barcia had another bad weekend. Baggett hit him in the air while in seventh, and he went down hard. Props to him for getting up and finishing, but it’s been rough lately for AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha’s big off-season signing. Between Barcia’s homeless person look, his mechanic Ben’s ZZ Top beard, and Peick’s permanent beard, the hair factor on JGR is off the charts.

21. 314 Alex Ray; Milan, TN; Honda CRF450R

22. 10 Justin Brayton; Mint Hill, NC; KTM 450 SX-F – Brayton’s throttle cable broke early in the main, so he was on the sidelines early. Been a tough year for JB10 so far.   

Thanks for reading. I appreciate all the emails I get and I apologize for not answering all of them. My bad. Hit me up at matthes@racerxonline.com.