By Jason Thomas, Jason Weigandt, and Steve Matthes
1. What did you think of those AMSOIL Arenacross shenanigans on Friday night?
Jason Thomas: As I said Friday, anything goes in arenacross! The rules are just different for that series, and there is much more contact and nonsense than in Monster Energy Supercross. There would be fines and suspensions and black flags galore if any of the moves we saw on Friday had happened on Saturday. For the fans, it's awesome action and much more intense, but as a former racer, I wouldn’t want to subject myself to that horseplay. It's a little more circus and a little less about the skill of racing.
Jason Weigandt: It was awesome! I did play-by-play for the arenacross shows on TV for seven seasons, and I rarely saw a main event without some crazy action, and more than half of the title fights came down to the wire. And this was before they dropped in the new rules with inverted starts, two main events, and the Race to the Championship format. Now it's insane! Yet, despite that, the series can't breakthrough and catch the attention that it deserves. It's really that age-old thing: We all say we just want good racing, but what we really want are stars. We know the Ryan Dungey/Eli Tomac/Chad Reed/Ken Roczen/James Stewart types are the best of the best, in the biggest series of them all, so that's the one we follow. I once remember someone with a lot of experience in the industry saying: "If fans really just cared about close racing, they'd follow AMA Pro Flat Track because that's the closest racing of all, but no one cares." Indeed. If we could just get some of this arenacross-style action at a supercross, this sport would explode.
As for the Jacob Hayes/Kyle Regal deal, specifically, well, Hayes made a dirty move, but he paid the price for it, so it all kind of worked out. And shouldn't an arenacross title be decided by something like that? Isn't it only fitting?
Steve Matthes: Yeah, arenacross! Look for me to move full-time into the barncross circuit next year because what we saw Friday was nuts. I can cover that kind of stuff in-depth. I'm kidding about that, but it was entertaining, and it is tough for the guys that truly are the fastest to actually prove it. It's a track full of land mines in the shape of lappers, your fellow competitors, big whoops, and formats that make contact inevitable. And there's some top-shelf talent racing that series as well.
The Hayes move on Regal was baffling on so many levels. He could have just ridden behind Regal and won the title on the tie-breaker of having more wins. It was also way too early to press for a pass that wasn't there. He could've just ridden behind Kyle and hoped he made a mistake, and if he didn't, then he could have pressed for the pass. And, finally, the pass wasn't there at all. That was dirty. JT said on our AMSOIL Arenacross Webcast that nothing is too aggressive for an arenacross. But after Hayes's move, he was forced to say that this one went too far. Because that’s how nuts that move was. It was a move of inexperience, and the next time Hayes will be better prepared for something like that.
2. Should more dudes have been lining up for the East-West Shootout?
JT: That really depends on whom you ask. For the fans and sponsors, etc., the answer is an easy yes. Watching a race that is missing a significant number of its stars is not good for anyone. It was a watered down field, especially after Cooper Webb twisted his ankle in practice. Taking nothing away from Marvin Musquin who rode really well, it was just a blah day for the 250 class. The shootout deserves better, and when everyone was vying for Toyota trucks and huge bonuses, riders were on the line and taking it seriously. The only way to get the riders' attention is to entice them with incentives. The outdoors loom large, and for many, it took precedence over what used to be an awesome end of the year battle between East and West.
Weigandt: I'm not down with riders not being down with the shootout. Hello, from 1997-2010 they didn't have points on the line, and that didn't stop anyone from going balls to the wall to win. Yeah, they had a Toyota truck to the winner for a few years, but they didn't have one in 1997, and that didn't stop Kevin Windham and Ricky Carmichael from bar banging the crap out of each other, until RC wadded it up and then ended the race in tears. TEARS! It mattered so much the kid cried. Then they add points races to Vegas for four years and everyone has forgotten. Now, maybe things would have been different if Webb had raced; maybe he and Musquin would have battled to the death. But you could sense a general apathy from the teams and riders. Just look at the record book: You win one supercross, and you've automatically cashed in at least three more years of factory rides no matter what you do. Take every chance you can get!
Matthes: Well, they should have. Hey, did you know that the 250SX purse for the East-West Shootout is massively increased? I didn't until yesterday. And that fact still didn't get riders motivated to get out there. Like, what happened to Justin Hill? He didn't even start the main event! There were no points on the line, but there was still this purse (for example, to win a 250SX race is $3,350 normally, but Vegas was $8,000), and also the regular OEM bonuses.
The powers that be need to either scrap the shootout and go back to two main events, or get some trucks for those guys. Otherwise, in my opinion, the riders and teams will continue to not care about this race and be looking ahead to Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.
3. Can you pick an early favorite for 250MX?
JT: I’m going to have to say Jeremy Martin is the favorite. He was so good last year, especially at the early rounds. He absolutely dominated out west, and from the reports I’m hearing, he’s putting in heroic levels of work in preparation for his title defense this year. I do think that Marvin Musquin, Adam Cianciarulo, and Cooper Webb will be in the mix and will each win races, but I think Martin is the man to beat going in. The biggest telltale sign for me will be the early rounds on the schedule. Martin dominated those races and built a nice points lead that he relied on down the stretch. If any of his rivals can steal a win or two early, it will mark a significant change from last year's dynamic. Winning early will be a huge mental bonus for whoever crosses the finish line first.
Weigandt: I'm also going with Martin until proven otherwise. Yes, Moose-Can has everything going his direction right now. Clearly his bike/team/trainer combo is on point, and the two-time MX2 World Champ is no slouch outdoors. But remember last year was only J-Mart's second full year as a pro, the first year for that new YZ250F, and even the first year that his team was any good. Just imagine, he's probably still on the upswing! He also stamped the year with a dominant 1-1 at the finale in Utah, just to remind everyone. He's a bad dude outdoors, so I'm sticking with the champ.
Matthes: Well, I'm the last guy to contribute to this thread, so if I said Martin, well, you already read the other two jerkies talk about Jeremy. I do think he's the slight favorite, but his teammate Cooper Webb will be there, and I wouldn't be surprised if he took the title. He's got a ton of momentum, he's very confident, and he's got a great bike. I thought at times last summer Martin rode smarter than Webb; Jeremy didn't make mistakes while Webb made more than a few self-inflicted ones. They're both dynamic racers who are drastically different people and riders.
Our buddy David Vuillemin thinks Marvin Musquin will win the 250MX title, and I think he'll be there, but to me, I think the two Yamaha riders are slightly better than the Frenchman week in and week out. Marv's got his tracks where he'll win, but there are others where he won't be on the pace. I could be wrong, but I think any way you slice it, these three will be battling for the crown.