"You disgraced America, Phil!" yelled JGR Yamaha’s Weston Peick from about five feet away while taking his gear off after Saturday night’s main event in Sofia, Bulgaria. The "Phil" in question is teammate Phil Nicoletti. Sounds pretty harsh, right? Maybe. But Phil replied that he knew he did, and went on to talk about how he sucked.
Nicoletti had pulled the holeshot in the main event and led for a lap or two when he caught his ankle while making a left turn before a rhythm section, hit neutral when he pulled it back onto the bike, and then almost died when he went to triple in. He managed to save it despite driving his front end into the face of the third jump, but the next double caused him trouble when he shorted it and slammed his ankle into the ground.
That was it—Nicoletti pulled off and called it a night. From first place to out of the race in five seconds.
"I felt like that main event would have been okay, but would have, could have, should have [is the] story of my life," Nicoletti said. "It’s just like good things start rolling, and then, bam, just like out of nowhere sh-t hits the fan."
Peick, coming off a first-place finish, found Phil’s misery amusing and went on to grill him the rest of the night.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what an off-season supercross is like. Lots of downtime, close quarters in the pits, and no semi, team, or support network to take you away. It leads to a fair amount of jibber-jabber between everyone.
The start money was guaranteed so there was no prize money for the results. The riders are there to show off their skills, get out without being hurt (Nicoletti’s ankle injury wasn’t serious), and stay sharp in the off-season. For a guy like Peick, who just a few years ago was only getting expenses paid to head overseas, these kinds of races have become a nice bonus in the bank account.
"This isn’t our championship that we’re running for," Peick told me after the race. "So at least everybody’s home safe and not hurt. That’s what it’s about over here: just to make some extra money and just go home safe."
Peick overall enjoyed his time in Sofia.
"Sofia’s good," he said. "It’s the first race over here, and definitely one of the better tracks of Europe. It was a little small, but it was definitely impressive for what they had for a first year."
Peick went 1-2 over the two nights and narrowly lost the King of Sofia title to BTOSports.com KTM’s Justin Brayton due to bracket racing points.
"I kind of forgot that the bracket that we had done during the day was toward the points of the overall," he said. "I was kind of already screwed by the time that happened. Brayton ended up with the overall with those 2 bracket points that he had gotten."
Nicoletti, along with the crash, also had another "highlight" over the weekend when he got very upset that Husqvarna’s Mike Brown was able to see the starter move the lever for the gate, which allowed for Brown to holeshot the first heat of the weekend over Phil.
"And not to mention losing a holeshot to Brown, who had no holeshot device on a stock 450. But then again, the seasoned vet cheated as well, but more power to him," Nicoletti said.
When asked about his reaction to the move, he said, "I didn’t freak out on him. I freaked out on the gate guy because I told him it was an issue yesterday, and he’s just like, no. But Brownie saw it. Actually, I should have done it, but he beat me to the punch."
"Filthy Phil’s shot out," Peick joked when asked what he thought of Nicoletti’s weekend. "The dude is probably worse than some of the German riders that they brought over here.
"I had to race behind him for two laps, and the guy almost killed himself on every single jump on the track possible. Then he almost dies by endoing over the smallest triple on the track, blows his feet off, and whisky-throttles. And I’m almost dying from his bike almost cleaning me out.
"So that’s kind of how Phil’s weekend went with riding,” he continued. “We need to take him back to North Carolina and give him a few lessons. His timing’s gone or something with supercross. He definitely struggles. That’s why I recommend Coy [Gibbs] goes back home and pays some extra money to get him a trainer to work on his skill set."
"Weston’s an idiot and I don’t care what he says," Nicoletti laughed when told what Peick said. "He didn’t even know that the bracket racing counted toward the overall, so that’s what I’m dealing with."
One thing both riders could agree on was how tough it was with lappers. Although they seemed like good guys, the skill level between the riders brought in and the American racers was vast.
"Sometimes you think, Is this sh-t even worth it, coming over here and jeopardizing getting hurt?" Peick wondered. "But it’s only races like this where they bring in the slower guys that they cause the problem. But for the most part, it’s fun to come over here and I enjoy it."
Nicoletti was a little more diplomatic on the situation.
"It was hard. The heat races were really tough because the skill level definitely wasn’t quite up to par, but there were still some good German riders that knew how to hit whoops and transition their triples and stuff, so that was okay," he said. "As soon as we got to the main event it was okay. Obviously they were kind of getting lapped, but they did the best they could to stay out of the way."
Filthy Phil and Weston Peick: friends who will always have that bond that comes with being the first riders to race the Sofia Supercross. We bet they’ll both treasure the time they had with each other.