Racerhead #1

Racerhead #1

Welcome to the first Racerhead of 2017, and welcome back to Anaheim, again. Anaheim is a town synonymous with Monster Energy AMA Supercross, the place where more supercross races have been held than anywhere else on the planet. It’s been around so long that the first race isn’t even in the Racer X Online Vault! It happened in 1975 and it was called the American Motocross Finals, sponsored by KEZY, a Los Angeles radio station that disappeared some time ago. The race was tacked on to the end of the old Trans-AMA Series, though it wasn’t a part of it. But it was a run-what-ya-brung gathering, and Team Honda’s teenaged superstar Marty Smith showed up on a screaming works RC125 and posted the fastest lap of the night. Unfortunately, those screams led Smith’s Honda’s piston to detonate, and that was that for what might have been an epic night for 125cc motorcycles.

The first Anaheim “American Motocross Finals” was won by another teenager, the 18-year-old Pennsylvanian Tony DiStefano of Team Suzuki. Tony D. was coming off three-straight wins at the end of the Trans-AMA Series, and he won all three “mains” at Anaheim, which ran a funky format of three motos. The runner-up was Maico factory rider Gaylon Mosier. According to Cycle News, 23,000 fans were in attendance on that cold December night under the Big A where the California Angels were playing baseball during the spring and summers.

The format of that first Anaheim also included two support classes: One for 250cc riders (won by Florida’s Don “Killer” Kudalski on a factory Honda) and a High School All-Stars race (some kid named Broc Glover—yes, THE Broc Glover—won on a DG Racing-backed Honda Elsinore). Third-place was my longtime friend and sometimes contributor Steve Bauer.

Anaheim began to be officially recognized in the record books in 1976, and Marty Smith avenged himself by winning, this time on a 250. But the race was overshadowed by the fact that Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, the biggest star at the time, decided not to participate in the Mike Goodwin-promoted event unless he got start money. Hannah was just coming off a few months of battling Roger DeCoster in the Trans-AMA Series, and he just didn’t want to do another race for nothing—the AMA Supercross Championship was already out of his hands. Here are the results of the first “real” Anaheim SX.

A mockup of the 1975 American Motocross Finals.
A mockup of the 1975 American Motocross Finals.

From there on, Anaheim was an indelible part of AMA Supercross, though there were a few years in the late-90s when it was out-of-order due to a major overhaul that saw them trim back the stadium seats from a massive concrete monolith to the boutique ballfield it is now. But the race was so popular upon its return that the series organizers (what is now Feld Motor Sports) decided to run two and even three Anaheims on some years. As a result, there have been more Anaheim SX rounds than any other city or ballpark, including the Houston Astrodome, the Pontiac Silverdome, and even the granddaddy of it all, the Los Angeles Coliseum. There have even been more Anaheims than Daytonas, and that’s where it all really started, in those pre-supercross years of 1970 and ’71.

The sport itself, not to mention Anaheim Stadium, has also evolved over the years. Those early races had gimmicks that seem hokey in retrospect, like the scaffold-braced King Kong Jump and the old water crossings. Now we have super-professional race teams on technically-over-the-top race bikes that would have hit that old King Kong Jump and may have cleared the Big A. We have top stars like Ken Roczen showing up in power suits (well-played, by the way) and other top stars like James Stewart not showing up at all because no one could put together the right deal for the rider who was considered the fastest man on the planet not so long ago. And there will be a 250 Class on Saturday that might just see the best racing of the night as Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner tries to become the first rider since his teammate Adam Cianciarulo to win the first SX race he entered. (And remember me talking a few months back about Spanish import Jorge Prado having a chance to become the youngest SX winner ever? The KTM kid won’t be here until 2018 now.)

The 2017 Anaheim 1 track map.
The 2017 Anaheim 1 track map.

I wasn’t at yesterday’s press conference, so I will let the other guys get into that below, but I will say I am stoked to see yet another Anaheim SX opener, even if it does feel a little bit like “Groundhog Day” sometimes. The surroundings are the same (though in a constant state of improvement), but the excitement is always fresh and the buzz in the air palpable, even if you’re Chad Reed, who’s raced more Anaheims that anyone. Anaheim is here, the off-season is finally over, so let’s #DropTheGate and get this thing started!  

The Champ Isn’t Worried (Jason Weigandt) 

We’ve heard all about how the pressure and work required to succeed in this sport can wear a rider out, and with Ryan Dungey now entering his 11th full professional season, piling up miles as one of the all-time work horses of the game, and carrying the weight of the number-one plate again, everyone is looking for cracks. Especially since the last Monster Energy Supercross Champion, Ryan Villopoto, tired of the whole process completely, and Dungey is now carrying the same load in both his training program and the championship pressure.

I can’t guarantee you that Dungey will win the title again. But I can guarantee you he’s not worried about it.

I got to watch Dungey and his training partners Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin do some motos today. It didn’t really feel like the day before the most pressure-packed race of the year. It seemed quite normal, and by the way it’s interesting to watch these guys ride together and see their strengths and weaknesses. The first moto I watched, Anderson looked like the fastest guy. I was all set to put him in as a big favorite for the weekend. Dungey looked okay and Marvin looked off. Then a few minutes later they rode again, and Dungey looked best, and Marvin looked much better, darn close to Dungey and maybe even quicker than Anderson. It changed each time they went out there. Funny to see how things can vary so much even at this level. 

Then Dungey’s dad, Troy, invited me to lunch with he and Ryan, and we got to talking. I just can’t believe how normal Ryan seems to be now. I couldn’t detect even a fraction of worry that the season starts tomorrow. You'd swear he wasn't even going to be racing! I asked Ryan if he used to be able to feel this relaxed the day before the season, and he told me he’s come a long way with controlling his emotions, not just for Anaheim 1, but on all the race weekends. At this point, he knows two things: first, don’t worry about anyone else. Just do your best. Once you start trying to think of all the potential situations and all the other riders, you’re worrying about things that are out of your control. So he doesn't worry about such things. Second, he’s ridden and trained so much that the races shouldn’t be much different than what he’s been doing all along, so there’s no reason to worry about it. Anaheim 1 shouldn’t feel that much different than all the laps he’s logged this off-season. Ryan learned a long time ago to not let fear of losing or fear of failure cloud his thoughts. 

"No matter where Ryan finishes in the championship this season, first, second, third or 20th, no one will look back at him being a failure, anyway." Jeff Kardas

And that’s the real key here. Often when a rider ratchets up a bunch of titles, the seasons become less about winning and more about not losing. That’s when the pressure really comes, when failure is not an option. Ryan has been brilliant in his ability to side step that. He will give it his all this season, and if he wins, he wins, but he’s not going to lose sleep over the possibility that it won’t work out. He knows there’s only so much he can control, anyway. He will do his best, and he will be happy with that. You know what? We all know that recently, Ryan’s best has been good enough to win. You know what else? No matter where Ryan finishes in the championship this season, first, second, third or 20th, no one will look back at him being a failure, anyway. He’s already had a career most would dream of. I think he’s one of the few that’s figured out how to both not rest on his laurels and get complacent, but also let his past success give him some satisfaction and take the pressure away from whatever is coming next. 

He’s the supercross champion, and he’s seems to enjoy it as much as anyone since Jeremy McGrath. Pretty impressive, win or lose. 

Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)

It has been a long few months away from the sport we all love, but supercross is back—and with a vengeance! Most of the riders (other than Justin Barcia) have avoided serious injury and are coming in ready to rumble. As most are healthy, the biggest challenge most riders will face is their own mind.

Anaheim is a pressure cooker like no other. There is so much hype and anticipation leading up to this race. Every team is under pressure to perform for their sponsors, and the riders feel the brunt of that. The silly thing is that this race is no different in the big picture. It counts for the same amount of points as any other round, and when we look back in a few months, no one really cares if you finished 4th or 9th. Keeping that perspective is nearly impossible, but if it can be achieved, it can allow for a much more casual day. All of the work has been done. There's nothing anyone can do if they aren't ready at this point. Their best bet is to simply relax and let things unfold. Anxiety will only make life more difficult and prevent them from performing at their best.  

The pressure-filled weekend kicks off with the dreaded press conference.
The pressure-filled weekend kicks off with the dreaded press conference. Jeff Kardas

So my advice for these guys is to simply take a deep breath and enjoy this event as much as they can. They will find their rhythm when the gate drops. They have done thousands of laps to prepare. Their bodies are basically supercross robots at this point. Staying out of your own way and letting good things happen is the best approach to the pressures of A1.

Anaheim 1 Press Day 

New Racer X photographers Jeff Kardas and Rich Shepherd are in Anaheim this weekend capturing all of the weekend's events including the press conference yesterday. Be sure to check out Instapics tomorrow to stay on top of all the action. 

Another Setback for Barcia (Chase Stallo)

Earlier this week, AutoTrader.com/Monster Energy/JGR Suzuki announced that its top rider, Justin Barcia, would begin the season on the sidelines after sustaining a “fracture of his lunate bone along with some ligament damage” in his wrist when his chain broke during a practice session a few weeks back. The good news is the injury won’t require surgery, just rest, and Barcia hopes to be back in a few rounds. The bad news: this is the second-straight season Barcia has entered Monster Energy Supercross with an injury.

In 2016, Barcia tried to race through a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, but had to undergo surgery just two rounds into the year. (He returned at Santa Clara.) Barcia also missed eight rounds during the 2015 season due to a hip injury.

Injuries have cost Barcia a chance to repeat a two-win rookie season. During his first two seasons in 450SX (2013 and ’14), he missed just two rounds and averaged a 5.5 finish. In the last two seasons, he has missed 17 rounds and averaged an 11.5 finish—never able to get a rhythm going due to injury.

Hopefully, Barcia will get back sooner than later and return to form.

SPY, Shift and Fox, Doonies, and A1 (Kyle Scott)

Anaheim 1 is finally here and it’s been a busy week in the industry. On Tuesday, SPY hosted a reveal party for Cole Seely’s new signature goggle at Troy Lee Designs’ store in Laguna Beach, CA. They had tacos and beer on hand and Cole was excited to have his very first signature product released to the public. Cole was involved in the design process and has picked a bold blue to go with his bold style.

On Wednesday Fox and Shift hosted a party at The Museum in Costa Mesa, CA, where they had a party to unveil their new Moto-X Lab as well as Shift’s new Blue Label featuring Ken Roczen. That’s right, Ken Roczen. Now you may be thinking that Ken is shifting over to Shift, but that’s not entirely true. Remember that Shift is owned by Fox. Ken will be serving both brands moving forward and the new Blue Label Shift gear is the first of several new Moto-X Lab products. You will be seeing the new Moto-X Lab product logo on both Fox and Shift products moving forward with the next release scheduled toward the end of the supercross season.

So what exactly is the Moto-X Lab? It’s Fox’s push to continue to innovative and lead the industry in technology and style. Without any liner, netting, or padding of any kind the new Blue Label gear is as minimal as you can get. The pants are made of silicon and has glued seams on the interior of the pant so there’s no stitching. The arms in the jersey have a ton of flex and the whole kit feels like no other moto gear I’ve felt before. It’s tailored to be premium race wear and will now be the top tier Shift gear. 

After the Fox/Shift party was the premiere for Doonies 3 at the Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, where Mickey Avalon performed. I wasn’t able to attend, but it sure looked like a good time and if you haven’t already seen the video, check it out.

On Thursday there was a press conference for the season opener this weekend. All the big names were in attendance and you could just feel the hype and anticipation for Saturday in the room. James Stewart was not in attendance and when Ryan Dungey was asked about his opinion on the matter, he quickly diverted the question and directed it to Chad Reed, who said, “It’s a shame. He has 50 wins I believe, second all time, two-time champ, and I think that it’s really sad that he doesn’t have a job. But I think you have to look in the mirror sometimes, that’s the best way to do it. I will miss racing him. I don’t know if this is the end for him or not and that it’s sad that it’s turned out this way.”

We also caught up with Jason Anderson, Josh Grant, Cooper Webb, and Coley Seely (who surprisingly wasn’t in the press conference and responded on Twitter).

Check out what they had to say.

ICYMI (Chase Stallo)

It’s been a busy week at Racer X Online. With the 2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross opener just a day away, there has been plenty to talk about. We understand that you won’t read everything we publish, but you may have missed a few things. So we’ve made it easy for you and put together a list of stuff we’ve published this week. Enjoy—and be sure to watch Anaheim 1 tomorrow live on Fox Sports 1.

Monday Conversation: Austin Forkner

Cudby

The 2016 AMA Motocross Rookie of the Year is set to make his highly anticipated Monster Energy Supercross debut this Saturday in the 250SX West Region. Eric Johnson talked with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider earlier this week.

Fly Racing Racer X Podcast: 450SX and 250SX West Region Preview

Jason Thomas and Jason Weigandt join Steve Matthes to preview the 450SX Class and 250SX West Region in the popular Fly Racing Racer X Podcast. Listen to the 450 preview here and the 250 preview here.

The List: 10 Great Anaheim Supercross Moments

In 1976, AMA Supercross moved into what is now called Angel Stadium. From 1976 all the way through 2016 (with a brief break during a stadium revamp in the late 1990s), exactly 67 supercross events have been run inside the ballyard. Eric Johnson took a look at some of historic moments to take place in Anaheim.

ReduX: Just How Deep?

Yes, we say it every year, but when you look at the names that will occupy the 450SX class this year, it’s hard to argue that 2017 has a loaded field. Jason Weigandt broke it down in his ReduX column.

Team Guides

A new year also means new numbers, riders, teams, etc. It’s hard to keep it all straight. Luckily for you, we’re here to help. Here's a handy guide for the weekend and the season. Here is a guide to the 450 Class and 250 Class.

10 Things to Watch: Everything for 17

We decided to expand our regular 10 Things to Watch feature to include last year’s top-22 450SX racers by giving them two sentences each. We even included a few bonuses.

3 on 3: Hot Takes

Okay, these aren’t scorching-earth hot or anything, but it’s always fun to take a guess who we think will win a championship at the start of each season. We enlisted the help of former pros Jason Thomas and David Pingree, along with Steve Matthes, to take their best shots.

Insight: How Roczen Went Red

Yes, we’ve known about Ken Roczen’s switch to Honda HRC for some time. But, Steve Matthes adds some great tidbits of information on how the deal went down by talking to some of the keys players behind the change.

How to Watch: Anaheim 1

Monster Energy Kawasaki

Looking for TV times, race day schedule, previous A1 winners, 2017 numbers and more? You can find it all in our How to Watch feature.

Injury Report: Anaheim 1

Injuries are an unfortunate part of supercross. Luckily most of the top riders made it through the off-season. We have updates on Justin Barcia, Matt Bisceglia and more in this week’s Injury Report.

Where Are They Now: Derek Natvig

“Shortly after I turned pro, I was racing a Trans Cal Winter Series event at Sunrise [Cycle Park—now renamed Racetown 395]. I crashed on this one jump and broke my back pretty bad. I was knocked out and someone landed on top of me. Crushed six vertebrae. That was right at the same time Mitch [Payton] was starting his team and I was friends with him and riding with all those guys. But I was suddenly paralyzed.” Former Loretta’s champ and Team Green rider Derek Natvig has a must-read story.

Between the Motos: Jason Anderson

Despite a dramatic moment at the Motocross of Nations last year, Anderson’s off-season was actually pretty smooth, and he told us at the pre-season press conference on Thursday he wants to run up front even more in 2017.

2017 GNCC Schedule (Chelsea Taylor)

While the official 2017 GNCC schedule was released earlier in November, we had to make a small change to the sixth round. It was previously advertised as the Limestone 100 GNCC, but there was a scheduling conflict that arose due to the nearby commencement ceremony at Indiana University. It was important to keep the round in Indiana, and we found this awesome hunting facility! The Inaugural X-Factor GNCC will stay on the same weekend, May 6 and 7, at the X-Factor Whitetails in Peru, Indiana. This race offers a great opportunity for midwest racers to try their hand at off-road racing and will feature brand-new tracks for each race.

The 2016 season was a record breaking year for GNCC, and it’s our goal to make 2017 even better. GNCC Racing is great cross-training for motocross, so make sure to check out the “officially official” 2017 schedule below and pick out some dates to add to your race schedule. Before your first GNCC race make sure to check out the GNCC101 webpage. It explains everything that you need to know for your first race. Happy New Year and good luck in the upcoming race season!

Hey, Watch It!

Racer X Films: SX Preview Show: Bloopers and Outtakes

Episode 1: Transition Team

Episode 2: The Leap

Episode 3: Which Way From Here?

Episode 4: The Vets

Episode 5: Too Many Riders, Not Enough Rides

Random Notes

Heading to Anaheim for the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross this weekend? Stop by the Racer X booth—located in the Party in the Pits—to pick up a free copy of Racer X Illustrated.

You can also sign up or renew for just $20 (over 70 percent off the cover price) to get a one-year subscription, a FREE $25 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC gift card, and an extra issue!

Terms and conditions

Here’s a note from our friends at Shift:

We rented out the Golden Road Brewery across the street from A1, so come drink with us! We’ll be serving discounted beers to all of our fans from 1:00 – 5:00 p.m. on Saturday before the race. There will also be a ton of limited-edition Shift giveaways, so you do not want to miss out. See you then! 

Two-time defending Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey of Red Bull KTM was featured on the homepage of ESPN.com's "Racing" section today previewing the 2017 season. 

For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #1

That’s all we’ve got for this week. Thanks for reading. See you at the races.