Observations: Detroit

Observations Detroit

March 29, 2017 12:45pm

Detroit was the stop for Round 12 of Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, and we’ve got ourselves quite a series brewing here. The 450SX Class is gnarly and the 250SX East Region boys, well, they’re just out of control. It’s 250 Riders Gone Wild right now directed by Joe Francis.

Monster Jam being held earlier this month at Ford Field meant the dirt base had been sitting in the stadium for nearly a month and was basically like concrete. The slick spots were insane and the riders had to be gentle with the throttle in these spots. The baked soil was as much of a battle as the obstacles themselves. The sand was very deep and it seemed every time you looked up, at least in practice, someone was picking their bike up out of it.

Riders hate the sand, I get it, and I’ve been critical of it in the past when it gets dumped into a turn and there’s one single berm on the inside. See Daytona this year for an example. But in Detroit, it kind of worked with different lines developing throughout the day and heck, Eli Tomac even used an outside line to pass for the lead! Granted, he was going Mach 4 around it and his move doesn’t apply to humans, but still.

The riders may not like the sand, but it does make for some great photos.
The riders may not like the sand, but it does make for some great photos. Rich Shepherd

Don’t listen to the riders when it comes to the sand, they’re just complaining about it because of getting sand in their goggles, down the back of their jerseys, and it ruins their hair or something. It’s an obstacle for them and they’re not to be trusted in their criticism of it. However, the sand must be done right to be good.

Seven points! That’s the points deficit for Eli Tomac as he put on another riding clinic in Detroit and won. He started well (again), he was better than second place rider Marvin Musquin in the whoops (which held up because the dirt was so dry), he made maybe the pass of the year in the sand, and yeah, he’s on fire right now. He’s a bit of a throttle happy rider so one might think the slippery dirt in Detroit would have bit him, but nope. I didn’t see one sketchy moment from him. He rode behind Marv, passed Marv, and slowly pulled away. Oh man, this thing is getting good, huh?

Next time you’re at a race, watch Musquin in practice or heck, even in the race. He is such a creative guy and he’s always doing something cool and different, even if it’s slower. This weekend he was the first guy I saw roll the wall, single/wheel tap/over the third jump. He was also going hard into the sand and using a little bump to pre-jump himself over the big braking bump. He wouldn’t clear it totally and he couldn’t do it for long, but it was definitely faster while the bump held up. Just the little things he finds each week is pretty cool.

Ryan Dungey rode well to finish third, but he was stuck behind Davi Millsaps for way longer than he would have liked. Millsaps was riding well and looking for his first podium since 2013. Dungey qualified better this week in third (the track was so basic that there were 12 guys in the same second one session. Twelve!) and he got out early to get some laps in, he also won his heat, but in the end, his main event start did him in. But hey, we’ve talked about Dungey getting caught and passed late in the race by Musquin twice now and wondered what was up with that. Well, in Detroit he turned his fastest lap (.6 off Tomac and third overall) on lap 18 so that shows his fitness is fine. I don’t know, man, something is still up with Ryan or Davi Millsaps, out of the blue, got WAY faster on Saturday night.

David Vuillemin wrote about it in his column on Pulpmx.com and it’s the same thing I’m wondering. When does KTM step in and say to Millsaps or Blake Baggett (who caught Dungey late in the race) or even Marv, that if Dungey is coming up on you or if you catch Dungey late in the race (Marv) then can you please make his life a tad easier? I’m not saying we need to go all “Let Brock Bye” and pull over, but as I said, it can be “Hey Marv, if you catch Dungey late in the race, maybe don’t pass him?” or “Hey Davi and Blake, can you not try to race Dungey like it’s the last race of your life?” That’s all, nothing big or drastic. Just be aware of Dungey and let’s bring this title back to the Orange Brigade safely, yeah?

Jordon Smith had to go the LCQ after a questionable pass attempt on Kyle Cunningham but with the 18th gate pick, from the far outside, he pulled a good start and used some terrific riding to pass three top-notch dudes to win his first main event of the year. Last year Smith struggled on GEICO Honda, but the team still wanted to bring him back. Smith chose to leave and asked to get out of his deal and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM snatched him up.

After Detroit, Smith sits just nine points behind Savatgy in the championship.
After Detroit, Smith sits just nine points behind Savatgy in the championship. Rich Shepherd

I asked Smith about his decision to leave a powerhouse team like GEICO, even though he had a contract, on the Pulpmx Show. “I’ve been with GEICO since I was an amateur in B class. I have a lot of respect for Ziggy [Rick Zielfelder] and Jeff [Majkrzak] and all the guys on the team. They helped me a lot over the years. I’m still friends with a lot of people on the team. But I felt like it was a change that I needed to make.

I was definitely nervous about it. Even during the off-season I felt like I was riding really good and felt like I was way ahead of where I have been in the past couple years, but until I showed up at the first race you really don’t know. But right now I couldn’t be happier with where I’m at. I’m getting along really good with everyone on the team, and I love the bike.”

Yeah, I’d say things are working out quite well for Smith, who’s making “a leap” here.

Oh man, the same weekend I got Max at Fly Racing to sew on a “Wacko” butt patch onto Zach Osborne’s pants he crashes in the first turn, wrecks a front wheel, and has to start the race two laps down. He got 18th, but lost the points lead and it was a terrible night. I hope he doesn’t blame the butt patch but even if he doesn’t, that thing will NEVER be on there again. Dammit, I was pumped.

I texted Zacho after the race and he was fine. Shit happens I suppose and if you’re him, you know you’ve got the most wins and you’ve basically been the fastest guy in the class. Just in Detroit in one practice session, I watched him go to the top of the board three times. He was on top, he got dethroned, went back and set the quickest time, was topped and then went and did it again. So no panic from the #16 and buckle in, this chase should be great.

In the I wonder why riders don’t like me department: After Osborne’s run in with Adam Cianciarulo I sent Adam a text of a photo I took on the TV after Osborne won and as he was celebrating. Myself, I thought it was really funny and Adam being Adam, would get it. But I told my wife about this and she was not happy asking how in the world did I possibly think that was funny? I don’t know man, guess it’s just me. I asked Adam about in the press conference:

“I was sitting in a bathtub full of ice water. My knee was about two times the size of my other leg and I get this text from Steve, in a group text with Weege, and it’s just a picture of Osborne holding [checkers], which it is what it is—it doesn’t matter if it’s Osborne or Ryan Dungey winning a race, it’s still going to piss me off the same. And I was freezing my ass off too, so it just made it worse.”

My bad, AC!

AC's knee was so swollen after Indy he had trouble walking to his gate in the airport.
AC's knee was so swollen after Indy he had trouble walking to his gate in the airport. Jeff Kardas

The 250SX East Region is a bit out of hand lately. The latest thing was Christian Craig getting upset with Alex Martin for holding up his fast lap in practice and deciding to bump A-Mart a bit to show his displeasure. I get it, Christian was upset and this is something that happens a lot. Cooper Webb was giving anyone and everyone the middle finger last year when people got in his way of a fast lap and I wrote then how the whole thing was dumb. What Craig had no way of knowing was that Martin was getting on the gas at the moment Craig hit him, Martin didn’t see Christian coming and also, Martin was on top of the berm. The contact sent Martin flying off said berm and it was an ugly crash. Martin announced he’s out for this weekend and sources say he’s got a cracked vertebra in his back.

Craig’s a good dude and there’s ZERO chance he meant to send Alex flying off the berm that way. Christian said after the bump he knew he was in the wrong and it affected him the rest of the day. Still, though, COME ON, PEOPLE! These 250 guys are attacking practice like it’s a race, they’re all pissed off at each other and most of them get their fast time at the end of a session anyways SO WHY ARE THEY STARTING THE PRACTICE LIKE IT’S DEATHRACE 2000?

Coming off the Adam Cianciarulo/Zach Osborne practice incident last week where Adam now has a hurt knee, this stuff has got to stop.

I spoke with Joey Savatgy after the race about some of this 250SX aggression and he agreed with me. “I’m going to say it and I might shoot myself in the foot. But you watch the 450 class, none of those guys do that. It’s a whole different maturity level and a respect level. The deal with Osborne and AC, that escalated, obviously that went way too far. And today with Craig and Martin, that wasn’t cool.”

Matthes: Of course Craig didn’t mean to do that.
“Exactly. I know Craig’s intentions were not to get him hurt, but it’s practice. Even in the race, if there’s an opportunity, you’ve got to have that race etiquette and enough respect to not just destroy the dude. You’re racing him every weekend. That’s where I really feel like a lot of guys in this class could be better. Not saying let’s put on a skirt and be nice to each other, but there’s a time and a place. I think that a lot of guys can make better decisions when the passes are being made. I’m not going to sit here and complain, because we’re in a good position, but I definitely agree that it’s escalated a lot.”

Now I did some digging and got to see footage of Craig’s hot lap where Martin held him up (Deep Throat’s also a buddy of mine) and absolutely Martin was going slow in the fast line when Craig was coming up on him which violated an unwritten rule about practice, but to me it looked FAR from intentional and it was just one rhythm lane. Poor Alex, he was jaywalking and got the death penalty. Craig made a mistake, got fined and given the last gate pick for the main event.

There’s plenty of unrest in the pits right now over the inconsistencies of fines and penalties. We’ve seen Jason Anderson DQ’d for hitting a rider but Broc Tickle just get a warning. We’ve seen Osborne and Cianciarulo get warning for rough practice riding but Craig gets fined and last gate pick for the main. Justin Barcia gets an official warning for rough riding but well after he probably should have, and also, we’re pretty sure Vince Friese is still on probation? I get it. Every team wants zero penalties handed out to them but want the max penalties handed out to every other team, but man, I went from truck to truck after practice and all I heard about was people unhappy with the officials. Stay tuned.

Personally, I think that penalty was a bit harsh for Christian and there’s zero chance that he would’ve gotten that IF the AC/Osborne practice thing hadn’t happened last week.

Do you think Craig's penalty was too harsh?
Do you think Craig's penalty was too harsh? Rich Shepherd

Kyle Cunningham had a very eventful day for the AutoTrader.com/JGR Suzuki guys. He crashed in practice and had to get 10 stitches in his chin from the handlebar. Then he was comfortably in a qualifying spot in his heat when Jordon Smith went for the pass and admittedly, took him out. Smith admitted that this was his fault. So Cunningham cruises into the main with a second in the LCQ but he’s got a far outside gate pick. He gets caught up in a crash that his buddy Smith caused by getting a great start from the outside (not Smith’s bad, it’s what he had to do) and then gets up and races forward to a nice fifth place ride.

I saw him in the JGR truck before the night show and he was eating a sweet potato and some rice for dinner. It had some kind of sauce on it also and the whole thing looked gross. I’m not a sweet potato guy at all. But hey, whatever it was, keep doing it because Kyle was good.

Broc Tickle got the pole position! Remember Tickle scored his first ever 450SX podium a few weeks back in Toronto and in Detroit (sort of his hometown as his wife’s from there and he’s spent a lot of time in Michigan) he logged the fastest lap in practice. Remember that Dodgeball movie quote: “If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!?”  Well, Broc, if you qualify fastest once, you can qualify fastest again!

James Stewart update: We know he’s got Hondas, we know he’s been gathering parts for it and we know that because of not having Honda support, the bike (whenever he debuts on it) won’t have any red on it. Now, word is that he’s bought some Showa suspension for the bike (not the full works air/spring hybrid stuff) and that’s it. Don’t look for him at any of the rest of supercrosses, definitely not at any outdoors, but I’ve been told there’s a chance for a Monster Energy Cup appearance. 

Here’s something for us Stewart fans to contemplate while we digest that news:

Other news and notes:

- I got some new shoes and they have a touch of orange on them so of course everyone noticed and of course now everyone thinks I’m a member of the Orange Brigade and pulling for KTM and #TeamDunge.

- Jason Anderson hasn’t been as impressive as last year and perhaps, like Weston Peick last year, that DQ at Anaheim 2 affected him more than we know, but really it seems like starts are the biggest issue. In Detroit he got one! I was stoked to see what he had for the front guys but then he dumped it in a turn and that was it for him. Bummer.

- The JGR Suzuki guys were telling me that they’re very happy with Jake Weimer’s testing ability on the Suzukis and they wish he was doing a bit better of course, but he’s been valuable for the team that way. Weimer’s in North Carolina this week working with the team some to keep trying to develop the bike and hopefully, develop some results.

- Ricky Carmichael broke out the “O’Show” Batman light in Detroit, as Johnny O’Mara was there for RC’s guy Savatgy. Nice work by Johnny to cause a first turn pile up and get the points lead back for Joey!

- Interesting that Team Aldon Baker’s Anderson and Osborne were scheduled for press day in Detroit, but then Dungey and Musquin signed up as late additions. It’s not against the rules and I’m sure Feld was stoked to have stars show up to ride but it was obviously a change up to help the guys out.

- JGR guys told me that for Justin Barcia’s birthday they got him some cupcakes that were supposed to say “Happy Birthday Bam-Bam” but there was some confusion at the bakery and they came out “Happy Birthday Baby” which is awesomely funny.

- You ever wonder what the difference between the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-WPS-KTMs and the ones of Dungey, Canard, and Musquin? Yeah, me too. Turns out not much at all. They’re basically the same bike from the people I talk to. Personal team sponsors are different of course but transmissions, cams, pistons and all that are the same depending on how you want your bike set-up of course.

- I’m hearing plenty of tension going on under the Smartop/MotoConcepts Honda tent with the team’s riders. Stay tuned here.

- If you’re a reader of this column you know that I’ve railed on the tracks for not enough dirt, not enough maintenance or a combination of both when dealing with this new timed main event format. I had a top rider tell me that the higher ups at Feld admitted to him that they did indeed miscalculate how bad the track would get hammered and how they needed more dirt. So that should be interesting to see where they go for 2018, but I’m glad they know they do have a problem and are addressing it.

Because of the rock-hard base the track in Detroit actually held up fairly well.
Because of the rock-hard base the track in Detroit actually held up fairly well. Jeff Kardas

- Eli Tomac was on an exercise bike before the night show when I wandered into the Kawasaki truck for some coffee. Everyone started talking about airlines and upgrades because the last month or so I’ve been on the same flight as Eli, John and Kathy Tomac, and I keep getting upgraded to first class while Eli trudges to the back. I can’t figure out why he’s not on my level at the airline or why he doesn’t just buy himself a first class ticket. He explained how tickets are expensive and he doesn’t always fly United to which I replied that he was a millionaire and he should just buy a first class ticket (which are not that expensive anymore). He just laughed and said no way. Weird, bro. I guess however you “are”, you just “are” no matter how much money you get. So there’s no hope for Weege, I guess.

[Editor’s note: Correct. – Weege]

Thanks for reading everyone, appreciate the Tweets, texts, emails and more each and every week @pulpmx and matthes@racerxonline.com