Observations: St. Louis

Observations: St. Louis

Things are getting intense in the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Championship as the races wind down and pressure ratchets up. I’ve been going to the races a long time and I know how the game goes. As the points tighten and the season nears the end, people get weird. There are egos, dollars, futures, and presents all at stake with these races and many, many people are way too wrapped up them to step outside the bubble and see what it’s really all about.

As Jim Morrison once sang, “People are strange when you’re a stranger,” and in this sport even the slightest things get taken out of context and everyone around the rider starts chiming in on what their take is and what the rider should do. Pressure makes people act and say weird things. I once had an agent of a rider involved in a tight title chase tell me that I preferred the American rider to win because I was biased. Even though I’m Canadian.

One time, a media friend of mine was accused of being on the payroll of another rider to say good things about them and bad things about his son. Yes, I’m serious. When I was at Yamaha, there were people on the team that were 100 percent sure that Feld Motor Sports kept the whoops small so that our rider, Chad Reed, wouldn’t have an advantage over “Feld’s” rider Ricky Carmichael.

Year after year, over and over it goes. Everyone is biased, everyone’s on edge, and I’m standing here wondering when we get some sanity injected into the whole thing. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit guys were/are mad about Zach Osborne’s pass on Joey Savatgy in the main event in Indianapolis and I think we can all agree that there was absolutely nothing wrong with that pass. It was good clean hard racing.

And that leads me to this week’s controversy involving Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey. We talked about it a ton on the Fly Racing Racer X Podcast and on the Pulpmx Show and between myself, Jason Weigandt, Jason Thomas, Kris Keefer, and David Pingree, I think we’ve covered the spectrum of opinions. Here’s a hint: Ping is very angry at Reed, while I’m probably the most lenient of everyone about what Reed did.

Here are the facts as we know them:

1.) This might be a bit of a stretch to call this a “fact” but I’ve heard that Dungey hasn’t been stoked on Reed’s race craft going back to Indianapolis when they raced for the final spot into the main event from the heat race. Having watched it a few times, I saw nothing wrong with the battle and in fact, quite enjoyed it.

2.) Reed’s upset at Dungey because he thinks Ryan caused Reed’s first turn crash in Detroit that scraped up half his back and ass. Having watched this a few times, I don’t see Dungey being at fault here. Yeah, he ran it in there hard but it’s the first turn, stuff happens. Dungey does not have a rep of doing dangerous moves and I watched this a few times and saw no fault for Dungey.

3.) The two got together in the heat race this past weekend in St. Louis and as Reed passed Dungey in the whoops he moved over on the KTM rider. This isn’t a great move to do in whoops but, it happens more than you think and Reed’s got the defense that he thought he was clear of Dungey, so that’s why he moved over. Again, Chad doesn’t have a reputation of dirty riding but “we” do know he has not been pumped on Dungey.

4.) There was another incident of contact between the two before Dungey took the lead for good and zoomed off with the win. On the podium, Ryan accused Chad of trying to take him out and that he’s not sure what’s up with Chad and the move, and therefore Chad was immature.

So knowing all this and knowing that Reed knew what Dungey said on the podium after the heat, I predicted to Jason Weigandt that we might see some fireworks from Reed on Dungey because I know Reed well. I knew he wouldn’t be stoked on Ryan calling him out for a good heat race battle (yes he moved over in the whoops but so what, that happens every single race) and Chad always has that right size chip on his shoulder. So I expected him to try to jack Dungey’s race up.

Dungey’s been under the gun week after week with, for him, sub-par rides and he’s watched his once 29-point lead dwindle down to just seven points [four after St. Louis]. If he loses this title it will mark one of the biggest leads blown in the sports history. So he’s got some pressure on him for sure. Remember what I said about pressure up above? Yeah, Ryan really shouldn’t have said those things about Reed on the podium after what I, and many others, saw as a good hard race. But then again, is calling someone out as immature really that big of a deal? I’m sure Chad was snickering to himself after hearing Dungey’s comments thinking, “I’ll show him some REAL immaturity!”

And he did just that! We all saw what Reed did out there when Dungey was going to lap him. He just refused to move despite more blue flags being waved at him then the total number of Yamaha’s he’s ever had in his garage. I don’t know what Reed’s going to say publicly, but I believe he meant to jack with Ryan and he did it in a very clever way. He did it in way that many, many other riders could’nt have done. He went almost as fast as Dungey. Reed never got out of the way for Dungey and Dungey himself, in my opinion, was rattled. He knew he had this beef growing with Reed and in his mind, I suppose he thought Reed might knock him down totally. Reed even jacked up some rhythm sections in front of Dungey and Ryan followed right on behind, screwing up those sections as well. Ryan was rattled, no doubt about it. Remember what pressure does?

Before he caught up to the lapped Reed, Dungey was riding the best he had in a month and he was catching Eli Tomac. Those are also two facts that you can’t dispute. Unfortunately, Dungey’s somewhat imaginary beef with Reed was escalated by Reed’s somewhat imaginary beef with Dungey and we got what we got on Saturday night.

I thought something might happen after the heat race comments, but I didn’t think it would come when Reed was going a lap down. And one day, Reed might think that what he did was silly—but not anytime soon. Nope, Chad’s being Chad and maybe this is where a bit of bias comes in, but I think he needs to be treated with a bit of respect by others for what he’s accomplished in the sport. Dungey mentioned in the press conference he wants some respect from Chad for his title fight he’s in with Eli Tomac; I think the reverse is true. Reed might not be peak-Reed right now but he’s got an ego (maybe bigger based on his wins) just like everyone else and wants to race, and beat, Dungey. If you’re upset about him racing you, bite your tongue, respect the career and move on. I spoke to three retired racers that all thought Dungey’s comments about a race they all thought was fine would’ve also made them upset as well.

Reed got fined five points (big deal) and $5000 (big deal) and life will go on. As I said, Reed’s going to wish he didn’t do that one day and Dungey’s going to wish he hadn’t said what he said on the podium. In the meantime, life and title chase pressure goes on and on.

Ok, back to your regular scheduled Observations column.

I did this type of column before and people liked it so why not re-visit it at a race where I was sure not much would happen (wrong!). People send me tweets and emails all the time asking me if they could shadow me at the races and hang out. While that would be weird, we have done a couple of Racer X subscriber hangouts that have gone well. So here’s what it’s like to follow me around for a day.


Morning

Woke up, hit the Starbucks and arrived at the track perfectly timed for track walk, or as I like to call it, track talk. On the way to the starting gate I run into AutoTrader.com/JGR Suzuki’s team manager Jeremy Albrecht. I ask him who the hell is Cade Autenrieth, the rider that he hired to ride 250SX West Region. Basically it boils down to the kid working with Buddy Antunez and Budman saying he’s ready, JGR not wanting to take an existing ride from someone away for three races and as J-Bone says, “What if the kid kills it and we really help him? Wouldn’t that be a cool story to come from nowhere to somewhere?”

Matthes didn't even make it past the starting gate before stopping to talk to J-Bone.
Matthes didn't even make it past the starting gate before stopping to talk to J-Bone. Rich Shepherd

I suppose so but then again with JGRMX’s luck this year, the kid might get run over by his Uber ride going from the hotel to the airport.

I move away from J-Bone and start heading around the track. Now, I never usually make it very far because A.) I’ve walked thousands of tracks and I don’t have to ride it and B.) Talking to people on track walk is way more interesting. So as I crested the top of the over/under bridge I hear Davi Millsaps make a comment about how he’s impressed with me making it up there. He then asks me when the last time we had a triple for a finish line to which I reply “Houston 2002 when Matt Walker won.”

Davi seemed semi-impressed with this knowledge and I was proud of myself when Nick Wey and Adam Cianciarulo walked up. AC shook his head at me while Wey implored me to head on down and up the finish. I could only do the first one and diverted a hard left onto the start straight. I couldn’t handle AC, Wey, Millsaps heckling me over and over.

I run into Jake Weimer and his mechanic Glen Hopson walking down the track and I ask him how the outdoor testing went with JGR all week. He says well and I ask him if things don’t go well tonight who do I blame for it publicly because you were forced to ride motocross all week. Glen says to blame him and I immediately tweet that out.

I make it down to the first turn and run into Alex Ray who has had a bit of a tough run since getting the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha ride. We chatted for a bit about how much he hates Cade Clason and how the adjustment on the new bike is going. It was then that the FIM’s John Gallagher walked by and Ray inquired if there was a way to guarantee him a spot into the main. I’m serious. I explained to John that there’s a promoter’s choice in many European Supercrosses where they can just put someone into the main event. “We” really need a main event for Ray. John said he looked into the rulebook and there’s really nothing he can do. Ray then asked if he could maybe disqualify a few riders to get him in. Gallagher seemed adamant that there was nothing he could do.

Ray will do whatever it takes to get into the main event.
Ray will do whatever it takes to get into the main event. Jeff Kardas

Current Fox Sports analyst and former supercross champion Jeff Emig walked up and seemed to want nothing to do with the conversation so we switched it up to the Cystic Fibrosis benefit we both went to the previous night. We both realized that we were the only guys still standing on the track and walked back out talking about the series and Fro took a selfie at one point of himself on the track.


Practices

Up to the press box I go. The St. Louis press box is way up at the top of the dome and if you’re a bit sketched out of heights like I am, it’s a bit freaky. Also, I look at the dome in St Louis and wonder what in the heck was wrong with it that the Rams had to desperately get out and leave the hometown fans upset. NFL owners suck sometimes.

Watch the first set of practices and head back to the pits. There’s about an hour or so before the third and final set start back up. I head on over to the Monster Energy Factory Yamaha team where I run into GET Ignition’s Dan Truman and Erardo (his boss from Italy, where GET/Athena is from). Chad Reed and Cooper Webb are there signing for the fans and we talk GET, the practices, Chad and more. Yamaha manager Jimmy Perry walks up and we talk bassett hounds and tortoises as Perry has some huge ones in his backyard.

A few listeners of the Pulpmx Show call me over to the front of the truck where Reed’s signing and the guy mentions he’s got a 2003 Yamaha YZ450F in honor of Tim Ferry which I think is cool, but the truth is probably that’s the only bike he could afford. Otherwise, why in the heck would you want that thing? We talk about the show and I mention to Reed that he’s got one of those bikes, to which Reed says “good luck” to the guy. Chad was there in 2003. He knows.

I head on over to the Monster Energy Kawasaki rig and there’s Weege talking to head of Kawi racing Bruce Stjernstrom. I imagine it’s about our ongoing quest to get James Stewart back on green, back “home” where he belongs and where he made most of his magic. Bruce however is not having this, as he keeps talking about budgets and how they’re happy with Eli Tomac. Oh well, we’ll try next week.

Ryan Villopoto is there and he’s real happy to see me as he cracks a joke right away and then he turns and kind of sprints away. Not sure what was up with that, but he was smiling the whole time. I go into the truck, grab some coffee, a protein bar of some sort and it’s time to head back up to watch the third set of practices.

Back up to watch the practices, tweet out some things and make a bunch of more jokes.


After Practice

Now it was time to go back down to pits as we have a couple of hours before the night show starts. We’re doing our Racer X subscription meet up with contest winner Brian Belangee and his son. They express disappointment that their favorite rider Trey Canard isn’t there but Weege and I promise to try and make it up to them.

The first truck we went to was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna to meet Zach Osborne whose hair looked like he was caught in a hurricane, but he and his wife Brittney were their usual friendly selves. Saw Dean Wilson in there as well and even Jason Anderson, who probably wanted to pour some gas on me and light me on fire. No matter, I had to go in that truck for the sub winners, bro. Osborne and Wilson both express their apologies to Brian and his son on what they “won”. This is a reoccurring theme as we go truck to truck.

Max Steffens from Fly Racing showed up with the jersey Canard would’ve worn that night if he raced, and he gave it to Brian, which was awesome. So yeah, Canard wasn’t there but his jersey was!

We headed to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-WPS-KTM team next to show Brian how well we get along with Davi Millsaps and upon getting there, Millsaps asked Brian why in the heck would he ever want to hang out with us? We asked Davi who he would rescue if myself, Weege, and TWMX’s Michael Antonovich were in a burning building and he said he would save Anton. So we’re clearly showing Brian and his kid how connected we are with the top riders in the sport. Blake Baggett came down, met Brian and he was the ONLY one out of everyone that stayed classy about Weege and I. Thank you El Chupacabra.

Next stop for Brian and son was the Teddy Parks Experience AKA Privateer Island. Adam and Tyler Enticknap were there and treated Brian and his son like they were meeting Madonna in 1987. This is all normal stuff for the brothers. About 20 feet away Teddy Parks himself was dancing with a girl in a prom dress while music blared from a boom box and there was a spotlight coming from—somewhere. The Enticknap brothers ran over and started popping and locking around them and the less said about the whole Privateer Island experience, the better.

Dinner Time AKA Weege’s favorite time as it’s usually free

It was time to say farewell to Brian and son. Nice people, I hope the whole Teddy Parks Experience doesn’t ruin them on the sport. Weege and I decide we’re hungry and wander over to Honda where it looks like team manager Dan Betley and crew were just finishing up some dinner of some sort. But upon asking, there was no more food left OR they didn’t want to give us some—you decide. That led into a discussion with Dan about various things and Weege declaring that he knows he hasn’t been by the truck much since Ken Roczen got hurt, but that he didn’t mean to ignore the crew or something like that. I started ranting and raving about things that drove me nuts in the sport, we made fun of a couple of people in the sport, and then started into the serious stuff.

Dan asks me who I would put on Roczen’s vacated CRF450R for MX and I say “Fast” Freddie Noren (it’s now Christian Craig which I had an inkling of at the time but I wanted Dan to confirm this news—which he didn’t). Oh and we also talked about Dan’s old rider Jeff Stanton pooping on a piece of bread and leaving it in Dan’s box van.

Still hungry, Weege and I left and went to the JGR Suzuki truck. It was there that Big John the truck driver hooked Weege up with some dinner. Total cost to Weege was $0.00 so he was pumped. I was in the truck talking to Weston Peick about his injury and when he’s coming back (hopefully Hangtown) and Kyle Cunningham was in there as well and since Kyle quit a team that had Blue Buffalo dog food as a sponsor, I make a joke about how great Blue Buffalo is for my dogs and I don’t care what he thinks. I think I’m really funny sometimes. Peick and I have this odd relationship where he tells me how much he hates me and I laugh uneasily. It’s weird, bro.

I pass on dinner, but I do grab this RX bar that Phil Nicoletti told me to try. Something that’s good for you AND doesn’t taste like ass. I figure why not? Albrecht comes in at some point and asks us if we need anything as I’m stuffing RX bars into my cargos and Weege is eating some sort of meat. Uhhh, no J-Bone, we’re good, we’ve already raided your truck for the 25th time this year.


The Race

Opening ceremonies are starting so Weege and I walk back to the press box. But we can’t quite make it there because we see the Smartop/MotoConcepts truck and Justin Brayton, Weege’s favorite rider, is suited up and ready to head out to the track. The #800, Mike Alessi, is also there but he broke his collarbone on press day and is just hanging. Mike doesn’t have a sling which is weird and while Weege talks to him about that, I hit up Brayton about PulpMX Shows, him getting approached by Honda to ride 450MX and turning it down, the bike, and I think we laugh about something that Honda’s Gothic Jay did. Or maybe Lars. I’m not sure.

And after this talk with Brayton and Alessi, we completely miss opening ceremonies and make it up two laps into the first 250SX heat! Oops, hopefully DC doesn’t hear about this one. We settle in, watch some racing and the entertainment really starts to heat up!

There it is, a brief description of my day in St. Louis. Again, I had planned on making it longer but this Dungey/Reed thing needed to be addressed one more time. Or is that one hundred more times? Either way, hope you enjoyed this and email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you want to chat about this or yell at me or whatever.