Staging Area: Southwick

Staging Area Southwick

July 6, 2017 10:50am

Southwick, Massachusetts, is home to one of the most legendary circuits in American motocross. Located right in the heart of the city, the track known as The Wick 338 is a sandy beast of a venue and is the pride of New England. This is a track that for years has been a staple of the NESC series that riders like John Dowd and Doug Henry grew up on. The fans here come out in droves to root for their local heroes and seeing as it’s ridden so much by the local riders, they always flaunt their abilities. Whether it’s an incredible qualifying lap, a holeshot, or even a podium finish in a moto, a local somehow, someway will make his mark this Saturday.

The track has always been a sand track, but in recent years the base has become harder and harder. Every motorcycle that logs a lap has done their part in carrying some of that soft sand off of the track. In an effort to bring back the waves of sand we all remember, the new crew (made up of Keith Johnson, John Dowd, and others) are bringing in truckloads of sand. This resurgence is similar to the efforts Unadilla has made in recent years in hopes of bringing back the magic. The soft sand will make Southwick rougher, but also keep it a true sand track in the spirit of tradition.

As for how the lines will shape up, it will continually evolve throughout the day. The track will start out picture perfect and slowly get rougher and rougher. Those early laps in the 450 B practice, which is first this weekend, are insanely high speed. The local riders will be ready to drop the hammer when the green flag flies and hope to put their qualifying time inside the top 10 as many have done in years past. This also puts a lot of pressure on the seeded practices as the track will be slower and rougher than the previous practice. They will have very small margin for error and if anything goes wrong, they may find themselves in the Consolation Race. It seems to happen to at least one factory/satellite level rider each year.

The biggest name of the game for Southwick is the big mo. Momentum is the key to riding sand and The Wick is no different. Braking is the enemy, the throttle is your friend, and simply letting the bike work is how it’s done. Keeping the front wheel light and letting the suspension flow around the track will keep speeds up and effort levels lower. The riders who try to fight the track and do a lot of aggressive braking and accelerating will either find themselves going backward or worn out by halfway. The local riders may not have the big names and factory bikes, but they will know the fast lines and evolving attack strategy as the track changes. Many times I would look for a fast local rider and shadow him every time he was on the track. There is no replacement for the wealth of experience and knowledge they have on The Wick so when in Mass, do as the Mass … well, you get the idea.

Questions I Want Answered:

The Wick has been a good race for Justin Barcia and after last week’s early pace can he finally put his Suzuki on the podium?

Alex Martin, Jeremy Martin, and Zach Osborne all like the sand. Who will like it the most on Saturday?

How much will Blake Baggett’s thumb affect him?

Will anyone be able to touch Eli Tomac on a track he has dominated?

Will Jason Weigandt catch the start of each moto?

Baggett will need to have a good weekend at Southwick to stop any momentum Tomac might have gained last weekend.
Baggett will need to have a good weekend at Southwick to stop any momentum Tomac might have gained last weekend. Jeff Kardas

Who’s Hot:

Eli Tomac is coming off a 1-1 score and his third moto win in a row. He also walked out of RedBud with a 13-point lead, his first time with the red plate since Glen Helen.

Zach Osborne won the RedBud National and more importantly, stretched his points lead to a whopping 38. He faces two strong races in a row for the Martin brothers so if he can keep the status quo exiting Millville, things are looking good for the #16.

Jason Anderson is making his mark this summer. This is his first summer of consistent podium finishes and he looks ready for more. He isn’t making many friends out there, but I don’t think he really cares about making friends.

Weston Peick has found his pace and is putting in top five finishes on the reg.

Marvin Musquin’s knee might have derailed any championship talks, but he is back and ready to battle nonetheless.

Mitchell Harrison rode incredibly well en route to a second place moto finish in Michigan. He can do a lot to secure a factory bike in 2018 with more flashes like that.

Can Harrison repeat his breakout performance from last weekend?
Can Harrison repeat his breakout performance from last weekend? Jeff Kardas

Who’s Not:

Blake Baggett went down on the first lap of the second moto, lost the points lead, and now is suffering from some sort of thumb injury. He will have to fight through adversity, but he’s been there before.

RJ Hampshire has had a tough run of bad luck. Mechanical DNFs are a part of the sport, but for a rider needing a good summer, he seems to be swimming upstream.

Broc Tickle went down hard in practice dislocating his shoulder, and then went down in the first turn of the first moto. He has been a podium contender this season so hopefully this doesn’t put him back too far.

Tickle is beat up from RedBud, but he is expected to give it a go this weekend at Southwick.
Tickle is beat up from RedBud, but he is expected to give it a go this weekend at Southwick. Rich Shepherd

Bold Predictions:

Eli Tomac puts up 50 points.

Zach Osborne puts the points lead over 40.

The final few RedBud campers regain consciousness and head home.

Dylan Ferrandis shows his MXGP sand skills, landing on the podium.

John Dowd goes 4-5 for fifth overall.

The qualifying positions look awfully suspect in both classes.

Justins holeshot both motos, one each for Bogle and Barcia.

Arriving early, Steve Matthes wanders over to the nearby ESPN studios and asks anyone and everyone mind-numbingly painful hockey questions.

Coming from the GPs, Ferrandis is no stranger to sandy tracks.
Coming from the GPs, Ferrandis is no stranger to sandy tracks. Jeff Kardas

My Picks:

250

Jeremy Martin
Zach Osborne
Dylan Ferrandis

450

Eli Tomac
Marvin Musquin
Blake Baggett