Godspeed, Sharkey and Magoo.
It was a tough week for motocross. As you certainly know by now, our sport was rocked by two unfortunate deaths to well-known racers. First, AMA and Grand Prix rider Andrew "Sharkey" McFarlane lost his life at a race back home in Australia when he apparently cross-rutted on the face, was pitched from his motorcycle, and suffered a massive head injury. Three days later, another AMA and GP star, legendary wild man Danny "Magoo" Chandler, passed away from what could best be described as the long-term effects of his career-ending 1985 neck injury.
David Bailey said of his old Honda teammate this week, "Nobody went for it as often as Danny. He was the only guy I've ever seen ride a 500 like a 125! If it worked, it was incredible; if it didn't, it was a galactic wad up in which the bike was usually unridable afterwards, but he was always fine."
Dave Arnold, the longtime Team Honda boss, told us in an email that thinking of Magoo "brings back memories of how cool MX racing was back in the early ‘80s. Not only did Team USA win the MX and Trophee des Nations in ‘81 but then we show up with a completely new team in 82 and this guy Magoo? He wins all four motos! He was almost crazy but so good to watch and good for the sport and fans as well…. Carlsbad GP and Superbikers, and riding backwards at Unadilla, and, and, and…. I can still remember top-level guys like Glover and Bailey, with all their talent and smoothness and throttle control, having a hard time knowing how to race with a guy that would hold an RC500 wide open on almost every inch of the track then deal with the results at a later time."
Magoo was a little before my time as a reporter, so I never got to know him before his accident at a race in France in the winter of 1985. But MXA’s Jody Weisel did know Danny for a long time, both before and after that terrible day in France, and he penned a must-read remembrance of the rider he called "the wildest man in America."
Danny "Magoo" Chandler was 50 years old.
Andrew McFarlane was 32 years old.
With more on the man they called "Sharkey," here’s Steve Cox:
I had a chance to meet Andrew McFarlane when he was racing in the USA, and he was a genuinely good guy. I have literally never heard a cross word about the guy. But my exposure to him was limited compared to some of his fellow racers. I talked to Grant Langston about him this week, and Langston couldn’t stop talking about how great of a father and husband Sharkey was. Said Langston, "What’s so weird is that Andrew was one of the smoothest, in-control riders around," Langston said. "He was the last guy you would have thought this would happen to."
Chad Reed had a long history with McFarlane, and I asked Chad to tell me a bit about him. "Back in Australia, there were four guys – Andrew being one, Michael Byrne, being another, my cousin Craig Anderson being another, and me being the last one – at the top, and I was the younger of the four," Reed said. "Andrew, at the time, was doing well, winning some races, and was more of a privateer. I somewhat took his ride from him in my first year as a pro, so we butted heads and clashed. I thought he was an asshole and he thought I was an asshole…. We had an awesome rivalry. We would race pretty gnarly. We would do some rubbing and some pretty aggressive passing throughout our Australian years and it was a big ol’ rivalry.
"Then, at the end of 2000, the two of us went off to Europe, and he was racing the 500cc class and I was racing the 250cc class," Reed continued. "Being the two Aussies in Europe, it was unbelievable how different we were [from how we were together at home]. We were there for each other, and we really found out that the two of us had so much in common and we were so much alike. Everything we did was something that the other liked doing. He was a really hard trainer, and I learned so much from him spending that year in Europe. Ellie and I became really, really close with him and his wife, Natalie. The relationship really started then, and a few years later, he was living here in the U.S., and we sold our house in California to move to Florida, so every time we came to California, we would spend all our time at Natalie and Andrew’s. Their spare bedroom was our bedroom.
"Ellie and I were there when his daughter, Tayla, was born, and Natalie had a C-section, and when she was wheeled out of surgery and into her room, Ellie and I were in the room before she was. That’s how close we were. It was a really, really close bond. It’s quite unbelievable that we started off as big rivals and then really became best of mates and shared stories and good times together. It just seems so surreal that he’s not here anymore. It’s definitely tough."
As with Langston, Reed’s admiration for McFarlane didn’t stop on the track. He couldn’t say enough about McFarlane as a father and husband: "He was awesome. Getting away from motorcycles and industry stuff, he was such an awesome dad…. If I can achieve being half the dad he was, I’ll be a happy man. He was just so awesome to Natalie and Tayla, and Natalie was very dependent on him. He took very, very good care of her."
Even more than most of us, Reed is struggling with the question of why this happened. "I’m super-bummed that this has happened, and it’s one of those things that I’ll never, ever understand. I’m at a loss for words, and I don’t understand why, with all the horrible people in this world, they have to take the good ones all the time. It makes it hard to believe, for sure. I’ll tell you that much."
Reed ended on a bit of a light note, as he recalled a conversation he had with Michael Byrne two days ago about Sharkey. Reed said in the end of their time racing against each other in Australia, McFarlane T-boned Reed so hard once that it punted him completely off the track. He said he had never before, nor since, been hit that hard. Byrne had a similar story from Australia when he and McFarlane were racing outdoors, and McFarlane put him off the track in a gnarly takeout move. Byrne and Reed would tease McFarlane about those incidents for years, and they always figured he had one coming from both of them.
"When Byrner and I were talking, we both realized that we’re never going to get the chance to pay him back for that," Reed said. "He got one on us there."
McFarlane’s passing is a loss for the motocross world and for the world in general. He will be missed.
Thanks to Steve, and also Andrew and Chad, for sharing their memories of their old friend. As they say, the show must go on….
The 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour ends tomorrow in Las Vegas, and the races will be shown live on Speed, beginning at 10:30 p.m. Eastern, 7:30 out West. The titles are all wrapped up, but the East-West Shootout is always a fantastic race (and thank you to the organizers of the AMA Supercross tour for continuing to honor my late father by naming the Shootout after him; it means a great deal to my mom, as well as my brother and my sister and myself).
Ryan Dungey already has his crown and Kevin Windham is streaking—those are two things no one probably thought they would be saying back in January. And Chad Reed is back and healthy and really hoping to get a win and keep his streak of years with at least one SX win going at what would be eight.
Simon Cudby and I went to visit Chad at his house earlier this week and Simon made this amazing film of him putting down some laps on one of the world’s best backyard motocross track. Does anyone else see that massive jump on that track and think of Kenny Powers’ Rocket Car?
Okay, here’s Ping:
There’s something very exciting about a new series. The simple fact that until the checkered flag falls in the very first moto of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Series, all of the riders are tied in points, well, it really gets my adrenaline going. This week, just about every healthy rider was out working on his outdoor settings. I was at Competitive Edge on Tuesday with Ben Townley working the kinks out of our setup and he had Dungey, Short, Rattray, Cunningham, Sipes, Reardon, and more to compare himself to. How did Ben look? Let’s just say if I was making a list of title contenders, his would be one of the first names I wrote down.
But then yesterday, while practicing at Glen Helen, BT101 had one of the scariest "close calls" I’ve ever seen. He was clicking off laps when he came upon a big, blind hill, which he jumped. But another rider—a senior rider—had crashed there and was still getting going again. There are no flagmen out there on Thursdays, and when Ben launched into the air, he was horrified to see that he was headed straight for the head of the stalled rider. Ben pulled the front end up but still nailed the guy in the head with his back wheel, KO’ing the poor guy. Here’s his mechanic’s video of the near-miss.
As for Townley, he nearly cartwheeled down into one of those gulleys. He went back up to check on the guy he hit, and was so scared and shaken about the whole ordeal that he really lit into one of the track-crew guys. Ben’s been through a lot lately—two seasons on the sidelines with injuries, plus the loss of his friend Andrew McFarlane last weekend. I’m glad he’s okay, but I was almost sick to my stomach for the rest of the day.
Grant Langston was also there, as you read on this site earlier in the week. What you didn’t know was that Grant had an ugly crash later in the day. He swapped out before a big step-down there and took a nasty beating. He walked it off eventually, but it was the last thing GL needed, especially when he was trying out for a Kawasaki spot. Hopefully, Grant is okay and he’ll get another day on the bike.
MotoConcepts Yamaha’s Ryan Sipes will be riding a 450 this summer. He looked good on the big bike, and I think he could surprise a lot of people as he gets used to racing in the 450 class.
There were quite a few riders getting through the supercros season on SX-only deals who are scrambling now to put something together for the summer. Dan Reardon, who parted ways with MotoConcepts earlier in the season, has signed up with Valli Yamaha to ride the 450 class. His teammate there will be Michael Byrne. Kyle Cunningham is trying to put something together there for the summer as well, but no word on whether or not that is happening.
Wil Hahn made the (wise) decision this week to sit things out in Las Vegas to let his shoulder heal. Wilbur put in a gritty and impressive effort in Salt Lake City to secure second in the series championship, and it spoke volumes about the heart that kid has. He could literally feel his shoulder wobbling around as he rode last weekend from the AC separation he incurred last Thursday. He will still be in Las Vegas representing his G.T.L. Lifestyle and signing autographs. He also has a sweet outfit to walk the track in, so stay tuned for that.
Another thing to check out is the gear Cole Seely will be wearing this weekend. The U.S. Air Force and Troy Lee Designs have collaborated to raise money for the Nevada Military Support Alliance. It is a great cause and the custom helmet and 2011 gear that Cole will be wearing will be auctioned off to benefit that foundation. The helmet is really amazing, so be sure to have a look.
1. The Shootout
Titles have long since been wrapped up, so the Dave Coombs Sr. East-West Shootout is the only race left with an outcome in doubt. And doubt you will, because this one rarely goes like you would expect.
2. The Pro Circuit Curse
As one person in our office said this week, the shootout marks "the annual loss of one Pro Circuit rider" because it seems like something bad always happens to Mitch Payton’s team. Last year they finally got a Shootout win courtesy of Christophe Pourcel, but memories of Grant Langston breaking his wrist on press day, and Ben Townley and Ryan Villopoto both going out of the race on the first lap with mechanical problems in 2007, come to mind. Can Pourcel, Weimer, Hansen, or Wilson succeed this year? Hansen seems especially focused on this race, but strange things can stop even the most determined rider here.
3. Windham Wins Out
Kevin Windham is on fire, and Vegas has proven a great place for him in the past. No doubt he’s looking to end the season with three in a row. That’s something he’s never done in his entire AMA Supercross career.
4. Where’s The Dunge?
Ryan Dungey really proved his SX skills here in the 2008 Shootout, when he ran down Ryan Villopoto from a few seconds back to take the win straight up. He also won the Shootout the year before, and finished a close second last year. He goes well on this track, so maybe the real Monster Energy Supercross Champion will actually go for it this weekend.
That’s it from Weege, who will be on his last webcast before moving up to do Speed TV and NBC with David Bailey and Jeff Emig this summer in the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. You can also see and hear those guys on the live, free streaming video of the first motos from all twelve rounds of the series on www.allisports.com.
One funny thing about Vegas this weekend: apparently, supercross isn’t the only game in town. Turns out there’s a gun show, as well as a swingers convention. That led to a lot of jokes and unusual conversations at the Circle Bar last night in the appropriately named Hard Rock….
Who do you think will win the East-West Shootout this weekend? That’s the subject of this week’s online poll. Vote here. here’s a photo gallery of the damage done. Fortunately, it floods there often and the track will be in great shape come summer. But sadly, two dozen people have been swept away by the water and lost their lives. As we’ve seen with recent earthquakes and volcanoes, the power of nature should never been under-estimated.
Matt Davis of Throttle Jockey is working as liaison for the Guatemalan team at the 2010 Motocross of Nations at Thunder Valley in September. He told me Team Guatemala is still looking for help/bikes for the MXoN, so if anyone wants to get involved with the event in a very unique and inside way, send us a note and we will get it to Senor Davis: email@example.com.
Michael Lieb’s big chance in Europe is on hold, as the teenager had the misfortune of getting hurt just before his Grand Prix debut this weekend in Portugal. Lieb broke his arm while preparing for his 250 GP debut, and hopefully he will be back on the bike sooner than later. Good luck to the whole Lieb family, and get well soon, #170.
We just posted this week’s featured state—Maine—this morning, and we’ve already been getting feedback of some forgotten names, like Andy Mathieu.
This letter came from an anonymous source:
I would like to nominate Andy Mathieu as one of the fastest from Maine. He has been riding NESC in the pro classes for 12 years and has rode for Manchester Honda Racing, KTM, and Coastline Kawasaki. He has won numerous races and finished runner-up in the series many times behind Tony Lorusso. He has raced numerous AMA Supercross and outdoor nationals over the years as well as the Canadian National Series in MX1, where he has posted many top ten finishes. He also went to Puerto Rico last winter to be a part of the Travis Pastrana Supercross Challenge. He is currently in Southern California preparing for the World Four Stroke race at Glen Helen.
Special thanks to everyone at Fox Racing for making this feature possible. We hope everyone enjoys it as much as we do.
In other news:
Here’s a good read in a local Minnesota newspaper about Belle Plaine’s Ryan Dungey.
My lifelong friend Erik Huey has started a blog, along with some of his friends, and he announced it with this:
"Rockers of the World, unite. I give you www.weepingelvis.com. The newest, coolest music blog under the sun…. because it’s ours. Read. Comment. Submit. Rock. Repeat." Check it out, it’s pretty damn cool.
That’s it. Enjoy this last weekend of AMA Supercross, then let’s take it outside! See you at the races.