It's the last week in July, which means Loretta Lynn's and the X Games are upon us. As usual, I had to miss the "extreme sports" festival out in L.A. so I could go to Tennessee early to help out on the track and around the ranch, getting the place ready for the single biggest amateur of all, the 29th Annual AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships. It's hard work, but it's fun work. I grew up down here, visiting every summer for at least two weeks to help my dad and mom get things up and running. And every morning that I go out on the track, I see a father and son, and sometimes a mom, out there walking the track. It's the perfect annual reminder of what motocross is really all about when we get started.
A father and son, checking out the Ten Commandments this morning.
And speaking of the track, Marc Peters is here once again doing his magic, but only after Alan Brutto, the longtime ranch manager, saved this place after a massive flood in the spring. All of central Tennessee was drowned in water, and it almost completely covered the billboard along the starting line. That of course led to rumors in the amateur motocross industry that Loretta Lynn's would not be ready in time for the big race, but Brutto and his crew went all-out for several months in order to get it in perfect shape. There are no other motocross races here – no one's allowed to touch the track except Loretta's horses – so they had plenty of time to get the work done without having to cancel anything.
The really interesting thing here for racers is the fact that so much sand washed up and over from the river that the track is going to be extremely rough! It's also going to be hot, as always, and it’s probably going to rain for a day or three. And there will be a million golf carts racing around!
Here's how the track looked last spring…
…and how it looked on Wednesday afternoon!
I will try to do one of our new Racer X iLaps tomorrow or Sunday once the construction on the course is complete. Monday is practice, and the motos—three per class, with thirty-three full classes—begin on Tuesday morning at 7:30 Central sharp. They will run all day long, through Saturday afternoon. I also hear that the schoolboy class calls this place MILF Island.. Hmm.
You can follow every moto's live timing and scoring on www.MXSports.com. You can also go there for the MotorcycleUSA.com MX Sports Center, with daily updates of all the action, beginning Tuesday afternoon. And also check in with www.Vurbmoto.com and www.motoplayground.com for daily reports videos and more.
And here's a sneak peek at the brand-new Loretta Lynn's Hall of Fame billboard. It's an assortment of past champions who have gone on to more success in their professional careers. Many thanks to Heather Moebus for the design and Andrew Fredrickson for helping me pull all the photos together.
Last weekend's Motosport.com Washougal
National was an excellent event. The retro vibe was cool, the track looked incredible, and the Fox retro gear was rad (great eighties word). Here are Ten Things We Learned at Washougal
As I mentioned above, I didn't go to the X Games, but I did watch the races on TV last night. It was cool for JGR Yamaha to go 1-2, and I'm not sure what happened to Josh Hansen
, though the "wardrobe malfunction" theory is gaining steam here at the ranch.
But I will say that watching that race made me truly appreciate the fantastic job Feld Motor Sports does on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series—and Feld does it seventeen times a year! ESPN's X Games are a one-off race with a very big platform, but I really think it pales in comparison to the slick, exciting, energetic stage we see every weekend on the AMA Supercross tour. It's cool that motorcycles have such a big role in the X Games now, but I think the race presentation itself was lacking.
But Travis Pastrana
? Wow. He never ceases to amaze me. His riding on the FMX course was just fantastic, including his wall rides. Steve Cox fired off some amazing shots right HERE
My only question is this: What the hell was Travis wearing? He kind of looked like the court jester.
Photo: Steve Cox
And speaking of amazing, one month after seeing Kevin Windham
return to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, we are now set to see none other than James Stewart
come back at the Rockstar Energy Unadilla
National on August 14. The race will be shown live on NBC, which led James to tell ESPN.com yesterday that he thought it might be the highest rated motocross show in years. I agree!
A lot of people have been working very hard on the series, the TV shows, the racetracks, and everything else, and all of that work is paying off now with with these guys coming back out to race.
But I do think some credit for getting both Windham and Stewart re-engaged goes to Chad Reed
, who last year reversed the supercross-only trend when he decided to sign up for the AMA Motocross tour. It is cruel irony that he is out right now with Epstein-Barr, because a healthy Chad Reed
would be up there battling series leader Ryan Dungey
every weekend, and he would be licking his chops at the chance to race again with his rival Stewart at 'Dilla (remember what happened there in 2002?).
's return brings up another point of interest: Should he be considered for Team USA and the Motocross of Nations at Thunder Valley
in Lakewood, Colorado, on September 25-26? My personal answer is yes. I believe Team USA should reflect the AMA schedule, which is half SX, half MX. James was hurt all year with his wrist injury, or he would automatically be in the conversation. So if he comes back and is immediately running at the front, I believe Team USA manager Roger DeCoster should consider him.
Earlier this week I spoke to James at length and asked him about the MXoN and whether he wanted to be in the conversation. He responded, "Honestly, I think I have to go to these last nationals and win and dominate to be picked. If I go there and dominate—I call it 'pulling an ’08'—if I do that, I think it’d be good. But it’s all about my performance right now. I don’t want to just get picked because of my resume." Ryan Dungey
is a given in my book—he's the MX1 guy. But I think the MX2 and MX3 guys are still up for grabs.
Matt Ware has the best bench-racing job in motocross: he's spending the next few months cleaning up the massive Racer X Photo Archives, which includes the entire Dick Miller Archives, Simon Cudby's catalog of the last decade, all the stuff I shot over the years, plus countless boxes of prints, slides, brochures, etc. For fun, we asked Matt to pull a photo each day for an Old School Moto Photo on the Racer X Facebook page. It's been a lot of fun seeing what he digs out each afternoon, and I personally picked up three friends from my motocross past this week as a result: Jeff Dement and former world champs Greg Albertyn and the Georges Jobe, one of the sport's all-time top-ten coolest riders!
Check the photos out each day of the week, and Matt promised to keep his eye out for some Loretta Lynn's heroes of yesteryear for this week and next.
Take a look at the photos we've posted so far, click right HERE
And speaking of old photos, sorry we missed showing you this last week, but here's what Washougal
looked like thirty years ago when they held their first national, through the eyes of our old friend Reese Dengler. The photos are just amazing.
The Monster Energy Australian Supercross Championship is shaping up nicely. I say Australian because it would also seem to be the AMA tour, given the strong lineups set to visit various rounds of the seven-race series that Chad Reed
co-promotes and organizes. So far, they've got Ryan Villopoto
, Kevin Windham
, Davi Millsaps
, Justin Brayton
, and Ben Townley signed up for a round or two, and Mike Alessi
has committed to all seven rounds as he gets back in to SX fighting trim. Add the best Aussie SXers—Reed, Metcalfe, Byrne, Reardon, the Moss boys, etc.—and you have quite a series! And congratulations to PJ Larsen
on wrapping up the Australian MX Championship in the MX2 class!
Nick McCabe spotted this eBay gem:
Here's betting Johnny O'Hannah has hundreds of those laying around in his box van.
Congratulations to Carl Stone on snagging the cover of Motorcycle USA. CStone scored on a nice shot of WMX #1 Ashley Fiolek, making her the first woman to grace the cover.
Carl also sent this over today: "While watching the Women's race from the X Games last night, I heard Jeremy McGrath say that he had been working with Ashley, riding with her the last few months or so at least once a week. That made me remember a photo I took after the Phoenix SX in 2006. Ashley was standing down by the podium and I believe MC got fourth that night after leading. Ashley congratulated MC and I took a pic of them together. Bet neither one of them thought they would ever be working together!"
That's the King of Supercross and the Princess of Motocross, four years ago at the Phoenix SX.
Carl Stone photo
In honor of Loretta Lynn’s, check out this video:
Yes, that's all-time Loretta Lynn's champ Kevin Walker, along with Jeff and Jason Doyle, doing their best – and singing with their eyes closed!
Okay, here’s Ping on X:
I’ve been down at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum all week for the annual spectacle called the X Games. The Super X event was actually pretty good this year as Hansen, Grant, Brayton, and Tedesco all fought over the medal positions. Hansen got out front early and looked like he was headed for his third straight medal. He was charging hard and looked solid until about the seventh or eighth lap, when he made a mistake in the whoops. Then, a couple laps later, he made a mistake in a rhythm section that cost him a bunch of time and allowed Grant to move to his rear wheel. JG made the pass in the whoops and took off for the checkers.
The wheels really started to fall off for Hansen when he jumped off the track and let Brayton and Tedesco by as well. Those three riders would have a great battle to the finish, with Brayton getting second and Hansen edging out Tedesco for third.
Josh Grant was able to get around Josh Hansen and clench the gold medal at X-Games 16.
Photo: Steve Cox
The track itself was okay, given the limited space they had to use, but just like in years past, they didn’t have nearly enough water down prior to the race and it was a dust bowl. As riders would jump back into the stadium through the peristyle, the sun was in their eyes and the dust was so thick they could hardly see the face of the massive jump they were leading up to. It was a little sketchy.
The women’s event started with an Ashley Fiolek holeshot. Behind her, Patterson and Tarah Gieger slid into the second and third spots. Patterson made a run at Ashley, using the whoops to make up her time. But Jessica would jump off the track at the halfway point and crash hard, knocking herself out of the race and out of consciousness. Fortunately, she walked away from the crash after some help from the Asterisk crew. Fiolek won her second gold medal in a row, Gieger took the silver, and Sara Price left with the bronze.
showed up with a new title sponsor … Arma Energy Nuts. The company is owned by Fischer Nuts, a large brand, and their product line consists of trail mix and almonds coated in a gold substance that has caffeine and taurine in it. Hence, energy nuts. According to Dang, Jason’s team manager, Lawrence will be at the last four nationals this summer (DC, add him to the list!), and apparently he will be exclusively powered by energy nuts. Sorry, I just like to say energy nuts.
Energy nuts. Okay, I’m done.
Jason Lawrence showed up with a new title sponsor … Arma Energy Nuts.
Photo: Steve Cox
Speaking of energy and nuts, Travis Pastrana
won the freestyle event. He wasn’t even planning on competing—seriously! A five-dollar bet from Bilko that he could beat him there prompted the Pastrana to show up and destroy everyone. His score was high enough that he didn’t even have to do his last run. So what did he do? He took it anyway and busted a double backflip. Classic Pastrana. Red Bull’s Jeremy Malott said it best: "That guy is a cartoon character." TP is also slated to compete in several other events, including two rally disciplines.
Oh, I just got word from one of the guys at PC that Hansen had problems with his pants coming down during the final. Apparently, something went wrong with the closure and it was affecting his ability to move his legs. This is a recurring issue, and this time it may have cost Hanny a gold medal. Team owner Mitch Payton was apparently quite upset about it and voiced his opinion to several people.
And now here's Steve Cox, also from the X Games:
We got a reminder at X Games yesterday why so many top racers choose to sit out X when WMX points leader Jessica Patterson went down in probably the second-worst possible place on the track – the finish-line jump. The only worse one would probably be the jump just before the finish-line jump. But Patterson landed off the side of the jump, then hit the track markers on the side of the track at the bottom and went down hard. She appeared to be knocked out at least, but we don’t yet know the extent of her other injuries, if she has any at all.
JP$ may have jeopardized her WMX championship, and at minimum she made it a bit harder on herself. But in the case of the female racers, it’s almost a no-brainer to race this event, as the top few girls are significantly faster than the rest, meaning that barring any disasters (like Patterson’s), they are almost guaranteed a medal, and the X Games pay really well—not only for the actual purse money but also with endorsements. It's a great event for the girls.
Ashley Fiolek took the gold at X-Games 16.
Photo: Steve Cox
However, with the men, we essentially had five team racers who have been racing the AMA Motocross Nationals (excluding Ivan Tedesco
, who has missed most of the nationals with injuries from the St. Louis Supercross): Josh Grant
, Justin Brayton
, Dan Reardon
, Kyle Cunningham
, and Nick Wey
. Cunningham was hurt during seeding on Wednesday, and Grant was actually not going to race the event because of how it worked out for him last year, when he broke both of his feet at the Home Depot Center. Grant was going to concentrate on Best Whip, but then changed his mind and raced anyway – which obviously turned out to be a good decision for him.
But for Cunningham, it may not have been such a wise decision. He’s obviously good at supercross (look at his ride in Las Vegas for evidence if you need it), and he has scored in the top five outdoors this year, but his fall on Wednesday resulted in a broken left scaphoid. He had surgery already to screw it back together, and for a scaphoid break, the outlook is very promising (from what I understand, he may miss as little as one outdoor race), but still, it is a big price to pay for a rider who is still looking for a ride for 2011.
For many, as it turns out, the X Games are a bit of a gamble. Using Cunningham as an example, had he gone out and medaled, his prospects for 2011 may have improved quite a bit, but with it ending like it did, his prospects may have been hurt a bit.
This is why riders like James Stewart
and Kevin Windham
(bronze medalist last year) sat it out. In Windham’s case, he has just been trying to adjust to outdoors again, so the last thing he needed was to race SX in the middle of his outdoor adjustment, and in the case of the GEICO Powersports Honda team, this may have been the downside of having the ever-popular vet-class racer filling in for Davi Millsaps
on the Honda Red Bull Racing team, as I’m betting that GEICO Powersports would’ve loved the publicity of K-Dub at X.
And in Stewart’s case, he’s now preparing for the Unadilla
National and the rest of the outdoor races, which he hasn’t taken part in for nearly two years, and like Windham, it would’ve been difficult, even for Stewart, to adjust to the strange conditions at X while trying to prepare for the last four rounds of the AMA Nationals.
The last thing we’re going to talk about is Travis Pastrana
. I don’t know if it’s talent or what, but for Pastrana to go out after many years out of the full-on freestyle competition and just clean up on all of the full-time freestyle guys is ridiculous. But don’t think the fix was in or anything like that. Pastrana was flipping things that were never meant to be flipped (like he did at the St. Louis Supercross in 2009 during opening ceremonies) and using more of the course than anyone else. And on top of that, no one had better extension or amplitude than he did. To put it plainly, the full-time rally-car driver is still the hands-down best freestyle rider on the planet, and my bet is that if he had fitness, he would’ve done pretty good in the racing portion, too, if he so chose.
Travis ended his run in style...
Photo: Steve Cox
The Pastrana Games continue tonight with Best Whip, Best Trick, and Step-Up at the Staples Center, although the rumor is that Pastrana had dropped out of Best Trick. But after his performance yesterday, maybe he’s not feeling it and will join in for the action anyway – although he won’t if Subaru has anything to say about it....
By the way, doing a double backflip and then wishing your mom happy 50th birthday on live TV means Pastrana probably has son-of-the-year locked up now too.
Also, this week we featured an interview with new holeshot king Andrew Short
on Monday HERE
, another interview with the fastest man in moto two at Washougal Brett Metcalfe
on Wednesday HERE
, and another interview with the hottest man in the 250cc Class, Trey Canard
, on Thursday HERE
after his first-ever 1-1 performance. Check them out when you get a chance, if you haven’t already.
Sunday's Speed & Style throughout the rest of the weekend.
And one other thing, check out who's been riding out at Pala
Raceway this week:
Yup, Ryan Villopoto is back on the bike.
Photo: Kirk Chandler
Okay, In other news:
Racer X reader Greg Fisher sent us this note: "LACR, the longtime Southern California track, will be closing its doors after the Labor Day Grand Prix. Apparently, Granite Construction wouldn’t renew the lease."
Here’s motocross artist Rob Kinsey getting some love back home for some of the amazing portraits and moto moments he's put down on canvas.
Okay, it's time to get back out on the infield and back to work. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.