Welcome to Racerhead. I read an article this week about an iconic sports personality that struck a chord in light of the events of last Saturday night.
“Now comes the instantaneous recalculation of [his] legacy. Because Lord knows, in 2015, as soon as any sports figure wins or loses a championship, is incarcerated or set free, tests positive or comes up clean, retired or continues playing, lives on or dies, the social-media complex demands a reckoning that can be stated in a handful of words, or certainly no more than 140 characters. It is the ultimate in reductive stupidity. In reality, almost anyone’s life or career is complex.”
That’s from Sports Illustrated, and it could very well be about Discount Tires/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed, but it’s not—it’s about the late Joe Paterno’s legacy getting a reprieve from the NCAA. But it could very well be applied to Reed, the former two-time Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion who made an obvious and emotional miscalculation at Anaheim 2. In retaliating against Trey Canard, who landed on him in a very risky pass attempt, Reed suddenly lost a lot of traction with the general public—and especially Canard fans. He admitted he was trying to send a message, and purposely made contact, but didn’t know Trey had taken his hands off the bars to adjust his goggles. In the span of thirteen seconds, from the first collision, which was frightening, to the second collision, which seems liked it was almost in slow motion, Reed did not make a wise decision. At least not in 2015. Had this been Bob Hannah in the seventies, or Ricky Johnson in the eighties, or Ryan Hughes in the nineties, it would have been just payback, not assault with a deadly weapon.
Whatever it was, it was wrong, and Reed admits that. But what happened maybe thirty-five seconds later changed the tone of this moment to something else entirely. FIM referee John Gallagher called for Reed to be black-flagged, an incredibly rare and irreversible decision that made Reed pay a much higher price for his aggression than I personally felt it was worth. Gallagher later said he didn't make the decision until after watching replays because he had the benefit of “so many different cameras on it that they instantly went to instant replay on the big screen. So besides seeing it blatantly right in front of me in the tower where I was standing, they showed it on the instant replay.” Steve Cox suggested that there might be a timeline problem earlier this week. Regardless of whether or not he saw the replay, apparently no other officials were consulted prior to the black flag being issued. No matter which side you come down on, it's a dangerous precendent that's being set.
Reed certainly deserved some penalty and said as much, but he also now has a giant, permanent blemish on his hall of fame career that’s based not only on his emotions getting the better of him, but a referee inferring that he was somehow going to be a further danger to other riders on the track. The context of what actually happened to him—getting landed on and taken out without the benefit of knowing or seeing who or why—was apparently not taken into consideration, though it rarely is in sports. That’s why the second guy is the one who always gets the yellow flag in a football scuffle. But my point is, some of the same folks who were ready to carve Reed’s helmet into the Mt. Rushmore of Supercross last year after his A2 win are now burning him at the virtual stake.
I don’t really have anything new to offer except this: I did the same thing on numerous occasions in motocross, arenacross, and GNCC Racing, under much less intense circumstances. A lot of us probably have. It used to be part of racing, whether it’s right or wrong (and it’s certainly still on a lot of commercials we see both SX and MX).
I also think that Trey Canard has won the week in quietly turning off his social media and focusing on getting back up front, which is what caused the first crash. But then again, he’s not the one who got DQ’d. He did get knocked off the track, got back in the race, said a few things afterwards, and then moved on. I hope he and Reed both get up front this weekend in Oakland and have another go, but stay up and race with the respect for one another I know they have. I also hope someone rolls that black flag back up and hides it, because a very confusing precedent has now been set, and it’s about to get more interesting if someone doesn’t define what a block-pass or a takeout is moving forward.
I've read a lot of takes on the black flag this week and obviously had my take as well: If two wrongs don’t make a right, how do three? (When I said that in the car, my son responded, “Sure, three wrongs don’t make a right, but three rights make a left turn…” Get it?) But I have to hand it to Jody Weisel for his very simple and forthright take on this whole deal in MXA's Weekend Roundup: "So, when Trey landed on Chad, I thought, 'What an idiot.' When Chad went off the racing line to pay Trey back, I thought, 'What an idiot.' And when John Gallagher threw the black flag, I thought, 'What an idiot.'"
And then there’s my esteemed colleague Jason Weigandt, who hit the parking lot running on Saturday night and landed short interviews, just like Kit Palmer and the guys at Cycle News taught us all those years. Even fellow CN alumnus Chris Jonnum called me to give Weege some props on landing all four principles in this future-Lifetime-movie scenario. Here’s how it all went down…
GETTING THEIR SIDE (Jason Weigandt)
"He's on his way out but I don't think he's going to want to talk to anybody," said Max Steffens of FLY Racing. Myself and a bunch of other media types were camped in front of the Team Honda rig hoping to speak to Trey Canard, but Max indicated Trey wasn't in the best of moods. Can't blame him—things had not gone well in the main event. But we needed to get the Reed/Canard/black flag story right, so we needed to talk to those involved. Lucky for us, even though Trey emerged from the rig with a 1,000-yard stare, he agreed to talk. The smart riders know they're always, always, better served when they tell their side of the story.
The folks around Chad Reed weren't eager to offer their man up to the press, but once they knew we had Trey's side (especially the part when he called Chad a crybaby) the seas parted and we were granted access. Chad was candid as usual. Finally, I headed to the AMA rig to chat with FIM race official John Gallagher, who had made the decision to black-flag Reed, and the AMA's Kevin Crowther, who backed him up. When I was done talking to all, Crowther and Gallagher thanked me for asking for their side of the story. But I thanked them for being willing to talk.
I knew this was too big of a story to not get deep into this week (and the fans agree—the story I posted Saturday night became the most viewed piece ever on Racer X Online). I didn't want to just spout off my opinion, which is basically meaningless, anyway. We had to talk about it but we had to do it right, which meant letting each person give his side. In short, I just want to send thanks out to Trey, Chad, John, and Kevin for being open and honest in a situation where we often see folks leaving in a huff, not speaking to anyone, and then complaining a few days later that, "No one understands what's going on."
DEANO DOWN (DC)
In news that completely sucks, Red Bull KTM’s Dean Wilson has joined Autotrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha’s Weston Peick on the sidelines with an injury, though Dean’s knee is much worse than Weston’s toe. He reported it himself online:
“As my results (haven’t) been the greatest I was excited to keep building my results better and better each weekend. Yesterday was one of the toughest days I have had in my career. Just a normal Thursday training in the middle of my Moto when I made a mistake at the KTM test track. I am so gutted and disappointed to say that I have torn my ACL and MCL and will be getting surgery next week. Yesterday while I was on the way to the hospital looking out the window at the mountains I was contemplating on quitting and just get a real job and live a normal life. It just seems to be a (continuous) streak lately and the disappointment is just killing me as a person….But I know how much I love this sport when things are going good. But sometimes it can just be so cruel. I have the best sponsors and people that I can’t thank enough for their love and loyal support. And thanks to all my fans for the support too. I wish I could be racing this weekend but God has another plan for me.”
That now gives us four factory riders on the disabled list since Anaheim 1: Wilson, Peick, Brayton and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn. Let’s hope another name doesn’t end up on this list anytime soon.
INJURY EPIDEMIC (Steve Matthes)
We knew it would all happen but still, when injuries strike it’s never nice to talk about. We’ve lost Wil Hahn for the season, Justin Brayton for a few weeks with what seems like a serious injury, Weston Peick’s out for a bit, Dean Wilson’s out for supercross with a knee, and people tell me Mike Alessi is out this weekend and maybe longer with a knee injury (and when he does comes back it seems he’ll be less than 100 percent). This is a dangerous sport; we’ve seen it every year and it’s unfortunate. It’s what we love to watch and appreciate about motorcycle racing but it doesn’t make it any easier.
Wilson’s injury is definitely something that is a huge blow. He had started working with a different trainer over at Red Bull, he had started and moved forward and Anaheim 2 and I was betting he was just going to get better. Qualifying fifth and third at the first two rounds showed you what he can do and with a career that has had so many stops and starts, it’s hard to get momentum. The positive side for Dean is he has another year on his Red Bull KTM deal, so he can have peace of mind moving forward from here in his rehabilitation and know he’s got a great team behind him when he comes back.
FILTHY PHIL FILLING IN (Steve Matthes)
With Peick’s injury that means that Filthy Phil Nicoletti is going to step in on the AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha machine and give it a go. Nicoletti’s got a unique deal with the JGR guys where he’s strictly there as a fill-in rider for supercross and has a deal to race all twelve outdoor nationals. Some people might wonder why Phil would take this deal as he’s a main event guy and some people might wonder why Coy Gibbs would want to pay a guy to not race, but last year we saw Phil at about half the races filling in after Josh Grant and Justin Brayton got hurt, and now in 2015, Phil’s back in.
If you’re Phil you’re getting paid all year and get to race the nationals where you excel, and if you’re Coy, this is great insurance policy. It’s a bit different for our sport, but if all sides can be made happy, I think this can be something we see more of in the future.
Oh, and Vince Friese is going to be racing the Smartop MCR 450 this weekend so I think with Vince and Phil, you have two main event guys added to the mix.
RIDERS TALK OAKLAND (Jason Weigandt)
This week a few teams gave us some insight this week to how their riders are feeling. Clearly, some are hoping to turn this around this weekend, and others are hoping to keep them the same.
"I think the Oakland race will be a good challenge for everyone. It could be a game-changer for the season as well," says GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac, who is fourth in the standings, but a full 26 back of Roczen already thanks to his twentieth at the opener. "I've had success there before and I'm hoping for similar results again. At this point, podium finishes and wins are almost a necessity.
"That racetrack is unique because the ground is really soft," Tomac says. "It will definitely be a lot different than the dirt in Anaheim for both of those races. I already know the bike will feel a lot different than it has all season, and that will be something I need to be prepared for."
Speaking of preparation, somehow Ken Roczen has been reeling off wins while apparently not feeling perfect—until maybe now. “I feel great about this weekend,” he says. “I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing and work on getting my body better. I’m still not 100 percent but it felt great to get another win last week at A2 and I’m going to fight hard again when we get to Oakland.”
If Kenny's not 100 percent yet, we shudder to think what he'll look like when he does. Meanwhile his RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John's Suzuki teammate Broc Tickle keeps getting stronger, too. “I’m really looking forward to racing in Oakland this weekend,” says Tickle. “I got the second win of my career in Oakland and I love the dirt there. That’s one reason why I like it. I’m coming off a good weekend at Anaheim Two so I’m going to keep on focusing on my starts and keep doing the things I’ve been doing. The goal this weekend is to back up A2.”
In 250SX West, the championship is still up for grabs, but Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Cooper Webb is making a serious claim. Others have ridden well at times, but have made errors as well. "I'm still working on balancing my intensity," says GEICO Honda's Malcolm Stewart, who was second in Phoenix and fourth at Anaheim 2. "So far it's either been too much or just not enough. I'm going to work on perfecting the sprint from my first lap to lap 10. Once I get that balance, I know that I'll be at the front of the pack week in and week out."
"We had a really good week at the track and I’m coming into Oakland with my focus on getting back that red plate,” said Jessy Nelson. “A win would be great, but we’re trying to look at the long term goal of a championship. I feel great and hope for a great weekend.
ROCZEN VS. HISTORY (Andras Hegyi)
Did you notice the Jeremy McGrath-inspired nac-nacs that Ken Roczen was doing at the Anaheim SX last weekend? The German superstar knows his motocross history—he's a true student of the sport—so anytime he gets up to one of his predecessors in the history books, he probably smiles and just looks for the next one on the horizon.
For instance, besides the French rider David Vuillemin and the Australian legend Chad Reed, Ken Roczen is the third non-American rider to begin with two wins and one second-place in the first three rounds in a season. In similar fashion Vuillemin, riding a Yamaha, opened 2002, while Reed started his 2004 and 2008 seasons with the same efficiency. Le Cobra ended up missing Daytona with an unfortunate shoulder injury but still ended up second in the overall points standings, while Reedy became AMA Supercross Champion in both '04 and '08.
And besides his RCH boss Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen is the third Suzuki rider to begin a season with two wins and three podiums in the first three rounds. And that is a very good sign because after such a start both Carmichael and Dungey became champion. In fact, Carmichael became champion twice that way for Suzuki in 2005 and 2006, while Dungey was champion in 2010.
And here's one more little number worth watching, but not if you're Roczen: In three races to date Red Bull KTM's Dungey has finished 4-3-2. It's a patter that bodes well for him going into this weekend's fourth round.
CLICK ON THESE PULPMX LINKS (Matthes)
Listen in as JT, Weege and I talk about what ee think we’re going to see at Oakland SX here.
Swizcore went to Grand Rapids AX, wrote down his thoughts and interviewed Bobby Kiniry here.
David Vuillemin weighs in on Anaheim 2 in his column here.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Racer X Show #3 - Anaheim 2 Supercross, Grand Rapids Arenacross plus AMA Banquet Interviews with Kailub Russell, RJ Hampshire, Jordan Jarvis, and Erin Hunter-Sills.
GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac graces the cover of X Inside magazine, a popular MX/SX publication in Italy. Tomac won the Genoa Supercross in Italy in late 2014. Take a look at the online version here.
With a head of hair that makes women and men jealous alike, Blake Wharton has been tearing up the Monster Energy AMA Supercross circuit since 2009.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh #3.
Christophe Pourcel's property in Groveland, Florida, is for sale. The property features fifty fenced acres, which are "ready for motocross." The house is 2,500 sq/ft, featuring 4 bedroom, 3.5 bath. For more information, visit Floridamotocrossproperty.com.
And finally, last Sunday morning was a busy one for me. I was invited to go on Bike Week Radio with my hosts Broc Glover, Paul Carruthers, Scott Cox, and Bobby Woolridge to chat about the big controversy at Anaheim 2, and then I stopped by Del Mar Raceway to check out the return of dirt track racing. There are photos scattered throughout this week's Racerhead, but it was a really cool event with a bunch of old scramblers, vintage bikes, hipsters and more. If you ever get a chance to make it there for one of these events, by all means be there!
That is it for Racerhead, thanks for stopping by, see you at the races.