Welcome to 1995—or at least it seems like that! The retro-themed race is here in the form of the second Atlanta Supercross, and all week long we’ve been getting glimpses of some of the cool and fun stuff the riders and teams are doing in a nod to the nineties. I for one wore my bright yellow Camel Supercross shirt, circa 1990, to work this afternoon.
It also feels a little like the Spirit of 1976, in that Ryan Villopoto is making his 2015 debut over at the first round of the FIM World Championships, which will be run tomorrow night in the oil-rich sands of Qatar. No offense to legends like Donny Schmit, Danny LaPorte, Gary Semics, Ryan Hughes, or Mike Brown and the rest, but Villopoto is the first truly top American to head abroad since 1976, when arguably the three best Americans at the time—Brad Lackey, Jim Pomeroy, and Marty Smith—all went overseas. None of them won, and the motocross world would soon change with the arrival of Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, but that’s the level we’re talking about with Villopoto. How strange a world we live in now where an American is the preseason favorite to the Grand Prix title and Red Bull KTMs are leading both classes in Monster Energy Supercross!
As we’ve been talking about for the past few weeks, every race that Ryan Dungey holds the red plate in SX makes it the deepest KTM has ever gone with the points lead in the sport’s biggest championship, AMA Supercross. Even though he was not quite everyone’s favorite, it’s no surprise that he’s managed himself with great consistency and speed in the first half of the season. He’s kept his mistakes to a minimum while those around him have had their share of forced and unforced errors. Dungey is now a complete round ahead of everyone, and he’s known to be a strong closer—except for outdoors 2013, when RV held him off for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
But of course the most retro aspect of retro weekend is the fact that Chad Reed is still a winner! The veteran has once again battled back into the mix, this time from slow starts and that controversial black-flag episode at Anaheim 2 to win the first Atlanta SX. As you probably know by now, Reed is likely to do some fun stuff for retro night—he’s the only guy out there besides Nick Wey who would have been old enough and fast enough to qualify in the nineties! He’s hinting at a two-stroke, which would bring down the inflatable roof at the Georgia Dome like it’s 1999! (Good drinking game to play tomorrow night if you’re watching at home or with friends: drinking an entire beverage every time Ralph, Fro, or RC says “… like it’s 1999!”)
And if the 250SX main event is like anything like we saw last week, the fans are in for a treat—and expect many more of them than last week, when the weather was a mess. Jeremy Martin, Marvin Musquin, Justin Bogle, and Martin Davalos all had legitimate shots at the win, and it was Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Martin who led last and well. But he’s still second in the points to Musquin, who had a close call even qualifying after an early crash.
Tomorrow night’s Atlanta race will air live on Fox Sports 2 at 7 p.m. We will have all of the updates and action throughout the day here on Racer X Online, and don’t forget to tune into the Supercross Live show over at www.supercrosslive.com beginning at 12:50 p.m. Eastern Time.
Meanwhile, over in Qatar, they just finished up qualifying races and the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider from America that no one is talking about almost won: Thomas Covington! He led the heavily favored Jeffrey Herlings until the very last lap and then ended up second. But the bigger news (though its meaning is unclear) is that Villopoto finished eighth in his MXGP qualifying race. He was 33 seconds behind winner Tony Cairoli, and his fastest lap was about three seconds off that of Clement Desalle. What’s it all mean? For now, only that this is RV’s first GP, his first qualifying race, his first race since spring of last year. Don’t read too much into it either way—for Villopoto or Covington—because it’s tomorrow that actually counts, and it’s a long series no matter how they finish. (You can watch the Qatar GP live PPV on www.mxgp-tv.com tomorrow beginning at 11 a.m. or tune it to the tape-delayed CBS Sports Network broadcast tomorrow night.)
ON POINT ON POINTS (Jason Weigandt)
After the first two races of the year, I theorized that the sport was on the verge of a generational shift, with Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen at the head of the new group. Not like this was a huge shocker, considering their 250 successes, and their intense battles with each other. Then when this year began, they were the fastest on 450s, and they won the first two races. The only question left was what to call this rivalry. #KenEli? #RocMac? #ToZen?
Oops. These two are still very fast and still might be the future, but now they’re looking much more like the young bucks that they are. Tomac’s season has been dotted with mistakes, and I think it’s because it’s very nearly his rookie season. He missed eight of seventeen SX races last year, and there’s just something to be said about experience on a big bike in a long series. Roczen was darned strong as a rookie in 2014 and doesn’t have a reputation for crashing, but a few errors are now starting to loom large. Data shows most riders really start figuring out the consistency thing by their third year in the class, and that’s 2016 for these two.
Now the title hopes are getting a little darker for both. You know what wouldn’t surprise me, though? These guys getting it all straightened out and winning a ton of races down the stretch. It might not be enough to make up all those points, but it’ll definitely get people saying, “Wait ‘till next year.” But Roczen doesn’t want to wait.
“Last Saturday was rough, for sure,” explained Roczen in an RCH team statement yesterday. “I made a couple of mistakes and it cost us. That’s on me. We made some great adjustments and the bike felt great so I’m really looking forward to getting back to Atlanta and hopefully get back in the groove we were in early in the year. We’re not giving up. Everyone is working really hard and we know what we have to do. We’ve used up our mulligans. We need to finish on the podium the rest of the way.”
"I was really feeling good all day last Saturday and felt like it was going to be my day to win it,” said Tomac in a GEICO Honda statement. “I wasn't able to execute in the main, so I plan on changing the result for this weekend. Last week I was a little under the weather before traveling to Atlanta, but I feel great now.”
Meanwhile, Ryan Dungey is aware the errors of others have helped his title cause. I asked him about it after last weekend’s race.
“Aside from the race tonight, we’ve been handed a gift,” Dungey said. “It was a great night as far as the points go. We made a good bit of ground which is awesome, and we need to keep building on that. But that’s the longterm focus. We need to remember that but we also need to remember each race and living in the moment and performing the best we can on tonight. Your mind can’t be in Vegas when it should be here in Atlanta. A lot of riders know that.”
Dungey is currently living at Aldon Baker’s house while he and his wife go house shopping in central Florida. Moving is stressful for anyone, and they’re usually not leading a major racing championship while doing it. But Dungey is in a good place, mentally, while looking for his new place, physically.
“It was a busy week for sure,” he said. “It was a lot going on, I won’t lie. But it’s not a weight on my shoulders. It’s more an exciting, fun time I think. Change is sometimes good.”
THE EVOLUTION OF WESTON PEICK (Chase Stallo)
Two years ago, prior to the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross, I wrote a story for Racer X Illustrated, “Why Not Weston?” In it, a number of team managers and ex-pros explained why the then privateer had yet to secure a ride for 2014. Most agreed that Weston needed to prove himself another year before any team took a chance. He did—and was rewarded with a factory ride this off-season. That doesn’t tell the entire story, though.
Weston had to scratch and claw to even be considered for a ride. Consider this: in his first two years of supercross, he made fifteen main events. Fifteen! His average finish was 15.5. Earlier this week, Jason Thomas admitted he would laugh at Weston’s supercross skills: “It's truly impressive, because I raced against him and used to laugh at how bad his supercross skills were.” It wasn’t a dig at Weston—he and Jason are good friends—it was just the way it was.
Weston steadily progressed over the years before making sixteen of seventeen main events a season ago, averaging a 13.9 finish—due in large part to mechanical DNFs. This year, Peick has truly become a contender. He’s averaging a 9.5 finish, but throw out a twenty-second in Arlington and he’s averaging a 5.3. Peick’s career trajectory is uncharted. When asked in 2013 why Weston didn’t have a ride, current Fox Sport 1 color analyst Jeff Emig summed it up best: “This is probably, to me, one of the most interesting cases of this nature that we’ve had [in the sport] as long as I can remember.”
Main Events Made
2015: 4 of 4
2014: 5 (twice)
REAL RETRO (DC)
While cleaning up some files yesterday, I found a really cool match print of Todd DeHoop that Fran Kuhn gave me. It was from the 1988 Southwick 125 National and Todd is sideways coming out of a corner on the #37 factory Suzuki RM125. Knowing that the print probably would look nice hanging in DeHoop's garage, I tracked him down on Facebook. And right there on his bio photo was the exact same shot, only it was a copy from the magazine. We chatted about that a little bit and he told me he's working on a comeback at Loretta Lynn's this summer for fun, since his daughters never actually saw him race. Then he sent me some photos of his latest project: he's rebuilding a 1995 Honda CR250 to look just like the one he raced for Honda of Troy that year, plus the van he's working on to carry it around for the full effect. When you're an old pro motocrosser, every day is retro day!
THE NUMBER: 11 (Andras Hegyi)
The most successful Australian motocrosser ever became more legendary last weekend in Atlanta. With his wire-to-wire victory, Chad Reed earned a new standalone record. He won in eleven different seasons of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, beginning in 2003 and stretching into 2015. Before this we had a tie between James Stewart and Chad Reed, as both riders were able to win in ten different seasons. But in Atlanta Reed overtook Bubba, who of course cannot race supercross this year.
Chad is also now the second-oldest winner in SX history, having passed John Dowd for second. Only Mike LaRocco is an older winner than Reed. You can check out all of the older winners right here.
JS7 MEMORIES (Steve Matthes)
So this past Monday we had our usual PulpMX Show going on with Yamaha's (new job alert!) Travis Preston, privateer Adam Enticknap, Kris Keefer of Dirt Rider, and myself. And somehow the topic of James Stewart came up and whether or not he would've done the quad-quad at Atlanta this past weekend. This started turning into a trip down memory lane for all of us as we recounted the things we'd seen James do over the years. Thanks to Dirt Girl, I got this part of the show transcribed so you could read what we were talking about. (Remember, folks, Monday nights at 6 p.m. Pacific. Come join us to listen, laugh, and learn.)
Matthes: We were talking about that quad this weekend after the finish. Nobody did it. They went 3-3-2. I asked a couple people, one that was racing and one who didn’t race because he’s hurt right now, “What about this quad?” They both said, “James would do it.”
Adam Enticknap: Here’s the thing from a rider perspective. This is why I don’t think it was done. The transition between the triple to go triple-triple…. You went triple-triple-double. So the first triple, the transition was about eight feet apart. If you were to quad, the transition was only four feet apart. It was made to go 3-3. James would have hucked it, absolutely. He’s literally fearless. James would have went up, he’d have said four, send it, and made it perfectly clean. And he might not have won the main event even with jumping it.
Travis Preston: I was there in 2007 when James was hucking all that big stuff. Correct me if I’m wrong—that was the year where Ricky raced a couple supercrosses and a couple outdoors. [It was.] From what I remember, Bubba beat Ricky almost every supercross, but it was close. It got to the point where me and [Kevin] Windham were walking the track and we would go and look for the most craziest jump and go, “Bubba’s going to jump that.” And Bubba wouldn't jump it until lap twelve in the main event, when Ricky was all over him! And then Bubba would pull the trigger mid-race and start jumping that jump and just get a little gap on Ricky. The stuff he was jumping was so crazy.
Enitcknap: I will never forget in my life James Stewart on a Yamaha. He’s in pink gear. He gets the holeshot. It’s Anaheim 2 or 3, and he comes out and there’s this left-hander 3-5-3 into this section that’s all peaked out singles, and he goes triple, and he sends it like third gear whipped, quad. And Villopoto tries to do it behind him and he just cased it. And I swear Bubba won by a straightaway that night. It was insane. He was on a whole other level. I couldn't even believe it. I rode the track. This jump was so big, I was like, There’s no way I even was fathoming to do this!
Matthes: It was something else. Look at Toronto last year. There was a little wheelie tap thing everyone was kind of struggling over it. He would wheelie over it, tap his rear wheel, set it down and go three or four into the turn or whatever it was.
Preston: How about Daytona that one year where they had that steep wall?
Kris Keefer: He cleared the wall!
Matthes: And then he endoed over a triple. The triple that everyone is doing, all the 250 guys, he dies on it, and meanwhile he’s jumping this wall that no one is doing.
Eniticknap: Let me tell you why nobody else is doing this. There’s a straightaway into a drop into a little lip into this huge, 15-foot wall, and there’s kickers built up. So James goes down the thing, jumps the kickers, lands right at the bottom of this three-foot lip and pops over this 15-foot thing.
Matthes: I lost my mind when he did that.
Keefer: It was so much faster, too.
Enitcknap: We’re talking like four seconds. Man, the memories he’s given us….
JMB RETURNS (DC)
Jean-Michel Bayle is back in racing. The legendary SX/MX rider from France is helping out with the HRC Honda team, which has a genuine title contender in Gautier Paulin (yes, even with RV and Cairoli there) and race-proven Evgeny Bobryshev. Bayle is new to the role of sporting manager, but he packs quite the credentials as a racer:
1988 FIM 125cc World Champion
1989 FIM 250cc World Champion
1991 AMA Supercross Champion
1991 AMA 250cc National Champion
1991 AMA 500cc National Champion
Earlier this week he posted a photo of himself going through the airport on Facebook with this note:
"Time to GO to First race, Doha Qatar. Yesterday night was so happy to receive a nice phone call to wish me good luck from 'The Man'"
The Man, of course, is Roger DeCoster, who brought him to America in 1989 when he was with Honda. They have remained close friends ever since.
VANILLA ICE, PART TWO (DC)
Last week we were ready to go paint “Save Vanilla” on all of the water towers in town, after Vanilla Ice (actually Robbie Van Winkle) was arrested on charges of burglarizing the seemingly abandoned home next to one he was remodeling in Florida. Robbie said it was a misunderstanding involving his TV show and crew, and I for one believe him. Regardless, in describing Vanilla Ice, I mentioned that he was a former pro motocrosser, and someone in the comments below said he wasn’t. Well, technically, he was: in 1986 Van Winkle signed up for a one-day AMA Pro-Am license in order to attempt to qualify for the Dallas Supercross. He didn’t make the cut, but here’s his application (courtesy of former AMA Director of SX/X Roy Janson).
And in the no-good-deed-goes-unpunished department, check out this USA Today story on Vanilla Ice helping an unfortunate family out in the days that followed the arrest snafu.
HEY, WATCH THIS
Discount Tires has released their second commercial—this one featuring Chad Reed and Josh Grant's young sons. It's adorable.
Want to get yourself amped up for the nineties? Watch the 1990 Atlanta Supercross right here.
And here’s a lap around the Losail circuit in Qatar, courtesy of British rider Shaun Simpson.
Head-Scratching Headline of the Week
Heading to Atlanta this weekend? Stop by the Racer X booth—located in the Party in the Pits—to pick up a free copy of Racer X Illustrated. You can also sign up or renew for just $20 (60 percent off the cover price) to get a one-year subscription, a FREE pair of Racer X socks, and an extra issue!
Atlas and Scott are sponsoring the Atlanta 2 round of Racer X MotoDynasty Fantasy Supercross and will be giving out prizes to the winners of the (250, 450) class. Click HERE for a chance to win.
We spotted this online from our longtime friend Denny Stephenson:
“My 12-year-old son Riley was recently diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes this month. Needless to say it’s turned out to be a very expensive chronic illness. In turn, I decided to dip into my collection of old helmets & auction off a couple of my lids to help raise some money & curb some of the initial & monthly expenses of insulin-dependent diabetes. They just hang on a wall in my garage & I figured this would be a better use of them. So if you're looking for something moto to add to your man cave, this is it.”
The March issue of Trials & Enduro News is LIVE and ready to view! This issue has full coverage of the Sumter round of the Kenda AMA National Enduro Series, an interview with Pro Trials rider Logan Bolopue, FIM X-Trial competition reports from Pau, France and Marseille, France. We also have a test on the 2015 YZ250FX, as well as a look at the new FLY off-road boots.
Here's a get-well-soon to Terry Varner, the longtime and highly respected engine and bike builder, who suffered a very serious heart attack earlier this week. He's recovering now after triple by-pass surgery, and hopefully we will see him back at the races soon.
Watching a family member race is pretty nerve-racking. Max Clason, sister to AG Motorsports/Gurrnaid Racing’s Cade Clason, recently wrote a cool blog on what it was like for the family to watch Cade race in Dallas. Check it out here.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #8.
Here's another look inside of the April '15 issue. Head over to www.racerxdigital.com for an extended preview.
Happy 75th birthday to the original dean of Dirt Bike magazine, Rick "Super Hunky" Sieman! Nick McCabe and I were lucky enough to visit with Rick at his home below Phoenix and I wrote my April 2015 magazine column about the man, the myth, the legendary Super Hunky!
And finally, this:
12th Annual DMXS Atlanta Supercross Party: Part Deux
Who: You and your friends and anyone unfortunate enough to miss last week’s party.
Where: www.cosmolaval.com is the epicenter. Address: 45 13th St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309
When: Immediately following the ATL2 race this Saturday night.
Why: There are two races, and by Law of Moto, there must be two DMXS parties.
Dress Code: Simple since it’s Moto-Casual. Disregard the club’s regular dress code listed on their website and just wear clothes. Flat-billing, black-socking, Fox-Heading and DC Shoe-ing are all welcome. Haters go home.
Disclaimer: We will have someone on staff to pour daiquiris on your all-white Affliction shirt if you decide to come in the club with one on.
More info: www.cosmolava.com
We want everyone to have a great time and get home safely. Atlanta has Uber and way too many taxi cabs left over from the Olympics, so please Do Not Drink and Drive.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.