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Yeah, Atlanta again! That’s right, it was time for Atlanta 2, which was also round nine of seventeen in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship. And the last few weeks it’s been Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey who’s been answering that question of #whosnext by winning more races and extending his points lead to over a race. He looks really good for this title. But, yeah, I guess anything could happen. I mean, Ryan Dungey is definitely known for crashing, being unpredictable, and shaky, right?
Last week I said the attendance wasn’t very good for Atlanta, and certainly the cold weather and storms in the surrounding area didn’t help. This week I’d say the spectator count was about the same as the first week, which again was a little underwhelming. I mean, this is Atlanta—it’s a very special supercross each year. The Georgia fans have packed the STILL VERY NICE AND NOT OUTDATED AT ALL Georgia Dome (which DOES NOT NEED TO BE REPLACED WITH A NEW FOOTBALL STADIUM) for years, and having two races in a row did seem to take some shine off the race. But, with weather hurting the attendance, let’s wait and see if the doubleheader comes back next year to fully judge this thing. All you people (and you know who you are) who called for two Atlanta supercrosses, you have let us down. Try to do better in 2016, okay?
As far as the track, it was better than last week—that’s for sure. It was tight and technical with a big whoops section that caused some issues for riders with less skill than the top guys. Even though it was short, it was big. An over-under bridge is always sweet but not when it just loops around and goes back under. Having two sand sections was too much, and putting one of them after the bridge that would turn into a one-line section is a bit strange.
Anyway, enough about that. This race was a retro race! Did you know that? No? Yeah, I didn’t either until about mid-week, and I’m pretty plugged into this whole series. I spoke to a number of people on teams who didn’t know about it or found out too late. Still, a fair amount of teams and riders participated in this (Michelin’s Randy Richardson probably took it a bit far, but that’s another story for another time), and although it was cool, it was a bit of a mish-mash.
The theme was 1990s motocross, which was sweet, but I’m not exactly sure everyone knew that. Or maybe teams and riders just decided to go rogue. We had Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha making their Yamahas all yellow like they were from the early seventies until 1984. That doesn’t really cover the nineties, right? Their riders wore ANSR (by the way, we want the “we” back in Answer, ANSR) gear patterned after what Johnny O’Mara wore in 1990, which was ok, but it didn’t match the bikes whatsoever. Yoshimura Suzuki busted out a sweet yellow and blue look (which Suzuki used in 1990, but this bike also had early 1980s touches on it), but then someone decided to put numbers on it that looked what they used to run in the seventies.
Chad Reed’s bike looked sweet. His gear wasn’t retro, but it did have plenty of neon, which reeks of the nineties and I’m good with this. My favorite look was on CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha’s bikes, which were fashioned off Doug Henry’s 1997. AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha went for 1990 Bradshaw replica bikes, which also looked good. But both the CycleTrader.com and JGR riders weren’t wearing replica gear, so it sort of looked weird. Jake Weimer had Seven gear on that was based on Fox gear made in 1988 (that’s not in the nineties for those of you who need confirmation).
There’s no doubt that Fox Racing absolutely killed it with their 1990 360 Image retro gear that Dungey and Marvin Musquin wore. Points deducted for KTM not doing anything to their bikes, but as manager Roger DeCoster told me, it’s hard to change their orange bikes to white plastic and red frames. Yes, that’s how KTMs looked in 1990.
Chad Reed wins the best overall gear and bike look for the retro race, but this was like giving the award for best kicker to Charlie Brown because him and Lucy were the only ones who showed up. In other words, we needed more commitment from everyone.
This title is Ryan Dungey’s to lose. He won Atlanta 2 with another display of riding perfection. He had to pass early leader Weston Peick (I can imagine the horror running through his mind as the guy who’s not great at making room out there has to try and make room by a guy who basically looks like former NFL linebacker James Harrison on a YZ450F), but once he did, he started clicking off the laps to perfection. You can say Dungey only has three wins (most in the series, by the way, and his most since 2012 when he won four times) because James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto aren’t here, and maybe you’re right.
But then again, maybe you’re wrong. The new KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition (in dealerships now, I believe) is a really good bike. It’s naturally below the weight limit. KTM has to add weight to the bike to make it legal, which is awesome. It’s fast as crap, it handles great, and it’s a really good bike. Ryan Dungey is benefitting from this machine—there’s no doubt about it. As a former mechanic, I love dirt bikes and it pains me to see riders throw their bikes down to the ground (It should be noted that The Dunge has never, to my knowledge, thrown his bike down after it breaks. He always tries to push it back to the truck. I admire that), but I have to admit that the bike is not the main reason he’s better this year. I think training with Aldon Baker off the track so he can focus on his riding and have a better off-the-bike program is a reason. Riding with training partners like Marvin Musquin, Jason Anderson, and Kenny Roczen (some days, anyway) is rejuvenating him and maybe he’s having a bit more fun.
Whatever it is—bike, trainer, having fun, getting married—Ryan’s won more races this year than in the previous two years (with eight races to go), and I don’t think he’s going to blow this title unless a total disaster strikes.
Speaking of Kenny Roczen, the RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki German Wunderkind is hurting now in a bad way. My pick for the 2015 SX title, Roczen won two out of the first three races and looked amazing. Since then, though, he’s made more than a few mistakes and now has a jacked up ankle. I spoke to his mechanic Kelly on Saturday morning and Kelly mentioned that Kenny’s foot was sore from his Atlanta 1 crash (obviously it was—he got a medic ride off the track when he couldn’t walk), but he got it checked out and structurally it was okay. Well, maybe not anymore. Roczen rode one lap of the third practice before tweaking it, and he immediately jumped off the track and rode to Kelly. They talked for a bit before Roczen threw on his jacket and rode back to the pits.
Obviously he got it worked on, had it taped up, got a pain shot, and went out there to give it his all. A fourth in the heat got him to the main, and once there he ran sixth for a while before finishing in an underwhelming (for him) eighth place. Obviously he’s got a foot/ankle issue holding him back and he’s now in third place in the points with virtually no shot at the title if he continues to ride like he did this past weekend. Bummer for Roczen and his team; they looked so amazing to start the year. It’s going to be interesting to see what Roczen and the team decide to do since this injury looks serious. He does have a 450MX title to defend in a few months.
Marvin Musquin admitted that he didn’t ride that well last week and was fortunate to get a second. This week, he said, after his wire-to-wire win, that he rode his own race, and he was a bit apologetic about it: “I was actually not pushing really hard. Maybe I sound bad saying that, but I was trying to be really smooth and not rushing things and not getting tired or anything.”
The start was so huge on this track (it’s huge every track but this week more so), and once “Moving” Marvin “The Marv Attack” Musquin got the start, it was over from there. Musquin is a very technical rider, very precise, and good at picking lines. It’s why he excels at motocross tracks like Washougal and Muddy Creek, and not so much at ones like RedBud. Once he has a clear track, he can focus on hitting downsides and go where he wants to go—it’s over for everyone else.
When he doesn’t get the start (this week in the heat) or crashes early (last week in the heat), he has a lot of things going on around him and struggles to be his normal self.
This race was yet another KTM sweep of both classes. I was a member of the first every factory team in the USA and this is still amazing to me. The MDK days seem a long, long, time ago, don’t they?
Last year, there was a point when people were whispering that Broc Tickle’s career might be over, after he crashed in Toronto and sustained a serious back injury. He healed up the rest of the year and wasn’t really in play much during the silly season. Either he wasn’t being thought of or RCH had told him to hang tight while they tried to find the cash for a second rider. There’s no doubt Broc took a significant pay cut from what he was making the last two years on the team, but he knew the bike and team were better than anything else out there for him.
He went back to RCH as the second guy on the team and made the best of what he was dealt. And slowly but surely he’s building himself back up. Tying his career-best 450SX result this past weekend in Atlanta 2, Tickle’s been strong almost every week. He missed two mains with a back injury; otherwise, he’d be right up there in the points. Is he going to win a race? Probably not. But he’s been everything a team could want, and he’s done a great job building himself back up from a bad injury. Full props to a quiet guy who doesn’t seek the spotlight but should be getting some more of it.
This year has been a remarkable one for the AMA and FIM, and their decision-making and/or punishments. And they may have taken the cake this past weekend. Oh wait, no, the black flag decision was still worse, but this week we had officials standing before the over-under bridge with a red cross flag to alert riders when to not jump the bridge because it was a blind landing. This is a good idea that I endorse.
However, this isn’t what happened. It seemed like no matter where a rider was down there was a medic flag being waved. Not a yellow flag, which means caution. It was a full medic flag, which means roll the jump. And rolling the take-off to an over-under isn’t easy. Sometimes the medic flag was being waved when there wasn’t even a rider down! I’m serious. Sometimes it was being waved when a rider was down off the side of the track in the sand, thirty feet from the landing, and, again off to the side of the track. If anyone was down anywhere in that sand section, the flag came out for the jump. It was a joke. Phil Nicoletti jumped onto the top of the over-under when the medic flag was waving and got docked two positions even though the rider had gotten up and was out of the way. Remember, he didn’t jump over the over-under; he just popped up onto it. He was in complete control and at no time was anyone in danger, but Phil lost two spots and had to go to the LCQ.
And this comes on the heels of all the riders being told at Anaheim 3, when there was also an over-under, that they were not to roll it. They were told to jump up onto the top of it because rolling a sharp take-off like that is sketchy. So we have different rules on top of (in my opinion) the wrong flags being thrown for no reason.
Then, in the LCQ, they were AGAIN waving it for no real reason (trust me, this went on all day, and if you don’t believe me ask Dan Truman, Jason Thomas, or Paul Perebijnos, who were watching with me), and Phil slowed down to roll the bridge. Then the official put it away right as Phil went by and the second-place rider Kyle Chisholm sailed over it and made up a bunch of time on Phil.
And, oh yeah, in the main event, the flag was again being waved for no reason and no one got penalized for anything and I witnessed riders just sailing over the thing. The AMA/FIM is having a bad year.
Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?
1. 25 Marvin Musquin; Corona, CA KTM 250 SX-F – Marvin seriously has to be one of the nicest riders who ever lived.
2. 6 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F – Nice ride for Martin and hey, I know he’s short but he’s good in whoops. Also, no one in motocross gives interviews while pulling down the helmet better than Jeremy Martin.
3. 1 Justin Bogle; Cushing, OK; Honda CRF250R – Bogle’s team manager Mike LaRocco isn’t one to waste a lot of words, so after the race he told me that he didn’t think Bogle is in the proper shape to win just yet after having surgery in the off-season. Hey, I didn’t say it. Are you going to argue with The Rock?
4. 37 Joey Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; Kawasaki KX 250F – Joe Dog tried to kick me out of the PC pits before practice, but thankfully Mitch Payton didn’t enforce that.
5. 49 James Decotis; Peabody, MA; Honda CRF250R – Well, well, well, look who’s back! I’ve been writing that Jimmy D just hasn’t had his usual flash this year, and he admitted to me that he hasn’t been himself either. This week Jimmy D went and rode some sand dunes with buddies and had fun. Then he goes out and gets the balls-out award for his pass on Arnaud Tonus on the last lap where he and Arnaud just about died. Jimmy D is back!
6. 47 Martin Davalos; Cairo, GA; Husqvarna FC250 – Maybe it’s me, but he has seemed really tired in interviews after heat race wins. Like, more than you should be for six laps.
7. 200 Arnaud Tonus; Switzerland; Kawasaki KX 250F – Tonus faded pretty badly in the main event and said on Instagram later that he had blood sugar issues, which makes sense because it was a bit of a shock to see a world class rider fade that fast.
8. 62 Anthony Rodriguez; Cairo, GA; Yamaha YZ250F – If this kid keeps it on two wheels he’s fast. And we saw that this week.
9. 80 Rj Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R – Hampshire had to go to the LCQ, which is scary enough, but at least he won a battle royale to get to the main. His teammate Jordon Smith lost and didn’t qualify.
10. 343 Luke Renzland; Hewitt, NJ; Yamaha YZ250 – Solid ride for Luke considering he didn’t get much practice time due to a crash. Also, Weege and I figured he’s as Jersey as they come, unlike some other riders that were born there but got out as fast as they could. [Editor’s note: I’m still claiming Barcia for NJ even though he moved away before he was even riding dirt bikes. Just saying. – Weege.]
11. 55 Kyle Peters; Greensboro, NC; Honda CRF250R
12. 43 Matthew Lemoine; Pilot Point, TX; Kawasaki KX 250F – Lemoine and Hampshire got into a beef on social media over something. Again, Twitter is awesome sometimes. Also, Matt and Vince Friese were again locked into a duel of death, but instead of being for fifth, it was for twelfth.
13. 45 Vince Friese; Cape Girardeau, MO; Honda CRF250R – Friese had an off weekend for whatever reason. I’m not allowed to go interview him or anyone on the team, so I don’t know what happened, but it wasn’t good. Vince, if you’re reading this, send a carrier pigeon with a note telling me what happened.
14. 73 Gannon Audette; Tallahassee, FL; Kawasaki KX 250F
15. 35 Kyle Cunningham; Aledo, TX; Honda CRF250R – Because of some crashes, Cunningham was in the unseeded practices, which has to be weird for him. I’m sure he hasn’t been in there for a long time. The good news is that he’s now in the top twenty in the points and will be in the seeded group.
16. 77 Justin Starling; Deland, FL; Yamaha YZ250F
17. 986 Colt Nichols; Muskogee, OK; Honda CRF250R – Welcome to 250SX, where a rider like Colt can go 11-DNQ-17 in three weeks. And he qualified something like sixth last week. Basically Nichols’ range is anywhere from fifth to DNQ.
18. 519 Joshua Cartwright; Tallahassee, FL; Yamaha YZ250F – Saw this on Josh’s Instagram: “Well, my dream came true tonight!! Made the man in a Supercross in the 250 class!! The best feeling in the world! Nothing can explain the emotions that I had at that moment. My whole life everyone said, it's impossible to go to school and do well in the sport. Well, it's possible, and I'm telling everyone, it can be done and to not give up on your dreams!” Cartwright is a full time college student. Even this crusty, jaded media guy thinks this is cool.
19. 79 Jace Owen; Mattoon, IL; Honda CRF250R
20. 393 Daniel Herrlein; Bethesda, OH; Honda CRF250R
21. 240 Bryce Stewart; Canyon Lake, CA; Yamaha YZ250F
22. 88 Dakota Alix; Jay, VT; KTM 250 SX-F – Former factory mechanic James Coy is running the KTM pro support team with Alix on it. Yes, KTM is going to take over the world.
1. 5 Ryan Dungey; Tallahassee, FL; KTM 450 SX-F
2. 3 Eli Tomac; Cortez, CO; Honda CRF450R – Good for Eli to get back on the podium after a few weeks of crashes. It’s got to be a relief for him and the team.
3. 41 Trey Canard; Edmond, OK; Honda CRF450R – TV didn’t catch it, and no one I spoke to knows where Trey went off the track, but he did late in the race and allowed Tomac by him. Until then, the two Honda guys were pushing it. It was a race within a race, and it was awesome to watch. And, by the way, Canard had the fastest lap of the race for the second week in a row.
4. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RM-Z450
5. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Blake was talking to his coach Rick Johnson after the race when I caught up to him for an interview. And then RJ saw me and said, “Hey Matthes” or something like that. If you had told Steve Matthes in 1989 that Rick Johnson would know who he is and actually initiate a conversation with him, he would have called the cops on you. Baggett killed it again and is really riding well this year. Nice job by Mike Webb to pick him up.
6. 33 Joshua Grant; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Another solid ride from Grant, and although he benefitted from riders in front of him going down (Anderson, Peick, and Roczen), you’ve got to be there to be there, you know? (That phrase copyright Steve Matthes, by the way.) Reed mentioned to me that he’s pumped by the way Grant rode in the race and the way Grant was able to keep Chad behind him. I mentioned that he was probably on it because he didn’t want his owner to send him over a berm again, but Reed didn’t think that was funny.
7. 22 Chad Reed; Dade City, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F – Reed had another podium in the bag and maybe even a win before he washed his front end out early in the main. When Reed gets out front early in practice, he sets a good time. When he doesn’t do that, he isn’t able to get up high. Maybe it’s just me, but if I were the #22, I’d keep getting out early each week.
8. 94 Ken Roczen; Clermont, FL; Suzuki RM-Z450 – One thing that struck me as odd was, after the race, when the pits were mostly empty there was still a ton of people around the RCH rig. Not sure if it was for Roczen or maybe free Jimmy John’s, but it looked out of place.
9. 21 Jason Anderson; Edgewood, NM; Husqvarna FC450 – Anderson lost control over a double, missed his brake, and then t-boned Peick. They both fell over and held up Roczen. It was comedy for sure, but the good news is that his top-ten streak held up. He was eleventh with two laps to go and got both Peick and Millsaps late in the race.
10. 23 Weston Peick; Menifee, CA; Yamaha YZ450F – Peick led five laps. Peick passed Chad Reed by scrubbing and giving him a look. Peick also sported a fake mullet for track walk. There’s apparently nothing Weston Peick cannot do.
11. 18 David Millsaps; Murrieta, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Millsaps is finally cleared of his mystery illness that we can’t talk about, and is looking to get better each week from here. He’s behind the eight ball a bit to catch up to the rest of the riders, but hopefully we’ll see him closer to the 2013 Millsaps soon.
12. 14 Cole Seely; Laguna Beach, CA; Honda CRF450R – Cole qualified well, and I thought he was going to have a good night with the technical track. Unfortunately he got a crappy start and also crashed along the way.
13. 75 Joshua Hill; Yoncalla, OR; Yamaha YZ450F
14. 800 Mike Alessi; Hilliard, FL; Suzuki RM-Z450
15. 29 Andrew Short; Smithville, TX; KTM 450 SX-F – Shorty and his wife got food poisoning from some bad salmon earlier in the week and he was struggling in Atlanta big time. Luckily for my fantasy moto picks and me, he told me this before the night show and I was able to move him down. Hey man, I’m an insider. Of course he crashed on the first lap and had to come back from last the night he was sick, right?
16. 27 Nicholas Wey; Dewitt, MI; Kawasaki KX 450F – A few weeks ago I was called to talk about Wey for an upcoming feature story about him and his career. Having been his mechanic in 2002, I have strong feelings for Wey and his family. So yeah, I’m biased, but he’s an asset to the sport and I’m glad he’s out there every Saturday even when he says or does weird OCD things.
17. 46 Phillip Nicoletti; Bethel, NY; Yamaha YZ450F – It’s simply amazing each week that Nicoletti qualifies so badly yet rides so well in the main events. Okay, maybe his result wasn’t so good (he crashed), but he qualified twenty-second. The last two weeks he qualified twenty-first, and almost finished in the top ten in the mains.
18. 11 Kyle Chisholm; Valrico, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F – Chisholm had a run in with Alessi early in the main that didn’t make him too happy. And it didn’t make his wife Britney happy either, as she took to Twitter after the race to tell Mike and all his followers about it. Got to love social media, right?
19. 53 Jimmy Albertson; Shawnee, OK; Yamaha YZ450F – Jimmy and his brother Gregg are comedy every week. You just don’t know what they’re going to do or say, and this week it was Gregg telling me how great Crocs are and how I should really think about wearing some.
20. 12 Jacob Weimer; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – This just in: Weimer got a crappy start. Well, for him in 2015 it was an average start. He was working on getting up to the front when he crashed again.
21. 70 Nicholas Schmidt; Riverside, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Schmidt rode well to make the main, and once there he crashed early and had to fight back while being lapped, which is always really fun.
22. 199 Kyle Partridge; Lake Elsinore, CA; Honda CRF450R – Partridge’s average lap time was about three seconds slower than the next-slowest guy in the main. He’s a good rider; maybe something happened to him or his bike, but he’s got more in him than just cruising around in mains.
Some other news and notes:
- Huge disappointment for 250SX privateer Mitchell Oldenburg, who has been a surprise this year. Riding for Jimmy Albertson’s Top Jimmy Racing program (Arma Energy), “Freckle” has been solid. He got really solid in Atlanta 2 when he qualified as the fastest rider in the first seeded practice session. Unfortunately for him, the times didn’t count for qualifying, but that still had to give him a boost of confidence. He was ninth in the second session and still looking good when he knocked himself out cold in the whoops. That was it for him; he didn’t race that night. But man, what could have been for Oldenburg.
- I’m surprised that I didn’t see any bikes in the third practice sessions have anything fall off them. The opening round of the FIM World Championship in Qatar was going on in between the second and third practices and seemingly every team’s truck that had a TV had everyone huddled around it to watch Villopoto take on the world.
Thanks for reading folks. I appreciate it. No seriously, unlike Weege I do read your emails. And I like them all. Except for the people that call me fat and/or stupid. [Editor’s note: Those I would read—Weege.] Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat.