Welcome to Racerhead, Spring Break, Bike Week, Daytona Beach, and just a really busy week for everyone. Bike Week has long been a destination for the motorcycling masses of America, and this week will be no different—though they do expect less road racing activity at Daytona International Speedway, because next weekend’s 74th Daytona 200 will not be a part of the new Moto America road racing series. But the speedway itself is filling up as I write this from the media center with motocross families, supercross fans, and the entire paddock for Monster Energy Supercross. The series will pick up tomorrow night with its one and only infield race, and the one and only that’s not produced by the gang at Feld Motor Sports—enjoy your weekend off, Todd and Dave and Denny and everyone else who’s just worked ten hard weeks in a row!
But the riders do race, and the Daytona Supercross by Honda is usually the toughest supercross on the schedule. Ricky Carmichael designed the track, Don Flanor and his crew built it, and it looks downright rough already! I took a lap around on foot yesterday and you can check out the gallery here.
As you know, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey has himself up a head of steam, and as mentioned a couple of weeks ago here, he’s riding better than he ever has in supercross. Ironically, though, RD5 has never won here, and neither has a KTM—at least not in the premier class. His teammate Marvin Musquin is also on a roll, and he won here the last time he visited, in 2013. Having won two of three rounds to start the East Region, he’s as hot as Dungey is right now. Tomorrow night could be a good one for KTM.
Besides tomorrow night’s big race, there’s the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross Championship, which will take place on Sunday and Monday and is pretty much already completely full! Some of the best young talent in the country (as well as the first round of the revamped WMX Series) will be racing on a tamed-down version of RC’s track. You can watch those finale motos stream live all day Monday on www.racertv.com
The reason we can’t show you Sunday’s race is because the RacerTV team will be live-streaming the opening round of the Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series, which takes place Sunday about 60 miles up the road in Palatka. With the weather being a bit iffy (at least for today), that could turn into quite the mudder.
Also, tonight marks the opening round of the National Endurocross Series, which will take place over closer to the actual beach, at the Ocean Center. Jason Weigandt will have more on that later. Right now I have to head out to press day and snap some iPhotos since Simon is en route. Here’s the rest of Racerhead:
UPHILL BOTH WAYS (Steve Matthes)
I don’t want to come across as the cranky old guy on his porch telling you that I walked to school uphill both ways, but I want my old Daytona back. Daytona is a special race—there’s no doubt about it—but more and more it’s turning into a regular supercross. We’ve had some different incarnations of the event since 2003, which was the last time it was held during the day and featured a thirty-man main event.
Since then we’ve seen the race moved to Friday and back to Saturday and moved to the night time. The track started moving from its traditional layout and obstacles to a more uniform supercross when they changed builders in 2004, and I’m all for this. I thought some of the old obstacles were flat out dangerous as the track got rougher and rougher. It was a hybrid Daytona and that was fine.
But somewhere along the way it got shorter and shorter. The obstacles got even more cookie-cutter—now here we are. The "new" Daytona has lap times around a minute and the exact same format as a regular supercross. There’s plenty of good to come from the “new” Daytona, though, like better building of the obstacles and the fan turnout has been fantastic in the last few years. I’ll let you in on a little secret: not that many people went to the Daytona Supercross by Honda back when it was in the middle of the day and roadracing was still huge. So obstacles better? Check. Fan turn out better? Check.
But let’s not take the “Daytona” out of Daytona, people! I know a lot of what troubles me was done for a shorter show that can fit into a TV block and that’s fine, but let’s keep some old-school things still alive and one of those is Daytona.
One of the better Daytona’s I’ve ever seen was in 2005 when Chad Reed hunted Ricky Carmichael down and took the win. Then again I was on Team Yamaha back then, and I suppose that makes me biased. Anyways, a few years ago I sat down with Chad and we did a PulpMX Classic Commentary from this race. Listen in as Chad takes you through the main event lap by lap. Just scroll down and find Daytona, click and enjoy!
THE NUMBER: 17 (Andras Hegyi)
With his seventeenth 450SX win, Ryan Dungey has caught Jeff Stanton and Mark Barnett on the all-time-wins list. Dungey debuted in 450SX in 2008 (part-time) and he’s been a permanent rider since 2010. Last Saturday Dungey got his seventeenth win in his ninety-second race. Barnett, the 1981 AMA Supercross Champion, raced in eight seasons and ninety-one races between 1978 and '85, all in the premier class. Barnett got his last seventeenth win in 1985 in Atlanta, which was his eighty-sixth race. Three-time SX Champion Stanton raced in eight seasons and 113 races between 1987 and '94. Stanton got his seventeenth win in his penultimate season in 1993, in what was his ninety-ninth race.
PRO PERSPECTIVE (David Pingree and Jason Thomas)
PING: Daytona is a weird animal. I raced it a few different times and there is no other event quite like it. It used to be during the day and the lap times were a bit longer than they are now, which made for an incredibly physical race. Now its closer to one minute laps and it runs under the lights when the temps drop down a bit. Still, the course gets chewed up and rutted and there isn’t any flow to it whatsoever. Your supercross suspension is too stiff and outdoor suspension is too soft so you have to find a happy medium that doesn’t break your wrists if you case a jump and doesn’t swap you off when you race into some choppy bumps. It comes at a time in the season when the pecking order is really starting to get set in place. Daytona is one of the most prestigious races of the year so there is extra incentive to perform. The start used to be very strange; it was built right on the grass so you had deep sand ruts in each gate. Some riders filled them in with chunks of sod and others packed the sand down the best they could. It was always brutal and strange and fun and this weekend will be no different.
JT: Daytona is far and away the most unique race of the year. It's held at a motor speedway, longer than the typical course, rougher than the typical course, and has softer soil than the typical course. The bike setup will be significantly different than normal and riders have likely been testing on a different style of track all week. For the most part, I think most riders look forward to Daytona. Whether it's the atmosphere, being close to their Florida practice tracks, or simply changing it up from the standard supercross, most enjoy coming to the sunshine state.
I think the race has lost a touch of prestige in recent years as Bike Week has suffered from a down economy, but it's still a big deal. I know that the Honda riders feel a little touch of extra pressure to perform here as the Honda big wigs will be out in full force, being the title sponsor for the event. In any case, though, there is just something special about racing at the famous Daytona International Speedway. Blitzing whoops right alongside the pavement where the Daytona 500 was just run two short weeks ago is a very cool feeling. There's a history of racing at every turn in this building, and for the winners, their names go among that select few of Daytona champions. Ask any of the old guard, such as Jeremy McGrath or Ricky Carmichael, and they will tell you just how important Daytona is. It's as different as it is special. There is no race like it.
SOCIAL STATS (Chase Stallo)
Hookit—a company that "supports and connects athletes, brands and sports through the 'Internet,'” aka your computer, phone, apps, and sites you use every day—has released its social-media report after nine rounds of Monster Energy Supercross. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Suzuki’s Ken Roczen comes in at #1, generating 2.7 million interactions across Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, who has seen a huge increase in social media this year, is second with 997.4K interactions. And living legend Chad Reed, who likes to stir the pot on social media, is third with 800.7K.
One of the more interesting finds is Arma Energy Racing’s Jimmy Albertson, the only non-factory rider inside the top ten, just beating out BTOSports.com KTM’s Andrew Short for ninth.
Check out the entire top ten below.
THE NUMBER: 6 (Andras Hegyi)
At the second Atlanta SX, Marvin Musquin, the two-time MX2 World Champion, earned his sixth 250SX main-event win. The French rider is now the most successful KTM rider ever in small-bore SX. KTM has had nine winners in 250SX: Ken Roczen, Nathan Ramsey, Jason Anderson, Marvin Musquin, Joshua Hansen, Jessy Nelson, Brock Sellards, David Pingree, and Grant Langston—the first SX winner ever for KTM. For a long time, Ramsey was the record holder with five wins, but the German prodigy Roczen caught him in 2013, then moved right up to the 450 Class. Last season Musquin didn't even race SX because he was injured, but this year Marvin is on a roll.
OFF-ROAD OPENERS (Jason Weigandt)
Ricky Carmichael once said of supercross that the series doesn't begin until Daytona (although I would like to point out that RC had the points lead before Daytona in four of his five championship seasons). He definitely made good use of the races before Daytona, but March, and Daytona Bike Week, really does kick off a lot of series, like the road racing set which will begin their year with next weekend's Daytona 200 (though not a Moto America race, for reasons too far off our radar to even try to go into). Bike Week is a start for most off-roaders, too. While the AMA National Enduro Series has been running for a few weeks, Bike Week will host the traditional opener of the Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series on Sunday, and in a new twist, the GEICO EnduroCross Series tonight, so if you’re in town for SX or GNCC, get over to the Ocean Center if you’re in town.
This new race marks the start of a new era in more ways than one, as five-time EnduroCross Champion Taddy Blazusiak will not compete. Seven years of transatlantic travel have left the Polish rider a little burned out, so he'll stay in Europe exclusively this year. Cody Webb just edged Taddy for last year's title, so he can at least say he got one before the king left the building. Webb, who has switched from a Beta (yes) to a KTM this year, is the new man to beat, but expect Husqvarna's Colton Haaker to fight him for it. These two spent years as the upcoming stars of the sport, and their time is now. You also have Mike Brown (the same old Mike Brown) still in the mix, and KTM's Taylor Robert will be a contender in a few weeks--but right now he's out with a wrist injury. Go to www.endurocross.com for more.
In the Amsoil GNCC Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship, KTM's Kailub Russell is trying to build a dynasty. Last year Russell became the first rider since David Knight in 2007-2008 to successfully defend a GNCC #1, he was the top American at last year's ISDE, and now he's winning AMA National Enduros too. For good measure, he beat most of the GNCC big hitters at the Full Gas Sprint Enduro two weeks ago. He's absolutely at the top of the game right now...but fame can be fleeting. We all know how quickly things can change in motorcycle racing.
Russell's teammate Charlie Mullins is normally his biggest threat, but Mullins broke both wrists practicing last year and still isn't 100 percent. He'll sit out the opener. With Mullins out, look to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Josh Strang to push Russell this year, as well as N-Fab Am/Pro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn and rookie Grant Baylor. And in both EnduroCross and GNCC, look for the conditions to matter too. GNCC has set up stakes in Florida for decades, but this is Moose Racing Wild Boar GNCC is an all-new track and venue in Palatka, about an hour north of Daytona. So, these are brand new tracks for both series, and you never know what you're going to get. You can watch all the GNCC stuff live on www.racertv.com on Sunday starting at 1 p.m., or, get you and your bike down there and enjoy some fun in the sunshine. The series really does start here.
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? (Matthes)
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey has never won Daytona. Weird, right? Yeah, he hasn’t, and it seems amazing as this is a track that appears to be right in his wheelhouse. In talking to some KTM people, I know that the all-new KTM 450SXF is something that he’s really getting into. The bike is definitely better than the one he’s been on the last few years, and Dungey hasn’t been changing as many parts on it as usual. That’s a sure sign he’s comfortable.
We had Ryan on the PulpMX Show last Monday and he talked openly about his struggles at the MXdN the last couple of years and admitted that he was “out there” with his settings. He took the blame himself and pointed out that he led his team down that path. Ryan mentioned that it’s tough to go over there and set the bikes up with such little time before the race. If you want to hear more of Ryan talking about this stuff and more, go HERE to listen or get it from iTunes, PulpMX App, or Stitcher App.
EBAY BLOWOUT (Jordan Roberts)
Some of you may have seen our Instagram post earlier this week of Chad Reed on a two-stroke at Atlanta 2. We asked, “How many of you got to hear @crtwotwo’s KX250 during opening ceremonies?” Some of you were saying part of that question was incorrect, and it was, but not the reason you were calling us out for. The bike is in fact an ’05 KX250—not the KX125 seen in Reed’s social posts the week prior—but it doesn’t belong to Reed. The bike belongs to Tennessee’s Cameron Stone, a privateer that has been garnering some recent unwanted attention.
After TwoTwo Motorsports slapped some graphics, Pro Circuit exhaust, and some spoke lights on the KX, Reed rolled it out in front of the fans in Atlanta and back to the rig in brief time. Stone then loaded his KX up and left the Georgia Dome without ever directly speaking to Reed.
Stone put the bike, along with Reed’s signed gear, up for auction on eBay with a Buy It Now price of $8,000 early this week, saying that a percentage of the sales would go to St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Reed was quick to take to social media and condemn the auction as a way to profit off of his name, and it was a classic case of he said, he said that lit up social media along the way. The social media posts weren’t the only things blown out of proportion—the price of the 2005 KX250 is now very overinflated. By how much, you ask? The current bid is over $200,000! We’re guessing Stone is going to have a tough time getting in touch with the winning bidder.
Reed feels Stone is taking advantage of his name for profit, Stone feels that he’s been shuffled around in the worst game of telephone ever, but who’s the real loser? The patients of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. It’s very unfortunate that terrible lines of communication got in the way of helping children in need, but it’s not too late to hlep.
Pro Edge Motosports are holding their 4th Annual St. Jude Benefit ride this Sunday in Calhoun, Georgia, with the help of event promoter Darrel Lynn, Cameron Stone, and plenty of other local riders. They’ve auctioned off gear donated by Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard, Malcolm Stewart, and many more to raise $30,000 through the first three events. Can’t make it out but would still like to donate? Visit http://fundraising.stjude.org/proedge to help those in need. You may not have $200k to dish out, but every cent helps.
LOST IN QATAR (Andras Hegyi)
In between all of the hoopla about Ryan Villopoto's arrival (and subsequent disappointment) was the actual Grand Prix of Qatar at Losail. The MXGP class was dominated by the German veteran Max Nagl, who was making his debut on a Husqvarna with Formula One star Kimi Raikkönen's team, IceOne Racing. Nagl gave the team its first win in the FIM World Motocross Championship. The Finnish legend Raikkönen's team has existed since 2011; Kimi Raikkönen was Formula One world champion in 2007.
Also, the KTM-owned Husqvarna earned its first victory in the modern history of the premier class, thanks to Nagl. From 2003, in what was called the MX1 category, Husqvarna couldn't get any GP wins in the premier category. The last time Husqvarna could win in the premier class was in 1984. Thirty-one years ago, Husky won in the 250 category (predecessor of the actual MXGP category). Prior to Max Nagl, the last Husqvarna winner in premier class was the Belgian rider Jo Martens, who won the GP of Yugoslavia at Orehova Vas on in 1984!
Nagl was also able to win with his third brand. The former world runner-up has won with KTM and Honda and now with Husqvarna. This was his sixth GP win, and his fourth double-moto sweep.
And then there's Jeffrey Herlings. The 21-year-old Dutchman now has forty-four Grand Prix wins. If he can continue his winning style, he can catch two of the Belgian legends, Joel Robert and Joel Smets, on the all-time list before he turns 22! Robert has fifty total wins, Smets has fifty-seven. Already the most successful Dutch motocrosser ever, Qatar was his thirty-fifth double-moto sweep. Herlings has won in six consecutive seasons. Since 2010 he could win in every season.
THE GREAT AUSTRALIAN BIKE (David Langran)
Riding a bicycle around Australia in the heat of summer might seem like a crazy idea, but that is exactly what my friend Maddison Spence is doing at the moment in the name of charity. A few years ago, "Mad Dog" started on a list of things he wanted to accomplish in ten years. Three of those were to travel around Australia, ride a bicycle from Brisbane to Melbourne, and donate to charity—so he decided to do all three at once!
As you can imagine, this is no easy task. Maddison is completely solo on this journey, with no assistance at all along the way. He is funding the trip himself so 100 percent of the proceeds go to his charity of choice, which is Huntingtons NSW, a charity that seeks to improve the lives of people affected by Huntington's disease.
If you'd like to follow Maddison's adventures, look him up on Instagram @thegreataustralianbike or Facebook and if you would like to donate please go here—$13,500 of the $20,000 goal has already been met, and every little bit helps.
PULPMX LINKS, BRO (Matthes)
I don’t know why I decided this was a good idea with my busy in-season schedule but I’m starting to rebuild a 1988 YZ 250 here.
Tony Blazier profiled the massively improved 1996 YZ 125 here.
David Vuillemin had a lot to say about RV’s GP debut here.
Swizcore thinks Weston Peick should be president and I have to say, I can’t argue with that idea here.
HEADLINE OF THE WEEK
HEY, WATCH IT!
It's not Bike Week weather in Michigan, but they have their own kind of Spring Break up there—check it out here.
Scott and Matrix Concepts are sponsoring the Daytona round of Racer X MotoDynasty Fantasy Supercross and will be giving out prizes to the winners of the 250 class and 450 class. Click here for a chance to win.
With all the NASCAR-to-supercross crossover on Atlanta weekend, it was inevitable that USA Today would put together this profile on the JGRMX team.
Visit www.rickycarmichaeluniversity.com to learn more and sign up for #CARMICHAELFARM. Learn 1-1 with the GOAT Ricky Carmichael and his original trainer, Jeannie Carmichael. Spots are limited and the camps are right around the corner so don’t delay.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races—all of these races!