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I’m fortunate that you people have somehow liked what I’ve been doing at the races. I get a lot of emails/Tweets about wanting to become a moto media guy like myself. I suppose when you look at me or meet me you people begin to realize how unqualified you can be (“What? I can wear cargos and flip-flops to my job? I’m in!”) to have a cool job like mine, so you ask how you can replace me. Or I’ve gotten the “Can I shadow you at the races” a time or dozen as well.
With the races being a little “eeeeehh” (trademark, Steve Matthes) lately (don’t worry, I’ll have the results and some thoughts later in the week), I thought I’d take you through a weekend at the races. So here it is, in all its glory, the people I talked to, where I went, what I ate, and after this, maybe you’ll realize you don’t want my job that badly. Or maybe you will and Davey Coombs will fire me and hire you ASAP.
We’ll start with the flight into Indianapolis. I land around 3:30 p.m. Friday. Kenny Adams, the Rockstar/Dragon goggles/Arioh helmet guy (having multiple jobs is very natural in this industry) was on my flight, and after we both tell stories about how terrible United Airlines is to us, he asks me for a ride to his hotel downtown. Kenny was going to take a cab, but I have a rental car and am happy to help him out. Of course, to make him feel at home with United, I proceed to wait thirty minutes to get the car, get lost, make him sit in the back, and generally treat him like crap. #weareUnited
Next I drop Kenny off (he reminds me of Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High, which makes me laugh) and head to the Westin, which I find out is like three blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium. Good planning on the rental car, Steve! Bye, bye, rental car money!
My buddy Jason Thomas checks in with me to see if I want to go to dinner with Chad Reed and his team because it’s Chad’s birthday. Normally I’d go, but the thought of the entire Team TwoTwo staff at dinner with me and three hours for a meal (“Table for twenty-two on a Friday night, please!”) doesn’t sound that cool. With a nice steakhouse in my hotel, I text Nick Wey, who is down with a smaller party of him and I, so I go downstairs, grab a table, and wait for Nick and (I assume) Big Nasty, his mechanic, to join me.
Wey shows up instead with his dad Terry. T-Wey is about the coolest moto dad in the pits. No, wait. he is the coolest moto dad in the pits. With this being Wey’s last year racing, his dad is trying to make it to as many races as he can to help his kid out. Both of them go out together, which is awesome. If you know Wey and his family, you know this is just perfect. The dinner has good talk and lots of story telling, and I even pick up the tab. Hey, it’s the least I can do for all the bonus money Wey paid me in 2002 when I was his mechanic. Seriously, he killed it that year and I made some good cash.
I wake up around 8 a.m., shower, grab some Starbucks from the lobby (rule #1 on race day is Starbucks or some sort of coffee ASAP, so having a place in the lobby is pretty much the best thing ever), and walk to the stadium. I do some side work for EKS Brand goggles, so I have to drop goggles off first thing to all the riders.
First stop is the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha truck, where I talk to owner Chris about their week and see Luke Renzland there. Luke is there early, but hey, he’s a rookie. Give him about three years and he’ll get there five minutes before track walk like the vets.
Next up I stop at the RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki rig for Tickle’s goggles (he’s nowhere to be found of course) and talk to manager Kyle Bentley. We crack jokes about Kenny Watson and he notices I have dog hair on my Fly Racing hoodie. I try to not act shocked at this revelation.
I continue on my way to Wey’s (get it?) and build his goggles right there at the track because I didn’t get them back last week in Daytona. As this happens, Joey Savatgy walks past and yells “Pulpmx sucks,” to which I reply, “Just concentrate on your starts and not mocking me,” and he gives me the finger.
I go over and find Ben LaMay under an EZ-Up with his new Husky machine and give him some goggles. Ben tells me it’s hard to beat the Yamaha motor that he’s used to, but the new machine handles great and he’s making improvements on it each week. I make fun of Ben’s graphics that are straight out of 1990, which he had to improvise because his graphics company made a mistake on his side numbers.
After I finish delivering goggles, it’s time for the track walk with Wey. Or, as I like to call it, time for track talk. I don’t need to walk all the way around it—I’m not racing it—so my move is to drift around and look at different sections from the starting straight. This means that at some point all the riders and team people have to pass by me. It’s great bro-down time.
I break my rule a little bit by leaving Wey by himself. I feel bad so I go down the first couple of lanes with him. I run into John and Eli Tomac. John starts talking about jumping the quad after the finish line and Eli seems unsure. John and I say it’s no problem, and we’re surprised more riders aren’t quadding things this year. Hey man, we’re not actually on the bike so it seems doable! John and I both come to the conclusion that with no Stewie racing the riders haven’t jumped some things because they don’t have to jump things. Much safer that way, right?
Davi Millsaps walks down a jump, and with his foot and knee problems from racing over the years, he looks a little goofy doing it. I ask him if he needs a rocking chair brought over to him. Yep, I just can’t figure out why he doesn’t like me.
At some point I wander over to the section along the other side of the start, and Jimmy Albertson starts making fun of me for looking lost and seemingly looking for friends. Notice a theme here? I talk to Jimmy for a bit to make it seem like that’s what I walked over there for (it wasn’t) and then make fun of his American flag cowboy boots.
I find my “home” on top of the little tabletop before the finish as the riders’ meeting start. Jake Weimer is sitting on a Tuff Block, looking a little bit like a homeless person. Weston Peick walks by and asks me who pays me to come to the races. He’s very concerned that somebody actually wants me to be at the races. Weimer agrees with him, and they want to know how I make a living. I think they are mocking me. No, I KNOW they are mocking me.
I tell Weimer he’s killing me in fantasy moto and he says that he’s ruining his own friendships because of fantasy moto. We agree that he needs to stop crashing and stalling.
Reed comes over and sits down next to Weimer. I ask him why he’s crashing so much and repeat to him that he’s also killing me in fantasy moto. As always, folks, it comes down to my need for these riders to do well. We talk about my Strava times (#stravasteve is catching on!), heart rate monitors, my heart rate, slowing the tracks down, how dumb walls on a track are, and whether or not riders can triple onto the landing we’re sitting at. Reed and Weimer both laugh at me and say no way and they don’t even need to.
Michael Byrne strolls up and laughs at me when I tell him the same thing about tripling. I drop the “Stew would do it” and they laugh some more but also agree with me (#freestew). Reed points out that you could come up short or eat dirt with that lip. I’m not concerned with this, and just keep repeating, “Stew would do it.”
After the meeting, I pass Trey Canard walking out by himself and we exchange hellos. He informs me that Tim Ferry is not here and I act like I’m surprised by this news, but I already know that from texting Timmy yesterday. Max the Fly guy is also not here, and neither is Honda manager Dan Betley, who’s sick. So a guy named Gothic Jay will manage Honda for the day.
Next I head up to the press box to get situated and ready to watch practice. I find a seat up there and talk to Shannon Cudby, whose father Simon pushes a button for a living. She’s super cool, and like the Wey’s, it’s nice to see parents and kids get along like actual buddies. I shudder to think about what Shannon thinks about us dirtballs that cover the series.
Monster Tom, the Monster Kawasaki PR man, is sitting with Denny Hartwig, the PR guy from Feld Motor Sports, and Tom and I talk about the Dodgers and their ridiculous TV deal in SoCal. Tom’s a huge Dodger fan and can’t watch their games. This doesn’t make him very happy, and it seems he’s written a lot of letters about this.
Chase Stallo from Racer X came up, and per my text to him earlier, brought me a bottle of water he had to actually buy at the concessions. No Weigandt (thank god) this weekend, so Chaser and I were Racer X this weekend in terms of coverage. Chase also bought some popcorn, and when he went to the bathroom, I helped myself to gigantic handfuls of it.
Jason Thomas wanders over from his end of the press box to chat and the bikes fire up and hit the track. The unseeded 250s are always first up and they’re always the scariest. Vicki Golden is in this group, but she looks much improved from that first week in Dallas.
The seeded 250 guys go out next, and all three of us remark about how fast Mitchell Oldenburg is going. Right about then he goes down hard in the whoops. Oops, our bad. Oldenburg’s hit the deck a few times, but he’s definitely a surprise in terms of raw speed each week.
Late in the seeded 450 practice Oldenburg’s team owner Jimmy Albertson also has a pretty good crash; he does a superman through the air and tumbles the ground. He doesn’t move right away, and all I can think of is that my last words to Jimmy could possibly be about his stupid boots.
Jimmy moves his legs. Whew! I tweet out that the red flag is out for Albertson while the medics tend to him. Thirty seconds later my phone rings and it’s Georgia Lindsey, Jimmy’s wife. I’ve had this happen to me more than a few times. The wives and girlfriends can’t get ahold of anyone on the team, so they call us, the guys just sitting there watching, whose phones are six inches away. It’s not fun explaining to a spouse what’s going on, but you try to do your best.
I tell Georgia that they’re working on his shoulder and she says, “Yeah, he’s going to need to have surgery on those things.” Then she calls Jimmy “a bugger” (Oh, the English and their harsh words!) and thanks me, and I hang up.
Two sets of practices go by and no one jumps any quads that John Tomac and I were discussing, and no one triples in before the finish. Maybe I should put my second career as a riding coach on hold.
There’s a short break between the second and third set of practices, so I head down to the pits.
Well, wait. Chase and I head down to the concessions to grab something to eat first. Chase goes with chicken burger and I decide on the chicken tender basket. I’m quite surprised with the quality of it. Good job, Lucas Oil Stadium!
Okay, to the pits! First rig I see is Kyle Chisholm’s, and I go into the motorhome. His wife Britney is sick and lying on the couch. Even though she is ill, she still seems her usual amped-up self. Kyle and I talk about the rhythm section where some guys are going 3-3-4 (over the tabletop), and Chiz says going 2-3-3 is easy and allows you to stay lower. We agree that any mistake going three out of the turn is going to negate any time saved, and if you can double into the rhythm for twenty laps, better to be safe and easy.
I wander over to Albertson’s pits, and there he is in a sling taking photos with some fans. What a trooper. He confirms to me that he’s going to need surgery to both shoulder labrums, which sucks. We both make a way-too-inappropriate-joke for this website. I go in and talk to Oldenburg a bit about his riding and we discuss going to Canada for the nationals if he doesn’t get the support down in the USA he needs.
I go over to Wey’s pit, and he’s signing autographs for the fans. Nice to see people still want to line up for The NYK. I meet some fans of the Pulpmx Show who tell me that Adam Enticknap told them that they are Adam’s new best friends in the world. Welcome to the world of the 7-Deuce-Deuce, people. I take a couple of photos with fans and sign an autograph to which Wey mocks me for very loudly.
I head to the the Monster Kawasaki rig next, and myself, Mike Williamson, Theo Lockwood, and Kurt Rood all talk about the practice incidents with Jason Anderson and Blake Baggett. The teams aren’t much different from you people—they do like the drama. I remember when I was a mechanic and we would have all these fans around the tent. They probably thought I was in deep discussion with my fellow wrenches on the bike set-up when we were actually probably talking about where we going to go for dinner after the race.
The team all talks about another prominent team in the pits and we all have a laugh at something they did. This is also a recurring theme throughout the day in all the different pits I visit. Again, it’s like you at work in Bob’s cubicle talking crap on Eddie, who’s four cubicles over. There’s just a semi-truck behind you instead of a stapler.
I go into the truck and make myself a coffee. (I really started hanging out with the Kawi guys in 2007 when Ferry started riding for them, and even though he’s long gone I’m like some sort of germ you can’t shake. Seriously, if Kawi ever billed me for the coffee I get from them, I would have to sell my house to pay them off.) There’s some pizza there. I take a look and realize that in my #stravasteve state, I shouldn’t eat it. It also looks to be about four days old.
I make it back up to the press box for the last set of practices. Thomas wanders over again, and we watch the guys lay down some laps. In the 450 seeded practices, JT picks out Seely about a quarter-lap in and says he’ll be good. And bingo, bango, Seely crosses the line and sits atop the timing. Nice work, JT.
About two minutes later I see Eli Tomac rip through a turn and, like Seely, jump this small triple after the finish. I tell JT to watch Tomac, and even though Eli dabs a bit in a turn, his lap is now the fastest. It’s a real cat and mouse game out there at times.
JT informs me that he just got back from watching some video with Reed and Byrne in the truck. They were laughing and calling me an idiot for thinking someone was going to triple.
The third set of practices is now over, so I head back down to the pits before the real show starts tonight. I get over to the Yoshimura Suzuki rig to interview manager Mike Webb for Racer X Online. Mike’s a great guy and I refrain from asking him about Matt LeBlanc. After he graciously gives me seven minutes of his time, I walk by the RCH rig where general manager Kenny Watson is talking on the mic to fans. He sees me and announces that everyone should listen to Pulpmx Show because it’s “the best show out there, bro.” Thanks, Kenny!
I head on over to the JGR Yamaha rig to check on those guys. I can’t find Peick anywhere, but I do see owner Coy Gibbs in the lounge with Peick’s coach Buddy Antunez. He’s not playing video games, which is a shock (Gibbs claims he hasn’t played video games in the lounge all year—must be serious over there!) but he does find time to ask me whether or not I have a journalism degree yet.
I move to the back where John the truck driver is cooking up some delicious looking steaks. I run into Filthy Phil and Dave Castillo of Asterisk talking it out. Phil isn’t happy to see me, but Dave seems to be. We chat about the track and Alex Martin, and then head back inside the truck where Phil grabs a piece of cake. I snap a photo of him and put in on Instagram, which doesn’t seem to help our relationship. Again, I can’t figure out why these guys aren’t my friends. I grab a banana (seriously!) and a small Snickers bar out of the freezer (I know Coy loves these things, so a small part of me is happy that he now has one less in there, and I hope he finds out I ate it) and leave.
Over to Honda, and I get the scoop on my buddy Gothic Jay running factory Honda today in Betley’s absence. I get a mutual friend’s number from Jay. Then I watch Jay, Brian Krantz, and another guy put gas in Eli Tomac’s CRF450R. A joke runs through my head about light bulbs, but I keep it to myself.
Stop by the Racer X booth where Holly is working hard pushing subscriptions on people. I meet a reader there who works for Sram shifters in Indiana (bicycle stuff). He says he can hook me up if I ever need something. Making contacts, bro.
Over to the BTOSports.com KTM truck, where I talk to Nate, Short’s mechanic, about air shocks. I ask him if he needs any help tuning and he says no. I ask a lot of mechanics each week if they need help and every single one of them declines the offer. I talk to Shorty’s trainer Seiji about my Strava times and mountain bike rides. He offers me some good advice, but unfortunately none of the advice is “stop riding your bicycle.”
Short comes over to join us. He’s holding a cup of coffee and talking about how gnarly the track is. This is a recurring theme with Andrew each week. Former-pro-rider-turned-KTM-crew-member Ryan Morais comes by (Short’s brother in-law, by the way), and I crowbar a reference into me working for Morais at the Mini Os in 1999, and getting royally screwed out of the Golden Wrench. Morais and I dispute some of Ryan’s results that week.
Morais goes on to say he’ll be testing for factory KTM this week and was a bit sketched out to jump this triple at the test track last week. I started going to the races before Ryan was even off 80s; then I worked for him for a race, had an entire pro career go by, retired, and he’s now working for KTM. And I’m still at the races. I’m going to go jump in front of a train now.
Depressed, I walk back to Kawi as the riders start getting ready for opening ceremonies. Thomas texts me to bring him a coffee, and shockingly, that was what I was going to do over at the green team, so it works out nice.
Two cups of coffee, some more laughs, and one Cliff bar later (I can’t believe these guys put up with me), I leave to walk up to the press box as the night show starts. I make eye contact with Mitch Payton over at Pro Circuit and we talk a little bit about Arnaud Tonus and his issues. Doesn’t sound like the Swiss man will be back next week either, which is a blow to PC. I always have time for Payton and love to talk to him, but I’m shocked he doesn’t mention anything about my cone pipe for my 1988 YZ250 I’m building. Can’t believe this isn’t on the top of his to-do list.
I make it to the press box and settle in for the night’s action.
After the race, I head down the pits to collect some goggles and talk to the riders and teams about the night. The results of my foray can be found right here on Racer X or over on Pulpmx.
I talk to Vince Friese about his night but decide to not record it because I don’t want to cause any issues with his team. It’s obvious Vince is in pain and struggling from a practice crash, but he still gutted out a decent finish. It’s this kind of stuff that people don’t see. Marvin Musquin is hanging out and will talk to anyone at anytime and being really nice while doing it. Peick seems angry as usual. When I ask him about how big of a deal it is to win a 450 heat race, he says to me, “What, you want me to cry or something?”
I want to talk to Dungey about his win, but he’s nowhere to be found and neither is Trey Canard. Turns out both riders were selected for post-race pee tests by WADA. I decide to wait for Trey in the Honda truck, and Kari (Trey’s mom) and brother are in the lounge with Gothic Jay. We wait some more. And some more again. Eventually I grab a Cliff bar, and Jay and I exchange factory Yamaha stories.
Finally Trey comes back and changes—it’s past 11:30—and he gives me an interview. There’s barely anyone in the pits at this point, and I have to walk back to the hotel.
When I checked in Friday I noticed a guy dressed like a Mario brother but just figured I was on some mushrooms from the game Mario Brothers. Later I saw on the news there was a Comic-Con in town so it was a Mario brother. Anyway, as I’m walking back to the hotel I see two guys dressed as Vikings (I think), and one of them is waving his sword at some trash on the ground. As I walk by the one Viking says to the other one, “Dude, we have to get come chicks and score,” which tops the weekend for me. While I can’t say for sure whether or not these guys “scored,” I have to think they ended up at Steak N Shake alone with some patty melts and their swords.
Back up at my room, I edit and upload all the post-race interviews and call in a night just before 1:00 a.m. All in all it ends up being a sixteen-hour day for me.
There you have it—a day at the races. Still want the gig? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this column or anything else.