Well, that was one way to start off the season! That may have been the most eventful opening night ever. There were so many subjects I could talk about from the weekend, but the Friese/Peick incident sure is stealing a lot of the attention. To truly understand what went on Saturday night, though, you need to turn back the clock a bit.
For anyone around the racing scene for a while, Vince Friese riding aggressively is not news. I, myself, got involved in more than one fracas with Vince during my racing days so I know firsthand. I always considered it a difference of perspective, really. Each time, Vince seemed to think there wasn’t anything over the top about his riding tactics, while I was absolutely certain that it was way over the line. That difference of opinion resulted in…let’s just say that some harsh words were thrown around at times.
It wasn’t just me, however.
There was an incident with Jake Weimer at Lakewood in 2010 that caused headlines and message board chaos. There was another incident at Glen Helen’s two-stroke national between Vince and Michael Leib’s crew which turned a bit nastier than most. Vince took out Bobby Kiniry at Seattle the weekend after an altercation he just had with Matt Boni in Dallas, resulting in Vince being suspended from the Salt Lake round in 2012. The list goes on and on, but the guy who has probably had the most incidents with Vince is Weston Peick.
Back in 2012, they got into a wild altercation at the Washougal national. Both sides have their own version of what went down but there is no doubt they ended up rolling around in the dirt. They have had more run-ins during supercross events but they have usually been more of a hit-and-run variety. Anyone close to the situation knew the Weston and Vince situation was a ticking time bomb. That timer hit zero this weekend.
In the heat race, Vince grabbed a holeshot, which shouldn’t be a surprise as Vince is one of the best starters in the sport. Under heavy pressure from Eli Tomac and Dean Wilson, he was doing everything he could to hold them back. And I mean everything he could. Vince has a tendency to move over on people, another tactic that I have seen firsthand many times and it always infuriated me. I was watching him move back and forth across the track in an effort to block Tomac and Dean and I knew things were going to get interesting.
Riders don’t appreciate that move. In fact, cross jumping may be the most despised move out there. Hard block passes draw the eyes, but in a race, a cross jump that doesn’t even result in a crash can actually be scarier—there are incidents that riders remember that fans never notice. Dean went down trying to get around Vince and while it was partially Dean’s fault—he was definitely trying to move over because Vince was moving over on him—luckily he didn’t get hurt, but I’m sure Dean knew exactly what happened and I can bet wasn’t too pleased.
As Vince continued on, he was fighting to stay in the top four, a direct transfer spot. He was under heavy pressure by Weston and Chad Reed. As Weston tried to make a move around the outside of Vince (never a good idea) they ran out of real estate and Weston crashed spectacularly into the Tuff Blox. It was a racing incident, but when you have two riders who already hate each other, any unfortunate circumstance can light a match to the powder keg. I knew Weston wouldn’t see it as a racing incident at all and things were going to unravel quickly if they saw each other again that night.
As fate would have it, they landed in the same semi race and found themselves battling again. This time, Weston made the move around Friese cleanly and hoped to scamper away. Then Vince made an aggressive move in the second corner, sending both to the ground in a heap. Weston had seen enough. In a flurry of fisticuffs, Weston tested out Vince’s helmet composition with his left hand. He threw several punches, but as soon as the first punch was thrown, I knew that was the last we would see of Weston for the night, if not longer. Regardless of how fed up a rider is, throwing punches in the middle of the track will always result in heavy punishment. That’s just unavoidable. Vince, to his credit, never retaliated and found his way back onto the track. The most controversial few seconds in recent supercross history had taken place, and the riders weren’t even on their bikes!
We now know that Weston was fined and suspended. Vince wasn’t immediately penalized but has been suspended previously for incidents like this (the aforementioned Salt Lake City round of 2012). So, where do we go from here?
Based on my “discussions” with Vince in the past about these incidents, I don’t think he is going to ever change his racing ways. He just doesn’t agree with how people perceive his strategy—he doesn’t think he’s dirty. So, knowing that, I only see more altercations in the future.
As for Weston, he usually doesn’t give off the image that he is scared of another run-in. Unfortunately for both of them, they seem to gravitate toward each other. Vince is such a good starter and will race the 450 class full time this year. Weston has worked himself into being a podium contender, making their odds of intersecting very likely each Saturday.
Does anyone think that this is over between them? I would bet against that. I doubt they want to continue it, but the same circumstances that led to this still exist: neither of them is going to give an inch and a small misstep can instantly get messy with that much history.
One other aspect I want to address is the response of Friese’s team owner, Mike Genova, regarding the incident. Now, let me preface this by saying that I like Mike. I actually sat down with Mike and Vince Friese’s father, coincidentally enough, on Friday night before the Anaheim craziness. I know Mike’s heart is in the right place with this sport. He spends his own money with realistically no chance of ever recouping his investment. On a few points, though, we just disagree. Here’s what Mike had to say post race to Racer X’s Aaron Hansel, and I’ve included my opinions in bold.
Mike Genova: “It’s pretty cut and dry. Vince [Friese] was racing and racing hard, and didn’t intend to knock [Weston] Peick down. (I would probably disagree, but there’s no way to prove intent.) Both guys are hard chargers and have the same mindset, and it got tight and they crashed. But that kind of behavior is not acceptable, and not only does it blacken the eye of the sport, it jeopardizes Vince’s health. What would we be doing right now if he’d have hurt him? We have a lot of money invested in him and we care about him. (This is a fair point, he does have a lot of money tied up in this program and injuries can really ruin a team.) For obvious reasons, that’s not acceptable. Hopefully they’ll pass out due justice, and in our opinion it should be a multi-race suspension. I’ve never seen anything like it. (Maybe not on the track, but Vince did break the jaw of Michael Leib’s crew member at Glen Helen.)
I feel for the JGR guys, and I was talking to Jeremy Albrecht [JGR team manager] and I said I was sorry, but I was going to have to press the issue pretty hard. He was embarrassed and he said the whole thing was stupid. He was embarrassed and he should be, and Weston should be too. (I don’t think Weston is embarrassed and also Mike hasn’t been on the receiving end of Vince’s tactics so he can’t possibly understand the frustration. Having said that, punching people mid-race is never going to be the answer. No doubt, Weston is in the wrong here.) We’ve not seen anyone from their organization and apologize at all, and I would do that if the shoe was on the other foot. I’m assuming it’s going to be something Weston regrets if he doesn’t already. I’m extremely proud of Vince for being so classy and demonstrating so much self-control. Vince doesn’t take crap from anybody.” (I'm just going to bite my tongue on this point.)
Vince does have a bit of a reputation for riding rough. Was he too rough tonight, or was it just racing?
"Well everyone has a different opinion on that, and everyone says Vince has a reputation for that, but 70 percent of the guys in these pits have a reputation for that. (No idea where he grabbed that number from but I would disagree wholeheartedly.) That’s what it takes to compete at this level. Does Vince have a reputation any more than anyone else? I don’t know. (Mike, yes he does. Overwhelmingly yes. Ask around the pits at San Diego. You will get your answers very quickly.) But we’re not getting any heat from the AMA, and they don’t think we did anything wrong. He didn’t intentionally do that, he was just trying to get underneath Weston, and Weston could have backed off a little too. (I would argue there was some intent on Vince’s part, but again, I can’t completely prove that. Only Vince knows and he will never say. But from what I have seen over the last seven years and knowing the history between these two, I would say he had a plan of action.) If we’d have done anything wrong we’d be getting heat, but they’ve totally cleared us. Unfortunately, I’ve been told that the media guys all point the finger at Vince, and that he provoked it (agreed to an extent), but come on, we’ve all see the likes of Ricky Carmichael and Kevin Windham and guys like that do things, and it’s just called racing. (Mike, the fingers are pointed at Vince because of an accumulation of previous incidents; it’s not the same as one ram fest between KW and RC. Again, just like with the reputation debate, these incidents have added up over time.) If you dent the guy’s fender in NASCAR it doesn’t give him the right to T-bone you. Do we think Vince dented his fender? Yeah probably, but these things happen. There’s a lot going on in these races, and I find it comical that anyone would think it was an extreme, blatant, dirty move by Vince. (You must think I am a comedian then.) And Weston got nasty with Vince a few turns earlier, he whipped it in front of him over a triple. (I didn’t see that but whipping it over a triple doesn’t exactly get my blood boiling.) But of course nobody saw that. (Correct)
"I can tell you if it had been one of my guys who did that, I’d suspend him right away. If one of my guys demonstrated that kind of lack of self-control, discipline, class, and respect, he’d have a big problem and it would be from me. (Glen Helen with Leib?) So we’ll see what those guys do. (I highly doubt that Coy Gibbs or Jeremy Albrecht will make any decisions based off of your opinion.) I know Jeremy Albrecht was really embarrassed.”
So, as you can see, Mike has Vince’s back and I guess I would expect that. I disagree with his viewpoint but I have also disagreed with Mike on how the Alessi “lasergate” situation went down at Washougal in 2013. Everyone will have different opinions on all of this, and that’s great. Different perspectives are human nature and lead to a better understanding by everyone.
So, I ask, what say you?