Welcome to Racerhead, coming at the end of one of the craziest weeks I can remember. Part of that comes from the blast of snow that hit the entire Northeast/Mid-Atlantic region and pretty much turned our little college town into the world's biggest snowball fight/street course for snowboards/ATVs on High Street slalom course. Then there was the truly crazy story of privateer Michael Akaydin getting his one and only KTM stolen right out from under the stadium lights—and then with the help of social media and some very smart and dedicated strangers, he got the bike back and the man who stole it was arrested. All of this made Akaydin something of a moto media celebrity this week, and rightfully so. Our contributor Troy Bendgen tracked #918 down for an extended interview about the whole ordeal.
(The part I found most impressive about Akaydin is the fact that he has a mechanical engineering degree and an MBA from the University of Louisville.)
Beyond that, Ryan Dungey is starting to streak and Cooper Webb is full-on running off with the 250SX West Region lead, Chad Reed continues to defy conventional wisdom and Father Time (but that's no surprise), and Jake Weimer just got a nice upgrade from Team Tedder (where he scored two top-tens in three rounds) to the Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John's/RCH Racing Factory Suzuki team in place of the injured Broc Tickle. And GEICO Honda's Christian Craig earned his first professional podium last weekend at A2. In doing so, he and his father, Mike, became the only father-son combo to each have a podium in this class. (Donnie Hansen, Weimer's coach, has premier-class podiums and wins, while his son Josh had both in the 125/250 class.)
And now we move on to Oakland, where it's wet and misty today but supposed to clear up for the most part tomorrow. The track is under wraps, so we shouldn't be too worried about it just yet. As we saw at Anaheim 1, the Dirt Wurx crew knows exactly what they’re doing when it comes to keeping a track as dry as possible. If the rains hold up, we should have a good night in Oakland, which is actually having a bad week as a town. Why? Their beloved Oakland Raiders just announced that they are very interested in moving to Las Vegas. It's always something with the Raiders!
Let's get into the rest of Racerhead.
How The Door Is Shut (Jason Weigandt)
People used to poke fun at Ryan Dungey's troubles with making passes. But he's upped his game considerably in that area, and I saw a particularly strong example on Saturday night. In the 250SX main, Christian Craig successfully countered several pass attempts by Cooper Webb, usually by slicing back underneath if Cooper was able to get to the inside. Cooper would get inside heading into the corner, so Craig would square it up from the outside and sweep back to the inside on the exit.
In the 450SX main, Davi Millsaps led and Dungey tried charging down to the inside in one of the same corners Webb had used. Dungey momentarily had the pass, but you just knew Millsaps would do what Craig had done: square it up, dive back underneath, and regain the lead. But Millsaps couldn't do it. Somehow Dungey kept the door shut. It was a clean and beautifully executed pass. I watched the two clips over and over to figure out what Dungey did right.
Here's a clip to Webb's pass attempt.
Here's a clip to Dungey making it stick on Millsaps.
The difference? Dungey was able to get inside on the entry to the corner and still turn so tight that he exited the corner in the middle, not the outside. He got out of the turn a few feet further to the left than Webb, sealing Millsaps off. For good measure, he kept moving that direction, eventually getting all the way to the far left side of the track by the time they hit the next jump. Dungey turned so tight, he basically entered and exited the corner on the left side.
Check out these screen grabs to see it. Millsaps tried to do the exact same thing Craig did but Dungey left no room. I don't know how Dungey was able to enter a corner that hard and still turn that tight. It wasn't a huge quad or a blitz across crazy whoops, but Dungey's corner carving in this section was one of the most impressive things I've seen all year.
Pro Perspective (David Pingree and Jason Thomas)
Ping: We saw a really exciting race in the 250 main event last weekend, and I don’t know anybody who doesn’t want more of those. But it brings up the question: where do you draw the line with defensive/offensive/dirty riding?
When Cooper got into second, the writing was on the wall. He was going to catch Craig—it was just a matter of time. Christian seemed to know it as well, and instead of trying to sprint away, he calmly rode the widest bike he could and put himself in the way of every Webb pass attempt. And when Cooper did sneak by, Christian immediately cut back under him and put himself in the good line again. As frustrating as this probably was for Webb, it was really fun to watch.
For me, anything is fair as long as you don’t center-punch a guy and as long as you don’t jump across his line in the air. Those are inexcusable. The rest of it is gray area. Sure, you can run Cooper into the bales and leave him nowhere to go. Just remember you have to race with him all year long. You think he isn’t going to remember that the next time he finds you trying to rail around a berm outside on him? Craig flirted with the limit of what you can get away with without really pissing a guy off, but he never made any significant contact. You can’t really get mad at a guy for blocking your line, especially if he never hits you. And good on Christian for putting up a fight. Too many times we see guys let the class leader go by because they know they can’t hold him off. Maybe this week he can keep him back there for all fifteen laps.
JT: Much like Ping, I was fully enveloped in the 250SX battle between Webb and Craig. As Christian Craig kept countering Cooper's every move, I knew the frustration had to be building. Webb, to his credit, never made any uber-aggressive attempts at a pass. He was keeping it clean but I wondered how long he would carry on with Craig's charade. The big question here to me was if Christian's attempts at keeping Webb behind him were wise. As they were bobbing and weaving their way around the Anaheim course, it allowed Zach Osborne to make significant time on both of them, re-engaging in the dogfight for the lead.
While I applaud Christian Craig's never-say-die attitude while out front, I can't help but think it may have cost him second place at the checkers. The unanswerable question is, if he had tucked in behind Webb on the first pass attempt and saved all of that energy, could he have maintained the pace needed to be second instead of third?
And that's the rub, isn't it? Everyone wants to win—it's why they race—but when the win is not likely, when is a different plan of action the wisest choice? I don't have the answer, nor do I think anyone could say for certain, but it raises an interesting question when analyzing one's performance post-race.
Ideally, Craig would have the strength and stamina to fight off Cooper Webb's every advance for fifteen laps, but if he finds himself in the same position tomorrow night, will he fight or will he grab Webb's draft? I think he will fight, just as he did last Saturday, but I’m just not sure what is more valuable: a futile fight for the win leaving him winded and susceptible or one higher step on the podium.
The Number: 75 (Andras Hegyi)
Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey just racked up his twenty-fourth AMA Supercross win and has become the seventh rider to get at least 75 podiums in the SX premier class. How does he rate among the sports best?
Chad Reed: Regarding the total number of podiums, the Australian legend is the most successfully consistent supercrosser ever. At Anaheim 2 Reed extended his own record, collecting his 129th podium in his 189th race. Reed holds another two records: he was the youngest and the faster rider to arrive at getting to 75 podiums. In 2008 Reed was 26 years old when he got his 75th podium in his 86th race—a record that may never be broken.
Jeremy McGrath: The absolute most successful SX rider ever, MC got 111 podiums during his 173 races in supercross’ premier class. The King of Supercross obtained his 75th podium in his 104th race in 1999.
Ricky Carmichael: The GOAT gained 87 podiums in 115 races. The 15-time AMA SX/MX Champion and five-time supercross premier-class champ realized his 75th podium in his 102nd race in 2006, two quicker than McGrath.
Mike LaRocco: The Rock would take 81 podiums. The current GEICO Honda team manager made his 75th podium in his 202nd race in 2004.
James Stewart: So far Bubba has 76 podiums during his 120 races. He acquired his 75th podium in his 117th race in 2014.
Kevin Windham: K-Dub got 75 podiums across his 207 races. Windham holds also a record: he needed the most races to get 75 podiums. He got it in his 205th race in 2012.
Ryan Dungey: The Diesel has caught up with Windham. The current points leader and defending champion grabbed his 75th podium in his 103rd race, one better than Jeremy but one slower than RC and sixteen slower than Reed. If Dungey can keep his outstanding shape, he can reach and overtake Stewart, LaRocco, and Carmichael in overall podiums this season.
CELE-BRAYTON (Steve Matthes)
Excuse me for making this brief, but I have to go grab my spot in line for Las Vegas Raiders season tickets. Last week in Racerhead I spoke about BTO Sports-KTM-WPS’ Davi Millsaps becoming leader of that next group of racers because we had seen the same seven riders fill the top seven at the first two rounds. Well, with Trey Canard crashing out, we’ve had the same top six at all three rounds with Millsaps holeshotting, leading some laps and taking up that seventh spot.
Enough tooting my own horn, but you could see #18 KTM of Millsaps getting better and better. You know who else has been pretty good after also having a terrible 2015 season? None other than Millsaps’ teammate, Justin Brayton. The #10 has been riding pretty well and it’s not that long ago he was winning 450SX heat races, jumping things others were not and making some podiums.
There were also plenty of people mad at him after the race (Trey Canard, Weston Peick) for some aggressive passes out there (Jason Anderson thought it was fine), but in my eyes, I didn’t see anything wrong with them. We live in a time where people throw their arms up whenever there is contact but it’s supercross. There’s not much room out there. Unlike the Vince Friese “pass” on Peick where Vince had no real chance of pulling that off, Brayton had gained the inside on a rider and took away the line. There’s a point where some riders have to know to check up and fight another day. Canard was probably upset at Justin but to me he essentially did the same thing to Ryan Dungey at A1 (and that was fine in my eyes). Brayton’s riding well, he’s moving forward and nothing wrong with that he’s doing. And he expressed that much to me on Sunday after the race. Somewhere out there, Ron Lechien is laughing at the people getting upset over these passes. They used to be much more commonplace back in the day.
RIDER OF THE YEAR (DC)
Congratulations go out to Husqvarna's Ryan Sipes, the first American to win individual overall honors at the International Six Days Enduro, and now the AMA's Rider of the Year for 2015. Sipes, a current GNCC racer and former (and still sometimes) professional motocross racer, was named ROTY at last Saturday night's AMA Awards Banquet in Columbus, Ohio.
"It has been a whirlwind since it happened," Sipes said. "Winning the ISDE has definitely been the coolest thing I've ever done—the only championship I've won. So what's next? My goal is to win a GNCC championship. Obviously, I want to go back to Six Days and win again, and I want the team to win. It was a heck of a year last year. Here's to this one being even better."
Benny Bloss was named the 2015 AMA Athlete of the Year from AMA Grand Championship competition, adding that to the 2015 AMA Motocross Horizon Award he earned at Loretta Lynn's last August. Bloss wasn't on hand, as he was participating in Amsoil Arenacross in order to be ready for the upcoming 250SX East Region Supercross Series.
And Kawasaki Team Green rider Jett Reynolds was named the AMA Youth Racer of the Year after dominating much of the 2015 amateur season.
Honda's Streak (Andras Hegyi)
For the first time since last race of 2014, there wasn't a Honda rider on the podium last weekend. After ninteen consecutive 450SX races, Honda riders were absent at Anaheim 2. In 2015, Honda became the first brand to get seventeen podiums in a premier-class SX season. Here are Honda's most prolific podium streaks:
Between 1990 and '91 Honda had it's best run with 26 consecutive races where it was always able to obtain podiums. In those two years Jeff Stanton and Jean-Michel Bayle were the two biggest stars at Honda, while they also had Mike Kiedrowski and Ricky Johnson getting in there.
Between 1985 and '86 there were 21 consecutive races where Honda got SX podiums. In that period 30 years ago there was a true star parade for Honda: Rick Johnson, Bob Hannah, David Bailey, Ron Lechien, and Johnny O'Mara all contributed to this podium streak.
There have been three periods in which Honda got podiums in 19 consecutive races. Between 1993 and '94 Honda it was thanks to Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Stanton, and Steve Lamson. Between 2004 and '05 there was a 19-podium streak as well, collected by Kevin Windham, Mike LaRocco, and Nathan Ramsey. (Remember, Ricky Carmichael did not race SX in '04.) And from the first race of 2015 to the second one this season, the Red Riders scored 19 consecutive podiums via Trey Canard, Eli Tomac, and Cole Seely.
Coincidentally, Ryan Dungey has a personal 19-race SX podium going on right now, as Jason Weigandt pointed out in his list of all-time personal podiums. Guess who has the most?
Hey, Watch It!
RV, Tomac and Hahn at Kawi Test Track
And here's some of the gallery Simon Cudby also posted from the track earlier this week. View the full gallery.
HOT FRESH PULP LINKS
Troy Bendgen took a look at Ryan Dungey’s career and came up with plenty of cool numbers for him. One I found interesting is with last week’s A2 win, he’s got one more career win on KTM than he had on Suzuki. Who knew?
Privateer Alex Ray has come up Just Short a lot and so that means him and Moser have a pretty good text relationship as you can see.
David Vuillemin gives us his thoughts from A2 (where he watched his teams rider break his leg and left him without a job).
Weege and David Vuillemin joined me for some SX talk and calls from you people right on the Fly Racing Moto:60 Show.
Heading to Oakland for the fourth round of Monster Energy Supercross 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 $25 (60 percent off the cover price) to get a one-year subscription, a FREE Racer X beach towel, and an extra issue!
Still trying to thaw out from winter storm Jonas? Check out some of the warmer items in our Racer X Brand winter collection. We have threads to keep both the Mr. and Mrs. bundled, no matter whether you’re a Northeasterner stuck in sub-zero temperatures or a SoCal resident trying to bear the arctic 50-degree nights. (It’s easy to take a jab at the SoCal crowd when you’re using icicles to type.)
The Win a 450 Raffle makes its return for the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season. Entering it’s third year, the contest has participation from each of the six competing manufacturers of the Nationals - Honda, Husqvarna, Kawasaki, KTM, Suzuki and Yamaha. The grand-prize winner will have the choice of any 450cc model from the OEMs. Visit www.wina450.com to enter or click here to learn more.
For some news from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #4.
The February issue of On The Pegs (formerly Trials & Enduro News) is live and ready to read! This issue features a report from the Sheffield Indoor Trials in Great Britain, a wrap up of the Dakar Rally, interviews with Toni Bou and Thad DuVall, Ryan Young Trials tips and lots of news, including a report that Charlie Mullins is injured again. And the best part is it’s totally Free! To check out the latest issue, click here.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.