Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from a very cold West Virginia. We should all be in California, of course, where it’s warm and sunny and the San Diego Supercross goes off tomorrow night, but I drew the short straw this time, and my next race will be on the East Coast. And if there is one race I would love to have attended out there, it’s San Diego 2, with its Military Appreciation theme and a red-hot 250SX battle shaping up between co-points-leaders Joey Savatgy and Cooper Webb (with an invigorated Christian Craig moving up). And of course there will be the continued pursuit of Ryan Dungey in 450SX by the likes of last week’s winner, Ken Roczen, first-time (on green and in ’16) podium finisher Eli Tomac, and eternal San Diego threat Chad Reed.
Unfortunately, I will be home watching online in the afternoon and on the couch in the later evening as Fox Sports 1 broadcasts the San Diego SX live, beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern, 7 p.m. out West. During the afternoon the SupercrossLive! Team will be streaming on www.supercrosslive.com, and don’t forget to follow @racerxonline on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat for Breaking News, cool photos and updates, and of course www.racerxonline.com for everything else.
Before we get into the week, congratulations go out to Rockstar Husqvarna and Jason Anderson for earning the latest cover of Racer X Illustrated. It’s the first time a Husqvarna has ever appeared on our cover, Anderson having earned the brand its first AMA Supercross premier-class win back at the Anaheim opener. (Yes, we know Ryan Dungey is the points leader, just as he was a couple of weeks ago when we went to print, but he was on Page 1 just a few issues ago, and Anderson’s win was a historic one.) The timing could not have been better, either. Torsten Hallman basically helped invent professional motocross in America as we know it back in 1966, when pioneer and promoter Edison Dye invited the Swedish Husqvarna rider over to attend the Hopetown Grand Prix. Hallman and Dye ended up opening a shop together in El Cajon to sell the bikes that Hallman rode and Dye imported, and from that little shop, the American motocross industry was basically born. Hallman is back as a guest of Husqvarna and Mark Blackwell, and while he may be a Swede, Hallman is one of the most influential men in the history of American motocross.
Quick plug: We’re celebrating the occasion with this commemorative Jason Anderson cover shirt, which is free to anyone subscribing or renewing a Racer X subscription. Don’t wait too long, though—this is a limited offer and will be print-to-order, so we won’t have any extras after the offer has closed.
Back to San Diego. Hats off to Feld Motor Sports on coming up with their Military Appreciation theme, and what better place than a town like San Diego. The 32nd Street Naval Station is one of the U.S. Navy’s largest bases. Marine Corps Air Station Miramar is just north of the city, as is Camp Pendleton, with its vast amphibious training grounds. The Navy SEALs train nearby, and the Naval Medical Center (or Balboa Naval Hospital) is one of the largest hospitals our sailors have. Add it all up and there’s a lot of folks to celebrate and salute for the freedom our country enjoys, and what better way for a bunch of supercross riders and race fans to do just that than with a military-themed race. We will sprinkle some of the gear and graphics we spotted online; look for more tomorrow on our Instagram and Snapchat as everyone gets unloaded and set up.
WELCOME BACK! (Matthes)
We're going to see four high-end riders come back this weekend for SDSX2: Trey Canard, Blake Baggett, Andrew Short and Justin Bogle will all join the 450SX class and make it that much deeper. And all four guys have different situations they're coming back from. HRC Honda’s Canard's just missed two races with a hand injury, while BTOSports.com KTM’s Short has missed all the races to date with a busted shoulder. GEICO Honda’s Bogle has been out since round two with a foot injury he re-aggravated, and Yoshimura Suzuki’s Baggett made his season debut at Oakland and then missed last week's race after a crash. So varying degrees of rustiness for each dude.
Short got some early riding in as the BTOSports.com KTM team did press day here in San Diego, so maybe he's got a bit of edge over Baggett and Bogle? One would think that Canard should hopefully jump right back in and be a podium contender.
And as you probably know by know, James Stewart is still out, and his timetable to return is still uncertain. Get well soon, #7—100 percent—and come back when you are absolutely ready.
WINNING STREAKS (Andras Hegyi)
In a strange twist of irony, Suzuki rider Ken Roczen, who hails from Germany, has brought an end to the winning streak of European brands in AMA Supercross that lasted since the start of the 2016 season (courtesy of Ryan Dungey, Jason Anderson, KTM and Husqvarna).
However, this winning streak is only the second-longest winning streak for non-Japanese brands. For the record we have to go all the way back to 1974-'75. In the first year of AMA Supercross (1974) Jim Pomeroy won the Houston Astrodome on his Spanish brand Bultaco, followed by the Czechoslovakian CZ's triumph under Jaroslav Falta at the Superbowl of Motocross in Los Angeles. Then in 1975 the Canada-made Can-Am got wins in all four races under "Captain Cobalt" himself, Jimmy Ellis. These six consecutive wins count as the longest winning series for the non-Japanese brands.
Conversely, what's the longest winning streak for Japanese brands? How does 522 straight wins sound?! Between 1977 and 2012, the Japanese brands—Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha—took 522 consecutive wins. This 35-year winning streak was broken by KTM in 2012, when Dungey won at the Phoenix SX.
Breaking it down further, the longest individual brand streak is 13 races in a row, held jointly by Honda and Kawasaki. In 1996, the King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath, won 13 consecutive races in the saddle of his Honda CR250 before losing to Jeff Emig in St. Louis. That same number was reached by Ricky Carmichael in the saddle of a Kawasaki KX250 in 2001, when he won the last thirteen rounds, but then crashed at the '02 season-opener.
Next on the list of consecutive wins is Yamaha. Their longest winning streak consists of nine straight triumphs, which their riders were able to do twice. Between 1999 and 2000 McGrath and French import David Vuillemin took nine straight wins for Yamaha, and then between 2008-'09 it was Chad Reed, Josh Grant, and James Stewart who were able to work together and string nine together for the blue brand.
Suzuki had its longest winning streak in 1981. Kent Howerton, Darrell Shultz, and Mark Barnett were unbeatable through seven straight races, and Barnett ended up being crowned the 1981 AMA Supercross Champion.
PRO PERSPECTIVE (Ping and Jason Thomas)
PING: With Eli Tomac back on the podium, many are wondering what took so long and how long will it take for him to find the top step of the box. It really shouldn’t be surprising that he has taken some time to find the front; his injury last summer was complicated, and he came back to a completely new bike and team. While some thought he would pick up where he left off—destroying the field at the opening two rounds of the motocross series—that wasn’t realistic. Eli is steadily building his speed back up and making progress with his bike setup. From what I’ve gathered, he was chasing a little bit of front-end feel at the opening rounds, but things are getting better.
Eli tends to ride way over the front of the bike and lead the bike into and through turns, placing a lot of reliance in the grip of his front tire. This has led to front-end wash-outs in turns (see Vegas last year and A2 this year). As they dial in his machine to his liking, Eli is getting comfortable at the front again, and I don’t think it will be long until he’s holding the big trophy at the end of the night.
JT: Eli is definitely coming. No, I don't think he will be able to consistently dominate the field at any point this season, but I do feel he will be in win contention sooner than later. He has shown flashes lately. His heat race win at Oakland was impressive, as were his first ten laps last weekend in Glendale. He is still getting stronger from his double shoulder surgery and is also working out the new team and bike for 2016. I am on record as saying I think February will be when he shows up, so I am obviously expecting good things.
Will it be this weekend? That's anyone's guess. It will be soon, though, and it will be a clear improvement. All the little pieces will come together, much like we saw with Ken Roczen last weekend. Things will click and it will look easy from our perspective, and it will almost feel easy from Eli's perspective too. Where it goes from there will be the real question. He has dug himself a pretty sizable hole for championship contention, and Ryan Dungey is one of the best I have ever seen at maintaining a points lead. All he can do—and this goes for Roczen too—is win and win often. Forget about the points for now and try to be the best supercross rider in the world every Saturday night. No biggie, right?
722 DOWN! (Matthes)
Everyone's favorite privateer, Adam Enticknap, crashed this week and broke his femur. I've been texting with him, and I can report that Adam, as always, seems to be positive but does say it really hurts. Bad break (bad pun) for #722, as he had just gotten on the injured Kyle Chisholm's RMATVMC Honda. Heal up and get working on that Chad Reed opening-ceremonies rap song!
PRESS RELEASE WINNERS (DC)
Like every magazine and website in the motorcycle industry, we get a load of press releases each week from riders and teams. They tend to skew toward the positive aspects of the event rather than just results. Sometimes they can be mind-numbingly boring; other times they practically burst with optimism, especially after a win. On Monday we got two of the better PR bits we've seen in a while, one from Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/RCH Racing Suzuki and one from our friend in Europe Shaun Simpson. It was the first win of the year for both, and it was easy to read between the lines that they were absolutely stoked about it.
The team called Roczen's win "a breakthrough" for both K-Roc and themselves and it sounded like a true weight had been lifted from their shoulders after not winning a supercross main event in more than a year.
“It’s amazing,” began Roczen in his team's release on the Glendale win. “For once, I only got peppered in the heat race (laughs). I felt great just to have a clear track and ride my own race. The track was something else. The track was much higher speed than it usually is and a lot harder than the previous races. It was definitely something different. That was the longest starting straight that I’ve ever done in a supercross race, which is pretty cool. I think it’s definitely more of a safer way and helps the field spread out a little bit so I really liked it. “It was tough out there. I was a little too cautious in the whoops and that’s where I lost the most, but nothing to complain about. We got it done. The biggest thing is that it feels super awesome to finally be at the very top, finally, but we’re not done. We’re going to keep clicking them off and keep putting in work. We’re going to enjoy this and get back to work on Monday. The most important thing is to keep a steady program and not quit.”
As for Simpson, he won the Hawkstone Park International, though we must admit that, win or lose, Shaun's always got good words and sound bytes on his PR: “I had an excellent day. I poled qualifying from [Clement] Desalle and had a good start in the first moto and took the holeshot but then stalled it in the second corner like a total goon. That was a bit of a ‘fail’. I tried to get the bike started again and eventually got going in eighteenth or nineteenth and worked my way up to fifth and passed [Ben] Townley and [Kevin] Strijbos to get up behind Brad Anderson but by then my roll-offs and helmet were totally clogged. I didn't manage to get past Anderson with three laps to go so I thought third would be better than binning it."
And we can't forget GEICO Honda's Christian Craig getting his first win, and then letting the team's PR folks know exactly how much it meant to him: "Riding around after that win, doing a parade lap, I just had my eyes closed," said Craig. "I am just so thankful for being here and racing again. I am thankful for the opportunity with the GEICO Honda team. I had a strong off-season with a great group of people around me, and all of that hard work that we all put in made this happen." Not too over the top, and very genuine, especially when you remember that he was working construction last winter, building houses in the Minnesota cold.”
So is Christian Craig the oldest first-time winner in AMA Supercross/Motocross? He is 25 years old. We don't have all of the information going all the way back to the very beginning, but we do know that the oldest man we can find as a first-time winner in AMA Supercross is Doug Dubach, who was born on June 30, 1963, and won the San Jose Supercross in the premier class (then 250s) on June 15, 1991. So he was 27 years, 11 months, and 15 days old. If you're thinking John Dowd, don't forget that he won a national back in 1991 in the mud at Hangtown when he was 25 years old.
THE NUMBER: 3 (Andras Hegyi)
Since Ken Roczen moved up to the premier class in 2014, he has been being able to get wins each season. He took his fifth career 450 SX victory in Glendale, which placed him in a solid group of riders. Roczen is now the 25th rider in series' history to win in at least three consecutive seasons, as well as only the third non-American rider to accomplish this milestone. Besides Roczen, only Australian Chad Reed and Frenchman Jean-Michel Bayle were able to get wins in three successive seasons. Bayle did it between 1990 and '92, while Reed did it even longer, stretching his wins out between 2003 and '09.
Here are the riders with wins in at least three consecutive seasons in AMA Supercross:
James Stewart: 10 (2005-2014)
Jeremy McGrath: 9 (1993-2001)
Jeff Ward: 8 (1984-1991)
Ryan Dungey: 7 (2010-TBD)
Chad Reed: 7 (2003-2009)
Ryan Villopoto: 6 (2009-2014)
Ricky Johnson: 6 (1984-1989)
Mark Barnett: 5 (1979-1983)
Jeff Stanton: 5 (1989-1993)
Mike LaRocco: 5 (1991-1995)
Bob Hannah: 5 (1981-1985) and also 3 (1977-1979)
Jimmy Ellis: 4 (1975-1978)
Broc Glover: 4 (1980-1983)
Ricky Carmichael: 4 (2000-2003) and also 3 (2005-2007)
David Bailey: 4 (1983-1986)
Kevin Windham: 4 (1997-2000)
Damon Bradshaw: 4 (1990-1993)
Kent Howerton: 3 (1979-1981)
Mike Kiedrowski: 3 (1993-1995)
Jeff Emig: 3 (1995-1997)
Ron Lechien: 3 (1983-1985) and also 3 (1987-1989)
Mike Bell: 3 (1978-1980)
Ezra Lusk: 3 (1997-1999)
Jean-Michel Bayle: 3 (1990-1992)
Ken Roczen: 3 (2014-2016)
NICK WEY IS BACK (DC)
When Jake Weimer got called up from Team Tedder to Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Racing in place of the injured Broc Tickle, it left a vacancy under the black-and-green tent of Matt Tedder's team. I personally though the obvious choice for a fill-in would be the idle Josh Grant, who is still riding lots, albeit on a Suzuki. But last night Matt told me the replacement rider would be Nick Wey instead, which was a pleasant surprise. The veteran had already pretty much shut the book on a prolific career that began way back in 1998. Wey has tons of invaluable experience that he can pass on to Dakota Tedder and the team. He also knows the SX drill as well as anyone, so he won't need much get-up-to-speed time, and he will likely soon add to his career total of 386 career starts in AMA Supercross/Motocross. If he takes the offer (and by all accounts he likely will), look for Wey to make his debut at the Atlanta Supercross in the 450SX class while Tedder drops down to the 250 for the East Region.
DEBATE TEAM (DC)
Everyone got an interesting glimpse into two different camps of career thought when the veteran and future Hall of Famer Chad Reed weighed in on Team Green Kawasaki prospect Austin Forkner's decision to wait until the outdoors to begin his professional career. Forkner (who just won his first Amsoil Arenacross in his second attempt), his team, and his family have laid out a plan to allow the kid to learn the ropes next spring, then join Mitch Payton's Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team at the Hangtown Classic, the first round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. It's a path that Payton is familiar with, having been stung a time or two with young riders (and imports) getting hurt while trying to learn supercross right away. Payton believes it's better to race a summer on what a kid is familiar with (motocross) and then to learn SX in the fall. That's the route Adam Cianciarulo went, not to mention GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac and Yamalube/Star Racing's Cooper Webb.
For his part, Reed believes Forkner is ready now, and he has a point—the kid is blazing fast, and with Cianciarulo out and Arnaud Tonus and Tyler Bowers question marks, Mitch needs someone in the East Region. But getting ready now for the East Region opener at Atlanta in fifteen days might be rushing it. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Racing Suzuki's Ken Roczen weighed in on Reed's opinion, as well as Forkner's, in an entertaining Twitter discussion that Vital MX put together for easy consumption.
It's easy to see both of their points, but it's hard to put yourself in Austin's boots—unless you are a Chad or Ken, because they have both been there. Both raced motocross before they ever entered a true AMA Supercross, on the Grand Prix circuits of Europe. Regardless, Forkner appears to be holding his ground, and so are his advisors in the Carmichael camp which are helping to groom and guide the teenager from Missouri. No matter, the buzz is building around this kid, and for good reason. He's got some serious speed already.
ICYMI (Jason Weigandt)
Believe it or not, the bulk of the RacerXOnline.com is run by just two of us here—myself and Chase Stallo. We've got great help from our staff, but it's our job to keep this train on the tracks. This week Chase was out on a snowboarding vacation, so I had no one to keep me honest—so I decided to go riding yesterday with my buddy Shane Watts. Well, the winter has left the ground pretty saturated, and after I crashed at least seventeen times in the mud (at least two whole times more than I usually crash per riding day), I came home with two sprained thumbs. At least I hope they're just sprained. You should see me hunting and pecking on the keyboard right now—I need DC to give me some lessons on index-finger typing.
Where was I? Oh, yeah, it's hard to type. So I'm going to make my life easier here by just posting links to interesting stories we posted this week:
Tomac 2.0 - The Eli Tomac/Monster Energy Kawasaki team-up faced its first true test after Oakland, when it became clear that pre-season suspension settings were no longer cutting it. Here's an inside scoop on their progress with info from Eli and team manager Bruce Stjernstrom.
Observations Silly Season Talk - Steve Matthes' Observations is the best 4500-word weekly motocross column on the internet. It's also the only 4500-word weekly motocross column on the internet. This week's review of the PHX SX also featured some early 2017 silly season talk.
The Man He Became - Ping was there the day Christian Craig broke his back.
Anderson's Progression - You might think it's disappointing that Jason Anderson hasn't duplicated his round one win yet, but he's still making progress, and he thinks that's what counts.
Privateer Profile: Lawson Bopping - Who the heck is this Aussie who keeps making 450SX mains? You better read about him now because he's outta here after this weekend, unless a team swoops in to help!
IT HAS BEGUN (Matthes)
As Weege said with his backhanded compliment (I'll still take it!), I put some silly season stuff in my OBS column this week. I've known about the things I put in there for a while, but it's taken me a couple of weeks to source out more than one, well, source. Once I did that, I feel confident with what I posted in there.
Roczen is this year's premier free agent, and once he signs, things might move along a little quicker for the big teams. From people I talk to, it doesn't seem like he's going back to RCH and will either go with Honda or back to KTM. People I trust tell me there's no way Ryan Dungey will want Kenny back at KTM, and therefore that's not going to happen. Others I trust tell me Ryan wouldn't mind and won’t stop the reunion from happening.
It does seem that the rumored Jeremy Martin signing by RCH means they are already assuming Roczen is leaving, or else their budget to sign riders just got a whole lot bigger than what it's been, as #94 and #6 would be a much bigger combined total than before. [Ed. note: Well technically that is 100 which is less than the 114 between Roczen and Broc Tickle. Or wait this is about money and not career numbers?]
So with us believing Martin going to RCH as well as Webb going to factory Yamaha, it should interesting next year to see how these two teammates and future champs will do. Let the bench racing begin!
I also think that if Roczen does leave RCH, it's going to tell us something about who still holds the power in the sport as far as team structure. The JGR and RCH teams have certainly tried to become major players, and they've both signed big-name dudes, but the factory efforts remain the place to be for the elite riders. That's another column for another day, but it's interesting to me for sure.
I put out a tweet about how when Ivan Tedesco moved up to 450s his deal was done and announced by Vegas SX, and it was earlier than usual. But last time around we heard about Roczen to RCH and Barcia to JGR halfway through supercross! Or as Chad Reed tweeted me (what is it with this guy and Twitter?), guys have already signed (in the case of Webb).
Depending on what Roczen does, Trey Canard or Cole Seely may be switching teams as both their contracts are up. Wil Hahn's Kawasaki deal is up, as is Dean Wilson's KTM deal, and I think Blake Baggett's Suzuki contract is up as well. So among the factory teams, we could see some shuffling.
THE BIKE THIEVES (DC)
In the new issue of Racer X Illustrated we have a feature on stolen bikes in motocross. It's something that we've always wanted to do—who hasn't been ripped off or affected by bike-stealing scum?—and when the BTOSports.com KTM rig got broken into, we put the feature into motion. Of course then Michael Akaydin had his bike swiped right out of the tunnel at the second Anaheim SX, and that became a huge story unto itself. What Mike and a fellow enthusiasts did to track the bike down should be made into a movie-of-the-week or ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, or maybe a Vice TV segment on HBO!
I bring it up now because of the post we spotted earlier this week on Vital MX: "10 were stolen from competitors at the Houston Holeshot at Rio Bravo, this past weekend. This sucks big time. One family lost 5. The Houston MX community will rally and try to find theses bikes. Will try to get more details on bikes such as vins and types and descriptions. I know they ranged from 50s to 450s." Here’s the news story on it all.
This is a problem that's not going to go away. Dirt bikes are an easy target because they are expensive, mobile, and start without a key, though I am sure street-bike and cruiser riders face the same threat every day too. Always know where your bike is, and always try to add some security to it—a chain, lock, or even location device.
If you have any information about the thefts from Rio Bravo, please contact track owner Danny Erdeljac by email at email@example.com.
But that’s not all, in Glendale privateer Brice Klippel’s van got broken into over night early Sunday morning and pretty much everything was stolen. He said on Instagram “After a great night in Phoenix my van got broke into during the night/early Sunday morning stolen radio/sound system/laptop/America kargo gear bag / 2 arai helmets/. 7 pair Oakley airbrake goggles / 3 sets of FLYRACING gear / pod knee braces / Ogio back pack / matrix m80 race tool box /clothes/sunglasses /food box /3 sets of Ssi decals race graphics /Rekluse clutches/ and more. Anyone in phoenix area keep an eye out. Thanks.” Head over to his IG account @ bklippel914, if you hear anything.
HOT FRESH PULP LINKS
Moser profiles the man who comes up Just Short of making the main each and every week. This week it's privateer hero Deven Raper right here.
Troy Boy took a look at PC kid Austin Forkner and what he thinks his potential can be here.
As usual, the great David Vuillemin has some interesting insights into what went down at Glendale SX here.
Swizcore loved the Glendale track in his weekly column here.
HEY, WATCH IT
Tony Blazier built a really cool History of Honda motocross bikes slideshow, which you can see right here.
One of our favorite days of every off-season is when the wraps come off the Stimilon Motocross Challenge video announcement, which is a surreal exercise in moto marketing produced by our pal Dave Olcott, the Orson Welles of MX commercials. This year's presentation has a more mature edge than normal; we're guessing Dave's hoping for a call from HBO and the Vice News crew to document this year's Stimilon Challenge, which takes place in May. Regardless, watch and laugh (if you're up for a little PG-13 humor).
Weege tried something new by grabbing Trey Canard for a decidedly low-gloss video interview covering topics pretty outside the normal realm. How do riders apply for a mortgage? Can they eat pizza and wings at Super Bowl parties? This new Weege Show seems to be a hit, so expect more...
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
Nerd tourism booms in New Hampshire - Politico.com
Heading to San Diego 2 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! Say hi to Megawatt and start bench racing with the man. By the time you're done you'll realized the main events are about to get started!
Also, while you're at the Racer X booth tomorrow, look for the fliers on how you can help support a scholarship for one professional rider to complete his high school education and get a diploma from the On Track School. Andrea Leib will be at the booth between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. with all of the information about this program, so look for her at the Racer X Booth tomorrow at the San Diego Pit Party. We support anything that helps motocrossers complete their education.
And finally, a good bye to one of our long time, loyal and familiar friend Denny Hartwig, who has been the Supercross PR Manager for 18 years. Folks here at Racer X HQ know Denny from way, way, back, even prior to his work with the SX folks, and he's become a real unsung hero of the industry. PR folk do their best work behind the scenes, and Denny was there at the stadiums at 5 a.m. on Thursdays and Fridays to get riders onto local TV and radio morning shows, and worked tirelessly to push our sport into as many mainstream outlets as possible. As a reward for that, he'd be the one getting grief when a photographer showed up asking for track access the morning of a race--even though the credential deadline expired weeks before!
When you chart the growth of supercross over an 18-year span, well, things have grown tremendously. Denny certainly doesn't get all of the credit, but he absolutely did something right. Hartwig is a Chicago native, but Feld Motorsports has recently relocated its offices from there to Florida. Denny has taken a position with Chicagoland Speedway, he'll be missed by his many friends at the dirt bike races, us included. We only wish that Hartwig, who went to college at Purdue on a wrestling scholarship, got to show off his prowess in public just once. Last weekend we asked if he could put his finishing move on someone during intermission at Glendale. Apparently, we don't understand this wrestling thing completely. Anyway, see you around, Mr. Hartwig.
That’s it for Racerhead. See you at the races—and thanks for all you do and have done, U.S. Military men and women and your families!