Welcome to Racerhead. It’s Easter weekend, and a rare one off for everyone following the supercross trail. And no better time for a reset than right now. As you surely know, the last round at Detroit was unique in many ways. From the 450SX podium sweep by Husqvarna and KTM riders to the fourth 250SX winner in four races, Detroit added a lot of drama and intrigue for a race this late in the series. But the biggest thing that happened was the post-race penalty that cost Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey two spots and the victory, making this the first time in AMA Supercross history that a rider was stripped of a win. Jason Weigandt has been on point with this whole fiasco, talking to everyone from Dungey himself to the AMA's Kevin Crowther for Racer X Online. This was a question of safety for the officials and a question of job execution for the rider and his team. That makes it a tough call for most, because both make a good case. But it sets a dangerous precedent in a different kind of way.
When the fans filed out of Ford Field after the Detroit SX, the last thing most saw was the 450SX podium celebration. Red Bull KTM’s Dungey was in the middle as winner, flanked by Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson on the left as runner-up and Dungey’s teammate Marvin Musquin in third on the right. No sooner had the crowd left than race officials announced that a different result would go into the record books. Now Anderson was the winner, Musquin second, and Dungey—docked two positions for jumping on a red cross flag—third.
A cardinal rule for live sports entertainment is that fans should know who actually won before they leave the event. Changing the outcome afterward leads to confusion for everyone. In this case, it was even more confusing because few saw the infraction. Even though the race aired live on Fox Sports 2, no one in the TV booth guessed that there might be a problem. Otherwise, they would have shown a replay or warned viewers that a penalty might be forthcoming.
What was not shown was a caution flagger, originally positioned on the outside exit of the corner, moving across the track to the inside—the side where the rider, Jake Weimer, had fallen. What TV did show was some of the riders behind Dungey not rolling the jumps either, as prescribed by the rulebook, including eventual winner Jason Anderson. As we’ve now learned from the AMA’s Crowther, the red cross flag does not stipulate wheels on the ground, but rather an attempt to check up, slow down, and not completely clear an obstacle. That’s the difference that Crowther cited between Dungey and the riders behind him that went through the section: they slowed a bit and clipped the face or edge of the tabletop; Dungey went through the section exactly as he did on previous laps.
Crowther also said, rightly, that some of the jumps in supercross are so steep that it would be impossible to circulate the entire track without the wheels coming off the ground at some point. But this leads to some gray area in terms of what’s considered “rolling” a supercross jump. Based on this main event and a separate incident in a heat race, which Dungey mentioned in his interview, Anderson seems to have become a master of just clipping the jump enough to fit the definition of “not clearing” it or “checking up” or “rolling.” But other riders are checking up even more. On social media this week, Chad Reed cited Anderson’s series of cased jumps in a heat race, and also his moves in the main event while behind Dungey when that red cross was out, as examples of something that should be penalized. Dungey also cited the Anderson heat race in his interview. Did Anderson check up? Just enough, the official say.
On the weekend in my heat and main event there was Red Cross flag situations In both cases I lost time to whoever was in front of me at the time My interpretation of the Red Cross flag is "no jumping" I have not seen any video of Dung jumping but after seeing this video here's my 2 cents.. 1st of all its IMO that the flagger waves the wrong flag to start with. Rhythm sections Red Cross flag should be last resort It's not blind at all we can see the downed riders So no need for Red Cross flag. 2nd what Nick Wey does is how I understand the Red Cross flag "wheels on ground no jumping" 3rd I was in front of this and still had the Red Cross flag the next lap I didn't see a down rider at all just the flag 4th what the guys did in front of me isn't really anything different than "jumping" it IMO I did the section the same as you see Wey doing it 5th wins are hard to come by 6th a few seconds is hard to find on these tracks 7th dung got robbed because the replacing winner broke the rules also IMO 2️⃣2️⃣ take happy Monday
This is not the first time a result was changed after the fact—Anderson himself was docked two spots at San Diego for a similar infraction—but it’s the first time a race winner has been changed. Needless to say, Red Bull KTM was not happy about it. But this just leads to the next issue, past the “rolling of a jump” definition but into the performance and positioning of the flaggers themselves.
“The problem is that Ryan’s line was on the outside and his line of sight could not see the flagger, who was on the inside holding the red cross flag at his waist,” Roger DeCoster argued afterward. “There were the yellow lights flashing, which means to use caution, and Ryan could see there was no bike or rider on the track and jumped. He didn’t see the flag.” According to DeCoster, Dungey was the only one to make such a mistake because after he went past, the flagger stepped farther out, giving a clearer warning to those following the leader, though Anderson seemed to miss it anyway.
Unfortunately, the series rules say that if such a violation is a “statement of fact” witnessed by the referee, the penalty is mandatory with no avenue to be overturned. One of the primary officials saw Dungey jump, then checked videotape to confirm what he’d seen. He wasn’t out to penalize Ryan but to protect the downed rider, now and in future races.
The priority of every flagger and race official is to protect the safety of the riders, and that was surely the intention here. But by bringing such a harsh penalty, the AMA/FIM are essentially handing every flagger and official the power to fundamentally change the outcome of a race based on how well they do their job waving the flags and being in position. This is opening Pandora’s box, just as it was when they took two spots away from Anderson after San Diego for a similar oversight of the flags. Every flag that’s waved—and the way it’s waved—will now come under scrutiny. Just imagine if this were a closer title fight and someone lost a championship over it.
The intent of the red cross flag is clearly to warn riders of an upcoming problem, but while the rule is rigid, the performance of the person waving the flag is not. If I were a manager, I would instruct my team videographer to train the camera on every red cross flag deployed, with the goal of both protecting my riders against scrutiny and spotting competitors who may have committed infractions, because those points penalties are valuable and irreversible. The people with the red cross flags are not volunteers, and they do a tough job, as anyone who has ever spent a day (or night) flagging would know. But it's not a foolproof method, which is why we have all of those lights down on the track too.
Maybe a better penalty would be to fine first-time violators (which Dungey was) a portion of their prize money and earmark it for a charitable cause like the Asterisk Mobile Medical Unit, rather than compromise the actual results. I know that's not as much a deterrent as losing positions, but in Dungey’s case, it wasn't just five points that he lost but a hard-to-come-by win worth six figures in bonuses. That's a high price for a judgment call.
As fourth-place finisher Chad Reed, who’s lost titles by less than five points, posted on his Instagram, “Wins are hard to come by… [Dungey] got robbed because the replacing winner [Anderson] broke the rules also.”
Dungey lost an outsized amount for such an infraction, and fans went home thinking he was the winner, not Jason Anderson, which breaks that cardinal rule I mentioned about sending people home without knowing who the winner is. It’s time to revisit this rule, its mandatory penalties, and the lack of due process in such situations. Once should be a hefty fine; twice should cost you a whole lot more. As it is, Ryan Dungey just got the most expensive in-race penalty in the history of AMA Supercross.
That's it from my soapbox. Here's Racerhead.
The Number: 1-2-3 (Andras Hegyi)
For first time since 1975, the non-Japanese brands got a podium hat-trick in supercross. This is only the second in history, and the first time ever in the premier class. The KTM-Husqvarna duo now has 19 podiums so far this season. (In 2014 and '15 they were able to get 18 over the whole series.)
As for the first podium sweep, forty-one years ago in Daytona, the European brands were so dominant that they got the first four places in the overall results: 1.) Steve Stackable (Maico); 2.) Gary Chaplin (CZ); 3. Jim West (CZ); 4. Rich Thorwaldson (Maico). Maico was a German brand, CZ Czechoslovakian. The top rider on a Japanese bike was fifth-place Tony DiStefano, riding a Suzuki.
But the 500 Supercross Class was in its swan song that year, and the 250 class, which has morphed into 450SX, is now regarded as the top class in supercross. So despite what happened in 1975 at Daytona on 500s, history will more likely remember the 2016 Detroit SX as the first time that non-Japanese brands dominated the podium.
Moto X Best Trick and Freestyle Return to X Games (Chase Stallo)
ESPN announced this week that Moto X Best Trick and Moto X Freestyle would return to X Games Austin 2016. In 2013, Moto X Best Trick and Snowmobile Best Trick were canceled. At the time of the announcement, an ESPN spokesman said, “The decision to discontinue the Best Trick events follows, but is not directly tied to, an investigation into the death of Snowmobile Best Trick competitor Caleb Moore in January.”
Moore, a freestyle snowmobiler, died of head and heart injuries sustained during the Snowmobile Freestyle competition at X Games Aspen 2013, when he under-rotated a backflip attempt.
"Moto X Best Trick and Snowmobile Best Trick were not dropped in response to what happened in Aspen," an ESPN spokesman said at the time. "This decision was under consideration before Aspen, and, in fact, our review of Snowmobile Freestyle continues."
In addition to Best Trick and Freestyle, X Games will feature Harley-Davidson Flat-Track Racing (second year), QuarterPipe, and Step Up. Women’s and Men’s Enduro X will not return in 2016.
In the same release, ESPN announced it would not return to Austin’s Circuit of the Americas in 2017 for the fourth and final year of its X Games contract. Black Flag reported earlier this week that ESPN wants to move the X Games to late July or early August, and the weather would be too hot to hold the event in Austin at that time. According to the report, today’s June dates occur close to other major ESPN events during that time—including the NBA Finals—and promoting the X Games on top of everything else has reduced viewership.
X Games Austin takes place June 2-5 in Austin, Texas. You can buy tickets now at www.xgames.com.
The third round of the FIM Motocross World Championship takes off at the famed Valkenswaard circuit in the Netherlands. This marks the first "traditional" round of the series after two flyaway races to remote Qatar and Thailand, and a chance for the riders to finally be near home in Europe. I've been to Valkenswaard several times, as far back as 1992 (when Stefan Everts dominated the first 250 GP of his career on the #59 Bieffe Suzuki) and 2011, which means I got a chance to see Jeffrey Herlings absolutely dominate in his backyard sandbox. Herlings has never lost so much as a moto here since he turned pro; he's won here every time since 2010, giving him maybe the most dominant home-field advantage in the history of motocross. He's racing the MX2 class still, but he would be tough to beat if he rode his 250 in the premier class. (My pick there, by the way, would be Shaun Simpson.) The race actually happens on Monday due to the Easter holiday, and I hope they fixed the start—this was the place where two riders (including eventual MX2 champ Tim Gajser) went over the outside and into the unfortunately placed pond.
Former GP racer and Racer X contributor Rob Andrews will do the live color commentating on Eurosport 2 (411 on Sky). with Sir Jack Burnicle, and he posted on Facebook:
MXGP returns to Europe on Monday (yes, Monday) at Valkenswaard. Awesome track (at last) and all four races live on Eurosport 2 (411 on Sky) from 12.00 (if you're in the UK). Myself and Sir Jack Burnicle in the commentary booth. Can Shaun Simpson dominate in the sand? Will Herlings lap himself in MX2? Will Jack get distracted by hotties in the crowd?
HISTORY FOUND (DC)
My friend Werner Straube shot Midwest motocross in the late seventies and early eighties, and that included Trans-AMA and Trans-USA races, supercross, the old AMA Amateur Nationals, and more. He's been scanning his slides and photos and posting them on Facebook, and they are a veritable treasure chest of excellent, rarely seen images of races and days gone by. In looking at the photos from a race nearly lost to time—the 1981 AMA Amateur National Championship at RedBud, the last "traveling" national before the races ended up in permanent residence at Loretta Lynn Ranch—I spotted some amazing shots of the Hinkle brothers, Connie Feist, Lisa Wagner, Keith Bowen, and more. There were also a couple shots of a very familiar riding style I recalled seeing growing up, and upon closer inspection, I realized it was my big brother Tim. What a cool find, thirty-five years after the fact! You can find Werner's stuff on Facebook—here's the link for RedBud '81, but look around and you will see all kind of great old galleries from yesteryear.
Rolling in the Deep (Jason Weigandt)
Yeah, so you can read DC’s intro above, our Dungey and Crowther interviews, or our 3-on-3 feature with Matthes, Ping, and JT to get plenty of takes on Saturday night’s penalty. The part that really surprises me is that riders, like Dungey, are still not totally sure what is considered okay in a red cross situation. I think I realize why there is confusion. Here is the actual part of the rule:
The riders must roll each jump individually with no passing and exercise extreme caution until they are past the area of concern. When used on a triple jump, the area of concern is at a minimum, the whole obstacle, I.E. if a rider is down on the face of the triple or after the first or second jump you must not jump any section of the triple.
There’s the problem—what’s the definition of rolling? Is it actually not getting any air at all? Is it clearing 99 percent of a double but casing the end just enough to make it clear you weren’t going full speed? Somewhere in between? It’s obvious in the aftermath of this that the officials need to give the riders a better definition. Dungey fully admitted he raced through the section because he didn’t even see the flag, so that’s different. But now that everyone will be trained to watch riders through red cross scenarios in the future, it would be helpful for every rider to know exactly what’s considered okay.
I also asked Crowther why the two-position penalty works, as opposed to fines, docking of series points, or other penalties. He brought up a great point about those things. Let’s say a rider missed the first part of the season with an injury and is no longer in the championship hunt. You can fine him points, but he won’t care—he’ll gladly sacrifice points to gain time through a section and possibly win. The only way you can really strip any sort of risk/reward scenario is to tell the rider he loses positions, because that affects every rider no matter where he’s ranked in the points.
Also, the rigid rules are designed to remove any accusation of bias from the final decision. Break the rule, get two positions, no matter who you are, what position you were in or who you ride for. I get that, but with the hard-to-define definition of rolling a jump, and flags and lights that can be hard to see, everything conspired to work against that rule this time.
In the meantime, Dungey has more work to do. Like, specifically a honey-do list for his wife, Lindsay. Dunge told me on Wednesday, “Yeah this is a weekend off, but it’s not really off. I’ve got shelves to hang up, and I have to organize the garage. We only moved into this house a year ago and we’ve actually only lived in it for eight months, because we go to California so much. So there’s a lot of work to do.”
Yup. Millions of dollars and a supercross points lead can’t even get you out of chores like that!
Peick’s Peak (Steve Matthes)
It’s been a tough start to the year for the 2014 and 2015 feel-good story that was Weston Peick. We all know the story by now: longtime privateer works his nuts off, gets a ton better, and earns a factory ride from RCH Suzuki for the 2014 outdoors and then a full factory ride from JGR Yamaha for 2015. Peick’s rides last year in supercross were pretty much the story of a lot of races. This was a guy who came up one position short of making the 450SX main event six times in two years. He was really making a name for himself and getting to be “a guy” and not just a guy, y’know?
So far, the Cinderella slipper hasn’t fit him all year. It started at round one with the brawl at the Big A with Vince Friese where he was DQ’d from that race and suspended for the second one, and it hasn't gone well from there. A bad crash at Oakland on the last lap really racked him hard, and he’s been fighting through that ever since. Whatever could go wrong for him has.
Well, don’t look now, but the #23 is starting to heal up and find some speed and results lately. The last two races he’s gone 8-7 (his two best rides of the year) and looks much better. And with the week off he’ll get even better, body-wise, and is looking to keep the momentum going here. It’s a big year for Peick. His contract is up with JGR Yamaha, and he’s looking to secure a ride for next year. So far, JGR is committed to Justin Barcia for next year and beyond, and they haven’t made Weston any promises. A few weeks ago it probably wasn’t looking too good for him, but the last two weeks have gone well, the outdoors are coming up, and Peick looks like he’s just warming up.
TLD SE4 Intro (Kyle Scott)
Last night Ping and I attended Troy Lee Designs SE4 launch party for the official reveal of their new helmet at their headquarters in Corona, California. TLD is Ping's old stomping grounds, and he was actually in the intro video and also led a Q&A with the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull Factory KTM riders who have been wearing the helmets all year, incognito.
Nearly every inch of the main lobby is covered with race memorabilia: a Doug Henry helmet. Nicky and Tommy Hayden’s race suits, a Jeff Ward race bike, a John Tomac mountain bike plaque, and more. They converted their retail space into a high-top table bar/lounge area, and they set up a stage for reggae rock band the Dirty Heads to perform. (If you've never heard of them you should definitely check them out, especially if you like bands like Sublime and 311.) Ping was a fan before the show, and after this I think he might end his EMT and writing careers and become a groupie.
The new SE4 helmet is unbelievably light. There’s a lot more conversation these days about helmet safety performance, and each brand can probably cite a test that makes theirs appear safer. At this intro, the TLD folks said external lab testing proves their helmet beats everything else out there. Again, other brands might see it another way, but seeing all the helmet brands get into a safety battle is certainly a good thing.
It's been a three-year process building this helmet, and as I sat down with some TLD employees, they briefly talked about what's gone into the project—including purchasing about $30,000 in competitors’ helmets for comparison testing. Full details will be revealed during their media day on the helmet in coming weeks.
Another point that was stressed was that Troy spared no expense in making this helmet as safe as possible. Troy's son Max races and is getting faster and faster, so Troy has a personal stake in what they're creating and truly wants to make the safest helmet possible.
Besides safety, another major point the TLD crew stressed was the helmet needed to remain true to Troy style. No doubt, this helmet just looks fast. I can't wait to try it out soon.
2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_21 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_22 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_28 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_17 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_16 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_14 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_08 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_19 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_05 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_04 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_01 Kyle Scott 2016-03-24_kscott_TLD_SE4_Party_03 Kyle Scott
Have you wondered who’s come up Just Short the most since Moser started featuring the riders who missed the main events by one? Wonder no more!
David Vuillemin gives us his thoughts on the Detroit red cross debate, the flat tire debate and much more here.
Tony Blazier is rebuilding a 1990 CR 250 and here’s his fourth column on that build.
Head-Scratching Headline of the Week
PIT STOP SLOWS YOSHIMURA SUZUKI’S BLAKE BAGGETT IN DETROIT - Yoshimura Suzuki press release.
Congrats to Malcolm Stewart for landing his first Racer X cover. Subscribe today for as low as $9.98 and receive a free cover shirt!
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #12.
That’s all for this week—thanks for reading. See you at the races.