If it’s Friday, it’s time for Racerhead. And if it’s Friday, May 20, it’s time for Racerhead from Hangtown and the opening round of the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. The celebration of 50 years of American motocross—it’s like one back throwback summer to 1966 and the partnership between Torsten Hallman and Edison Dye that pretty much kickstarted the American motocross industry as we know it—and it fittingly starts at Hangtown, one of the oldest ongoing races in all of the sport. The Dirt Diggers have once again built a kickass track, the teams are all here and ready to go, and everyone is in the points lead—for now.
Reminder: Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and NBC Sports are excited to present “The Starting Gate.” Right before the first gate drop of the 2016 season, this 60-minute LIVE show will give the dedicated race fans the inside line on the the track, teams, and techniques needed to contest for the title. Hosted by Jenna Corrado and longtime pro and Racer X contributor Jason Thomas, “The Starting Gate” is all about exclusive access: from the team haulers to on track reports to the inside scoop on MX fantasy picks. If you can’t be at the track on race day this is the next-best thing to getting ready for an exciting season of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. “The Starting Gate” should get underway around 3 p.m. ET on www.promotocross.com or the NBC Sports Live Extra app. Prior to that, practice will stream on www.promotocross.com beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Then tune in live to either MAVTV or www.promotocross.com to watch the live racing beginning at 4 p.m. ET and then the second motos will be streaming at 6 p.m. and airing on NBC Sports at 7 p.m.
We will have a whole bunch more on Hangtown below, but I want to start Racerhead out with an old friend, a good man and a tough road ahead…
Why do bad things happen to good people? Destry Abbott is one of the nicest, most versatile and engaging riders you will ever meet. He is a bon a fide legend in off-road racing, but he could also get it done on a motocross track. He was feeling sick last weekend and went to the hospital to see what he’d come down with. Two days later the doctors told him he has leukemia. Destry and his family are already well into the fight of his life, for his life, and its no surprise that the whole motorcycling community is anxious to ramp up the support he’s going to need moving forward. A GoFund Me page set up earlier in the week nearly has $100,000 already, but that’s a drop in the bucket for what the Abbotts face. My longtime friend and all-around-organizer Ken Faught called me in the middle of the week to tell me that he was making this a full-time job for himself for the next few weeks, using his connections as well as his company Pole Position Raceway to pull some cool events together for Destry, and everyone is just doing their best to keep the Abbotts in their thoughts and prayers.
In the middle of prepping for his first chemo sessions—which weren’t even a thought one week ago—Destry posted this on Facebook:
“I don't even know where to start!!! I've been at the hospital since Sunday and just got word that I have Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia. I'll be starting Chemo tomorrow and I definitely have a long race ahead of me! I will be doing 14-days of chemo then 10-days at home (limited visitors) then back to the hospital for 14-days and repeating for 5-months. After the 5 months chemo cycle is done we'll see how things look and go from there! I'm floored on the support we've received and you guys don't know how much this will help!!! It honestly brings tears to my eyes to know what a great sport this is and to know how much it's going to help with the 5-months at the hospital!!! I love you all and thank you from the bottom of my heart!!! #da8strong #da8family#family
Finally, let me apologize for what will not be a very complete Racerhead. It’s been a long week getting ready for Hangtown for all of us. Jason Weigandt is getting ready for his close-ups on NBC and MAVTV, Kyle Scott is on video assignment, embedded with one of the 250 teams, Chase Stallo is back in West Virginia trying to steer the ship, and I have been on-track working and trying to shoot Instagram pics on my iPhone for @racerxonline and @promotocross. And my workload just doubled, with the outdoors starting up and MX Sports Pro Racing getting more of my time…
The racing—and the racers—will speak for themselves tomorrow, and we can’t wait to get this thing started!
The Next Ones (Matthes)
MOTOCROSS IS HERE! Always cool to start a new series and I always find myself wishing for the outdoors to begin somewhere near the end of SX. Supercross is cool but there’s something cool about hearing a 450cc machine pinned going up a hill. Of course by the end of the nationals, I’m wishing for some cool, technical, indoor stuff to watch and on and on it goes.
Most of us expect Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s RCH Racing’s Ken Roczen and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac will battle it out for the top three spots in the 450MX class tomorrow at Hangtown. There could be some crashes or surprises along the way but these three look to be “the guys” going into the 24 motos.
What I find interesting is that next group of riders who can challenge these three. Looking at the points from last season Justin Barcia, Blake Baggett and Christophe Pourcel finished third, fourth and fifth (of course you remember Tomac went out with a crash). So logically you would look at that group as the next guys except I’m not too sure about that. Honda’s Trey Canard came late to the party last season off injury and you have to think he’ll be right in there, week-in and week-out. Marvin Musquin just missed out on the 250MX title last year and is a two-time motocross 250 World Champion, and Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson got better in supercross from his first year so one would think he’ll be better this year also, right?
I’m sure Justin, Blake and Christophe are looking to do better, if not the same, this year so something’s gotta give here. Baggett’s a motocross master and coming off a supercross season where he was injured; he surely wants to do well in a contract year. Barcia came into supercross hurt, went out with injury, came back and underperformed but he’s a guy that’s got that chip on his shoulder knowing that last summer he straight up beat Dungey for moto wins. And Pourcel, well I’m not sure exactly what he’s thinking beyond I know that here and there, he can unleash the magic.
And the biggest question mark of all: what will James Stewart do? That’s anyone’s guess at this point. Yesterday he rode with some little bursts of speed here and there but wasn’t really on it for a whole lap, apparently. Tomorrow, there should be no holding back.
The race to challenge the top three guys might be as interesting and exciting as the race up front this summer.
250 Stack (DC)
There are so many fast guys in the 250 Class it’s ridiculous, but they will be chasing the guy with the red #1 plate as Jeremy Martin focuses on his shot at history. Martin can become the fifth three-times-running AMA 125/250 Motocross Champion in 2016, joining Hall of Famers Broc Glover, Mark Barnett, Ricky Carmichael and future Hall of Famer Ryan Villopoto in this very elite group. He got through SX without too many bumps and bruises, and though he didn’t win the East Region title, he did win some races. He’s always been a better MXer, and he loves Hangtown. And Glen Helen. And Thunder Valley…
Behind him are his Yamalube/Star Racing teammates Cooper Webb and Aaron Plessinger, each of whom won nationals last year and SX races this year—and Webb is a two-time West Region Champ now. But his wrist is a question mark, and the taller, bigger Plessinger probably gives away twenty to twenty-five pounds on Martin. The rougher the track the better for Plessinger, but also for Martin. (And don’t forget about Alex, the older Martin, who didn’t have the SX season he hoped for but looked great yesterday in practice.)
The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team has Adam Cianciarulo back, as well as Arnaud Tonus, plus the rookie Austin Forkner. All are question marks, and for AC44 and Tonus, their backs are up against it—they need good outdoor results to salvage the season. (And seeing Adam for the first time in a while yesterday, he’s gotten really tall, and like Plessinger, I imagine he will be a better 450 rider someday, but he just needs to get there.) They also have Joey Savatgy, who pushed Webb in the West Region and won an overall at Unadilla last year. He is expected to be solid outdoors as well.
Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM has Jessy Nelson and Justin Hill back, plus the faster-than-you-might-think Shane McElrath, Alex Frye and Mitchell Oldenburg. GEICO Honda does not have Malcolm Stewart—he’s sitting out MX but is here to cheer his brother and teammates on—but they do have RJ Hampshire, Jordon Smith, Christian Craig and now rookie Tristan Charboneau.
There are more riders and teams, and someone could pop up big, like Colt Nichols, for instance. The class is stacked, but Jeremy Martin is the betting man’s favorite going into Hangtown. For a preview of all the teams and riders, check out 250 Words.
Pro Perspective (David Pingree and Jason Thomas)
PING: There are a couple of notable rookies making their debut this weekend at Hangtown, but where they might finish is anybody’s guess. Austin Forkner will begin his career with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team and there is a lot of buzz around this young rider. Austin stuck to his guns when pressed to jump into the AMA Supercross Championship earlier this year. He made a plan and is sticking to it. I like that. To me that shows he has good people giving him advice. I think anything inside the top ten is good for Austin and he is certainly capable of it. No one is betting that he will pull an Eli Tomac in 2010 and win in his very first pro race, but a solid top-ten should be in the cards for this kid.
Tristan Charboneau is GEICO Honda’s latest rookie and while he may be coming in with a little less hype then Forkner, he’s fast. Tristan should be inside the top ten as well.
As always, these rookies are capable of getting a holeshot and sprinting away. Will they have the fitness to hold on for thirty-five minutes? Can they put two motos together? Those are questions that will be answered Saturday. My first national was Glen Helen in 1993. Yes, that was the one round where they tried one 40-minute moto and it was approximately one million degrees in San Bernardino. I gutted out a fifteenth overall. Keep an eye out for both of these amateur standouts as the gate drops on the national motocross series this Saturday.
THOMAS: For the rookies, this weekend is a huge combination of nervousness, excitement and adrenaline. Over the years, we have seen rookies come into Hangtown and make a huge impression. Josh Grant was on a runaway until stalling in 2004 and Eli Tomac sealed the deal in his rookie race back in 2010. They came in with a ton of outdoor momentum while others were working on their supercross game. That’s the same advantage that Austin Forkner and Tristan Charbonneau will have this Saturday. The biggest hurdle I see for both of them will be in the first 100 yards. If they can start up front and recreate a typical amateur “feel” to their moto, things will go well. If they start poorly, however, they will be in a 35-minute dogfight like they have never experienced before, and that’s for every single position in the top twenty! They will be facing competition on a level they have never faced and only they can control their response. Keeping realistic expectations will be a huge factor to their mental game but above all else, staying up front is their biggest ally.
Hey, Watch It!
Hangtown Press Day
You want old school? Check out this celebration of Joel Robert's 250 Grand Prix Championship from 1968. Robert is Belgian, but this film—which is fantastic for 1968—appears to have been put together to celebrate a title for Czechoslovakia via its CZ motorcycles.
This is tragic: The NYPD crushing a bunch of confiscated dirt bikes and ATVs.
Hot Fresh Pulp Links
Moser profiled Nate Alexander and Ben Schiermeyer's toolboxes and got some interviews with them as well.
Jason Thomas and Michael Antonovich were the guests on the Fly Racing Moto:60 Show talking about Hangtown.
A new outdoor season means new hopes for your fantasy motocross season. MotoDynasty and Motocross Fantasy are the two leagues we focus on in our N-Fab Racer X Fantasy Motocross Podcast.
Swizcore debates the "re-debut" of Adam Cianciarulo in his weekly column.
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Check out this west bike that Scott Cavalari sent along: Pat Moroneys latest build, a '47 Harley-Davidson, built from parts, built to look original and old instead of restored.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #21.
We want to give a pat on the back to our new Social Media Point Man Jason "Wheels" Todd who is absolutely killing it for us every day. WITHOUT Racer X Online, our total Facebook followers across the board are up 24,149 followers in the last month, Instagram is up 34,598 followers, and twitter is up 1,260 followers. Nice work, Wheels!
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Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races—starting with the big one tomorrow at Hangtown!