Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from a rather cool afternoon in Tennessee. Sam Gammon’s Muddy Creek will host the fifth round of Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross, where we’ve had a pair of riders—Ken Roczen and Joey Savatgy—who have each won three of the first four rounds. Roczen has been on fire on his Suzuki RM-Z450, riding in complete control up front. Savatgy, on the other hand, has had to really battle for his wins in the 250 Class. And both have been the beneficiary of some problems behind them. In Roczen’s case, it’s injuries to defending champ Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard, former champion James Stewart and his teammate Blake Baggett, and now both Jason Anderson and Josh Grant. Savatgy’s help has come in the form of some untimely breakdowns—two, to be exact—by the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamahas of Alex Martin and then his younger brother Jeremy, either of whom might have won the High Point overall had their motors not melted down. That surely caused a lot of consternation in the team’s pits, and we’re still not quite hearing what exactly happened.
On the whole, the series is off to a fantastic start. The crowds have been up at all four rounds so far, and the racing has been good, especially in the 250 Class. And after dodging a rainy bullet before the 40th Annual High Point National, their riders got a rough, moist track that was widely regarded as the most challenging to date. Now, after a major storm last night, we should have similar conditions at Muddy Creek. (The storm almost caused the cancellation of this weekend’s Snowshoe GNCC in West Virginia, where eight inches of rain fell last night and caused national headlines. And yes, we heard that Damon Bradshaw is signing up to race GNCC on Sunday.)
But before we get into the week that was, we need to remember two motocross friends who passed this week. DeWayne Jones was the brother of America’s first multi-time champion, Gary Jones. They were teammates on Yamahas, then Hondas, then Can-Am, and finally the Jones-Islo in 1976. I remember first meeting the Jones brothers when the Can-Am trailer pulled into Appalachia Lake Park before my dad’s first AMA National. (My brother, Tim, and I were there waiting to see them unload, but only the mechanics and Papa Jones got out of the truck. Turns out that Mr. Jones had dropped the riders and their bikes off several miles away and told them to ride their way there!) The Jones brothers have been in the news lately because of the success of the Martins, who became the first brother since Gary and DeWayne to finish 1-2 in a national, which Gary and DeWayne did in 1973 at Lake Whitney in Texas.
For more on DeWayne, check out this fine piece that Jody Weisel wrote up on his longtime friend.
Brad Zimmerman was a pioneering moto journalist who wrote for many different magazines over the years. He even helped out Racer X Online in the early days of the internet. He was a motorcycle man through and through, be it on dirt or pavement, and always had great stories about epic rides and races to tell. Here’s how his old magazine Motorcyclist remembered him.
Godspeed to DeWayne Jones. Godspeed to Brad Zimmerman.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas and David Pingree)
JT: Muddy Creek is going to be hot and humid. Living in Florida, that was a daily occurrence for outdoor training and riding. I always looked forward to the hottest races because I felt like I was more prepared than most of my competition, and I needed every advantage I could get. The tricky part was balancing the hard work during the week with being 100 percent recovered on Saturday. If I wasn't careful, I would ride too much, cycle too much, or simply sweat too much during the week. Recovery is incredibly important.
Hydration is so tough to manage when every second of summer training involves sweating. Honestly, every activity not in the AC involved sweating. After a race like High Point, which was the hottest of the young season, riders should have been resting and rehydrating on Saturday night and Sunday. Monday is a ride day for some, but nothing too intense—more to loosen up and get back into the swing of the week. Tuesday and Thursday are the more intense days, but on impeding hot weekends, I would try to alter this to make Thursday a light day and add to my recovery time before Saturday. Giving my body Thursday and Friday to get back to 100 percent was critical for being my best on Saturday afternoon. Those last few laps of each moto are brutal when the track is rough and the sun is boiling. Even a few percent more effort can mean the difference between losing two spots or charging forward for two spots. That small percentage can only be found in preparation and hydration. More work the week before a hot weekend can many times do more damage than good. Less can be more. Being strong and rested on Saturday morning is the ultimate goal.
It should be noted, however, that doing less only works when you're in shape already. Guys like Roczen and Tomac are in such good shape that they are simply trying to maintain the form they already possess. Finding a way to do the perfect amount of work to peak every Saturday is what they are looking for. If they weren't in shape, they would be working hard to try to increase their fitness in lieu of being at their strongest on Saturdays. That's the situation that riders always face when coming back from injury midseason. If they work hard all week, they wake up Saturday and feel tired and need to recover. But this will fix itself in a few weeks as they find their fitness and can back down the work week levels. If they don't work hard during the week at all, however, they won't ever find the desired fitness level and the entire summer will be a waste. It's a slippery slope.
Ping: With nasty weather coming this weekend, there is no question it will play a role in the results. As we've reiterated here before, those living in hot, humid conditions will be much better prepared to deal with the conditions this weekend, as your body does acclimate to its surroundings over time. Roczen is in Florida, Savatgy is in Florida, the Martins are in Minnesota, and Cooper Webb is at one of the riding facilities back east, so each of them should be ready for it. Tomac likes to train at home in the dry air of Colorado, though, and it surprises me that he doesn't spend some time back east during the summer. Eli has never had an issue with fitness, so it will be interesting to see how he fares this weekend.
The other component is preparation in the days leading up to the race. Those who aren't returning from injury have already built a good fitness base, and this time of year is just about maintaining what they have and going into the weekend rested and ready. That will look different for each rider, but those who push too hard during the week could feel it Saturday late in the motos.
Press Day (Kyle Scott)
I spoke to AutoTrader.com/Monster Energy/JGR Yamaha’s Weston Peick at Muddy Creek yesterday about his big crash at High Point and asked if he had been wearing a neck brace, would he have been so lucky?
“You really can’t say with a crash like that if it would have been better or worse,” he answered. “With the way that I tucked and rolled, I was actually able to move my head farther in and roll. With a neck brace, I wouldn’t have been able to tuck and roll as well, but then again you’d have the brace protecting yourself. It’s kind of a catch-22. It’s one of those things where you might just get lucky.”
And when I asked why he elects to not wear a neck brace, he responded by saying, “I have such a short neck and bigger shoulders that when I put the neck brace on and my helmet is on, I have no room at all for movement.”
Peick has had a couple of big get-offs this year, but you can’t deny his determination and resilience—especially after immediately jumping up and chasing his bike down the hill, being off the track for over a minute, and still finishing thirteenth. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out:
I also spent some time under the Yamalube/Star Racing tent yesterday talking to all of the riders, and the vibes weren’t what I was expecting considering the unfortunate circumstances of last weekend with Jeremy and Alex Martin’s bike problems. It was a very light atmosphere. These guys all seem to enjoy hanging out with each other and are constantly joking around with one another. Doing things like video bombing each other’s interviews, hiding one another’s gear, and Aaron Plessinger was even feeling nice enough to do some decal work on Cooper Webb’s bike. Check out the press day video below too see it for yourself.
(Yes, I made the mistake of titling Alex Martin as “Jeremy Martin” in the video—I guess you could say I got a little “cross-rutted” in the edit. The Martin brothers have put last week behind them and are focused on gaining points. Looking forward to another great weekend of racing here in Blountville, Tennessee.)
Heating Up (Weigandt)
Well, everyone has now officially retreated to their East Coast abodes as we get to the eastern rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Yes, that means Florida or Georgia for a lot of riders, so we can throw out the "the riders who train in the humidity will have an advantage." Well, who does that leave out? Maybe Cole Seely? Eli Tomac?
Cooper Webb was California-based year-round for the last few seasons, but now he has moved east with Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha teammates Mitchell Harrison and Aaron Plessinger (along with Yamaha amateur rider Bradley Taft). They're all holed up in one big house near the South of the Border riding facility on the North and South Carolina state line. We need to get some cameras in there and turn that into a reality show! If any of you are from the Northeast like I am, you know South of the Border as the ultimate tourist trap, almost exactly halfway between New York City and Disney World. The place is highlighted by a giant tower hovering over I-95, with a sombrero on top. You can actually climb stairs up get up in the thing. Also, the SoB mascot is a Mexican dude named Pedro. What I'm getting at here is that its unfortunate Jeremy Martin headed to Minnesota this summer instead of SoB like his teammates. See, if Jeremy went there, his mechanic Pedro would have gone with him, and we would have had Pedro living at Pedro's!
Long way to set up that joke. Anyway, three Star Yamaha riders in South Carolina, two (the Martins) up in Minnesota. Jeremy also pointed out last weekend that it's been really hot in Minny so he's still getting in good training in the humidity. Again, no one has an advantage!
The one Star Yamaha rider we're waiting to break out is Aaron Plessinger, who has been so close to that next level and taking a win. He was super fast in moto two at High Point, but ran out of steam trying to get around Alex Martin and Joey Savatgy in the second moto. He knows he's making progress, though.
"I'm not pissed at all. I'm happy," he told me. "I'm a little mad about Colorado but what are you going to do? You're going to have bad races. Even today I crashed twice in the first moto and still got sixth, that's pretty damn good in my eyes. Hopefully we can get next weekend to go better. Hopefully we can get a W at Muddy Creek."
If anyone does excel more in the heat, we'll find out this weekend because Muddy Creek should be pretty humid. That's the first real weather-related test this year. It's been a mild summer so far and actually last year's races weren't super hot, either. So this weekend could be interesting.
Really sad to see the 450 class get hit by the injury bug (Dungey, Anderson, Grant and Canard out) but it could lead to opportunity for some. Not sure if Blake Baggett is 100 percent yet after missing time with the broken collarbone, but this would be the perfect time for him to start landing podium finishes. He and his team really need them, and with a free agent flurry about to begin, results late in the summer could make all the difference for next year for a lot of riders. But I think the battle everyone wants to see will come from two riders who aren't worried about next year any longer—they're working on this season. The world wants to see Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac start together and go at it for 30 minutes plus two, and it looked so close to happening last weekend at High Point in the first moto until Eli went down. Maybe this time?
I’m typing this from a way-sparse hotel room in Mantova, Italy, as I’m over here with my wife for a working vacation. We hit up Verona yesterday and today (saw Juliette’s balcony and some really old gladiator-type coliseum), then headed here close to the Mantova track. Might go and hit up Jeff Emig for dinner and try to get him to pay, even! After the race, my wife, Angie, and I are going to spend a couple of days in Venice, which should be pretty fun.
I try to make an MXGP a year but haven’t been able to for a year because I don’t usually like skipping USA nationals for it, but Muddy Creek paid the price because of a few reasons: 1) Chad Reed is racing so that provides some interest; 2) Italy in June is always cool; 3) The series with Febvre and Gajser (and we saw a brief comeback by the champ Antonio Cairoli) seems to be pretty good, although I don’t expect Febvre to race this weekend due to a crash. Gajser is coming off an MX2 title and by all accounts is the real deal. I heard this week that no American racing in 2017 for Tim, but it won’t be long before we see him in the U.S. full-time. He is racing the MEC this year as well (an SX rule states that an MXGP champion cannot ride 250SX, which should make it interesting for Gajser when he comes here. Anyone want to take bets the rule gets changed?); 4) I just have to see Jeffrey Herlings win, because I’m dying from the will-he-or-won’t-he suspense!
Oh, and 5) My wife was dropping a lot of hints about going back to Europe, but knowing me the way she does, she was NOT surprised when I dropped it on her that “Oh yeah, we’re hitting up a race while we’re there! Surprise!”
So tomorrow is practice and a qualifier, Sunday a warm-up, followed by four motos of fury for the two classes. Then it’s off to Venice! Stay here for my Observations column from the race and maybe a couple of interviews as well.
Roczen's Best Start (Andras Hegyi)
So far Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Racing Suzuki rider Ken Roczen has been at his best for the first four rounds of his career. He has never started a series better throughout his entire career, including his days as a GP rider. One-third of the way through Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, Roczen has three wins, a problem-caused runner-up once, seven moto wins in eight tries, and he has 41 points of advantage over everyone.
Roczen debuted in the motocross world championship in 2009. He did not have a racing license in the first four rounds because he was not yet 15 years old (the FIM guys can start a year earlier than they can in America). So Roczen introduced himself in the series in the fifth round: Roczen’s first four finishes were 7-4-9-5.
Roczen second MX2 season he reached the podium every time. He collected three second and one third places.
Roczen was transferred from Suzuki to KTM and he became MX2 World Champion. In the first four rounds Roczen got two wins and two second-place finishes. Roczen also debuted in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. In the first four rounds of the 250 West Region he went 7-19-6-4.
Roczen left the FIM World Motocross Championship and started his full-time American racing career. In the 250SX East Region he went 3-6-2-4. In Lucas Oil Pro Motocross’ 250 Class he debuted with four third places in the first four rounds.
Roczen became champion in the 250 West Region Supercross Series. In that series he started with one win and then three second-places in the first four rounds. In the 250 Nationals he began with one win, two seconds and one third-place.
Roczen moved up to the premier 450cc class. In 450SX he gained one win, one third and two sixth-places in the first four rounds. Later than summer he became champion in the 450 Nationals. In his first four 450 outdoor rounds he got two wins and two second-places.
Roczen returned to the Suzuki. In AMA Supercross he got two wins, one second and one 15th-place finish in the first four rounds. In the 450 MX he obtained two seconds, one fourth and one 12th-place in the first four rounds.
In SX Roczen notched 2nd, 3rd, 5th and 6th place finishes in the first four rounds. In 450MX his three wins and a second places is a personal record for Roczen.
THE BEAR IS BACK (Matthes)
As I tweeted out earlier this week and now it's official, Monster Energy Kawasaki's Josh Grant is getting ankle surgeries and is out for the summer. JG had been putting in some steady rides for the team as Wil Hahn's fill-in and it's crazy to think about how much he's changed from his older persona. Grant seemed to start mellowing out a bit in his 450SX season on the Jeff Ward Kawasaki team where he was determined to just log consistent finishes and not push the edge. He's been that way this year as well; we didn't see crazy finishes even at Glen Helen. It appears that Grant is probably tired of being hurt and he started 2016 without a ride and probably enjoys being paid to race, which is hard to do when you keep getting hurt.
I think Grant going in to get these troublesome ankles fixed is most likely related to the fact that he inked a deal to stay with the Monster Kawasaki team next year.
Nothing's been released but this is my guess. Otherwise, why do it now? With a contract in his back pocket, he's set and now's the time to get healed up and ready for 2017 supercross. But what do I know?
Tyler Bowers is pumped to back outdoors as he tried everything to stay with Pro Circuit on a 250F but Mitch Payton just couldn't find a spot for him. It's been a loooonnnggg time since Tyler raced motocross (2009) but he's excited for the chance to take it back outside. He told me this all near the end of supercross; he wouldn't crack about this new gig when I was texting him last week.
THE NUMBER: 2 (Andras Hegyi)
At the fourth round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship at High Point, the non-American riders gained ascendancy over the home crossers. The German Ken Roczen got his third win this season, while the French Marvin Musquin was able to collect his first 450 National podium with his third-place finish. This is the first time since 2010 that two non-American riders could get podium in a 450 National round. In 2010 at Unadilla the Belgian Clement Desalle was second, while the Aussie Brett Metcalfe was third. That is to say that after 68 rounds there were more non-American riders on the podium than the American motocrossers.
Ryan Dungey Goes Mainstream ... Again (Chase Stallo)
It’s been a big week for the injured Ryan Dungey in regards to mainstream media. Earlier this week it was announced that Dungey would appear alongside 18 other athletes in the 2016 Body Issue of ESPN the Magazine. Dungey is the first active professional supercross racer to receive the honor. Travis Pastrana was featured with his wife, Lyn-z, in 2014, while Tarah Gieger was featured in 2013.
ESPN released the nominees for the 2016 ESPYS this week as well and Dungey has been nominated for a second straight year for Best Male Action Sports Athlete. In 2015, Dungey became the first athlete not named Nyjah Huston or Shaun White to win the award since 2007. He was also the first motocross/supercross racer to win an ESPY for Best Action Sports Male Athlete.
Travis Pastrana was the only other motorcyclist to win the award back in 2007 when he was recognized for his double backflip in 2006 and winning three gold medals at X Games in Moto X Best Trick, Moto X Freestyle, and Rally Car Racing.
Dungey will be competing against freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, skateboarders Nyjah Huston and Pedro Barros and snowboarder Mark McMorris.
In 2015, Dungey won the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship for the third time. He followed it with a historic season in Monster Energy Supercross winning 9 of 17 races en route to a second straight title. Dungey also recorded a record 31 consecutive podiums dating back to 2015. The streak ended with a fourth at Round 16 in East Rutherford.
Dating back to 2015, Dungey also finished first or second in 20 straight races. He made the podium in 16 of 17 races in 2016, with his worst finish being a fourth. Dungey is currently recovering from a cracked C6 vertebrae sustained in the second moto at Round 3 of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross from Thunder Valley.
But we really don't need to tell you how impressive The Dunge has been over the last year. You already know, so go vote for a dirt bike racer as best Male Action Sports Athlete. Voting ends on July 13, at 8:00 p.m. EST. You can vote now here.
The ESPYS, created by ESPN in 1993, recognize sports-related achievements.
Hey, Watch It!
Racer X Films: High Point, Remastered
Moser caught up with his fellow Spokane-an Noah McConahy about his great ride last week at High Point. Don't look now but this privateer has scored points in four straight motos.
Blazier's Project 90 is done. He talks about that, his carb frustrations and more in his fifth installment.
Lissimore's best of the best from the Calgary National.
Troy Bendgen looks at the others in the 450MX class that could step up with all the other dudes out with injury.
We’re giving away a Racer X Brand prize pack to a lucky winner at the Tennessee National this weekend. How do you enter? Just come to our booth in Sponsor Village wearing your favorite Racer X shirt (or buy a new favorite), fill out an entry form, and come back when we announce the winner at 12:15pm. You have to be present to win!
The Racer X prize pack includes:
(2) Shirts of your choice
(2) Hats of your choice
(2) Trailer stickers
Stay hydrated this summer with a Racer X stainless steel water bottle. Just stop by the Racer X booth in Sponsor Village to subscribe or renew and get 13 issues of Racer X Illustrated plus a Racer X water bottle for just $20!
Don't forget stickers are always free at Racer X! Be sure to stop by and get your 2016 Tennessee event sticker.
Headed to the Tennessee National? Don't miss your chance to spend all day in the pro pits with the Racer X All-Day Pit Pass!
For $50, you get 13 issues of Racer X Illustrated plus an all-day pit pass. If you're buying more than one pass you can get a multi-year subscription, or you can give the subscription as a gift. This offer is good for both new and renewing subscribers.
Quantities are limited, so stop by the Racer X Pit Pass booth Saturday morning if you haven't pre-ordered yours yet.
For news on the Canadian Nationals, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #26.
That’s it for Racerhead this week, see you at the races.