Welcome to Racerhead. Another successful week down in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, with the highly popular return to the ’Wick and another great race on the horizon with Spring Creek in Millville, Minnesota. We’ll get to Spring Creek further on, but I wanted to start by congratulating Southwick promoter Keith Johnson; his father, Rick; his friend John Dowd; and all of the people who rolled up their sleeves and jumped in to help get the old track back into shape. There’s also Mike Grondahl, who took over the lease from the American Legion 338 to give the place a chance to return, and of course the thousands of fans who turned out under threatening weather to see an exceptional motocross race. It’s great to have The Wick 338 back on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross schedule, and I look forward to going back time and again.
The track was its rough old self (as Shane McElrath or Justin Bogle might tell you), and running in its traditional direction just seemed to flow really well. There are things that could use some work—especially the confusion and delays surrounding will-call ticketing, for which the track put out an apology. I’m sure most will forgive them (this time, at least) because it was great to see national riders back on the track, not to mention New England motocross royalty around it, like Doug Henry, Jo Jo Keller, Pat Barton, John Finkleday, Mike Treadwell, the incomparable Paul Buckley, and of course Keith Johnson and John Dowd. (I also saw the previous MX-338 promoters Ralph and Diane Pitello there, lending a hand and seeming to enjoy the return of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.)
The racing was excellent in both classes. Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen put on two superb battles in the 450 Class, with Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tomac finally getting the better of Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Racing Suzuki’s Roczen. And Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb is now even more of a badass on a dirt bike because he got to show off his sand-riding skills for the first time. Cooper split moto wins with his teammate Jeremy Martin, who keeps having up-and-down days, and took his third overall win in a row. If someone doesn’t stop Webb soon—as in either of the Martin brothers, former points leader Joey Savatgy, or just a huge ride from someone like Adam Cianciarulo or RJ Hampshire—Webb’s going to be adding a #1 250 Class plate to the two #1s he already has from 250SX.
And if there is a track that seems like a good place for someone to draw the line, it’s Spring Creek, which is literally the home of Jeremy and Alex Martin, Webb’s teammates and both now proven winners. They know Spring Creek like the back of their yard, which it was for some time. But they don’t get to ride there much anymore, and according to Jeremy, they’ve built a different practice track nearby because their parents are constantly working on the national track and hosting other events. They’ve made some tweaks to the track, which you can see down below with the VitalMX “One Lap Around,” this time with the returning Dean Wilson of Red Bull KTM. And both Martins seemed due for an overall win—especially Jeremy, who has been pretty much mum on what’s going on with his bike or his body. It’s going to take all he’s got, or all Alex has got, even on their home track, to beat the red-hot, red-plated Cooper Webb.
The Question (Jason Weigandt)
Sports can be about two things: for coaches, engineers, and athletes, game-changing decisions can be born of things decidedly unsexy. A coach can tweak a defensive scheme, an engineer can find a bearing that produces less friction, an athlete can change a simple technique, and all can have a massive impact on the results. Small changes, huge impact. But that's not the stuff that gets on posters or gets talked about when kids are imagining playing the game or racing the race in their backyard. These things are more real than we know—because we usually don't know anything about them. By nature, coaching staffs and racing engineers don't share secrets.
What we all can talk about, though, is stuff we understand. Mental stuff. That's why sports talk usually analyzes the crap out of confidence and momentum but leaves the x's and o's and actual scientific changes unsaid. We all become armchair psychoanalysts, talking constantly about chemistry but never the actual real scientific subject of chemistry itself.
We'll all do that this weekend. Eli Tomac finally broke through and got a win over Ken Roczen, which leads to this week's big bench-racing question: will the confidence Eli gained at Southwick carry over to the rest of the season? Spring Creek on Saturday provides the real test.
Ah yes, confidence and momentum. Easy things to cite, so surely many who walk through the gates at Millville this weekend will discuss them. It helps even more that Eli's win coincided with the kickoff of the second half of the championship. Is Eli going to own the second half? Will Kenny start to drop off a bit like he did in 2014? Maybe. But there's a good chance Southwick just happened to be a track that worked better for Eli than for Kenny, and Roczen will soon be back to the dominant form he had at the rest of the races.
So that's what this week’s big question revolves around. Do confidence and momentum really matter, or is the best man just going to win regardless? Was Southwick just a track that worked, scientifically, better for Eli's style, talent, bike, and setup, just like RedBud did for Kenny? Or has Eli actually gained real confidence and momentum that will carry over to all tracks on all weekends?
Another weekend where we all can't wait to find out.
RETURNING THIS WEEKEND (DC)
Three top 450 Class riders will be coming back to the starting gate tomorrow at Millville. First there is Red Bull KTM's Dean Wilson, who has been mending another torn-up knee, and has been riding for about five weeks.
Next is HRC Honda's Trey Canard, who injured his neck in a practice crash just before the High Point National, suffering a bulging disc. He is a past winner at Spring Creek (2010 in the 250 Class, with Wilson finishing second) and also made his professional debut here ten years ago, finishing 11th place.
Finally, there's Yoshimura Suzuki's James Stewart, trying to come back again after struggling all season long with a myriad of crashes and related injuries. He's been successful here before, winning all three times he raced here on a 125, and then again in 2008 on his way to the perfect 450 season, and then again in 2013.
And a belated congratulations to James Stewart and his wife Brianna, as well as the entire family, on the birth of their son Tabiahs L. Stewart.
Another ESPY for Dungey (Chase Stallo)
One rider who is not coming back this weekend is Spring Creek’s other favorite son, Ryan Dungey, who’s out for the season with that neck injury. But earlier this week at ESPN’s ESPY Awards, Red Bull KTM’s Dungey was recognized as the Best Action Sports Male Athlete for the second consecutive year.
In 2015, Dungey became the first motocross/supercross racer to win an ESPY and the first athlete not named Nyjah Huston or Shaun White to win the award since 2007. Dungey was nominated after winning his third 450 Class Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in 2015 and following up it with a historic season in Monster Energy Supercross in which he won nine of seventeen races en route to a second straight title.
Had a great time in LA with all the fun stuff for the ESPYs! Very inspiring stories at last nights event, and also the message of being the change all us athletes need to be in this world for the benefit of others. Using our gifts, talents, resources and influence in a positive direction, no matter how busy our schedules get. Thanks to the fans, my team, crew, sponsors, family, wife and most importantly God. Without you all last nights award wouldn't have been possible! Let's keep on it #ESPYs2016
The Minnesota native also recorded a record 31 consecutive podiums in supercross dating back to 2015. The streak ended with a fourth at Round 16 in East Rutherford. During the 2016 supercross season, Dungey made the podium in 16 of 17 races.
Dungey won the award, which is based on fan voting, over freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, skateboarders Nyjah Huston and Pedro Barros, and snowboarder Mark McMorris.
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.
TRAGEDIES AND MOTORCYCLING HEROES (DC)
Like the rest of the world, I watched the events unfold last night in Nice, France, in horror. It was a terrorist attack on a crowded promenade full of families watching fireworks together, this time with a truck as the weapon. In some of the cellphone footage of this gruesome attack you will see the truck moving, with a blur next to it to hide a horrific moment: a motorcyclist was chasing the terrorist’s truck, pulled alongside the door, and was trying to open the door to get to the driver, who was swerving as they fought. But then the motorcyclist slipped and fell under the wheels of the heavy rig and was crushed. This yet-unknown motorcycle hero became one of nearly 100 innocents who died because of this cowardly attack. Here’s a report on this heroic motorcycle rider.
I bring it up now because it reminded me of another unknown motorcyclist who saved many lives in a different kind of tragedy: an intense fire inside the Mont Blanc tunnel that connects France and Italy’s highway systems underneath the Alps. It was March of 1999, and a Volvo truck carrying tons of butter and flour somehow caught on fire in the tunnel and came to a stop, which caused a chain-reaction crash, followed by a raging inferno that burned for more than two days. Many cars and trucks had followed the Volvo into the tunnel and were trapped behind it when it caught fire and stopped in the worst possible place: approximately halfway through one of the longest and highest tunnels in the world. With thick smoke from the fire caused by burning cars and trucks, as well as the old rubber and oil that covered the poorly ventilated tunnel, there was no way out for many, and 39 people perished.
The number would have been higher if not for an Italian motorcycle policeman named Pierlucio “Spadino” Tinazzi, who used his BMW to ferry people out of safety, riding time and again back into the inferno to grab stranded motorists. Tinazzi kept going until he himself became trapped inside the tunnel, and his sad fate, as well as the way motorcyclists from all over the world memorialize him, was written up in a beautiful article written by Mark Gardiner, a contributor to the old Road Racer X magazine and the author of a book about the Isle of Man TT called Riding Man. This is worth a read, as it’s a reminder of the general good in most motorcycle people, just like the man on the motorcycle in Nice last night.
ANSR Launch (Kyle Scott)
On Wednesday, ANSR held a launch party at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California, for their all-new 2017 gear lineup. It was a great venue filled with great people and an array of great-looking gear on display.
Broc Tickle, Nick Wey, and Wil Hahn were in attendance, and we had a good time doing some good old-fashioned bench racing. Wil is still doing rehab on his shoulder several days a week, but he will be riding next week, which is great to hear. I asked him about how the recovery is going, and he mentioned that, due to the plate put into his shoulder blade from his crash at Atlanta, the natural movement of the shoulder is somewhat inhibited, so he is working on building muscle strength up to help compensate for that. Wil is happy to get back on his bike next week. One thing he’s not happy about for the near future, though, is the addition of the lower set of braces on his teeth. Don’t worry, Wil, soon the bottom set will look as good as the top.
So what’s new with the 2017 gear lineup? One major difference between the older style and the new is the fit. The gear is designed to fit much better than in the past—pants, jerseys, and gloves. There are three tiers of gear (from highest to lowest): Alpha, Elite, and Syncron. The fit is the same on three with the difference in quality of materials. The Alpha collection is available in four different colorways whereas the Elite and Sycnron come in three. There is also a women’s collection that is available in two colorways.
There are three levels of helmets as well. The ANSR Revolve 3, priced at $249.95, comes in three colors and incorporates a multi-impact protection system called MIPS. MIPS helps the helmet rotate around your skull versus your brain inside of your skull. The Revolve 3 is the mid-level helmet priced at $169.95 and the SX2 is the entry level helmet is $119.95 for adults and $109.95 for youth.
ANSR has partnered with Gaerne again with four color options: charcoal grey, red/hiVIZ yellow, orange/red, and blue/cyan. The AR-1 boot comes in black or white.
On Thursday ANSR held riding at Milestone to test out the new gear. I was unable to attend as I had to hop on a plane to get to Millville for the race this weekend. Our man Pete Martini was there wearing the Alpha set and said, “Articulation, function and fit is greatly improved from last year. Gear felt comfy right away and moved well with my body while riding. Stayed where I wanted it to and moved where I wanted it to. It was a hot day and the gear breathed well during all three motos. New color ways are excellent as well. The gear had me feeling like I was Nick Wey!”
Check out the photos from the event Wednesday and stay tuned for a larger gallery of the gear this coming Sunday.
Nitro World Games
World Nitro Games takes place Saturday, July 16 at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. The event will feature the best action sports and extreme athletes in the world in the category’s most exciting disciplines, including FMX, BMX, skate, scooter, and inline. You can watch the event live on NBC at 8:00 p.m. Saturday.
Hey, Watch It!
Racer X Films: Southwick, Remastered
As we mentioned above, Dean Wilson is back on his Red Bull KTM, and GuyB got him to do “One Lap Around” Spring Creek yesterday for this Vital MX preview.
The guys at Direct Motocross recap the Canadian Nationals at Gopher Dunes last weekend where Matt Goerke (MX1) and Cole Thompson (MX2) took the overalls.
Racer X Films: Jeremy McGrath in Italy
While we were gutted to see Shane McElrath leave Southwick with a multitude of injuries, we're glad to see that he's been in good spirits early in the recovery process.
Do you even vape, bro? • • UPDATE!! As we were about to leave the hospital yesterday here at Baystate, I was sitting in the chair waiting on my release papers and I had a muscle spasm in my ribs that lasted about 30 minutes which ended up causing my right lung to collapse. As of now they are saying no surgery is necessary however, we are trying a few different things to try and blow my lung back up without the need for surgery. Thanks for all the prayers and words of encouragement and I will update y'all in the next few days #solideogloria
Head-Scratching Headline of the Week
Big hair, blue jeans, cigarettes, and beer... The 90s Smokercross is a blast from the past and is finally available at www.racerxbrand.com. We've been selling them out of our booth at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Nationals and several people have been able to name the rider on the shirt. Can you?
Loretta Lynn’s is coming up fast! Here is a sneak peek at the Souvenir Yearbook cover for the 35th Annual Amateur National, Aug 1-6 in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
Headed to Spring Creek? 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.
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 Spring Creek event sticker.
Finally, on behalf of Racer X Online, MX Sports and the entire Racer Productions family, I would like to dedicate this column to Erv Braun, the Voice of Supercross, who passed away on July 10 following a stroke. Erv was a motorcycle enthusiast in full, first as a racer, then as a business person and promoter, and ultimately—and most notably—as a race announcer. He raced his boys on dirt bikes, and he was no slouch himself: Erv finished fourth in the Senior +40 Class way back in 1988, and in the Masters +50 Class in 1996, announcing the motos he wasn't racing.
It was Erv's soothing voice, witty remarks and his enthusiasm for talking about motorcycle racing that earned him the career opportunity to be the public address announcer for Monster Energy Supercross. Erv was handed the microphone one night back in the nineties, which he took full possession of for the rest of his life. He could talk about anything, at any time, that was happening around him in the stadium, and make it seem like it was the single most important and significant thing happening in the entire world. Seriously. He could shout, "Hey, look, that guy's eating nachos!" and everyone in the stadium would start looking around.
Announcing a day-long supercross event until its conclusion is no easy matter, especially since he had to start talking as soon as the turnstiles opened for those wanting to watch practice. He would still be there at the end, too, reminding folks to drive safely and thanking them for "just coming out to spend a Saturday night at the dirt bike races—the Monster Energy Supercross dirt bike races, that is, presented by the good people at Thor/Parts Unlimited..."
He was as artful as a well-polished politician in the way he could fit a sales pitch into anything, which is part of the reason we dubbed him with the name Erv "Filibuster" Braun, because he could talk for hours on end about the same thing—a supercross race—and never repeat himself.
The sport of motorcycle racing will miss Erv Braun. He was the voice of races big and small, with the extraordinary gift of being able to make them all seem very big. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Braun family.
Godspeed, Erv. We all thank you.
That’s all for now. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.