Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from the front gate at Loretta Lynn Ranch, where we are already rolling in and getting ready for the 35th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship presented by Amsoil. Yes, Washougal is this weekend, and that's a huge stop for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, but I needed to head south to help build up the track and the event. A few families are already here, spread out and enjoying all the amenities of the ranch, which has hosted this race since 1982. The track is never used otherwise—not for practice, private rental, or anything else except the ATV Dirt Days that follows the motocross race. But next year we're thinking about adding an event: a Loretta Lynn's "Homecoming" race that would be on a smoothed-down track like it is right now, without qualifiers or regionals, an event that would be more vintage reunion/swap meet than true national-caliber race. It might be held this very weekend next year, though there will be one rule in place: anyone racing the 2017 AMA Amateur Nationals would NOT be allowed to do the Homecoming race too! This one isn’t meant for track time but rather for guys who are no longer full-time, modern-motorcycle riders and who aren't racing enough to make it through the qualifying process. Stay tuned on that.
As for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, hats off to John and Greta Martin, who held a superb event last weekend at their Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minnesota. The crowd was huge, the track pristine, and their own sons, Jeremy and Alex, both made the 250 podium, with Jeremy winning for the first time in his 2016 title defense. And poor Alex might have won that race if not for crashes while leading both motos. At least he got up and going in time to make the box and got to keep one of those cool Prince-inspired guitar trophies.
Jeremy Martin finally got on the board with his first win in eight rounds, which got me to thinking: when was the last time a defending AMA 125/250 Motocross Champion went that long into a title defense without a win? I found two instances when a defending champion failed to win even one race: Honda's Steve Lamson in 1997, when Ricky Carmichael exploded on the scene, and 1976, when Honda's Marty Smith failed to win a single 125 National when Bob "Hurricane" Hannah exploded on the scene. Smith did win two 125 Grand Prix races that year (Denmark and Mid-Ohio) when he tried to race both on the AMA and FIM circuits, and he couldn't use his works bike here in the States due to a constant threat that it might get claimed by Mickey Boone, a former Honda teammate who wanted that bike!
And speaking of Martin's win, can you recall a race where all five riders on a single team all finished in the top eight? Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha had Jeremy Martin taking the win, points leader Cooper Webb second, older brother Alex Martin third, Aaron Plessinger fifth, and Mitchell Harrison eighth. Maybe Mitch Payton's boys pulled it off in 2011 or so, but that's going to require some time in the Vault!
And then there is Ken Roczen, who emphatically put the hurt on everyone in the 450 Class with a rebound win, just as a bunch of folks online were making the case that momentum now belonged to Eli Tomac after his Southwick win. Roczen is set to leave at the end of this season for a red bike; this could become the second time he's won a 450 MX title and then switched teams. He also did this in 2014 after he won on KTM and then went to Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John's/RCH Racing Suzuki. I can remember this happening a couple of other times, and both involved Ricky Carmichael, one of the RCH owners. He went from Kawasaki to Honda for 2002 after winning both MX and SX in 2001, then from Honda to Suzuki after winning the 450 title outdoors on the Honda (RC sat out SX that year with a knee injury) in 2004. And in supercross, don't forget that James Stewart and Chad Reed did it as well, Stewart from Kawasaki to Yamaha in 2009, Reed from Suzuki to Kawasaki in 2010.
Let’s turn it over to Weege here:
The Question (Jason Weigandt)
So much talk about bike changes lately—specifically with riders switching back and forth from air and coil-spring forks—and once again changes are the makings of this week’s big question. A week ago, we wondered if Eli Tomac’s confidence and momentum following a Southwick win could overcome all. Ken Roczen said his suspension wasn’t working right at Southwick, and the team went to work on significant changes for Millville.Was Southwick just a unique track that happened to favor Tomac? Would the science of revamped front forks for Roczen overcome the mental boost for Tomac? It did. Roczen won big at Millville.
Last week, Jeremy Martin finally got an overall win. That would seem to lead us to “Can the confidence and momentum from that win carry Jeremy forward?” but in reality this is actually another suspension question. J-Mart was so-so in Millville’s first moto. Cooper Webb passed him, and his brother Alex led him until he crashed late. But he was much, much better in moto two, and he cited front-fork changes between the motos for his gains. Jeremy said he’s been dealing with arm-pump all season and trying to find the right fix—switching from air to spring forks, and then trying to find the right settings in those. In Millville's second moto, he felt like his bike was better than it had been all year, and he could finally ride the way he wanted to.
So there we have it. J-Mart’s had a trying season, and Webb has gotten away in points, despite having his own slow start due to a wrist injury early in the season. It’s clear the defending champ isn’t giving up yet, though. So, with Jeremy Martin’s bike finally where he wants it, can he mount a charge and give Webb a run? We’ll see starting this weekend.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas and David Pingree)
Ping: Finally! A lot of people have been wanting to see a two-stroke race at halftime of the nationals for a long time, and this weekend at Washougal we'll finally get it. This event is really a promotion of the 125 Dream Race that takes place at Washougal in September, but judging by feedback so far, it’s going to be very popular in its own right. Ivan Tedesco, Josh Hansen, Ryan Huffman, JT$, and myself are all taking part, along with a gate full of the PNW's finest 125cc riders. I heard Nick Wey was planning on showing up but couldn't find a works bike and a qualified suspension technician to set up his clickers properly. We'll miss you, Nick.
I absolutely love races like this, because everybody lining up is doing it for the right reason: the love of the game. And the love of a bike that needs to play a bigger role in the grassroots sector of our sport. I'll save that rant for later. There is no purse money, there is no big trophy, and, regardless of who wins, there will not be a factory team waiting at the finish to sign them. This race is going to be fun, plain and simple.
The Racer X crew is trying to build up some inter-office rivalry between JT and myself by asking which of us is going to win. I predict I get beat by no less than three riders I've never heard of, so I'm having a hard time being too concerned about my buddy JT$. The last time we faced off was in 2005 at the Madrid Supercross in Spain, and I honestly couldn't tell you how that went. If I can keep it on two wheels, I'll be smiling when I pull my helmet off. The whole group of 125 riders will be pitted together this weekend, so come by and check out the bikes and say hi.
JT: This is going to be awesome! After having a great time at the Legends event last year in Indiana, I was all-in when I heard about this 125 exhibition. Getting out there again on race day in that environment is something all retired guys think about. Being able to do it in a no-pressure situation on 125cc two-strokes is just a bonus! Being in front of the crowd and racing on a national track just doesn't happen for us ex-pro guys these days and, for some of the media guys participating, it has probably never happened. It's just a great idea, and kudos to everyone that made it reality.
As for Ping, I couldn't agree more on his sentiment. With kids like Carson Brown ready to blow us off the track and Ivan Tedesco bringing a factory bike to the party, Ping will be just another guy I can high-five on our way to the checkered flag.
As for Madrid, I do remember that weekend, and I finished second to Jeremy McGrath. I was in my prime then, though. I was winning most of the Euro SX stuff and won Montreal and a German SX title. Ping was already retired and just having fun overseas. That was not a fair fight as far as that goes. Ping spent the previous decade winning real races in the USA, though, and soundly punishing me every weekend. So I wish I could call this a rubber match, but I have a feeling my arms will be locked up solid long before the gate drops, so don't expect much from me.
THE NUMBER: 6 (Andras Hegyi)
Ken Roczen became the first non-American racer to get at least six wins in a 250/450 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season. The win was his sixth double-moto win and his sixth 450 National win this season—a new personal record. During his American career (since 2011) Roczen has never won six times in a series, neither in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, nor Monster Energy Supercross; neither in 450cc, nor in 250cc.
Besides Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Dungey, Bob Hannah, James Stewart, Kent Howerton, Jeff Emig, Jeremy McGrath, Ryan Villopoto, Mike Kiedrowski, Mike LaRocco and Gary Jones, Roczen has become the 12th rider to get at least six wins in a 250/450 National season. And Roczen has overtaken the Australian Chad Reed for most wins in a season from an international rider. The Aussie legend got five wins in 2009 on his way to the outdoor title.
This is the 24th season (since 1972) in which a rider was able to get at least a half-dozen victories in a 250/450 season. There are only three seasons in which six wins were not enough to be champion. In 1983 Bob Hannah got six wins but lost the 250 title to David Bailey. In 1996 Jeremy McGrath grabbed seven wins but lost to Jeff Emig. And in 2007 Ricky Carmichael got six wins, but those were the only six rounds he did during his farewell tour. Current NBC/MAV-TV color analyst Grant Langston won that championship.
OVER THERE (DC)
The MXGP series gets up and running again with the dueling runaways of Tim Gajser (450) and Jeffrey Herlings (250) ongoing. They have won on the same day seven times in twelve rounds—actually, Herlings has won every round so far and all but one moto! But he broke his collarbone doing a Dutch National on July 10 and will miss the Grand Prix at Loket in the Czech Republic. As for Gajser, Steve Matthes just did a really interesting piece on the Slovenian Honda rider for our next issue of Racer X Illustrated. You're going to love Gajser when he comes to America full-time, like in 2018. He's got a setup similar to what we've seen often here with his father, Bogomir, as his main coach/trainer, and as he closes in on the MXGP title in his rookie year, it's not too early to start thinking about him and Herlings battling it out on 450s next year. (And with a healthy Romain Febvre back out there, it should be a very interesting match-up.)
As for the lion of MXGP, Tony Cairoli, he came up short to Gajser at the last GP in Italy, and he's now making a switch to the KTM 350 for the Loket race, and possibly the rest of the season. Stay tuned.
OH CANADA (Steve Matthes)
After a year off, Team Canada is heading back to the Motocross of Nations in Italy this year, and as you all know, this stuff is expensive. So with that in mind, I thought I'd help my native country by offering up two tickets to Vegas, a hotel on or near the Strip, passes to a supercross (if it works out), and an opportunity to sit in on the PulpMX Show.
All proceeds from the eBay auction go to Team Canada in order to help out with the costs. The team is Tyler Medaglia, Shawn Maffenbeier, and Kaven Benoit. Canadian star Colton Facciotti bowed out because he's expecting a child around that time, as did Cole Thompson because, well, I don't really know. No matter—Kaven, Tyler, and Shawn will ride their asses off, and you can get a trip to Vegas, a hotel, and a PulpMX Show sit-in for supporting these dark Canucks.
Hey, Watch It!
The famed 2016 Red Bull Romaniacs race is in the books, and the action ended with Graham Jarvis taking his fifth title. Check out highlights from the event's final day of racing.
Racer X Films: Millville 2016 Remastered
Racer X Films: KTM RC 390
Ryan Dungey on the June 2016 cover of MX Magazine.
In his recent Main Event Moto podcast, former pro Daniel Blair caught up with the injured Jason Anderson to talk about his season, his amateur days, training with Dungey and much more. Check it out on iTunes.
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 Washougal event sticker.
Headed to Washougal? 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.
Adam Enticknap Racing is thrilled to announce the release of the HEAT 1 album from 7deucedeuce, available on iTunes, Google Play (for androids), Amazon, Tidal, iHeart Radio, Rhapsody, and Shazam today.
Finally, one of the best and coolest local pro riders in my area growing up was Lynn Kirkland. Not only was he fast, but he was always fit, and his gear always looked just about perfect. Lynn was a tough rider from Western Pennsylvania, always near the front of the pack, always smiling after the race. He stayed fit long after his motocross racing days ended, too, so it was shocking to hear that Kirkland passed away earlier this week after suffering a heart attack six miles into a bicycle ride with his son. Lynn Kirkland was sixty years old. Godspeed, Lynn.
Thank you for reading Racerhead. Now it's back to work down at Loretta's. See you at the races.