Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. We’re here for the 35th Annual Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships, which will begin on Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. sharp and run all the way through Saturday afternoon. RacerTV.com will be streaming most of the racing live beginning on Tuesday at 9 a.m. and lasting through 4:30 p.m. or so, every day through Friday, and then from the first gate drop until the end of racing on Saturday when the championships are being decided.
I’ve been on-site for the better part of the last ten days, and it’s been fun to watch this place go from almost completely empty to filled to almost overflow. Loretta Lynn Ranch is a very big place, and it’s perfect for hosting the families of one thousand motocross riders plus all the industry support and sponsors that are here. It used to be that people started streaming in on the weekend before the racing started; Ponca City was still going strong, and many were there in Oklahoma finishing out their motos. Now they start showing up here a full week before we even start practice on Monday! It makes for some epic bench-racing, either in the creek when it gets too hot mid-afternoon or around the campsites at night. For instance, on Wednesday, I sat in the creek with Trampas Parker—yes, THE Trampas Parker who was a two-time FIM World Champion and also a Loretta Lynn’s class winner back in 1984—and we talked about old days, racing in Europe, and our mutual love of those little Honda Groms.
Then yesterday, standing down by the creek, I ran into Tim Ferry, another Loretta Lynn’s graduate who is now here with his son, Evan, who has a good shot at a 65cc title. His parents are here, too, as well as his wife, Evie, and we started talking about the really muddy races that we’ve had here, the old Cocoa Beach track, and how he may not have lost a race there in ten years growing up. Tim also said he didn’t plan on coming until Sunday so Evan wouldn’t wear himself down running around, riding bicycles, swimming, or just whatever 65cc riders do to wear themselves out. But then, as the race got closer, his whole family outvoted him and they drove up early, and Evan headed straight to the creek on his bicycle.
It’s amazing how much this race has changed since my dad and his fellow promoter Paul Shlegel came up with the idea, which was actually in the summer of 1981 when we were driving home from the old NMA Grand National Championships. When the race finally happened, in August ’82, there were a lot of doubters, especially from the big magazines Motocross Action and Dirt Bike—and rightfully so. The track was too soft and the weather too hot. But really fast kids like Ron Lechien, Keith Bowen, Eddie Warren, and Kevin Foley showed up and raced and gave the race instant credibility, as did the presence of Kawasaki Team Green, which was also in its first year of existence. The late Dave Jordan, founder of the program, put it into all of his amateur riders’ contracts that they had to do the AMA National, and they’ve been here ever since.
So why Loretta Lynn Ranch? Why would the First Lady of Country Music open up her beautiful ranch and campground to a bunch of motocross racers? It was mostly a coincidence. Paul Shlegel knew the place from attending a road riding rally here and suggested to my dad that we stop here on the way home from Ponca City, which we did, because it was exactly halfway home on that 24-hour drive from Oklahoma back to West Virginia. We got in late, spent the night in the van, and in the morning my dad woke up early and went for a jog and started putting a plan together in his head. Then he went to the front office and asked to talk to Loretta Lynn. Of course, she wasn’t there—this was at the height of her fame following the Academy Award-winning Coal Miner’s Daughter movie with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones from 1981—but her husband, Mooney (played by Jones in the movie), was. They got to talking, then they took a ride in Mooney’s jeep around the whole ranch, and they shook hands on the whole concept before we got back on the road. Thirty-five years later, we’re still here, and the event is more popular than ever. If you’ve ever been here, you know what I mean; if you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to come check it out at least once—it’s the best motocross vacation you will ever find, and you will also see the future (and the past) of American motocross in moto after moto after moto.
And here’s proof to that point: In last weekend’s second 250 moto at the jam-packed Washougal National, the winner was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner, who just happened to be last year’s Loretta Lynn’s winner in the 250 B Class!
I’m being called for out on the infield, which means back to work on the track, pounding in markers and tying up hay bales around a motocross track, just like I was doing for my dad in 1982, and ’83, and on and on.... The more things change, right?
The Question (Jason Weigandt)
Overall, Washougal was a great weekend with great vibes all around, including bonus events like the 125 Dream Race at halftime and both Fly Racing and Fox Racing incorporating their 2017 gear launches into the event. We even had Adam Enticknap returning to racing while also climbing the charts on iTunes! And Eli Tomac got himself another solid win, though Ken Roczen is getting closer and closer to clinch the 450 title.
There was one rider who probably didn't leave the track smiling, though, and that was Joey Savatgy. The incidents between him and Cooper Webb on the first lap have been discussed a million times over the last six days, with opinions ranging all over the map, as is always the case when two riders make contact. On Sunday, I literally received two emails within an hour, one saying "I studied the video over and over it's obvious Webb brake checked" and another saying "I studied the video over and over and it's obvious Webb made a block pass but then bobbled in the corner, it wasn't a brake check."
Two sides seeing the same thing that don't agree on what they're seeing. Sounds like our political system!
All that's left is the next race, at Unadilla, where everyone will be watching these two riders closely. That means this week's question has to be: will the Washougal incident between Webb and Savatgy spill over into Unadilla?
Where do the officials come down on all of this? From what I understand, there is no conclusive video evidence supporting Savatgy’s claim that Webb brake-checked him, and an official standing in the previous corner where Joey took Cooper wide stated that the Kawasaki rider’s wheels were locked up and he was simply going too fast to make the corner, so neither incident will lead to a penalty. However, the unprofessional behavior after the race around the podium by Savatgy and members of Webb’s team will likely get both riders formal warnings.
REWRITE (Steve Matthes)
RJ Hampshire and Jordon Smith are a couple of kids the GEICO Honda team have bet big on the last few seasons. The results have been up and down, but there’s been enough potential there for the team to sign both Smith and Hampshire to contracts for 2017 and beyond. I even wrote about it on Racer X earlier this year here, and everyone seemed happy with each other.
Well, scratch that, as we’ve since found out that Smith and the team will be parting ways at the end of this year. Hangtown was great for Jordon, but since then he’s had some crashes and some injuries as a result, and I imagine frustrations were mounting on both sides. So it turns out Smith and the GEICO team won’t be renewing their deal for next year and Jordon is going to move on—perhaps to the TLD KTM, if rumors are to be believed. Weird deal for sure, but if the rider’s not happy, there’s little chance he or the team have success.
Yamaha's records (Andras Hegyi)
So far it’s been a great season for Yamaha in 250 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. In the first nine rounds, the three-diapasons brand collected six wins and 18 podiums. And in the first four positions of the overall points standings there are three Yamaha riders. The leading Yamaha rider Cooper Webb can ride into the last three rounds with a confident advantage.
At Washougal, the ninth round, Yamaha has grabbed that 18th podium already. This quantity is more than Yamaha's 2014 record. Two years ago, Yamaha riders gathered 17 podiums in all during the entire season. In the history of the 125/250 National class, which has been in existence since 1974, Yamaha has gotten 257 podiums in all, but especially so in the last three seasons, via Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha riders. Between 2014 and now Yamaha has gotten 50 podiums. But in the 43 seasons of 125/250 National Yamaha was not able to get a single podium in seven seasons: 1984, '90, '95, '05, '09, '10 and '12.
Finally, Yamaha has been unbeatable in the last five rounds, with Cooper Webb, Alex Martin and Jeremy Martin leading he way. Yamaha had a similar winning streak only one time in the history of the 125/250 Nationals. It happened 1977, back when Yamahas were yellow, defending champ Bob Hannah and soon-to-be-champ Broc Glover won five races in a row. But the record in this class belongs to Kawasaki, which has the longest winning streak ever in a season. In 2011 Kawasaki won all 12 rounds. Honda and Suzuki had seven successive wins each in a season, while KTM has been able to get only two consecutive wins, and Husqvarna has yet to win a race in this class.
FLY LYFE & SCOTT TO LOVE IT (Steve Matthes)
I had a busy few days around Washougal, as Friday night before the race the 2017 Fly Racing line of gear was dropped at some swanky studio in downtown Portland. Fly is a company that's really coming on in the last half dozen years. Whether it was the Lite Hydrogen line or the EVO line with Boa closure, the guys in Boise seem to have it going on. And the chicken skewers with some sort of sauce on them at the intro were great also.
Then Washougal all day Saturday (which I've covered) and after the race, my wife and I drove up to Vancouver, Canada (with a little assist from my buddy Newf at Atlas Brace), eventually getting to the hotel at 1 a.m. That night we headed to what was our eleventh, and probably last, Tragically Hip concert. The Hip are a Canadian rock staple and an amazing band to see live. Their lead singer was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, and the band decided to head out onto the road one last time. Or at least I hope they'll be more tours, but it seems likely not. And honestly, the show wasn't epic or amazing at all. It was sad, as we both realized this would be the last time we'd get to experience these amazing musicians. My wife was blown away by 16K+ fans packed into an arena to see this band she'd only seen in the USA in much, much smaller venues.
After that, fly home Monday afternoon, host a PulpMX Show that night (with Adam Cianciarulo as a guest) then fly out that next day to Park City, Idaho, where the guys at Scott Motosports were launching the brand new Prospect goggle. Adam Cianciarulo was there also (as was Justin Barcia) as was a whole bunch of bicycle dealers who were more excited for the new bikes than the new goggle.
There's no doubt that the gang at Scott took a look at the Oakley Air Brake goggle and tried to improve on that somewhat-revolutionary goggle. The Prospect has a very wide field of vision, four locking mounts for the 1mm thick lens, a wider strap, a four-post tear off system and a film system that was unique and way easy to mount among many other features. The goggle game has been raised once again. Beautiful lodge, great hospitality and turkey wraps that were perfect. Thanks to Scott for the intro and again, I wish they'd had called it "The Knowles".
I watched Weege interview Adam Cianciarulo for the website and then as we were standing around BS'ing, I decided to grab Adam for the Motorcycle Superstore Racer X Podcast wrapping up Washougal, which was awesome. So basically between me having AC on the PulpMX Show on Monday, shuttling AC back and forth to the airport in two days, podcasting with AC, and also stopping at Del Taco for AC on the way home, let's just say that I learned way more about Blink-182 and Chipotle this week than I ever wanted to.
Pastrana X Games (DC)
Fox Racing had Travis Pastrana’s X Games bike on display at their gear launch—the same bike that landed in San Francisco Bay back in 1999. Eric Johnson and I were invited to be judges for that first year FMX was included in the X Games by ESPN, and Travis so completely dominated in his first run that he wasn't going to need a second, so he got it in his mind that he was going to try to flip his bike into San Francisco Bay—and this was a year before Carey Hart became the first land the trick on dirt! Travis had help from Fox Racing, as well as his dad, who is a navy veteran—they were out there in a small boat, waiting for Travis to hit the outside berm and jump off the pier the course was set up on. We knew he was going to try it, but no one at ESPN did. When it happened and he launched his RM out over the water, it was spectacular and amazing and just really damn cool, but the network and local authorities freaked. The Fox boys and Robert were right there in the water to grab Travis, but the bike sank to the bottom of the dark, cold water and ended up next to a sunken tugboat. Robert Pastrana would end up scuba diving for it to get a hook on the bike and pull it back up, and all seemed fine. But then ESPN refused to replay it on TV, and the police were close to arresting Travis for "polluting" the water because they thought the bike was full of gasoline and oil, though there was hardly any of either in it because Pastrana knew what he wanted to do. The other problem was ours as judges: How do you score a half-run that ends with an iconic moment like that? Didn't matter; he had already won, and it was one of the most memorable jumps ever, in the line with Jeremy McGrath's nac-nac, Seth Enslow's Crusty crashes, Hart's backflip, Travis' double backflip, and so on.
SHAUN KALOS (DC)
One of the best minicycle racers I ever saw was Shaun Kalos from Arizona. He was an R&D Racing Suzuki factory rider and then a Honda factory rider while he was on minicycles. When he turned pro, he had a decent career, and I would say he’s up there with Michael Byrne and Scott Burnworth as one of the best riders never to win an AMA National or Supercross. Shaun still rides, he’s still in great shape, and he’s come back to Loretta Lynn’s a few times with his family as a vet rider. He shared a photo and a memory of his early days at the ranch on Facebook that I wanted to share here:
“Good Luck to all the Arizona riders who made it to Loretta Lynn's starting next week. This pic is from 1984 and has a lot of nostalgia in it. First is the famous bus which was heard around the world. It was parked right behind the starting line where Kawasaki is now. Who remembers the Honda aero 50s that were so cool and fun to ride? I could do wheelies for miles on that thing. I remember Eddie Hicks and I riding down the road to Loretta's mansion doing wheelies most of the way there. Greg Arnette from Arnette Sunglasses is in this pic, who at the time ran the Honda factory amateur program. My mechanic Dick Kelly is working on my bike and to the very left of the ramp was Kyle Fleming's DG bicycle that his Dad gave to me, that I still have. I was fortunate to win two titles that year along with Jimmy Button and Arizona won the state with the most championships. Great memories, Go Arizona!”
Hey, Watch It!
Racer X Films: Washougal 125 Dream Race
Racer X Films: Loretta Lynn's One Lap – DC poaching an early-in-the-week lap on AFred’s 2005 Honda CR125R
Valentino Rossi: The Doctor Series Episode 5/5
HEADLINES OF THE WEEK
For more news on the Canadian Nationals, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #31.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the Ranch!