Welcome back to Racerhead and Unadilla. After merciful two-week summer break for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross the season will end with a three-race sprint, beginning with one of the biggest events of all, Unadilla here on the Robinson family farm in New York. There’s plenty of drama to talk about in both classes, though the points leaders—Ken Roczen (450) and Cooper Webb (250)—are well out front. The injuries keep coming—now defending 250 champ Jeremy Martin is done for the season (and likely done with Yamalube/Star Racing) and we will have two new champions. Then we will see Roczen leave the Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/RCH Racing team and take his #1 plate to a different brand, just as he did in 2014 after winning the 450MX title on a KTM and switched to Suzuki.
For Martin, his injuries are one thing, but there’s some real tension under the Star Racing awning. The two-time defending 250 champ has been pitting apart from his teammate Webb, and even his brother Alex. Now we hear he’s asked for an early release from the team, possibly in the hopes of showing up at one of the USGP events on a red bike, to get as much of a jump on his competition as he can, and maybe take a little revenge on his old team. Again, this is a what we've been hearing and nothing has been finalized.
And speaking of his old team, it’s almost certain that Webb will be the Open rider for Team USA in next month’s Motocross of Nations, and Martin’s brother Alex will be the MX2 entry. With Eli Tomac announcing that he would not be participating this year due to being forced to do so many races, we’re hearing that it might be Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson who gets tapped for the MX1 spot (and that means all three members of Team USA for the Monster Energy MXoN with be wearing Rockstars on their helmets). The announcement should come tomorrow. If you’re wondering why Joey Savatgy isn’t mentioned as the 250 rider, that might be a result of the tension between him and Webb that boiled over after the last race at Washougal, or maybe just the decision of team manager Roger DeCoster.
So how did things get so sideways for the younger Martin and the whole Star Racing team? I was going to go over and ask this afternoon here at ‘Dilla but their rig is empty—the team’s mechanics’ connecting flights got canceled and they are all driving up from New Jersey. Martin has been coy all year long about what’s been happening with either his body or his bike, especially after the High Point meltdowns for both him and Alex, and it now seems like it’s gotten to the point where he would rather park until his contract ended September 1. Stay tuned to this one.
Finally, with seemingly so many folks getting hurt—AMA Horizon Award winner Chase Sexton is out before he even does his first pro race!—it’s a reminder to all how important the Asterisk Mobile Medical Unit is to the pro pits. Each of the six of the OEMs have pledged a brand new 450 of the winner’s choosing for this year’s Win-A-450 raffle to help keep the Asterisk Mobile Medics on the road. If you haven’t signed up for a chance to win yourself a 450, please do right here.
The winner will be drawn at the Ironman National in Indiana in two weeks. Enter—and enter often!
And speaking of good causes, there's another one that vitally needs help and support from the entire motocross community. The Palmer family from St. George, Utah, was traveling home from Loretta Lynn's Ranch when they got caught in one of the crazy storms that have been hitting all summer. Their motorhome hydroplaned and caused a serious crash on the interstate in Kansas. This was just 24 hours after the race, where one of the Palmers, Kyson, took second in his class.
Both Kyson and his brother Kayden had to be airlifted from the crash site, with severe injuries, while their father Juston broke his back and separated his shoulder, and mom Misty suffered numerous cuts and bruises. Kayden got the worst of it, with bleeding on his brain and he's been put in an induced coma as he recovers.
The whole Palmer family are motocross enthusiasts—their uncle owns a local track called SGMX that held a Loretta Lynn's Area Qualifier—and they are highly regarded in the Utah moto community. They could use our support now, since both parents are self-employed. Friends have set up a GoFundMe page to help in this emergency situation.
And finally, a get-well-soon to my lifelong friend and fellow industry worker Kip Bigelow, who suffered a slight stroke after Loretta Lynn's last week and has been recovering in a Nashville hospital. Best wishes, Kip!
Let me turn this over to Matthes with more on Eli…
TOMAC TAPS OUT (Steve Matthes)
The news came pretty much out of the blue this week. Despite previously saying he would line up for Team USA, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac bowed out of the Olympics of Motocross, citing not enough time to get ready and amount of races he has done so far. Due to contractual obligations with series sponsor Monster Energy, Tomac has to line up at the two USGPs that immediately follow the last round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships. Then there’s a week off, the MXON, a week off, the Monster Energy Cup, and then the Red Bull Straight Rhythm. And that's not including the new SMX Cup in Germany the week after the MXDN that KTM and Husqvarna are making their U.S.-based athletes go do.
With 29 races over here in 34 weeks, Tomac felt like adding on four more (two USGPs, the MXON, mandatory Monster Energy Cup) would be too much and I understand this decision. It’s unfortunate that any sponsor forces its riders to race in two races where they’re the title sponsor of and that costs the fans of the sport of the chance to see Tomac in a race that actually matters, but that’s the world we live in now.
Lately, more and more races are being added each year. The Red Bull Straight Rhythm, the established MEC, the SMX Rider’s Cup in Germany (Ryan Dungey, Marvin Musquin, Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne will be there for that, and I would think only Marvin and Zacho really actually wanted to go) and these two USGPs all add up to an extra five weeks of racing, and six weeks of training in what should be the off-season for everyone. I get that the riders don’t want to do these—have you seen the injuries we have in the sport year after year? Is adding more races a way to keep them healthier? I don’t think so.
You can say, “Oh, these riders are paid millions, they should just shut up and go,” and that’s kind of dumb, but you’d be right in the case of five or six guys. But what about the team personnel? I’ve been on teams and we put in more hours than the riders ever did. Do these people get a break or do they just have to keep working 24/7 so that other people can make the money and promote their drink/series?
No rider I’ve spoken with is excited that they have to race the USGPs in a series that pays no purse money (some riders don’t have team bonuses either) and you’re just in the way of other riders that actually care and need the points. The political pressure put on riders like Tomac and Dungey is some of the reason why, at the height of his skills, Ryan Villopoto just said enough. One high level rider I spoke to this week pointed that out and said that’s probably going to start happening more as more and more races get put on the calendar.
This year Team USA is the big loser, and I’m afraid we’re going to see more and more of this type of stuff every year from here on out.
The Question (Jason Weigandt)
One question from two weeks ago still lingers: will there be any spillover from the crazy Cooper Webb/Joey Savatgy incident at Washougal? I personally think some of these deals get overblown and nothing comes of it, but we won’t know for sure unless these two hook up in a battle on the track. We’ll see.
Another question for this weekend: Will anyone thrive after having two weekends off? I don’t think that time will have an impact on riders that have been in the groove the entire season, but I’m curious to see if it can provide a boost for riders who have come back from the sidelines, like Dean Wilson or James Stewart. I could put a lot more names in there, but a lot of them either got hurt again (Trey Canard) or have realized they’re out for the season (Justin Bogle, Jeremy Martin, etc…). Really, the injuries have piled up quite a bit here late in the season, which is often a random thing. Last year seemed like a ton of guys got hurt in supercross and were healthy through motocross; this year’s it has been the exact opposite. It’s silly season time and these races are especially important for some 450 riders. We’ll see if anyone takes advantage of the time off.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas and David pingree)
JT: As much as I love American motocross, Unadilla was just never a race I looked forward to. It was so different from what I grew up riding on; it was just tough to ever feel comfortable. The rocks were much more prevalent than now, which is great for the safety of the riders but I always remember leaving there looking like I had been bead-blasted all weekend. I struggled with the slippery New York soil as it was down to the bedrock in some places. Recent efforts have brought much of that topsoil back into the fray, greatly improving the traction levels and again, that's good for everyone. Temperatures were usually pretty mild, which was nice but didn't help me and my miserable days of Florida training. Unadilla just represented a struggle for me on so many fronts. I had decent results there, weirdly, but it was a battle from the second I left Utica.
This is one of the most improved races from my early years of racing. The facilities have taken such a huge step forward, the track has actual soil again, even cell service has made an appearance! All in all, it's just nice to see things progressing even if it is a place that I had such a tough time adapting to.
Ping: I hated Unadilla for a long time. As a kid I watched Hannah, RJ and Wardy rail around loamy berms filled with torn up grass and dark soil. But the first time I raced there (1994) it seemed the soil washed away and left a base that was hard as a rock. Maybe that was because the base was mostly rock at that point. Amateur races, quad races and years of rain took their toll. It's been better in recent years but I still miss the days when it was covered in grass when you showed up. Unadilla is a tough race and it definitely separates the men from the boys.
Week in Review (Chase Stallo)
We know you’re super busy playing Pokémon Go or something, so we’re making it easy to keep up with the latest news:
- Two-time 250MX champion Jeremy Martin’s season is over due to broken ribs suffered in a crash at Washougal. Since turning pro in 2013, Unadilla will mark the first round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Martin will have missed. Read more….
- Team USA is expected to be announced this weekend and it will not include Eli Tomac—the favorite to be selected for MX1. In a statement this week, Tomac cited his busy September schedule—due to contract obligations, he’s scheduled to race the two USGPs after Lucas Oil Pro Motocross—as the reason to not attend. Prior to the two-week break in Pro Motocross, Tomac had raced 26 races in 29 weeks. Read more…
- Justin Bogle is out for the remainder of Pro Motocross due to a neck injury sustained at Southwick. Bogle said he expects to be off the bike for 3-4 more weeks. Read more…
- Marvin Musquin was not selected for the French MXoN team. He issued a statement on it earlier this week. Read more…
- CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha officially announced their team for the 2017 season and it will look much different. Read more…
- The story surrounding the Moss brothers took another turn this week. Read more…
- Dylan Ferrandis is out for the Motocross of Nations after breaking his arm at the MXGP of Switzerland. Read more…
One That Got Away (Weigandt)
We covered a ton of things from the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch presented by AMSOIL for the last two weeks, and there’s more coming in the next issue of Racer X Illustrated (original content, folks. We never repeat web info in the mag). There is one other rider that deserves some spotlight, though. Cameron McAdoo placed fourth overall in Open Pro Sport and third overall in 250A—which meant he was overshadowed by Chase Sexton and Bradley Taft, who won those classes—but his riding was so much more impressive than indicated by the results.
Teams are mining the amateur ranks for more than ever but some diamonds still need to be pulled from the rough. McAdoo could be one. He moved down to Club MX in South Carolina and was noticed by Mike Alessi, who convinced his dad Tony to give him a look. Tony convinced SmarTop/MotoConcepts team owner Mike Genova to support McAdoo at the RC Amateur SX at Daytona (which is easy because the supercross rigs are already there) and McAdoo performed well, even giving Austin Forkner a battle in most of the races. Ponying up a full SmarTop/MotoConcepts effort was a bigger deal. Now, Tony Alessi is certainly a controversial figure, but he knows the amateur drill well, and it speaks volumes that Tony thought so highly of McAdoo. Genova agreed to go to Loretta’s, with McAdoo working furiously to take advantage of the support. Then, the week before the race, he crashed hard and broke his shoulder and some ribs. His dream was over.
But everyone who rides with McAdoo down at Club MX talks about his mental strength and fortitude. They say how he will wad it up big in a moto and get right back on the bike. They talk about how badly he wants it, which is what you want from a kid who is finally getting a shot. So, somehow, he showed up Loretta’s anyway and raced his heart (and shoulder and ribs) out. McAdoo led some laps, and hung tough with Sexton and Taft for a bit early in motos until the pain began to set in. He even led a lot of his final moto of the week before stalling, and then Taft ran into the back of him (nowhere to go) and went down. Regardless, he showed he has the speed and desire to at least mix it up with two riders who now have good deals going into the pros.
I’m not sure where McAdoo goes next. Does Genova give him a full MotoConcepts ride in supercross next year as a pro? Can he ride supercross? I hope so, because this could turn into a true rags-to-riches tale.
As for the rest of the week, there were some amazing stories, on an extraordinarily rough track due to all of the rain, but one of my favorites of the week is ongoing: Arik Swan, the Vet +30 Class Champion who likes to race in button-down shirts, has turned pro and signed himself up for the last three nationals! Swan will run #874, and almost certainly something more suited for an office party than a motocross race. Here’s hoping the man in black-and-gray makes the main!
Head-Scratching Headlines of the Week
Hey, Watch It!
We always love a good travel story, and the Czech Republic-based LIP PRODUCTION crew just released a well-produced short film about their two-wheeled adventures across southwestern Europe. It may not be motocross, but their scramblers do leave the confines of mapped asphalt.
Racer X Films: Factory Husqvarna TC 125
Racer X Films: 2016 Kawasaki KX450F
Here’s a Lap Around Unadilla with JGR Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti, courtesy of Vital MX.
Congratulations to all of the 2016 National Champions. See you back at Loretta Lynn Ranch July 31-August 5, 2017.
Ryno Power is hiring independent, regional sales persons with at least two years road-rep experience and a passion for helping others to truly evolve within their two-wheeled sports. Interested? Submit your resume to Josh Shorter today: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Are you or someone you know clinging on to the last sliver of summer freedom and loathing the upcoming school year? Does this time of year provoke feelings of anxiety, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or being too cool for school? If so, please contact www.racerxbrand.com for a healthy dose of Racer X Brand apparel and collectibles to relieve any and all symptoms that will keep your loved ones from looking fresh to death this fall.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'Eh Update #33.
We spotted this on Greta Martin’s Facebook page. As you know, Greta and her husband John own and operate Spring Creek and are the parents of Jeremy and Alex Martin:
What a week! A tidal wave down my driveway & through the track. John, Mike Quinn & the workers are putting Humpty Dumpty back together again so we should be ready for the Viking Clash. And wonder of wonders - I received an email telling me I'm registered on Wedding Wire. My lovely daughter/office co-worker signed me up so she could see if there's a better way to work the banquet seating. Once in a life time being married is enough - especially when you have to put Humpty Dumpty back together now & again.
That’s it from Unadilla. Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races.