Welcome to Racerhead and the first weekend of the off-season (for most of us, anyway). Yes, the Charlotte MXGP is happening today and tomorrow, or it least it was today until the hurricane hit and soaked the place. (That’s why Lucas Oil Pro Motocross ends when it does—the very real threat of hurricane season on the East Coast.) It’s definitely the off-season for Ken Roczen, our newly crowned AMA 450 Motocross Champion. Kenny got some grief for posting a photo of him kicking back and having some adult beverages after a very hard-earned championship summer. “I work harder than anybody else. So I ball harder than anyone else,” he wrote, before editing it slightly. Then today he apologized with an even better message after Vital MX almost melted down over his post, sans appropriate emoji: “What a douchy post yesterday. Sorry guys. That wasn’t me speaking…. You’d think a German knows how to drink.. Only drink once or twice a year. Well, let’s do some yoga.”
Man, if anyone has a right to take some time off right now, it’s Ken Roczen. So he’s taking some time off and having fun—exactly what athletes do with their time after a very long season. I’m pretty sure Eli Tomac and a few other guys wish they were there at the beach with Roczen, or at least taking a break, but instead Eli has another couple weeks of work (not to mention a middle-row seat from Denver to Charlotte) to race in the MXGP at the request of Monster Energy, his Kawasaki team’s sponsor and the MXGP title sponsor. But then he’s bowing out of the Motocross of Nations and Team USA as a result of having to do these two extra races at Charlotte and Glen Helen.
After the Ironman National finale, Tomac said, ”I would have went to des Nations, but I have to race GPs. I’m not gonna put myself through the meat grinder in January through October and not have any time off and just go right back to the supercross track. It gets pretty long if you add in all those events.”
When asked if not racing for Team USA at the MXoN was a tough decision for him, Eli (whose brother is in the Air Force) answered, “It was. I’m a patriotic guy. I’ve been over there twice racing des Nations, and I haven’t won. It’s something I still want to check off my list. I guess we have other priorities right now.”
Personally, I hope we collectively revisit those other priorities before more guys have to make the same tough decision with their careers. Motocross and supercross professionals have a very busy schedule, the work is hard, and so is the travel—and that’s without these added new races. After seventeen rounds of supercross and then twelve rounds of motocross, everyone—the crew, the mechanics, the drivers, the tire guys, the suspension guys, the goggle guys—needs a little bit of time off to heal their bodies, recharge their batteries, and maybe even switch teams. With an injury rate like we have right now, it’s understandable why most in the paddock aren’t all that interested in some of these new events they are being asked (or told) to attend.
Speaking of Charlotte, I feel bad about the rain that’s hitting today and hope it gets drained before tomorrow. They cancelled today’s racing and will shorten the program tomorrow to make it work in a single-day format, which may actually help guys like Tomac, Webb, Justin Barcia, Dean Wilson, Phil Nicoletti, Austin Forkner, and Adam Cianciarulo. Then it’s across the country to California for a return to Glen Helen. At least they won’t have a hurricane there—but it might be a little hot!
Here’s the revised schedule for Charlotte tomorrow. You can buy it and watch it on www.mxgp-tv.com. If you want to watch it on TV, you have to wait until Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m. (second MX2 moto) and 5 p.m. (MXGP second moto) so try to stay off social media and this website of you don’t want to know who wins! (The first motos will not be show in the U.S. on TV.)
There is a cool bonus coming next week to Glen Helen: Jeremy Martin will make his debut with GEICO Honda. I had mentioned a while back that the two-time AMA 250 Motocross Champion might just show up at Charlotte and race in red, but the plan is now to get out there at Glen Helen’s MXGP instead. Still not sure about what drama went down between Martin and his Yamalube/Star Racing team, but there’s probably been a lot going back to the beginning of summer, when everything seemed to be A-OK.
So let’s send it to Charlotte, where our own Jason Weigandt is a local. . .
European Weather (Weigandt)
Well, I can think of several things I wanted to see today at the Charlotte MXGP, because I’ve actually never gone to a Grand Prix race before. Nope, not once. Ask my wife and kids. If I don’t have a job requirement to go, I don’t get permission to do cool and fun things like rampage through Europe to watch a race (unless I want to fly to Europe with two kids and absolutely ruin the flight for everyone else on the plane). And back when I was single, I was covering quad races in the woods, and there was no getting out of that either.
Unfortunately, nothing much to see here today at the Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as it rained hard here last night and then hit again at 11 a.m. with no letup in sight for the rest of the day. Tomorrow the weather should be better, but today’s stuff was canceled. I did see a few neat things, such as GP team bikes and employees hanging out under the tents of the U.S. teams. That includes Clement Desalle’s #25 parked next to Eli Tomac’s #3 at the Monster Energy Kawasaki semi, Hondas of Evgeny Bobryshev (a 2017!), Gautier Paulin, and Tim Gasjer at the Honda HRC truck, and Suzuki bikes (and crates) housed with the Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s RCH Suzuki crew.
Yes, RCH is taking on bigger responsibilities these days now that it has officially become Suzuki’s only 450 factory team. Team manager Kyle Bentley told us today the team will probably have to make an additional hire or two to fill out some work the team will now be responsible for. Also, the plan is a two-rider team again, but he wasn’t budging on who those riders will be. Bentley said he would love to find room for a third rider as maybe a backup, like Phil Nicoletti does at JGR, but he’s not sure if they’ll be able to make that happen yet. Last year Jake Weimer filled in for Broc Tickle and actually stayed through the end of Monster Energy Supercross even after Tickle came back.
Also, I spotted Romain Febvre’s Yamaha next to Chad Reed’s in the factory Yamaha Monster Energy truck, however, it appears Reed will not be racing. He should be on hand to sign autographs and such, though.
One cool thing I did get to do is shake hands with 10-time World Champion Stefan Everts. That was great. I was hoping to get to meet some of the GP riders, but no one really came to the track today. Supposedly a lot of people are going to take this rare off-day to visit some NASCAR shops, like Hendrick Motorsports, which is right across the street. Gearheads can always find gearhead stuff.
The rain has become the topic today, but the real subject should be the track. The last time we visited this race, back at a press event in January, it was to be run at the four-lane-wide Z Max Dragway, but it has since moved to the Dirt Track next door. Supposedly, they were afraid it might rain and then make it impossible to get the mud off of the drag strip in time for a big NHRA race next weekend. Seems like that was the right move!
Manmade motocross tracks have a mixed history in this sport. Obviously, supercross has been well-received since the start, but the hybrid-type stuff at other races hasn’t always gone over well. But sometimes it looks okay, like the Assen GP just last weekend. I can say the Dirt Track seems to actually be a better venue for this than Z Max Dragway. Because of the banking, it gives very slight ups and downs, not real elevation change, but that at least makes it easier to see parts of the track from the grandstands. Unfortunately, the grandstands are set back from the track, and there’s a catch fence for the cars between the spectators and the track. Also, I can’t judge the dirt or roughness because the track is hardened up right now to help prevent the water from soaking through. In other words, I don’t know if it’s going to work or not, and since everything was canceled today, I still don’t know.
Of course, it’s not like Webb versus Herlings or Tomac/Barcia/Wilson versus MXGP regulars isn’t intriguing. It’s just hard to guess what it will look like until we see how this track and weather turn out. See you tomorrow!
Jessy Nelson Update (Chase Stallo)
Over the weekend, Jessy Nelson—winner of the last USGP at Glen Helen last September—released an update on his personal Instagram page, writing that he is currently in a rehab center and beginning his road to recovery. “It's going to be long and tough but that's what I'm dealt with and going to give it my best shot to try and walk again one day,” he wrote.
Nelson was injured at the Unadilla National in the second moto after he went down in a corner and his bike fell on top of him, hitting him in the back. On August 18, Nelson underwent successful surgery. At that time, doctors told the family that “there was no further damage and the surgery went well and according to plan.”
Again, if you would like to help Jessy, please consider donating to his Road 2 Recovery fund.
You can read his full update below.
Thank you everyone for the kind get well wishes and all the love, from the cards and letters I appreciate it all so much. I'm currently at a rehab center to start my road to recovery it's going to be long and tough but that's what I'm dealt with and going to give it my best shot to try and walk again one day. Sorry if I haven't gotten back to your messages on here it's been really hard with everything I have to do and keeping my family and friends informed. If you could please help me by donating to my@road2recovery fund and helping me out with my rehabilitation and medical costs my parents aren't wealthy by any means and as of now I'm no longer racing and I really need your help so please help with anything you can I greatly appreciate it. I have to give a huge thank you to my family@nelsonfamily136 for dropping everything and helping me along with my girlfriend @emily_everett5 thank you so much for being so sweet and encouraging and being by my side these past few weeks I wish you were still here but I will see you soon I love you very much. Also thank you to @igfilms@onelife2lose Tyler Keefe @wingsforlife@bobwalker_connxns @hammergolf556and everyone that has helped me so far.
SEASON CELEBRATION (DC)
Both the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champions—Roczen and Webb—had already clinched their respective titles, so the Ironman National in Indiana did not have the same championship drama it did the year before, when Jeremy Martin and Marvin Musquin took the title down to the last moto. But it was the farewell race for BTOSports.com KTM’s highly respected veteran Andrew Short, and he went out in style with the holeshot in his final moto as a professional. Unfortunately, he had bike problems before the end of the first lap, so it wasn’t the fairy-tale ending everyone probably was hoping to see. Roczen again romped to the 450 win, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner got his first win in the 250 Class.
The next day, Forest Lucas, the namesake of series title sponsor Lucas Oil, opened his mansion near Indianapolis for the season celebration. Webb and Roczen were honored for their titles, as were Rookies of the Year Forkner (250) and Benny Bloss (450). Short earned a Lifetime Achievement Award and gave a hilarious speech about always being competitive with everyone in the room. And RCH Racing’s Kyle Bentley was named Team Manager of the Year for his work in managing Roczen to his title, as well as some podium finishes for Broc Tickle. The whole gig was hosted by Greg White and Jason Weigandt, and it was a very nice ending to a very long season.
HOT RUMORS (Steve Matthes)
Suzuki announced what we’ve known for a couple of weeks: that the Yoshimura Suzuki team would be folding up shop and letting RCH Suzuki be their official 450 team. It’s never good to lose a team in the pits, but I know that Yosh guys will be there to offer support to RCH and Motorcycle Superstore guys (look for a PR soon on them being the official Suzuki 250 team), so I don’t think—key word think—guys will be out of jobs. Plenty of testing work and R&D needed for those teams, as well as Suzuki’s rededication to the amateur scene.
Where does this leave James Stewart? Well, I’m not sure. I know JGR Yamaha was talking to Suzuki about changing colors next year, but one of the asks was that JS7 ride for JGR, to which I heard Coy Gibbs said no way after it went south the first time James rode there. Malcolm Stewart? Rumors are that Gibbs would be OK with him but not James.
No matter what, the JGR second team could be happening with an outside-the-sport sponsor that I’ve been sworn to secrecy on but one that I don’t think any of you guys could guess. I’d put the odds of a second JGR team on either Yamahas (probably) or Suzukis (long shot) at 50/50. I think the guys would slide Phil Nicoletti over there and hire one more 450 rider.
The most likely way I see James Stewart racing next year is by getting some factory parts from Suzuki and building his own team, a la Chad Reed. But does he want to do something like that? Maybe brother Malcolm would be on it also?
Justin Brayton doesn’t have a deal for the USA next year, but he, like Wil Hahn, is heading down under to race the Aussie SX series soon. Brayton will be on a Honda with factory parts, and I guess he’ll make some cash, stay sharp, and try to secure something over here.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas and David Pingree)
Thomas: The season is over! After 29 rounds, the American series have come to a close, and most of the industry is probably very excited about it. Racing from January through August is tougher than it sounds, and for those who are traveling nonstop for that eight-month stretch, this first weekend off is a godsend. For me, it wasn't so much about partying or celebrating the time off; I simply enjoyed the little things that the first few weeks of the off-season provided. Waking up and not facing motos, bicycle rides, and gym sessions is a nice change. Just being able to sit on the couch and watch the morning news, which sounds so trivial, was something I looked forward to. In the world of racing, everything seems go-go-go, and these first few weeks and weekends offered a chance to slow that down and relax. Before we realize it, it will be time to start testing supercross and grinding away on 2017 fitness. For now, though, it's a beautiful Labor Day weekend to sit by the lake and enjoy being at home.
Ping: For those who aren't racing GPs or the MXoN, it is finally time to exhale. It's difficult to understand how badly traveling and racing for pretty much 30 straight weekends will beat you up unless you've done it at that level, but it is physically and mentally draining. September should be a time for riders to see family, do things they haven't been able to do, or simply do nothing at all. Sometimes just blowing through an entire season of your favorite show on Netflix in one sitting is the perfect way to spend a day. By the end of the summer I always needed a break mentally as much as I needed one physically.
If you're the new national champ I guess you head to a lavish tropical locale. I'm guessing the Martin brothers would rather just stay home and fish in Spring Creek though. (And I would be wrong, since I just saw the press release that Jeremy Martin is racing next weekend on his new GEICO Honda.) Either way, enjoy the time off everybody. You deserve it.
That goes for the team personnel as well.
October will be here before you can say "fall," and the rush to get ready for the Monster Cup will be on. The 2017 season is already right around the corner.
MEDIA FIGHT!!! (Matthes)
I’ve been pretty vocal in my distaste for the riders and teams basically being forced to race these two USGPs and the SMX Cup after a long American racing season. I like GPs—I spend my own money to go over there, and to the Motocross of Nations, to watch some of the world’s best motocross racers—and I have no problem with there being USGPs over here. But what I do have an issue with is when the push to get riders there hurts the MXoN, a race I and many others love to watch each year. That’s what has happened with Monster Kawasaki and Eli Tomac.
All the teams I visit each week complain about having to go race two extra races (never mind the SMX Cup in Germany; I’m talking about the Monster Energy Cup and Red Bull Straight Rhythm) and look at our injury rate in the sport to show that we don’t really need any extra races. But there they are, piling up week after week. Having two USGPs? Cool, I’ll be at Glen Helen to watch these great riders. But to me, just hold the races and have them stand alone to see if they are a success or not. Pushing the teams and riders onto them? Yeah, they’re not happy, and I’ve reported as much. How come no one ever thinks of the mechanics, suspension guys, truck drivers, and everyone else who has families and has been on the road 29 weeks out of 34 and don't make anywhere near the money the riders do?
Anyway, my media brother Geoff Meyer wrote a column that I felt was directed mostly at me about how the series that he covers is the best and the American series should bend its longstanding schedule to fit into the series he somehow has determined to be the best. I took a bit of exception to his column (after finishing laughing) and wrote a rebuttal in my weekly column on MXVice.com, which was promptly pulled down after Youthstream (the GP promoters) complained.
Apparently, it’s fine for Geoff to just say whatever he wants about U.S. motocross (even though I don’t think he’s ever actually been to national, and certainly not in the last ten years), but no one is really allowed to put their own point of view out there when it comes to the GPs. Luckily for me, I have Pulpmx.com, and that’s where I put the story that the MX Vice guys couldn’t run. No one at PulpMX.com has any issue with me putting the story up there!
Meyer is going to be in Las Vegas this week, and I invited him over to do a podcast about our views on the different series and discuss the future of the sport over here and there. He accepted but then declined the next day after “thinking about it.” Too bad. I would have enjoyed the bench-racing.
One thing I would like to mention. There are things about the GPs I don’t like, and I write about them after I go to races over there, and there are things about Lucas Oil Pro Motocross that I don’t like, and I write about them after the races too. But no one at MX Sports or Racer X Online—this means you, DC—has ever asked me to take something down or change it. Even when Chad Reed slagged off on the nationals when we did an interview earlier this summer, it went up on Racer X Online, and it stayed up. I don’t think the sites in Europe have that same luxury when it comes being critical, unbiased, and honest. Right, Geoff?
A SEASON ON THE BRINK (Matthes)
I got a ton of emails and tweets about the “Pro Circuit: A Season on the Brink” story we did online about the unlikely Jimmy Gaddis '93 125 championship, and I just wanted to talk a bit about that. Thanks for the nice words, everyone.
About two years ago, while just bench-racing with Pro Circuit's Mitch Payton he mentioned the story behind leaving Honda and picking up Kawasaki. He said money was so tight back then that if the bare-bones budget of 1993 didn't work out, he wouldn't be able to go racing in '94. That stuck with me. Like, imagine that. Everyone thinks of Pro Circuit and Kawasaki as linked together as this amazing combination, but it almost got dashed before it started!
And Gaddis, well, by 1993, he was thought of as well past his "best by" date. Injuries had robbed him of his can't-miss status by then. So the fact that Payton and his crew, along with Gaddis on a bike that was nowhere near as good as the Hondas they were just on, won the title was pretty remarkable. It's story I felt was worth telling either in the magazine or online. And the oral-history format I stole from the Jim Miller’s ESPN and Saturday Night Live books and used in my Moto XXX story and Eleven-10 Mods one would fit perfectly in this case.
I heard from all the principals in the story this week after it went up (Payton called; Perry, Bacon, Hooker and Semar texted; Huffman tweeted; Johnson emailed) except for Gaddis, which is perfect because the story was thisclose to going online without quotes from Gaddis himself! Jimmy was really, really, really, really hard to get a hold of. But he was dealing with the sudden passing of his brother Donnie and off the grid for a while. I tried everything but eventually gave up. A guy named Dennis Parker helped a ton, as he still kept in touch with Jimmy and encouraged him to get back with me. Seriously, people, I probably left five voicemails and sent 15 texts!
I'm stoked to get him in there, as the story did need him, but what could I have done? I wasn't going to trash all the work (thanks to Chase for helping and Kelly for transcribing!) because of one guy. But it worked out, and it's perfect that I never heard from Jimmy after it went up. Poetic, really. Thanks for reading it.
Head-Scratching Headlines of the Week
"OHIO: Student Says Clown Chased Him With A Knife" Drudge Report
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In honor of Andrew Short's career, FLY Racing has compiled this gallery of career highlights. Check it out here.
They also included this note:
It’s been FLY Racing’s pleasure to have worked with such an amazing athlete and person. We honor him for his career achievements and for all that he’s done for the sport of motocross. He’s been a true ambassador, not only for the FLY Racing brand, but for the sport as a whole; a role model and inspiration for many young racers and fans alike. Thank you for the memories, Andrew. You will be missed.
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Didn’t have a chance to stop by our booth at one of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross races this summer? Visit www.racerxbrand.com when you're at work recouping from Labor Day weekend to see what you missed. Our End of Summer Sale starts this coming Tuesday and you can pick up some cool merch for next to nothing.
That’s it for Racerhead. Happy Labor Day Weekend. See you at the races.