Welcome to Racerhead. The Monster Energy Cup is now over and Eli Tomac has a million reasons to quit beating himself up over what happened at the Motocross of Nations the weekend before, though I don’t think he will. Even the richest race win of his career probably won’t be enough to get the bitter taste of sand and mud and defeat out of his mouth, and that’s a good thing—we need a pissed off Tomac to get back in the ring next year for Team USA and avenge himself, or at least acquit himself a lot better than he did at RedBud. Same goes for Justin Barcia and Aaron Plessinger (though AP did not actually race the MEC). And while winning in the Las Vegas desert is nowhere near as prestigious as winning the Motocross of Nations, it does pay about a million times better when you do right.
Of course Eli got a little help from his new Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Joey Savatgy, and not to Eli’s request, nor the team’s orders. Joey simply did something that I imagine a lot of other people would do in that situation, and with a wave of his wrist, two million dollars changed hands. I know that I would give it some serious consideration, especially if I obviously wasn’t going to win the million bucks myself, but I could help a friend and teammate as well as his pen pal at home (or in this case Jesse down on the infield. I just hope that I would not have done it so obviously!)
Then again, there’s something not so sporting about pulling over like that. I guess you just never know until you’re in such a situation, and I doubt any of us will be in anytime soon… When the New York Giants Michael Strahan was one sack away from the NFL record for sacks in a season, and time was running out on the game, Green Bay Packers QB Brett Favre called for a naked bootleg to Strahan’s side, and then literally just fell over, basically tackling himself but the credit went to the nearest opposing player, which was Strahan. He got the record he wanted, but he also got an asterisk even though Favre acted on his own.
All that aside, Eli looked really good and aggressive, much different than he did just a week earlier at RedBud. Savatgy looked pretty good too in his 450 debut, and so did Jason Anderson in his first SX race back since that broken foot he suffered practicing at Glen Helen early in the summer. There was also flashes of brilliance in some of the old-schoolers out there like the Chad Reed, Josh Grant, and even Ryan Villopoto. All in all, it looked like a fun night in Vegas for everyone, especially Jesse—I can’t imagine what the rest of his night was like!
Not so fun was the news yesterday that Alta was ceasing operations as they look for a new investor. This genuinely bummed me out, as despite what you may think of our stance on placing it in the AMA Amateur National at Loretta Lynn’s in 2018, I was pulling for Alta and the whole idea of adding a new sector of motorcycling to our great sport. I also have friends who worked in the Alta system, and even bought a 2018 Redshift MXR as well as a 2018 EX Enduro. (Yes, bought.) I trying to get my head wrapped around the real potential of these motorcycles, and as I have written and said here before, they are impressive and fun, and the upside is huge.
Unfortunately, Alta is finding out the same thing Cannondale did 20 years ago, and that’s the simple fact that it is very difficult to start building a brick wall at the top. Starting out small and at the bottom and working your way up might have been a better tack. That way a generation of kids wouldn’t blink at the idea of an electric motorcycle if that’s what they start on. And as the riders grow, so would the product line of Alta. The lure of going straight to AMA Supercross, which is what Alta was trying to do, can get expensive in a hurry. To this day I still believe that had Cannondale started out with minicycle models or even four-wheelers, rather than a 450, they might have made it. Now I just hope someone throws Alta a lifeline and keeps it going, because their bikes are close to being some kind of game-changer and finding some traction in the marketplace, and maybe even a bunch of new riders….
And speaking of new riders, the FIM and Youthstream officially announced their 2019 MXGP schedule (the early release was provisional) and the rounds in Hong Kong and China are both still there. I have never been to either but it’s certainly something I am now considering. It also reminded me that ten years ago we did a story about motocross in China written by an ex-pat American who had been racing there, Tony Sandstrom. Obviously a lot has changed in ten years, but it’s still an interesting read—I once sent it John Huntsman, the former Utah Governor and the U.S. Ambassador to China, and a huge motocross fan. He told me he might go check out the races the next time he went back to China, and maybe now he’s got a good reason to go see one. Check back next week, as we will run it online in full.
This weekend will be another fun event as Red Bull Straight Rhythm goes off in its patented straight line at Pomona Fairgrounds, but I’m sitting this one out and headed up to Johnstown to check out the Travis Pastrana Challenge at Jeff Cernic’s Pleasure Valley Raceway, so let me throw it over to Jason Weigandt right here…
Monster Cup and Red Bull Straight Rhythm (Jason Weigandt)
This has been perhaps the most dynamic three weekends of racing I can ever remember watching, from an all-time weekend at RedBud and the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations to the usual Las Vegas debauchery and wildness of the Monster Energy Cup, and now something completely different, with the all-two-stroke Red Bull Straight Rhythm. These events represent a weird weave of new school and old school, as the Nations is really the longest continually running motocross race, but Straight Rhythm, a most advanced form of racing for the ADD set, is hanging its hat on retro vibes. Monster Energy Cup is somewhere in between—it's not old-school racing like the MXoN, but it's more traditional than Straight Rhythm. Regardless, it's a great time to be alive in this sport. Yes, the "too many races" chorus is always loud, but keep in mind there were years when Motocross of Nations enthusiasm in this country was very low, the old U.S. Open was dead, the Monster Energy Cup hadn't started, and Red Bull Straight Rhythm didn't exist. In contrast, this might be the most hyped and talked-about October we've ever had, and RBSR hasn't even started yet!
In my view, as long as fans are engaged, we're good. And while Team USA's sixth-place finish still stings for many, it's provided endless conversation. Then the Monster Cup finish, with the Joey Savatgy/Eli Tomac switch-up, has certainly kept people talking.
Savatgy has taken a beating from fans over the last year or so, and getting the Monster Energy Kawasaki 450 slot has only added to that drama. Fans are super critical about Joey getting that slot. Joey told me he's realized he's not going to win these folks over in the short term, so he's just going to mess with some people and embrace it for now. Moving over for Tomac is only going to add to the hand-wringing from fans, but Joey doesn't care. He rode really, really well at Monster Energy Cup, probably better than he expected himself. Of course, one early off-season race doesn't mean much, but if anyone needed a confidence boost, it's Savatgy. If he can keep riding well, maybe he's going to win some fans over too.
THREE WEEKS (Steve Matthes)
As Weege commented on, this weekend wraps up the third week of the off-season with three types of racing as different as one could possibly get: motocross, supercross, and whatever this weekend’s Red Bull Straight Rhythm is. Speaking of that, I was down at the Pomona Fairplex complex yesterday for the first day of practices with my rider, Team PulpMX's Cameron McAdoo. Now, Cameron hadn't ridden a 250 two-stroke in, I think, ever, and the only two-stroke experience he has is the Schoolboy class back at Loretta's years ago. Not to mention that the bike is set up for Alex Ray, who's a little heavier than McAdoo. Not to mention we forgot to check the sag before he went out. Not to mention the bar bend is also wrong for Cameron. Not to mention I'm not sure he's ever ridden a Yamaha before.
But anyways, by the end of the practice session, he was looking much better, and we here at Team PulpMX—me, owner/team manager, Derek Rankin (mechanic), and Alex Ray (coach)—are ready to RAM IT. By the way, Racer X's guy, someone named Josh Grant, looked REALLY GOOD on the Husqvarna. We're screwed.
THE HELEN (Matthes)
Because I'm down here for RBSR, I'm staying with my buddy Kris Keefer up in the High Dez, and because he's Keefer, this means I have to go riding a dirt bike. So I brought my Yamaha YZ450F down (#BluCru) and went to Glen Helen for the first time in, like, forever. Full Mt. St. Helen’s hill and everything. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki guys were out practicing some supercross, and I gave Adam Cianciarulo a wave, but he blew me off. Must've been the mirrored EKS Brand goggles. One thing about riding GH on a Thursday is there are a ton of fast guys on motorcycles, so you're trying to stay out of the way of dudes like Justin Cooper, Colt Nichols, Jo Shimoda, and Dean Wilson ... on a Honda ... or wait ... on a Kawasaki. Actually, he was also on a Yamaha! Wilson got the news that he was out at Rockstar Husky next year and looks to be hitting the series in a Sprinter van and waiting to fill in at some point. But Wilson's not sure what bike he wants to ride, so he's testing a few different ones, including Keefer's Yamaha. I suggested that if he felt the stock suspension was soft, maybe he try mine? Anyway, it's too bad that Deano's got to go this route again, but yep, that's the way things are in our sport. Wilson said he's turned down some B-level teams because he wants to be free to move around if a spot opens up. Check out his Vlog from yesterday:
Did a podcast with Mike Brown last week where he stopped by the studio to hang out with FXR Racing's Andy White. Brownie's a manimal, racing anywhere and anything. He talked about his Vet des Nations race in England and Straight Rhythm. Good times with Mike Brown and have a listen here. Also I talked to AJ Catanzaro about his homage to Stew this weekend on the KX125 here.
And then go please go check out PulpMX.com for lots of other stuff, okay?
New Supercross Video Game (Weigandt)
Info came in hot and heavy during last week's Monster Energy Cup press day, including riders battling for the Monster Million payday, everyone wanting to ask questions about the Motocross of Nations the previous week, Ryan Villopoto making a return, Cooper Webb switching brands, Chad Reed trying to put together a 2019 deal, and more. Feld Entertainment also announced the launch of Monster Energy Supercross: The Official Video Game 2. This is the new and improved version of last year's debut. Look, I'm not a gamer, but something from this announcement really caught my attention. The new game features a career mode, where the rider has to not only compete in races, but also train during the week, and—get this—handle media and fan obligations in order to obtain sponsorship! I'm really, really curious how that part of the game works, because that's the part of the business I work in. I'll try to find out more about this shortly. In the meantime, Feld sent us up to a lounge they had set up so we could play the game. Since I never play, I completely sucked and everyone had a good laugh. Then Justin Barcia jumped in for a shot and also sucked, which made me feel better.
Anyway, the overall realism of the game, and especially that career mode, shows the detail the game designers are going to so fans can get the full supercross experience. That's awesome for the sport.
VIEW FROM THE COUCH (Dan Radlauer)
Dan Radlauer is a longtime MX enthusiast and occasional contributor to Racer X Illustrated and Racer X Online. He wanted to offer his take on how the recent 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations looked from his seat, which was his couch in his living room in front of the TV.
Like most motocross fans, I wasn’t at RedBud, I’m not an industry insider, and I root from my couch and yell at my TV set. Unfortunately, my wife won’t let me fire up the chainsaw in the house.
From my spot on my well-worn favorite cushion, I found the racing rather disappointing. I’m not talking about the US’s poor performance—I’ll touch on that later—but there just wasn’t much real racing action. There was a little drama with the last moto between the Italians and the French, but much of the outcomes came down to goggles and burnt clutches, not who was willing to hang it out or force a pass or use team strategy in some way.
Certainly, the weather didn’t help, and the track prep seemed to suffer because of it. I’m sure everyone did their very best. But I sat there watching with my longtime moto-friend and never went “ohh!” or “can you believe that?” It seemed like, after the first lap, most riders never moved up or back more than a few places unless they crashed, lost their goggles, or their bike broke. For whatever reason, the track didn’t seem to produce close racing.
The poor TV crew was looking for action, and Paul Malin and Jeff Emig were doing their best as commentators, but there was really little exciting racing to film or comment on. Too bad, we’ve had some great MXoNs with clutch passes and heavy team tactics. Not this year.
Other than the lack of racing action on the track, the event looked awesome. (BTW, where can I find the B-Main online?) The fans, the extracurricular events all looked awesome. Too bad the racing didn’t live up to the hype, regardless of the winner.
As for the US’s status on the world motocross ladder, after our 1981-2011 record of not winning only eight times and almost never being off the podium, it’s hard to accept that the Europeans have caught up with us, just as we did with them. My feeling is that we’ll all enjoy it more, and possibly get better results, if we don’t come in with an attitude that if we don’t win, we lose.
Maybe we need to accept that we’re now just another country that can win, podium, get a top-five or blow the whole day. And for me, as a simple fan, that’s fine. I prefer parity and suspense over my only option being winning or total despair.
Head-Scratching Headlines of the Week
Americans to spend half-billion on Halloween costumes -- for pets... - Drudge Report
Weed was legal in Canada for a whole hour before someone got a ticket for driving and toking - cnn.com
Hey, Watch It!
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MX World: Season 1 Trailer
On Track School announces the scholarship winners from last weekend's Monster Energy Cup Supermini and Amateur All-Stars classes. On Track School provides dedicated students with the support they need to achieve academic success with a program that fits their lifestyle. Congratulations to the podium winners in each class!
1st $1000 Max Vohland
2nd $750 Kaeden Amerine
3rd $500 Chance Hymas
Amateur All- Stars
1st $1000 Jo Shimoda
2nd $750 Jalek Swoll
3rd $500 Derek Drake
Educational success is possible while chasing your dreams! On Track School is a private non profit accredited school for grades K-12.
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That’s it for this week. Thanks for reading Racerhead—we’ll see you at the races.