Last week we asked you to ask anything of our esteemed editor-at-large Steve Matthes. We had so many good questions, we decided to break this up into two parts. Part I is below, part II will run next week.
Some questions have been lightly edited for clarity.
On The Box
Would MCR have any interest in Dean Wilson?
They probably would’ve, but they went with Malcolm Stewart when Wilson was still in limbo with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna. I know Dean wasn’t thrilled about how late the team left it before telling him they couldn’t bring him back. Since that news, Wilson said he’s turned down teams and won’t take OEM support with just a bike and parts, so he’s ready for a fill-in spot—which you would think will inevitably come at some point in the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross season. Unless it’s Dean himself that gets hurt? Ouch!
(By the way, Mike Genova and Tony Alessi were in-studio for Monday night’s PulpMX Show, and both guys seemed confident that they’d be able to get Mookie on the team for the entire 2019 SX season.)
Favorite bike of all time?
My favorite bike was probably a ’91 CR125 that I sent to Pro Circuit and they did up. It was very fast and ran perfect all year long; I don’t remember ever having to jet it for different temperatures or tracks all year long. Great motor and overall package once I got the suspension dialed in a bit.
As far as being a mechanic, the ’03-’04 factory Yamaha YZ250s were so good. They weren’t far off Jeremy McGrath’s motor package when he was on Yamaha, but the entire bike was just perfect. It seemed like it could wheelie in any gear, pulled strong all the way across the power band, and we were on the weight minimum. I remember watching video of practices and we all felt like our guys (DV, Ferry, and Reed) had everyone else in the class covered as far as overall bike package. These were great bikes that weren’t as good the next year, when the aluminum frames were introduced.
You have one shot to make Phil Nicoletti smile. What do you say?
I say “Phil, go ahead and punch me in the face” or “Phil, here’s a plane ticket for New York for you to go hang out in the woods.”
The closest supercross race to me, Salt Lake City, isn't on the schedule this year. If you were going to one of the next closest—Seattle, Denver, or Oakland—which would you choose?
Let’s break this down. Oakland’s stadium is a dump and the weather isn’t always great, but the dirt is good and we’ve seen a lot of good races there over the years. Seattle has sketchy weather, but the stadium and the city is way cool. Denver is a great city, and the series is going back there for the first time since ’96, and so I’ll vote that one, although you’ll have a chance at bad weather there also.
Been a fan for a long time, since the days before “That's the sounds of an ice-cold Red Bull being cracked open” was just a sound drop, and really appreciate the access you give us to the riders and personalities in the sport. Yourself, Weege, and JT make a great team, and honestly, the day-to-day fan experience just wouldn't be the same without you guys, in my opinion.
So much so that I almost think of you (the collective you) as changing the sport on a level similar to how the likes of MC, RC, Stew, and others all have done. Now, obviously, it's different but I'd argue no less important, and what I'm wondering is if you guys are aware of this, or if you ever discuss it or have had other people, particularly within the industry, tell you this. I can't help but think that just as the athlete stars of the sport are ultimately rewarded for their achievement and contribution, generally with an induction into the Hall of Fame, that someday your media work and the way it changed people's relationship with all things moto will be similarly recognized.
Maybe another way of asking my questions is, do you think about Pulp's legacy? Commenting on this might be too much like petting your own beaver, but I'd appreciate your thoughts.
You had me at “changing the sport the way MC did.”
I’m just trying to entertain people and talk about the sport of supercross and motocross. That’s all. I think there are a ton of interesting personalities in it, and I’d like to bring those people to light a bit. And above all, let’s have some fun and not take it so seriously. Speaking of serious, I think you’re overstating the effect of the podcast shows just a tad, but if I ever need an agent, I’ll call you up.
What kind of spectator numbers is MX Sports looking for to deem WW Ranch a success? What does the average national pull?
I have no idea. MX Sports is the actual promoter for, I think, five nationals, and I don’t know the spectator count they’re looking for when it comes to any races of their races (MX Sports operates all 12 races in the series, but most of the events are promoted individually by the track itself). As usual with promoting, you’re fronting the money and hoping the weather holds out. I thought the crowd at the USGP there at WW was pretty good—surprising, really. All I can think of when I think USGP and American motocross is Glen Helen and how there probably 500 of us standing there in the infield. So WW seemed like it’s off to a decent start, considering the USGP crowd last year.
Willy Mansilla A
Seems like a lot of SX fans, particularly in these comment sections, still dislike the Triple Crowns. Do they not enjoy seeing more winners, more gate drops, and more parity? I’m lost. Thanks.
I have gotten a lot of feedback about how much people like the Triple Crowns, so I wouldn’t say the majority don’t like them. I mean, people generally don’t like change, so any time you’re altering a format that had been in place for 29 out of the last 30 years, there’s going to be some whining. The Triple Crown has been great for the sport, and there should be more of them, in my opinion. It’s everything we want to be as a sport. Exciting, fast, lots of winners, and great racing. What’s wrong with that? The only thing that sucks is a lot of privateers miss out on exposure as they’re never really seen at night.
Was Hannah at the MXoN this year? If not, why?
He wasn’t there. Jeff Stanton made it clear to all the guys there that they would have to pay for their flights and expenses (because this was a fundraiser) to go hang out and talk to strangers, so some guys pulled the pin on going to the dinner. And I can’t blame them, if I’m being honest; the old heroes of the sport aren’t all super rich like you might think, and besides, it’s a long flight across the country and you’re being asked to work, so to have your expenses covered is, to me, a reasonable request. Having said that, most guys showed up, and it was a great event that raised a lot of money. Love to have Hannah on a recording when Six-Time told him, “Hey Bob, no expenses, bro.”
The family is considering an MXGP race for 2019. From a track/venue perspective, which European race weekend would you recommend?
I haven’t been to enough GPs to really give you an honest answer here, but what I would do is make a Euro vacation around the race. That’s what I did with the German GP where I toured Berlin; in Italy I went to Venice for a day or so. At the MXoN one year I went to Normandy. There are too many things in Europe to just go there and stand in a dirt field for two days. One thought though is to skip Lommel—you can’t see much there.
Why do I like Ryan Villopoto more in retirement than I did when he was actively racing? As a sales manager at a Kawasaki dealership and a die-hard moto fan, I always respected the way he handled business and how he gave it 100 percent all the time, but he lacked any real personality and likeability. Now he is funny, charismatic, and has a great personality. Why wasn’t this prevalent during his active racing years?
He’s the best retired rider ever—just ask him. I’m with you, bro. I find this new RV very perplexing but a pleasant surprise. He was miserable at times for people to deal with, but honestly, inside the truck, he was the same guy as he is now. I just think he didn’t show it to people, and as he says, the pressure was big to keep winning year after year. I remember at times walking into the Kawasaki truck before the night show and he’d be wrestling with the truck driver on the floor while they both tried to punch the other one in the nuts. You guys just never saw that part. I did think once he retired he’d go into the deep woods of Washington and we’d never see him again. Instead, he just raced three weeks in a row and he’s heading to Australia to make more money and have more fun.
Clutch plates! Why would anyone build it sharp side out? Not flat against the basket, you know. Are there pros and cons?
LOTS of debate about this from both sides. But one thing everyone can agree on is to put them ALL the same way, either down or up. I also put them sharp side down, but whatever, just make sure they’re all the same way and you’ll be fine.
- What exactly do you have against Tommy Hahn?
- Is it professional to not report on people you don't get along with?
- Does it bother you that people make stupid remarks about your size or whatever? (It does bother me.)
- I don’t have anything against Tommy Hahn. He certainly didn’t like me for one reason or another, and I honestly had no idea why he was making it so clear to me on my social media that I had to block him. Eh, what are you gonna do? I’m sure Tommy isn’t happy with the way his career went there at the end, and perhaps I said or wrote something that pissed him off. Not sure; I don’t worry about it too much, to be honest. If you’re in the media game and doing it right, you’re going to piss some people off here or there. If you’re not, you’re just a fan.
- I’m not sure what you mean. I report on whomever stands out to me for whatever reason. Sometimes I have nothing to say about someone because they didn’t stand out. Go see anything I wrote about Jason Anderson or Ryan Dungey (two guys that aren’t fans of mine) and see if there’s anything in there that wasn’t fair.
- No, it doesn’t. You learn a lot about people’s character in their shittiest times, and how they treat someone because of size, looks, etc. says a lot more about them then it does me.
Why can't all the West Coast supercross races start at noon? That way the East Coast doesn't have to stay up till 1 to 2 in the morning to watch. I believe they would get way more viewers, and I wouldn't think it would be a problem, cuz West Coast people could still make it out to the bar afterwards!
They’re trying. We’ve seen an increase of day races, and the reason is to get the race on a different time and see what that does with ratings. I agree that it’s tough to get great ratings when half your races start so late where the vast majority of the population lives. But then again, Saturday nights are a graveyard for TV shows, so it’s easy to get a time slot if you’re a half-decent sport. It’s something the guys at Feld wrestle with, I’m sure.
Huge respect from Sweden (the hockey nation).
I can see the disappointment after MXdN given the expectations. I consider myself unbiased, and as a European I'm still pretty convinced that US had the best team. The best team doesn’t always win for a variety of reasons (luck being one) but repeating this on other tracks, other days I believe that USA had the best team. What do you think disregarding the actual result?
First of all, they obviously didn’t have the best team, because they didn’t even come close. And I don’t want to hear it was a mud race—it had some spots, but for the most part the weather held out and the track, while tough, was not a mudder. If you want a mudder, look at England last year. They had a bad day, but even if they’d had a great day, I’m not sure it would change the results. I’m still shocked, to be honest, but something didn’t work for the guys.
Why hasn't Aldon Baker been investigated by WADA for the Tickle PED issue? Does anyone that has him train them have to sign a confidentiality agreement that he cannot be held liable for a PED bust? As you may have guessed, I believe PEDs are running rampant in motocross racing. But all you journalists just say nothing hoping that any problems go away on their own. This sport is lucky that a nosy journalist hoping to make a name for himself doesn't start investigating motocross racing and PEDs. It's an easy target just by the fact that the fastest and most fit guys are trained by former cyclists, Aldon Baker and John Tomac. If you think I don't know what I am talking about, watch a documentary called Icarus.
You gotta calm down, bro. If there really was something going on with Baker’s guys, don’t you think his ex-riders would be blowing the whistle on him or at least sliding up to a media guy and off the record telling him about how he left because Aldon was dirty? You could be as doped up as Lance Armstrong and that still isn’t going to make you a winner. Dirt bike racing is so much more than endurance. I’ve seen that doc you’re talking about, and it’s gnarly, but you are way off base here, in my opinion. Look at what the substance Tickle tested positive for, the amount that was in his system, what it does, and tell me how that’s going to help him win 450SX races? Broc’s case was far, far removed from the gnarly stuff seen in those cycling documentaries.
When are the Leafs going to win the cup? Actually, any Canadian team for that matter?
This year. The drought ends this year. I hope. GO LEAFS GO.
Remember when you were a mechanic at Honda and you put a piston in backwards and had to replace the whole top end? Greatest mechanic ever, right?
I didn’t have to replace anything at all—the bike wouldn’t start, so it was pretty easy to diagnose, to be honest. Did I claim I was the greatest mechanic ever? Hey man, shit happens. I was rushing, hung over, living in an office building, and I screwed up. I learned from it, though.
What was the worst mistake you made as a mechanic and for what rider? What rider is hardest for you to interview? What was the best story you leaked to the fans first?
I never had a big OOPS moment that the rider saw or had to deal with. A few small things here or there, but overall, my record for bikes breaking with things that were my fault is pretty good. Not perfect, but pretty good. I mistimed the HPP power valve system on Danny Smith’s CR125 one time, and that didn’t help our relationship, that’s for sure.
The hardest guy to interview for me is probably anyone that doesn’t want to talk to me. Other than that, I think I can adjust the tone of the interview to how my relationship is with the rider. Some guys are serious, so I’ll keep it there. Other guys, like Blake Baggett, say things that make you laugh, so you go that way with the interview.
I don’t have a best story, I just try all the time to find things out and inform the fans about what’s going on. Sometimes I can’t say anything because the source asks me not to and I have to respect that. Some people get their panties in a knot because I break some news early, but I just laugh about that. I mean, what does that really do to them other than hurt their ego?