Welcome to Racerhead (and if you’re a government employee that’s been affected by this ridiculous shutdown, welcome back to getting paid for your work, thank you). The 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is headed to Oakland with an unfortunate guarantee that there will be a new #1 when it’s all said and done come May.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson went down on Monday while practicing and stayed down—the champ broke his arm and broke a rib and will be out for at least the next two months. I know that Jason was not off to the greatest start, but I had a feeling he was going to have a breakthrough ride soon. Now all we can say is good luck and get well soon, El Hombre.
So how weird is it that in three races we’ve had three different winners, and none of them have come from the guys most had pegged as the real title contenders in Anderson, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin, and Ken Roczen? Sure, Roczen is the points leader, and both Eli and Marvin were on the podium last week, so it’s only a matter of time before one of those three riders get into the winner’s circle. And if things go according to the current flow, we could see something tomorrow night in Oakland that we’ve never seen before—three straight AMA Supercross wins by three different KTM riders—if Red Bull KTM’s Musquin comes through before Tomac or K-Roc.
And speaking of KTM, they had a very big night at Anaheim 2 with Webb finally being the #2 we expected when he moved up from the 250 class and took on the pressure of wearing the same number that Jeremy McGrath wore, and then Ryan Villopoto wore. (No pressure there, right?) Webb rode with confidence and authority and even showed a little bit of that old swagger from his days of semi-dominance in the Lites class. Jason Weigandt will have more on Cooper’s return to form below.
And then there was Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM’s Shane McElrath getting back on the board with a win in the 250SX class, which like the 450SX class, has had three different winners now in Colt Nichols, Adam Cianciarulo, and McElrath. Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Nichols still holds the red plate, but this class has also been exciting to watch.
Just spotted a very cool stat on Hampshire from what’s becoming one of our favorite Instagram follows, @sxresearchdept: RJ has finished fourth the last SIX times in a row. He was fourth at the Anaheim opener, fourth at Glendale, and then went 5-4-5 in the three motos at Anaheim 2, for fourth overall. In 2018, RJ finished fourth at Arlington, fourth at Tampa, and fourth at the Atlanta Triple Crown before suffering an injury the following week at Daytona. Thanks, Producer Pete.
Unfortunately for TV viewers, the Oakland race is the one round of the series with a next-day delay on NBC Sports due to a pre-existing contract with the IMSA Weathertech “Rolex 24” Championship Race, which will be airing from 9 p.m. ET to 3 a.m. Sunday morning, then the live coverage starts up again at 6 a.m. and finishes at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday afternoon. At that point the Oakland Supercross will air on NBC Sports. Of course, there’s NBC Sports Gold, which will show the race live.
The Real Cooper Webb (Jason Weigandt)
When Cooper Webb is having success, it shows in two ways: what you see on the track via results, and the outspoken, brash personality that comes with them. When one part is firing, the other comes with it, and that’s what makes him so valuable to this sport. I feel like today’s riders are pretty good at showing their true personalities—please don’t judge them solely via podium TV interviews where they are contractually obligated to plug sponsors. Get them in a one-on-one interview, or a podcast or something like that, and most of them are well-spoken beyond their years. Webb, though, goes even beyond that. He’s honest, he’ll talk trash on others, but he‘ll also put blame on himself if it’s warranted. Rarely has Cooper Webb sounded like a robotic spin machine. He tells it as he sees it.
However, with his results tailing off the last two years on the 450, he started to lose that. Last year at Anaheim 1, Webb said all the right things—he was in better shape, his bike was better, he was a whole new person, etc. You know, the standard Anaheim rider robot speak. Webb, struggling, had to adapt. He had to start saying the right things.
When Webb won over the weekend, we still didn’t see the old Cooper personality. Two reporters tried to get him to expound on his finger-gun salute to Ken Roczen (even a German newspaper was there to ask about it). Cooper didn’t go there. He didn’t talk any trash, he didn’t play any mind games. He also never said anything bad about his old team or training program. He could have, but he did not.
I was co-host of Matthes’ PulpMX show on Monday, and Webb was a guest. Finally, the win had sunk in, and some of the old Cooper Webb sizzle returned. He was brutally honest about many things, including himself. For example, here was his explanation of the Baker’s Factory practice sessions:
“Until this year, I have practiced at 70-80 percent my whole career,” Webb said. “On race day I just step it up. I ride to my potential. When I got there, I was getting absolutely smoked. He [Aldon Baker] could not believe it and was like, ‘Dude, what are you doing? You are three seconds a lap off on our freaking supercross track. What are you doing?’ I just told them, ‘Don't worry. Once I get to the race I'll be good.’ He was like, ‘No. That is not the way it is going to be. You need to practice hard and race hard.’ That was a big adjustment, even for myself."
Here’s Webb’s explanation of riding with other rival racers:
"It was a big risk I think for mainly Aldon [Baker], because I don't think I really knew him and obviously from the outside looking in he probably thought I was a shit head,” Webb said. “[Baker's thinking] Maybe I didn't want to train with them, but I am being forced to because KTM is making me? And who knows where my head is at. Is the kid lazy? There were big adjustments. When I got there, I am going to be honest, I was not as fit as I think obviously he thought and even myself. That was a big adjustment for sure."
Finally, Webb was struggling with his suspension at the first two races. In fact, during the staggered re-start in Glendale, he actually changed his setup while waiting. It made it worse, and he went backwards. Cooper then spent the whole week in Florida trying to fix the problem, until, on Thursday, he realized he just needed to ride the bike better.
"It's funny, because that's what I kind of jokingly told the guys at Phoenix. I said, ‘I just need to quit being a you-know-what.’ They were like, ‘No, we think we can improve it.’ You can tinker with the bike so much and I just got to the point where I was like, ‘I just need to figure it out.’ Technique.”
Cooper went back to his old settings for Anaheim 2, stopped being a you-know-what, and won. Such honesty was refreshing.
Finally, I asked if, now that he’s won, he has any hard feelings toward his old Monster Energy Factory Yamaha team, or his old trainer Gareth Swanepoel. This is a perfect “told you so” moment, after all. But Cooper said his old team manager Jim Perry actually texted him with congratulations after the race. By the way, I’ve talked to Perry about Webb, and he says Yamaha still believed in Cooper’s talent and wanted to keep him. Cooper, though, wanted to move on. That’s when some more honesty came out.
“The tough thing for me was last year, to go racing, knowing that your program needs help, and still trying to tell yourself you can go out there and be a contender,” he said. “It was a tough thing to try to trick yourself into thinking.”
Yup. Last year he turned all robot-positive because he was trying to trick himself into believing he would win. Now, he’s starting to really believe it again, and as the results come, the truth does, also. It’s going to be good to have this style of Cooper Webb back at the races.
Two New Winners (Andras Hegyi)
After Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS’ Blake Baggett’s first-ever win in Glendale, Webb becomes the 64th winner in the history of the AMA Supercross premier class. Webb managed to take his maiden 450SX win in his third season and 28th race, not to mention his third race on KTM. The last time we had back-to-back winners was in February 1984, and it didn't take a week—it took 24 hours!
That's because 35 years ago Kawasaki's Jeff Ward and Yamaha's Ricky Johnson each won their first AMA Supercross main events at the Seattle doubleheader. And get this: one week earlier, at the Anaheim opener, Honda's Johnny O'Mara won for the first time, so that was three first-time winners in a row!
One more thing: This is the first time since 2015 that there have been two new winners in a 450SX season. Four years ago, Eli Tomac and Cole Seely each captured their first career win.
Whither Alias MX? (DC)
A lot of folks have been wondering what’s going on with Alias MX, the gear company that used to work with GEICO Honda, among others. We spotted this message from Eric Grondahl yesterday:
Hey Everyone, Eric here with ALIAS MX. I would like to share with you all what is going on here. We have decided we’re going to take a new path with the Alias brand. We would like to apologize to everyone that was expecting the new line of gear as we were unable to follow through with those plans. I have a vision for this company and we’re playing with a few ideas to start executing that vision. We will let you guys know what we are doing as soon as we make a decision! We would like to thank each and every one of you who have supported our company through the years. No matter if you wore the gear, clothing, or just liked the look of our products in general. It truly means a lot to everyone who has worked at the company and to myself as well. Alias is not done, you will just have to wait and see what we do next!
With all of that being said, I’d like for this statement to encourage everyone reading to follow your vision and find your happiness!
Here Comes Stewart! (steve Matthes)
No, not James. And no, not Malcolm either. We're talking Ronnie Stewart here and don't look now but he's put it into the last two main events. Ronnie had ridden Suzukis for number of years and even had his own team (MicroBilt PRBC Suzuki) for a bit. Then he's kind of had a rough stretch here and we didn't see him putting in the results he once had.
No longer owning a national number, Ronnie grabbed his old 606 digits, got himself a Husqvarna, and is doing it out of a van. I talked to him in this week’s Privateer Island Podcast and Ronnie didn't really get into his downturn of his career but he did tell us how close he came to getting a bigger name onto his old team. Stewart's been riding very well and is a cool story.
Check it out and let's hear it for the comeback!
Daytona Vintage Motocross (DC)
The upcoming First Annual Daytona Vintage Motocross will take place the Tuesday after the Ricky Carmichael AMA Daytona Amateur Supercross. The track will be tamed down even further for the vintage race than it will be for the amateurs, and it should turn out to be a great time returning to the one of the true cradles of AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross, Daytona International Speedway, which started hosting dirt bike races on the infield in 1971 before either series even started. This is something the Speedway has wanted to do for a while, and we’re working together on getting some past winners of the Daytona SX to come out and play on some vintage dirt bikes on the same infield where it all began. MX Sports has also made an adjustment in class pricing which you can read about right here.
One rider we know will be there is Jeff Ward—he’s coming for the next day’s Daytona opener of the American Flat Track Championship. The cool thing about Wardy, who is soon to be 58, going flat track racing is the fact that he grew up with a steel shoe doing flat track and TTs before focusing on what became a Hall of Fame SX/MX career. Wardy won at every level, and on every sized bike, but he somehow never won at Daytona. He did, however, finish second on four different occasions. And this time he will be riding a KTM in the AFT race, not the Kawasaki he rode in all of his previous visits. Hopefully we can get him to enter the Daytona Vintage MX too.
Will To Victory (DC)
More than a year ago, a friend, fellow journalist, and former privateer racer named Roddy McLeod told me he had an idea—he wanted to follow the 2019 FIM Motocross World Championship, shoot photos, and write a book about it. I always remembered one of Roddy’s most outstanding photos, from The Citadel motocross circuit at Namur, Belgium, arguably the best photo of that legendary, lost motocross track that was ever shot. I told him it will be difficult and probably cost-prohibitive to do a big coffee table book in today’s digital world, but his enthusiasm and commitment for the project—he was ready to move to Germany and get started last winter—came through loud and clear. I wished him luck, helped sort some media credentials through Youthstream, and said that we would maybe see him along the way.
We did see Roddy along the way, at the MXGP of Trentino in Italy, which is where he shot one of our favorite covers ever, the Jeffrey Herlings mountain shot.
Last month Roddy McLeod finally finished his project, on-time and hopefully within budget, and it’s fantastic. Will to Victory is the most impressive motocross book I have ever seen. It is a massive effort, nearly 300 pages, packed not only with excellent race photos, but also essays, interviews, profiles, and more. And it’s not just ’19 race coverage either. He visits legends like Stefan and Harry Everts, Joel Smets, and David Thorpe at their homes to talk about what victory meant to them, and what gave them their will to succeed, time and time again.
At the races McLeod takes more of a fly-on-the-wall approach to shooting, backing up to show the whole seen rather than the up-close images you often see in magazines like Racer X Illustrated, TransWorld, MXA, and more. And because MXGP goes to some fairly exotic places—Indonesia, Turkey, Argentina, and all over Europe—we found ourselves studying every single photo. (Personally, I do wish Roddy had run more travel photos from his year-long journal, because I’m sure he saw some amazing things along the way, but then again, I’m a guy who likes to sneak photos of old neon motel and bar signs into a dirt bike magazine.)
Our MX book collection here at Racer X is pretty big and extensive, from the Gianni Prandi’s World Cross Annuals of the 1980s to Simon Cudby’s American Motocross series of the 2000s; from the late Pat Boulland’s Images Du Motocross to the late Terry Pratt’s masterpiece on the 1972 season called Grand Prix Motocross, and everything in between. Roddy McLeod’s Will to Victory is a step above, both in size and quality, as the paper alone is the stuff of a museum art book.
Will to Victory is a great big beautiful book. It belongs in your moto library or on your coffee table—you will go back to it time and again. Congratulations to Roddy McLeod on a job well done.
New MX Talk Show (DC)
Jean-Paul Maas is a filmmaker and motocross enthusiast from the Netherlands. He's also the latest to dip his toe into the growing podcast/talk show media rush. He sent this note about his upcoming live weekly MX talk show that's called Motocross Inside.
We are proud to announce the start of a new motocross talk-show named 'Motocross Inside'! This show contains all types of motocross subjects and will have a variety of guests welcomed at the show every week. Fans can easily follow it live on the Living for the Weekend Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Every week on the same day and time. This data will be reaching you shortly from now together with the names of our first guests. We go live to insert all interaction with the fans in the best way. They can break in the show by asking questions, giving answers or just by sharing your vote in one of our polls. We look ahead with an extremely big amount of enthusiasm and hope you'll like the show. We'll start off in Dutch, but will host English spoken shows in just a matter of time too.
If Jean-Paul can ever get both eighties' Dutch moto legends and rivals Dave Strijbos and John Van den Berk on together, that could be an all-time cool show! In the meantime, expect a lot of top MXGP stars and personalities on Motocross Inside.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Racer X Films: 2019 250 Factory Bikes
Our pal @diffysmooth (Charlie Burgess) dropped another one of his very cool "Urbancross" videos from Gary, Indiana, which he shot with #LostinTime and fellow riders Travis Sewell and John Kondra. Gary is a place that's seen much, much better days. We do know that it went from being known as the birthplace of the Jackson 5 to being, for a time, the U.S. murder capitol. Now it just looks abandoned...
Diffysmooth also shared this Instagram news that the once-grand Packard plant outside Detroit lost its crossover bridge when the abandoned walkway collapsed. I guess we won't be riding through there during the next Detroit SX!
Check out this GoPro footage the helmets of Shane McElrath, Adam Cianciarulo, and Sean Cantrell from Anaheim 2
Make sure you check out tonight’s Whiskey Throttle Show Podcast, as the guest is a good friend of both Ping’s and Grant Langston’s, Ben Towney. The FIM MX2 Motocross World Champion and AMA 250SX Champion has lived quite a life, as motorcycling racing took the New Zealander all over the world.
Check it out here.
HEAD-SCRATCHING HEADLINE/S OF THE WEEK
Louisiana eye doctor offers free eye exams for NFL referees after Saints loss—4WWL:
NFL Investigating Laser Pointed at Tom Brady During Patriots' Win vs. Chiefs—Bleacherreport.com:
Once-prominent 'conversion therapist' will now 'pursue life as a gay man'—NBC News:
Looks like The Wick 338's Keith Johnson is all-in on eMTB now too...
And finally, sadly, we spotted the loss of a fellow rider we did not know personally, but wanted to send our sincere condolences to the friends and family of Clayton Haney.
View this post on Instagram
Friday night I lined up with a 26 year old young man named Clayton Haney #27. It was Round 15 of the @nitroarenacross at the Hale Arena in Kansas City. It would be Clayton’s final race as he crashed during the race and his injuries were just too much to overcome. From my understanding, Clayton was a believer and we all can take comfort in that - Praise God. According to results, Clayton was fond of AX racing and specifically racing at this particular facility in Kansas City. He was a top contender in many of his races and even had 2 podium finishes the day of his passing. He apparently lived a bold and vibrant life and loved sharing his happiness with those around him. I was blessed to pray over him after his accident, along with some of his family and friends, sharing Gods promises of love and hope. The riders Chapel Service on Friday morning, before the accident, was a reminder to all attending that life is indeed precious - and that we all will enter eternity at some point. Jesus is our only guarantee that we will not be separated from God when that time comes. All of the family here at Nitro is heartbroken over this accident. He was one of us, one of the many families that make Nitro what it is. We all realize and accept that we participate and enjoy a sport that is dangerous, but that doesn’t mean any of us are numb to the hurt that comes knocking at times. In fact, I believe in many ways the hurt and pain of our sport grows us to be some of the most compassionate people around. I don’t have all the answers, but God is faithful and is there for us. He loves us and gives us peace by giving us comfort and hope – if we walk in faith and BELIEVE. But he tells us that we have to be courageous, and that’s hard at times. So be encouraged – let’s seek Him today for courage and comfort as we try and move forward with what we love – racing motorcycles with family and friends. God Speed Clayton, we’re mindful and prayerful for your fiancé, your friends, and certainly your family. Photo: Jeff Cox, @Jeff cox_pbj Offical Nitro AX Tour Photographer God Bless you all richly, Bryan Jackson Nitro AX Tour Chaplin 2018/2019 #thepreacherman 254-631-1596 bryan@
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ENTER TO WIN A 2019 YAMAHA YZ450F AT ANAHEIM SUPERCROSS
Want to win a brand-new 2019 Yamaha YZ450F? Here is your chance.
If you are attending the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross this weekend in Oakland, all you need to do is stop by the Racer X booth—located in the Party in the Pits—and enter into the drawing to win a new 2019 Yamaha YZ450F.
The winner will be picked at the end of the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season and announced on Racer X Online.
The sweepstakes is just the start. Stop by the booth and subscribe for as low as $10 and receive a FREE FLY Drawstring Bag and Water Bottle. You will also receive a complimentary magazine. See you at the races!
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Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.