Round five of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross took place in San Diego last weekend and it was a mudder, although during the night show not much rain fell at all. It was the deluge of rain during the day that turned the track into a complete quagmire. But hey, it’s supercross and we run in the rain, right? It’s part of what makes our sport special and our athletes unique.
Last year after Seattle I was saying that if you know it’s going to be super soft and rutty or you know rain is coming in then why build a complete, full-on supercross track? Seattle had a whoop section that was almost un-rideable before they had to knock it down to a pad and a finish line that was big. We know it’s Seattle so adjust the expectations, you know? This weekend we also knew rain was coming (Jason Thomas was practically sending in updates by the hour starting on Tuesday) and so to see the whoops made into rollers on the track was, to me, a smart decision. Make the track racey (I don’t even know if that’s a word?) and the entertainment will be there.
The big news out of this race (and believe me there wasn’t much happening out on the track) was the chemical burns the riders suffered after the race, apparently from the lime thrown down on the track. Go look at social media for some of the ugly photos of what the riders have had to deal with. It’s insane. Not to mention suspension coatings are ruined, electronics are destroyed, and anything aluminum has been eaten away.
Thousands of dollars in damage to the motorcycles for both factories and privateers and burned racers is not a good thing for Feld Entertainment and the track crew. We posted a statement by them last night regarding the situation, but this could turn into a complete nightmare, and in my opinion, could result in litigation by riders and/or teams, and maybe even a problem with the city.
Here’s the thing, Feld didn’t KNOW this would happen. In their efforts to dry the track out, they put the lime down, but apparently it was not done properly, and that turned out to be a costly mistake.
We had Tyler Bowers, a rider that has burns on his body and a ruined bike, on the PulpMX Show and he told me that the track crew guys he spoke to told him that there was already lime on dirt from a Monster Jam show a few weeks back and then before the track was covered there was more lime thrown on. According to Tyler, after it was uncovered and more rain fell, there was a third helping of lime thrown on and it just sat in the standing puddles on the start straight. There was too much water on it to do anything and some kind of a chemical bath was what developed.
The riders that didn’t change their gear after heat races and raced the LCQ’s seem to be the ones most affected. Ken Roczen, who left his gear on after the main for the press conference, also had issues. Chad Reed told me he got rinsed down after his heat, he didn’t have much of an issue after the main. Different riders were affected different ways and many of the privateers that didn’t have more gear or had to race three times (like Ben LaMay who did the heat, LCQ, and main) got it the worst.
When you add in the fact that for some reason they still ran the KTM Jr SX Challenge (which made it all of two turns before the mud swallowed them up) and some of the kids got burned, it was not a good week for supercross.
Lime has been used in SX for a long time; the track workers know what they’re doing with it. This weekend however was an exception. As Bowers related, maybe it was WAY too much, maybe no one realized it would just sit on the water, or maybe there was some miscommunication between SX ops and the track crew—whatever happened, it’s a nightmare for Feld. Obviously they know this and are taken step to rectify the matter with the riders and race teams and also probably think twice whenever they use this kind of drying agent again.
I write a weekly blog for On Track Off Road, which is a European-based digital magazine, and obviously I talked about this for the column this week. I reached out to Chad Reed to see what his take on this was and to see how bad his situation was.
Somewhat surprisingly Reed didn’t have a whole lot of sympathy for his fellow riders and teams. This is coming from a guy that at times has tried to get the riders together and also owned a team he had to fold up, so I get it. Here’s what he had to say:
“For me, I’m torn because it’s the first time it’s been this bad. For me it’s the first time I’ve been affected by it. For ten years I’ve heard about how it [lime] destroys the bike and the teams complaining but this is not a new issue. It’s just the worst the issue has been. Although I see everyone and hear them, people seem to be pointing the finger at Feld. In my opinion every OEM and every team should be ashamed that they have no balls and they’ve been complaining about the same shit. Now it affects the riders and it’s a new problem?”
Reed continues now with some emotion: “I’ve gotten numerous texts from riders and from a lawyer from another OEM and I’m not going to be the voice. When I got worked up about something [in the past] I’m all in on a change but for me, this is something that will get brushed under the rug. I’m ashamed of the industry… I’m disappointed in the industry because we’ve all complained about it and no ones ever done anything about it and nothing is going to be done about it now.
“I don’t feel anything’s going to happen and I’m at the point where I love racing my dirt bike and that’s how it is. I have at least one more year left in me and if I felt the industry had the balls to make the difference then maybe I’ll be the voice, I have below zero confidence that anything would make a difference.”
Well, ok then.
I texted back and forth with another top rider and he swears this incident won’t just go away and that when it comes to the riders’ health, there are more important things here to address. I’ve been in the pits for over 20 years and remain skeptical, but I hope that the riders and teams do get together and present a unified front (pardon the weather pun) when it comes to situations like this and that the series promoters do something to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
After Feld’s statement came out, I talked to a few team people and they indicated that Feld is telling some of them that they’re going to, or are willing to, write some riders some checks to cover damages to the equipment. Stay tuned.
I’m glad, by the way, the AMA issued a statement saying that they’re concerned and working with Feld to determine what happened. Thanks, guys, I’m glad you’re on it. Maybe work on pressuring FIM and Feld to get the FIM deal straightened out before so guys like Broc Tickle and Cade Clason don’t have careers ruined from a simple positive test, because after Saturday night the entire field would have tested positive for too much lime.
Now, onto the racing.
So Eli Tomac has come out and basically confirmed that he didn’t ride for the month of December due to breaking the little wings off some vertebrae in his back and he only got back on the bike a week before Anaheim 1. This explains some of his early season riding for sure and can you imagine how stoked beyond belief that he and the team are that he DIDN’T RIDE FOR A MONTH AND WAS FOUR POINTS OUT OF THE LEAD??? Pretty good for Tomac and the team and in San Diego, he led wire to wire and took his first win of the season and the points lead.
|1||Eli Tomac||1:21.179||12 Laps||Cortez, CO||Kawasaki KX450|
|2||Marvin Musquin||1:21.244||+04.199||La Reole||KTM 450 SX-F|
|3||Ken Roczen||1:23.294||+07.266||Mattstedt||Honda CRF450R|
|4||Justin Bogle||1:23.443||+28.336||Cushing, OK||KTM 450 SX-F|
|5||Chad Reed||1:27.082||+43.520||Kurri Kurri||Suzuki RM-Z450|
|6||Aaron Plessinger||1:26.381||+45.709||Hamilton, OH||Yamaha YZ450F|
|7||Joey Savatgy||1:23.533||+51.440||Thomasville, GA||Kawasaki KX450|
|8||Cooper Webb||1:24.249||+55.260||Newport, NC||KTM 450 SX-F|
|9||Blake Baggett||1:26.072||+1:05.973||Grand Terrace, CA||KTM 450 SX-F|
|10||Tyler Bowers||1:27.748||11 Laps||Danville, KY||Kawasaki KX450|
We had Tomac on the PulpMX Show on Monday and he confirmed with us that the team had figured out some suspension settings that have made him even more comfy on the new KX450. He lost a ton of testing time in that month and the team has been playing catch up. He hasn’t been able to push as hard as he would like on the bike but last week, the team and Tomac figured some things out. Obviously San Diego was a wash because of the conditions but everyone in green is very confident going forward that things will be better.
Obviously this could just be team talk—we’ve heard this stuff before—but remember a few years ago the Kawasaki guy tested in Arizona for a week because of rain and found a magic shock and/or link that ET3 liked, and they believed he was going to turn his results around. He had gone 5-6-8 at the first three rounds, but after the Arizona test, he dominated round four and won 10 out of the next 13 races. They seem to have reached that same confidence level again so I guess we’ll see if Minneapolis is the start of some serious Tomac time.
On the show, I asked Eli about why he and so many other riders hide injuries. He was asked somewhat directly about a back injury at the A1 press conference and danced around it. Why? Tomac said he doesn’t want to be on the line and know that his competition thinks that he’s in a weakened state. I get it, I’ve heard this theory before from riders, but it still makes me shake my head a bit.
So why admit it now? Tomac told us because he feels back up to 100 percent or close to it and it’s no longer holding him back. It’s not going to be an excuse for him so hey, it’s now time to be honest. Hey, man, I don’t make these factory rider rules, I just tell you about them.
Marvin Musquin rode great to steal second with a turn to go from Ken Roczen. Marvin been riding very well the last few weeks and a win is coming—it has to be. His lap times in the slop were impressive, especially at the end of the race. Musquin, like Tomac, seems to be improving week by week.
Oh what could have been for Ken Roczen! Man, he’s just had these weird things happen to him to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He grabbed the holeshot and then promptly dumped in after turn two. He got up quick and worked his way to second which was impressive but, once again, Roczen had a late race pass happen to him. This is continuing a trend for him and he can’t be stoked on it. Whether it was the A2 Triple Crown or Oakland, this is something he’s got to stop. Then again, he’s right there in the title fight and has been pretty good. We may not ever see pre-injured-arm Ken Roczen again but he’s doing a pretty damn good job out there. I had to ask him in the press conference if he’s getting a bit frustrated lately.
“Previous years, what did I do? I won two or three times in a row and then I was out,” he said. “So, I feel like if I just get that one, I can go on a roll and get three, four in a row if things go the right way. It’s not going to be easy, but right now, tonight could have been a night since I got the holeshot and I was in a good position. It could have really been the night. It just didn’t happen again. But I don’t want to let that derail me. Of course, I’m motivated to win every weekend. It is what it is and I’m just trying to avoid a really bad night. That’s why I am in the position that I am and really close to the lead.”
Justin Bogle was very fast in the mud. Like in his heat, he grabbed the lead and the way he was riding, there was a 97 percent chance he was going to crash. He did. He didn’t ride quite that way in the main but he was still very much NFG. He was second forever and then third before Dean Wilson held him up while he was being lapped (Wilson thought he was racing with him) and this led to Bogle getting hung up. He later tipped over as well and lost what looked like a sure podium position. Still, the last couple of weeks Bogle has been much better and as I wrote last week, watch out here. The kid might be feeling it after an expected slow start.
Two in row for Adam Cianciarulo and like Tomac, he grabbed the red plate with the win. Kawasaki really turned the competition green with envy, huh? Yeah, old joke I know, but for reals, somehow one of the sketchiest riders on the track kept it calm, and in his team owner’s words “boring,” out there to take a win that was never contested. Cianciarulo knew he had to send it off the start and he did just that to take the lead. From there he doubled what he could and slowly pulled away from some other riders that were having some issues.
If Shane McElrath pulls this title off, San Diego will be the reason why. He was dead last off the start, crashed before the second turn, and worked up through some hellacious conditions to pull off a fourth. It was a gritty ride and impressive. At one point I saw him so far back I was like, oh man he’s out of this and then next thing you know he was closing in on Jimmy Decotis for third! He made up nine seconds on Jimmy one lap! NINE! He’s second to AC and eight points back now, but man, San Diego was impressive.
JIMMMYYY DDDDD got third and he crashed at that! Good ride for the Rippa out there as he gets on the box for the JGR/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing team for the second year in a row. As Decotis pointed out to us on the show, he’s been riding better than last year but didn’t, until this weekend, have the results to show for it.
Dylan Ferrandis was third until one corner to go and his bike decided that was it. Poor Dylan. He was not scared to send it. He’s 12 points back of Cianciarulo now and definitely has the title of “Fastest Rider in the Class to have Weird Stuff Happen to Him.”
Garrett Marchbanks secured his first professional podium in the slop by riding well all day long. From the very first time he hit the track, Marchbanks was sending it. Team owner Mitch Payton said that Marchbanks told him he was comfy in the mud and it showed. Great work from the kid and remember he had to go through the LCQ to get this podium!
Chad Reed and Aaron Plessinger both had their best results of the season and that’s not a surprise. Plessinger is good in the mud, and Reed’s a veteran who knows what to do when things get sideways. They were locked up together for a lot of the main event with AP following the 22 most of the way. Being truthful, I would’ve thought Plessinger might’ve ended up on the box, he’s that good in the mud. Still, good races for both guys and they can build on this.
Some other musings from San Diego….
Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda and HEP Motorsports Suzuki might have made the smartest move in the pits, as they both prepped practice bikes and let the riders raced them. Saved themselves a ton of time, money, and frustration no doubt. That’s a Coors Light Smooth Move, folks!
On the wrap up podcast I talked about how it looked like Justin Barcia burned up his clutch just three laps in while running third. I didn’t understand how this was possible, and then said that riders have to understand how to lay off the clutch in a race like this. I got some info though that Barcia did burn up a clutch but it was because he got something caught in his chain/sprocket and the bike wouldn’t move. So my bad on that.
JGR/Yoshimura Suzuki’s Enzo Lopes was very fast in his heat and looked to be a good PulpMX Fantasy pick for the main. Unfortunately he also got something stuck in his bike at one point and his race was ended. He eventually got back out there but crashed approximately 32 times.
The Justin Hill bandwagon is shedding followers left and right. Last week he crashed in practice and sort of went through the motions in the main event. This week he crashed in practice and sustained cartilage damage to his ribs which kept him out of the night show. I did a podcast with his team manager Jeremy Albrecht this week and J-Bone did sound frustrated that Hill can’t bring his speed to the races on the weekends.
One of the teams told me that on the radio Hill is just called “450 rider” because all they heard about from him was how he was better on a 450. That’s a little much to me (although funny); just about every 250 rider says they are better on a 450.
This Jess Pettis “thing” is getting pretty interesting. Canada’s MX2 champion has been very impressive all SX season long and he ran second this week in the main for a bit before ending up fifth. He’s 10th in the points, Canada Red Bull KTM and Troy Lee Designs are helping him more, paying him more attention and… stay tuned for 2019.
Thanks for reading this column, interesting times coming up for the riders and teams. We’ll see what happens from here. We’re onto Minneapolis, everyone! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this or anything.