Welcome to Racerhead. We are smack-dab in the middle of the two American moto seasons, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, which just ended last weekend in Las Vegas, and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, which starts next Saturday afternoon with the Hangtown Classic outside of Sacramento, California. That doesn’t leave a lot of time for transition or rest for everyone on the AMA circuit, but when you’re trying to pack a 17-race stadium series and a 12-round outdoor motocross tour, all within eight months, there’s not a lot of time off.
Of course last weekend ended with three champions crowned at a very exciting supercross finale: Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb took the 450SX crown, GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton claimed the 250SX East Region, and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis became the 250SX West Region Champion after points leader Adam Cianciarulo went down and damaged his motorcycle. It was a shocking conclusion to an exciting series where it seemed like both Cianciarulo and his teammate Austin Forkner were on their respective ways to their first pro titles, but then Forkner damaged his knee in Nashville and lost the 250SX East, and AC had his Vegas crash. It was impressive how neither Sexton nor Ferrandis gave up, and now Chase is the first rider from Illinois since Mark “Bomber” Barnett to earn a #1 plate in SX, and Ferrandis joins the very long list of successful French imports to win titles here: JMB, Mickael Pichon, Stephane Roncada, Christophe Pourcel, and Marvin Musquin (and some honorable mention to his riding coach David Vuillemin, who while he never won a title here, he came close in both classes). Congratulations to all of the winners, and also thanks to the Feld Entertainment crew for organizing another great series.
While everyone immediately went to work on making the changes from SX to MX, one rider was still sidelined and waiting for news. Broc Tickle has been on the sidelines since last April after failing an FIM drug test for a banned substance at the San Diego SX in February. It was a long, drawn-out process but Tickle finally got his penalty earlier this week, and it was not a light one. The FIM gave Tickle a two-year suspension from the time he failed the test, which means he won’t be allowed to enter a professional competition until February 2020. I personally was hoping he would get time-served and be allowed to start racing as soon as next weekend, but instead he got an even steeper penalty than James Stewart did when he tested positive for using a banned substance without a therapeutic use exemption (TUE). Tickle had a couple of hearings on the matter but in the end the three-person panel that heard his case apparently felt that because he could not explain how the substance got in his system, they could not be more lenient on him. Broc spoke with Donn Maeda after he got the news and they did a Swapmoto Live Podcast about the penalty, which arrived in the form of an email. You can listen to it right here.
If anything comes out of this—besides the obvious need for knowing exactly what you’re eating or drinking as a professional athlete—I hope that it’s a more streamlined process for drug-testing and sentencing. Supercross and motocross work differently here as a result of the presence of two sanctioning bodies in SX, the AMA and the FIM, and the FIM having the responsibility for the drug-testing, which means working across the Atlantic Ocean to resolve a case like Broc’s (or James Stewart’s, or Cade Clason’s). We also need some common-sense penalties because two years for a violation in a motorsport like SX/MX is draconian. I feel bad for Broc, but I also believe drug-testing legitimizes our sport. We just need it to be a much speedier process and come up with smarter penalties so we don’t ruin careers.
Let’s get into the rest of the week.
WELCOME (BACK) TO PALA (NOW FOX RACEWAY) (DC)
On Wednesday afternoon MX Sports Pro Racing and the folks at Fox Raceway at Pala hosted an exclusive ride day for riders entered in the 2019 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. It offered the riders a chance to get out on a motocross track and get their outdoor settings going without having to worry about running into (or over) some much slower non-pro riders, something that's happened too frequently in the past. It also gave us a chance to take a new look at the redesigned Fox Raceway. With input from Nick Wey and many others, Brian Wallace has done a real nice job out there, and the feedback I got from Eli Tomac, Zach Osborne, Justin Barcia, Shane McElrath, Christian Craig, and a few others was all good (though both Justin and Christian added that it needed slowed down in a couple of spots). Riders from Team Honda (including test rider Trey Canard), Red Bull KTM, Monster Energy Factory Yamaha, JGR/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM (including test rider Broc Tickle, who’s suspension was recently announced this week), Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki (including Ivan Tedesco, who has been working with the team), and more were out there for most of the day, and by the time they were down the track was good and rough. Which made it the perfect place to practice on Thursday too, as all of the OEMs went together and rented the track themselves for a shared private practice day, something I think you will be seeing more of in the future.
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Switching from the highly technical supercross mode to outdoor beat mode is no easy task, as the guys have literally spent 17 of the last 18 weekends racing Monster Energy AMA Supercross, and that was after three months of testing. The last outdoor race for a lot of the guys was the Ironman National last August, and so they welcome the chance to stretch out and speed up on a fun and not-so-busy track.
Among my takeaways from flagging all day (I was the entrance/exit supervisor) is that Eli Tomac looks very fast and confident, despite his unsuccessful supercross campaign, Cooper Webb looks like he's ready too immediately battle for another title (though he posted on Instagram, "Reality sets in quick! Time for the great outdoors!") and both Marvin Musquin and Zach Osborne seemed focused on getting the right settings on their respective bikes. Adam Cianciarulo, Chase Sexton, and Alex Martin all looked quite fast, as did Dylan Ferrandis, Colt Nichols, and RJ Hampshire. And it was nice to finally see Hunter Lawrence out on a motocross track after he took all of SX off with an injury in order to be ready for outdoors. It should be a really cool summer for American motocross, which begins next Saturday with the Hangtown Classic, and then will be followed by the Pala National at Fox Raceway.
Simon Cudby was one of the many shooters out there for the ride day and he made this raw video for Racer X Films:
THE NUMBER: 30 (Andras Hegyi)
The 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship was a great year for KTM. Of course, Cooper Webb won the 450SX championship in his first year with Red Bull KTM. Another KTM rider, Marvin Musquin, finished third in the overall points standing. And this was the first season in which three different KTM riders were able to win main events: Webb, Musquin, and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS’ Blake Baggett. They also got their first-ever podium sweeps, three to be exact: Oakland, Atlanta, and Indianapolis. And 2019 was the first time ever that KTM got 10 wins in supercross. KTM’s former record was set up in 2016 when the Ryan Dungey-led team took took nine wins in all. But maybe the biggest record of all for KTM is the fact that in 2019 the brand was able to get 30 podium finishes in all. The old record was Yamaha's 27 podiums in 1998.
Most podiums for the brands in a 250/450 supercross season
30 podiums (2019)
26 (1984, '90, '08)
1 (1974, '75)
1 (1974, '77)
2019 SX, WE HARDLY KNEW YE (JASON WEIGANDT)
No news lasts long in today’s environment, and especially in this sport, when Monster Energy AMA Supercross quickly transforms to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in the news cycle. Look, we’ll have plenty of outdoor coverage here, including our preview videos (catch the first one here if you missed it) but I want to take the chance to send off the 2019 supercross season on the right note. This was a great supercross season, and hopefully one we look back on fondly. Racing seasons in our sport are defined by one major factor: did the stars get injured? This year, they did not. Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, and Marvin Musquin made every race, and while defending champion Jason Anderson didn’t, Cooper Webb stepped up and filled his role almost exactly. We had four riders capable of winning races lining up for every gate drop, plus Blake Baggett and Justin Barcia dropping in for race wins and getting in the mix. Plus, Webb’s title drive made things interesting. It was unexpected—and unexpected things are always fun—but also unorthodox. Too often the champion wins by simply dominating, but Webb won with a mix of speed at times, and smarts in others. While he was always very good, it never got to the point where you knew who would win the race before the gate dropped.
The smart part of Webb’s attack gets the most love. His consistent ability to make something from nothing is remarkable (but, actually a trademark of his even in his 250 days). The consistency, in fact, overshadows that Webb was actually really fast at times, punctuated by his scintillating and historically close come-from-behind ride in Arlington. That was a signature ride if there ever was one. By the next weekend, Cooper’s old buddy and training assistant Seth Rarick was telling me the title was over, because Cooper feeds off confidence. Seth knows Cooper well, and Seth was right. Because the season was exciting, we still got a brief mid-season run from Musquin, and a late surge from Tomac. But in reality, the championship was never in doubt for Webb after that amazing Arlington run.
When we look back at the season, Webb’s consistency will be the final trademark, just like Anderson’s last year. Don’t forget the speed Anderson showed in his amazing come-from-behind ride in Oakland last year, which formed the foundation of his title run (it was similar to Webb’s Arlington ride because Ken Roczen ended on the wrong of the battle both times). There's a road map to this title, and we see it again and again. Win early, get confident, stay out of trouble.
Still, for a season that stuck with a traditional script, this year was better than most. We had good, unpredictable racing and a gang of superstars staying healthy and battling for wins every week. Can’t ask for much more than that. Please, can we do this again in 2020?
HAWAIIAN SUPERCROSS (WEIGANDT)
Aloha from the Hawaiian Supercross, set to run here in Honolulu Stadium tomorrow night. Yes, this is real. This is not a vacation; this is an actual race on the island. Justin Brayton is probably the headliner of the group, along with Josh Hill, Tyler Bowers, Mike Alessi, Alex Ray, Kyle Chisholm, Adam Enticknap, Ryan Sipes, Jimmy Decotis, and… somehow Ronnie Mac is on the athlete list. But I swear this race is here and it’s happening and I’m not just taking a beach vacation between the supercross and motocross season. Heck, I didn’t even bring my family. Do you want to fly six hours from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a four-year-old on your flight? Everyone on that plane last night owes me.
This event has a few bonus elements, including a DeSoto Cup race specifically for local riders, named after the original “Flyin’ Hawaiian,” John DeSosto. I’m just old enough to remember Desoto being written about fondly in Motocross Action when I was a kid. There’s also a freestyle show. Steve Matthes and I are handling the announcing, and as far as I know there isn’t a way to watch this live, so you’ll just have to trust that I will do a great job and Matthes will be terrible. We have our Racer X Films man Jason Crane here so we’ll get you an edit next week to show you some scenes. But wait, we have to announce freestyle? This should be good. I know all of the, um, do they call them stunts?
Anyway, I don’t pass up an announcing paycheck, even if it requires the hard sacrifice of going to a beautiful tropical island on an off weekend. Same for the riders who have endured a grueling Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule, but somehow found the will to dig deep and come here. I mean, these are huge sacrifices but when the going gets tough, the tough get going. And speaking of that, I’m going to the beach right now. Mahalo!
Lots to talk about in our sport right now with Coop wrapping up his first 450SX title, Dylan Ferrandis' major upset, and Chase Sexton getting his first title. Over on MX Vice I ranked it the fourth most unexpected 450SX title in the sport so there's lots to break down here. Then there's the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championships coming up next week in Hangtown. We've done some preview videos for that the Sunday after Vegas and episode one is up now to check out.
Like Weege, I'm over in Hawaii for the second (or maybe third) annual Honolulu SX (I believe there were some races in the mid-80s). Should be a good time and most of the riders racing aren't doing Hangtown so this is the end of the season for most of them and a chance to make a bit of money. I went to dinner with Alex Ray last night and he's ready to try and topple Brayton. At least that's what he said before he had some giant banana ice-cream thing. There are a few actual Hawaiian racers here so the promoters are having a race with them and calling it the John DeSoto Cup in honor of the fastest Hawaiian racer turned congressman ever.
Wonder if Brayton's speed in these types of races also applies to races on islands that are part of the United States? I guess we'll see, right? Somehow the promoters got Weege over here to announce which is a major coup (in the words of the great Ralph Sheheen "If you're payin, I'm sayin") but then I'm also part of the announcing crew? Who knew? I do know that I'll probably end up carrying him all night long and the thousands of fans here will wonder why I'm not doing the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the GNCC series, the Quad Racing series, the American Flat Track stuff, the EnduroCross series, Geneva SX, and so on and so forth.
I gotta go, I've been here since Wednesday and it's been exhausting doing all the pre-scouting of the local beaches and stuff. I've been doing my homework trying to get a feel for the local scene so that tomorrow night, I'll be able to better convey the excitement everyone is feeling.
SUCCESSFUL TRANSFERS (Andras Hegyi)
Cooper Webb switched brands from last season and immediately became the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion. Webb became only the sixth rider to be supercross premier class champion after switching brands.
Jim Weinert: The Jammer raced with Yamaha in 1975, but in '76 he returned to Kawasaki, whom he had been with in 1973-'74. After that transfer Weinert became the 1976 AMA Supercross Champion, earning Kawasaki their maiden SX title.
Ricky Johnson: RJ was a Yamaha star between 1981 and '85, earning the 250 Pro Motocross title with them in 1984. For 1986 he switched to Team Honda to become teammates with David Bailey, Johnny O'Mara, and Micky Dymond. He ended up topping former SX champs Bailey and O'Mara for the '86 AMA Supercross Championship, then repeated in 1988.
Jeff Stanton: The Michigan rider was with Yamaha from the time he turned pro in 1985 through '88. In those three seasons he could neither win a race, let alone get a championship title. In 1989 he moved to Honda as Johnson's understudy, and then he took over the team when RJ got hurt at the first outdoor round. Stanton went on to win his first of six SX/MX titles with Honda.
Jeremy McGrath: After four dominant years (1993-'96) with Team Honda, Jeremy McGrath made a big change to Suzuki that did not go so well. After winning 14 races in '96, he won two in 1997 on a Suzuki and lost his AMA Supercross crown to Jeff Emig. But then MC got with Yamaha and immediately got back on top, winning his first of three more AMA Supercross titles on blue bikes.
Ricky Carmichael: After starting out with Kawasaki the GOAT switched brands twice during his career and had success with both changes. After defeating Jeremy McGrath for his maiden AMA Supercross title in 2001, Carmichael left Kawasaki for Honda and he became champion again with Honda in 2002. Then in 2005 he left Honda and won two more SX titles with Suzuki. He's the only rider in SX history to win the title on three different brands.
James Stewart: Like Carmichael, James Stewart grew up with Kawasaki Team Green and then won his first pro titles with the brand. After 2008 he relocated to Yamaha, and immediately won his second AMA Supercross title.
Cooper Webb: After his first two 450SX seasons ended without much success with factory Yamaha, Webb transferred to Red Bull KTM and almost immediately started winning races. Last Saturday night he claimed his first Monster Energy AMA Supercross 450SX Championship.
MOOKIE CALLS IN DURING PULPMX SHOW
Earlier this week, Malcolm Stewart joined Steve Matthes on the PulpMX Show to talk about his new contract, his recovery, and more. After suffering a broken femur in Glendale, Stewart's recovery has gone well and he just received his release to swing his leg back over his bike.
“I’ve been wanting to ride since the day I got hurt,” he told Matthes.
While in Las Vegas for the supercross season finale, Stewart was signing autographs when suddenly he was signing a new contract SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda, which will see him through the 2020 supercross season.
“I think the team was more proud of me with all the dedication I put prior, before the season, like the training and the way I was riding,” he said. “We went to A1 and had a decent result. Then obviously I got hurt, but I think it was more like the team just wanted to give me another shot and be nice. So we talked some things out and obviously I didn’t even know I had a contract or anything. They just kind of came up and did it. I was signing autographs at Vegas and next thing I know, bam. They dropped it right in front of me. I was like, okay, here we go.”
Stewart won’t be racing in the 2019 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, so he will have all summer to train for the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.
“It kind of took some relief off my shoulders so I’m not back in a situation where I’m scrambling for a ride last minute or anything,” he said. “I can actually just know that I got a motorcycle. All I have to do is just focus forward.”
You can read the full conversation here.
KAILUB RUSSELL WINS X-FACTOR WHITETAILS GNCC
The Amsoil Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC) traveled to Peru, Indiana, for the fifth round of the 2019 championship. Kailub Russell came into the weekend ready: he walked the track at different times throughout the day as conditions changed and when the race started, he excelled both mentally and physically. Rainfall that led up to the race left soft, rutted out soil that wasn’t easily navigable but Russell’s preparation created an advantage that gave him the overall win—his third of the season. He remains in control of the overall points standings, 18 points ahead of second-place Thad Duvall.
To read more about Russel’s performance, Ben Kelley’s record-tying performance in XC2, and more, read the X-Factor Whitetails GNCC Report. Make sure to check out the highlights below in the ‘Hey, Watch It!’ section as well.
PRO PERSPECTIVE (JASON THOMAS)
"Weekend off" is a misnomer in this sport. With 12 rounds of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship looming large, riders will be cramming as much prep in as they can. Whether it's testing, working on their outdoor fitness (much more taxing than SX), or trying to find their outdoor speed, this small window before Hangtown is critical. For me, it was crunch time. I always focused on maximizing my results at the end of supercross, knowing that many were just going through the motions at the final rounds. That put me behind the curve coming into the first round on, well, everything. I didn't test enough, didn't ride enough, and I knew it. I was in decent shape after racing so many weekends and would adjust my off-the-bike training to help prepare, but there is no substitute for dozens of 35-minute motos. Ideally, April would have many outdoor motos sprinkled in and May would be nothing but hammer-down riding. That wasn't my reality, though, and every year was a scramble. I always went to Hangtown scratching my head as to how this was going to go.
The toughest part of the situation for me was the change in riding style. Supercross is slow and precise. The corners are tight and there isn't much in the way of choppy, rough terrain. Supercross riding prefers avoiding the bumps, finesse versus brawn. Come Hangtown, though, and it's full noise. Being strong enough to blast through the roughest sections, being confident that your bike was going to handle those fast downhills, and finding your best outdoor self quickly were all tough asks at the first round. I always felt like I was squaring up my turns supercross style and trying to ride around the rough bumps instead of plowing through them. It takes seat time to get out of that supercross style of riding and I was slower than most to change. Supercross riding was eight months of the year for me and old habits die hard. I didn't really feel like I was at my best for a few rounds. I could have prepared earlier but that might have sacrificed my best chances at the last few supercrosses. It was a sacrifice I made every year and suffered through the first outdoor rounds because of it.
So, going into next weekend, that's what I will be most interested in watching. How did the end of the supercross season affect these top riders? We have seen the SX champ struggle at Hangtown because of this very scenario. Dungey in 2010, RV in 2011, and Jason Anderson in 2018 all stick out as situations where the SX champ looked to be "off" from where he would eventually rebound to. Will Cooper Webb struggle early or can he turn the page quickly? The riders like Musquin, Roczen, and maybe even Tomac have known this supercross title was unlikely for weeks if not months. That gave them the chance to switch their focus and come into Hangtown ready. Webb surely has ridden outdoors but how much comparatively? Next Saturday will give us answers.
The JULY 2019 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The July 2019 issue of Racer X magazine is coming to newsstands and mailboxes soon. Sign up now for the print and/or award-winning digital edition. And if you're already a digital subscriber you should have received an email with new login information. In this issue we do some digging to find out who makes the key decisions on rulebook enforcement and rough riding, how Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki is getting back to their winning ways, a deep dive on Yamaha's Bob Oliver, the Racer X Inter-Am, and how electric-assist bicycles are taking storm in GNCC Racing. Print subscribers can also open up the July issue and unfold a collectible poster of Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac. Here are the feature articles you’ll find inside:
“Tough Calls” by Steve Matthes and Davey Coombs
When it comes to things like rough riding and rulebook enforcement at the races, some big decisions have to be made. Who exactly makes them?
“Connected Circuit” by Jason Weigandt
Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit has returned to its winning ways—with help from some friends.
“Last of the Tuners” by Steve Matthes
After 39 years, Yamaha’s expert team tuner, Bob Oliver, is calling it a career.
“Back to the Beginning” by Davey Coombs
This year’s Racer X Inter-Am in Boise, Idaho, had a very special guest of honor: the legendary Torsten Hallman.
“The Assist” by Jason Weigandt
Electric-assist bikes, e-bikes, eMTB—call them what you will, but they’re here and they’re only getting more popular.
Davey Coombs talks Jeffrey Herlings in America, Jason Weigandt digs into Eli Tomac’s mental and technical game, and Ping talks keeping your feet on the pegs through the corners. We also explore some unusual unsanctioned supercross races back in 1988, revisit the 2000 New Orleans Supercross, and pit Alex Martin and Martin Davalos against each other in a 2 Tribes battle of moto veterans.
All this—and more—exclusively in the July 2019 Issue of Racer X magazine. Not a subscriber? Sign up now for the print and/or digital edition.
Hey, Watch It!
Take a ride through the X-Factor Whitetails GNCC with overall points leader Kailub Russell:
2019 X-Factor Whitetails GNCC Bike Highlights
Check out the latest Racer X Garage Build
2019 Racer X Pro Motocross Preview Show: Episode 1, The 450 Class
Chris Northover explores the rugged countryside on his OSET 24.0 motorcycle
Racer X Films: Pro Practice Day at Fox Raceway
DMXS' Stories From The Frontline Is Back With The GOAT
LISTEN TO THIS
The Fly Racing Racer X Review Podcast comes in with the Jasons and host Steve Matthes talking about the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season-finale at Las Vegas. Matthes and the Jasons discuss all three championships, AC’s crash, the Racer X/Pulp Live Show from Friday night, and more. Check it out here.
Steve Matthes was joined by Charles Castaloo, the marketing and sales manager of 100%, for an episode of the Fly Racing Racer X Podcast to talk about the new Armega goggle, his pro career, and more. Check it out here.
Jason Weigandt’s Exhaust Podcast comes in hot this weekend with SX sideline reporter Daniel Blair to talk his place in moto media. Check it out here. Also, if you missed the news, Blair’s Main Event Moto Podcast will be available on the Racer X Podcast Network, starting on Monday. Don’t miss an episode of your favorite podcasts, get them all here!
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
"Woman discovers $40,000 worth of meth inside Lego box”—New York Daily News
“Florida Man Tells Cop 'F*** It. I'm Drunk, Take Me To Jail' After Crashing His Lawn Mower Into A Cop Car”—Barstool Sports
“Kid Who Sued School For Kicking Him Off The Basketball Team For Refusing Chickenpox Vaccination Gets Chickenpox”—Barstool Sports
“Aaron Rodgers Will Appear On This Week's Episode Of Game Of Thrones”—Barstool Sports
“Horse Seeks Justice In Court”—Deadspin
“Bear Breaks Into Subaru to Eat Miniature Candy Versions of Itself”—Deadspin
“Party City is facing a helium shortage. It's also closing 45 stores”—CNN
Our friend over at @lego.mx posted the Lego golden Bell helmet in honor of champions Cooper Webb and Dylan Ferrandis.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid'EH Update #19.
Finally, and sadly, came news this week that minicycle legend Paul Denis passed away from heart failure. The Southern California hotshot was considered one of the fastest 80cc riders ever, and his peers included the likes of Bob Moore, Mike Healey, Eddie Hicks, Danny Storbeck, and more. He was a regular frontrunner at the World Mini GP, the NMA Grand Nationals at Ponca City, and even a title contender at the very first Loretta Lynn's AMA Amateur National Championships in 1982. But Denis never really made it any further than that—you won't find his name in the Vault for an AMA Supercross or Pro Motocross National. His became a cautionary tale for too much, too soon. No matter, he will be forever remembered as one of the all-time fast kids. Godspeed, Paul Denis.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!