Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from the announcer’s tower at High Point Raceway. It’s a blessed off-weekend from racing for the riders and teams, but a full weekend of working at the track for me and the whole Racer Productions crew. Next week is the High Point National, the home race for MX Sports Pro racing and Racer X magazine, and it’s all hands on deck as we get ready for the 43rd High Point National. My brother-in-law Jeff Russell has all of the dozers working as the reshape a couple parts of the track, and everyone is just hoping for good weather next weekend.
Three races in, we have quite a series going in both classes. The red plate switched hands once again in the 450 Class, reverting back to the Honda CRF450R of Ken Roczen after he picked up his second win at Thunder Valley in Colorado, beating out hometown hero and defending champion Eli Tomac for the overall. In the 250 Class it stayed with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo after his third straight win to start the series, but that class seems just as close as Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Justin Cooper once again started the day off with a first moto win, then a spill while leading the second moto cost him a direct shot at the overall win. I truly believe this kid will win his first overall before the month of June is over, which means either High Point, WW Ranch in Florida, or Southwick.
While Roczen’s win was without controversy—he straight up split with the lead in the first moto and then settled for second the next time out while Tomac salvaged a 5-1 day—the 250 Class had it’s issues. While chasing after Cooper in the second moto Cianciarulo jumped off the side of the track and then came back on the track at the exit of the next corner. He did slow down, and there wasn’t a gap in the banners—you can tell from his GoPro footage that he was looking for one—so he finally wheelied over them just as Cooper was passing and go in behind him. He lost very little time in the whole matter. Cooper and his team felt that he should have penalized, and when the referee ruled otherwise, they appealed. It set off some hard feelings among the fans of either rider, which is unfortunate, but both are obviously in the title chase now and every advantage (and disadvantage) will count moving forward. My opinion? It wasn’t Cianciarulo’s off-track excursion that cost Cooper the win, but rather his own later in the race. He had every reason to be disappointed on the podium, and I hope he brings that angst to High Point next weekend. I am sure he’s probably putting in extra time in the hopes of stopping Adam’s streak, and also getting his first overall win. Because according to our friends at the @mxresearchdept never in the history of the 125/250 Class has a rider started a series by winning the first moto at the first three rounds but not the overall. Justin had it in his hands at Colorado before he went off the track and down in the late going. Check out Eric Johnson’s interview with Cooper about the season to date right here.
The funky weather at Thunder Valley had it’s say too. It brought the first moto to a halt after about 25 minutes as lightning was in the area, and it certainly affected the first 450 moto in that it was very slick, Roczen loved it, Tomac got a bad start and then had to switch out his goggles, and he had to scramble to just get fifth. (And wow did Jason Anderson ride well in holding Eli off that first moto!) The second motos were actually quite nice, weather-wise, so the Colorado fans had it all: four different moto winners on pretty much four different tracks. I hope we are as lucky at High Point, only without al that rain and lightning!
COMEBACK (JASON WEIGANDT)
When Ken Roczen first went down with his arm injury in January of 2017, he was as transparent and open as possible, making gruesome arm wounds regular viewing on Instagram. A year later, at the Anaheim 1 press conference, it seemed like all of the media questions were aimed at him and his injury. For two years, there have been constant reminders, including thousands more questions, many replays of the incidents, and a never-ending "When will he finally get that first win?" quest to further stretch this storyline.
Ken finally got the win at Hangtown. By then, even the man who had tackled the process head-on was kind of tired of talking about it. By Hangtown, Roczen wanted to just be Ken Roczen, not "Ken Roczen, the guy who had those gnarly arm injuries."
It didn't help that Ken also has had some other physical troubles this year. All this talk of injury and illness has worn on him. Plus, celebrating huge at Hangtown, the first race of a championship, wouldn't set the right tone. For Kenny, that win wasn't supposed to be the end of his comeback story, it was supposed to be the start of a new run. By winning another race just two weeks later, taking the overall at Thunder Valley, I think his point is clear. Hangtown was just another win. More are coming.
At round two, Kenny jetted off to the early lead only to be caught by Marvin Musquin and Eli Tomac. It looked like maybe the magic had been fleeting. But Thunder Valley's first moto was amazing again, with Kenny pulling nine seconds on the field almost immediately. No one was going to catch him this time, and it was enough to give him an edge for the overall, even though Tomac beat him in moto two.
We will never know if Roczen will be as good as he was before his injuries, but he's definitely good enough to be judged without that context any longer. He's a contender and now a race winner again, and he wants that to be the only discussion for now. If he's holding this red plate all the way at the end of the season, I'm sure the injuries and incidents will get brought up again. Between now and then, his best path is to just keep working as if none of that ever happened.
ROCZEN GROM SQUAD? (DC)
There is a group of riding buddies here in Morgantown, West Virginia, called the Morgantown Grom Squad. They mostly ride Honda Groms, with the occasional Kawasaki Z or some other small, street-legal bikes joining in. Next Friday we’re having a class for Groms in the Pit Bike Race here at High Point, and then Saturday morning they are all meeting at Morgantown Powersports at 10 a.m. and then riding out to High Point Raceway. Their destination? The Team Honda rig, where they are planning to meet up with their favorite rider, Ken Roczen. They are inviting others to join, and Racer X is giving each of them a free pit pass for the day. We even have VIP parking for the bikes and, weather permitting, a chance to take a lap around part of the track on the pit roads. Their goal is to get “94 for Number 94,” which is a lot of Groms for Roczen! If you have a small, street-legal motorcycle and want to join them (and get an admission discount and free pit pass next Saturday) check them out on Instagram: @morgantown_gromsquad and follow the hashtags #roczengromsquad and #94fornumber94
COMEBACK II (JASON WEIGANDT)
I talked to Aaron Plessinger this morning as he was driving out to Justin Barcia's track in Florida. The Monster Energy Factory Yamaha rider has been out of action since breaking his heel at Daytona but is now back riding and plans to race the Florida National at WW Ranch on June 22. Aaron could probably show up and race High Point, but he doesn't want to struggle, he wants to be ready to make a mark when he shows up.
Heel injuries can be gnarly, but Aaron says his healing process was pretty straightforward. His break was bad but the bone was not completely shattered, and he hasn't had a ton of pain. In fact, he was healing up well enough to race Hangtown, but some complications with the surgery wound slowed those plans. As you would expect, AP is super pumped, super happy, and super excited about being back on the bike. Heck, he's pretty much always super pumped, happy, and excited.
I'll have the full interview with Aaron here on Racer X Online next week.
ALL FOUR (Andras Hegyi)
Former Lucas Oil 250 Class Pro Motocross Champion Zach Osborne is a 450 Class rookie this season, and he's starting to pick up speed on his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna. Osborne adapted more quickly to the 450 Class than 450SX earlier this year. In the premier supercross class, Osborne needed 10 rounds to get his maiden podium; in Pro Motocross he needed only three. By finishing third at Thunder Valley last Saturday, Osborne became the 14th Husqvarna rider to get on the podium in 250/450 AMA Motocross. He’s also now the first Husqvarna rider to have reached every AMA podium: 250 SX/MX and 450 SX/MX. Osborne is only the fourth rider to get podiums in all four current classes on non-Japanese bikes. Both Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen took all four podiums with KTM, and Jason Anderson got 250 podiums with KTM, then 450 podiums with Husqvarna.
ONE-LINERS: THE VAULT (DC)
Our buddy @tblazier is always finding cool old stuff to post on Instagram, in TheMotocrossVault.com, and over on the Vital MX forum, and yesterday he dropped this gem: the 1984 KTM motocross and off-road lineup.
The bikes were billed as "For Victory Programmed" and they promised that "the modified lever ratio system of the Pro-Lever and the new shock-absorber unit with cast-on reservoir facilitate suspension set up." Mind you this was 35 years ago and KTM was in a much different place. The bikes are no longer white, for one thing—they’re now orange. And while they were very successful that year in Europe—Heinz Kinigadner won the '84 FIM 250cc World Championship aboard the works version of this bike—they had almost zero success in America. As a matter of fact, if you look in the Racer X Vault at the 1984 AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross results, KTM did not score a single point in supercross, and their motocross finishes were limited to four points-paying finishes, all in the now-defunct 500 Class. A Canadian rider named Paul Kingsley finished 24th overall at High Point and 22nd at Broome-Tioga, and a rider from Virginia named Vival Ingraham placed 21st at that same Broome-Tioga race. But the high finish for KTM on the AMA circuit in 1984 was a man from Sunnymead, California, named Don Griewe, who finished in 18th place at the Saddleback 500 National.
Now think of KTM today, with its juggernaut in Europe led by Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado, plus the Red Bull KTM team here of Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin, first and third-place finishes in the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. Oh, and they own Husqvarna and together have swept the last five AMA Supercross Championships. What a different 35 years can make!
THE BACKLASH (AARON HANSEL)
“Hey, did you read Saturday Night Live? Did it come across as biased for AC, or against Justin Cooper at all?”
That was the text I found myself sending to my boss, Jason Weigandt, as I was scrolling through the comments section of Saturday Night Live (our race recap) from Thunder Valley the next morning. I’d done my best to present the facts of how Adam Cianciarulo had gone off the track, how he reentered, and the protest that followed afterward when Cianciarulo wasn’t penalized. I’d also accompanied the story with lengthy quotes from each rider.
I expected people to have reactions but was somewhat surprised that the overwhelming majority of comments were quite negative toward Cooper. So much so that I was concerned I’d inadvertently written a slanted story! In addition to comments criticizing Cooper’s reaction to Cianciarulo retaining the win, there were plenty of people ranting about how unsportsmanlike they thought Cooper was, that he was a whiny brat, and that he has “Death to America” tattooed on his calf. (Okay, I made the last one up, but some of the comments were equally ridiculous. Maybe more so.)
I don’t really expect people to agree with Cooper on this one, and I personally didn’t think Cianciarulo did anything that warrants punishment. But if you put yourself in Cooper’s boots for a moment, surely you can identify with what was going on in his head. He’s been working toward his first professional win his entire life. Everything he’s been doing for years has been leading up to the point of getting it, and while he’s been tantalizingly close many times, it’s still eluded him. He’s also had a hard time backing up his great first-moto rides, something he’s keenly aware of and has even mentioned at the races, so when he holeshot that second moto and was leading, he had to have been thinking, “Finally!” I can’t even imagine how good it must have felt for him to be on the brink of achieving something he’d been trying so hard to earn for so long.
Only it didn't happen. What he thought was finally firmly in hand, a goal so gratifyingly realized, was ripped from his grasp. Of course he’s going to be unhappy, and of course he’s going to try to get it back, especially when he thought Cianciarulo had violated the rules. Seeing another win slip away, especially this one, had to sting. Feeling extreme frustration and disappointment doesn’t make Cooper an unsportsmanlike garbage human; it makes him a passionate athlete. If he were actually a spoiled brat with a bad attitude, I wouldn’t have seen him take time for pictures with fans after the races on Saturday, which I’m sure he was not in the mood for. The good news for Cooper is his first win is coming, and soon. When it does, he’ll probably be happy he earned it on the track, minus controversy and drama.
PRO PERSPECTIVE (DAVID PINGREE AND JASON THOMAS)
David Pingree: It's a weekend off from racing, and that means some much-needed rest for the racers and crew members alike. Hopefully riders take advantage of the opportunity to slow down and let their bodies catch up, because there seems to be a trend of overdoing the training lately. The latest rider to get caught up in it is Thomas Covington, who posted on his social media that he had contracted the Epstein-Barr Virus. Thomas couldn't figure out why he was getting so tired on the weekends, and a blood test provided the answers.
We talk so much about training programs and boot camps and motos and strength training and cardio, etc., etc.. but when you add up the number of days these guys are going flat-out and taxing their bodies, add in the stress of the sport, the injuries, and the days of travel, you get the perfect environment for chronic fatigue, Epstein-Barr, adrenal fatigue, and just plain old burnout. Maybe it's the youthfulness of our athletes or the aggressive nature of it or the stratospheric testosterone levels of riders in our sport, but it's common to think that if a lot of training is good, then even more training must be better. The hardest working guy wins, right? Not so fast, meathead. You can't put your body through all of that without setting aside time to recover, rest, and relax. I'm not advocating laziness. Just taking some time for rehabilitation, massage, or just a solid nap on the couch can make the difference between feeling flat on the weekend or feeling charged up and ready to get after it. So with that in mind, I hope everybody is enjoying some time off and focusing on what's really important: what you're getting your dad for Father's Day. If my wife is reading this, the answer is a Porsche 911 Turbo, please and thank you.
Jason Thomas: Well, we finally got an answer on what was ailing Thomas Covington. Everyone seemed to know something wasn't quite right, but what wasn't right was the million-dollar question. Now that he has a diagnosis, he can focus on getting better.
I will admit, I used to make jokes about Epstein-Barr in the early days of our sport's understanding. It seemed to be the easy out for many when they struggled. That all changed in 2014 when I had a bout of EBV. I was already done racing when my symptoms arrived, of course, but that didn't lessen the effect on my daily life. For me, it started with just feeling absolutely drained at work. My new position at Fly Racing was a huge change from riding and training all day. I was in the office most of the time, and even at a desk, found myself falling asleep in the middle of the day. I just shrugged it off to not being up and moving around enough, but it got worse and worse. It escalated to the point where I would work until noon, take a nap in my truck for my lunch hour, then head home at 5 p.m. and then take another 30-minute nap. I would then go to the gym and work out (not knowing I was sick), and then go back to bed by 8 p.m. I was sleeping around 12 hours a day overall and still felt like crap most of the time. After the naps, I would feel great for an hour or two and then immediately feel like I needed to go back to sleep. I should have figured something was wrong sooner, but the symptoms increased over months and months, so I didn't really notice a huge shift. I went from feeling great during the day to sleeping 10 hours a night along with two more naps just to function. I have never felt a need to sleep like that, and worse, it lasted for most of the 2014 calendar year and some of 2015. Needless to say, I don't make fun of EBV anymore.
For Tom, the biggest key is to realize he is sick and begin the healing process now. I didn't even know I was sick for nearly a year. EBV doesn't subside quickly, and even then, it just goes dormant. It's not an easy fix, and the only treatment is to raise your immune level and rest. If he can get it under control this summer, he could then ramp up his off-season prep and come into 2020 prepared. I have watched Tom race in Europe a few times, and the rider we saw this year was not that same guy. He is capable of much more, and hopefully can heal up, rest up, and turn this around in due time.
Your Weekend Motorsports Recap (CHASE STALLO)
On Exhaust, we follow a lot of motorsports, so we decided to put a weekly rundown of what happened over the weekend together. Give it a look here.
4 THINGS WE LEARNED AT THE TOMAHAWK GNCC (JARED BOLTON)
Round seven of the 2019 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series would see the series head to Odessa, New York, for the fifth annual Tomahawk GNCC. Kailub Russell wins the Tomahawk GNCC in back-to-back years, “Batman” Ben Bouwens makes an appearance, and more of what we learned.
THE WHISKEY THROTTLE SHOW (DAVID PINGREE)
The Whiskey Throttle Show this week was something special. The Troy Lee Designs global sales meeting was happening, so we thought it would be fun to round up some of Troy's friends from over the years and have them tell their favorite memories of him in a show we called "Troy Stories." If you know Troy, then you know he's involved in more shenanigans and pranks than anybody else in this sport, period. Friends Scott Bell, Bill Keefe (his brother-in-law), Carly Lee (his daughter), Cam Zink, and Mitch Payton all joined us at the desk, with Troy joining Mitch during his turn, and we just couldn't stop laughing. Mitch and Troy have been buddies since they were teenagers, and they got into their share of trouble together. They walked through the Sod Busters story, the overhead-bin story, and four or five others I had never heard. Whether you grew up watching racing in the 1980s or you don't know who Mitch Payton is, you'll crack up hearing these stories. The show is up now on YouTube (see below), and it can also be heard on iTunes, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Also, if Corona is too far for you to drive to see one of our live shows, you're in luck! We will be shooting a live show on Friday night, July 5, at the RedBud National in parking lot B. Our guest is none other than former national champion Mike LaRocco. We have a couple other members of the Michigan Mafia who've committed to stopping by as well. It's going to be a good time, so if you're going to be there that night, come hang out! We will be giving away a Troy Lee Designs Freedom pack, a set of Dunlop tires, and probably some more goodies. See you there!
Whether your dad got you into the sport or you brought it to him, make sure he’s the happiest guy in town this Father’s Day...with the gift of Racer X. Give pops his favorite magazine, get six free digital issues for yourself. Check out the deal we're offering right here.
We also spotted our friend Brett Smith of @wewentfast doing some cool dad-inspired Father's Day sales too, so after you get your Racer X subscription, check out what he's doing too.
We Went Fast is currently having a promo for all motocross enthusiasts to be able to give back to their dads. With Father’s Day next week, make sure to get your we Went Fast gear now. Visit www.wewentfast.com/shop and use the code "DADWASFAST” once you reach the cart page to save 15 percent off your entire order.
Dad deserves something original from you this year and We Went Fast has what he wants. Shop fast on Father’s Day. Get your gear today!
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Time is running out. Father’s Day is June 16. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Dad spent many Father’s Days under the hood of a 1979 Dodge Titan when it broke down at the races. Do him a favor. Send him a t-shirt this year. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Relive the fast with your pops this Father’s Day. Save 15% off your entire order at wewentfast.com/shop. Use coupon code DADWASFAST when you reach the cart page. Dad deserves something original from you this year and We Went Fast has what he wants. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ We Went Fast is an independently owned media brand focusing on dirt bike stories; it’s moto that matters. ⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ Shop fast on Father’s Day. Direct link in bio.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ #fathersday #rememberdad #fathersdaygifts #motocross #wewentfast
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!
To view some GoPro footage from the Thunder Valley National from AC, Shane McElrath, and Jordon Smith, click here.
Check out some of the best gifs from Thunder Valley here.
LISTEN TO THIS
The Fly Racing Racer X Review Podcast comes in with the Jasons joining host Steve Matthes to talk about the Thunder Valley National. The trio talks about everything from Eli Tomac’s goggle problem to his battle with Ken Roczen in the second 450 Class moto to Adam Cianciarulo and Justin Cooper’s battles—and protest—to Weege’s beep-gate. Since Steve was in Calgary for the first round of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MX Tour in Calgary, they dive into the Canadian Motocross a little as well. Check it out.
Matthes also did a podcast with Shae Bentley to talk about his career and what he’s up to nowadays. The 2000 125SX champion also talks about his ups and downs off the track and riding for Mitch Payton. Listen to it.
Jason Weigandt spoke with Honda HRC’s Cole Seely about his start to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship earlier this week. Seely, who suffered career-threatening injuries in 2018, admitted he isn’t back to his old form. He reveals quite a bit in the interview. Listen to it.
Daniel Blair and Producer Joe bring in Episode #121 of the Main Event Moto Podcast as Blair and Producer Joe are joined in the by Guts Racing's Andy Gregg, as the trio talks about the Thunder Valley National. Hang out with them as Daniel focuses on the headlines in the sport and sometimes it goes off the rails. Listen to Episode #121 of the Main Event Moto Podcast.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Tracy Morgan Bugatti Sideswiped 15 Mins After Driving Off The Lot!!!”—TMZ
“Le'Veon Bell's 'girlfriends' allegedly rob New York Jets star of $520G worth of jewelry”—Fox News
“Many experts tried to open a safe locked for 40 years. A tourist's lucky guess cracked the code on his first try”—CNN
“Russia Is All Pissed Off At HBO's 'Chernobyl', So It's Making It's Own Remake Blaming Americans For The Disaster”—Barstool Sports
“Supercross to debut first EV class and tap startups to go digital”—TechCrunch
Note: Read more about it here.
The Southeast Regional for the 2019 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships went off at Gatorback last weekend and photographer David Lando of WFO Productions (@david_lando) was there and created this gallery.
SCOTT Sports Opens New HQ
In April of 2019, after a construction phase of three years, SCOTT Sports put its new headquarters in operation. Situated in Givisiez, Switzerland, the new global headquarters will be the home for all of SCOTT's divisions including Bike, Winter, Moto and Running. Furthermore, it will serve as the organizational center for SCOTT's other brands: Syncros, Bergamont, Bold Cycles, Avanti, Malvern Star, Dolomite, Powderhorn, Bach, Lizard and Outdoor Research.