Another year, another Anaheim opener, and I have to say this one really seemed different. The vibe was great all day long in the pits as the place filled up and the excitement for the launch of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship opener kept building and building. And by the time the opening ceremonies started, it was obvious that this was going to be a very good opening night. Once the gate dropped on some racing, supercross delivered. The busy track wasn’t too complicated, but it was tricky enough to trip up the leaders twice in the 450 main event, and the night ended with at least one unlikely podium that I doubt many folks had on their fantasy picks. In fact, I have to admit that I didn’t have a single guy on the podium in the 450 class—I was thinking Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, and Jason Anderson—and I only had had Dylan Ferrandis on my ballot of 250 podium picks (but I had him winning). Justin Barcia, Adam Cianciarulo, and Cooper Webb were all very impressive in getting on the box at the opener, and I imagine there were a lot of disappointed people in the Roczen and Tomac camps. But to paraphrase the old saying, nobody won the championship last Saturday night—but no one lost it either.
Yamaha, of course, had quite a night (again) at Anaheim. Their two wins came in front of a sold-out stadium that included all of the top executives from Yamaha in the USA, as well as the actual president of the company from Japan. The Blu Cru going 1-2 in 250SX via Justin Cooper and Ferrandis was a great start to their night, and then Justin Barcia absolutely made it a perfect ending. For Yamaha, anyway.
Turns out this wasn't the first time the Anaheim opener was won by two guys with the same first name and on the same color of motorcycle. Back in 1987, the Anaheim Supercross opener was won by Team Kawasaki's Jeff Ward (250) and Kawasaki Team Green's Jeff Matiasevich (125). Those same two Jeffs also both won at the '89 Dallas and Los Angeles rounds of AMA Supercross. Two other Jeffs, Stanton and Emig, won the '90 Oklahoma City SX (Stanton on the 250, Emig on the 125). And then Jeff Ward and Jeff Emig combined to sweep Oklahoma City in the same fashion in 1991. We will get more into the naming stuff below.
Anaheim always seems to deliver. Maybe that’s why, despite the familiarity of it all—they’ve had 75 AMA Supercross races there now—the excitement level is almost always exceptional. The 2020 version was a great start for the new season, but now they have to keep it going this weekend in St. Louis. You can bet that a different, more aggressive Tomac, Roczen, Anderson, and the rest will be showing up this weekend now that they know they have their work cut out for them. And if Cooper Webb is feeling better, look out.
I would tell you more about what happened out on the Anaheim track—and maybe why, in some cases—but Eric Johnson got Ricky Carmichael to break it all down earlier today. In case you missed it, here’s how the GOAT and EJ broke down Anaheim.
One Week Later (Jason Weigandt)
Press day is complete here at the Dome at America’s center. This week’s invited teams included Honda HRC, SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki and TXS Productions, which supports local privateer heroes like Bubba Pauli.
After Anaheim, Roczen made some waves when he posted on Instagram that his bike was too stiff. He told me he does run his bike stiffer ever since his huge crash at Anaheim 2 in 2017. This is a safety thing so his bike doesn’t go too far down into the stroke and rebound, or catch footpegs in ruts as often. But he did some testing this week and found out his bike is actually now even stiffer than the much heavier Malcolm Stewart! Ken says he did the usual three days of riding this week and still wanted to do his regular motos, so he didn’t completely and totally change the bike, but they did go a bit softer this weekend.
There was added confusion for a lot of riders last week because the track was so tight, rutted, notchy and rough. Roczen even commented that the rhythms and whoops were built closer into the turns than usual at Anaheim, and that the St. Louis layout looked similar. A lot of riders felt off at Anaheim compared to off-season laps—and then you can throw Anaheim nerves on top of that. Justin Brayton admitted he got tired while dealing with pressure from that multi-rider freight train behind him, but once he ended up behind that group, he actually felt stronger at the end of the race. That Anaheim track, though, could really take it out of you if you were fighting it.
Same story for Justin Hill. Hill told me that a tenth last year would have been a good weekend for him, but it’s not acceptable now. Hill says he tried not to override the tricky track, and ended up shorting a lot of the jumps.
“I tried not to override the track, and I actually underrode it,” Hill said. “I feel so much better this year. Everything. I feel like I can ride the way I’m supposed to ride, and when I do that, I can do 40 laps without getting tired. Last year, it was just little things adding up. Mistakes, or having to work so hard to do the things I wanted to do on the track.”
Hill took one look at the St. Louis dirt here today and got excited—he says this dirt is looser and he’s looking forward to it. Hill doesn’t want to just be a tenth-place guy, he wants to be much, much better than that.
There’s a contrast with the 250 riders, who didn’t think the Anaheim track was that tough. That’s the difference between racing a main event earlier in the night. Last week’s winner, Justin Cooper, of course said he didn’t change anything from last week. He didn’t really celebrate the win, either, besides taking a hike for fun on Sunday. Oh, and Cooper said he had an ear-to-ear grin on his face all day, every day, all week.
I talked to Austin Forkner and he said the Anaheim nerves did affect him a bit, especially when compounded with it being his first race in over six months. He feels much more relaxed this week. His teammate Cameron Mcadoo, meanwhile, said he was actually shocked how calm he felt last weekend, but he blew his starts. McAdoo credits trainer Nick Wey for helping keep him in the right place mentally. McAdoo, to me, looked fast at Anaheim but he wasn’t happy at all with sixth.
Finally, although he wasn’t part of the press day riding list, Chad Reed was in the building hanging out and watching. Reed told me he’s not making huge bike changes at this stage, because he feels like he needs more work than his bike does. That means a lot when you consider Chad is perhaps the most notorious rider in the pits for making massive bike changes.
For more from St. Louis, I’ll have a Weege Show posted up on our YouTube channel tonight. See you at the races.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK (DC)
For the second year in a row, Yamaha riders swept the Anaheim Supercross. Last year it was New York's Justin Barcia and Oklahoma's Colt Nichols; this time it was a pair of New Yorkers in Monroe's Barcia and Cold Spring Harbor’s Justin Cooper. And that led to a message from my longtime friend and fellow vet rider Joe Ellington of New York to ask me if the Empire State had ever had a better night in AMA Supercross. They have not! This was the first time a pair of New Yorkers won both classes in this series.
However, way, way back in 1972, a couple of New Yorkers swept the first two rounds of the first AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Port Washington's Sonny DeFeo won the 250 Class at Schenectady, and New Yorker Barry Higgins won the 500 Class at Road Atlanta National in April, and then again at Desoto Cycle Raceway below Memphis.
As far as other states go, we've seen plenty of sweeps by Californians and Floridians, and occasionally Minnesota—the 2016 St. Louis SX was won by Ryan Dungey (450) and Jeremy Martin (250)—and Michigan (Jeff Stanton and the late Brian Swink at several rounds in 1991 and '92). And it's even happened for France, when David Vuillemin won the 250 class and Stephane Roncada topped the 125s at the 2000 New Orleans SX. Can you think of any state/country sweeps we may be missing?
Right Out of The Gates (Mitch Kendra)
With two different riders winning their first main event at the season opener in the last two years (Colt Nichols at 2019 Anaheim 1 and Justin Cooper this past weekend), I decided to look back on the other small-bore riders who won their first race at the first race of the year. Here are the 12 riders to win their first main event at the season opener:
2020: Justin Cooper (11th start) in Anaheim
2019: Colt Nichols (22nd start) in Anaheim
2017: Shane McElrath (27th start) in Anaheim
2015: Jessy Nelson (16th start) in Anaheim
1999: Casey Johnson (21st start) in Anaheim
1995: Tim Ferry (4th start) in Orlando
1993: Ezra Lusk (11th start) in Orlando
1991: Brian Swink (1st start) in Orlando
1990: Michael Craig (17th start) in Anaheim
1987: Jeff Matiasevich (7th start) in Anaheim
1986: Tyson Vohland (4th start) in Anaheim
1985: Todd Campbell (1st start) in San Diego—the first 125SX race ever!
For more stats and numbers and history from the season opener, make sure to read Redux: News And Notes From Anaheim 1 and the List: Blue Streak, where Davey Coombs looks at how Yamaha has won the first supercross of every decade.
MILESTONES HIT AND MISSED (DC)
In reaching his milestone 250th career AMA Supercross start, Chad Reed also became the first rider in history to have lined up for an AMA Supercross in four different decades. His first race came back in 1999 when he raced the San Diego 125 Supercross and finished 17th, and the most recent is of course the first Saturday night of 2020 with an 18th-place finish. In between 2000 and 2019 there are a bunch of wins to his record….
And props to Ricky Carmichael, the slimmed-down GOAT who has obviously been in the gym and on a diet. His business manager JH Leale told me RC’s lost 25 pounds, and it definitely shows. (And JH himself said he's lost 10 pounds, but no one notices because Carmichael has lost so much more!)
Yamaha had a great night. Suzuki? Not so much. The two Suzukis in the main event, JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's Fredrik Noren and Jimmy Decotis, finished second-to-last and last in 450SX. In 250SX, the one Suzuki in the main event, Alex Martin, got a bad start and then finished tenth.
You probably heard a little bit about the FIM President Jorge Viegas showing up at Anaheim and meeting with representatives of the six OEMs about his efforts to fix what’s been a broken system of drug testing and the past problems between the FIM and U.S.-based supercross racers. Jorge and AMA president Rob Dingman also took time to go to the GEICO Honda rig to personally greet Christian Craig, who is just back from his abbreviated suspension. I personally believe that Viegas is trying hard to right the procedural problems that have affected the likes of Craig, James Stewart, Cade Clason, and, unfortunately, Broc Tickle, who is not allowed to race until February. But I also believe the OEMs are more unified than ever in pressing for the FIM and the AMA to get a better handle on the whole process.
If you’re wondering what happened to the mountain bike racer who was going to make the Anaheim 450SX opener his first attempt at racing motorcycles, the FIM’s John Gallagher stopped him before he ever got out on the racetrack. Bernard Kerr used a loophole in the FIM rules to get a license to race 450SX and was documenting some of his preparations on social media, including riding at Jeremy McGrath’s old track near Temecula, and even getting on the Kawasaki track at one point. The King of Supercross himself said that in the 14 days Bernard was here preparing, “He made huge progress.” The problem for the FIM is that Kerr had zero racetrack experience in motocross, let alone supercross, and no rider is out there by himself—there are at least 21 guys who go off a starting gate alongside you as you’re attempting your first dirt bike race, and it’s at Angel Stadium. And while Kerr was not happy about being told so late in the game that he couldn’t race, I understand and agree with the FIM’s Gallagher. The Anaheim SX is not the place to find out what you might do over a triple in traffic on the first lap, or if you can even blitz through the whoops without landing on your head, then doing it a few dozen more times, all in traffic. This should have never gotten this far down the road in the first place. It would have made a mockery of the SX Futures, the old Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross, and any type of restrictions ever put on who deserves a professional license and who does not. The good news is that Kerr apparently enjoyed his preparation and riding so much that he wants to try it for real in the future, after he’s done some actual motocross races. Like I was with Shaun Palmer, I will be pulling for the guy—he obviously loves moto, and it showed, even in his disappointment with the turn of events last weekend.
And they announced last Friday at the Anaheim 1 press conference (and I missed it for Racerhead) that this year’s Monster Energy Cup will move from Las Vegas to Carson, California. The last event ever in Sam Boyd Stadium will be the 2020 Las Vegas SX in April, then they will begin to demolish it. Feld plans on taking the race back to Vegas in 2021 in the brand-new stadium (which will hopefully be ready for the '21 Vegas SX round in April '21).
Finally, here’s this week’s new Supercross Power Rankings, which are the combined ballots of a bunch of different industry insiders and race-watchers—pretty surprised to see AC9 at the top already!
JUSTIN X 2 (Andras Hegyi)
If you ever want your kid to be a AMA Supercross winner, naming him Justin (or Justine) might be a good first step. There are a lot of riders who have reached the winner's circle with the first name of Justin. The most famous and successful is Barcia. He’s a two-time 250SX East Region Champion and is now, for the second year in a row, the points leader after the opener. He has won numerous AMA Pro Motocross races and has the most career 450 SX wins of all of the Justins.
Justin Hill and Justin Bogle are also 250SX Champions. Bogle was the 250SX East Region champion in 2014, Hill was 250SX West Region champ in 2017. Bogle also has a 450 class overall win in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship (Budds Creek 2017). Justin Brayton is the oldest winner ever in the history of the sport—he won the '18 Daytona Supercross in the 450SX main at the age of 33 years, 11 months, 24 days.
And then a little further back in the day is the first Justin to win an AMA Supercross, Justin Buckelew of New Mexico. He was third overall in 125SX West in 2001. He is now bracketed with the most recent Justin to win in AMA Supercross, Justin Cooper.
Finally, one more historical factor: Anaheim was the first supercross event in which each class was won by a rider named Justin!
BY ANY OTHER NAME (DC)
Adding on to Andras' thread here, with some random name oddities..
- For eight straight years the AMA Supercross Champion had the first name of Ryan (Dungey in '10, Villopoto in '11-'14, Dungey from '15 to '17).
- Back in the day the first name of the first winner of each of the three divisions in U.S. Grand Prix of Motocross races had the same first name: Marty (Smith in 125, '75, Tripes in 250, '78, and Moates in 500, '80).
- Brocs that won races: Glover, Hepler, Tickle and sorta Sellards (Brock).
- Ryans that won races: Villopoto, Dungey, Hughes, Sipes (and Ricky Ryan)
- When Ron Lechien was inducted into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame last month, he ended his acceptance speech by thanking his father this way: "I guess growing up in El Cajon and you wanted to be a motocross star, you had to have a Dick for a dad—Dick Glover, Dick Johnson, Dick Lechien... Thanks Dad."
BRAYTON COVERED (DC)
Team Honda's Justin Brayton landed on the brand-new cover of Racer X magazine, which actually went to print just before Christmas. There is an Aaron Hansel-written feature in the magazine about the Honda SX/MX racing family, as well as a Jason Weigandt-penned feature about the New Zealand and Australian SX races that he and Justin both attended, and where Brayton wrapped up his fourth Australian SX Championship. Justin posted the Simon Cudby-shot cover on his Instagram this morning:
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SO stoked to be on the cover of the next issue of Racer X magazine!!! Seriously surreal and something I’ll never take for granted. Reading this magazine for most of my life and now being on the cover of it four times throughout my career is pretty dang cool!! Thank you @racerxonline!! And not bad style for a Vet rider??
Brayton's last cover came after he won the Daytona Supercross (June 2018 issue). Then you have to go way back to March 2010 when he was riding for JGR Yamaha to see his second cover. And the first Racer X cover of his career came way back in February 2009 when he was riding a KTM for the Muscle Milk/MDK team, with the dubious headline "Nowhere Man," since the Iowan was just coming on strong and starting to make a name for himself in the pro ranks.
FIRST DOUBLE-DOUBLE (Andras Hegyi)
Justin Barcia has gotten pretty good at winning season openers in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. First, the two-time 250SX East Region Champion won season openers in both 2011 and '12. And now as a 450 racer he has taken the openers in both 2019 and 2020. That makes him the first rider in the history of supercross to have won two season openers in each class, a possibility since 1985 when the 125/250 class was added to the series.
In the premier class, Barcia became the ninth rider to win at least two consecutive season openers. The others are Ken Roczen, Ryan Villopoto, Johnny O’Mara, Jeff Ward, Mike LaRocco, Jeremy McGrath, Chad Reed, and James Stewart. And besides Reed and McGrath, Barcia became only the third Yamaha rider to win at least two season openers with Yamaha.
The record holder for most first-race wins is the King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath. He captured wins in five different season-opening races: 1994, '95 and '96 with Honda, then 2000 and '01 with Yamaha. And those three wins in '94-'96 are the record for most consecutive season-opening wins. He won the title all three times.
Ken Roczen in the only rider to win season openers on three different brands. He won the first round of the season with KTM (2014), Suzuki ('15), and Honda ('17).
There are ten Yamaha riders to have won the first race of the supercross season. They are Pierre Karsmakers, Bob Hannah, Mike Bell, Damon Bradshaw, David Vuillemin, Chad Reed, James Stewart, Jeremy McGrath, Josh Grant, and Justin Barcia. And Barcia got Yamaha their 170th victory in the premier class last Saturday night.
MYSTERY TRACK (DC)
A friend of mine named Bobby Show started a Facebook page called Western PA Motocross Time Machine. It's become a great place for a bunch of old moto friends from AMA District 5 and Western Pennsylvania, Eastern Ohio, Northern Maryland, and of course West Virginia. The old photos and race flyers and newspaper covers that pop up all bring back fond memories of moto days, tracks and friends gone by. Everything that gets posted brings up a little bit of nostalgia and random memory recall, and the group usually nails down the identity of the riders or the racetracks in short order.
But over the holidays someone posted a photo from a race in 1987 that's been a real head-scratcher. It plainly features then-Suzuki factory rider Ron Tichenor from Florida, as well as "Mad" Mike Jones, one of the all-time fast guys out of Pennsylvania. Ronnie is on a factory-looking bike, Jonesy on a privateer #396 Yamaha. What we can't figure out is where exactly the track is, and what kind of race it is, because the number plates are mixed—some black, some white—and while there is a big crowd, I don't think it's any of the national tracks from that '87 schedule, though I have never been to Secession MX in South Carolina (which held a national on May 31, 1987). It does look a little like Broome-Tioga (August 9), but the tree line and the parking seems wrong, and the soil doesn't have nearly the rocks I remember.
Here is the 1987 AMA Motocross schedule, though I'm not certain it's a national given the mixed number plates.
First person who can help ID this will get a free 2020 Racer X Calendar!
NEW WINNER (Andras Hegyi)
Lately it seems like Yamaha is living one of the golden ages in small-bore supercross history, in existence since 1985. Since 2014, Yamaha has taken the most titles, four in all (and all in the West Region). They have the second-most wins, as Kawasaki taken more over that period than Yamaha, just not the titles. And since 2014 Yamaha has been the only Japanese brand to win every season—only the Austria-made KTM joins them in winning at least one round every year between 2014 and '19.
Last Saturday night, Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha's Justin Cooper, 23, got his maiden 250SX victory and became the 110th winner of the 125/250 class. Cooper also became Yamaha’s 28th winner here (and Yamaha’s 107th win in this class). The brand’s maiden win was taken by Mike LaRocco in 1988 (back when Yamahas were white). And thanks to Cooper this is the seventh Monster Energy AMA Supercross season that kicked off with a Yamaha win in this class.
Yamaha winners in 125/250 SX:
12 wins: Kevin Windham, Ernesto Fonseca
11 wins: Cooper Webb
7 wins: John Dowd
6 wins: Aaron Plessinger, Damon Bradshaw, Chad Reed
4 wins: Jeremy Martin, Jeff Emig, Stephane Roncada, David Vuillemin
3 wins: Dylan Ferrandis, Mike LaRocco, Jason Lawrence, Nathan Ramsey, Ryan Sipes
2 wins: Jimmy Button, Casey Johnson, Brock Sellards, Greg Schnell
1 win: Justin Buckelew, Josh Hansen, Branden Jesseman, Chad Pederson, Ivan Tedesco, Broc Tickle, Colt Nichols, Justin Cooper
The march 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The March 2020 issue of Racer X magazine is coming to newsstands and mailboxes soon. Subscribe to the print and/or award-winning digital edition today. And if you're already a digital subscriber head to digital.racerxonline.com to login and read now.
Inside the March issue of Racer X magazine
- Honda is expanding its support—technical, material, and more—to anyone who races one of their bikes.
- Jason Weigandt hit up supercrosses in Australia and New Zealand to watch U.S. rivals relax and have a good time together.
- Brand ambassadors are all over the sport now, but these retired legends don’t always wind up with the brands that helped make them great.
- The Mini O’s in November act as a bridge between racing seasons past and future.
All these features and much more inside the March issue.
Subscribe or renew your subscription to Racer X magazine and receive 12 issues, plus a free bag of Racer X Deadline Blend Evil Coffee and a $10 Rocky Mountain ATV/MC gift card.
Hey, Watch It!
Christian and his son, Jagger, celebrating after A1
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@jordanbailey.39 wanted to be like @martin__davalos this week. Which one is better 1 or 2? Comment below... #loopout #larry @redbull @ridedunlop @fcsuspension @fmf73 @deepsouthkawasaki @ogio_powersports @bell_powersports @ethika @answerracing @scottmotosports @evssports @kickeraudio
LISTEN TO THIS
The day after Anaheim 1, Jason Weigandt took the Red Bull Moto Spy crew to lunch to bench race about Anaheim and dive deeper into gaining access, how the riders and teams act on race day and during the week, and how this entire process came to be. Join Weigandt, Wes Williams, Danny Stuart, David Bulmer, and Chase Stallo while they do what you do: bench race, break down, and theorize about the athletes at Anaheim.
The Fly Racing Racer X Podcast comes in with JT and Weege joining me to talk about all the things that happened at Anaheim 1 from JB51’s win to Justin Cooper’s first win plus who should be the most worried.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair, Hobo Nick, Vincent "V$" Blair, and Producer Joe talk about the first round of supercross 2020 in Anaheim, California. Hang out with them as Daniel focuses on the headlines in the sport. Oh yeah, sometimes it goes off the rails.
“Florida woman arrested for threatening McDonald's employees over dipping sauce dispute, police say”—Fox News
“Naked Florida man, high on meth, bites K-9 dog, assaults officer: report”—Fox News
“Burger King Employee Allegedly Pulled Gun on Customer Following Complaint”—Complex
“Florida mom gives birth to 2 sets of twins in 1 year”—Fox News
“Ohio is considering whether long-suffering Browns or Bengals fans can be treated with medical marijuana”—CNN
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #2. Is this latest updates, the guys from Direct Motocross did a long interview with American Matt Goerke, who recently broke his back while racing in Germany. Make sure to check it out!
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!