Main Image: Kellen Brauer
Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you once again from the road, only this time I’m not headed west for the Anaheim rematch, but rather east to New York City—Brooklyn to be exact. I’m on an annual fathers/sons trip with my son Vance and some Morgantown friends. It’s about a six-hour drive, which is nothing when you’ve grown up and lived your whole life traveling motocross races. Once we get there, we’re going to meet up with longtime Racer X senior editor Jeff Kocan and his son. We will be keeping an eye on Anaheim tomorrow night, even while sitting in the Barclay Center for the Nets vs. Milwaukee Bucks game.
Last weekend’s St. Louis race was another good one—a really good one if you are a Ken Roczen fan, and a pretty good one if you’re pulling for Justin Barcia. They survived both the flu and a tricky track, which allowed Roczen to get his first 450 SX win in almost three years, and it allowed Barcia to hold on to the red plate as the championship points leader. We also saw Austin Forkner get back on top in the 250SX Class for his first win since his crash last year in Nashville harmed his knee and cost him the 250SX East Region title. And then as soon as St. Louis was over everyone was packing up and headed back West to Anaheim for what will be the 76th Anaheim Supercross tomorrow night. We will have more on that below.
But first, hats off to Ricky Brabec in becoming the first American ever to win the Dakar Rally, the absolute toughest, longest motorcycle race in the world. Brabec survived a grueling 12 days of riding across the badlands of Saudi Arabia.
“To be the only American to accomplish this goal is amazing,” said Brabec after the finish. “I think it’s really a dream come true. Now we’ve got to set our goals higher and accomplish more. We are going to come back next year and try and repeat this but, as I said, it’s not easy. We are happy. It was a big, tough race. A lot of kilometers. The team worked great together. The riders were good and the whole team worked well together so I’m really happy. The bikes were really good. We are all here. We are all happy and safe. That was the first goal. I can’t thank everyone enough – Honda, Monster and every one of the sponsors behind us. Thank you all so much. It’s the first time in Saudi Arabia. The scenery was insane! I love it. Hopefully I’ll be back next year. I’ve got a five-year contract so I think we’ll be back.”
As the Honda press release said, Dakar is the world’s toughest and cruelest rally—highly-respected Portuguese rider and 13-time Dakar entrant Paulo Gonçalves died earlier in the week as a result of injuries from a high-speed crash. The tragedy led to a one-day pause by all of the motorcycle racers.
As for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider Andrew Short, he had some issues along the way but he finished a solid tenth when all was said and done, and gained a lot of valuable experience that will help him next time to maybe challenge his fellow American Brabec for the win. Well done to both Ricky and Andrew—and check out what Short did during the sixth stage of the race in the Hey, Watch It section below!). (Kris Keefer will have more on Brabec’s achievement below.)
Staying with the off-road theme, we all got somewhat surprising news today that 2020 will be the last full-time racing season for FMF KTM team leader Kailub Russell. He’s getting ready to go after his eighth consecutive GNCC #1 plate, and he’s already the all-time wins leader—see the list of all his race wins from last fall. But Kailub has always been very focused and relentlessly driven. (I’ve known him his whole life—he’s my nephew.) He puts everything he has into his racing, and he’s done very well for himself and his wife Chandler and their growing family, so I don’t blame him for looking for the exit ramp from racing GNCC and looking for the next big challenge or project out there. But it’s not going to be easy, as he stated in the press release:
“It’s tough to walk away from all I have ever known. Unlike most though, I can say that I have given my absolute best as a racer and not left any stone unturned throughout my GNCC career. Racing has taken a toll on my mind and body throughout my lifetime but it has opened more doors and opportunities than I could have ever dreamt about. I’m going to continue racing until the end of 2021 at least, but with a limited race schedule as I transition into the next chapter of life. While the 2020 season marks my 10th and final year as an XC1 competitor, I’m just as ambitious and motivated for my last as I was my first.”
Congratulations, KR557, and good luck on this last big run for the title.
Where From Here? (Jason Weigandt)
Last year, when Ken Roczen won the Hangtown National, his first victory since his devastating run of injuries began, we expected fireworks, backflips and celebrations all night long. Instead, Ken played it low key. Saturday night after his first Monster Energy AMA Supercross win since 2017, it was similar. I'd say Ken had a little more pep in his step than usual but it wasn't out of control. The atmosphere over at the Honda truck was positive, but speakers weren't blaring. It's not like Kenny was cruising around crushing Coors Lights with his shirt off like he did back when he won the 2016 Lucas Oil AMA 450 Class Pro Motocross Championship for RCH Suzuki.
There are a few things at play here. First, title contenders always hold back the emotions somewhat, because these guys are focused on a bigger goal than any one win. They want the title, so getting too stoked on one race is bad formula. Don’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low. I also think, as Matthes has mentioned a few times this week, that this win is really just a number on paper. Ken has already known he was back to race-winning form for a while now. He’s been fast, he’s been good, he’s been close, I don’t think he needed a win to prove he was back, he just needed that victory on paper to check the box. Had Ken won Anaheim 1 in 2018, it would have been unbelievable, because it would have stamped that he was back. He hasn’t gotten a win, but I feel like he’s already proven he can go win races again, he just hadn’t actually done it. So I think that also tempers it a bit.
Essentially, 2020 can now check this box, it has the “Roczen wins again” storyline, but we’re not even close to knowing how significant this will be long term. If Ken wins again, oh my, look out. I mean, he didn’t just win St. Louis, he dominated. He looked really, really good. This could mean something, but there’s so much going on right now, it’s hard to tell what’s coming. Justin Barcia officially proved Anaheim 1 wasn’t a fluke, but can he maintain this level? Eli Tomac got better at round two, Cooper Webb was worse. Adam Cianciarulo lit it up during the afternoon sessions again. Jason Anderson is right where he likes to be—capable, but with the spotlight shining more brightly on others. Malcolm Stewart is showing he can indeed be solid and consistent. We have a small sample size, but so far, the racing is very unpredictable. Is Ken’s win a significant sign, or just one narrative out of many we will see this season? Man, the early rounds are so fun to watch!
SX Power Rankings (DC)
Feld Entertainment/Monster Energy Supercross released the newest SX Power Rankings and they closely reflect the point standings, at least they do in the 450SX class. The top five mirror the actual points, where Barcia leads Roczen and Cianciarulo and Jason Anderson are tied for third, Tomac sits alone in fifth, and then Cooper Webb and Blake Baggett are tied for sixth. But as far as movement in the power rankings go, Barcia jumped two spots, Roczen three, and then the slow-starting Webb has dropped four spots.
In the 250SX West Region, Justin Cooper still has the red plate but based on his win in St. Louis last week Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Austin Forkner jumped up to first in the power rankings, leapfrogging both Cooper and his Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha teammate Dylan Ferrandis, who had a rough night in St. Louis.
The OEMs all remained in the same six spots with Yamaha on top, which makes sense since they still have both red plates.
1. Yamaha -
2. Kawasaki -
3. Honda -
4. KTM -
5. Husqvarna -
6. Suzuki –
Man, you've really got to feel for the JGR guys and also for Suzuki a bit. The whole off-season has been turbulent as Suzuki tried to decide what they wanted to do in terms of going all-in for 2020 at a high level of racing. Cutbacks at Suzuki seem to be the theme and for a time there, it wasn't even 100 percent that JGR was going racing in the last year of their deal with the yellow bikes. In the end, they managed to go racing by signing Joey Savatgy, cutting two of their 250 guys and putting Fredrik Noren (who filled in last summer in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship) on the other 450 for SX. They also cut down to one semi-truck on the road and some key guys with the team left for other opportunities.
Then Savatgy got hurt in Australia pretty seriously and won't be back for a while with a broken heel. The team decided to put Jimmy Decotis on a 450 for West alongside Noren and hope for the best. Anaheim 1 both guys put it into the main and Noren looked better at SX than I can remember. So that was a good thing.
Well, it's JGR so of course it's not going to stay "good" right? Noren cased a jump in St. Louis and broke his lower leg—he didn't even crash! So he'll join Savatgy on the sidelines and the team will presumably stick with Decotis on the West and Alex Martin will ride 450 on the East. I tried to text Jeremy Albrecht yesterday to see if they want to fill in Noren's spot but he never got back to me. He might've been too busy looking for a bridge to jump off of. I mean, seriously, with ALL these guys have been through it just seems that nothing can actually work out for them. (Weston Peick was supposed to be their rock solid option but it looks like his career may be over after a crash in Paris last October). Add all their rider woes to the fact the Suzuki/JGR partnership looks to be done racing at the end of this year and you have to feel for these guys. Can nothing actually work out for JGRMX?
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Thank you for all the calls, texts, and prayers. Freddie is okay. He didn’t crash. He was in 9th in the heat with a couple laps to go. He landed a triple in a pocket and heard a snap, he didn’t know what it was and thought everything was okay but when he hit the next double he realized his lower leg felt broke. We’re waiting at the ER now, he’s doing okay but is in a lot of pain, we should have more updates soon. -Amy
GET WELL SOON, MARSHALL (DC)
Spotted this on longtime Dunlop man Marshall Plumb's Facebook page:
"All good records must come to an end. As I lay here in bed sicker than a dog for the last day it will be the first Supercross race I have missed in 35 years. Kind of sad that I won’t be there but as we get older we need to take care of your health. Sorry to the team of guys I work with for not being there."
First of all, nothing to be sorry for, Marshall. Second of all, get well soon. And finally, wow, what an impressive attendance record! Thirty-five years means 1985. Ronald Reagan was the U.S. President, the Soviet Union was still a thing, and the newest thing to hit AMA Supercross was the 125cc class. SX races were two motos and the title contenders were Jeff Ward, Broc Glover, David Bailey, Johnny O’Mara, Ricky Johnson, and Ron Lechien. And of all the guys that will be racing tomorrow night at Anaheim, only two of them were even alive when Marshall Plumb’s attendance streak started: Chad Reed and Justin Brayton.
Get well soon, Marshall, and get another streak started!
Brabec Wins Dakar (Kris Keefer)
Hesperia, California’s Ricky Brabec is the first American ever to win the Dakar Rally. The Monster Energy Honda rider was not only first overall in the Bike classification, but also was first overall amongst all other vehicles as well! When I asked Ricky why he wanted to get into rally racing and not just stick to the American off-road racing scene he told me it was something that came from the times he had conversations with the late Kurt Caselli. Kurt would speak about rally and that intrigued Ricky enough to use the success of his American off-road racing results to springboard himself into the world rally scene. Ricky comes from my desert rat hometown and we have spent many training days together up in the barren desert. I have watched him transform himself into not only a rally racer, but a healthier human being as well. Ricky wasn't always the man that you see now. Just a few short years ago he was almost 300 pounds, was working for his dad, and seemed lost on what he wanted to do for a career. After deciding he wanted to get back to racing seriously, Ricky started training harder, eating healthier, and went back to racing AMA District 37 desert races. In doing so, he began to rack up some wins, as well as gain confidence, then began his re-emergence in order to try and be the best off-road rider in America.
In 2014 he was almost down 80 pounds, had a goal in mind, stuck to it, and won the National Hare N Hound title, Best In The Desert, and SCORE championships. Ricky had some injuries after the 2014 season and missed a lot of racing in 2015, but came back to win the NHHA title in 2016 once again. Such impressive results didn’t go unnoticed to Team HRC who scouted Ricky and hired him to be a full time rally team rider. While in Hesperia, I would see Ricky leave his house to go on long rides only to return home and clip in to go mountain biking with me, after he just spent over 300km on his rally bike.
After being in the lead in last year’s Dakar Rally, only to have the bike break with a couple days left, I did a podcast with him when he got home. As one would expect he sounded super depressed and was kind of lost for a while, but with the guidance from multi-time Baja champion Johnny Campbell and off-road legend Jimmy Lewis, he picked himself up once again and set his sights on the 2020 Dakar Rally. Spending a little time with him leading up to the Dakar Rally, I witnessed a different Ricky. A more focused, calm, and more mature 28-year-old kid that I would just call “Rick” from now on. It seemed fitting because he was so driven and had a plan set in place. He would text me very early in the morning on most days to see if I wanted to go on a bicycle ride, so he could get his off-the-bike work done early, just so he could log as many navigation miles on his rally bike as he could. He focused more on navigation this year and did less moto’ing with me, in order to be completely ready when it was time to get to Saudi Arabia.
What Ricky accomplished in Saudi Arabia is not only a huge feat for him personally, but spectacular for off-road racing in America, Honda HRC, and gives hope to aspiring young off-road racers that want to chase their dreams. Look for a full interview with Ricky Brabec very soon right here on racerxonline.com. Congrats, Rick!
-Ricky Brabec first American to win the Dakar Rally
-First Honda win since 1989
-First non-KTM win since 2001
A Legend and A Hero (DC)
And congrats to Mike Beier, longtime SoCal fast guy, who will be honored this weekend at Anaheim by the Legends & Heroes of Motocross. Beier finished third in the 1984 AMA 125 National Motocross Championships on a privateer Yamaha, beaten only by the works bikes of Team Kawasaki's Jeff Ward and Team Honda's Johnny O'Mara. He never quite made it to a factory ride but he did sign up with Team Tamm in 1985, then extended his career many years by doing various overseas races with his close friend and competitor Tom Carson. And finally, Beier appeared on a few magazine covers back in the day, including this gem, Dennis Cox's classic Moto Cross magazine. That's Mike on the #99 YZ125L, paired off with A.J. Whiting's Honda CR125R. Congrats to Mike and enjoy your weekend in the spotlight!
Turns out the track was nowhere near Western Pennsylvania, nor was it an outdoor national track, as my longtime friend Kevin Foley explained in a note.
"I am pretty sure this is from a night track in northern Georgia called Tunnel Hill. My good dealer friend Ed Krass at Mid-South Motoplex let me race a CR250 when I was in college. I would drive there from Middle Tennessee State University and could win a bit of $ to help out in school. They once had a $10K purse race at about this time and this looks like a photo from that race! And if I remember correctly, RT won all the dough!"
Foley added, "Ed Krass will get a kick out of seeing his name and dealership mentioned. He started helping me in 1985 when he worked at DGY and has had his own store since '86. It's about 2 hours from Waverly, Tennessee." (Waverly is the town that's closest to Loretta Lynn's Ranch.)
Also, in the comments at the bottom of Racerhead last week, "Just MX" confirmed the track as well.
"Mystery track is southern Supercross near Dalton, Ga. Once a year they would have a big race with a $10k purse. Recognize the layout and the lights. Not many night tracks in the south had ball field style lighting."
There you have it, we will be sending both Foley and Just MX a free 2020 calendar for helping us figure out our mystery track!
THAT FIFTH TIME AROUND (Andras Hegyi)
Ken Roczen and Honda are back. By winning last Saturday night both Roczen and Honda put an end to a couple of long winless streaks. Roczen got his first 450SX victory since January of 2017, while Honda took their first premier class supercross win since March of 2018. Before Roczen the last Honda winner was then-SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda rider Justin Brayton (now Roczen's teammate) who was victorious at Daytona '18, becoming also the oldest supercross winner ever. Conquering St. Louis, Roczen got his 12th career win and his 37th podium result in 450SX. Roczen’s success means the 213rd victory for Honda in the premier class of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, which makes Honda the most successful brand ever in the series, despite having not won the title since 2003. This is also the fifth season in which Roczen has won in 450SX. Roczen is the 18th racer to win in at least five seasons. Chad Reed has won in the most seasons, with 11. And James Stewart is the record-holder for wins in the most consecutive seasons as he won in ten straight years.
Riders to win in at least five seasons in the 250/450 supercross
Chad Reed: 11 seasons ('03-09, 2011-'12, 2014-'15)
James Stewart: 10 (2005-'14)
Jeremy McGrath: 9 (1993-'01)
Ryan Dungey: 8 (2010-'17)
Kevin Windham: 8 (1997-'00, 2004-'05, 2008-'10)
Jeff Ward: 8 (1984-'91)
Bob Hannah: 8 (1977-'79, 1981-'85)
Ricky Carmichael: 7 (2000-'03, 2005-'07)
Mike LaRocco: 7 (1991-'95, '02, '04)
Ryan Villopoto: 6 (2009-'14)
Ricky Johnson: 6 (1984-'89)
Ron Lechien: 6 (1983-'85, 1987-'89)
Broc Glover: 6 (1980-'83, '85, '88)
Mark Barnett: 6 (1979-'83, '85)
Eli Tomac: 5 (2015-'19)
Mike Bell: 5 (1978-'80, 1982-'83)
Jeff Stanton: 5 (1989-'93)
Ken Roczen: 5 (2014-'17, '20)
THREE YEARS (Andras Hegyi)
Last Saturday night Ken Roczen got his first 450SX win since January 14, 2017. In doing so the Honda rider became the ninth racer to win again after three years in the history of 250/450 supercross.
Larry Ward: Big Bird was one of the stars in the ’90s, and he would win SX main events in three different seasons. His first would win came in 1990 at Seattle, his home race. He would not win again until Tampa in 1998, an eight-year gap, the longest period between wins in the history of the 250/450 supercross. He added one more win in 1999, once again at Seattle.
Mike LaRocco: The Rock was one of the most consistent supercross racers ever. Between 1989 and 2006 he was a regular rider in the premier class, and he was able to get podiums in 17 consecutive seasons between 1989 and '05, the all-time record. The AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer got wins in seven different seasons in all. Between 1991 and '95 LaRocco won every season, but from April 8, 1995 (Pontiac) until January 19, 2002 (Anaheim) he had no wins. That's nearly seven years before he was victorious again.
Justin Barcia:Justin Barcia got his first two 450SX wins in 2013, the second of which came at Seattle on April 20. He would not win again until the opening round of 2019 at Anaheim, which took place on January 5, nearly six years later. His next win would come much quicker, as in 364 days later, once again at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
Ezra Lusk: One of Jeremy McGrath’s main rivals in the late nineties, Yogi got wins in 1997, '98 and '99, the last of which was on April 24 while he was riding for Team Honda. But then injuries started to affect his results, and he would not win again until the Phoenix race on January 11, 2003, by which time he was on a Kawasaki, nearly four years later.
Kevin Windham: Between 1996 and 2012 K-Dub got podiums in 14 different seasons and victories in eight of them. But there were also two long periods where he did not win. Between April 8, 2000 (Dallas), and then January 10, 2004 (Phoenix), Windham did not win a SX main event, and then it happened again between January 8, 2005 (Anaheim) and February 16, 2008 (Houston).
Trey Canard: The two-time 250SX Champion moved up to 450SX in 2011, getting three wins, but after that he did not win again until 2015. Some big injuries in 2012 and 2014 contributed to him not winning between April 2, 2011 (Dallas) and January 24, 2015 (Oakland). All of Trey's wins came aboard Hondas.
Broc Glover: The Golden Boy was one of the stars in the premier supercross class in the 1980s. He started out late in SX, as he was Yamaha's 125cc specialist early in his career, and there was no 125 class in SX. By the time he won his first AMA Supercross on March 15, 1980 (Houston) he was already a three-time AMA 125 National Champion. Between 1980 and 1983 he won every season. In 1984 he was pushed into the background without winning, then came within two points of winning the title in 1985. But then in both '86 and '87 Glover struggled, first with a serious knee injury and then a bad wrist injury. And then after not winning since February 2, 1985 (Anaheim), Glover was victorious in Los Angeles on June 18, 1988, in the last supercross race of his AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame career.
Davi Millsaps: Riding for Team Honda, Millsaps got 450SX wins in both 2008 and 2010, the last of which came in San Diego on February 6. Then he moved to the factory-backed JGRMX Yamaha team and had no wins in 2011 or '12. In 2013 he changed teams, signing on to the private Suzuki Rockstar Energy Racing team. He ended up winning the first race of the season at Anaheim on January 5, 2013.
Ken Roczen: Roczen has been a regular rider in the 450SX class since 2014. He races each year through the start of the 2017, and he won with different brands: KTM, Suzuki, and Honda. He won the first two rounds (Anaheim and San Diego) then suffered the first of two severe arm injuries, each of which almost ended his career. Finally, last Saturday night, Roczen won again after almost three years to the day (January 14, 2017 to January 11, 2020). Welcome back to the winner's circle, Kenny! Top of Form
Jorge Prado Update (Andras Hegyi)
Two-time MX2 Motocross World Champion Jorge Prado’s recovery is progressing well. Prado broke his left femur on December 12 while riding in Rome, Italy. He was operated in Rome then headed to his home in Belgium to celebrate the New Year’s day and his birthday. (Prado turned 19 on January 5.) Then he returned to Rome, Italy, where he also has a place near his teammate Antonio Cairoli. By this point he was off the crutches. He has done some limited cycling and started doing some exercises to strengthen the muscles of his injured thigh. As far as when can he ride again a motorcycle, that remains to be seen. He will not take part in the International Motocross Series of Italy that is the usual season opener for Europe. It consists of three rounds, the last of which will be February 9. Prado’s team manager Claudio De Carli said that Prado would not be likely to race the first two rounds of the 2020 MXGP Motocross World Championship, which starts on March 1 in Great Britain, with the second round in the Netherlands the following weekend.
"Yes, Jorge Prado’s recovery is progressing very well and fast," said De Carli in an interview to Motosprint, the most famous motorcycle sport newspaper in Italy. "But it is very difficult to say if he can race the first Grand Prix of the season. Within almost one month there will be another X-ray examination that gives opinions about Prado’s time to return. But for the moment it just can be said that the first two GP rounds are in danger for Prado. For sure, if he were able to race in the season opener, it would be a dream that came true, it would be also a miracle.”
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.
LISTEN TO THIS
The Fly Racing Racer X Podcast comes in with JT and Weege joining me to recap the exciting St. Louis SX. From Roczen’s win to Forkner’s race to CR22 and much more, it’s all right here.
The young video shooters from Vurb Moto are now trusted industry insiders producing behind-the-scenes documentaries like Red Bull Moto Spy. How did they transition from merely trying to get a media pass to becoming purveyors of moto media? Jason Weigandt sits down with Wes Williams, Danny Stuart, David Bulmer, and Chase Stallo to follow the process, and they're also joined by Eli "Brotocross" Moore, whose own counterculture site made waves a few years ago. Enjoy this insider convo about covering the sport, the American-versus-Europe scene, Jett Lawrence, and even thoughts on the early 2020 season. It's just a bunch of people talking dirt bikes. Just like you, only with media passes.
If you missed it, listen to part one of this talk from last week.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair, Mike Mason, and Producer Joe talk about the second round of supercross 2020 in St. Louis, Missouri. Hang out with them as Daniel focuses on the headlines in the sport. Oh yeah, sometimes it goes off the rails.
“Chiefs run out of fireworks at Arrowhead Stadium during 51-point scoring blitz in playoff win over Texans”—CBS News
“Andrew Yang receives endorsement from comedian Dave Chappelle”—CNN
“A Florida woman tried to build a bomb inside a Walmart using items she didn't pay for, police say”—CNN
“Annual UBC snowball fight postponed—because of snow”—The Comeback
“MLB rumors: Astros’ Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman wore ‘devices that buzzed’ as part of sign-stealing scandal, report says”—NJ.com
“Arrest warrant issued for Odell Beckham Jr. after locker room butt slap; Browns release statement”—Nola.com
The 2020 Travis Pastrana Challenge at Pleasure Valley Raceway is set for September 26-27, circle your calendars!
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #3.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!