Welcome to Racerhead, another week into quarantine life. Here’s hoping you and your family and friends are getting along well, despite all the bad news around. We’re hopefully getting to the next phase of this—the downside of what is the viral version a great tabletop jump—and our health, welfare, sanity, and livelihoods are hopefully still in check. I know that the complete pause has been rough on the motorcycle industry, and a lot of friends are concerned about not only the future, but even just tomorrow. I’m hoping we start hearing good news and developments soon as far as our sport goes, as a lot of smart and inspiring people are working together to get back on track when this whole thing dissipates. In the meantime, keep washing those hands!
Speaking of tracks, I had to go out to High Point yesterday to see how things were holding up in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania. The gates haven’t been unlocked all year, as the coronavirus hit before the local racing season and area qualifiers were held out there. My brother-in-law, Jeff Russell, rode out and shot a few pics with his phone that I shared here last week, but I really wanted to see it for myself. Unfortunately, I forgot to bring a key for the front gate, so I parked down by the main road and just walked up over the hill to see how spring was treating this old friend.
After the last race of 2019, High Point had been neatly shaped and winterized, and then when those early spring races were canceled, someone went ahead and put down some grass seed. As a result, what I found when I crested the hill was stunning. It was a grass-covered motocross circuit that looked like one of those classic old “Dream On” advertisements that Pete Fox and Fox Racing were doing in the mid-nineties. Grass was growing in places that haven’t been green since my dad first laid out the track here back in September of 1976. For a motocross enthusiast like myself, it was breathtaking—or at least it was for me when I started to walk the whole length of the track, because the combination of closed gyms, a homeschool lunch menu for the kids (that includes Pizza Al’s, Chik-Fil-A, Oliverio’s, and Wings Olé), a wine store within walking distance, and binge watching Ozark every night have all had their slow effect on my fitness.
As I walked around, pretty much the only thing I could hear besides my own breathing was the grass blowing in the wind, the occasional bird, or maybe a truck lumbering by down on the main road. I couldn’t help but think of all of the great memories I had growing up there, from racing to working to running around to hitting golf balls behind the Suzuki truck with Pat Alexander and Danny Laporte, skipping school on a Wednesday to pick up rocks around the track just because I knew Bob Hannah was going to be out there practicing and I could watch him come around!
And of course my brother and I must have raced out there at High Point a couple hundred times over the years, with lifelong friends like Scott Sepkovic, Brian Stanley, “Mad” Mike Jones, Tommy Carson, Mark Garrison, Jeff Glass, Carl and David Hand, “Flying” Mike Bias and “Fast” Freddie Andrews, the Arlet family, the Curmans, the McConnells, George Sosnick, Danny Blackham, Shane Lawson, the Belloras, the late Chinky Godby, the late Mike McDonald, the late Davey Yezek.… Too many really good families and really fast guys to list.
High Point Raceway is actually on the Holbert family farm. Back in 1976, Dad had held not one but two AMA Pro Motocross Nationals at another track called Appalachian Highlands, a rocky outcrop near a truck stop called Keyser’s Ridge, Maryland. That place didn’t work out, even with both a 250 National (won by Hannah) and later on a 125 National (won by Steve Wise). By the end of summer he was done with the track and seemingly done with being a motocross promoter. But then the Holberts, who had five boys who all raced, invited him to come check out their farm near Mt. Morris. He took them up on the offer and liked what he saw, and within a couple of weeks he had set up a motocross track and held the first race at what he decided to call High Point Raceway. I’m sure my brother Timmy and I raced our 80s in it, but I don’t remember how I did, nor do I have any trophies (Mom always recycled them, giving away the ones we won to other riders at their next race!).
While I was walking I also thought back to the very day that I saw this place this green. It was in early October 1976, after that first race, which didn’t have much of a turnout. It was a weekday in a couple of rounds of the Trans-AMA Series, Lake Sugar Tree in Virginia, and Unadilla in New York the following week. Dad had taken us to the Lake Sugar Tree race, and while he was there he started talking to his friend Selveraj Narayana, who was a mechanic for the Maico factory team, which included Sylvain Geboers, Hans Maisch, and Adolf Weil. Dad told Sel about this new track and invited him and the team to stop by and practice on the way to Unadilla. And then a couple of days later, as soon as my brother and sister and I got home from school, Dad had us all jump in the van and head out to the new track—the Maico team was coming to practice!
Unfortunately, by the time they got there it was raining. When it finally stopped, the visiting Europeans decided to walk around the new track and see how muddy it was. They didn’t seem impressed by the fairly small track they saw, though they apparently did see a lot of potential in the surrounding valley. So as they wandered around—I will never forget that they were all wearing these matching red Griffs-brand Maico jackets—they started moving the old tires that marked the original track and pulling out the wooden stakes that marked Dad’s original design and pushing them in the ground where they thought the track should go instead. For an hour or so, they walked around the valley marking a whole new track design that they saw in their collective minds’ eyes. I’m sure my dad was probably a little embarrassed that they were erasing his initial ideas of what High Point should look like, but he also worshipped those same European riders, so he left the rocks and stakes out there, and that weekend, instead of driving to Unadilla to watch the Trans-AMA like we were supposed to, Dad has us load up our bikes and we all went out to High Point to ride with the Holberts. For what seemed like hours, we rode around on the grass track that those Maico riders had marked out. There weren’t any jumps, just a lot of slick and beautiful off-camber sweepers and up- and downhills, and I remember thinking we were in a Grand Prix or something. It really was just like riding on a golf course. And when my parents had their second race out there, they advertised it as a “European-style natural-terrain motocross track” and people loved it.
All these years later, despite countless tweaks and changes as the track grew and the sport evolved, a few parts of the track are still pretty much exactly what those visiting Maico riders laid out that October day in 1976 out on the Holbert family farm. Of course now there are jumps, banked turns, tunnels, infrastructure, a starting gate, speaker poles, flagmen stands—all the things that make up a modern motocross track but didn’t exist out there back then.
But right now, today, with the whole world on hold, what is out there on that High Point track that hasn’t been there in nearly 45 years is beautiful green grass that makes the place look like a postcard. Just walking on it yesterday brought back all those amazing memories of days and races gone by. The grass made me think about Dad, about what it was like to practically grow up in a van driving to races every weekend, all five of us sleeping in it, chasing his dream of being a big-time promoter and my brother’s and my dreams of becoming pro riders and just all the time we got to spend together at the races as a family, with our friends and fellow racers and their families….
Yesterday was a moving experience to say the least. And after I completed the lap on foot and started to walk back down the hill to my car, one thought kept coming back into my mind, over and over: I can’t wait for us all to get back out there on our dirt bikes and tear all that grass up again!
ACTUAL NEWS (DC)
Sorry about the stroll down memory lane, it’s been a slow news week. We’re all in a holding pattern. Whether you are involved in supercross, planning on trying to qualify for the AMA Amateur Nationals at Loretta Lynn’s, following MXGP overseas, participating in the GNCC Series, or just waiting to hear news on what’s going to happen with the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, there’s not a lot of solid information or direction out there just now. MXGP’s Infront (formerly Youthstream) tried to solidify their schedule adjustments with a new calendar, only to find out that their August races in Germany and Belgium would not be able to run due to government restrictions, so they are also in a holding pattern. As KTM’s global racing boss, Pit Beirer, told Geoff Meyer in an MX Large interview, “Let’s hope we can crown a World champion before Christmas.”
The biggest racing-related story here so far this week was the announcement that 2018 AMA Supercross Champion Jason Anderson was parting ways with trainer Aldon Baker, news that Anderson broke himself on Instagram:
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So,, just wanted to let you guys all know that I am no longer working with Aldon, before you read it on vital forum or somewhere else.. I want to thank him for all the years together! From being a squirrely rookie in the 450 class, to helping me refine my skills and achieve race wins at the top of the sport! This has nothing to do with his program or anything.. I believe he has a program that’s amazing and wins championships.. that’s just FACTS. For me, I know I’m going to be scrutinized for this decision, which is okay. I made this decision ‘cause I need a change of pace. Needed different tracks, different gym, different cycle routes... I felt, in the recent year, when it came to my program and daily routine that I was just going through the motions some days, w/ no passion or intensity.. Like I was just waking up and going to work. I don’t want that. I want to have pride in what I do! I want to be trying my butt off everyday to improve, getting sketchy at the track, trying to find that extra little 1/10th of a second. I still want to win races and put my heart into it and I’m more motivated than ever. Is this the wrong decision?, who knows.. I’m sure you guys will have your opinions, which is okay. But, I’m more excited, than ever, to be racing. So, thanks to Aldon for putting up with my shit since 2014! Cheers mate!
Monster Energy Yamaha’s Justin Barcia was just on our @racerxonline Instagram with Jason Weigandt, and tomorrow they’re planning another Pro Motocross watch party on Facebook featuring the 2011 Unadilla National. We’re even doing a virtual 2020 Loretta Lynn’s AMA MX vs. ATV Online Championship.
According to the press release:
“This four-weekend, online tournament is the result of a unique collaboration between MX Sports, THQ Nordic, Rainbow Studios and MXO Sports and is designed to bring all the fun and competition of MX racing to fans at home. The Online Championship will be played in Rainbow Studio’s MX vs. ATV All Out video game and begin this weekend, April 18 and 19, and run for four consecutive weekends ending on May 9 and 10. Players competing on Xbox® One will compete to qualify each Saturday during the championship, while players competing on PlayStation® 4 computer entertainment system will compete to qualify each Sunday. Saturday’s qualifying races will take place on the RedBud MX track, while Sunday’s races will be held on the Washougal Motocross Park track. The final race for the Championship will take place on the legendary Loretta Lynn’s motocross track.”
As far as getting real racing going again goes (now that’s a word salad right there), a bunch of motorsports industry friends and colleagues have gotten together with the Race Leadership Team to form a new Safe-to-Race task force, hoping to work together to help ensure a safe and quick return to racing.
“Representatives from every part of the racing industry (including MX Sports Pro Racing, Feld Entertainment and many others) met to share ideas and best practices for a post-COVID19 motorsports event. This group’s final product will be the Safe-to-Race Tool Kit, to be shared with race promoters and event organizers nationwide. The hope is that by sharing a Safe-to-Race Tool Kit with local authorities, the return to competition may be quickened, as health officials can be assured that adequate infectious disease safety precautions were in place at the race. The Race Leadership Team believes the final decision on when racing can return will be determined by local authorities. The Safe-to-Race Tool Kit is designed to prove the proper steps have been taken to ensure the safety of participants and spectators. Hopefully, this helps speed up the green light on gate drops.”
And one more cool little coincidence about the origins of High Point back in 1976. The Maico mechanic I mentioned, Selveraj Narayana, went on to a very long and distinguished career at KTM North America. This week, the AMA’s Board of Directors honored him with the Dud Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award, which is its highest honor for someone who has done so much to grow and support motorcycling. Selveraj joins some very distinguished company, including Soichiro Honda (1971), John Harley (’76), Stan and Dorothy Miles (’89), Dick Mann (’95), and Dave Despain (2004), among others. (And I am very proud to say that in 1994 the AMA gave it to my parents, Dave and Rita Coombs.) Congratulations on a well-deserved honor, Sel!
MEANWHILE, UP AT REDBUD…
There might be grass growing at RedBud, where the Ritchie kids grew up just like we did at High Point, but Tim and Amy will have to get a snow shovel out to check out how green it is! Jeff Frick shot this photo of the Michigan motocross track this morning.
Talking This Week (Jason Weigandt)
Our cavalcade of guests continues. On Instagram Live this week we chatted with Rick Johnson, Dean Wilson, and, just today, as DC mentioned, Justin Barcia. I also jumped on a podcast with five-time American Flat Track Champion Jared Mees and Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports Husqvarna privateer Jacob Hayes (look for that next week). Now that a few weeks of coronavirus have set in, I have a simple question for all riders: how do you turn it off? These guys are programmed to work, train and improve every day, and then test themselves with results on the weekend. That’s long gone now.
The legendary RJ told me all the riders should turn it off and use this as an off-season or a vacation. That’s good advice, but these guys are having a tough time doing that. Barcia told me he took a week off and then went on a four-week mega-training boot camp. Wilson told me he’s trying to turn it off but it’s not easy to do. Racers are programmed to train, race, and improve, not chill out. Not a single rider I’ve talked to through this—and I’ve talked to at least a dozen—knows exactly how he should approach this. While the legends can tell them to chill out and not worry about training or riding, and use this is a rest/reset time, it’s very hard to do that when you’re in the fight.
I covered this in my piece The Waiting is the Hardest Part earlier this week. Riders are used to having a plan and trying to control everything the can. Right now, no one knows enough to feel completely in control of anything.
However, help is on the way. Yesterday I wrote about the Race Leadership Team’s Safe-To-Race Task Force. There’s a massive movement underway to try to figure out how the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship—among other races and series—can figure out a way to hold races in a social distancing environment, and then to take that knowledge and share it with all race tracks in all series, so the tracks can convince local governments to let them get back to work.
“All our community wants, even in good times, is two things,” says Roy Janson, race director at MX Sports. “They want the hope that racing continues and they get to keep their jobs. And they want leadership. They want to know there’s someone out there with a plan. A plan that says, ‘Okay, here’s how we’re going to do this.’ You demonstrate leadership, you fuel the hope they’re looking for.”
The june 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The June 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 the issue in full right now.
Inside the JUNE issue of Racer X magazine
- Bike Week and the 50th Daytona Supercross marked the end of normal moto life—for now, at least.
- The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic shut down the sport and the world. Here’s what it could mean for our sport.
- Midway through his career, Kevin Windham was at his lowest point—and nearly stopped racing altogether.
- Brothers Grant and Stu Baylor look to take the off-road world by storm on their FactoryOne Shercos.
Hey, Watch It!
JT Exotic is taking over!
Our man Kellen Brauer breaks down the underrated 1992 Tampa Supercross in this week’s Race Examination, underrated because it’s not talked about a lot, but it really was Jean-Michel Bayle’s last best race as a supercross, and his three passes in three turns on Damon Bradshaw, Guy Cooper, and Jeff Stanton is something else:
How about some quarantine training with MXGP World Champion Tim Gajser?
LISTEN TO THIS
Both a championship racer and promoter of one of the top events on the American Flat Track calendar, Indian Motorcycle's Jared Mees is one of the best riders to talk to during the shutdown. He's one of the most analytical and hardworking riders in any paddock, so how does he cope? Jason Weigandt digs in, learning Mees' take on the current state as both a racer and a promoter, and also even more about his own personality.
"My own family knows, me on race day, don't even bother him," he says. "It's bad. I don't want people to take this the wrong way, but at the races I'm like, 'Man, I don't have time for anybody. I'm here to win, to put points on the board, and to represent my sponsors.' I work too hard during the week and too hard at the races, and there's nobody standing in my way to mess my focus up. Dude, I don't care if I lose friends at the racetrack! I don't care! It's about winning."
But with all racing on hold, there's nothing for Mees and his fellow competitors to win. How do they turn those competitive juices off?
This week on The Fly Racing Racer X Podcast, I call up former FMF Honda rider Jason McCormick to talk to him about what he’s doing now, his PNW roots, all those great rides at Washougal, DeMarini Suzuki, FMF Honda, testing for Honda, and more.
This week on the Daniel Blair, Coach Robb Beams, Evan Blair, and Producer Joe talk about training and answer listener questions.
And if you haven’t already, check out the first few Racer X Read Alouds, where our staff read their Racer X Magazine feature out loud.
"Getting Bit by a Venomous Tarantula May Cure Your Aches & Pains"—Barstool Sports
Two things concerning Red Bull/Troy Lee Designs KTM’s Brian Moreau, who was badly injured at the Tampa SX back in February: Sam Nicolini was able to conduct an interview with Brian from the rehabilitation center he’s at over in France for this update.
And Road 2 Recovery and YCF are having a raffle for Brian you can check out:
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Enter to win this @brianmoreau104 2019 YCF START 125SE replica Mini Bike donated by @ycfusa ???? • ???? are $5 • Open Internationally • Free shipping in USA • All proceeds go towards Brian’s R2R fund. • Links in our bio! This special bike has a Troy Lee Designs/ Red Bull / KTM Racing team Brian Moreau Graphic kit, blue seat, CNC orange hub, aluminum rim, and CNC orange clamp to look just like Brian’s race bike. Swipe to see more image of the bike! #CourageForBrian #HelpUsHelpOthers
In an effort to help with PPD equipment, O’Neal has been answering the call with their Blur line of goggles to several hospitals
Today’s drop was at their local hospital Los Robles in Thousand Oaks, CA. In all nearly 1,000 goggles will be donated through the program
Something fun from Europe
Jago Geerts drawings and crafts
Together with some of my partners / sponsors I start a small project to make this difficult period of quarantine more pleasant for the children and their parents. Every week I will publish one or more coloring pictures that the children or their parents can print at home.
After the coloring work, the children can send the drawings by post or email.
In addition to coloring, children may also send their own drawings or crafts by Post or take a digital photo and send them by mail: Jg.firstname.lastname@example.org
The competition will run until May 31, 2020.
The most beautiful works (per age) win a gift.
From April 30, winners and their drawing / craft will be published regularly on my Facebook page Jago Geerts and my Instagram JAGOGEERTS193.
The first prize for the most beautiful drawing / craftwork of all the entries I will receive, will be rewarded with an entrance ticket for a Grand Prix. As an extra, the winner and his or her parents receive a Meet & Greet with me on top. I will announce who will win this prize on 1 June. (It is still unclear which Grand Prix that will be due to the COVID-19 virus.)
Thanks for reading Racerhead. Stay safe, be smart and keep washing those hands. See you at the races—hopefully sooner than later.