Welcome to Racerhead and another week in this strange new world. We somehow managed to get a magazine out the door and to the printer, despite barely having anyone come into the office. Of course everyone is in the same boat, trying to proceed with our everyday lives in a time of social distancing, staying at home, some places open and some places closed, and just the whole issue of trying to stay healthy while also trying to get on with living our workaday lives. Here’s hoping for the best for everyone out there in the moto world, and that it hasn’t been too hard on you or your family or your business-but please keep washing those hands!
On a personal note, I have a 12th grader who is missing a lot of the big things in life that I feel like I took for granted when I was his age. Vance and every other high-school senior are missing their last year of school and all of those rights-of-passage that often come with it. Schools are physically closed until next fall, though they’re still doing some online stuff. His last lacrosse season never actually began, his senior prom was supposed to be last Saturday night, and now they’re talking about setting up a drive-thru for him to at least pick up his cap and gown for graduation—though there is no graduation ceremony at this time. There are no parties or get-togethers or anything like that, and he and his buddies’ senior trip to the beach is also indefinitely postponed.
And yet he’s making the most of it, just as his 12-year-old sister, Sloane, is. (She lost her travel volleyball season, but she’s got a few years left to play.) We actually now eat dinner together every night, we take walks together, I taught Sloane how to drive at the abandoned old mall near our house, and we practically have a volleyball league going between our driveway (where use an extension cord as the net), and my brother Timmy’s house. And while his school announced that everyone’s grades can’t go lower than they were when everyone was sent home in March, he’s bound and determined to get his one B up to an A and graduate with straight As. Proud parent right here. But I’m pretty sure that if he was given the chance to go back to school right now, he would in a second, just so he could get to do all those things he’s supposed to be doing as a senior in high school.
Which brings me (finally) to supercross. The crew at Feld Entertainment are really working hard to make something happen soon to get in those last seven races in the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. The Glendale plan of squeezing these races in a three-week period is real, and it’s starting to come together [Note: read Jason Thomas’ piece explaining the possible plan]. There are a lot of restrictions and safety pieces to this puzzle, and not everyone is going to be happy with how different the conclusion to this series is going to be from how it all started—in a jam-packed stadium with the entire motocross industry there to watch it in person. If they can successfully map out a safe racing program for the riders and officials and series personnel—and believe me, they are working hard on these plans—I think it will be a really cool and unique chapter in the history of our sport. But if the coronavirus suddenly takes an even more dangerous turn, all of their work might be out the window.
What do the riders think? I’m sure they all have different opinions on the idea, but one of them—defending AMA Supercross Champion Cooper Webb—decided to share his thoughts with everyone on Instagram.
As some of you know and have heard there’s an opportunity to go racing around May 15th. I’ve been asked my opinion and have been on the phone talking to multiple different people about it the last few weeks. As of April 17th it sounded like a go but as of yesterday it is becoming questionable because some teams and riders feel there isn’t enough time to get ready. I’m blessed to be on @ktmusa where we are always #readytorace but this had me thinking a bit. Feld is prepared to bring back employees, work with the riders an teams to have very limited amount of people at the venue and in the stadium, have multiple health care workers to check every single persons temperature and symptoms every time we come into stadium, as well as to be the first sport back to action while practicing social distancing with some adjustments to the racing and schedule with unfortunately no fans allowed at stadium. I know myself and almost every person in our industry has had some pay deduction or even extreme been laid off until we are back racing. I feel as professional supercross racers it’s our jobs to be ready to race and do our jobs whenever called upon. As of April 17th an possibly prior riders got told of the possibility of racing May 15 which made it fair to everyone to know that in 4 weeks we could be back racing. With bikes ready, SX settings we already have, the 26 weeks of sx we’ve already done this year (off-season preparation) with 3-4 days of riding each of those weeks (appx 95-105 days of riding sx) I feel like we should do our SX/Mx community a favor and try to be ready to race. With that being said it gives us an opportunity to grow our sport, give people jobs back, and give all you fans a chance to see us race on TV while we do everything possible to stay safe, clean and do the proper testing to insure we don’t spread this virus. A bit of a rant but that’s how I feel what do you guy think? Would you like to see us race @supercrosslive soon?
I have to admit, I’ve always liked the direct approach Cooper often takes, even though I don’t always agree. But on this one, I am with #1.
Finally, some bright spots: I stopped in at one of my local motorcycle dealerships, Morgantown Powersports, to see how things were going and to start putting together a Racer X Ride Day out at High Point Raceway. The guys there told me they were doing surprisingly well, given the whole health crisis. (And I just heard on the radio has tragically surpassed 50,000 deaths.) Owner Scott Shaffer told me that the month of April has been really, really good for them and that units have been flying out the door. I then called a few other local businesses, including my lifelong friend Jeff Cernic of Cernic’s Racing. He was just leaving the post office after shipping off 20 more packages—he’s averaging 75 to 100 a day! That’s really good news for the motorcycle industry, and we could all use some of that right now.
Turns out it’s not just happening in my area….
“We Are Out Of Inventory” (Jason Weigandt)
Last Saturday I did something I would never do on a normal Saturday: I loaded up the dirt bikes and went riding with my son. I should have been in Foxboro, Massachusetts, for supercross, but with the races done for now, I get to play the typical weekend warrior. I stopped at my local Yamaha shop (Interstate Cycles in Mooresville, North Carolina) to pick up a new bottle of oil for my son’s PW50. I actually didn’t know if they were open, but I called and they explained they indeed were, but with social-distancing guidelines in place. (I haven’t checked into the rules on this, but I would assume, since auto repair shops are considered essential business, a dealership that does motorcycle repairs is also considered essential.) When I got there, they met me at the door and guided me to the parts desk so I could get my bottle of oil without coming near anything else in the shop. However, at the door, I did see people heading toward the sales area. One customer was already loading up a brand-new quad. Another family was asking about dirt bikes, but the sales guy told them there wasn’t much left. Sales are going strong, and they were basically out of inventory for family-style bikes. They had some 450s, but they were sold out of everything else!
Yes, business appears to be booming. I recently talked to my friend Justin Brayton. I also have some info from him to share, but I first just want to make the point that I recently talked to my friend Justin Brayton. He’s awesome. Anyway, JB now owns a dealership in the Charlotte area, and he said they’ve had record sales as of late.
After spending Saturday riding, I spent Sunday working on dirt bikes in the garage. I haven’t done that in probably 15 years or more. It’s been so enjoyable, by the way. Where I live, we’re still allowed to ride, and now we have more time than ever.
That’s good for now, but how long can this last? One would imagine the economic impacts will be felt further down the road. Dealers that are raking it in now could be in for some hurt in a few months. No one knows. But at least it’s good to get some form of good news during a time that has produced very little of it. We can only hope that this is the kind of news that lasts.
So, How's It Going? (Jason Thomas)
With the world in turmoil on every front, how is the powersports world faring? That’s a question I am asked nearly every day as we all try to make sense of the “new normal.” As for our team at Western Power Sports/Fly Racing, we are doing everything we can to simply keep up. People are out riding more than ever! Whether it’s simply the extra free time to get to the track or rebuilding your old two-stroke, the silver lining of this crisis has been the abundance of motorcycles at every turn. I can’t leave the house without seeing a loaded pickup truck heading to practice the purest form of social distancing.
So, how is this possible? How can our sport progress when much of the world at large is idle? First and foremost, creativity is key. Whether it’s a distributor like WPS, a brand like Fly Racing, or one of our thousands of dealers, taking a new approach to business is a must. Customers are buying differently. They aren’t able to go inside many stores to try items on or even pick up their parts at the counter. Dealers have taken a page from restaurants and offered curbside parts pick-up. Social media posts have become the most valuable asset yet, sharing updates with customers so they know exactly how and when business is possible. Online shopping has seen a boom, too, as many people have opted for buying from the safety of their couches. Dealers that had previously resisted the online surge have pivoted, too, jumping into action. It’s been an “all hands on deck” approach by dealers. Every avenue is being exhausted in hopes of weathering this storm.
Brands like Fly Racing have gotten more aggressive than ever. We understand that these are unprecedented times and that a fresh approach can mean a world of difference. We can’t service customers the same way just because “that’s how we have always done it.” We’ve launched an Instagram giveaway to help dealers sell their inventory, we’ve worked with dealers to lower retail pricing, and we’ve launched a social media blitz to up our customer engagement. We’re reaching out to dealers and customers with a simple question of “How can we help?” While we all are figuring out how to cope with an ever-changing landscape, I can honestly say that we are fully committed to doing our part. We believe this sport will come out stronger than ever on the other side. Powersports customers are the most passionate, resilient people on earth. This, too, shall pass, and we will be out there riding when it does.
OPENING UP, SLOWLY (DC)
While nobody is really racing right now, there are some areas where tracks are starting to reopen, as well as a few that never actually shut completely down. Southern California tracks have begun reopening for practice days, including Glen Helen Raceway, Perris Raceway, and State Fair Motocross. Glen Helen posted this:
The San Bernardino County Regional Parks Department reached out to us and told us we can open for practice. We couldn't be more excited to share the news with you as I'm sure you can't wait to get back on your bike and ride. We will also be giving away the "I've Already Got My Mask" stickers to everyone through the gate (while supplies last).
As you might guess, we have implemented new social distancing guidelines that will help keep riders safe. Those are listed below.
GLEN HELEN RACEWAY SOCIAL DISTANCING REQUIREMENTS
- No spectators, photographers, and/or trainers allowed. Riders under 18 may have a single parent/guardian with them.All attendees must wear face protection during attendance when not wearing a helmet.
- No high-risk persons allowed (as determined by health department).
- Anyone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms is not allowed.
- Attendees must park vehicles at least 10 feet apart and maintain at least 6 feet between each other at all times inside the park.
- Maximum number of attendees is 75 at any given time.
- No events or group activities allowed.
- Bathrooms will be open and available to 1 person at a time. Both have hand wash stations. Bathrooms will be sanitized periodically to maintain cleanliness.
- All bleachers and seating areas are closed.
We also heard from some riders in Texas, who say tracks in Texas are reopening: Murphy's MX, Lone Star MX, Spoaks Motopark, etc.
Last weekend Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minnesota, had a big ride day last weekend.
And there’s good news from Down Under. The promoters of the MXstore MX Nationals released a tentative schedule for the 2020 series. They are hoping to begin at Connondale in QLD on August 9. The series was postponed from its initial start date in April due to government restrictions on sporting events and interstate travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was also this quote from our friend Kevin Williams of WEM:
“It is important that everyone understands the new calendar is a projected series schedule with the current information that we have available to us. We are seeing positive information on the slow down of this outbreak and we can begin to anticipate what a return to some normality in life looks like. Following the ease of restrictions will be the projected return to sporting events and ultimately a time for us to go racing. We are putting our best foot forward to give everyone the most time to prepare, including the riders, teams and hosting clubs. The major hurdles that will disrupt the projected start of the series in August will be the Government not lifting the interstate travel ban and a continued restriction on the number of people allowed to attend outdoor events. We have continually stated that WEM is committed to delivering a full nine round series in 2020 and this is still our goal. As always we will keep everyone updated with the relevant information as soon as it becomes available.”
JOE BOLGER, RIP (DC)
The motorcycle world lost one of its all-time legends this week with the passing of Joe Bolger. He was a top motocross racer back when we still called it “scrambling” here in the States, winning titles in New England while also working as an engineer in his garage in Barre, Massachusetts. Bolger became one of the leading parts makers in the entire industry, especially when it came to suspension components and theory. The NESC posted this on their social media:
New England lost a true legend yesterday, Joe Bolger passed away on April 21st. Joe was the 1964 NESC 250 and 500 champion, the first of several more NESC titles but he was known for so much more. Joe was a pioneer in long travel suspension and held many patents for motorcycle related inventions and tools.
He worked out of a small workshop in Barre, Massachusetts creating cut-a-way engines for Honda to display, un-obtainable parts for automobile and motorcycle restorers around the world and helping out local racers when they needed something fixed or fabricated.
Joe had great stories from all his years as a racer and working in the motorcycling industry but he was never one to brag about his success and would downplay the fact that he was an AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame member.
Joe was and always will be a true champion and gentleman, he will be missed by anyone who got to meet him.
The entire NESC send our thoughts and prayers to the Bolger family and to all of Joe's friends.
And our regular contributor Scott Cavalari sent us a couple of photos of Joe Bolger with his longtime friend Roger De Coster from the Unadilla 40th Anniversary weekend that was part of the 2009 Unadilla National. Cavalari explained the moment these photos were taken:
"As we were chatting (I’d never met him before) Joe was telling me about how back in the day early on when Roger De Coster was first coming to the US, he had stayed at Bolgers' house and they had spent some time together. Roger is usually pretty low key around us mortals and he was that day too at the autograph table but when Bolger went up and introduced himself Roger lit up and stood right up and shook his hand so it was pretty cool, people are usually awed at DeCoster’s presence but it was kind of the other way around."
Racer X Films: One Night in Vegas - Never Say Die (Part 1)
In this special two-part video, we take a look back at the 2017 Las Vegas Supercross. We dive into Part 1 and the story of the 2017 250SX East Region Championship. Four riders were grasping for a title and they nearly all found a way to lose it. Watch as Adam Cianciarulo, Zach Osborne, Joey Savatgy, and Jordon Smith find their careers on the doorstep of success, with only one man who can walk away as the champion.
NOW WHAT? (Eric Muth)
Eric Muth is one of our loyal readers. He's been watching Racer X Online as we try to keep everyone entertained and informed while we wait out this whole pandemic, and he decided to take it upon himself to help us come up with some untapped subjects and stories that we might be able to tell as we all await that next drop of a starting gate, we decided to share them here and see if anyone else had some good idea!
If you get bored and need ideas for stories or videos, here are some I would like to see:
1.) Worst (or best) SX intermission shows. Did you ever see any of the truck & buggie mudbog races at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium? One year Tampa had a bikini contest and Doug Domokos riding a three-wheeler up guide wires.
2.) Which years of SX have had more winners that weren't in the top 3/5/10 in the first half of the race? It seems like since the McGrath-era and then the 450s, that it has happened less and less (of course there are times when "Jekyll & Hyde" Tomac gets a bad start and Hyde comes alive).
3.) Like the XFL folding, what about all the other series that have come and gone—Ultracross, Arenacross (back again?), World Mini GP, etc?
4.) Muddiest SX? Atlanta when the bulldozer had to drag bikes out that didn't finish the race. Charlotte when Mike Jones won qualifying by being the only rider to complete a lap. It was the first time I had ever seen a whole section of track turned over by a loader like flipping pancakes. (Was that the year McGrath got a flat?)
5.) Old race videos with “vs.” commentary:
a. Hannah & anybody!
b. Johnson & Stanton - ATL ‘89
c. McGrath's & Stanton - McGrath's first win
d. Lamson & McGrath - the ’95 Charlotte race that Lamson led almost till the end but made the slightest bobble and McGrath pounced
e. LaRocco & Kiedrowski - the ghost rider take-out move after the moto was over at RedBud
f. Bradshaw & Matiasevich - any of their bump & grind races
g. I would love to hear Bayle, Stanton, and/or Bradshaw carry on a conversation about being teammates and competitors (friends?)
h. Villopoto & Dungey - wasn't there a race that Villopoto made an aggressive move on Dungey and then karma-crashed out?
i. Carmichael & Dowd at Unadilla
j. Lusk & McGrath about the pass Lusk made and Bailey's commentary
k. Reed & Bubba - doesn't even have to be a race, just conservation (someone could bring up the ATL move)
l. Bailey commenting on just about anything!
6.) I read an article from Jeff Ward once commenting on what Carmichael should do when he was struggling after moving up to the big bikes. Did Carmichael listen to that or was it just coincidence for he really seemed to improve dramatically shortly afterward?
7.) Top-ten list of track food. We had the best Philly Cheesesteak ever at High Point. We also had an amazing chicken dinner at Unadilla. We haven't been to all of the tracks, but if we do you could provide a list for reference.
8.) How to undo progress? I hate that races have become every top rider wide-open clearing every obstacle with a mistake or smashing into someone being the majority of time-differences or passes. Now, I love riding a 450, but the expense and speed seem to be a double-edged sword for the sport.
9.) How many champions have gone winless? How many champions have failed to get a factory ride the following year?
10.) Lastly, a top-ten rental car/travel adventure story would be great.
Okay, we’ll get right on that Eric!
Random Thing (DC)
We’re having some fun with "Random Thing We Found Today," and earlier this week we showed the animated Damon Bradshaw "Beast from the East" cartoon character. Well, turns out the original artwork for this little project by AXO's legendary designer Kenny Safford lives on a wall in Kokomo, Indiana. Safford gave it to Matt and Robert Davis, the brothers behind Throttle Jockey, and they framed and keep it on their office wall.
BIG BIRD AT 50 (Andras Hegyi)
Last Sunday, April 19, Larry Ward turned 50. One of the best-known stars of the nineties, "Big Bird" hailed from Snohomish, Washington, was a top Kawasaki Team Green prospect as a kid, then had a long and distinguished professional career. He was also one of those very fast riders who never quite won a championship. And he’s the first rider in AMA history to have won races in three different decades.
Larry Ward debuted as a pro in 1986 and his last season was 2003. He rode for factory Honda, factory Suzuki, factory Kawasaki, Honda of Troy, Noleen Yamaha, and Moto XXX. He first rose to fame in 125 SX, finishing third overall both in 1988 and '89 in the West Region. He scored four 125 National wins and three 250 SX main-event wins.
Larry Ward was also very consistent. In the premier supercross class, he entered 190 main events. Only Chad Reed, Kevin Windham, and Mike LaRocco had more. Between 1994 and 2000, in seven consecutive seasons, Ward always finished in the top eight overall in the AMA Supercross. Big Bird got podiums in 14 different seasons is SX/MX. And between 1989 and 2003, he finished in the top ten overall in AMA Pro Motocross in 15 consecutive seasons. And he was able to win in the 1980s, the 1990s, and the 2000s. Only Kevin Windham has been able to repeat Ward’s performance so far, winning in the 1990s, the 2000s, and the 2010s.
Ward was also famous in Europe, as he won the Bercy Supercross in 1998 and he conquered the FastCross in Italy three times.
Ward got his maiden professional win in 1989 when he won the 125 National at Southwick as a Honda rookie. One year later, in 1990, he took his maiden 250 supercross victory by winning his home race in Seattle. The race included a memorable duel against Kawasaki’s Jeff Matiasevic—Big Bird vs. Chicken—and it was also Suzuki's first 250 SX win since Mark Barnett back 1983.
Between 1993 and 1997, Ward did not win, though he did have his best AMA Supercross season ever in 1995 when he finished runner-up to Jeremy McGrath while racing for the privateer Noleen Yamaha team. He finally won again at the Tampa SX, which means Ward raced for eight years between his first and second AMA Supercross wins. One year later he won Seattle again.
Finally, in 2001, Ward rode for the privateer Moto XXX Yamaha team in the 125 nationals and ended up winning RedBud, a full nine years after his last 125 MX win. Those nine years mean an absolute record in the history of the 125/250 motocross. Ward was riding the brand-new Yamaha four-stroke YZ250F model, and in winning RedBud he became the first motocrosser in history to win a 125/250 Pro Motocross race on a four-stroke bike.
Larry “Big Bird” Ward said farewell to racing in 2003, but his successes are still relevant today. He recently did a long-awaited podcast with Steve Matthes of PulpMX that you can check out.
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!
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From the way, way back machine: the 1964 Belgian 500cc Grand Prix at Namur, one of the earliest color motocross races we've stumbled across online:
It's Not Over Yet | Red Bull Moto Spy Supercross S4E6
Check out this video MX Vice did on Anstie recently:
2020 Behind the Bars - Episode 6 - 2010 Steele Creek Bikes
LISTEN TO THIS
This week on The Fly Racing Racer X Podcast, Steve Matthes got Weege and JT on the line to talk about the proposed plan to restart SX mid-May and we finish our Tiger King review as well.
Jacob Hayes sits sixth in 250SX West points in Monster Energy Supercross, but the Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports rider knows the pack in front of him belong to full factory teams. Hayes is a former Kawasaki Team Green amateur standout and the last champion of Amsoil Arenacross, so why hasn't he gotten the right break in supercross? He gets candid about his dad, his reputation, and more.
There's a plan, just a potential plan, to perhaps restart supercross earlier than expected. There are many obstacles to surmount for this to happen. Jason Weigandt gives a quick glimpse into them in this edition of the Racer X Exhaust Podcast. Then Justin Barcia joins the show to talk about waiting for racing, and then a deep dive into his past, from buying cars to considering a MXGP deal and much, much more. It's a revealing look into Barcia's life then, now, and into the future.
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.
“Larsa Pippen Tweets Scottie's Career Earnings; More Than Michael Jordan Received”—Bleacher Report
“Michael Jordan doc hilariously bills Barack Obama as 'former Chicago resident' — here's why”—Entertainment Weekly
“The Government Filled a SoCal Skate Park with Sand, So the Skaters Turned it Into a Dirt Bike Track (VIDEO)”—The Gateway Pundit
“INSANE CLOWN POSSE Donating In Detroit ...JUGGALO MERCH FOR MASKS!!!”—TMZ.com
“Marshawn Lynch Rode Around On His Golf Cart to Hand Out Masks to People In Oakland”—Barstool Sports
Don’t forget to tune it to tune in tomorrow (April 25) at 3 p.m. EST/Noon PST for the 2007 RedBud National—the last battle between Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart—on the Pro Motocross Facebook and YouTube pages, as well as here on Racer X. Should be a lot of fun.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. Keep washing those hands, and see you at the races—sooner than later, we hope!