Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome back to a little bit of normalcy. We’ve all been taking it one lap at a time, and as the world slowly gets back up and running, our motorsports world is starting to hum.
As I mentioned last week, I got to go to both the Moto Fite Klub in Youngstown, Ohio, as well as The Bulldog GNCC in Georgia. They were wildly different events, in large part because each state has wildly different coronavirus rules in place. Georgia has been at the forefront of re-opening, and it certainly showed in the record crowd (1,823 riders!) that showed up for the weekend. And everyone followed the Safe to Race guidelines that the Race Leadership Team came up, and local officials were very pleased with how it all turned out.
And then this week MX Sports was finally able to start registering riders for the Regional qualifying for the 2020 Monster Energy/AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s. Yes, the show is going on, though with the area qualifying almost completely wiped out due to the shutdown, these Regionals may be bigger and more competitive than ever. In the first 24 hours of open sign-up, which began yesterday at 1 p.m., more than 6,700 entries were processed. And the first class to max out at 72 was the 250 C class for the Ironman Regional in Indiana.
And of course the biggest news of all is that Monster Energy AMA Supercross will kick back off exactly one week from now, next Sunday night, May 31.
Before I throw it to Jason Weigandt, here’s to hoping everyone has a safe and fun (and socially distant) memorial day weekend. I know there’s no motocross racing happening like there usually is and has been for our entire lives on this weekend but that doesn’t mean it’s not special. Please think of the sacrifices made by the men and woman who have served our country and provided us with the opportunity to enjoy our sport each and every day. Thank you. So let me throw it right now over to Jason Weigandt for more on what’s to come...
It’s All Good (Jason Weigandt)
Once the supercross plan came to life last week, I had to wonder how riders/teams/trainers, etc., would react to the idea of racing twice a week, and staying in Utah the entire time. So far, it’s all good. Honda HRC teammates Ken Roczen and Justin Brayton told me they’re actually looking forward to this. They’ve rented cool places to live, and as Brayton explained, not having to fly anywhere between races is a good situation. He’s not concerned with getting in laps between the races.
“I don’t really think I need to,” said Brayton. “Between Sunday and Wednesday, I doubt we’ll ride, but potentially ride on the Friday or something.”
“I’m not going to ride between Monday and Wednesday,” said Roczen. “There’s not really time. You only have two days in-between. I think since we are at altitude things are going to be a little bit different. The focus is going to be on recovery and just kind of staying loose and happy. Then from Wednesday to Sunday obviously there is going to be a little bit more of a gap. I think everybody is probably doing the same thing. We were planning on riding somewhere on Friday. I’m not even too worried about whether that was supercross or not. I think it was just important to be on the bike, do some starts, do a little bit of play riding. I have done my work. I feel like I’m in a good position.”
“I think Kawi is in the process of trying to get a private supercross track,” said Adam Cianciarulo of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team, “basically for every Friday, because that’s the only day that’s really going to work. We might be able to get a day or riding in between, but if not, we have so many laps already, and so much training, and I plan on driving over so I can bring my bicycle and some gym equipment. So we can stay on top of things. Yeah, it’s not the usual three days a week of riding, but when it comes to race time, most of us know how to do it.”
What will also be interesting to watch is the 250 class. Those riders aren’t competing in all seven races, so they have more schedule flexibility, but Justin Cooper told us yesterday that his whole Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha team will be living in Utah the entire time, so even though the first three races are Eastern Regional events, he won’t be able to ride back in California really, anyway. Cooper and his 250SX West competitors won’t actually race until June 10. We’ll see if other West Region riders wait and get more riding in before Utah. The East riders are off between races on June 7 and June 17, but each time you come back to Utah, you have to test for COVID-19 48 hours before the race. So an 250SX East rider could leave Utah on June 8 and come back into town around June 14th. We’ll see if there are any takers.
The final round, by the way, remains a 250SX East/West Showdown with points in both championships on the line. Gonna be a wild couple of weeks here!
HELLO SLC! (Matthes)
As so many of us prepare to go into deep hibernation in Salt Lake City, there are a few questions that come to mind. The most important is that, seeing as how the media won't be allowed to interact with the teams (by the sounds of it), I would like to know where I'm supposed to get my coffee. If anyone from Feld Entertainment can let me know ASAP, that would be great. Thank you.
This should be very interesting to see the results from these rounds and what the plan is for the teams and riders. I heard Kawasaki has rented former privateer Bracken Hall's SX track for the entire time the series is there, and Roczen's got some tracks to ride about four hours south where his inlaws are from, but other than that, I can't see many riders actually practicing. I spoke with Kyle Chisholm the other day for an FXR/Race Tech Privateer Podcast, and he said that he won't be riding outside of the races.
Also, outside of maybe Denver, Salt Lake City is the one venue where the teams are really going to be put to the test. The elevation of the city, the type of dirt there (harder pack), and the fact that we could have weather will really test the teams’ abilities to get the riders comfortable. I mean, they’re going to have a few shots at it, right? For the most part, in elevation, the teams give the bikes the most power they can and dial it in with electronics. The bad thing is that this tests the reliability of a motor. Also, with the base in there for seven weeks and getting baked by the sun, the surface should end up being a real test for tires and the front-end traction of the machines. All interesting stuff for sure, and it factors in this series.
If any riders want to hang out while we’re all up there, hit me up. I'm available for e-bike training as well for an extra fee.
Before I go, shout-out to SLC for shooting up the charts for these seven races in terms of total number of supercrosses at each stadium. They're really making a strong push here. Another pandemic or two and they could very well be ahead of Angel Stadium!
After months of Monster Energy Supercross racing, a COVID-19 induced pause, a switch to Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship practice mode, a switch back to SX mode, and lots of rumor-fueled uncertainty, we are finally ready to resume racing next weekend. This racing blitz will be the most dynamic scenario in history. It’s almost as if the entire SX world will be locked inside the movie Bio-Dome to sort out this championship. (Let’s hope it turns out better than Pauly Shore’s career.)
For the riders, there are many aspects to sort out. Lodging for a month is a big factor. To practice or not to practice? How do you stay sharp for the upcoming motocross season? How can a team relocate to Utah for an entire month? Is the extended cost worth the potential earnings for privateers?
Many of these questions and concerns will be handled differently by each team and rider. Some riders are renting motor homes for the month, turning a nearby designated lot into moto central. Many riders will be looking to practice at Bracken Hall's private SX track, while others will turn their focus to the the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship horizon. Others, like Justin Brayton, will put an emphasis on recovery. Racing with short rest, coupled with the strain that altitude puts on the body, will require discipline to be 100 percent every main event.
Speaking of altitude-based difficulties, how will Jason Anderson manage? We’ve seen him arrive at events like Thunder Valley, the Denver SX, and this very Salt Lake City venue at the last minute to minimize a chance of altitude sickness. This schedule and mandated stay will make that nearly impossible.
If I were still racing, I would welcome this schedule. It’s a steady stream of what I enjoyed most: being around the team and at the races. One other variable I would have liked is the lack of fans and pressure. While that aspect is crippling to the economics of the sport, I always felt more pressure when the lights came on and fans filed in. Having empty seats and a daytime schedule feels more like practice. I would feel more comfortable, and I believe many other riders will too.
That's the most interesting factor for me: how will all of this affect the sport's elite? We know who the best riders were for the first ten rounds under predictable circumstances. These next seven will be anything but predictable. Everything that’s considered normal has been upended and replaced by uncertainty. The winner of this championship will be the one who proves most versatile, and being able to adapt is a quality that isn't often required in our sport. Many races look and feel exactly the same as the Saturday before. These seven rounds will be fast and furious, riders forced to get out of their habitual comfort zones. Maybe I’m just race-starved, maybe I’ve been quarantined too long, or maybe, just maybe, this is going to be the most historic run to the finish we have ever seen.
Loretta Lynn's 2020 (Kris Keefer)
MX Sports announced the Loretta Lynn’s Regional schedule, and it looks like my son and I are going to try and make it to the Ranch in 2020. My son Aden is now 14 years old and has never been, so he’ll be looking to get to the Ranch in the 125 C class. Our family is very goal-driven, so not having any racing on the schedule has been really tough for us. Now that we actually have some dates for some races coming up, the kid and I are training together and hoping we both can make it for a little father-son race week. My parents never got to take me to the Ranch when I was kid, so being able to be in a position to take my son means a lot to me. Something about sharing your passion with your kid and seeing his face after a day of riding is very rewarding for a parent. So here's to all the parents putting the effort in, as well as the money, to get their kids to Loretta Lynn’s. Aden and I look forward to hopefully seeing you there this year!
Loretta Lynn’s 2020: II (DC)
Remember last year when Keefer tried to qualify for a couple of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross races? He never actually made the final 40, which means he’s eligible to race the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur Motocross Championships. And because he’s past his 40th birthday, Keefer will be able to participate in the Senior +40 class, which means he’ll have the pleasure of battling defending champion Mike Brown of Tennessee, in Tennessee. However, if Keefer wants to ride a second class, he will not be able to race Vet +30 Sportsman, despite never scoring points in an AMA outdoor national. Turns out our man has one line in The Vault which means he’ll have to race Junior +25 if he wants to try for two classes. Way back in 2004, at the Anaheim 3 AMA Supercross, Keefer qualified for the 125 main event and finished 20th on a KTM 125 two-stroke.
And speaking of The Vault, tomorrow our series Before Loretta’s will continue with the 1977 Suzuki/AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship, which took place at Lake Sugar Tree in Axton, Virginia, and featured amateur legends like Ferrell McCollough and Troy Bradshaw, as well as some the Bigelow brothers, future industry player Jeff Surwall, and a kid on a Bultaco Pursang 250 named David Bailey. Look for it tomorrow here on Racer X Online.
Back on Track (Ken Hill)
GNCC Racing rebooted its 2020 season after an eight-week hiatus. Returning to Washington, Georgia, to reopen the season, the series would once again gather at Aonia Pass Motocross Park, where the General GNCC ran in March. This time it was called The Bulldog GNCC, and it was a stunning statement comeback. The race may have been the largest in the country, as nearly 2,000 riders showed up, a record for a GNCC this far south. For the weekend, the pandemic took a back seat to racers and fans who flocked from all over to get back to competition and some form of normalcy. There were a few new twists thrown in, what with all the social-distancing and mask guidelines that were in effect as the series administrators did what they needed to do to provide as much precaution as possible for those in attendance, as well as appease the state and local health officials. With no advertising of the race, Aonia Pass still filled up with riders and their families, all spread out all over the large property to enjoy a sunny and warm weekend away from the new normal of staying cooped up at home.
The new normal looked like it was going to be the same old same old, as the 1 p.m. Pro race got underway with Kailub Russell grabbing the holeshot and disappearing into the woods with a pack of very hungry riders giving chase. The heat of the weekend and nearly 700 racers in the morning amateur race had left the pros with a rough and rutted track with lots of lines to choose from as the leaders settled in for the three-hour race.
Russell looked nearly flawless as he set a blistering pace in an attempt to build a cushion between himself and whomever was going to have the stones to run him down and apply some pressure. Lurking in the dust was Ricky Russell (nope, not a relative), who slowly started advancing as the race wore on. Behind the frontrunners, a battle was brewing between Josh Strang, Jordan Ashburn, and Layne Michaels, all of whom gave the spectators a real good look at what close racing looks like in the woods. XC2 Pro racer Craig Delong was also putting in a stellar ride as he pressed forward and was running by time adjustment in a XC1 podium position.
If Kailub was looking for a laid-back last lap, he was sorely mistaken, as Ricky Russell and Josh Strang had put in a charge that cut down the lead to literally nothing. Ricky was soon going bar-to-bar with Kailub, then overtook the seven-time GNCC champion. The pair swapped the lead back and forth before tragedy struck. Two riders going for the same piece of real estate rarely works out well, and someone usually finds the short end of the stick. This time it was Ricky Russell who got that short end. He crashed into the trees, and his handlebar jabbed him in the groin. Kailub Russell claimed another win—his fourth straight as his winning streak picked up, followed by Josh Strang and Jordan Ashburn to round out the XC1 Pro podium. The day was also epic for Craig Delong, as he put a win on the XC2 class as well as finishing third overall by time adjustment after an incredible effort.
The fanfare usually associated with the ending of the race was nonexistent, as the podium celebrations had been scrapped due to social distancing guidelines. The much bigger story was that Ricky Russell was severely injured, and a somber mood fell over the pits. Ricky had crushed his femoral artery and was bleeding profusely as he was rushed to the hospital. Doctors were able to stitch him up quickly, and he is already on the mend, though there is no estimation yet of when he would be cleared to race again.
On a brighter note, the GNCC series has confirmation that the next round will be a go at the Camp Coker facility next weekend in South Carolina. That means rather than waiting two months, Kailub Russell with only have to wait two weeks between races before he tries to keep his perfect season going.
And behalf of everyone involved in the GNCC Series, as well as Racer X Online, here’s a get-well-soon to Ricky Russell—he put on one heckuva race in Georgia!
Here's local news coverage of how The Bulldog GNCC went off in Washington, Georgia.
Sayonara E-World (Kellen Brauer)
Before we get back to some real racing in 2020, the video game world had a few more things to offer us this past week. During the quarantine, many sports utilized video games or simulators to host some fun invitational events with top athletes in their respective sports. Whether it was iRacing with NASCAR and IndyCar, MLB the Show with baseball players, or NBA 2K20 with the stars of the NBA, the world was treated in a very visceral way as to what the modern video game landscape looks like.
Last weekend, Monster Energy Supercross finally added their name to that list by hosting the first ever Monster Energy Supercross E-SX event. Of course, many other gaming organizations already host events in Monster Energy Supercross - The Official Videogame 3, including Brian Deegan, who hosted the General’s Cup in April, but this was the first time Feld Entertainment put a program together.
The event could be seen on NBC Sports as Benny Bloss captured the 450SX class victory in a race that featured the likes of Marvin Musquin, Adam Cianciarulo, Adam Enticknap, and Aaron Plessinger. Brandon Hartranft was able to capture the 250SX class win from Josh Hill and Jett Lawrence. I remember watching Bloss play the game for the very first time at the game’s launch back in October, and he certainly has improved since then.
Public reception of the event appeared mixed. The game is not quite comparable to iRacing, and some comments suggested that this would have been better off running earlier. The window of opportunity was no doubt missed when the quarantine first started and everyone was eager to watch any kind of racing, but it was still nice to see Feld embrace the game and the entertainment it provides for many people all over the world.
Big gaming news doubled down this week, however, as Rainbow Studios announced the 2020 AMA Pro Motocross DLC package on Thursday. The pack includes 11 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross tracks and Loretta Lynn’s, which was already being used for the Loretta Lynn’s Virtual Championship a few weeks back as well. The pack costs $19.99 and includes updates to all previous rounds seen in the game with the inclusion of Hangtown, Southwick, High Point, Florida, and Thunder Valley now new to the 2020 package.
The announcement also specified that Fox Raceway at Pala will be coming in fall 2020 to complete the pack. This DLC is great for longtime gamers who have yearned for the inclusion of real tracks for years. It now means that all 17 rounds of supercross, all 12 rounds of motocross, and most MXGP tracks are playable in console video games—a massive step forward for a community that saw essentially zero replica racetracks from 2004 to 2014.
The july 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The July 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 JUly issue of Racer X magazine
- What happens to the business of racing when racing itself stops without warning?
- When he was diagnosed with the COVID-19 coronavirus, Rick Johnson fought back—just like always.
- Simon Cudby’s photos remind us that better days are ahead.
- The history of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships before Loretta Lynn’s.
Luke Renzland's blog:
LISTEN TO THIS
This week, Steve Matthes called up Gary Denton, an eight-time quad champion about his transition from top ten in the AMA nationals to a quad guy, starting his own team, racing in SoCal in the late '70s, early '80s, my interaction with Gary as a kid, and more.
Supercross is back! What do the riders think? Jason Weigandt called two of them on opposite ends of the supercross spectrum: Ken Roczen is battling for the supercross championship on his factory Honda, while Cade Clason is trying to make main events on his privateer PRMX machine. They give their thoughts on the resumption of racing in this podcast.
Monster Energy Supercross will return on May 31 with a seven-race run that concludes on June 21, all run in Salt Lake City and airing live on TV—but without fans in attendance. How will supercross look with social distancing? Feld Entertainment, the producers of supercross, can answer those questions. Dave Prater (senior director of operations, two wheel) took questions from a variety of motocross reporters to explain the process.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair, "Snap-On" Dan Colvin, Guts Racing's Andy Gregg, and Producer Joe talk about the upcoming remainder of Monster Energy AMA Supercross season in Salt Lake City.
This week on the MotoXpod Show, Darkside and DJTJ have on Zach Osborne to discuss the upcoming SX races in SLC, Justin Brayton who just had his Invitational pro race in Iowa as well as SX, Marshal Weltin who dominated in Iowa, and Kevin Maret to get the history of his company Tamer and being the original starting device.
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.
“UFC fighter Anthony Smith handed his teeth to the ref during brutal fight against Glover Teixeira”—USA Today
“Alleged Drug Dealer Sentenced to Death by Hanging Via ZOOM in Singapore”—Gizmoda.com
Heard this one on the radio earlier, it's pretty great. Just read it out loud...
“Governor pranked into congratulating ‘Harry Azcrac’ during online graduation”—Dailydot.com
“Soccer Club Fined for Using Blow-Up Sex Dolls as Fans in Empty Stadium”—CNN.com
"This Dude Who Got Arrested For Working Out Looks Exactly Like Someone Who Would Get Arrested For Working Out"—Barstool Sports
“A grocery store chain filled its salad bar with beer, cereal and candy because of coronavirus”—CNNBusiness.com
“Spotify Strikes Podcast Deal With Joe Rogan Worth More Than $100 Million”—The Wall Street Journal
“NASA scientists detect evidence of parallel universe where time runs backward”—New York Post
“A son stabbed and killed his father during a Zoom meeting, police say”—CNN.com
Former pro and longtime Dunlop man Clark Stiles sent us a note about a job opening at the Huntsville Proving Grounds in Alabama doing tire-testing on a wide variety of motorcycles. Here is the link for anyone interested to fill out / send resume.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #21. Their website it up and runnin again after some issues—make sure to check them out!
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races. Soon.