Welcome to Racerhead. Monster Energy AMA Supercross is back up and running, with the first Sunday race in years and then the first Wednesday race ever just 48 hours ago. Through a lot of hard work, planning, and execution, Feld Entertainment got everyone—or at least 22 guys at a time and their masked mechanics—back on track in Salt Lake City. We fans are getting to see the culmination of a very entertaining championship so far, which honestly didn't seem like it would happen as recently as mid-May. And while at times it may seem a bit surreal and even dystopian with all the precautions and safety protocols, the show has finally gone on.
When we drew straws (metaphorically speaking) as to who got to go out to cover Salt Lake City, where superiors will be in residency until the middle part of this month; Jason Weigandt got the first shift, Aaron Hansel the last, and Steve Matthes and Jason Thomas the middle and throughout SLC's entirety. By all accounts and reports so far, they're getting along just fine, as are the riders and race teams. The Sunday afternoon race seemed more unique that Wednesday's SLC II. Maybe it's because the lack of a razzle-dazzle opening ceremony, any kind of energy from the empty grandstands, and simply getting back out there for the first time since Daytona. That came through on the broadcast as well. Seeing the social distancing on the podium that Daniel Blair and Will Christien have to do when interviewing the riders, or even the placement of the mechanics on designated spots on the starting grid—or even seeing Ralph Sheheen and Ricky Carmichael separated in the press box by a giant tear-off—were constant reminders of what is going on right now in the world with the pandemic and now-global protests. There was even some rioting going on in SLC on Saturday night, which made everyone nervous that the races weren't going to happen due to the curfew.
But on Wednesday it seemed much more normal, despite the fact that Wednesday is the last day of the week that one might expect to be witnessing a live supercross event. The lights were on, the racing was very good (at least in the 450SX class), and the track looked much less like the dry side of the moon than it did during Sunday's heater. And we had a different winner, as Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb rode a superb race to win the main event ahead of series points leader Eli Tomac. Eli's runner-up finish, coupled with Ken Roczen's bad night, clearly has #3 in the driver's seat. Roczen needs to rebound, and soon. Fortunately, he won't have to wait long, because in 48 hours were will be watching SLC III.
The 250SX class saw a repeat win by Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha's Shane McElrath, with teammate Colt Nichols looking like the contender he was last year with a runner-up finish. With GEICO Honda's Chase Sexton crashing and then having to scratch out a fourth-place finish, we have a whole new title bout in the 250SX East Region. Sexton won't have to wait long for a shot at redemption—Sunday's race is another 250SX East round.
Elsewhere, the motorcycling world is getting back up and racing. By all accounts, the OEMs are having a wonderful year, as the coronavirus situation has had a silver lining to it: people are buying motorcycles in unexpected numbers. Maybe it's because everyone was forced to focus on the things they can do on their own, which is why the mountain bike market is also having a banner year. And a friend of mine in the aftermarket business says that products are flying off the shelves. We all want this COVID-19 thing to go away, but we also hope this surge in motorcycling keeps going.
And while Monster Energy AMA Supercross is sprinting toward its conclusion at Rice-Eccles Stadium, I know that the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and MXGP in Europe are still sorting out plans to soon be up and running. The problem MXGP is having is international, as each country they go to has different safety practices and protocols. Here in the U.S. we have to wait and watch each state as they relax restrictions. Whereas supercross, which was already up and running before the coronavirus hit, is running its final races without fans, it would be tough for MXGP and Pro Motocross to do likewise. As a result, both series are seeking the right places to have a cohesive series up and running later on in the summer.
Which is what brought me to South Carolina to visit my old friend Hank "Was Hammerin' but Now Li’l Hawk" Moree's place. He's got an amazing facility in Society Hill that dates back to the early eighties when he was a top prospect. His father brought in renowned track builder John Savitski to build a very good and sandy racetrack for him and friends like Damon Bradshaw, Larry Ward, and later on Zach Osborne to train and race. The place is also big enough to host a GNCC, which it did last weekend, won by Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Josh Strang, who stopped Kailub Russell's four-race winning streak in the process. Moree stopped racing back in 1992, electing to go to college and start a career in business with his father, but he's never lost touch with the sport. South Carolina happens to be one of the states that has relaxed its regulations enough to allow for a gathering like the one last weekend for Camp Coker Bullet GNCC. (It's called the Bullet because the Moree property is also an amazing target-shooting destination, with multiple courses for target-shooting sportsmen and sportswomen.) I was very impressed with the place, and while hosting a Pro Motocross race there anytime soon would be a challenge, it's nice to know there's another Southeast option moving forward, should any traditional tracks not be able to go later this summer. I also got to watch Wednesday's race with Hank and his family, and we enjoyed an epic bench-racing session. He was the 1981 AMA Youth National Champion in the 51cc class, so you'll be hearing more from him in our Before Loretta's series gets around to the Mini Nationals.
There was more good news in the turnout at the Camp Coker Bullet GNCC, as another massive crowd of riders turned out to race. And it's not just South Carolina, as I'm hearing more and more about huge turnouts at everything from local races to Loretta Lynn's Regionals, which are up and running full steam all over the country. Well, many parts of the country. Others have not been quite as fortunate, as each state has its own timetable for reopening for business. We spotted a newspaper article about one such situation in Massachusetts. MX Twenty-Three is a practice facility located in Brookfield, and the owner, Daniel Plourde, has been trying to open for business for the past three months.
“I’ve got to make a living. I’ve been closed for three months and I have bills to pay,” said Plourde to a local newspaper. “The golf courses are open. If politicians rode motocross, you know the tracks would be open right now. The golf courses are open because politicians golf.”
Of course, Massachusetts is also the home of The Wick 338 in Southwick, Massachusetts, which has held Pro Motocross races almost every year since 1976. Right now, the 2020 race is up in the air, just like MX MX Twenty-Three’s reopening, and many other racing facilities around the country. It's all made for a lot of headaches, planning, backup planning, and more backup planning. The Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship schedule must be up to Plan M by now as promoters and racetracks await word that it's safe to race. We don't have all the answers now, but I do know the series will open on July 18 at Ironman Raceway in Indiana and not run any later than the first weekend of October. Or at least I hope I know. Things might have changed in the time it took me to type this sentence.
For now, we are fortunate to have AMA Supercross up and running. I commend all the people out there making the most of the times in Utah—the amount of mountain-bike selfies people are posting is going to break Instagram—and I look forward to seeing how this whole thing ends. And then the next thing to begin!
Two-A-Weeks (Jason Weigandt)
On Sunday, we got to test the first supercross without fans. Some riders found it weird, with the likes of Eli Tomac and Chase Sexton saying it was hard to get fired up and into race mode without the normal hoopla of lights, fans, music, fireworks and more. Especially because Sunday’s race took place in the daytime, it felt more like a practice day than a race to some of the riders.
The next new wrinkle came Wednesday night, with the first weekday race in Monster Energy Supercross history. AMA Supercross hosted double headers (Saturday and Sunday) in the past, but this was the first race run 72 hours (and change) after another. Seemed like this concept was a hit.
“I quite enjoy it, honestly,” said Cooper Webb in last night’s press conference (held via Zoom). “It was kind of strange. I didn’t ride dirt bikes or anything. I went and played golf and did a little bit of cardio and stuff. I actually enjoyed it, just being able to kind of show up on race day. It was kind of cool. Didn’t really feel like a Wednesday. To me it felt like a normal race day. But now today Thursday, it does feel a little weird. I think it was overall a different kind of program than what we’re used to. We’re used to a lot of days in-between. But I quite enjoyed the quick turnaround. It was nice.”
“I wish we raced more and practiced less like this more often in normal times,” said Zach Osborne. “Maybe this whole thing can spark something like that in the future. I don’t know about other people, but I feel like for us as racers a lot of the hours and the hard stuff that’s done in the week doesn’t always show on the weekends, whereas with this schedule you don’t ride as much and there’s just more racing. It just seems like a better way to me. For sure it has benefitted me a little bit right now because I typically recover pretty quick. We normally ride on Mondays and Tuesdays. I’m typically a little bit off on Monday and better on Tuesday. Being that we raced on a Sunday and then we had Monday and Tuesday, so Wednesday was my normal Tuesday. So, I feel pretty good about it. This week I’m going to ride a little bit tomorrow to keep things headed in the right direction. I look forward to Sunday.”
We’ll see if the bloom comes off the rose in Utah, as so far, the riders love this concept of not having to jump on a plane, dead tired, the morning after a late race. They love cutting back on practice sessions and going racing instead. Plus, over two races, Feld Entertainment has at least proven they can build racetracks with a different feel. Can they keep that up for seven races? Will the ground hog day vibe get the better of the paddock?
We have already seen one downside to this setup. Adam Cianciarulo becomes the first victim of the short time between races, as he could not get his Sunday back injury healed in time for Wednesday’s race, but his trainer Nick Wey told Matthes that Adam would have been okay if there was a whole week between races (he will give it a go again Sunday).
By the way, kudos to Feld, AMA and everyone else for shoring up some of the weak links from Sunday by the second race on Wednesday. The track and dirt prep was much, much, much better for the second race, and the mechanics’ area was back to a more normal look, which allowed all the mechanics to use pit boards again. Honestly, the dirt and the pit board situation were the two biggest troubles on Sunday, so that’s two big fixes by race two. Will the good vibes continue? We’ll have another race again on Sunday. That part seems pretty cool, as least for those of us who watch!
SALT LICK (Matthes)
We're here at an undisclosed location deep in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah, and yeah, this thing is really happening. Two rounds down, five to go in the SLC SX Championship. The two races couldn't have been much different either, not so much in results but track, vibe, perhaps the way everyone was a bit more relaxed, whatever it was round 12 definitely seemed different to me from round 11.
Ken Roczen's first ten minutes of last Wednesday's main event was out of this world...the last ten minutes? Not so much, Roczen went on his Instagram and explained that he's got a bit of a breathing issue going on and has been trying to get a handle on it. Doesn't bode well for him since, yeah, uhhhh, the next FIVE rounds are also up here in altitude.
Jeremy Martin is heading home after his podium finish because, well, yeah, he's going to point out and both he and the team don't want that. So, he basically cost his teammate in the title hunt some points as well because what's the sense in getting that third if you don't care enough about where you are in the points? And there's one less guy to help GEICO's Chase Sexton out by perhaps getting in the way of a Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha guy out there. All in all, he's doing what so many other riders have done over the years so it's not just on J-Mart and the team but in my opinion, this is a joke. The class is badly broken (as I've been saying for years) and forget all the advancement points and rules—make it wide open like the 450SX class and riders can stay there forever. Or tighten it up badly and get guys in and out of there in two or three years. The way it is now, nobody is winning. Well, maybe other than the riders taking dives.
Lots of mountain biking here in SLC with the different media members, the Swapmotolive.com crew and I have been hitting the trails pretty hard here and when Weege was here, we really had the united nations feel going on amongst us media guys. I went out with GET's Dan Truman the other day and Chad Reed took Weege and I around a little bit the other day. One thing for sure is many of us are going to be in better shape leaving then we were coming in!
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Another @intensecycles Tazer convert! Fun ride this AM with @michaelantonovich and @swapmoto with Anton getting to try an E-Bike for the first time. He seemed to enjoy it, I’m starting to struggle a bit more here, maybe Sunday’s rest day will help ????????. Thx @intensecycles for the Tazer loaner, it’s come in handy up here. Thx @oakleymotorsports @polarglobal @flyracingusa @alpinestarsmx @armasport @maxxistires @michelinmotorcycle for the help in killing some time without @pookiematthes & Rocky here.
Gary Easton and the 1975 (DC)
We've been having a fun time researching and sharing the history of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships that took place "Before Loretta's" from 1975 to 1981. Last weekend we posted about the 1978 race that was held at Atlanta International Raceway in Hampton, Georgia, which you can read if you missed.
Next, we will be looking at the 1979 AMA Amateur National that took place at the old Plymouth track that used to host the Hangtown Motocross Classic outside Sacramento. Look for that next week.
We started the series with the 1975 AMA Amateur National in Baldwin, Kansas, which was won by Mark Barnett (125), Michael McGowan (250) and Gary Easton (Open). We received this letter about Gary Easton this week:
I recently spotted an article regarding Amateur Nationals on your Racer X website and a request for results and or images from that time frame. Attached are a couple images that I have on file and in connection to a friend of ours that lived down the street from us. His name was Gary Easton, Gary had a pretty decorated amateur career and with (I think) things in place with Husqvarna for his pro career before he was involved in a serious accident (drove his car under a semi). He did continue to race after rehab and ended up with team PDQ for a short stretch but could not regain his original form due to injuries from car accident. Hope this helps and any questions regarding this topic feel free to ask.
MD Graphics LLC
Thanks, Michael! If you have any information or photos about these Before Loretta's races, please send them to: DC@racerxonline.com.
Eli the VI (Andras Hegyi)
Last Sunday in Salt Lake City, Eli Tomac picked up his sixth 450SX win of 2020. This marks the fourth consecutive season in which Tomac has taken at least six wins. Tomac earned nine wins in 2017, eight in '18, and six last season. Besides Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Jeremy McGrath, Tomac is only the fourth supercross racer to get at least six wins in at least four different single seasons. Here's how each rider made it into this exclusive club:
Jeremy McGrath:The seven-time AMA Supercross Champion was able to get at least six wins in seven different seasons. He did it every year with Honda between 1993 and '96, and then again between '98 and 2000, when he was riding Yamaha.
Ryan Villopoto:The four-time SX champion took at least six wins in five consecutive seasons between 2010 and 2014, which is an all-time record.
Ricky Carmichael:Five times the champion, RC was able to get at least six wins in five different seasons. The GOAT had at least did it first on a Kawasaki in 2001, and then with Honda in 2002 and '03, then aboard a Suzuki in both '05 and '06.
Eli Tomac: In his early 450 SX seasons Eli Tomac did not have resounding success. As a matter of fact, between 2013 and '16 he got posted four victories. But since 2017 Tomac has picked up the pace, with at least six wins per seasons. The only difference with Eli's wins and those of Jeremy, Ryan and Ricky is the fact that he has yet to win the championship, though he's certainly on the right track now!
In the history of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Chad Reed has the most starts (260) and the most podiums (132 podiums) ever. He is the only one to win with four different brands (Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, Honda) as well as the oldest podium finisher (37). He has won in the most seasons (11), and he is the winningest of Yamaha riders with 35 main event victories 90 podiums. Last Sunday Reed set a brand-new record. He became the first SX competitor to have raced aboard six different brands. For the very first time Reed was aboard a KTM, finishing 17th. Reed has already raced also for Yamaha, Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki and Husqvarna. Here's how his main events for each brand break down:
Yamaha: 135 starts
Greetings from Colorado. I know most of the industry is up in Salt Lake, but the family and I decided to escape the craziness of California and come up to Colorado to do some training for the upcoming LLQ at Fox Raceway at Pala. My 14-year-old son, Aden, is trying to make his way to Loretta Lynn's this year, so I decided to go all Nick Wey on him and take him to a two-week elevation camp up near the Rocky Mountains. I thought getting him on some softer farm dirt, as well as having him train up near 7,000 feet, would be beneficial for the craziness that is the 125 C class. However, while training with him, I have been noticing a change in his riding style, his speed, as well as his aggressiveness.
As a father, I’m super proud to see him progressing and getting so good on his motorcycle, but as his father, I am always monitoring his cockiness. I don't really care if he turns pro or not; I just want him to enjoy his dirt bike, be a humble person and reap all those "feelings" that you get when you ride/race a dirt bike. However, 14-year-old boys have a lot of testosterone flowing through them, so trying to keep him grounded is tough. Me and my old man butted heads on more than one occasion about dirt bikes, and when I look back on those times, it was mostly me thinking I was cool and not being a respectful kid. I thought my dad was always on my ass, but he was trying to form me into a good person first and a good racer second. It wasn't until this trip to Colorado that I got a glimpse of what my dad might have been feeling when I was 14, when did he come to that crossroad of making a decision on how much money and time he was going to spend on his love of dirt bikes or roll that over into mine.
Aden and I normally ride three or four days a week together, and with that we usually have a schedule each day. We’ll do a couple 20-minute motos, some sprint work, and then a stand-up moto. During these sprint motos lately, I’ve been noticing his times are getting lower and lower while getting closer to mine. This has been giving him confidence, but also a little too big of head at times. If you're a father of a child who is getting better on a dirt bike, you know where I’m about to go with this. At what point do you put more of your time/money/effort into your blossoming young racer and back off on some of your own riding/racing? How do I make sure he doesn't become this fast, privileged little moto brat we sometimes see at the track? I’m soon to be at this crossroads if I’m not already.
Now, if you know me, you know that I am still very competitive at 42 and love to ride/race as much as I can. I test dirt bikes for a living, but I still love to try and improve my fitness, technique, and speed at my old age. Now that I have my son only a few seconds behind me per lap, it's pushing me to be better, but also making me wonder when it's my time to just back it down and be more of the sideline dad.
This sport is usually passed down to us by our relatives, and I have always wondered when this time would come. I’m sure my father went through the same thing, as some of you reading this might be as well. Seeing your child love a sport as much as you do, and then watching him do certain things within that sport better than you, is a surreal feeling. It pisses me off and makes me proud all at once! Until I completely figure this father-son racing thing out, I will be riding side by side with my kid, teaching him to be a good person and of course trying to hold on to what I have left. Hopefully, I get it right! We hope to be seeing all you racing father/son teams at Loretta's real soon! #DirtBikesForever
GNCC Upset (Ken Hill)
This past weekend's Camp Coker Bullet GNCC in South Carolina was no different than others this season as the series continues to try and handle the balancing act of keeping public officials happy and its series participants safe. The juggling act has been well received by most everyone, especially the premier teams as they soldier on.
We've been waiting for one of the challengers to Kailub Russell to rise up and unseat him, as the FMF/KTM factory rider had a perfect season going into this past weekend's race. Turns out that rider was veteran Josh Strang. The Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki rider has been facing his own challenges the past few seasons, slipping downward in the finishing order. Ever optimistic, though, Strang never gave up on himself. His return to the elite level in 2020 started off with podium finish. Was Strang that lucky or was he building momentum?
At the Camp Coker Bullet GNCC, the conditions varied from dust clouds to bike-swallowing mud holes, all combined with a hot and muggy day that would tax the riders’ conditioning. Throughout the race, it appeared that Strang was being shadowed by Russell, who seemed content to sit in second and make his move on the last lap. As Strang rolled through scoring with one lap remaining, it looked as if he was tiring just a little. It would come as no surprise if we got word that Kailub had made a pass for the lead. Instead, we learned that Russell had gone down hard near the end of the final lap as Strang forged ahead and claimed a well-earned first win in several seasons. For his part Russell, battered and bruised, got back up to finish second and gain himself up in the standings. We all wondered how badly he was injured when he skipped post-race interviews. As of this writing, he is doing okay and will be back in action at the next round.
One of the biggest surprises of the event was that Sherco-backed Grant Baylor finishing third, marking his first visit to the podium in 2020. Grant spent most of the race working methodically toward the front without much notice, as exhaustion, crashes, and breakdowns all took their toll on the XC1 class. The momentum that Strang and Baylor should both have heading into round six will make it an interesting one to watch.
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.
HEY, WATCH IT!
LISTEN TO THIS
Jason Thomas and Jason Weigandt join host Steve Matthes to wrap up the SLC 1 Supercross after an exciting day at the track. We talk Tomac, Roczen, Webb, McElrath, Sexton, Stew, and Marty, of course. Plus, a little more on just being here in Salt Lake City in general as well.
Jason Weigandt and Jason Thomas join host Steve Matthes to review SLC SX2 from all the angles, the four “winners,” the Yamaha 250SX domination, the much-improved track, and more.
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.
“Romanian shoemaker creates size 75 shoes for social distancing”—Fox News
2020 AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days Postponed, New Date To Be Determined
PICKERINGTON, Ohio—The American Motorcyclist Association and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Mid-Ohio), working closely with state and local health authorities, are postponing AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days, scheduled for July 10-12 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, in accordance with the state's "Responsible RestartOhio" guidelines for holding public events amid the coronavirus pandemic. New dates for the event later in 2020 have not been finalized.
"Unfortunately, event restrictions in place under order of the Ohio Department of Health prohibit many traditional elements of AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days that our competitors and fans have come to enjoy," said AMA Chief Operating Officer James Holter. "The social interaction and camaraderie are an integral component that we love about this event. The multi-day swap meet, the camping, in-field activities, the crowds, not to mention the organic fun of the event, are impossible in light of the current situation."
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course President Craig Rust added: "We are disappointed, but this is the right decision. Mid-Ohio will continue to work closely with the AMA, as well as our state and local health officials, to monitor the ongoing coronavirus situation and identify when AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days can be rescheduled for 2020. We ask for everyone's patience, and we will announce a new date as soon as possible."
Previously purchased tickets will be honored on the new date.
We Went Fast Deal
Our buddy Brett Smith over at We Went Fast has a few really cool Father's Day Rad Dad Swag Bags (hat or shirt) that we feel are pretty damn cool for a dad in your life. We know a lot of you are fans of vintage motocross, and so is Brett, so check out what he's got in store.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!