Welcome to Racerhead and a world slowly but surely getting back to some normalcy. The coronavirus is still with us, of course, and in some places it’s even getting worse. But in other places that were already hit hard, like New York, for instance, things are much better. And one place it is thankfully not prevalent is around Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah, where the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is nearing its conclusion. Feld Entertainment has been hardcore about all of their safety protocols and social distancing in order to protect the riders, the race team personnel, and the people working the events. They are four rounds into this seven-round residency, an outlandish plan to try to finish the championship in these difficult times. Somehow, they are getting it done, which is exactly what we fans wanted to see as soon as the series went on hold on the eve of the 11th round in Indianapolis way back in March.
It’s been a long, strange run of races, but also very exciting to watch on NBC and NBC Sports. Things haven’t gone completely smoothly—the track conditions have gone from dry and slick to underwater and slick, one rider’s girlfriend was said to have tested positive but was quickly quarantined, and someone in the journalists’ pool broke social-distancing guidelines, leading to him being asked to leave—but it's all gone about 100 times better than some expected. Hats off to everyone at Feld for coming up with this bold plan, sticking to their safety guidelines, putting on races without a single ticket sold, and making this happen for the Supercross Class of 2020 and all of us fans watching from home.
As I mentioned last week, I did not make the sojourn out to SLC, and while I can armchair quarterback with the best of them, I will leave the actual coverage of what’s gone down to the guys who either were there (Weege) or are still there (Matthes). But looking ahead—as in five weeks ahead—I am thrilled that a schedule is finally coming together for the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. And while only two races that have been announced—the Ironman Raceway opener on July 18 and then WW Ranch Motocross Park in Florida on July 25—it’s a start to what we hope will be as compelling and complete a series as possible. But it won’t be a full series, in the sense that we will not be able to have 12 rounds. With every state opening back up at different rates (and fear of a possible return in the fall), it’s been quite a chore to even get the first two rounds dialed in. With the teams asking that the series not go deeper than the first week of October, and with some time off for everyone, don’t be surprised if we end up with as few as eight rounds for this uncertain season. And then come 2021 we will be back at full strength, beginning with our annual opener, the Hangtown Classic, kicking us off in May.
Closer to home, there is a GNCC tomorrow out at High Point Raceway, the third round the series has been able to run since its return a few weeks back. And all over the country, the “super regionals” are being run for the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn Ranch. All of these races are part of this return to some sense of normalcy that we’re seeing all over, though hopefully everyone understands that this will remain an abnormal time for the foreseeable future.
So this Sunday is shaping up as a very good viewing day for dirt bikes. First will be the livestreaming of the GNCC on RacerTV.com beginning at 1 p.m., and then NBC Sports Gold will have the Salt Lake City 5 Supercross timed qualifying beginning at 4:30 p.m. ET, and then the actual race coverage on NBC Sports Network begins at 7 p.m. Eastern/4 p.m. Pacific.
And there’s one more thing to watch on Sunday that is a must-see. Remember when Travis Pastrana, Kevin Windham, and Ryan Sipes got together to race for Team Puerto Rico at the 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations at RedBud? They were going to race in order to raise funds for the people of Puerto Rico, who were devastated by hurricanes. As you might recall, it got off to a rocky start, but once the race got closer, they really hunkered down. Inspired by team manager Ricky Johnson, they somehow qualified for the main MXoN—despite Travis and K-Dub having been long retired and Sipes mostly racing off-road—and ended up being one of the feel-good moments of the whole event. Then they took the money they raised and did exactly what they said they would do: They went to Puerto Rico and got to work helping rebuild.
Race to Rebuild is the documentary that they shot throughout the whole adventure. Narrated by the Icon himself, David Bailey, Race to Rebuild is an exceptional documentary about much more than just motocross, or even the Motocross of Nations. Travis sent us a preview, and we were blown away with not only how cool it all turned out, but also the devastation in Puerto Rico that inspired them. So make sure you tune in to ESPN2 on Sunday, June 14 at 5 p.m. for a very heartwarming and sometimes very funny video featuring Team Puerto Rico’s Travis Pastrana, Kevin Windham, and Ryan Sipes. The show will also re-air on Monday, June 15 at 11 p.m. EDT / 8 p.m. PDT.
Stay safe, keep washing those hands, and let’s turn this over to our Salt Lake City bureau.
Carnage! (Jason Weigandt)
Did you see the first heat race when 250SX West returned on Wednesday night? It was crazy! Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Cameron Mcadoo experienced everything in just a few laps. He caught series leader Dylan Ferrandis and then sent the Star Racing Yamaha rider endoing over the Tuff Blox. Then McAdoo, while leading, messed up a rhythm lane, which allowed Rockstar Husqvarna’s Michael Mosiman to catch him, and then.…
“I threw it in there!” said Mosiman, who ended up taking them both down. “It was a bummer deal, it was definitely my bad, no malicious intent there. I just threw it in. My mistake, it cost me a lot of money.”
With McAdoo, Mosiman, and Ferrandis on the ground, GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig could only shake his head and take the win.
“Everyone was so hyped after watching those East rounds, and you could see it in everyone’s riding style and aggression,” Craig said. “I think we were just cooped up. Everyone was! Those three rounds we watched got everyone fired up. I think there’s a lot more fireworks to come.
“I don’t know why, but in practice, it was crazy the intensity between the top four or five—we were just going at it,” he added. “I was pushing absolutely to my limit and I was fourth, and I’m like, ‘How is this happening?’ We were all going for it at the same time. Then I watch 450s and they all know what they’re doing. They seem to wait for their part. In 250s, I was just going wide-Clyde, almost hitting people to get in my lap!”
JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Alex Martin added that the track was heavily watered in that heat race, which is needed to make Salt Lake City’s dirt hold up for the main event.
“After qualifying, when I saw I was in the first heat, I was like, ‘Dang it!’ I knew it was going to be terrible,” said Martin. “I was just riding around trying to stay up, it was hard to even do some of the corners. It’s entertaining, though, watching some of those guys just knock each other out.”
“Yeah, at first I was just pacing off of Austin [Forkner] at the beginning, and I felt fine,” Cooper said. “I ended up making one mistake about halfway and I missed the long rhythm. I got shuffled back to forth pretty quick, and from there I felt like I rode tight. I hit a wall, basically, and it was pretty hard to survive the race from there. I feel like I really put myself behind the eight-ball, and I can’t be doing that.”
Cooper’s teammate Ferrandis mentioned this was the hardest supercross race of his career, due to the altitude. Cooper himself said he rode for an hour the day before the race, and he might have overdone it. Also, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM’s Brandon Hartranft said he was cramping and depleted after his heat race and didn’t feel 100 percent for the main. The intensity, the long layoff, and the elevation really got to these guys.
Maturity! (Jason Weigandt)
The 450 riders are much more mature about things. If you’re Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, you’re wishing for more struggles and more variation. Eli Tomac hasn’t made any big mistakes, which Cooper needs to have any chance at the title. In fact, there were rumors that Webb was digging back into his old playbook and trying to rattle his competitors mentally. We heard about him yelling “Are you guys ready to battle?” at Ken Roczen and Tomac on the starting line of SLC2, and someone says he was riding through the whoops side-by-side with Tomac and looking over at him. Cooper didn’t deny he was trying to mess with Eli.
“I was trying, but he’s been very mentally strong,” said Webb, who still has a shot at a successful title defense but is running out of time to catch Tomac. “He’s been freaking ripping. I think it’s a little easier with some of the other guys, but not so much with him. At this point just try to do what I can on the bike and keep getting great starts, which I think has helped. I’ve gotten first and second twice now, so I think that’s about as good as I can ask for. Three more and we’ll see what will happen. I’ve been happy just knowing that I gave it my all these last seven and really kind of turned it so far. I think it’s been good just to be able to run with Eli. The beginning of this season, I think he definitely had a bit of the upper hand. So that’s been cool.”
ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER RACE (Matthes)
Be careful what you wish for, as during the pandemic when we had nothing much going on, I was going through old Hi Flyer cards and calling guys about those, and the whole time we're wishing we had some sort of racing to talk about. Well, we got it now! Seemingly every couple of days we've had an SLC SX. Four down, three to go for everyone up there!
I say "up there" because I jetted home for a couple of days to see my lovely wife and beautiful basset hound. I'm trying to figure out a way to get back for Sunday's race, but if not, I'll hit the last two. It's been real fun up there but a bit strange at the same time; as media guys, we're not really interacting with the teams, but yet, outside of the pits, it's okay. I get it—that's what the state says we have to do—but it's a little bizarre. The races themselves have been pretty good outside of the first one, where the track and the weather left it looking a bit like a fair race. We've seen some great racing from all the classes, though, and the time off, while affecting some riders for sure, hasn't really changed much from what we saw in the ten races before. It was exciting to see the 250SX West Region make their return to racing. Someone told me it was a longer break for them than from the 2019 Indiana National finale to the 2020 Anaheim SX opener [Editor’s Note: It may have seemed like it, but it wasn’t. From the 2019 Ironman National to 2020 A1, there were 133 days between races, whereas the break from 2020 San Diego to 2020 SLC 4 was 123 days between races]. How nutty is that?
Ferrandis Shopping (Jason Weigandt)
Last week, Jeremy Martin and the GEICO Honda team straight-up admitted he would skip the final supercross races in order to avoid pointing out of the class. Jeremy could have squeezed in one more race and stayed under the 135-point limit, but the team had to set the plan in motion early—had he won the first two races back, he would have been too close to 135 to race the third race, so they planned in advance to race two events only. Jeremy has taken some heat for the move, which is to be expected. He has also gotten some support for admitting the truth, and also, because he's coming back from a serious back injury. Ultimately, the pointing-out rules are what they are. Teams and riders can work around them or not. For Martin, he has another year on his GEICO deal if he stays in the class, versus not many (or any) options in the 450 class if he moves up. The answer seems pretty simple.
With so many recent grads into the 450 class, including Zach Osborne, Aaron Plessinger, Justin Hill, Joey Savatgy, and Adam Cianciarulo in the last two years—and with Chase Sexton already set with Honda HRC's 450 squad for '21—there's not much room up there right now.
Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis is probably at the top of the graduate list, but he clearly doesn't have a deal yet. I asked Dylan about defending his 250SX West Championship, and he actually mentioned loftier goals.
"I’m at the point now where I’m more riding to show myself to the 450 teams because next year I will be in [the] 450 [class] and I need to have the best bike," Ferrandis said. "So I really want to show what I’m capable of and find a good deal for next year. For sure the championship is really important, but if I ride like I know how to ride, it’s possible. Last year was so crazy with what happened that I just don’t really look at the championship points."
Where does Ferrandis go? Yamaha seems like a natural spot, but does that mean Justin Barcia or Aaron Plessinger is out? I keep hearing Star Racing could build a 450 squad. Earlier this year, I heard that Red Bull KTM had interest in Ferrandis, but Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin are under contract for next year already. Ferrandis is hoping to keep impressing so he force someone's hand and appear as a must-sign 450 talent. We'll see what happens.
SOME NUMBERS (Andras Hegyi)
In motorcycling, #34 is often affiliated with Kevin Schwantz, the 1993 FIM 500cc World Road Racing Champion. But at this moment, #34 is a number shared by two former rivals, Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac. Each now have 34 main-event wins in 450SX, as last Sunday night Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tomac caught up with the retired Dungey’s career SX total. And what’s really cool is that right now both Dungey and Tomac also are tied in career wins with 12 each in 250SX. One more thing: both of them got their 34th 450SX win at the age of 28.
Dungey raced 450SX in nine different seasons. He started 134 main events and was able to win in eight seasons in all. He won 7 times with Rockstar Suzuki and 27 times with Red Bull KTM. Dungey took his 34th (and last) victory in his second-to-last race ever, at the Meadowlands in New Jersey in 2017.
This is Tomac’s eighth season in 450SX, and 2020 is the sixth season in which Tomac has reached the winner’s circle. Eli took his first three wins while riding Honda, and then last Sunday he scored his 31st win with Kawasaki. It was his 110th main event.
But there is a very big difference between Dungey and Tomac and how each got to 34 wins. Dungey was able to also take also four championship titles in 450 supercross, while Tomac has yet to win one. By this time next week he might just have his first.
After picking up two wins so far in Salt Lake City, Cooper Webb became the 22nd rider in Monster Energy AMA Supercross history to get at least 10 wins in the premier class. He also became only the eighth rider to get at least 10 wins both in both the 125/250SX and 250/450SX classes.
Riders to get at least 10 wins both in the 125/250 supercross and the 250/450 supercross:
Jeremy McGrath: 72 wins (250/450), 13 wins (125/250)
James Stewart: 50 (250/450), 18 (125, 250)
Ricky Carmichael: 48 (250/450), 12 (125/250)
Ryan Villopoto: 41 (250/450), 11 (125/250)
Ryan Dungey: 34 (250/450), 12 (125/250)
Eli Tomac: 34 (250/450), 12 (125/250)
Kevin Windham: 18 (250/450), 12 (125/250)
Cooper Webb: 10 (250/450), 11 (125/250)
In Salt Lake City, Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner went wire-to-wire to take his 10th career win. Forkner became the 20th rider to get at least 10 wins and also the 16th to take at least 10 wins in the this class while riding with the same brand.
Riders to get at least 10 wins with the same brand in the 125/250 supercross:
Suzuki: Ryan Dungey (12), Damon Huffman (12)
KTM: Marvin Musquin (11)
THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The August 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 August issue of Racer X magazine
Remembering the legendary Marty Smith and his wife, Nancy. Being at Moto Fite Klub. The real story behind the making of Frezno Smooth. And our exploration of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships before Loretta Lynn’s. All these features and much more.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Our own Steve Matthes was on the SML Show this week:
LISTEN TO THIS
Weege and JT join me, Steve Matthes, to review Salt Lake City 4 Supercross from Cooper Webb’s great ride to the 250SX West Coast coming back. We also talk about my unicorn sighting today on the mountain bike and a brief appearance from Jeff Bloss!
After an all-time classic battle on Sunday night, Monster Energy Supercross hosted a post-race press conference with the podium finishers from the third Salt Lake City event. Hear Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb, Jason Anderson, Chase Sexton, Shane McElrath, and Colt Nichols speak on the evening, with questions from Racer X's Jason Weigandt and the rest of the media corps.
The wild night of racing in Salt Lake City featured some great finishes for a variety of racers, including a career-best for Malcolm Stewart, and more strong rides for Zach Osborne and Martin Davalos. Suzuki men Broc Tickle and Kyle Cunningham also bounced back from injuries to make the main. Their strong rides led to another press conference, this one held Monday evening, with questions from Racer X's Jason Weigandt and the rest of the media corps.
Another night of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, and more riders to talk about it—including the surging Zach Osborne, the return of 250SX West contenders, race winner Cooper Webb, and race salvager Eli Tomac. Hear Webb's strategy on trying to get in Eli's head—which he admits isn't working—as well as Ferrandis giving Forkner credit for putting in the work, and wanting to impress for a 450 ride. Lots of good stuff here in these press conferences!
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.
"Nothing To See Here, Just a Donkey Being Arrested In Pakistan For Gambling"—Barstool Bets
“A New York woman caught while allegedly handing out baby raccoons”—NewsDio
That's it, thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!