Welcome to Racerhead, and for the supercross fraternity, welcome back from Salt Lake City. The bold plan worked, we have our three 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champions, and as Jason Weigandt said earlier, we don't have any asterisks to hang on Eli, Chase, and Dylan. They won their titles on the racetrack and will enter Anaheim 2021 with #1 plates on their motorcycles—er, well, Eli will. Chase will wear #23 on his CRF450R factory Honda HRC; Dylan will wear #14 on whichever 450 he ends up on. And while neither will wear #1 again next year, both Sexton and Ferrandis have joined a very elite club of riders who won back-to-back 125/250 Regional titles. That small club includes Jeff Matiasevich, Jeremy McGrath, the late Brian Swink, Damon Huffman, Mickael Pichon, Kevin Windham, Ivan Tedesco, Christophe Pourcel, Justin Barcia, Cooper Webb, Zach Osborne, and now Dylan and Chase.
And Eli, with his 34 wins and one 450SX AMA Supercross Championship, can now hand the "fastest to never win a title" albatross back to Damon Bradshaw. He's already put #1 back on his back because he's getting ready for the start of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, where he will be shooting for a fourth straight 450 championship, which is something only Ricky Carmichael has ever done (and he did it seven times). Cooper Webb, the defending AMA Supercross Champion, put up a very good late charge to take it down to the last night, which is what we all wanted. And I imagine he’ll be taking the fight to Tomac on his #2 Red Bull KTM—Simon Cudby spotted Webb today out at Fox Raceway at Pala doing laps, #2 on the bike but still wearing one his #1 THOR MX jerseys. He should save a few of those—he's going to need them again someday!
And speaking of Fox Raceway at Pala, I may have misspoken in an interview I did with Geoff Meyer of MX Large last week. On the subject of where we may be racing in 2020, I said, "We still have to navigate each state differently and I can tell you there won’t be a national in California." Hopefully, I spoke too soon and we can still end in Pala, but we're living in a very fluid situation right now that seems to bounce around from maybe to maybe not, then this week bad to worse as COVID-19 cases surge. The State of California is trying to reopen in stages, just as every other state is, and there is still hope that it can happen for the race to take place there. So there's still a chance for Fox Raceway, but again, it's a very fluid situation. Sorry for the confusion. Keep your fingers crossed (and keep washing those hands! And wear a mask!).
Glen Helen Raceway on a Thursday: here's some of Cudby's pics of the pros.
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Before we get into all of the week that was, I wanted to congratulate Chad Reed on his outstanding career. Reed's "One Last Ride" probably didn't end the way he hoped—seven races in an empty stadium is no one's idea of a proper farewell tour conclusion—but it's just downright amazing and inspiring that he hung in there through the end, just as he said he would for his sponsors and his fans. His final race of 2020 was his best, as the 38-year-old finished tenth in the final Salt Lake City race. It was the kind of follow-through we've come to expect of Chad and his close little team of friends and family. Ever since he came to the U.S. in 2002, he’s done things his own way, and Monster Energy AMA Supercross, as well as the sport in general, has benefited from his presence and perseverance ever since. He's a strong voice, a solid competitor, and truly one of the best of all time. From very humble beginnings, he popped up on the U.S. radar on January 16, 1999, in the results of the 125 class at the San Diego Supercross in 17th place.
He then goes to Europe to get some seasoning, comes back in 2002 with a proper ride with Yamaha of Troy, and goes on to become Yamaha's winningest AMA Supercross racer ever. Then he wins more on a bunch of other brands. It was the moment of that initial switch, at the end of the 2008 AMA Supercross Championship, which he won, that was one of his finest. Reed won the series-ending Las Vegas finale on May 3, 2008, but he knew the L&M team he was on and Yamaha had already decided to go a different direction the following year, hoping to sign James Stewart instead. The awards ceremony was the next night, and Chad gave an incredibly emotional speech as he accepted his second AMA Supercross Championship, as well as the pink slip he knew was coming. He talked about the sacrifices he and his wife, Ellie, had made, how far they had come, and how much they missed their family—Chad's parents had flown in for the race.
"Not too many things bring tears to my eyes," Reed said. "It's a good feeling to come in [after a race] and hug Mom and Dad." He added, "This is an amazing feeling. This is why I packed my bags at 18 years old and headed off to Europe—for this feeling. Every year, every second is worth it when you get this feeling."
Reed didn't race outdoors that summer, so his last official ride with Team L&M Yamaha was a 450 Supercross win and another AMA Supercross Championship. Then he showed up the next January on a Suzuki RM-Z450 and took the fight right at Stewart and his old team. It was one of the most entertaining duels in supercross history.
One last thing about Chad Reed. He has long said that the reason he came to America in the first place was because he wanted to be like Jeremy McGrath, racing in the biggest, most prestigious dirt bike series of all. That was some 20 years ago. Well now I think it's safe to say there are a whole bunch of fast kids out there, spread out all over the world, who also want to come to America and race supercross. But they aren't coming because they want to be like Jeremy. They’re coming because they want to be just like Chad Reed.
And a quick congratulations from the entire Racer X family to our online content editor Kellen Brauer and his wife, Hannah, on the birth of their daughter, Hollie Jean Brauer. We’re glad to hear everyone is healthy and safe. Congratulations to the entire Brauer family! Welcome to the world, Hollie Jean Brauer.
Crowning of Eras (Jason Weigandt)
With his long-awaited Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Eli Tomac has finally stamped himself as the most successful rider of his era in American racing. How do I define that? You can generally find riders who are born within a span of 2-3 years and trace a distinct line of them battling as amateurs, in the 250 class, and then on 450s. To see Tomac’s group, look back at the scintillating battles for the 2012 and 2013 AMA 250 National Motocross Championship, which included Tomac, Ken Roczen, Blake Baggett, Justin Barcia, and Marvin Musquin. Also throw in Dean Wilson, who won the 2011 250 MX Championship and battled Tomac for the ’12 250SX West Region Championship, and later Jason Anderson, who took a little longer to find his footing as a pro. Cole Seely also took a while find his place, but hovered around this group professionally, also.
Of this group, Tomac now has the most wins and titles and he’s also the only won to have won both 450 titles in the U.S.
Throughout the summer of 2012, we discussed the future of the sport quite regularly on our Racer X Race Review podcasts, with myself, Steve Matthes, David Pingree and Jason Thomas. By ’12, it was pretty clear the Ryans (Villopoto and Dungey) had risen above peers like Mike Alessi and Jason Lawrence to become the top two riders of their generation. Again, many riders were at or even above Villopoto and Dungey’s level at one point, but at the top end, only RV and Dunge would claim titles in every AMA group—250s and 450s indoors and out. It might seem like an arbitrary ranking to compare riders of a similar age, but trust me parents and amateur scouts are doing this very thing all the time. That’s the reason there was so much hype for the Alessi/Villopoto battles in the amateur ranks. It wasn’t just about winning titles at Loretta’s, it was because people involved assumed it would portend to future battles as pros, when it would really count for millions of dollars. I remember way, way back, a legendary tale of Damon Bradshaw and Jeff Emig crashing together in the first turn at Loretta’s, then raging all the way through the pack together. Emig would say he realized that day he’d probably be battling Bradshaw for the rest of his life.
It doesn’t always work out that way. Bradshaw and Emig didn’t see a BMX kid named Jeremy McGrath coming, and Alessi and Villopoto didn’t have Dungey on the radar. James Stewart had already vanquished any competition in the American amateur ranks, but no one knew an Australian named Chad Reed would show up here, ready to lock horns. The unexpected does happen, but without a perfect crystal ball, those amateur battles mean the world, because everyone assumes they will continue forever. Trust me, the Tomac, Baggett, Barcia, and Anderson families know all about racing against each other, starting long before they were on 450s.
This begs an obvious question. Who is next? That one is clear, too. The world saw Cooper Webb and Adam Cianciarulo as top talents in their amateur days, and even with some bumps in the road, it’s not impossible to imagine them battling each other for 450 titles someday. After that comes Austin Forkner versus Chase Sexton, again hyped as minicycle rivals, and again rising to the top of the 250 pack for their age group. Forkner and Sexton went 1-2 in the 250B class at Loretta’s in 2015. Would anyone have said, five years ago, “I bet those two are battling for 250 supercross championships in 2020”"? Yes, yes they would have. That’s exactly how it works.
There will always be wildcards in the group. Dylan Ferrandis is a bit older than Forkner and Sexton but the Frenchman’s career arc put him in his 250 supercross prime at the same time. And these days I can’t possibly write this piece without mentioning Jeffrey Herlings, who obviously has the talent and speed to run with anyone, but didn’t pursue supercross, so it’s hard to make comparisons. I look at the battle for 450 championships as the end of a big funnel. Kids battle around the world through the ranks, then it begins to narrow out, until only a few are left fighting for 250 supremacy, and even fewer are left at the very end at the top of the 450s.
As of right now, Eli Tomac is the champion of both Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross in the 450 class. He’s the top rider out of his group.
Over the last couple of weeks, as Monster Energy AMA Supercross was sprinting to its dramatic conclusion in Salt Lake City, we took a break on our "Before Loretta's" series of stories about the sometimes-forgotten AMA Amateur Nationals that were held before Loretta Lynn's came into the sport in 1982. There were races from 1975 to 1981 that were standalone Amateur and Youth/Minicycle Nationals, held at a different track each year, scattered all across the country. So far we've covered the first one in Baldwin, Kansas, featuring Mark Barnett (1975) and then the second one at Carlsbad and then '77 at Lake Sugar Tree, featuring Ferrell McCollough and Troy Bradshaw. The 1978 race was held on a track in Georgia lined with colorful old carpet fibers and waste from a nearby Burlington factory, with some great insight from David Bailey and Mark Hinkle, a pair of champions that year on Spanish bikes.
Now we're reached 1979, the race that was held at the old Plymouth track near Hangtown, and the growing force that became the Michigan Mafia. Denny Bentley was a 15-year-old Suzuki rider who absolutely flew. Mark Hinkle was a 19-year-old who worked in a piano factory in South Haven, Michigan. Steve Ellis was a fast rider/engineer who could make anything fly. They were part of the vanguard of Wolverines who drove from Michigan to North California and put a whipping on most of the rest of the country. One exception was California's own Eric McKenna, who would pilot his Maico to a resounding win over Michigan's Alan King, Maryland's Glenn Taylor, and Florida's Kenny Keylon. It's all right here if you want to check out what really happened at the 1979 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship.
Up next will be 1980 at Zumbro Falls, Minnesota, a track we all now know as Spring Creek in Millville. Also, look for a Where Are They Now? with Denny Bentley, who went straight from that '79 amateur national title to Team Suzuki. It was a very big step!
Loretta’s And The Emergence Of Amateur National Heather (Kris Keefer)
The family and I headed to Fox Raceway last weekend for our Loretta Lynn’s Regional Qualifier and managed to come away with two tickets to the ranch. I was very taken aback by how well my son rode in the 250 C (12-17) LTD class. He managed to win that class and almost win the 125 C class, if it wasn't for one fall in the second moto that left him stuck in a mud rut. So a quick funny story about that moment.
As I witnessed him stuff it into the rut while leading, my hopes were that he could start his YZ125 and get back into a top-four position, but those hopes quickly vanished when I noticed his little skinny ass could barely pick up his bike out of the mud. As I sat there watching rider after rider pass him, I was immediately disappointed for him. I knew he would be pretty heartbroken that he could only qualify for one class instead of two. I mean, I thought the 125 C class was the class he could actually win and not the 250 class, so when he finally got going in last place (with only five laps to race), I slowly walked back to the area where my wife was standing to watch. As I was walking back toward her, I could see some hand gestures and some words that I couldn’t quite make out over the sound of all the nervous novice two-strokes on the track. As I got closer the words were “Why didn’t you help him?” “What happened?” “Why did he not listen to your advice before the start”? I only could answer two out of those three questions, but I couldn’t get the answers out fast enough before she asked me the next set of questions.
Here’s where it gets interesting: I’m not the type of dad who’s going to take his kid around the West Coast just to let him try to qualify for Loretta’s. I told him before we even started this journey that if he doesn’t qualify from our regional at Fox Raceway, we simply wouldn’t be going to Tennessee. Aden and I believed that if we couldn’t qualify from his own regional, going to Tennessee would be a waste of our money and time. Aden and I both agreed that we were here to do “well” at Loretta’s and not just show up to race. So as Heather is rapid-firing these aforementioned questions to me while the 125 C class is still racing, she immediately interrupts one of my answers with the statement “You are taking him to Washougal to qualify!” I looked at her like she was some sort of alien, because I have never seen this side of my wife. EVER! She was already on her phone before the checkered flag flew in Aden’s race signing him up to race the Northwest Regional in Washington. Everything was happening so fast I didn’t know how to react. Was all of this mini-dad shit really just cold-cocking me in the face all at once? Did my wife just become one of those crazed mini moms with a stopwatch around her neck, a Ryno Power protein shake in her left hand and a cold rag to wipe off her child’s face in the right hand, really happening right now?
As perplexed as I was at my wife, attending to Aden after the race was the focus for the time being. Aden was visibly upset and crying after the race, but as a stern dad I calmly responded with “You didn’t listen to what I said before the race, did you? Our plan was to just get in the big show, wasn’t it, Aden?” As Aden was getting consoled from mom while I was muttering these words, that was when I saw the look. You know. That look you get from your wife when you say something stupid and she looks at you like if she had something to stab you with, she would. Yeah, that look! However, once Aden calmed down, we went to pick up our #1 plates and tickets. That’s when Aden’s frown turned upside down. I could see the true happiness that comes with winning a race as big as a regional. All the work we put in in Colorado really did help him, and the journey we took to get here was worth it at that moment. Father and son going to race together at the ranch! To me that is pretty damn cool!
This moment, however, didn’t stop the ravenous hunger of ANH—Amateur National Heather. Before we could even get the Sprinter van out of the park, Aden was signed up for Washougal as well as Bar 2 Bar MX (North Central Regional). “I mean, why did you sign us up for two regionals, Heather? We can’t be in two places at once!” Her answer was, “I wanted you to have the freedom to choose which way you wanted to go.” Are you really going to deprive our child of this dream just because he made one mistake out of your grand master plan?” WHO IS THIS WOMAN AND WHAT DID SHE DO TO MY WIFE? So needless to say, with my junk tucked up between my legs, Aden and I are off to Washougal next week to try and get him into Loretta’s in a second class.
If you see us in Washington, come say hey, but be forewarned that “ANH” is lurking behind those Washougal trees at any moment, ready to pounce.
VIEW FROM THE CHEAP SEATS (Dan Radlauer)
Okay, more like "View from the Ratty Couch." The twice-a-week supercross racing we got from Salt Lake City was like drinking from a firehose. After the 85-day drought that was brought on by COVID-19, there was suddenly a flood of SX racing to watch and numerous review podcasts to listen to. We barely had time to make our fantasy picks before there’s another race. But as a fan, as far as I’m concerned … I LOVED IT!
I’m sorry for those who bought tickets and haven’t been able to go. But I’m guessing the majority of fans only get to see Monster Energy AMA Supercross on TV. So do we really miss not having fans in the seats? I’m not so sure. True, there is a layer of energy and excitement that comes through the screen from the audience, and I’m sure that affected the riders as well, but I was just as amped up as I sat on my couch, fans or no fans.
I’m sure the riders missed the fans, but once the gates dropped, I imagine they shut everything out except the race. There certainly has been no lack of action. And at the end of a race, I was glad I only had to wait three or four days to see the next one. It was like binge watching in real time! I know it would not be sustainable for Feld Entertainment, the riders, and the teams, but for sheer entertainment value for us fans … sorry, guys, it was awesome. I applaud Feld for getting this done, and the riders and race teams for going all-in on the idea. It was a big gamble and it paid off.
The racing continued to be some of the best in history, the tracks were varied, and Ralph Sheheen and Ricky Carmichael did their very best to bring verbal excitement to the broadcasts. I do think the interviews, podium scene, and pit reporting suffered due to the restrictions, and I’m sure there were myriad problems and limitations that we fans didn’t see from our couches at home. Still, I’m wondering if there are some positives that can be taken from this "SX Blitzkrieg" and incorporated when “normalcy” returns.
Until then, I’m just a thankful fan who got to mainline supercross. #best_weeks_ever
Husqvarna's AMA Man (Andras Hegyi)
Zach Osborne was already a Husqvarna legend in America, as he is the brand's only 250 Pro Motocross Champion as well as a two-time 250SX East Region Supercross Champion, making him the only Husqvarna rider to have won three AMA titles. And considering the number of wins and titles, he is also the most successful Husqvarna racer ever in the 125/250 SX class. Last Sunday in the final race of the 47th Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Osborne became the first Husqvarna supercross racer to record a win in both the 250 and 450 SX categories. Besides the 2018 450SX champion Jason Anderson, Osborne is only the second Husqvarna winner in the premier supercross class, but Anderson has only raced in the 450 SX class for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna. Besides his first 450SX triumph, Osborne has also seven wins in both the 250 SX category and 250 class of AMA Motocross.
Eli's Firsts (Andras Hegyi)
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac finally managed to get his maiden 450 AMA Supercross title. Tomac, who was already a four-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion, is now a two-time FIM World Champion, as before this new 2020 AMA/FIM World Supercross Championship, he was also a FIM 125cc Junior World Champion in 2009. That makes him the second rider to achieve this, as four-time 450SX Champion Ryan Villopoto also won have both the Junior World title and the 450SX crown.
Tomac is the 23rd champion in the history of the 250/450 AMA Supercross Series, in existence since 1974. He is also the first champion from Colorado.
Tomac is also the oldest rider ever to win his first SX title, as he was 27 years, 7 months, 7 days old last Sunday. Before him the Dutch rider Pierre Karsmakers, the first-ever SX Champion, born in 1946, became champion in 1974 at 27 years, 7 months, 4 days old.
Tomac needed the most time to get his first SX title, competing in 114 main events in 450 SX. It was another Kawasaki legend, Jeff Ward who clinched his maiden title in 1985, in his 74th race.
Tomac has 34 SX wins now, matching him with Ryan Dungey, who has four 450SX titles as a result. Before Tomac it was James Stewart who had the most wins before earning his first 450SX title. In 2007 Bubba got his first title having won 23 main events.
Finally, Tomac is the first rider who became a father before winning his first 450 SX title. Tomac’s first child, a daughter, was born on April 26. Coincidentally, he became champion on Father’s Day!
Chad Reed's Records (Andras Hegyi)
Last Sunday afternoon, Chad Reed said goodbye. The Australian finished his very long and successful career holding a lot of records in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and other series and events. He left as the best Australian motocross racer of all time.
* In the history of AMA Supercross, in existence since 1974, Chad Reed took part in the most premier class main events, 265 races.
* Reed collected the most podiums, 132 in all.
* Last year in Detroit, Reed became the oldest podium finisher at 36 years, 11 months, 8 days.
* Reed's 35 wins in the 250/450SX are the most for anyone on a Yamaha, as are his 90 podiums on the blue brand.
* Reed's 44 wins are the most for any international rider.
* Reed is the only rider to win aboard four different brands: Yamaha, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Honda.
* Reed is the only rider to race riding with six different brands: Yamaha, Kawasaki, Honda, Suzuki, Husqvarna, and KTM.
* Reed was able to win in a record 11 different seasons: 2003-09, 2011-'12, 2014-'15.
* Reed is the only AMA Pro Motocross Champion ever from Australia, as he won the 450 MX title in 2009, as well as the only winner in 250/450 SX, as well as 125/250 SX.
* Reed was the only Australian to win the old U.S. Open of Supercross, in existence between 1998 and '09. He won in both 2003 and '04.
* In the history of the 250/MX1/MXGP FIM World Championship, in existence since 1962, Reed is only one Australian to get GP-win and moto win. He is also the only Aussie to win the Bercy Supercross in France, and in existence since 1984. He won there in 2007.
THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
HEY, WATCH IT!
Andrew Short hits supercross whoops on his Yamaha WR450F Rally.
Ken Roczen explains supercross to Autoweek
Steve Matthes also sat down with Swap Moto Live’s Donn Maeda to talk about starting the new website, the old Transworld MX and MX Racer days, his brother Ross, and more.
When the dust (somewhat literally) settled on Sunday's Monster Energy AMA Supercross finale in Salt Lake City, Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac, GEICO Honda's Chase Sexton, and Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha's Dylan Ferrandis were holding #1 plates. It wasn't an easy road, and Sexton and Ferrandis had to silence some detractors—and Tomac had to erase the demons of past 450SX seasons. After the race, Tomac and Ferrandis met with the media to answer questions. Sexton was scheduled to arrive but apparently was too busy celebrating!
NBC Sports' Daniel Blair hosted the press conference, but Racer X's Jason Weigandt, Mitch Kendra, and Aaron Hansel were in attendance.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair, "Snap-On" Dan Colvin, and Producer Joe talk about the final round of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in Salt Lake City. We think Daniel actually was back at the home studio for this episode. Same cruddy show, either way. Anyway, hang out with them as Daniel focuses on the headlines in the sport and sometimes it goes off the rails.
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.
“Supercross Rider Ken Roczen Tells Us How to Fly a Motorcycle”—Autoweek.com
“It is so hot at the Grand Canyon National Park that your shoes could melt”—CNN Weather
Australian Motocross Nationals
COVID-19 is threatening the Australian Motocross Nationals, and now longtime promotion group Williams Event Management has decided to cede its position running the series. WEM had already announced the 2020 season would be its last at the top, however with organizing this year's events growing more and more complicated, WEM doesn't see a path forward.
“In early June I was quite optimistic that we would see a road forward, but certainly, over the last 10 days has seemed more and more impossible," said WEM director Kevin Williams. "I feel I have been consistent from day one when we postponed the series, giving everyone the best opportunity to move forward and there’s certainly been times where that looked like it was going to be very favourable."
The issue is simple: the races can't take place without fans, but finding a path that allows fans is very difficult at this time. Many expect Motorcycling Australia to take the events in house in the future. For the full story on this topic, check out MotoOnline.com.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. Wash your hands! Wear a mask! See you at the races!