Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you not from where we should be—the centerpiece celebration of all things America, including the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship—RedBud in Buchanan, Michigan. Rather, this one's coming to you from my kitchen table in Morgantown, West Virginia. For the first time in 40 years—since 1980, to be exact—the July Fourth weekend celebration of our nation's independence is not couched with the RedBud National. Instead, the motocross fraternity is scattered across the nation, some in states with severe restrictions on outdoor gatherings, others much more lenient. The dark cloud that is COVID-19 remains above us all, wreaking havoc on every sport and affecting every life. So those catchall shouts of "ReeeddddBuuuuudddd!" that we've all been hearing since we were children won't be the soundtrack of this weekend, though RedBud is open for some amateur activities. I even got a group text from MX Sports' Tim Cotter this morning saying he was down in Lot B, wondering where everyone was.
So which race was July Fourth weekend back in 1980? It was the very first Washougal National. But after that, RedBud patriarch Gene Ritchie latched on to the early July date and made the annual race at RedBud an American motocross institution. But in 1980, the RedBud National, for 250cc and 500cc riders, ran on June 1 and was pummeled by rain. The surprise winner in the 500 class was Ohio's Maico-mounted semi-privateer Denny Swartz—the last major AMA professional win for the once-mighty Maico brand. The 250cc winner was Team Honda's Steve Wise.
But back to today's ongoing nightmare that is 2020 (or #SOSO as my daughter calls it). The global pandemic continues to ravage our economy and our way of life. It's also became a wedge issue in the divisive times we live in. When we made the very tough decision to once again push back the start date of the motocross season, some people didn't understand why MX Sports Pro Racing wouldn't go through with our first two announced dates, which were July 18 in Indiana and July 25 in Florida. Unfortunately, before we could begin building out these first two rounds, a bunch of developments hit at once. First, there is the ongoing spike that has caused many states to pause or reverse reopenings, including California, Texas, and Florida. As result, we couldn't promise the teams a third round because the only place that was truly ready to hold a professional motocross event was Ironman in Indiana; the mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, in which WW Ranch is located, announced a mandatory face-covering rule for anyone going outdoors through July 25, the scheduled date of the WW Ranch race. If you were there last year, you can imagine how tough it might be to run a mask.
And then there was a more ominous development: three different teams, representing two of the six OEMs, had positive tests for people affiliated with their racing programs. They then had to do the back-screening for everyone who had been in contact with those team members, and suddenly a bunch of folks who were trying to get ready for the delayed start of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship were instead told to quarantine.
On Wednesday we had a massive Zoom call with all the team managers who make up much of the paddock of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and told them of the developments, our concerns about everyone having to travel at this time, and our concerns that once we started the series, we weren't able to guarantee that we would finish it. (The consensus was that at least six races would be the minimum to call it an AMA National Championship.) We suggested delaying the start of the series at least until mid-August, when this current spike is hopefully over, everyone already affected is healthy, and travel and crowd gatherings are less restricted. That would still give us enough weekends before our planned conclusion, the first weekend in October, to get the series in. Everyone on the call—a couple dozen entities in all—agreed.
In the polarized political atmosphere that we have today, not everyone else agreed with the move, and that's okay. We will start racing Lucas Oil Pro Motocross when travel is safer, cases decline, and we're all allowed to get a little closer once again—with or without masks, but certainly with some social-distancing protocols and guidelines in place. I went into all of this a little more in depth with Jason Weigandt, who was getting all kinds of questions, on his Exhaust podcast, which you can listen here:
There may be no RedBud National this weekend, but it’s still the Fourth of July tomorrow, and a chance for all of us to reflect on our nation, our independence and the good fortune we’ve had as citizens of the United States of America. Let’s hope this ongoing pandemic somehow becomes the thing that brings us back together a little, and goes away before things get much worse.
Cianciarulo at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Cooper at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Ferrandis at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Hampshire at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Hartranft at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Alex Martin at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Ty Masterpool at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas McAdoo at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas McAdoo at the 2019 RedBud National. Rich Shepherd Nichols at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Fans at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas Crown at the 2019 RedBud National. Jeff Kardas
Obviously the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship is not the only championship series with huge questions marks about schedules moving forward. Everything from NASCAR to American Flat Track to the GNCC Racing Series is undergoing overhauls as the virus lays waste to everyone’s best-laid plans. Take the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships, for instance. They are having what may be the latest Regional ever in the history of the program (which goes back to 1982) out at Washougal. Loretta Lynn’s had almost the entire Area Qualifying program scrubbed and went to “Super” Regionals, and then for the actual championship week in Tennessee there will be limits to visitors, car passes, and pretty much everything else beyond the actual starting gate.
And over in Europe Infront Moto Racing just announced a massive overall after being in limbo after the first two rounds back in March. As I have mentioned before David Luongo and crew probably have an even bigger task that Feld Entertainment or MX Sports Pro Racing has had because they have so many international borders and health concerns to consider. Like both AMA series, they have been forced to push back several times, but they just announced a resumption of racing in August, with several facilities hosting multiple events, including three at Kegums in Latvia, two at Faenza Italy, and three at the dreaded Lommel sandbox in Belgium. (Well, dreaded unless you’re a sandmaster like Jeffrey Herlings or Tim Gajser!) They have races listed through November 22, with TBA’s also set for Russia and Portugal. They have also moved the September 27 Motocross of Nations from France to Matterley-Basin in Great Britain, as there were concerns by the French organizers that they could not fully commit to being able to run the race due to the COVID-19 virus restrictions. The MXoN will also count for points in MXGP and MX2. For more, check out The List: Updated MXGP Calendar Unveiled.
TWO MORE BACK-TO-BACKS (DC)
In last week's Racerhead, we congratulated Chase Sexton and Dylan Ferrandis on joining the very elite group of 125/250 SX racers who had managed to win back-to-back Regional Championships: 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. Well, we left a couple of guys off the list, and not on purpose—we overlooked their even more unique accomplishments. In 2003, James Stewart won the 125 West Region title at the age of 17. One year later he won again, only it was in the 125 East Region, as Stewart switched coasts for his last year in the 125 class and won that championship as well. It was not a successful title defense, but they were back-to-back 125 SX Championships.
One year later, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Grant Langston won the 125 SX East Region, and then the next year he also switched coasts and promptly won the 125 SX West Region. Just like Stewart, Langston technically did not successfully defend his 125 SX title, but he did manage to win back-to-back titles, albeit in different regions.
MYSTERY SOLVED, FINALLY (DC)
First, let's go back to Racerhead #42 from October 18, 2013, and this entry:
CROWD-SOURCED TRIVIA (DC)
We get a lot of interesting questions here at the Racer X HQ about the old days of motocross—questions about vintage motorcycles, past results, old photos, or whatever else comes up in someone else's bench race. Yesterday I received a photo from Dangerous Joe Bonello, the legendary photographer and former racer, who had received a picture of a race from someone named Rick Cotton. He wanted to know where and when the photo might have been taken. Given the riders' numbers—#1 Rick Burgett leading #9 Gary Semics, #3 Marty Smith and #4 Tommy Croft—we figured out that it's from 1979. That's the year there were actually four different numbering systems: 125, 250, 500, and SX. But where was this photo taken?
From the trees, it looks like someplace in the Southeast, and at that time there were two 500 Nationals in that region: Atlanta International Raceway and North Carolina's Metrolina Speedway. But that's about as far as we got!
Danny Laporte, a friend of Joe's as well as the 1979 500cc National Champion, thinks it looks like Atlanta, but we're still stumped. So which track is this? Between regular readers like Mark Welker, Larry Witmer, and Reese Dengler, here's hoping someone knows.
Earlier this week I spotted this message on Facebook from longtime photographer Jack Wright:
"My photo for CYCLE NEWS at the 1979 Atlanta 500 National. Didn't Danny win that race? And tell Joe I said hi."
And just like that, all these years later, the mystery is finally solved! The shooter was Jack, and the race was the 1979 AMA 500 National at Atlanta International Raceway, which one year earlier hosted the 1978 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship. And yes, Danny Laporte won with 1-1 moto finishes.
ONE-YEAR DEAL (Andras Hegyi)
One of the greatest racers in the history of the FIM Motocross World Championship is Antonio Cairoli. The nine-time world champion is the most successful Italian motocross racer ever. This week the Red Bull KTM factory rider extended his contract with the team for 2021 to compete for another MXGP title. While the FIM Motocross World Championship, like the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, is on hold, waiting for the right circumstances to hopefully start up again in the time of the COVID-19 coronavirus. On Monday, Cairoli signed a one-year contract with KTM, the brand he's been with since 2010. During his time with the Austrian brand, Cairoli bagged six world titles, 60 MXGP wins, and 114 podium results. Regarding the world titles, he is the most successful KTM motocross racer ever in the world championship, in existence since 1957. He is also the most successful KTM rider in number of GP wins in the premier class. Cairoli, who will turn 36 in September 2021, entered into his sixth contract with KTM, but this one is slightly different.
Before this new contract, Cairoli signed only multi-year deals or two or three years. But Cairoli’s new KTM contract is valid only for the 2021 season. Back in February, Cairoli was interviewed by the world-famous Italian daily sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport. In that article, Cairoli said he would like to race in another two seasons, through 2022, with KTM. Now it appears he is taking the rest of his career one year at a time. In contrast to Cairoli, his teammates, Jeffrey Herlings of the Netherlands and the Spanish teenager Jorge Prado, have contracts with KTM that are good until the end of 2023. So the big question is this: will 2021 be Antonio Cairoli’s last season?
LORETTA'S TICKET (DC)
Our friend down south John Choate is at it again. Like a lot of other folks, he qualified for Loretta Lynn's—but unlike most everyone else, he likes to take the big ticket he gets for the AMA Amateur Nationals and take it on some pre-race adventures, then post photos of their "bromance" on Facebook. Sometimes there's even a movie theme, as you will notice in a couple of the ones he's posted so far!
SEVEN BRANDS (DC)
Got this note from longtime friend Randy Nagel of ProVue:
“Every morning when I eat breakfast I always flip through my magazines and this morning I was looking at the May issue of Racer X Magazine and looking at all the brands of bikes guys qualified for Nationals and SX- I would have bet big money that Marty Tripes or ‘Rocket’ Rex Staten had the most, but Frank Stacy gets moved up to a three-way tie for second with seven because you left Sachs off his list! This is not a great photo but it’s the 1977 Trans-AMA at St. Peters, Missouri, and you can just see the rear end of Frank’s Sachs in front of Mark Barnett (322) on a Suzuki and that’s Gary Jones behind him on the Ammex brand. Barnett is probably the only guy in the planet who’s been sandwiched between a Sachs and an Ammex!”
Good eye, Randy, and we had no idea that Frank raced a Sachs too. But the Trans-AMA and Inter-Am races of the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s are not listed in the Vault, which the last was based on. The Vault only includes AMA Supercross and AMA Pro Motocross Nationals. I don't think Stacy ever raced the Sachs in one of those, but the Trans-AMAs were probably even bigger than both those series in 1977!
Here's a list of every bike that has participated in at least one AMA Supercross or Pro Motocross event in our Racer X Online Vault.
Pro Perspective (Thomas)
With the difficulties surrounding a July start to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the surely difficult decision was made to push the date. For riders, this news creates a few challenges. With the July 18 start, riders could transition right into motocross training upon leaving Salt Lake City last month. A month of riding and training is a very acceptable timeframe to achieve peak fitness and speed, especially with the base fitness already in place leaving a supercross season.
Now, with the schedule in flux, riders are left with difficult decisions to make. Do they keep the hammer down, working harder than ever? Do they take a few weeks off, returning to full steam in mid-July? How will these decisions effect their off-season plan? Is a multi-month grind sustainable if that carries on into October? There are certainly more questions than answers right now and that theme applies to every level of the Lucas AMA Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
The widely believed hope is that we will be able to kickoff racing in mid-August. Given that, riders have six weeks until race time. That’s almost the most difficult scenario because they don’t have enough time to take a prolonged break, yet continuing the torrid training pace is very hard on body and mind. If I was building my own program, I would try to devise a hybrid approach. I would integrate hard days with a few added days of rest between now and mid-July. The main goal would be to avoid loss of any fitness base but also avoid any burn out. If I could arrive to July 17 with the same fitness as today but somehow more rested and motivated, that’s an ideal scenario.
It’s a delicate balance, mostly because nothing is set in stone as of now. Even if a perfect plan was put into motion, there is no way to know that the entire dynamic won’t change next week. For riders and trainers, their ability to pivot, react, and adjust is being put to the test. The typical training calendar is useless in 2020. Adaptability is a skill that is widely underrated in most years. Two thousand twenty might be the coming out party.
After GEICO Honda's Chase Sexton captured his second consecutive 250SX East title the guys at Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha filed a protest against Chase and the team for fuel. Which is pretty unusual for one OEM to file against another, we don't see that too much but even weirder in that the teams almost all use VP Fuels Pro 6 these days so it's not like it's a secret or something. Yes, you can add an additive to some fuel to help out but the whole thing was a bit head scratching. I suppose the Star guys saw Chase and Jett Lawrence pull some starts against their bikes and wondered what was up but who knows? The protest was filed by Shane (as he told our Jason Weigandt on Wednesday) and we all had to wait.
The guys at GEICO were confused from the start and took their own samples from Sexton's bike and got those tested independently at the same time the AMA was doing the same thing. GEICO got word that their fuel passed a few days after but hey, until the AMA clears them, nothing is official. Well, of course the AMA announced that GEICO's fuel passed their test as well and Chase's win, and title, became official. For all the success the Star Yamaha guys have had in the last few years they certainly have also been protesting some others as well. Like Adam Cianciarulo's off track moves at Lakewood last summer and I think there was one more off the top of my head for something. It's odd to me that Star protests fuel but yet Shane McElrath admits he took Chase's gate after selecting a different at SLC 7, he was also clearly jacking with him in practice, so that stuff is legal but then they think that GEICO is going to run an illegal fuel and file a protest? Just things that make you shake your head sometimes.
In case you're wondering, I do wish I was back in Park City mountain biking...
THE AUGUST 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
HEY, WATCH IT!
Honda HRC’s Tim Gajser: Determined to Succeed
While many off-road-racing series are still on hold, the Johnny Campbell-led JCR Honda squad has been keeping busy, as documented in a new video that drops today. Filmed in the Southern California hills, and featuring amazing drone footage, the video shows that Honda's CRF450RX, CRF450X and CRF250RX off-roaders are capable of impressive aerial feats when ridden by the likes of reigning AMA NGPC Champion Tarah Gieger, Dakar Rally winner Ricky Brabec, two-time AMA Hare & Hound National Champion Kendall Norman, the versatile Preston Campbell—and of course Johnny himself (an 11-time Baja 1000 winner).
LISTEN TO THIS
From the starting-gate picks to mid-race slowdowns to the post-race protest of Sexton's fuel, Shane McElrath takes it all on here—and says he has no regrets.
We talk to former Primal Impulse Suzuki rider Ryan Huffman about his career in racing, repping the PNW, that privateer year in 1997, Planet Honda, growing up at Washougal, and more. Note: We recorded this podcast a few weeks ago, before the announcement that the start of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship was postponed temporarily.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair and Cooper Webb talk about Coop's amateur days. 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.
“A right-wing group got pranked at a rally, and they believe Sacha Baron Cohen is behind it”—CNN.com
“VANILLA ICE CANCELS TX CONCERT: 'I Didn't Know the Numbers Were So Crazy in Austin'”—TMZ.com
“Watch: Graham Jarvis Climbs Ridiculously Steep Ledge on His Husqvarna—No Big Deal”—Exhaust
Thanks for reading Racerhead, and Happy Birthday America! See you at the races—someday.