Welcome to Racerhead on a very hot and busy weekend (busy for this year, anyway). Last year this was a rare weekend off for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, as there was a break between RedBud and Spring Creek while the series made the turn at the halfway mark. This year the series hasn't started yet, postponed several times but very hopeful for a start-up in mid-August. Everyone has been idle since the competition of Monster Energy AMA Supercross in Salt Lake City last month but trying to stay sharp while waiting for better news on the pandemic. One of the top performers in SLC, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Zach Osborne, is trying something else altogether. The winner of the final round at SLC is about to become the first rider in supercross history to go from winning a 450 SX main event to the front row of a GNCC off-road race—Zach is racing in the High Voltage GNCC, not far from Racer X's HQ in Morgantown, West Virginia. The former 250 Pro Motocross and two-time 250 Supercross Champion will be going up against his friend and sometimes–training partner Kailub Russell on Sunday afternoon, and you can watch beginning at 1 p.m. ET live and free on www.racertv.com. Osborne has experience in the woods—he grew up in Virginia and once rode for Team USA in the International Six Days Enduro—so he's no stranger to racing in between the trees. He also won't be the only motocrosser out there, as Phoenix Honda is bringing Kyle Peters in to race High Voltage as well.
So what kind of track will these guys see this weekend? I called GNCC trail boss Jared Bolton and caught him in between putting up arrows out on the course.
"It's a crazy mix of open fields and really tight woods here because everything is overgrown here right now," he reported. "So I think it will be fine for Zach on half the course, but the woods are tricky when they're this tight."
Bolton also said weather reports vary but it's looking like a 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday and just fine and maybe not as hot as it's been on Sunday.
Even while some events like GNCC Racing and NASCAR are happening, and others like MXGP and the Loretta Lynn's AMA Amateur National Championships plan on running again in August, the coronavirus continues to take its toll on sports in general. The Red Bull MotoGP of the Americas in Austin, Texas, was first postponed and then today outright canceled for 2020. High-school football in Texas, a Friday religion in the Lone Star State, seems to be on the brink. Wimbledon, the biggest tournament in tennis, should have been coming to its conclusion this weekend, but it will wait until 2021. The entire Ivy League called off fall sports, which means if you're a big fan of smart young men and women competing in athletics before taking their degrees from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, etc., and going on to much better jobs, you're out of luck. And everyone is waiting to see what exactly college football and the almighty NFL do, as they are the real bellwethers in America. The Big Ten did say they were planning on having conference games only.
And over in Europe they’re doing their best to get MXGP up and running, beginning with three races in one week at the Kegums circuit in Latvia. MX Large's Geoff Meyer talked to the promoter of those events, Kristers Sergis, about how they plan on pulling this off, Salt Lake City-style.
That series has been on hold since the coronavirus hit in early March, two races into the 20-race tour. Now they hope to get going again on August 9, 12, and 16, then wait three weeks for the next round in Turkey. All of those races will be interesting to watch.
There was supposed to be a big race this weekend at Muddy Creek outside Bristol, Tennessee, in the 36th running of the AMA Tennessee State Motocross Championship, but promoter Victory Sports posted on Facebook that the event was now cancelled:
"We didn’t see this coming. This is due to the COVID-19 and several of our riders & their families being recently exposed at a local motorcycle business. The safety of our riders and staff will always be our first concern. This is very unfortunate for us all but more importantly is the well being of our 'Motocross Family.' Stay safe everyone. We will get through this together. Rest assured that we did not want cancel this event. We have been working very hard for many days to have everything prepared. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."
Tennessee is of course where Loretta Lynn's is located, albeit 350 miles to the west. Here's hoping that the state gets everything under control, and soon. This year has already been hammered enough.
You can read a neat story on Dalton Heltz and his dreams of racing at the Loretta Lynn's Ranch..
A few more riders joining in on the GNCC this weekend: Phoenix Racing Honda's Peters and Sherco FactoryONE WORCS rider JT Baker and Brittany Marcotte.
From Rick Doughty of Vintage Iron fame: "Beta's first motocross bike probably pre-dated these jewels..."
Hot Off the Presses (DC)
The brand-new September issue of Racer X magazine just landed in our mailbox, with newly crowned Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion Eli Tomac gracing the cover. The magazine includes an inside look at all of the action, both on and off the track, that went down in Salt Lake City, where the series took up residency for nearly a month and ran seven races on seven different tracks. There's also a look at the first home of supercross, the venerable Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the sport was born in July 1972. (There's also a Racer X Read Aloud on this feature for you digital subscribers.) And there's a preview of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, which we anticipate will be starting in August after the postponement of the two races in late July due in order to give this pandemic a few more weeks to hopefully get it under control. (Wear a mask!) Look for it in your mailboxes soon, or check out a digital subscription. See more on the full issue below.
Marty Smith Rookie of the Year (DC)
MX Sports Pro Racing announced this week that the annual Pro Motocross Rookie of the Year award will now be known as the Marty Smith Rookie of the Year Award. Smith was a three-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion in the seventies and the first real superstar that American motocross produced. His career was relatively short (1974 to 1981), but he was incredibly influential. His speed was matched by his charisma, his natural talent matched by his determination. He turned pro in 1974 at the age of 17 and promptly won the first race he entered, the '74 Hangtown 125 National. He also won the first AMA 125cc National Championship that very same year, all while still attending Loma Point High School in San Diego. He was even more dominant in 1975, successfully defending his 125 championship by winning six of seven 125 Nationals. He also won the first 125cc US Grand Prix in 1975, then again in '76. But he also ran into a buzzsaw in '76 in the form of Bob "Hurricane" Hannah, the second superstar produced by American motocross. Hannah ended up taking Smith's 125 title from him, though one year later Marty avenged himself by snatching the 500 title away from the Hurricane....
The point is, Marty Smith was the ultimate rookie of the year in 1974, winning his first race and his first title at a young age. In the history of AMA Pro Motocross, only one other rider won the first outdoor national he ever entered as a professional, and that was Eli Tomac at Hangtown 2010. But unlike Smith, Tomac would not go on to win the title in his rookie year, let alone win in his second year.
Marty and his wife, Nancy, were killed in April in a dune-buggy crash that made national news. MX Sports Pro Racing wanted to do something to honor his memory because he just meant so much to motocross in its infancy here, and the vote to name our award to the best freshman each year the Marty Smith Rookie of the Year Award was unanimous. Read more on the award and Smith's career in the full press release.
2021 Motocross Machines (Keefer)
It's 104 degrees out here in Southern California, so that means one thing: NEW BIKE SEASON! KTM, Husqvarna, Yamaha, and Kawasaki have all announced their 2021 motocross lineups. Honda will be giving a virtual tech briefing on the 2021 CRF450R to the media on Monday, so look for something from the red guys hopefully next week. Suzuki has been somewhat quiet, so let's hope that all is moving forward with the RM Army and we get to see at least some updates to the yellow machines for 2021. With Loretta's just around the corner, I’ll be busy as I get geared up for the big amateur gathering with my son as well as handling some 2021 testing duties for Racer X/Keefer Inc. Testing. We will be giving you all a first impression on all the new models in the coming weeks, so make sure you are tuned in to Racer X Online for your future purchasing decisions.
BLU CRU (Matthes)
As Keefer mentioned, the guys at Yamaha dropped their 2021 models and for this year, the 250F was more of the focus than the 450 whereas last year the 450 got a drastic remake with new cylinder that was smaller in every way possible. We all know the Yamaha's reverse motor design really shines in the small bike class, just look at all the wins the Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha guys have the last few years and when the other teams are admitting to you that they aren't on the same level as the Yamaha guys, well then you know it's legit.
The Blu boys gave the 250 an all new head with a different intake that they say gives the bike even MORE horsepower so they're stoked on that. They also made some changes to the frame to help the bike handle a bit better (still the same frame as the 450 which kind of still boggles my mind to be honest) and as always, improved suspension settings. The 450 has some improvements of course but as I said, they did a big change last year. I do like the new blue side panels and black fork guards though, that's a sweet change. Please, no, on the Monster claw replica but hey, whatever floats your boat I suppose.
I hope to get on the new 450 really soon but in the words of Ryan Villopoto I hope they "didn't f*** it up!"
The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna guys dropped a PR the other day (surprised it wasn't a Friday afternoon drop!) about them and the original team owner Bobby Hewitt have mutually agreed to part ways, which was a bad secret for everyone in the pits. Not sure what happened there but I know he "sold" the 450 team to Husqvarna a few years ago but still ran that and the 250 team (hence why the 250 guys had team deals, 450 riders did not) but something went sideways where Bobby and the guys in Austria must've disagreed with the future or current direction of the team and he's out. Hopefully he got a big check for the 250 guys as well, he deserves it coming from his humble beginnings as Team Green Extreme in amateurs. Remember, Jason Anderson's rookie year was super tough and at one point, Bobby sent him home to rebuild the program. Not something a lot of team owners would do but a smart move looking at how Jason's career has gone. He wasn't always a fan of mine, I broke plenty of stories in regards to Osborne, Wilson, Pourcel, etc. but he was always professional to deal with when we did chat and as I said, I hope he made some big money for all the time and effort he put into that squad. We need more people in the pits like Bobby Hewitt!
Not sure what's going on with Malcolm Stewart and the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda guys but after a great year where Stewart set his personal best in 450SX, I hear that the two sides can't work anything out for 2021. I was even spoken to by one rider that said he was talked to about doing a two man 450 team with Malcolm for 2021 so there must be something there. I know owner Mike Genova runs a bit of a different program there but the equipment is good, Tony Alessi knows how to run a team and the proof is in the results for Malcolm, Justin Brayton, Justin Hill (the first ten races anyways), etc, etc. With Stewart not doing MX, team options are limited for him so I would think the two sides can work things out right? Egos and money, egos and money....
No Kiwis (Andras Hegyi)
The global coronavirus pandemic has gotten its first official victim as far as national teams for the 2020 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations: New Zealand called off its participation at the 74th MXoN, to be held on September 27 in Great Britain. (It was moved there from France last week for the same concerns.)
The motorcycle federation Motorcycling New Zealand explained that it was calling off plans to attend as there is an uncertain medical situation in Europe because of the coronavirus pandemic. New Zealand has been very successful in their efforts to keep the virus out of their country, and that is why Motorcycling New Zealand is so prudent and careful. This will be the first time since 2007 that Team New Zealand misses the big races; they were last absent for the Budds Creek version of the race 13 years ago.
Among the countries of the southern hemisphere, New Zealand has been the most successful in the Motocross of Nations, earning three podium results. Team New Zealand finished third in 1998, 2001, and 2006. This year's team would have been the 30th time that New Zealand would have taken part at the MXoN. The Kiwis debuted there in 1984. Besides 2007, New Zealand also missed 1985, '86, '89, '90, '99, and 2002.
No Geneva (Andras Heygi)
Before we even got this column posted, the global coronavirus pandemic has hit again. DC explained above that MotoGP will not visit the USA, as the race at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin was cancelled. Also, Germany’s most prestigious supercross event in Dortmund was also canceled, and the FIM Motocross of European Nations was canceled, though the actual Motocross of Nations has moved to Great Britain (and fans are allowed to attend). And now the second most important supercross race in Europe, the Geneva Supercross, held annually in Switzerland, was just called off. The race was to be held on December 4–5 and would have been the 35th Geneva Supercross, having started back in 1987. The illustrious Swiss race was ruled by American supercross racers, who won 24 editions of the 34. The most successful American rider was Justin Brayton, who was crowned the King of Geneva six times. Europe’s most important supercross event, the Bercy Supercross, held in Paris, is still on the schedule for November 14-15.
THE september 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The September 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 September issue of Racer X magazine
Monster Energy AMA Supercross packs up and moves to Salt Lake City for a successful, extended stay. What did we learn from our month in SLC? Then we dive into the history of racing at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum—the birthplace of what we now know as supercross.
These features and much more in the September issue of Racer X.
During the sport’s seven-race Salt Lake City residency, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac finally locked down his first Monster Energy AMA Supercross 450SX Championship.
HEY, WATCH IT!
Highlights from the Washougal LL qualifier:
The TLD MyLine Mash-Up with Cole Seely:
On the Racer X Podcast this week, host Steve Matthes called up Moto Tassinari’s Steve Tassinari to talk about inventing the V-Force reed block, his work at Factory Suzuki, Ski-Doo stuff, business these days, and much 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.
“Sources: Chiefs, Patrick Mahomes agree to 10-year, $450 million extension”—ESPN
Yes, you read that correctly.
"A liquor store employee scooped everyone on Patrick Mahomes’ extension with Chiefs"—The Kansas City Star
Read more here: www.kansascity.com
“You and 19 of your friends can rent a movie theater for $50”—WPXI News
“Brooks Brothers, Hurt by Casual Fridays and Coronavirus, Files for Bankruptcy”—Wall Street Journal
A really good for another off-weekend from pro motocross is the story of Jim West, the journeyman California rider who became the first AMA Pro Motocross racer killed while racing. Kent Taylor wrote about West's life and passing at the 1975 Saddleback Trans-AMA in Southern California, his last race with Maico before joining Team Suzuki. If you've not see this yet, it's a great read.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #28.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!