If you’re a motocross enthusiast of any stripe at all, the first two weeks of August are looking really good right now—finally. After days and weeks and months of bad news, cancellations, postponements—and then a wonderful three-week blast of sunshine in the form of the Salt Lake City Supercross run—and then more days and weeks of waiting and waiting, people will be heading back to the starting gates in August. It will begin the first week of August with the 39th Annual AMA/Monster Energy Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn Ranch, followed seven days later by the long-overdue start of 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, also at the ranch. And if that’s not enough, on Sunday, August 9, our friends over in Europe will finally get back to racing, too, as MXGP begins a three-races-in-one-week run at Kegums in Latvia. And then both Pro Motocross in America and MXGP in Europe will try to sprint through the rest of their series, nine races in all in the U.S., ending on October 10 at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, and 16 races in Europe, with an eye on ending possibly in Russia or Portugal. It’s all great news for motocross fans (and racers and teams), who have been sidelined since March. Come August, it’s going to be awesome to see racing all over the planet.
Of course it could also change in a moment’s notice at the whimsy of this terribly complicated health crisis that we’re all in. The coronavirus is not a fan of anything but spreading from one person to the next, one state to the next, one country to the next—all of which does involve motocross racers, as traveling is a fact of life and moto. And no one can hold races in places that have restrictions on mass gatherings like sporting events. Let’s hope things start getting better and stay better.
As I’ve said before, back in March when this all started, everyone at MX Sports Pro Racing immediately went to work on trying to come up with some kind of plan that would help us get our series started. On a parallel track were the folks at Feld Entertainment, as the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship was stopped in its tracks. We all worked together on ways to make both series somehow happen, all the while waiting for the virus to run its course. With endless Zoom meetings, conference calls, and calendar scenarios, time and again we would come up with a potential opportunity, only to see the window shut.
A window did finally open in May for the SX championship to get in the seven races left on their calendar in Salt Lake City, only to have to postpone again. Finally, on May 31, they got their shot. With lots and lots of safety protocols in place, restrictions in regards to fans attending and even people congregating anywhere together, and everyone agreeing to racing every three or four days, they made it work. Supercross 2020 got to its rightful finish, and Eli Tomac is your new champion.
Unfortunately, before anyone could turn their attention to outdoor motocross, which had pushed back first from May 16, then June 20, then July 18, the virus started wreaking havoc again. Our hopes for a traditional 12-race series had long ago been dashed, so we began working with the teams, the OEMs, the sponsors, and NBC on other scenarios. Some states had such restrictions that it was going to be impossible to hold a race—when NASCAR gave up on the idea of racing at Watkins Glen in New York, that was pretty much it for Unadilla in 2020—and others were just fine with it, like Tennessee, which just hosted the biggest sporting event in the U.S., NASCAR’s All-Star Race, in front of 25,000 fans.
Throughout summer we were able to keep the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series going because it’s an outdoor recreational sport on a huge tract of land, not a stadium setting with grandstand viewing. That’s also how amateur motocross rolls, and as a result, kids and amateurs and vets have been up and running all summer, and with some HUGE crowds—Scott Plessinger’s Chillitown Classic last weekend had 1,183 entries, a record for an amateur motocross race in Ohio. And while almost all of the Area qualifiers for Loretta Lynn’s were postponed and then ultimately canceled, we were able to get in a full set of 15 “Super Regionals” around the country, thanks in large part to the very hard and dedicated work of event director Tim Cotter and some great promoters around the country.
But the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship was still an uncertainty. As things changed seemingly day by day and the calendar kept getting deeper and deeper into summer, options were disappearing. The Hangtown Motocross Classic, located near the California state capital, knew back in the spring that they would not be able to hold a big race. And with Connecticut, like New York, requiring two-week quarantines for those visiting from high-risk areas like the Southwest, it made going to the Wick 338 in Massachusetts impossible because practically every team flies into Bradley International Airport in Connecticut and stays in Hartford. And the severe limitations in Maryland on the size of gathered crowds meant that Budds Creek couldn’t go, even if they tried to race without any fans. That meant that four beloved events—Hangtown, Unadilla, Southwick, and Budds Creek—were out for 2020. Also out was the 125 All-Star races, as we decided to limit the amount of people in the professional pits in hopes of keeping the racers and their teams and mechanics and loved ones safely separated by social distancing. And then we ordered a ton of masks.
At the same time, we committed to the teams that we would give them a 30-day heads-up on whatever we decided, and if we were going to start on August 15 in order to end in early October, we needed to announce something this week. So my big sister, Carrie Russell, who has honestly been our captain in trying to navigate this Pro Motocross ship through the complicated, turbulent summer; and Tim Cotter and his brother Britt, a crisis management expert in another industry; our big toe Roy Janson; and then John Ayers, who works directly with every promoter; and myself came up with the best schedule we could. It included a surprising start at Loretta Lynn’s, followed by eight races at seven highly regarded national tracks. Along with the four traditional rounds already out, not making the cut was our own track, High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania. We will hold that track in reserve, in case Pennsylvania’s restrictions change and another track can’t go. Then we ran it by the OEMs, the teams, some privateers, sponsors, and industry friends. It’s not perfect for anyone, but it’s a nine-race series on some excellent tracks, some of which right now can have open spectating, others that can go with amateur racers on hand, others 50 percent capacity. Here’s what we came up with.
From the start of all of this, it has been our intention to hold a safe, competitive, and entertaining 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, and despite all of the obstacles that have been thrown up before us, I feel like this is a very good schedule. The driving pattern is not ideal, but it never is when you have to go to three of the four corners of the United States. All of the races will be on TV, and they will all pay the full purse, including the first-ever Tuesday afternoon AMA National at RedBud (RedBud National II) on September 8. As for those five tracks not on the schedule—Hangtown, Budds Creek, Unadilla, Southwick and High Point—they will all be back in 2021.
So now we get ready to go racing. We plan to keep everyone as safe as possible. We are getting great input from friends like Dave Prater and Todd Jendro of Feld Entertainment, as they successfully held seven supercross races in Utah with a lot of planning and safety protocols. We will also keep our fingers crossed that this virus finds itself elsewhere, like outer space. Thank you to the riders, the teams, the sponsors and especially the fans for being patient with us while we tried to find a smart, safe window. We hope we have, and I hope we see you at the races again soon.
Now, this week in your sport.
QUICK TRIP (matthes)
Drove down to SoCal yesterday and went to Glen Helen Raceway with Kris Keefer to do a couple of things that were interesting. One, the Yamaha raffle winner from the LCQ Challenge is a SoCal local, so I worked with the guys at Yamaha to present Justin Lamb his brand-new 2020 Yamaha YZ450F. Justin bought four tickets the day of the draw, so he’s apparently a lucky man. Also on hand was some guy named Ryan Villopoto, who was there to congratulate Justin as he got the new bike, riding gear from FXR, and a bunch of parts—and then he went out and rode GH a few laps! How cool is that? The last dirt bike he owned was back in 2014, as he rides a KTM Adventure now. Justin got the full experience of hanging out with all of us for the day, listening to RV and I debate politics, riding with us, bench-racing, and everything. I think it was a good day for him. Thanks to Yamaha, RV, and everyone who bought tickets, we raised over $50,000 for five privateers.
Another reason I went down was the folks at GEICO Honda reached out to Keefer and I when it didn’t work out with another team on testing a race bike with an offer that we could ride one of their bikes. Very cool of the GEICO Honda guys, so Keefer and I got to do laps on the test bikes of Carson Mumford and Jo Shimoda, which were basically race bikes. It was pretty cool do that, even though the last 250F I rode was Larry Ward's 2002 YZ! I'll break some news here: this bike was better than that. We did a video and podcast, and Keefer's going to do a story about all of this soon, so I won't go into details here, but thanks to GEICO Honda. VERY cool day.
Also at Glen Helen, I spoke with Mitch Payton for a bit and he confirmed that he's got Mitchell Harrison and Darian Sanayei on the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team for this summer as injury replacements for, well, Jordon Smith or Austin Forkner (who won't be out all summer) and/or Garrett Marchbanks. Harrison just a had a ride at Bud Racing Kawasaki fall through with this pandemic, so it's good to see he's got a spot to ride. I saw Harrison doing a lot of laps out there and he looked pretty good.
Here’s what the press release said about Harrison parting ways with BUD Racing in Europe:
“Following the restrictions to travel between Europe and USA, Team BUD Racing Kawasaki and Mitchell Harrison will not be able to continue the end of the MX2 GP season together. Mitchell who lives in California can’t come back in Europe due to Covid19 and regulations between Europe and USA. Both parties agreed to parts ways, so everybody can try to find solution to finish the season in best condition. BUD Racing Kawasaki will announce soon a replacement rider to finish the season in Europe together with Pierre Goupillon & Quentin Prugnieres. We wish Mitchell the best to find a ride in USA to finish the season also.”
The good news is that both Mitchell and Darian, who used to ride for Bud Racing in MX2 in Europe, both ended up with good rides this summer.
Team GEICO Honda Test (Keefer)
As he said, Matthes and I had the pleasure of hitting Glen Helen Raceway yesterday to meet up with Team GEICO Honda. Team manager Josh Wisenor was on hand to oversee the test, as well as a whole host of mechanics and staff. What was different about this factory bike test was that they let us ride the bikes as long as we wanted, just to get a good feel for each machine. Usually when I do these types of tests the team only gives me an allotment of time so their engines don’t time out. These GEICO Honda race bikes were new enough that time wasn't an issue for us, which was insanely cool. Matthes got the full rough-as-hell GH experience, as he had to do photos, test, give feedback—he even woke up a little sore this morning as he walked out of the bedroom. AWESOME! Thanks to everyone at GEICO Honda for giving us free rein on their bikes as well as being friendly dudes to be around. Look for the test soon up on PulpMX.com. No, this WILL NOT be another Pro Circuit shop-cleaning video fiasco. Kyle Cowling has the video handled.
Osborne’s Off-Road Adventure (DC)
Last Sunday I went to nearby High Voltage above Morgantown to watch Zach Osborne as the multi-time 250 SX/MX Champion came out to race for the first time since winning the last SLC 450SX race. Zach was in great spirits and more than ready to get out there and battle with the GNCC elite. Unfortunately, he was toast as soon as he stalled off the start, then faced a wall (literally) of dust that had him way behind before he even reached the woods. Check out the video I shot of his start—you will see him stall, and then also the wall of dust that follows:
Here’s how Zach summed up his day on Instagram:
View this post on Instagram
What a day! I knew the start would be key which sounds strange in a 3 hour long race, but with the dust and my lack of experience to set my own pace I knew I needed someone to sort of pace me into it. The dust was insane, I fell about 7 times, and I didn’t have the result I wanted or feel I’m capable of but it beat the heck out of sitting at home. The @rockstarhusky boys were so awesome and such a fun group and those @gncc_racing fans were unreal! Never been cheered on so much in 20th place in my life😂😂. I love doing these races and I will be back for some redemption at some point. 📸 @shanyphoto
Now that there’s a schedule. He’s back down at Baker’s Factory, grinding and getting ready for a run at Eli Tomac and friends in Lucas Oil 450 Pro Motocross, where we can guarantee he won’t see even a fraction of dust like that.
30 Absences (Andras Hegyi)
The global coronavirus pandemic continues taking its toll on motocross. The FIM Sidecar Motocross World Championship, the FIM Junior Motocross World Championship (where Eli Tomac, Ryan Villopoto, and Zach Osborne were all past champions), the FIM Motocross of European Nations, and the Geneva Supercross were all cancelled. And for the first time ever in the history of the world championships, France cannot host any world championship-level events. (Between 1957 and 2019 France has hosted Grand Prix rounds, while the Motocross of Nations, originally scheduled for France, had to be moved to Great Britain.) And while there was good news in the U.S. with the announcement of an abbreviated 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross schedule, there was also the announcement on Wednesday that Team USA would not be participating in the 2020 MXoN).
This year will be the 74th Motocross of Nations, and it will be held at Matterley Basin, England on September 26 and 27. That's now the date of the Florida National at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Florida.
Team USA is the most successful national motocross team ever, having earned 22 victories; their first appearance wasn't until 1971. Counting those first 25 years, when motocross was hardly known in America, Team USA's absence in 2020 means it'll be the 30th time that the race will go off without them. This will be the first time since 2004 that Team USA will be absent.
Between 1947 and 1970, Team USA did not participate in what was then called the Motocross des Nations. Team USA debuted there in 1971. However, there was a three-man, all-Husqvarna Team USA at the 1970 Trophee des Nations, which used to be the 250cc version of the MXoN. Mark Blackwell, Dick Robbins, and the late Bob Grossi ended up finishing last in a muddy race in Sweden. The next year, Team USA was represented by Bryan Kenney, Barry Higgins, John Barclay, Sonny DeFeo, and Gunnar Lindström, and that American quintet finished tenth at the race in Vannes, France.
Throughout most of the seventies, Team USA competed in the MXdN, with a best finish of second in Sweden in 1974—quite the difference from just four years earlier. But both in 1979 and 1980, Team USA missed the event due to indifference of many of the top riders, as well as the proliferation of supercross races in the States. In 1981, a group of industry friends led by Bel-Ray's JJ Hanfield, Hi-Point Racing's Larry Maiers, JT Racing's John and Rita Gregory, and Motocross Action's Dick Miller took it upon themselves to get Team USA back in the race. They reached out to Team Honda's Roger De Coster, the winningest rider in the event's history as the Belgian team leader, and they fielded the team of Donnie Hansen, Danny Laporte, Johnny O'Mara, and Chuck Sun. They won both the Motocross and Trophee des Nations and sparked renewed interest in the event.
From 1981 through 2000, Team USA never missed the Motocross des Nations, at one point winning 13 straight times.
But in 2001, Team USA withdrew due to the September 11 terrorist attacks. One year later, the race was to be held in the U.S. at a new track called Competition Park, which was to be built on the Soboba Indian Reservation. It never happened; the race was canceled and moved to Spain. Team USA did not attend the backup race.
Which brings us to 2020 and the global pandemic, travel restrictions, postponed races in both the U.S. and Europe, and just, well, you know. Hopefully, this will all be behind us in 2021 and Team USA will return to the Motocross of Nations and try to win for the first time since 2011.
Evel Renthal (DC)
Spotted this on my longtime moto friend Shawn Norfolk’s Facebook page from back in the day when he was working on some Tag Metals ad campaign ideas.
“I just grabbed an old Evel Knievel ‘Loaded’ magazine from 1999 that my friend Davey Coombs gave me back in the day. I opened up the magazine and, SURPRISE- I found some Knievel-based ad- comps that I made (that we never ended up using) that feature Ryan Dungey and Kevin Windham (in his mustache days). These are printouts that I had saved. I made these in 2009. Man I used to have a lot of fun coming up with these whacky ideas and goofy copy!”
The Vault (DC)
With some downtime since the end of Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the beginning of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, I found myself doing some deep dives into The Vault, our comprehensive collection of SX/MX results going back to 1972. I was working on a couple of historical articles, like the first of this or the last of that, but I kept going down these rabbit holes of information where one little nugget of information leads to another and then another, and on and on and on.... For instance, while checking on results for Steve Wise in 1976, when he started the 125 nationals on a factory Kawasaki but then switched after one round to an FMF-sponsored Honda, I realized that we had a mistake: Wise finished third overall at the '76 RedBud 125 National on red, not green.
We will be correcting it here soon, but would that change Kawasaki's history in the 125 class? Surely this was Kawasaki's first podium in the 125 class, right?
Back into The Vault I went and discovered that the first 125 podium ever for Kawasaki actually came one year before at the 1975 Hangtown National, one of the all-time mudders. A rider from Belfair, Washington, named Doug Raines finished second to Yamaha factory rider Tim Hart aboard a privateer Kawasaki, with Honda's fledgling superstar Marty Smith third. It was Raines' one and only 125 National appearance in AMA Pro Motocross, and he certainly made it count!
One thing The Vault lacks that we are working on is comprehensive moto finishes from back in the day, so I went to another amazing resource, the CycleNews.com archives, to see how Raines actually fared that day at Hangtown 45 years ago. This was back when the race was in Plymouth, not Rancho Cordova where it is now. In the race report it said that Raines went 2-4 in the motos while Hart, whose chain fell off briefly while he led the first moto, finished 3-1 on the day. For his part, Smith went 5-2. So who won the first 125 moto at Hangtown '75? That's where we get to one of those first-and-last nuggets of trivia that are fun to find. The winner of that muddy first moto was Placerville, California's own Dan Turner, and he was riding a Bultaco. And there it is, the one and only 125 National moto ever won by a Bultaco motorcycle. I had no idea! Turner had problems in the mud in the second moto and ended up tenth overall that day.
Which leads to another trivia gem: Dan Turner is in The Vault with results aboard eight different motorcycles. In order, in his career, he rode Husqvarna, Honda, Bultaco, Yamaha, Suzuki, KTM, Kawasaki, and finally a Maico.
And Dan Turner is not to be confused with Woodside, California's Jim Turner, another fast journeyman. Jim Turner's results show him riding on seven different brands: CZ, Montesa, Bultaco, Yamaha, Suzuki, Husqvarna, and Honda.
Like I said, The Vault and the Cycle News Archives can be real rabbit holes!
And One More Unbreakable Record (DC)
Earlier this week we came up with a few “truly unbreakable” records in motocross—standards that for one reason or another will never be broken because they can’t; the sport has evolved, rules and bikes have changed, old events are gone, classes are structured differently, etc.
I left a big one out, as Racer X reader Michael Pinter pointed out in the comments below the article. In 1982, Danny “Magoo” Chandler became the first man in motocross history to sweep all four motos of the FIM Motocross and Trophee des Nations, while riding for Team USA. Chandler, leading an all-Honda team, had the races of a lifetime, dominating first both Trophee races (for 250cc bikes) at Gaildorf, West Germany, and then doing it again one week later at the Motocross des Nations (500cc) in Wohlen, Switzerland, In both cases he led Team USA to wins. It was a feat that no rider has ever done before in the two races, possible since 1962—the year the Trophee race was added to the Motocross des Nations, which first ran in 1947. And no one matched Magoo in ’83 or ’84, the last years before the two races were combined into one. In other words, the late Danny Chandler’s unique record is truly unbreakable.
THE september 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
HEY, WATCH IT!
Weston Peick announces his new chapter:
Honda's all-new CRF450R, Kawasaki's all-new KX250, Yamaha's revamped YZ250F and refinements for the KTM and Husqvarna range highlight the major motocross bike news for 2021. Jason Weigandt rings up ace testing guru Kris Keefer to get the latest info on the new bikes, and some of the philosophies behind the changes.
LISTEN TO THIS
Malcolm Stewart is a lovable character in the pits, but that likability has shrouded his competitiveness. Malcolm quietly put together a strong 2020 season in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, taking seventh in points and ending the year with a series of top-five results and a heat win. But his Bullfrog Spas/SmarTop/MotoConcepts Honda team doesn't race in the summer. What's he do now? Would he race outdoors if he could? Malcolm is looking for the next level, and he reveals much to Jason Weigandt in this podcast.
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.
“Disney won't give you a picture from your ride if you don't wear a mask”—CNN
Chuck Woolery’s Son Gets “COVID COnnection,” Tests Positive for Virus After Game Show Host Said “Everyone is Lying”—Showbiz411.com
“Tons of Redskins nickname options have been trademarked by a guy in Virginia”—Yahoo Sports
The USGP TEE returns at We Went Fast! Round one sold out in under two weeks, which might have been as big a surprise as Marty Moates' win at the Carlsbad USGP 40 years ago.
The resupply is coming so reserve yours now before they run out again! Shirts will ship the week of July 27. And here's an incentive: all orders (any product) placed between now and July 27 will be entered for a chance at winning one of two $50 MotoSport.com gift cards.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #29.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!