Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from a very busy office in Morgantown, West Virginia. In the back of the building my mom has set up a little assembly line with many of her grandchildren, putting together camping packets for the amateur riders and their families who are starting the trek to Loretta Lynn Ranch next week. (Actually, there are a few campers already there, and the race doesn’t start until August 3!) MX Sports’ Tim Cotter, the event director, just finished a live Facebook Live stream update on all of the COVID-19–related safety practices and protocols that will be going into place for the protection of not only the visitors but also the local community.
And over on the other side of the building, MX Sports Pro Racing is working on similar plans for the August 15 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship opener, which will also be at Loretta Lynn’s—the supplemental rules for the paddock and race teams will be released later this evening. And here on the Racer X side of this old Ethan Allen Furniture building, we just finished putting the last touches on the new issue and sending it off to the printer today, as well as the Loretta Lynn’s MX program. And my son, Vance, and I are heading down early next week to join the ranch crew that’s already down there working.
After months of inaction (at least in regards to Pro Motocross), it’s nice to have something to aim for. The 2020 schedule has been truly fluid, just like the ebbs and flows of this whole virus, and not just for motocross here but racing all over the world. MXGP will resume on August 9 in Latvia, one day after the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Championships end, and then will follow with races on August 12 (Wednesday) and August 16 (Sunday), one day after the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship opener. That makes the weeks of August 4 (first day of live streaming on RacerTV.com from Loretta Lynn’s) and August 16 (third Latvian MXGP) the most event-packed 12 days in global motocross history!
So we’re on full sprint mode getting ready to drop some starting gates (green for the amateur race and blue for the very first Loretta Lynn’s Pro Motocross National). And how strange is it to think that the first-year rookies—including Jett Lawrence, Jalek Swoll, and Jo Shimoda—will have more recent experience at Loretta Lynn’s than all of the veterans combined? And Jett’s brother Hunter will be one of the riders with the least experience—he’s never been there to race, nor has Dylan Ferrandis nor Marvin Musquin in the 450 class. But even Ken Roczen has come and raced at Loretta Lynn’s, back in 2008 in a couple of 250 B classes with help from Cernic’s Racing and Suzuki. Just some bench-racing ammo to ponder as we get ready to go back to the races!
And if you’re a professional racer who will be heading to the third-round Ironman and then on to RedBud for the doubleheader, the Ironman track is going to allow race teams to stay there after the race for two or three days and also host a private practice on Tuesday open to AMA Pro–licensed riders who are racing at RedBud, on the Ironman National track. We will have more on that as the event gets closer.
And here’s something that just changed: the RedBud Nationals will now be on Friday, September 4, and Monday, September 7, which is Labor Day, and not on Saturday (9/5) and Tuesday (9/8) as previously planned. The change had to do with TV scheduling over on the NBC network, as many sports are coming back online, albeit in the new normal of empty baseball stadiums and bubbles like the basketball one in Orlando.
Let me wrap up with a sobering reminder that we still have this pesky coronavirus to worry about. It is everyone’s hope that it won’t disrupt the races once we get started, and that everyone who comes out to the races will have a safe and pleasant experience while also practicing social distancing as best they can, wearing masks when they aren’t actually on their race bikes, and just being respectful of all of the local rules, regulations, restrictions, and suggestions that promoters and health officials are working on together. It’s definitely going to be a very different experience for us all, but it’s also a chance to get back to that place we all love: the racetrack.
Tickle Testing (Jason Weigandt)
With Aaron Plessinger out with a wrist injury, Monster Energy Yamaha needs a replacement rider on a factory 450, and Broc Tickle has been spotted testing it out in California. (News flash: He’s now signed to the Monster Energy Yamaha factory team, as of late this afternoon.) Tickle rode for JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki in supercross (as a replacement rider with Joey Savatgy and Freddie Noren out) but the team planned to keep supporting Tickle in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, even with Savatgy and Noren back. I talked to JGR team manager Jeremy Albrecht this week and he told me he encouraged Tickle to at least try the Yamaha ride when the opportunity came available. Since Tickle was still a replacement rider for JGR, and the third 450 guy on the team, he’s not making much money, and Albrecht told him, honestly, the goal of a professional should be to make money. So, if Broc liked the Yamaha bike and offer, JGR told him he can take it. It would be tough for JGR to fit three 450s under the tent, anyway, but if Tickle didn’t want to take the Yamaha ride, JGR will continue to support him. But this afternoon, Tickle to Monster Energy Yamaha became official.
Now for something completely different. I’m in California today to announce the first-ever Gas Gas California Trials Invitational. Gas Gas, famous in trials circles, is now under the KTM umbrella, and KTM wants to help push the sport of trials forward in the U.S. So they had Gas Gas team manager (and trials legend) Geoff Aaron build a small trials course in the back of the supercross test track next door to the KTM and Husqvarna offices (the riding facility is called RD Field, for Roger De Coster). Then they invited the top 10 U.S. men’s trials riders and the top three U.S. women’s trials riders to compete on the course today. I got to check out the course yesterday and it looks unreal!
I will admit I have very little trials knowledge. I literally couldn’t even figure out where the riders were supposed to go. Eight-foot high rocks? Yup, part of the course. Jumping from a six-inch rock to a six-foot ledge? Part of the course. This will be fun. Plus I’ve got Phil “Smagical” Smage to help with the announcing today, and a film crew is here to shoot it. Look for a posting on YouTube in a few days so you can check out the event. The real goal is to get U.S. off-road and motocross media out here to see trials and spread the word. The sport really needs a boost, because Smage says the entire NATC season has now been cancelled due to COVID-19. This could be the only chance in the U.S. for trials riders to show their stuff this year. That’s a bummer. Also, it’s cool that Gas Gas invited all the top riders even though not all of them ride Gas Gas motorcycles. They might host an event won by a Sherco, a Beta or a Scorpa, for example.
Looks like the KTM Group’s plan for Gas Gas in America is starting to come into focus. However, the bigger question is, what about a motocross and supercross effort? I’m hearing there are talks to try to bring an existing team under the Gas Gas brand, but COVID-19 has messed up so many budgets and schedules this year that it could end up delaying everything until 2021.
As Weege stated above, all signs pointed to Broc Tickle getting the fill-in spot at Monster Yamaha for Aaron Plessinger this summer in the nationals. I speculated on Twitter that it was a bit odd for Tick to go from one factory team to another for the summer, but after that I was filled in on Tickle's fill-in deal at JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki. Moving to Yamaha, while not financially great as a fill-in, will certainly be better for Broc than what he had at JGR, where he was paying some of his mechanic's expenses and his own expenses as well. I find this hard to believe but checked with a couple of people, and yep, Tick's fill-in ride was really just a bike, parts, and technical help over there. So Tick will definitely find the Yamaha ride a step up in these ways. We've seen in the past not every top pro guy gels with the Yamaha, so let's hope he can get up to speed right away and be better than he was on the very familiar Suzuki he had been riding. And it’s worth noting that Broc has ridden Yamaha before, riding for Star Racing a decade ago and even winning the 2010 Seattle 250 Supercross for them.
I thought one of the guys Yamaha would grab would be Benny Bloss, who was informed that his team, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS, would not be keeping him on for the summer like he had thought. The injured Justin Bogle is coming back to race, and I'm sure the team was hoping to keep three, but they couldn't make it work, so Benji is out of a ride. Yamaha would've been perfect for him—he’s shown more outdoors than in—but nope, Tickle it is. Maybe Bloss leaving the Rock River Yamaha team, a Yamaha-supported effort, in midseason to go be Bogle's fill-in weighed on the decision, I'm not sure. Hey, Benny, if Bogle gets hurt, maybe you can go fill in for him AGAIN, and then you and Justin can complete the full circle of filling in for each other the last two years….
Sounds like Bloss will be on a privateer Husqvarna effort out of a van with Maxima and some other key guys helping him out. Keep an eye on Bloss in the MX series—and I'm not just saying that because his dad, Jeff, bought me Ruth’s Chris one night in SLC.
For a while now we've heard that Yamaha's 450 effort might go over to Star Racing, and although that's always just been a rumor, perhaps it's more than that with the news that factory Yamaha has let longtime team manager Jimmy Perry and motor guy “Dyno” Dan Rambert go this past week. Both guys had been there a long time—Perry started with me there in 2003! Maybe it was just a COVID-19 deal with these guys, but to me, there might be more here that will impact 2021 and who will run that team. Stay tuned, and I hope for the best for Jimmy and Dyno, two good dudes in the pits.
PRO PERSPECTIVE (Thomas)
Three weeks from tomorrow, riders will face their first Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship test of 2020. Making things even tougher, the first round will be held at the hot, humid Loretta Lynn Ranch in central Tennessee. This is a pretty big curveball (nod to Dr. Fauci's first pitch, or whatever that was), as the first round at Hangtown is usually somewhat mild—not to mention in May. In fact, the first few rounds of Hangtown, Thunder Valley, and High Point all had the likelihood of reasonable temperatures. Those mild opening rounds allowed riders to ramp up their fitness and acclimation as summer hit its stride. This year's schedule will have a much more difficult first salvo.
To prepare, riders are putting in the hard days. Whether in central Florida, southern Georgia, southern California, or somewhere in between, every day consists of running, bicycling, and hot summer motos. With three weeks left to prepare, it's crunch time. The results are being created now. Every extra sprint, every step forward with bike settings, and every extra percent of base fitness will make the difference when the gate drops on August 15. There is no way to fake preparation for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Hard work is the sole answer, which also provides a calming aspect. Monster Energy AMA Supercross seems to have a much higher factor of chance, crashes, and shorter races weighing heavily. Motocross seems to draw more of a direct correlation between relentless work ethic and good results. The races are longer and the conditions are more taxing, lowering the luck factor and emphasizing fitness and toughness.
This more transparent equation may sound easier to solve, but only while sitting on the couch. The amount of energy and resolve that it takes to continue day after day in the blazing heat and relentless humidity can't be overstated. It's too much for most to maintain. That's where the difference will become visible at the series' most challenging rounds. Most of the riders capable of scoring points are fit. That's an obvious prerequisite. When the temps soar and the most repeated word at Saturday morning's riders' meeting is hydration, that's when we’ll see who's put the work in and who missed the mark. This 2020 season will provide a unique early snapshot into that fitness level. The gradual climb into difficulty conditions of yesteryear will be replaced by a serious wake-up call at round one. There is a saying in moto that you either suffer now or you suffer later. My advice is to take advantage of today and suffer now. Suffering on race day is a feeling I can remember well, and it’s immediately met with a feeling of regret for not working harder when there was still time. So if you're signed up for Loretta Lynn's on August 15 and think you're ready, think again. There is no such thing as being overprepared.
Dirk Geukens, R.I.P. (Andras Hegyi)
Sadly, the motocross world lost one of its nineties' legends this week. Belgium's Dirk Geukens, one of that era's most successful privateer riders of the 500cc FIM Motocross World Championships, passed away after suffering a heart attack. He was 57 years old. Geukens rode in the world championships for 13 seasons between 1984 and 1996. He raced the 250cc series between 1984 and '86 but never managed to reach the podium. Then, in 1987, he moved up to the 500cc class, where he found much more success. Geukens raced in an extremely competitive era, with peers like the five-time world champions Eric Geboers and Joel Smets, three-time world champ David Thorpe, two-time world champion Hakan Carlqvist, and more. Geukens’ best years were 1990 and '91, when he finished third both years in the 500cc overall points. He collected two GP wins and eight podium results, all while riding aboard Kawasaki, KTM, Husaberg, and Honda motorcycles.
It was in 1990 and '91 that Geukens became known to Americans for his battles with Team USA's Jeff Stanton at the Motocross des Nations. Riding for his native Belgium, Geukens found himself in intense duels with Stanton, especially in the third and final moto of the 1990 race. Stanton made an all-or-nothing block pass on Geukens on the last lap, with Geukens crashing and Stanton pushing Team USA to the top by a single point.
After his retirement from professional racing in 1996, Geukens remained very active. He took part in some local motocross events, and since 2013 he was a member of Motorsport Futures program that has supported young Belgian talent. Geukens’ best-known pupil was Jago Geerts, who was third in the MX2 points standing in 2019, and then was able to get also a GP win back in the spring before the global shutdown. When MXGP restarts again in August, Geerts will continue his quest to become Belgium's first FIM Motocross World Motocross Champion since 2007, when Steve Ramon won the MX1 world title. He will no doubt be motivated by the memory of the late Dirk Geukens.
Virtual Run (DC)
With the coronavirus making it impossible to have a normal event, Ryan Dungey's ninth Annual St. Jude Ride/Run found a creative way to still raise money for St. Jude's by going virtual, inviting participants to log their miles on their own and then post them. Ryan himself explained how and why on Instagram on the eve of last Sunday's event:
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Tomorrow morning is the 9th annual @stjuderiderunmn. When I reflect back at the last year, I was excited for this year after coming off a record setting year with last years event. There was a different plan for us all this year. And even though we are in the middle of pandemic, cancer has not stopped, and that was our focus with having a virtual event. It has been fun to see everyone online and on social media, riding, running and raising money for the kids of @stjude. All of our participants and donors help ensure that families never receive a bill when treated at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. I have been inspired by all the efforts and I can’t wait to see more tomorrow. I will miss seeing you all in person but know that I’ll be riding with you in the morning and then walking with @lindsay_dungey and Harper in the afternoon. Be sure to tune in to the @stjuderiderunmn page as I will be LIVE tomorrow with them and maybe I’ll get the chance to chat with a few of you. There is still time to join us and make your impact in the fight against childhood cancer. Link is in my bio. Riders, runners, walkers and donors- Thank you for making this year a memorable one, enjoy your day tomorrow! 🚴🏼♂️🏃 #stjuderiderunmn
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This weekend we saw so many fun ways to log miles. Our event became more than just a Ride and 5k Run. We saw motos, rollerblades, swimming laps, scooters and more. How did you log your miles this weekend? Let us know 👇. . Also, can we go back to Sunday again? 😝🎉 . 📸: @sarahbehrensphoto #stjuderiderunmn
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THANK YOU! It can not be said enough times but thank you, yesterday was magical! Each year we are left humbled and inspired by the St. Jude Ride and 5k Run community. There is a uniqueness in why our event title includes "friends". While back when the event started the tradition started with Ryan including his friends from the SX/MX industry but over time the event has transformed into a community of friends. Participants, sponsors and donors come together as a community each year have become friend. We look forward each year to this sunny warm day when we get to catch up and celebrate. Thank you for the hope you provide St. Jude Children's Research Hospital doctors, nurses, families and children. Thank you for being a friend. Thank you for making a difference! . #mnvolunteers #mnevents #mncycling #mnrun #runmn #5kruns #cycle #ridemn #cycling #stjude #stjuderiderunmn #giveback #forthekids #dannythomas #chartiableevents #bikemn #generousgiving #togethernothingisimpossible #MNforStJude #together #minnesota
2021 Kawasaki KX450 (Keefer)
I had the chance to test Kawasaki's updated KX450, and even though there aren’t as many changes to the 2021 KX450 as the 2021 KX250, it still interested me how a simple clutch update can change the engine's power character. Check out the video right here, and stay tuned to RacerXOnline.com and the Racer X YouTube page for more 2021 model tests and videos coming soon.
988 Scholarship to the Ranch (DC)
Our friend Jason "Wheels" Todd came up with a cool program to help some family out this summer, inviting young athletes going to Loretta Lynn's for the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships to write about their racing program, how they were doing in school, and maybe some references from some of their peers. Wheels would then choose one deserving family and support their trip to the big race with $500. He called the whole program #WheelsOnTheGo.
Posted Wheels on Facebook as he announced the winner:
The whole idea behind this scholarship idea was to give back to the local motocross community that I grew up with as a kid, who supported me during my journey to become a professional in the industry—on the behind the scenes side of the sport—and who continue to support me today.
Congratulations to Cole Betts on being selected as the winner of the first ever 988 Scholarship! In an intriguing way, it’s a bit fitting that Cole was chosen as the winner for this scholarship in its very first year, because this is also his first time qualifying for Loretta Lynn’s. Betts will head to
Loretta Lynn MX this August to line up on the gate as one of the nation’s 42 fastest 65 (7-9) Class racers! Cole and his family sent in an excellent letter, met all of the educational requirements, and garnered positive words from their peers. As a result of being selected, the Betts family will receive a donation of $500 to go toward some of the expenses of competing at the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s.
I’d like to issue a big thank you to an anonymous individual for a generous donation, as well as SicWicks candles—and anyone who bought a Wheels edition candle—for insisting on helping me with this project, and sticking with me during the Covid-19 debacle. Thank you as well to anyone who shared the posts, liked them, and supported this idea in any way. I look forward to seeing more entries in 2021 as I plan to keep this going on a regular basis—as possible.
Lastly, an additional donation will also be made to the Road 2 Recovery Foundation, as they continue to work diligently to support injured action sports athletes in times of need. Thank you to those who applied, and to those who continue to support this #WheelsOnTheGo journey.
See you at the races,
We just wanted to add a “well done, Wheels!” here and tell him we all look forward to seeing him at the Ranch as well.
A Note from Unadilla (DC)
We received this letter from Jill and Greg Robinson which was sent to their loyal fans about the lack of a Unadilla National on the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship schedule:
TO OUR LOYAL UNADILLA FANS HERE IN THE USA AND AROUND THE WORLD.
Last week, we informed our advance sale ticket and VIP package buyers that the 2020 Unadilla Pro MX National would not be held this year due to the COVID 19 pandemic.
As of right now, there are 31 states whose residents are banned from traveling to NY without self-quarantining for 14 days in NY prior to being allowed to enter any public domains. This would mean that most of the PRO MX TEAMS would have to arrive three weeks in advance in order to participate in our national. This simply is not possible.
The situation in NY is not stable, and certainly does not lend itself to planning an event of this magnitude far enough in advance to allow it to be successful. It takes us at least 8 weeks to plan all the details of this event, get the proper permits, and get the various entities involved in this event adequate planning time. It also does not allow MX Sports to produce a legitimate schedule which is needed for the pro teams. They need to have a realistic schedule far enough in advance to allow for travel planning.
Since March, we have had regular meetings with MX Sports regarding both the Lucas Oil MX National Series and our individual round of the national series. Over the last several weeks, the environment in NY changed, and subsequently, in discussion with MX Sports, we agreed that there was no way to hold a national level event at Unadilla. This was not a unilateral decision made by MX Sports, again, we both did everything possible to try to figure out a way to make this event happen.
This is a devastating blow to our business, a devastating blow to our community, and a devastating blow to our region. This event brings in 20+ million dollars of direct economic benefit within 70 miles of our facility, and we directly involve over a half dozen civic organizations in this event. These organizations receive either all or an exceptionally large portion of their operational funding from this event. Several of these organizations use all that funding to provide a large portion of the funding for local food banks, holiday meal programs for the less fortunate, and Christmas gift programs for less fortunate families with young children. The ripples from the cancellation of this event will run deep into our area.
This will be the first time in 50 years that Unadilla will not hold a Pro Motocross event. We cannot put into words how disappointed we are that we have been forced to make this decision, but again, it is in the best interest of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross National series, and the Unadilla Valley Sports Center, both of whom support this decision fully.
Again we want to express our thanks to the Unadilla fans around the world for their support over the last 51 years, and we look forward to 2021 and the return to some normalcy… hopefully!
Spotted this post on VitalMX from Gosselaar Motorsports in Idaho:
If you have ever wanted a bike built by the Mechanic with the most wins under his belt, in MX and SX history, then here is your chance! Mike Gosselaar, AKA Goose, now runs a motorcycle shop (Gosselaar PowerSports) out of Grangeville, Idaho, where you can send in your engines or complete bikes, and he will build them up to be race-ready. Mike is a 10-time motocross championship-winning mechanic for riders such as Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed. Mike is a graduate of Motorcycle Mechanics Institute (MMI) and has more than 30 years of experience as a technician in various industries.
THE september 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
And here is a more recent look at Cooper Webb, now a multi-time AMA Supercross and 250 SX/Pro Motocross Champion, from Bell Helmets:
2020 Loretta Lynn Hype video:
And the Kenda Full Gas Spring Enduro went off last weekend with their second round—after 160 days off due to coronavirus—with a test on an abandoned golf course called Hidden Valley in Glen Dale, West Virginia.
LISTEN TO THIS
With the MX Tour of the Canadian Rockstar Energy Triple Crown Series kicking off this weekend, I call up Ryan “The Newf” Lockhart and Ryan Gauld to talk about what we’re going to see up there, the changes in the series, we predict the titles, and bench race about the Great White North.
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.
“Maine man saws neighbor’s garage in half amid boundary dispute”—Bangor Daily News
“Hostage siege ends in Ukraine after President agrees to recommend 2005 Joaquin Phoenix film”—CNN.com
“First chicken to ever cross the road was likely in Southeast Asia, scientists say”—CNN.com
Thanks for reading Racerhead. Wear those masks, wash those hands, see you at the races!