Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you once again from the media tent at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. This is starting to feel like Groundhog Day. But in a good way. We’re back for the second round of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, as the first-ever “doubleheader” for AMA Motocross will go off tomorrow. And we just got an unexpected surprise: NBC called to let us know that because two NHL playoff series wrapped up early last night, it opened the 4 to 6 p.m. (ET) time slot for the Motosport.com Loretta Lynn’s II National motocross tomorrow, so both of the 250 and 450 second motos will air live on NBC. Please make sure you set you TiVo or whatever to watch tomorrow. You can watch the first motos live on MAVTV, or you can watch all four motos live with the NBC Sports Gold package.
- QualifyingAugust 22 - 10:50 AM
- 250 Moto 1August 22 - 2:00 PM
- 250 Moto 1August 22 - 2:00 PM
- 450 Moto 1August 22 - 3:00 PM
- 450 Moto 1August 22 - 3:00 PM
- 250 Moto 2August 22 - 4:00 PM
- 250 Moto 2August 22 - 4:00 PM
- 450 Moto 2August 22 - 5:00 PM
- 450 Moto 2August 22 - 5:00 PM
- 250 Moto 2 (Encore)August 22 - 10:30 PM
- 450 Moto 2 (Encore)August 22 - 11:30 PM
Of course we were supposed to be out at Washougal this weekend, but the COVID-19 situation out there kept changing, as I explained in last week’s Racerhead. There will still be a big amateur event there, but that will be it for motocross racing in Washington for the foreseeable future. According to KHQ6 News out there, Washington governor Inslee's office made updates to the outdoor recreation regarding restrictions to non-spectator motorsports in phase 1 and phase 2 of the plan, going into effect on August 24, which is Monday. The story added, “Under the new rules: Go-Kart tracks, ORV/Motocross facilities and participant-only motorsports spectators, camping, races, and events are not allowed."
So Loretta Lynn’s, after 39 years of being home to just one motocross race a year—the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship—now becomes the first track to ever host back-to-back rounds in the same season. (A dozen years ago, Glen Helen hosted the last round of 2007 and the first round of ’08, so technically they had back-back nationals, too, though they were maybe eight months apart, rather than seven days.) And while the track will be very similar to what the racers saw last weekend, it’s being prepped much differently—it’s raining here right now, but the track crew sealed it in this time, having learned a difficult lesson about the tricky Tennessee weather last time. There was some talk of running it backwards, but the first turn simply doesn’t work out when it runs clockwise, as we found out back in 1996, which I believe was second and the last time it ran backward for the amateurs.
Last Saturday, a lot of folks were downright surprised by how raceable the track was, even for the pros. The wet weather the day before probably added to all the lines that were out there, and the track was a real puzzle for everyone. Ironically, the guy who’d never raced here before—Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis—was the dominant rider in the 250 Class. Also, the top five in the class were the veterans: Ferrandis, RJ Hampshire, Jeremy Martin, Shane McElrath, and Alex Martin.
Today, there is no practice or timed training to speak of, and there’s no amateur day on Sunday. The goal is to get this race in and then get right up the road to Ironman in Crawfordsville, Indiana, for next week’s third round, then on to RedBud for another doubleheader—theirs just four days apart. (The MXGP folks just did three rounds in eight days in Latvia, and I think all three races came off well—and with three different winners: Glen Coldenhoff, Antonio Cairoli, and Jeffrey Herlings.)
The bottom line is that everyone just wants to get this series completed in a quick, safe manner. This year has been quite an unfortunate mess, and on a lot of fronts. But it’s nice to be back at the races, despite that Groundhog Day feeling I get every Friday when I come into this tent to write Racerhead.
Did I mention that it’s raining now? Ugh.
Timing is Everything (Jason Weigandt)
Everyone in charge of bringing sports back (racing and otherwise) has been charged with: a) trying to get the darned things running again, and b) making the new version feel like the normal. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to nail this exactly, because revamped schedules have changed the timelines of so many athletes. We got a few examples at the Ranch.
Marvin Musquin was a winner. He wouldn’t have raced the traditional May Hangtown opener but was back nearly to his old form for the new round one, which went off three months later. Cooper Webb was a loser, as he was very strong at the Salt Lake City SX races (highest total point-getter over the seven rounds) but ended up hurting his back during the long break between series. Now he’s unfortunately out for the rest of the summer with two bulging discs in his back.
RJ Hampshire is both a winner and a loser. He thought supercross would return in the fall, got knee surgery, then supercross moved back to June and he missed it all. He was determined to get back for the nationals, and his second overall on a rutted Loretta’s track was amazing. Still, if this series started on July 15 instead of August 15, he would have missed it. Anyway, Hampshire’s return shocked many, including riders who have told me about their ACL timelines. I’ve talked to Hampshire a few times during this process, and you can just sense an unbelievable level of focus. He switched teams, so now he can’t blame a bike. It’s on him to deliver, and he’s rallying under that no-excuses mantra.
“They expected a lot out of me, and I kind of felt like I let them down pretty bad for supercross,” Hampshire said after the Loretta Lynn’s National last weekend. “So I was set on making this outdoor season, and not just making it but being competitive. Pretty sure I just proved that I’m here to battle and be competitive and not have any lack of strength in my knee.”
How did RJ get better so quickly?
“I truly believe that once you just set your mind to something and you tell yourself it’s going to happen, your body is going to believe it and you’re going to end up making it happen.”
I’m telling you, Hampshire is in an extreme mode right now, and he even started to shed some tears on the podium. That said, we’ve seen plenty of guys come flying out of the blocks and fall back. What will happen with RJ? It will be interesting to watch.
Better This Time (Weigandt)
On the other end, two riders with bad races on Saturday should be way better at round two. Apparently, both Hunter Lawrence and Stilez Robertson were docked in moto one after getting additional outside assistance after a first-turn crash bent up their bikes. They are listed as 39th and 40th in the moto. I heard Hunter busted a kill switch in the first turn crash; not sure what happened for Robertson, but they had the worst two gate picks for moto two. Loretta’s is an exceptionally bad place to start on the very outside. These dudes had no chance, got bad starts again, and their motos were not good.
You just know Hunter Lawrence will be better than his second-moto 14th. Robertson was in his first pro race, so no one knows what to expect, but Jason Thomas noticed he was running top-three-level lap times for portions of that second 250 moto. He finished 17th. He could be much better than that this weekend with a better start, according to our friends in the desert. (There you go, JT.)
Some expected riders like Robertson to maybe have an advantage at Loretta’s because they rode the track last week. Most riders I’ve talked to said it felt way different—and that includes Mason Gonzales, who made his pro debut with a very impressive ninth overall. He didn’t think the track felt the same as it did during amateur week, and he attributes his result more to just riding pressure-free.
“I was more nervous for the amateur race than the pros,” he said. “There’s so much pressure for the amateur race trying to show what you’ve got to a get a ride. I did get second and third [in my Pro Sport classes at the amateur national], but the goal was to win. At the pro race, I just focused on myself. Now I’ve watched the race a few times, and I watched Dylan and saw how crafty he was with his lines. He’s so smart and so fast. But I just want to be consistent and keep getting top-tens.”
Gonzales says he does not have a contract to do these pro races, but Rock River Yamaha, who he rode for as an amateur, is hooking him up and will keep taking him to the races. He’s on an audition now to prove his worth for 2021. So far, so good.
First Lap Stats by @3lapsdown (DC)
Love this stat from our friend Clinton Fowler and his @3lapsdown number-crunching:
The Pro Circuit Kawasaki, GEICO Honda, and Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM teams need to improve their lap-one position if they’re going to challenge the Star Racing Yamaha team.
Star Racing riders averaged 3rd on the first lap! They put themselves in great position right from the start. It’s a lot easier to get an early cushion and stay out of the early-lap madness with good starts.
Maybe most important is there’s very little chance to podium when you’re rounding lap one in 15th.
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The Pro Circuit Kawasaki, GEICO Honda, and Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM teams need to improve their lap one position if they’re going to challenge the Star Racing Yamaha team. Star Racing riders averaged 3rd on the first lap! They put themselves in great position right from the start. It’s a lot easier to get an early cushion and stay out of the easy lap madness with good starts. Maybe most important is there’s very little chance to podium when you’re rounding lap one in 15th. #lucasoilpromotocross #promotocross #motocross #letstakeitoutside #supercross #data #stats #sportsdata #honda #kawasaki #yamaha #ktm #suzuki #husqvarna #moto #racing #everymomentmatters #dropthegate #thisismoto #dirtbikes #motorcycles #3lapsdown
Give @3lapsdown a follow on Instagram and Twitter—it's good stuff!
Also check out @legomotox, who was killing it on Saturday, immediately coming up with this recreation of Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac getting stuck in the same deep rut that swallowed up 3-D Racing privateer Nick Gaines’s YZ250 in practice. (And Nick rebounded from needing a winch to pull his bike out to finish an impressive 11th overall.)
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Silly Season Stuff (Matthes)
With all the COVID-19 stuff happening, the silly season for 2021 has also been drawn out a bit more as the riders’ original contracts that run out September 31 are all stretched out to end after the nationals. But there are rumblings behind the scenes, that’s for sure. I wrote a little about this stuff in OBS, but if you didn't catch that, first of all, shame on you, and second of all, Weege also wrote a feature on it earlier today. But in case you missed them both somehow, here's a recap.
We think Star Yamaha is going to be running the Yamaha 450 program next year, and they'll have Aaron Plessinger back (one more year on his contract), and Dylan Ferrandis has also signed with Yamaha. Ferrandis was rumored to be have been really wanting to get on an orange/white/red bike, but that just didn't happen, so he ended up staying with the OEM that brought him over from France. I heard Malcolm Stewart is close to ending up on a Yamaha 450 for SX only, as well with Star Racing.
As far as the red KTM, otherwise known as Gas Gas, we hear Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM might pick that program up with a couple of 250 riders and one 450 guy. That would mean the factory Red Bull KTM team runs a 250 guy or two as well, so there would be orange 250s out there. Troy Lee Designs was trying to get Ferrandis, but now I hear they’ve talked to Justin Barcia, Joey Savatgy, and although I heard Shane McElrath's name out there, hard to see Troy Lee Designs trying to get him back. Nevertheless, some people say they heard Barcia has an offer from the Gas Gas guys for 450, but that would also mean he would have to abandon his Alpinestars gear deal.
JGRMX Suzuki is optimistic that they'll be back in 2021, but as of now, Suzuki hasn't committed to them as they wait for their new president to come over. (COVID-19 has made that transition harder.) From what I hear, the president used to be in charge of racing worldwide, so one would think he’d want to keep racing at the level JGR is at now. So guys like Savatgy and McElrath are certainly hoping that RM-Army stays racing.
Penrite Honda will probably slide over and pick up Justin Brayton with factory Honda parts, and I heard they want another 450 rider also—unless JB10 can convince Honda to keep him on as the third guy over there on Big Red. MCR Honda the (SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts team) will come back with Justin Hill, Vince Friese, and I know they've talked to Barcia as well. If they lose out on the #51, they can get one of those other guys.
Pro Perspective (Thomas)
One down, one to go! The Loretta Lynn's Pro Motocross debut was a success. With the entanglements COVID-19 has put onto all aspects of life, the decision was made to keep the series in Tennessee for another go-round. For the riders, this is a unique dynamic, depending on your favorite dirt, track, etc. I would bet that many loved the tough test that Loretta's ruts, heat, and humidity presented. For others, the trip west to Washougal was a bright spot on the calendar. There is no way to please everyone, and tough decisions are necessary given the world we live in today. As a rider, the only answer is to adapt and make the best of it. If Loretta's was your cup of tea, good news, because the kettle is brewing. If you had a bad first round, this week presents an opportunity to fix the problem and improve.
I have always believed that riders' attitude is a big factor. It's an interesting fact that riders seem to do better at their favorite tracks than tracks they dislike. That leads to this question: how do I make every track one that I look forward to? Sometimes this is a dirt/traction issue, and some riders just ride certain conditions better than others. Sometimes it's geographical. Other times it's purely mental based on past good or bad experiences. If we’re willing to concede that attitude can have a direct impact on results, wouldn't it make sense to prioritize attitude? Even if you went DNF-DNF at Loretta's and just couldn't find a ray of optimism, is there any upside to dwelling on how bad last Saturday went? Most riders are guilty of this. They will let past results dictate their outlook on a weekend that, in a vacuum, is completely disconnected from previous results. I was as guilty of this as anyone. If I liked a track, I was smiling when the plane landed, joking in staging, and was optimistic throughout the day. If I didn't like a particular track for any reason—dirt, weather, rocks, etc.—I would be in a sour mood from airplane takeoff to moto gate drop. It’s just how riders operate, and it’s not a good habit to get into.
My advice for those who had a tough opener is to take the experience and learn from the difficult day this week. Work on weaknesses that the Loretta Lynn's track might have exposed. Make a game plan for how to be better on Saturday. When Saturday comes, though, approach it with a renewed outlook. Results from this Saturday are independent from last Saturday. Just because you didn't do well a week ago has no bearing on your potential a week later. The easiest thing to change in your racing repertoire is your attitude. Optimism is infectious and could make a huge difference.
45 (Andras Hegyi)
Zach Osborne is already a legend for Husqvarna, having won two 250SX East Region titles as well as the 2017 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in the 250 Class. He is the only Husqvarna winner in the history of the 125/250 Pro Motocross, in existence since 1974. But last Saturday at Loretta Lynn's, Osborne became even more of a Husky hero. By getting his maiden 450 Class MX victory, Osborne was able to put an end to Husqvarna’s decades-long winless streak that lasted from 1975 to 2020 in the 250/450 AMA Motocross. The last time a Husqvarna won in this class was June 15, 1975, the date of Kent Howerton's win at Lake Whitney, Texas. Besides Bob Grossi, Marty Tripes, Howerton, and the Swedish import Gunnar Lindström, Osborne is the just the fifth Husqvarna winner in the history of the 250/450 AMA Motocross. And thanks to both Osborne and first-moto winner (and second overall) Jason Anderson—the 2018 450SX Champion—Husqvarna could celebrate only its second double victory in the history of this class. Before Osborne-Anderson’s combo victory, you have to go all the way back to 1972 and the 250 National at Straddle Line State Park in Washington, where Lindström was first and Bob Grossi was second in the final results.
(It deserves mention that in 1976 Husqvarna did earn three wins in the old 500cc National class, as Kent Howerton won at Moto-Masters Park in Mexico, New York, Lake Sugar Tree in Axton, Virginia, and Motocross West outside of New Orleans—all on the way to winning the 1976 AMA 500cc National Championship.)
Husqvarna winners in the 250/450 AMA motocross
Kent Howerton (4 wins)
Gunnar Lindström (2)
Thanks to his maiden 450 motocross triumph, Osborne became the 17th motocross racer to win in four different SX/MX series riding with the same brand. Zach has seven wins in 250SX, seven wins in the 250 Class, and one win in both 450SX and 450 Class. And besides Ricky Johnson, Jeff Stanton, Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, and Eli Tomac, Osborne is just the eighth rider to win both the last 250/450 SX round and the 250/450 MX opener in the same year—though he is the very first to win his first 450 SX and first 450 MX in back-to-back races.
One more thing: Add on Osborne's MX2 Grand Prix in Turkey a few years back and he's in even rarer company. In the history of AMA Pro Motocross/Supercross, the only riders to have won in 250 SX/MX, 450 SX/MX, and a Grand Prix are Mike Kiedrowski, Kevin Windham, Ryan Villopoto, Eli Tomac, Cooper Webb, and now Zach Osborne. (Honorable mention: David Vuillemin would be on this list as well, but he never raced the 125/250 class outdoors in America.)
Back to Back/Finale and Opener (Andras Hegyi)
This could be a great season for two-time 250 AMA Supercross Champion Dylan Ferrandis. After successfully defending his 2019 250SX West Region title, the Frenchman’s new target is to be the first French champion in the history of the 125/250 AMA Pro Motocross. By taking double moto wins at Loretta Lynn's last Saturday, he collected his seventh victory and 16th podium result in the this series. Among the French riders, Marvin Musquin has the most wins (8), while Christophe Pourcel has the most podium results (20).
Last Saturday, Ferrandis became the 12th rider in this series to go from winning the last round one year to the opener the next year. Among those 12 riders, Ferrandis is the very first foreign rider to do it.
Riders to win both the season-closing round in one year and the season opener-round in the next 125/250 AMA motocross seasons
Tim Hart (1974, '75), Danny Laporte (1976, '77), Broc Glover (1977, '78) Mark Barnett (1979, '80), (1980, '81) and (1982, '83), Guy Cooper (1990, '91), Robbie Reynard (1994, '95), Steve Lamson (1995, '96), James Stewart (2003, '04), Ryan Dungey (2008, '09), Jeremy Martin (2014, '15), Zach Osborne (2017, '18), Dylan Ferrandis (2019, '20)
The october 2020 ISSUE OFRACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Hey, Watch It!
Race Exam from Loretta Lynn’s National 1
One-Take Freeride Send-Fest | One Shot ft. Tyler Bereman
Heading into the weekend like:
Listen To This
The racing is back and so are the boys! Jason Weigandt and Jason Thomas join host Steve Matthes to talk about the first round of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, including the TV broadcast, the action on the track, and more.
Finally, we’re sad to report that we lost a couple old moto friends this week. Longtime West Coast race announcer Bruce Flanders passed away at the age of 74 after a long battle with a pulmonary disease. And Kenny “The Missile” Blissett, an early star of minicycle racing in America, lost his battle with brain cancer. Blissett hailed from Indiana and battled with the likes of Jeff Ward, Gene McCay, and Brian Myerscough until walking away from the sport in 1976. Godspeed to both Bruce Flanders and Kenny Blissett.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!