Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome to the RedBud double. Tomorrow afternoon, RedBud—long the centerpiece of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship—will host the fourth round of the 2020 campaign. And then on Monday, if all goes according to plan, RedBud will host the fifth round of the COVID-19-abbreviated nine-round championship. That means that sometime on Saturday night/early Sunday morning, the halfway mark of the series will tick past, and what seemed like an impossible task not so long ago—holding a cohesive motorsports series in this awful year—will be well on its way to completion. And of course, I say "if all goes according to plan" because nothing has really gone to plan since maybe the Super Bowl. RedBud is hosting these two races on never-before race days for Pro Motocross: the first Friday race and the first Monday race. And they will be doing it without spectators, though amateur riders and their families there for the Saturday/Sunday amateur deal can watch the pro races (still with no access to the locked-down paddock).
If you're a fan of pro motocross, you're in luck right now. In the course of the next ten days, you will have the opportunity to watch the two RedBud rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and three rounds of MXGP from Italy, as the Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship resumes with a another triple stop, all three races running at the Faenza circuit. And while we're calling the AMA rounds RedBud 1 and RedBud 2, the races in Italy will be called: 1) MXGP of Italy, 2) MXGP of Citti di Faenza, and 3) MXGP of Emilia Romagna. The races will be held Sunday (September 6), Wednesday (Sept. 9), and Sunday again (Sept. 13). All three can be viewed on www.mxgp-tv.com.
So, has there ever been a time when so much motocross was packed into such a tight window? Not really, unless you count Loretta Lynn's or one of the other big days-long amateur events in America. But technically speaking, there have been races run closer. Back in the day, AMA Supercross used to run weekend doubleheaders at now-lost places like the Pontiac Silverdome, the Seattle Kingdome, and JFK Stadium in Philadelphia. But as far as actual outdoor motocross, well, the short answer is no … but then again, once upon a time, yes. Back in September of 1973, the old Trans-AMA Series, which was bigger than the outdoor nationals at the time, held three races over the course of eight days. The first was the series opener on Sunday, September 23, at Zoar Moto Park in Springville, New York; on the following Friday night, they held a nighttime round at the aforementioned JFK Stadium in Philly on Friday night, September 28. And then, less than 48 hours later, the series held its third round just north of the U.S.-Canada border at the Copetown circuit in Ontario. The winners of the three races were, respectively, Pierre Karsmakers, Gerrit Wolsink, and Adolf Weil.
Side note: When looking up the old Zoar '73 Trans-AMA opener in the amazing Cyclenews.com Archives, editor Gary Van Voorhis described the place this way: "Zoar Moto Park, site of the race, is officially located in Springville, New York, a town in the middle of the Niagara frontier among the rolling hills, corn fields and the ravages of the Ice Age millions of years ago. Unofficially its east of End, west of Freedom and north of Otton, which puts it really in the middle of nowhere; a perfect place for a race." Let's see Matthes or someone like that try to match that prose on their Twitter coverage! And here's a really cool look back at that nomadic 1973 Trans-AMA Series by a rider who entered and followed it, Australian privateer Jim Scaysbrook, a great weekend read for in between RedBuds.
And here's what the Copetown track in Canada looked like in 1975, just a couple years later, shot by Husqvarna factory rider Mike Hartwig's dad, I believe:
So, after so many postponements, pushbacks, cancellations, TBDs, and uncertainty, here's to ten great days of Pro Motocross and MXGP, and to all the fans all over the world who have been waiting patiently for things like this to start happening again.
Starting Procedures (DC)
Ever since the Ironman National first appeared on the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross schedule in 2014, the start straight has been more or less evolving. It started as a very fast right-hand sweeper, right into a longer straight that heavily favored the riders on the far inside, especially when it's wet and the water tends to drain off to the left. That's how both RJ Hampshire and Chad Reed got holeshots when it was super muddy in 2018. Last year the start was adjusted somewhat, with the start stretch extended slightly, and then a much sharper 90-degree sweeper. The inside gate still seemed to have the advantage, but not all the time.
Take Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha's Dylan Ferrandis, for instance. The 250 Class points leader had the second-fastest qualifying time, and he used the second pick to take that far inside gate. He got the drop, got up the inside quickly, and then stabbed it into the far inside of the corner and made the perfect escape from the pack. From there he just flat-out disappeared, his first six laps were the six fastest posted in the entire moto. His fastest was lap five, where he laid down a 2:06.202, more than two full seconds faster than Jeremy Martin's 2:08.383 on the second lap. (And honorable mention goes out to Jeremy's big brother Alex, whose best lap time of the first moto was the last one, a 2:10.144.)
When it was time to line up for the second moto, it was no surprise that Ferrandis chose the far inside gate again, but this time his teammate Shane McElrath got the jump from two gates to Dylan's left and went straight for the harder ground on the right edge of the track. He got there before Ferrandis, effectively taking the real estate away and forcing Dylan to throttle down. But when McElrath went to make the same hard stick on the inside apex of the corner, he couldn't hold it like Ferrandis was able to in the first moto; he bobbled, then got run into from behind by Ferrandis. They both went down, along with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Cameron Mcadoo and privateer Jace Kessler of Michigan.
Watch the pileup in the first turn of the second 250 moto below:
What happened from there might have been a championship-defining ride for Ferrandis if things end up in his favor. He blew past 37 riders in the next 34 or so minutes, and again had the single fastest lap—in traffic, mind you—with a 2:03.129 on the eighth lap. (The track was faster in the second moto as it dried out from the previous night's rain.) His 40th-to-3rd ride was incredibly impressive, and he will no doubt get the Ricky Carmichael Hard Charger Award this weekend after the (virtual) riders' meeting. Still, his gamble of going on the far inside gate did not pan out nearly as well in the second moto, and it likely cost him the overall.
As far as the 450 Class goes, fastest qualifier Adam Cianciarulo chose the far inside in the first moto but didn’t quite get the start he wanted as he was pinched off early. He moved out a bit further for the second moto and that helped him to a second place start as he was narrowly beat to the mark by Zach Osborne.
So, if you're counting at home and thinking that one day you’ll take that far inside gate at Ironman, remember that it has real feast-or-famine risk attached to it. This year, it worked out well twice and not so well the other two times.
And how did Zach get the holeshot from there when it clearly looks like Cianciarulo is in front? I asked Zacho yesterday, and he responded, "The inside was more packed going from the first turn to the second." So that inside gate was important, but so was hugging the inside from the exit of turn one to the entrance of turn two, where the MotoSport.com Holeshot arch counts the order.
The Double (Jason Weigandt)
Things weren’t trending well for Eli Tomac heading into Ironman, as he faced a huge points deficit, then qualified an uncharacteristic 13th. We’d heard he spent the week in California testing, but during a Monday evening press conference, Eli downplayed all that, saying they didn’t make major changes. At this level, you’re just always looking to make improvements. Then he won the Ironman overall, so things are now trending much better for the Tomac camp.
“Any pro will tell you, the testing never ends,” Cooper said. “We sat down after the first moto [at Ironman] and we were kinda like, ‘Yeah, we can’t do that again, that’s unacceptable.’ I was able to explain what I was feeling out there, and we came up with a pretty small change that worked wonders for me.”
Could Cooper now be back in the mix at the front, like he usually is? We’ll see this weekend.
So, what do riders think of the upcoming doubleheader? A few of them talked about it in the Monday conference.
“Oh, it can go either way,” Tomac said. “The only thing like it we’ve done is the Salt Lake deal. We had to stay there for multiple races, but it’s going to be tough. Only two days between outdoor nationals, it’s going to be tough. The second round is going to be tough on everyone.”
“We’ve got two days to recover,” Barcia said. “I’ll probably just spin out on my bicycle a little bit. There’s a fine line between letting the body completely lock up, but you also need to recover, need to keep the body moving. Back-to-back races are definitely going to be tough, but all the training we put in before the series, that’s what we’ll be relying on. Honestly, after this weekend, I’m just super excited to go racing. Those two Loretta’s races, I think Weege said on the TV show ‘He’s rubbing his hands together’ because it was muddy. And that’s true. I like the mud. People don’t know what I have. I’ve always had it, but this weekend showed I can do it in all the different conditions this year. It makes it exciting.”
That Tomac/Barcia push to the finish at Ironman was amazing, and both seemed to enjoy battling so hard. Yeah, they’ve had their bad moments before, but this was just hard, clean racing, and they both got a smile and a laugh retelling it.
“Hopefully, we have a lot more of those races to come,” Barcia said. “RedBud is a great track with lots of lines and lots of passing. Would be cool if we could do that in back-to-back races.”
Tomac actually admitted he was extra sore on Sunday after that big effort, and Barcia said the same. If the 450 Class keeps bringing this kind of intensity on Friday, these boys are going to feeling it on Monday.
Meanwhile, Adam Cianciarulo had a good take on the two-day break between races.
“I will say I’m an excellent chiller,” he said. “I’m good with sitting on the bed all day Saturday and Sunday, Netflix, PlayStation. Anything we got going, I’m good with it. So, I think that will play into my advantage for Monday’s race.”
Pro Perspective (Thomas)
This weekend is going to present a unique challenge for the riders. Having two rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross over the course of four days will put fitness and mental fortitude to the test. The biggest point of emphasis, and also the biggest opportunity for advantage, will be in recovery.
If I were racing and looking at how to approach the weekend, my efforts would be geared toward Friday night and Saturday. Friday’s racing results are going to be based on preparation done weeks and months ago, but Monday can be directly affected by how quickly riders recover on Saturday and Sunday. For those with the means (factory riders and those otherwise financially supported), massages should be scheduled for Friday night or Saturday morning to flush the lactic acid built up on Friday. I would have an IV bag or two ready to go on Friday night, getting my hydration levels back to normal by Saturday and further lowering the body’s workload. I would raise my caloric intake a bit, maybe adding a snack in there during the day. Finally, I would try to sneak in a 15- to 20-minute nap on both Saturday and Sunday. All of these efforts are in hopes of being back to a full 100 percent on Monday at 1 p.m. local time. The last 15 minutes of the second moto are going to tell a tale of who’s fit and who’s not. Doing everything possible to help yourself in a tougher-than-normal weekend could make all the difference.
BAM BAM (Matthes)
One of the stories from Ironman, as Weege touched on above, was Monster Energy Yamaha's Justin Barcia and his second moto and overall strong rides on the day. We had Justin on the PulpMX Show this past Monday to talk about that, and one of the things he asked me before agreeing to come on was how hard I was going to go after him about what he's doing for 2021! Justin just doesn't have anything completely done yet, and he knew that I might hammer him to figure it out. But I get it. I had to ask him once about 2021 and then we moved on. Here's his answer:
"Like I said, there’s not much to say. A month ago, I would have told you I don’t know. I have no offers. I have absolutely nothing. We’re in the middle of COVID. The world is all messed up. When we are racing? Where are we racing? How are we racing? Then the last few weeks some opportunities have opened up and it’s definitely sitting back. Honestly for sure right now the main focus is going after this championship. I have a shot at it still and I’m going to give it my all and go for that. Whatever works out, the other stuff will work. We’ll see."
We think he's going to end up on the kind of-new Troy Lee Designs Gas Gas team, where they'll have one 450 rider (Barcia) and then a couple of 250 guys. We think KTM will bring a 250 rider or two in-house as well, but we're not 100 percent sure. I got a text this week that said Yamaha is playing a bit of hardball with Barcia because, as with all contracts, they have first right of refusal built in and can match any Troy Lee Designs Gas Gas offer. But who knows for sure? Lots of rumors out there this time of the year. Can't see Yamaha (which we think is moving over to Star Yamaha) having Aaron Plessinger, Dylan Ferrandis, and Barcia plus the other 32 guys they're rumored to be talking to. If I had to bet, we'll see Bam Bam on red next year. I mean Gas Gas red, not Honda red.
You can watch Matthes' full interview with Barcia from Monday night's PulpMX Show below:
Pro rider Tevin Tapia had a bad crash out at Pala a few weeks ago, and he's on the road to recovery but it's going to take a while. With the help of Kyle Chisholm, we gathered up some cool stuff from a bunch of pro riders and are doing an eBay auction with 100 percent of the money going to T-Taps. Check out the PulpMX eBay auction for Tevin Tapia.
Win Ads (DC)
One of our favorite parts about getting Cycle News every week back in the day was seeing the various win ads that OEM brands would post. Brands were cleverly competitive with one another, and it really gave an added bonus to each week's issue. So, with that in mind, we're going to run a series of our favorite, and sometimes even obscure, win ads from yesteryear here in Racerhead each week. We’ll begin with one from Yamaha because they seemed to have the best game over the years in the "Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday" concept of cool win ads.
And here's an obscure one from Red Wing Lubricants, celebrating a win in the 500 class at the Florida Winter-AMA Series by Don "Killer" Kudalski ... on a Rokon!
If you have some suggestions or favorite oldies, by all means send them over!
2021 Approximate New Bike Testing Dates (Keefer)
New-bike season is still upon us, and although some units are arriving a little late because of the pandemic, it looks like September will be a big month for new bike releases. Here are some approximate test dates of when we’ll get our hands on a few of the new bikes. Look for the full on-track details of these models on racerxonline.com. As always, if you have anything specific you want us to hone in on when we test these bikes, give me a jingle at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Keefer expects to test the following bikes:
2021 KTM 250/350/450 SX-F: September 8
2021 Honda CRF450R: September 16
2021 Kawasaki KX250: October 5
2021 Yamaha YZ250F: October 6
2021 Suzuki RM-Z 250/450: October 13
2021 Gas Gas: December-ish
If you missed our first few 2021 bike tests, make sure to check them out below:
Mid-Ohio For Sale (DC)
If you're looking for a cool old piece of American motocross, and possibly a concert venue in the middle of Ohio, then check out this video:
From the early 1970s until the early 1980s, Pete Weidner's Mid-Ohio Motocross Park in Lexington, near Mansfield, was one of the most well-known U.S. tracks of all. A regular stop on the Trans-AMA circuit and the site of the annual FIM 125cc U.S. Grand Prix, and even the odd Inter-Am race, it hosted some very historic races. It was here in 1975 that Marty Smith basically invented the technique of double jumping as he disappeared with two moto wins on his works Honda 125. One year later, Smith battled both Bob "Hurricane" Hannah and Belgian king Gaston Rahier in another USGP. And in 1980, a Honda Mugen-mounted privateer named Johnny O'Mara became famous for beating the Europeans and the top Americans in the mud for an unexpected overall win.
The track lost its 125cc USGP after the FIM decided to penalize the U.S. for not participating in the Trophy or Motocross des Nations in 1979 or '80, and by the time Team USA committed to returning in '81, the USGP was already off the '82 schedule. The last big race held here would be the 1981 Trans-USA, and by '82 the front gates were locked and the old GP track became more of a music venue known as Songbird Center, hosting acts like Hall & Oates, Loverboy, Reba McEntire, and more. The skeletal outline of the track is still there, as is the house that sat at the entrance behind the starting gate, and finally the pad on which the starting gate rested. I know all of this because a few years back my mom and I went looking for the place while attending Vintage Days at the “other” Mid-Ohio, the road racing venue. Here are a few photos of what the once-grand place looks like now.
So, if you have $1.25 million burning a hole in your pocket and need 57 acres and a show stage, plus a beautiful piece of ground that's steeped in motocross history, this might be your place!
And here's what it looked like in 1978, from the lens of Wally Wallenberg, our man Scott's father...
30th Annual DC Vet Homecoming
The 30th annual weekend honoring "Big Dave" Coombs is set for September 19 and 20, 2020. We encourage all friends and family members to come celebrate a weekend full of family, fun, and motorcycles—just as "Big Dave" loved to do. Below is the full press release.
Racing will be back underway before we know it at High Point Raceway as we host the 30th annual Big Dave Vet Homecoming. Our friends at Lojak’s Cycle Sales invite you to come out and join our extended racing family on this special weekend as we celebrate our motocross heritage and the memory of “Big Dave” with all of our friends – old and new.
This event offers two days of unique racing and a wide selection of vet classes for all skill levels, as well as support classes for our younger racers. Spend the weekend with us bench racing over adult beverages, BBQ and vintage movies. This is a laid-back event that is sure to bring back cool memories.
For more info on the weekend's activities, visit HighPointMX.com
40 Boxes (Andras Hegyi)
In the history of the AMA Pro Motocross and Supercross, Kawasaki has built some true legends. Jeff Ward and Ryan Villopoto spent pretty much their entire careers on green bikes, while Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart spent the formative years of their professional careers there. Eli Tomac has raced with Kawi since 2016. He now has more podiums in the category of 250/450 Pro Motocross. Last Saturday, ET took his 21st win and his 40th podium result in the 250/450 class as a Kawasaki man.
After his disappointing performance in the first two rounds, Tomac rebounded for the overall win at the Ironman. In doing so he became only the third rider ever to collect at least 40 podium results in the 250/450 class riding with the same brand. He also became just the fifth motocross racer to win in at least seven different seasons in the 250/450 class.
Riders to get at least 40 podium results in the 250/450 AMA motocross class riding with the same brand
Riders to win in at least 7 different seasons in the 250/450 AMA motocross class
Riders to win in at least 7 consecutive seasons in the 250/450 AMA motocross class
Riders to win in 5 consecutive seasons in the 250/450 AMA motocross class riding with the same brand
The october 2020 ISSUE OFRACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Listen To This
Weege, JT, and Steve Matthes got together to talk about what they saw at Ironman Raceway for round three of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. From ET3’s title chances to JB51’s ride to Dylan Ferrandis and Jeremy Martin duking it out, they talk about it all. And, yes, there is more Troll Train talk as well as #steakgate explained.
Kris Keefer joins host Steve Matthes to talk about the release of the all-new Intense Tazer MX e-bike. This is an e-mountain bike focused specifically on the motocross crowd—it has triple clamp style forks, for example. But the biggest change is where the bike is sold. Instead of bicycle shops, this bike will be sold exclusively at powersports dealerships. We discuss the model and compare it to the other Tazers, the pros and cons, the new Shimano EP-8, and near the end we talk about Keefer’s work with the new 2021 Honda CRF450R.
This week on the Main Event Moto Podcast, Daniel Blair, Triple J., Andy Gregg, and Producer Joe talk about the 2020 Ironman National, round three of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Hang out with them as Daniel focuses on the headlines in the sport and sometimes it goes off the rails.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Loretta Lynn and Kid Rock 'married' and she explains it”—CNN Entertainment
“90 Americans Are Killed Annually From Lawn Mowing”—LawnStart.com
“Mississippi Department of Transportation Urges Travelers to Stay Home: 'Be Like the Big Ten'”—Sports Illustrated
"Be Like the Big 10. Stay Home and Avoid Gatherings," read the interstate sign.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!