Main Image from the 2019 Big Dave Vet Homecoming, photo by Andrew Fredrickson.
Welcome to Racerhead. Let’s pick up where we left off after the RedBud doubleheader: five down, four to go. Tomorrow, the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship will take another step closer to becoming a complete series, as the 38th Annual Spring Creek National in Millville, Minnesota, takes place. Five thousand spectators will be allowed to attend, as John and Greta Martin, the event promoters, have been working very closely with local and state officials to have a safe race. And they are more than just promoters—their sons Alex and Jeremy are in the thick of the 250 Class championship chase. They will also have lots of family, friends, and neighbors there, as the Martins live just across Spring Creek—the actual stream that cuts the property in half and gives the track its name—from those trademark whoops.
Earlier in the summer, Spring Creek was the first track to utilize the safety toolkit that the Safe 2 Race Task Force produced after all of motorsports shut down in mid-March. They have had several big amateur events there, but this will be the first test that will include professional racing (though Alex and Jeremy did do a local race there before the series started up in mid-August). Here’s wishing all the Martins good luck with the event, the weather, and an all-around safe and entertaining race.
The teams are parking in a different configuration this weekend in order to keep the few folks allowed in the paddock from wandering up to the riders and mechanics.
Personally, I’m sitting this round out, as this weekend is the 30th Annual Big Dave Vet Homecoming race/weekend out at High Point Raceway. It’s a fun get-together of old friends, vintage riders, and local amateurs—and just a neat event—every September. It often ran on top of the Motocross of Nations, so I haven’t always been able to attend, but since that’s off for 2020 (and it was set for next weekend anyway), I decided when the revised Pro Motocross schedule came out that this would be the one to maybe miss. I’m just glad we have races going on anywhere right now….
Speaking of 2020, the coronavirus claimed another sporting event when MXGP of Patagonia-Argentina, already postponed to the very end of the FIM World Championship schedule, was pushed off until 2021 due to travel restrictions and health concerns, InFront announced yesterday. They will now go with an 18-race championship, down from the original 20. Already canceled were difficult trips to Turkey, Russia, China, and Indonesia, as they focus their efforts on completing the series close to their base in Europe. That means more tripleheaders in Italy, as well as one in Lommel, which might honestly make for the longest, roughest week in the history of motocross. Seriously. Lommel is incredibly rough. No track in America that I know of is anywhere nearly as deep and rough—at least not since Cocoa Beach went away! More on MXGP below.
Closer to home, Southwick is one of the traditional national tracks that could not go in 2020 due to the pandemic, though they have been able to keep hosting local events. This weekend will be the Northwest Vet Championship at The Wick 338, and Rick and Keith Johnson got into their rolodexes to bring out some real New England motocross royalty for the event, including JoJo Keller, Doug Henry, John Dowd, Mike Treadwell, Dave Rudnicki, the nationally underrated NESC legend Jim Meenan, and more. And The Wick will be back on the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross schedule, along with Unadilla, Washougal, Hangtown, Budds Creek, and High Point.
And of course, motocross is not the only sport trying to get to some kind of conclusion in the middle of all this. The NBA and NHL are near the finals of their in-a-bubble playoffs, Major League Baseball is happening without fans, and now the biggest sport in America, the National Football League, is finally up and running, with very limited fans in just a few places. The NFL passed on having any kind of preseason at all, electing to go right into real games last weekend. That lack of a buildup to full-on hitting and tackling seemed to have an unfortunate effect, as an alarming amount of season-ending injuries seemed to occur on the opening weekend.
What do first-week injuries in football have to do with motocross? It seems that the lack of actual racing from March to mid-August, with the exception of the three-week Monster Energy AMA Supercross set at Salt Lake City, is also starting to have an effect on the field. We know that Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen passed altogether on participating, and then we lost former AMA Supercross champs Cooper Webb and Jason Anderson to early injuries. Well, the hits kept coming this week as several contenders came up with injuries. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Team’s Dean Wilson will miss the remainder of the series due to a knee injury sustained during a practice incident last week that will require surgery. And then Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Darian Sanayei posted this on his social media after trying to go the last couple of rounds with a shoulder injury:
“So bummed to be writing this, but my shoulder hasn’t gotten any better and is just in too rough of shape to continue racing without getting it fixed. I tried my best to race with it last weekend at RedBud and did all I could, but the issues im having are not ones that heal on their own. So we have decided I will be getting surgery on it so I can get back in time for next year. Tough decision to make when i have this amazing ride, but if I cannot ride at 100% it doesn’t do myself or the team any good.”
And then we spotted this from Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Ty Masterpool on Instagram:
“Bummed to say that I’m not racing this weekend, but I have to take care of my leg, the bone is all good just the nerves are all flared up so I have to take care of the swelling and bruising. Takes time, definitely need God’s help with patience right now but grateful to be back, looking forward to FL.”
That’s a lot of fast guys who have had to park their motorcycles not long after getting them started up again to race outdoors. But the series goes on, just like 2020, though there were two photos online this week from totally different disasters—hurricanes in the Gulf and wildfires in the West—that really seem to sum up what this year has been like in general, though we all keep striving to not only survive, but get out there and ride!
Passing and Double Titles (Cont'd) (DC)
Earlier this week we pulled together a couple online features on the state of either class in the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. For the 250 Class, we talked about how GEICO Honda's Jeremy Martin is leading in points, wins, best average finish, and better starts, while Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha's Dylan Ferrandis has the dubious distinction of having had to make many, many more passes—110 passes to Martin's 10—to keep it as close as the points are after five rounds (Martin's 216 to Ferrandis' 207). Read my full report comparing Ferrandis and Martin.
For the 450 Class, rather than focus on the passes, we talked about how difficult it is to get two 450 titles in one year, as Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac is once again finding out—only this time from the other side of the equation. After winning three straight 450 Pro Motocross titles after coming up short in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Eli won SX this year but is having an unexpectedly difficult time outdoors.
But if we looked at it the same way we looked at the 250 Class—the Art of Passing—and took out the two moths that Eli DNF'd at Loretta Lynn's 2, in the other eight motos combined, he has passed a net gain of 27 riders. That's lower than most seasons, when the usually slow-starting, late-charging Tomac has taken charge. The series points leader, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Zach Osborne, has passed a net of 33 riders over the course of all ten races, despite starting and finishing in the same spot in the last four motos. Osborne led start-to-finish in both motos of RedBud 1 and then started and finished second in both motos of RedBud 2. But in the six motos before that, he gained a total of 33 riders, including the six spots he lost at Ironman in going from third to seventh in the first moto and first to third in the second.
And while we stopped at 1994 in discussing the riders who managed to win both the premier SX and MX titles in the same season, here are the guys who did it before 1994, counting the 250 class as well as the 500 class (and in the case of 1981, the 125 class as well):
1992, 1990, and 1989: Team Honda's Jeff Stanton won SX and 250 MX
1991: Honda's Jean-Michel Bayle won SX, 250 MX and 500 MX
1986: Honda's Rick Johnson won SX and 250 MX
1985: Kawasaki's Jeff Ward won SX and 250 MX
1983: Honda's David Bailey won SX and 250 MX
1982: Honda's Donnie Hansen won SX and 250 MX
1981: Suzuki's Mark Barnett won SX and 125 MX
1979, 1978: Yamaha's Bob Hannah won SX and 250 MX
JUST HANGING (Matthes)
I'm not going to Millville this weekend for a couple of reasons but seems like the weather is going to be legendary. And also, apologies to Tim Ritchie, because I think Millville is the best actual track on the circuit. It's got everything you want in a track, and I know many riders think that also. Millville is so good that Tim went and added his own set of sand whoops to try and mimic the amazing circuit!
With no traveling this weekend, that gave me the chance to, well, travel. Just a short drive down to SoCal to meet the Yamaha guys to give back my 2020 Yamaha YZ450F and pick up my new 2021. Yamaha had made massive changes to the ’20, so this year it's basically the same bike with blue side panels and black fork guards. Keefer and I drove to State Fair track (I hadn't been there since probably mid-2000s when it was Starwest!), and I got to ride the new machine. It was a fun day, and I also got to ride the new 2021 Honda CRF450 that Keefer has, so that was cool.
More than anything, the day ended up being a massive hangout. David Vuillemin was there with Dylan Ferrandis and ended up hanging out for 30 minutes afterward telling us growing-up-with Tortelli-stories and also telling us his latest project-bike stories. Alex Ray was there getting in some laps for Millville along with Kenny "Taco" Bell, and he rode the new Yamaha also. Renthal's Paul Perebijnos showed up to get some laps in and do some testing with a new product. Joe Oehlhof was there with his kid, and then Nick Wey showed up, picked apart my setup, and then was there hanging with his son Vincent. Josh Hansen came by, as he was on his Honda CR250 two-stroke putting in some laps. Hanny and I talked for a while. I hadn't seen Josh for a while.
Between Joe, NYK, DV, Hanny, and Paul, seeing all these guys at the track made me have flashbacks to, like, 2004 or something.
Goodbye to my 2020 Yamaha YZF450, you were very good to me, and thanks for the 14-9 for 7th scores at the World Vets last year! Thanks to Mike Ulrich and the Blu Cru guys for the support and help yesterday.
2021 Honda CRF450R (Keefer)
As you all know, the 2021 Honda CRF450R was brought out to Glen Helen Raceway Wednesday for most of the motorcycle media to evaluate. Anytime Honda comes out with a new bike, it has A LOT of hype built around it. Even if no one builds up the hype internally, something about a red bike and the words "ALL NEW" gets consumers all jacked up. In some instances, I think this isn't a good thing. I usually try to under promise and overdeliver, and in Honda's case, that mantra is just tough to do, because the Honda name is so damn strong. After looking over some of the other media outlets’ ride reports, I would say most thought this was a much better Honda CRF450R, as did I.
The 2021 CRF450R feels lighter, has a more controlled engine character, carries a less rigid frame feel, and still corners unreal. The couple shortcomings, like a slightly soft suspension setting and a slightly rich feeling on low rpm, shouldn't deter future Honda buyers. People always ask me at the track, "What do you really think of the new bike?” and I always say what you see on these Racer X videos or hear on my podcast is what I really think. I do know that this 2021 Honda CRF450R is a better platform than the 2020, and even though I complained about a couple things on the bike, it doesn't mean it isn't worth looking into. I complain about a lot of things! It's my job!
I am here to report that I would gladly take this 2021 CRF450R over the 2020 any day, and if you want to see/hear what the initial thoughts are, click on the video below. The first batch of new red machines should be in dealers next week, so look for some updated baseline settings on the 2021 CRF450R right here on racerxonline.com and at keeferinctesting.com.
Travis Pastrana Pro Challenge (DC)
Next weekend, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will be at WW Ranch Motocross Park in Jacksonville, Florida. But back up here in my area is the pro-purse-paying $19,199 Travis Pastrana Pro Challenge at Pleasure Valley Raceway in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. This event has become another fall classic, along with races like the Baja Brawl (which had a record crowd the same weekend as the nearby RedBud doubleheader), the Maine Event, the upcoming World Vet Championships at Glen Helen, and more. The event was founded by Pastrana and his lifelong sponsor Jeff Cernic, who gave Travis his first RM80 back in the day and has stayed with him ever since.
The Travis Pastrana Pro Challenge begins Friday (September 25) evening with the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest, hosted by none other than Wes Kain. Then on Saturday the first set of motos will go off, followed by a Saturday night auction with the proceeds going to help out Levi Wosick. (Cernic himself is offering up one of his prized possessions, a rare autographed Stefan Everts jersey.) That will be followed by a Pit Bike Race as well as a freestyle show with Pastrana and friends. Then on Championship Sunday the class champions will be crowned with the famous Travis Pastrana Belt. And check this out: the top ten riders in each Youth class not only get a trophy but also a candy bar with a chance to win a golden ticket to the Pastrana Compound outside Annapolis, Maryland!
35 (Andras Hegyi)
Next Wednesday, September 23, nine-time FIM Motocross World Champion Antonio Cairoli will turn 35—but he does not look, let alone ride, his age. Last Sunday he got his second GP win of the MXGP season, his 91st career victory, in Faenza, Italy, a track that is not among his favorites. He is now the points leader for the first time since May 26, 2019. Cairoli is fighting for his tenth world title.
In the history of the GPs, in existence since 1957, there have been 73 different world champions. Among them are 13 racers who won world titles after their 30th birthdays: Belgian riders Roger De Coster, Gaston Rahier, Jacky Martens, Rene Baeten, Georges Jobé, Joel Smets, and Stefan Everts; the British BSA pilot Jeff Smith; the Russian great Gennady Moiseev; the Finnish hero Heikki Mikkola; Frenchman Yves Demaria; and Italians Andrea Bartolini and Cairoli, who last won the title in 2017 at 32 years old. If Cairoli wins in 2020, he would join Demaria as the only world champions to win at the age of 35. Demaria is the oldest world champion ever, having won the title in 2007 at 35 years, 7 months, 18 days. If Cairoli were world champion this 2020, he would be the second oldest world champion ever.
Win Ads (DC)
We're back with some cool old win ads from yesteryear. These are from January 1986, when AMA Supercross was getting started and the vibrant Florida Winter-AMA Series in the East and the CMC Golden States out West attracted top factory talent and fast young amateur prospects. The Florida series that year had the veteran Bob Hannah back as usual, only the Hurricane was on a Suzuki for the first time. There to greet him was Dutch bandmaster Kees Van der Ven, who decided to winter in Florida as he got ready to race his KTM in the 500cc Grand Prix tour back home. And then there was a fast Yamaha prospect from Michigan named Jeff Stanton, who cleaned up in the Expert classes. And in the Golden States, practically every other factory rider was warming up—after battling in the '86 Anaheim opener, top riders like David Bailey, Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward, and Johnny O'Mara spent the next weekend racing the Golden States. Stuff like that just doesn't happen anymore.
Europe Only (Andras Hegyi)
Like every other motorsports series in the world, the calendar of the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship has had to change many times. The series originally had 20 rounds and 17 countries to visit. Among those races, five were outside of Europe. But because of the health concerns and restrictions brought about by the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, MXGP is now down to 18 rounds, with visits to just six countries. Moreover, the tour will not leave Europe. On Thursday, as mentioned above, the Grand Prix of Argentina was cancelled, joining China, Indonesia, and Turkey as rounds that had to be scrapped in 2020. This big change means that, for the first time in the history of the current MXGP system, in existence since 2004, there are no rounds outside of Europe. This is the first year since 2003 that the series does not have any overseas races.
This is the 64th season of the FIM Motocross World Championship. Between 1957 and 1972, the series was held only in Europe. The first non-European round was held in 1973 at Carlsbad Raceway in Southern California.
The world championship has visited 16 non-European countries in all: South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Guatemala, Venezuela, Mexico, Australia, China, Japan, Qatar, Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Canada, and the United States. The USA has hosted the world championship the most times. There were 27 seasons in which the USA organized a total of 51 GPs at nine different tracks: Carlsbad, Hollister, and Glen Helen in California; Lexington in Ohio; Unadilla in New York; Steel City in Pennsylvania; Budds Creek in Maryland; Charlotte in North Carolina; and finally Jacksonville in Florida. Between 1973 and '94, the world championship visited United States every year. Visits to the States became less frequent in the last 25 years, as the FIM World Championship visited in only six seasons: 1999, 2010, '11, '15, '16 and '17.
The hope for MXGP is to return to overseas racing next year, as they have already announced an extension with the Argentinian promoter and have plans for China, Turkey, and Indonesia as well for 2021.
The november 2020 ISSUE OFRACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Here's a cool video of how Ken Roczen's hiatus is going as he was getting ready to become a father for the first time and also still trying to sort out his health issues...
Listen To This
This week, Steve Matthes got JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Alex Martin to talk about his RedBud 1 National, thoughts on training, his career path, his brother J-Mart, and more.
Jason Weigandt was part of a press conference this week featuring Christian Craig, Ty Masterpool, and Mitchell Harrison. All three riders were pretty honest during their media session, with Craig discussing what it's like to try to hold off Eli Tomac in a moto, his relationship with Chase Sexton, and how he rides much harder than it looks. Harrison admits he had to get on the podium or win now that he's part of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, and Masterpool tries to explain his parent's background in skiing and snowboarding. Except he can't! Enjoy a free-flowing conversation in this edition of the Racer X Exhaust Podcast.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
"Amateur soccer team loses 37-0 after practicing social distancing during game"—CNN.com
“Kanye asks campaign staff to avoid 'fornicating'...”—Drudge Report
“Man Traveled On GREYHOUND Bus With Dismembered Body Parts In Suitcases...”—CBS Chicago
“Family Became Suspicious After He Didn't Unpack…”
"The town of Asbestos will pick a new name--but many aren't thrilled with the choices"—CNN.com
Spotted this on my friend Tim Buck's Facebook page...
Couple cool drawings from the Dirty Thirty Lab on Facebook:
Tribute to one of my favorite tracks.
I was privileged enough to race on this track for well over a decade. With many changes over the years, one section always remained.
And when we passed this cool-looking Maverick Motorcycles shop outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana on the way to RedBud, we had no idea it belonged to our longtime friend Bobby Wagner’s dad!
Barona Oaks MX in Southern California is getting ready for a series of E-bike events in November.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!