Welcome to Racerhead, where we are all holding steady at seven down, two to go. We’re in Lakewood, Colorado, for the eighth (and second-to-last round) of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. David Clabaugh’s mountainside Thunder Valley Motocross Park will mean the highest elevation for the riders, just one week after the lowest, Junior Scarborough’s sea-level WW Ranch Motocross Park in Jacksonville, Florida. That means we’re going from Atlantic Coast sand straight out and up to the Rocky Mountain hardpack. Fortunately—thankfully—we are in the home stretch. After we make the turn west after tomorrow’s race, that means just one more race—Fox Raceway at Pala, California—and we’re all done for 2020, which is amazing. Had you told me or anyone else just eight months ago that we would actually be hosting the eighth round of this series on the first Saturday in October, the answer would probably have been “no way.” But here we are, almost home in an extremely complicated year where the pandemic and case of COVID-19 can literally pop up anywhere, as we saw in the NFL with games canceled this weekend, and even the White House now on lockdown. This thing is still here, and like our colleagues at MXGP in Europe, we’re doing everything we can to finish safely.
We’ve so far managed to dodge any big bullets, with a little bit of luck and a great deal of planning, safety protocols, mandatory masks in the closed paddock, limited spectators (3,500 will be allowed tomorrow), skipping states where even a modestly big professional sporting event can be held, and more. That’s just coronavirus. We’ve also been lucky to minimize other bullets that did hit, like Ken Roczen deciding to sit out, and then seeing Cooper Webb, Jason Anderson, Dean Wilson, and others have to drop out with unfortunate injuries.
And last weekend we were reminded several times that motocross racing is dangerous, both in Florida and Italy (where MXGP is completing a tripleheader in Mantova on Sunday) with four big, ugly crashes that could have been really, really bad. Two happened in Italy, two in Florida—and the two in Florida were over the same jump in the same moto. All were over tabletop-like jumps, riders either going over the bars or flat-landing way past the backside of the obstacle.
In Florida it was the first 250 moto and the first big obstacle on the course. First, Rockstar Husqvarna's RJ Hampshire was holding third with just a couple of laps to go when he hit a rock on the takeoff of the jump. He was extremely lucky not to be seriously injured after jumping off that high up.
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Scary one yesterday! Caught a rock at the top of the face and there wasn’t much I could do. Already coming into the weekend a bit injured from Millville, I was managing that first moto pretty well till that. Huge thank you to @teamdrg and @rockstarhusky for making that second moto happen! I’ll be good to go for Colorado and get back on the box 👊🏼👍🏼
Then, just a couple laps later, on the last lap of the race, privateer rookie Mason Gonzales had a very similar and equally ugly crash on the exact same jump. (After the moto, the track crew immediately went to work on the face of that jump, where a rock had been exposed near the lip as the moto wore on. There were no more problems with the takeoff for that jump for the rest of the day.)
Unlike Hampshire, Gonzales did not come out for the second moto. But luckily he is okay and will be racing again tomorrow here in Colorado. Hopefully this very strong, young prospect will be able to go in the last two rounds and maybe land a ride for 2021.
Over in Italy there was Evgeny Bobryshev's frightening launch in Mantova that looked similar in nature to what happened to Doug Henry at Budds Creek back in 1995. Bobby seemed to hold the throttle wide open, or it just stuck itself, and as you can see by the video and the accompanying screams by the great Paul Malin, it was a frightening crash.
Worst of all the crashes, though, was Arminas Jasikonis, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna MXGP rider from Lithuania. His crash was also posted online, and while you can’t see the accident to its completion, it was plain to see that the impact was going to be brutal, and it was. He ended up in a medically induced coma, and all of MXGP was stunned and worried for this popular kid. They wore “AJ 27” decals for the second MXGP at Mantova on Wednesday, and many of his competitors dedicated their race to him or talked about how much they hoped he would come out of the coma.
Thank goodness he did. On Thursday, the news from the doctors was very positive, as his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing MXGP Team Manager Antti Pyrhönen said in a press release:
“Honestly, I have never been so happy to comment on one of my riders. To be able to say that AJ is ok, that he is going to be ok, it’s a kind of miracle. These last few days since his accident have been so, so emotionally draining for everyone close to AJ, and just the worst of times. When he woke, when we realized that he could talk, that he could move all of his arms and legs, that he was in no pain and had no other injuries, it’s still almost impossible to put into words how incredible that feeling was. Of course, AJ still has some way to go before he is fully recovered, and understandably he is still very tired, but the worst is now behind him and he can soon start his recovery. Again, I want to say a sincere thank you to every single person who had AJ in their thoughts during the last few days, to the overwhelming support and positivity we received from the MXGP paddock and the global motocross community. But especially I want to thank everyone at Husqvarna Motorcycles in Austria and the entire motorsports family there, to Robert Jonas and Heinz Kinigadner and also to our team owner Kimi, who immediately started organizing many things behind the scenes. Everyone in the team is hugely thankful for this positive outcome and so, so relieved that AJ will be ok.”
We all know the warning “racing can be a cruel mistress,” and these were four reminders of that which were very fortunately not as bad as they could have been. Especially in a terrible year like 2020 has been. Seven down, two to go.
Time for one of the underrated nationals of the season in Lakewood, Colorado. Great track, viewing, easy to get to, and a cool part of the country. The altitude was an issue when the teams were first going there, but with EFI and some better understanding, we don't see really any issues there anymore. If it's hot, it's brutal on the riders for sure, but that won't be the case this weekend. Having said all that, there's no doubt that the bikes are a lot slower there. We've seen some great racing at Lakewood over the years, and a lot of it has to do with the bikes being slower and more equal. Having said that, I expect the Yamahas to be dominant in the 250 Class. Not great news if your name is Jeremy Martin and you need to make up some points on Dylan Ferrandis.
With Shane McElrath being established as a front-runner, Justin Cooper seemingly back to his usual form (although I've thought this before), and new kid Nate Thrasher there, it's going to rain down blue in the 250 Class off the starts. And that's going to be enough to allow the guys in the blue to have an advantage. If J-Mart is able to win this weekend, it will be so huge for him.
Pro Perspective (Thomas)
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross in October! As weird as this all seems, I have to admit that the weather has been absolutely awesome. Sure, Loretta's was challenging, but ever since, the cooler fall temperatures have welcomed motocross with open arms. This weekend's Thunder Valley event will be no different, as we are expecting sunny skies and a high near 70. In other words, a perfect weekend of racing.
For the riders, it makes life much easier. Recovery is quicker, hydration is more achievable, and the overall strain on man and machine is much lower. Going into a brutally hot summer race was usually met with a deep breath, knowing the torture test that lay ahead. Races like we will see tomorrow, however, bring a smile to everyone's face.
The other side of this coin is a rider like Zach Osborne who thrives in a hot, humid suffer-fest. He utilizes that suffering, preying on his competition late in each moto. It's not that he isn't hot or tired, it's that he’s less hot and less tired. He has insulated himself against the most brutal of conditions through endless summer motos and bicycle rides. When we get a beautiful fall day like tomorrow, I believe Osborne shakes his head in frustration. His lethal late-moto charge is less effective, as his competition has not been weakened by the blazing sun. Days like tomorrow will be more about speed than fitness, and that’s more favorable to some than others.
Regardless of how the conditions affect your strategy, it's hard to not appreciate the crisp autumn air. Racing this late into the calendar has been a unique experience, and I have enjoyed it. With all the mess that is 2020, I feel fortunate that our sport has carried on through the challenges. We’re going racing, and it almost feels like a normal season. Almost.
Four for Zach (Andras Hegyi)
Zach Osborne is something of a pioneer for Husqvarna in America. A few years back, Osborne became the first Husqvarna winner in the history of the 125/250 AMA Pro Motocross (2016). Osborne also became the first Husqvarna champion both in the 125/250 Class of Pro Motocross and 125/250 Supercross in 2017. Now a three-time SX/MX champion, in 2020, Osborne became the first Husky rider to win in three different AMA championships when he won the final SX in Salt Lake City, and now he's won in all four categories by taking the first 450 Class wins ever for himself and Husqvarna.
Finally, last Saturday Osborne became the first Husqvarna racer to get four victories in a 450 Pro Motocross season. Osborne overtook Husqvarna legend Kent Howerton, who had three wins way back in 1975 when the brand was still in Sweden. If Osborne holds on to his points lead—29 over Adam Cianciarulo with just four motos to go—he would be the maiden Husqvarna champion in the premier motocross class. (Also worth noting: in 1976, the aforementioned Howerton won the AMA 500cc National Motocross Championship, and Jason Anderson won the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.)
Team Green (Keefer)
It was a busy week for Racer X testing, as Kellen Brauer and I nailed down some Racer X Garage videos and managed to test ride the new 2021 Kawasaki KX250. Kawasaki completely revamped their KX250 with over 300 part-number changes, and after I spent a couple hours on the machine Wednesday, I can tell that this is going to be a very good platform for quarter-liter four-stroke consumers. The 2021 KX250 has an improved mid- to top-end engine character as well as a chassis that is more front-end bias than ever before. On paper, the Kawasaki R&D guys tell me it's slightly heavier, but the bike as a whole bike feels 3-4 pounds lighter on the track. On the racing side, I also feel like the race teams will have a better platform to work with, and to me, the new 2021 KX250 will be a real weapon for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit boys in SX.
October Races (DC)
Earlier this week we did a List article on October races from yesteryear, including some rare (for that time of year) AMA Pro Motocross races, some from the late, great Trans-AMA Series, plus Monster Cup, the U.S. Open, and the Motocross of Nations.
One of our readers who signs on as Thunder wrote about an October race he remembered, and shared this post in the comments:
I attended the Trans AMA round at Red Bud in 1975 that I am pretty sure was in October. It was the one and only time I got to see Roger race. The series was still going strong and it literally had every GP star from that time period along with our best National racers. Roger did not win that day though, if my memory serves me it was Gerrit Wolsink who got the overall and I think Tony D may have been top American. A couple memories I have about it is convincing my dad to take us to the race, arriving in the middle of the night and sleeping our Chevy Blazer. We woke up to realize we had parked right in front of the ski jump! We could sit on the tail gate and watch the riders launch off of what seemed like a huge jump back then. I think it actually snowed a little bit on raceday and the track was in primo shape. I took a little walk before the first moto was to start and was standing right by the track at a corner that no longer exists on the SE corner by the service road. The bikes came by for the start and there was some bar banging right in front of me. As the mayhem cleared out I realized there was a factory Suzuki literally a couple feet from me on the other side of the fence. It was Roger! He got going in last and proceeded to race back to second in the 45 minute moto. It was an epic thing to see all those GP stars back then in the infancy of the sport here in America. I attended a few more of the Trans AMA/USA races over the next 5 years before the series died off and it was epic stuff and the best time of the year for moto!
Ride Red (Keefer)
If you have a 2021 Honda CRF450R on order at your local dealer and you haven't seen it yet, don't freak out. I’ve heard from a couple local dealers in Southern California that Honda has pushed back their arrival dates. Could this mean Honda is looking into some optional ECU settings before they ship the units to the dealers? If so, I think this would be a smart move, as there is a rich low-RPM feeling in map one on our CRF450R test machine. I know some other media outlets did not feel what I felt, but getting the ECU a little cleaner would only make this red machine that much better.
Win Ads (DC)
Check out these two win ads from 1983. The "California Surrenders to Holland" is based on Suzuki factory rider George Holland winning the 125 class championship in the Trans-Cal Series, which was once a thriving off-season series based entirely in the Golden State.
The Yamaha ad from the same issue of Cycle News requires a little more explaining. It features Yamaha road racing star Eddie Lawson, factory motocrossers Rick Johnson and Broc Glover, and minicycle hotshot Eddie Hicks, who were all responsible for some of the great results listed on the right. But if you look closer you will notice that a Yamaha rider finished first at the San Diego Trans-Cal Supercross, but he's not pictured with the others. That's because Ron Lechien, the race winner, had signed with Team Honda for the 1984 season, so Yamaha would not support him in what was basically his hometown race, the non-AMA-sanctioned San Diego SX. So Lechien's father, Dick, founder of Maxima Oils, went out and bought Ronnie a brand-new 1984 YZ250 Yamaha, then they asked Scott USA's Bevo Forti, a former Yamaha factory mechanic, to help spin the wrenches on the bike. Lechien won the race on the store-bought bike, and Yamaha wanted to celebrate the win, but not the rider they were losing, so neither his photo nor his name made it onto the win ad!
I admit that the PulpMX Show we do on Monday nights isn't really geared around the off-road world. We've had Cody Webb and Dakar champ Ricky Brabec in studio, but we don't do a ton of that stuff. Well, I've been getting lots of DMs about us getting GNCC rider Stu Baylor on, as he's been the talk of that series lately, and after his last win, I guess we figured it was time. Weege said Baylor would be a good guest, and he was. I can see how the people love this guy, who was fired from the Sherco squad earlier this year and has won two GNCCs in a row on an AmPro Yamaha practice bike.
Ben Cheatwood Is Leaving the Building... (DC)
We spotted this on our longtime friend Kristen Cheatwood's Facebook page about her father, Ben, who is an even longer longtime friend of everyone here at Racer X and in the motorcycle industry in general—you might recall his voice as one of the announcers of the Daytona Supercross, and he always has the oldest and coolest T-shirts of Bike Week!
Tomorrow will be my Dad's last day of work with American Honda Motor Corp. He had a wonderful 48 year career with Honda and Honda was so generous to my Father and my family and we are forever grateful. Here is his goodbye email:
It has been a great adventure at American Honda over the past 48 plus years. On March 20, 1972, I drove my 1968 Ford Ranchero to the national office at 100 W. Alondra in Gardena, California to start my career at American Honda. Less than a year later I relocated to Georgia as a District Sales manager for the next 13 years with a move to parts in 1986.
Near to the end of my tenure in the motorcycle division, I was able to organize the dealers in the Atlanta market to help promote a local charity, The Brain Tumor Foundation for Children, that went on to a national event for the motorcycle division shortly after our start in 1986. Of all the activities I have had this is the one that gives me the greatest joy.
Along the adventure I had the opportunity to work in the Acura division as a national level sales and marketing person for the NSX from November 93 to May 95. I was announcing at Laguna Seca during a 500 Grand Prix event when Acura VP, Rich Thomas, asked me to sell NSX’s for a while. I asked if it was retail or wholesale and he just said ‘yes’.
Later in 1995, I was asked to assist with the Honda Supercross and Motocross race team for two seasons hitting the race circuit with the team as an assistant to the team manager. During both of these projects I kept my ‘day’ job as a regional parts administrator for motorcycle parts. During my tenure I have had the opportunity to work with 1000’s of Honda dealerships as well as hundreds of Honda associates across the USA. This is what I will remember as highlights of my Honda ‘time’.
On October 1, 2020 I am driving my 1968 Ford Ranchero to the Alpharetta Honda office for my final day at American Honda.
50 Podiums (Andras Hegyi)
For the first time since the third round of the series, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac reached the podium in the seventh round last Saturday at WW Ranch in Florida.
The defending three-time champion is obviously not having the series he expected, but he continues trying to get good results for himself and his team. This second podium of the series marked his 50th career podium result in the 450 division of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Tomac is the fifth rider to have at least 50 podiums in the history of the 250/450 MX championship, in existence since 1972.
Tomac debuted in the 450 motocross in 2014 and since then he has been able to obtain podium results every season. He got his 50th podium in his seventh season and in the 66th round he's competed in. Tomac got nine podiums riding Honda and 41 podiums with Kawasaki. He has 24 wins, 10 second-place finishes, and 16 third-place overall finishes. Tomac’s best season was 2019, as he reached the podium in 11 of the 12 rounds last year. And the chances that Eli gets on the podium is 75.75 percent.
In the history of the 250/450 motocross Ricky Carmichael has the most podium results as well as the best podium average too. RC raced in 88 rounds of 250/450 MX and he racked up 84 podiums. During his premier motocross class career, it lasted between 2000 and 2007, Carmichael missed the podium in just four rounds, making the GOAT's podium rate an astonishing 95.45 percent.
Riders to get at least 50 podium results in the AMA 250/450 motocross:
The november 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Check out the Indian Motorcycle eFTR Jr.— a mini-replica of Indian Motorcycle’s American Flat Track championship-winning FTR750.
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Introducing the eFTR Jr. An electric mini-replica of Indian Motorcycle’s @americanflattrack championship-winning FTR750. Allowing motorcycle lovers to take their passion for two wheels, and #HandItDown to aspiring young riders. Learn more through the link in our bio. #indianmotorcycle #eFTRjr
Two of our favorite motocross-loving friends got together for a car build project that is pretty cool. Ken Block wanted to build out a 1990 Mustang 5.0 convertible for his 14-year-old daughter Lia, so he reached out to Vanilla Ice himself to make the car as much like Ice's iconic car from his rap song and video of the early 1990s. Here's how it all came together:
Listen To This
JT and Weege join host Steve Mat to review what happened at WW Ranch Motocross Park from Zacho’s second best race ever to Marv’s move on Adam Cianciarulo to is ET3 back? They also cover Dylan Ferrandis’ great day, the crashes by Mason "Speedy" Gonzales and RJ Hampshire, and much more. Zacho even calls in to chat for a little.
Dylan Ferrandis is actually one of the most open and honest riders on the AMA circuit, but many fans don't know that because it's hard to understand him! Jason Weigandt helps articulate the points that Ferrandis makes in this interview, adding his interpretation to sound bites after an interview with the current 250 Class series leader. Ferrandis explains his approach to the final races, bike changes that helped with his starts but slowed him on the track, and how he was actually mad at himself for that Christian Craig incident earlier in the season. Also, he explains that winning last year's Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in 250SX West might have made him too complacent when Lucas Oil Pro Motocross began for 2019, which he now considers the greatest lesson of his racing career—and a mistake he won't make again. Plus: while racing over the weekend at WW Ranch, he had visions of trying to battle Jeffrey Herlings, which Ferrandis had to do in his MX2 days in the GPs. Ferrandis explains much about the emotions of racing at the top level. It's worth understanding!
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
"A man covered his face with tattoos and turned his eyes black. He says it cost him his kindergarten teaching job"—CNN Business
"Parrots in wildlife park moved after swearing at visitors"—CNN Travel
"Insult to circus workers, say circus workers..."—Drudge Report
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!