Eight down, one to go. If everything goes according to plan, the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship season will conclude tomorrow afternoon at Fox Raceway at Pala here in Pala, California. That in turn will bring to an end the most turbulent, difficult and strangest year our sport has ever seen, for both supercross and motocross, and really just about everything else in the world. But somehow, we made it through to the other side—or at least we’re now less than a day away from it. And then just like the Monster Energy AMA Supercross tour, which was stopped in its tracks in March, only to find a window in early June to find its finish line in Salt Lake City, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross has been trying to thread its own needle since mid-August, and without visiting six of its traditional tracks: Hangtown, Washougal, Unadilla, Southwick, Budds Creek, High Point. Instead, we had to go where the virus and the health restrictions let us go, and that meant two Loretta Lynn’s, two RedBuds, and five other rounds at Ironman, Spring Creek, WW Ranch, Thunder Valley and now, hopefully, finally, Fox Raceway.
Obviously there were a lot of skeptics thinking that somehow, someway, it would get stopped in its tracks, but we created a plan, stuck with it as best we could, made changes when it seemed prudent, and continue to work on keeping the promises we made to the riders and race teams to practice social-distancing, keep fans out of the paddock, enforce our mask rules, temperature check everyone going in and out of the pit gates, and also working with local and state officials to make sure we were doing things right. RedBud ran with hardly any fans; Florida got a gift from their governor on the eve of the race when he rescinded most of his executive orders on restrictions. Indiana, Colorado, and Minnesota had limited fans, as will this race tomorrow. It’s been difficult on all of the tracks, including the ones that didn’t get to go—and especially Washougal, which we really hoped to have, only to get some late-breaking news that made it more problematic than anyone expected, much to the disappointment of a lot of fans in the northwest. And even as recently as last Saturday in Colorado, I had people telling me they heard California was a no-go and asking if we should just stay in Colorado and finish it there.
Cameron McAdoo's Kawasaki KX250, displaying Fox Racing's throwback spider web gear from the Jeff Matiasevich era of racing. Align Media A peak into the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM tent. Align Media Brandon Hartranft's KTM 250 SX-F Troy Lee Designs-inspired machine for this weekend's Fox Raceway National. Align Media Two-strokes, anyone? Align Media Will Dylan Ferrandis' Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha have a #1 plate following tomorrow's finale? Align Media After a 13-year partnership, the GEICO Honda team will race its finale race with the insurance company as title sponsor. Align Media Will Zach Osborne earn his first premier class title tomorrow at 31 years old? Align Media Will rookie Adam Cianciarulo overcome his deficit to earn his first premier class title? Align Media Up for grabs starting tomorrow at 1 p.m. PT at Fox Raceway at Pala. Align Media
Fortunately, here we are, October 9, in Southern California, getting ready to have a race with another limited spectator count, but one that will certainly look and feel as normal as any other race we’ve seen in this abbreviated tour. And then that’s all—that will be it for professional motocross/supercross in America for 2020.
Thank you to all of the riders and race teams, race officials, industry workers, promoters and journalists, and especially the fans who all went along on this uncertain journey, no one really knowing how and when it might all end. It wasn’t easy, and it sure wasn’t pretty at time, but it was memorable and it was amazing. Thanks for following along.
Going Down Swinging (Jason Weigandt)
A shortened championship calendar (nine races instead of 12) means the points are tighter than usual heading in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross finale, as we usually see just one of the two championships mathematically up for grabs as we head into the final race. This year both titles remain unclinched, although Zach Osborne and Dylan Ferrandis hold commanding leads. Ferrandis, always brutally honest, admitted the pressure to close out does run through his mind.
“The pressure is already on, but we will see,” said Ferrandis in a Monday night press conference. “I want to say yes, I will go for the 1-1, but in Thunder Valley I was already feeling the pressure of the championship. In the morning I wasn’t really feeling good—the same feeling I had in Salt Lake City for the final supercross rounds. You’re so close to your dream. And we’re racing at Pala, a track where mistakes are easy to make. We will see how I feel. The goal is always the same, get out front and win the moto, but I think if I make it to the end and clinch this championship, that’s fine with me. My goal is the win the championship not every moto.”
Ferrandis actually gives great interviews but it’s lost in translation due to his accent. Last week I tried to help via my podcast with him, where I recorded his answers to questions and then explained what he was trying to say. Ferrandis never holds back. He says he learned so much trying to keep up with Jeffrey Herlings in his MX2 days, and that ran through his mind during the race as he was heading to a 1-1 at the WW Ranch National. He also says being a foreign rider might net him more grief from fans, but it also has an advantage because it keeps him focused and hungry—he has no choice but to succeed because motocross is all he has here in America. And he said that the biggest lesson of his career came last season, when he became too happy after winning the 2019 250SX West Supercross Championship, and didn’t begin the Pro Motocross chase with enough fire. That allowed Adam Cianciarulo to get the advantage on him early, and he could never make those points up. He didn’t make that mistake this year.
If Ferrandis wins, it will still be a solid year for Jeremy Martin, who re-established himself as a front runner after missing all of 2019 with injury. With the future of his GEICO Honda team unknown—GEICO will not return as title sponsor—Jeremy at least helped himself if he has to work the free agent market. Hard to imagine other 250 teams wouldn’t give J-Mart a call.
In the 450s, I wrote this week about Adam Cianciarulo, who has had a great rookie 450 Class season by normal standards, but could now also look at this year as a title that he couldn’t quite grasp. That’s a quick change in perspective. He explained that after Thunder Valley.
“After the race, I found myself—because I kind of gave it away, I know Zach was putting in some good laps, but I felt comfortable, unfortunately I made that mistake and let the overall slip away—it was weird to be bummed with a second place, especially with where I came into the season and where my expectations were. I was genuinely bummed out that I didn’t win,” said Cianciarulo after Thunder Valley. “At first, I remember getting on the podium at the second round at Loretta’s, I was so stoked to just get a podium. But now that I have a taste of victory, it’s just the same as it’s always been at any level throughout my career. All you want to do is win. That’s kind of where I’m at now.”
The biggest perspective change this weekend will come further down in the order. The Ferrandis/Osborne/Cianciarulo/Martin types will be fine regardless of how these titles play out. Further into the field, you’ve got some uncertainty with free agents and the future of other teams. If Factory Connection doesn’t find a new sponsor, where do rookies like Jo Shimoda and Carson Mumford go? And, when is everyone racing next? We’ve never ended an AMA Motocross season not knowing when or where AMA Supercross will begin. This year is still weird—it will be good and normal and fine for some, but there’s still a lot of mystery for others.
San Diego '83 (DC)
We were talking in last week's Racerhead about the late-season 1983 San Diego SX that Ron Lechien won on a store-bought, after signing a deal for 1984 with Honda, and for which Yamaha would use in a Cycle News win ad, only without mention Lechien's name! One of our longtime readers, Stephen Farewell, who goes by "sef154" in the comments, had some really cool personal memories about that particular race that he shared in the comments, and we wanted to share here:
Regarding that '83 San Diego SX:
My young-adult dream from upstate NY was to make a pilgrimage to the mecca of U.S. motorcycling, California. About a week prior to that race, I'd climbed aboard my '82 Suzuki GS1100E (which I still own) and made my way across the country. Six days later, I pulled up to a duplex in El Cajon, hooking up with a friend of a friend I'd never met (who'd agreed to let me crash on his couch until I could get my bearings). He and I became fast friends, and about 24 hours later, I'd talked him and a carload of other recent strangers into going to that race with me. They were psyched about the local boy winning the race, and I was psyched to be in So-Cal attending the first of many, many races at iconic places like Saddleback, Carlsbad, Anaheim, the Rose Bowl, Coliseum, Ascot Park, Costa Mesa Fairgrounds, and also Laguna Seca, Hollister ... even the one and only Sacramento SX.
The following year, I was wrenching at Lucky Yamaha in Lemon Grove. (The word was that Lechien had picked up that winning bike at that dealership.) It later became Yamaha-Suzuki of Lemon Grove, and I found myself working for new owner and multi-Baja-winning Bill Silverthorn, alongside Tom Moen (now of KTM), and racing my RM125 at places like Carlsbad, Perris ... even in the desert (at Moen's urging). It was truly an amazing experience.
I've long been back in NY, gone to college and grad school, had a good career, raised a great kid, and never miss Unadilla or Southwick. (I'm literally about halfway between the two.) But my CA experience—including that '83 SD SX—will always be a treasured memory.
Here's what the Cycle News coverage of the non-sanctioned event looked like:
25 for Eli (Andras Hegyi)
Even though he will not be keeping his #1 plate after an off-song series, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac is still one of the greatest riders of all-time in the history of the 250/450 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, in existence since 1972. Two weeks ago he got his 50th podium result in the premier motocross class, and then last Saturday at his home state in Colorado round he took his 25th win to become only the fourth rider to have at least 25 victories in the 250/450 class. Tomac collected his 25th win in his seventh season and 67th round. Tomac has three wins with Honda and 22 wins riding Kawasaki.
Tomac needed the most rounds and the most seasons to reach his 25th win. Ricky Carmichael got his 25th win in his third season and 32nd round. The GOAT debuted in the 250/450 motocross in 2000 and already in 2002 he could celebrate his 25th triumph. Ryan Dungey picked up his 25th win in his fourth season and 39th round. And first there was Bob Hannah, who obtained his 25th win in his sixth season and 47th round.
Riders to get at least 25 wins in 250/450 AMA Motocross:
Win Ads (DC)
With the 2020 season ending so late tomorrow—it's been almost 30 years, 1991 to be exact—since AMA Pro Motocross ended this late—we thought we would use our Win Ads section for three cool ads that involved The Man himself, Roger De Coster, and the late, great Trans-AMA Series, which run from late September to December in some years. De Coster was a five-time 500cc World Champion for Suzuki, a global ambassador for the sport of motocross, and every fall he would give the up-and-coming Americans quite a few lessons, especially in mud-riding. In one three-race stretch in 1977, three Trans-AMA rounds were run in muddy conditions, and De Coster swept all three, which led Suzuki to come up with this run of ads to show off his dominance.
21 Podiums (Andras Hegyi)
In the last two rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, rounds seven and eight, Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis has posted two new personal records. Two weeks ago at Jacksonville, Florida, he became the winningest French rider ever in the 125/250 class of AMA Motocross as he got his ninth overall win. That allowed him to overtake his fellow countryman Marvin Musquin, who had eight outdoor wins in this class. And then last Saturday at Thundey Valley, Colorado, Ferrandis finished second overall to collect his 21st overall podium result, making the most successful non-American rider ever in the 125/250 Class. Ferrandis surpassed another compatriot in Christophe Pourcel, who had 20 podiums. Tomorrow, at the final round of the 2020 season, Ferrandis can reach two other historic records. Regarding the number of wins, he can be the winningest international crosser in 125/250 Class of AMA Motocross, as his 10th win would break the tie he's now in with the South African Grant Langston, who had nine overall wins. And Ferrandis’ main goal is to become the maiden French champion in the history of the 125/250 AMA Pro Motocross Championship, in existence since 1974, which is something a long list of very talented Frenchmen—Jean-Michel Bayle, Michael Pichon, Stephane Roncada, Eric Sorby, Steve Boniface, Christophe Pourcel and more—could not win. (And we only left David Vuillemin off this list because he never actually raced the 125 class outdoors in America!)
Another Milestone (DC)
Last week we talked about North Carolina's Jordan Jarvis reaching a huge goal when she got to race the second moto at the Florida National as an alternate, making her the first woman since Dorene Payne in 1983 (and second ever) to compete in an AMA Pro Motocross National's main races. Well, last Saturday at Thunder Valley, we may have quietly seen another milestone. Forty-year-old Bobby Fitch, who hails from Watkins, Colorado, qualified for the national in the 250 Class at his home race. By doing so, he may have become the oldest rider ever to qualify for a 125/250 national in the history of the class, which goes back to 1974. Fitch did not score points in either moto, but just being there was quite a feat for a rider his age. We have been trying to research this to see if another rider was older in this class, but so far we've been unable to verify anyone in their forties making the main in the 125/250 class in AMA Pro Motocross.
The december 2020 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Inside the December issue of Racer X magazine: Masks, social distancing, and closed pits—it was all new, but it allowed the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to happen. The tougher the fight ahead, the harder Jeremy Martin will work to get it done. A rundown of—and some conversations with—the riders who only managed one AMA professional moto win. High Point Raceway enjoyed a sense of community and normalcy at the annual Big Dave Vet Homecoming Weekend. These features and much more in the December issue of Racer X.
Non-Moto, but 28 years ago this week, in one of the greatest pranks in sports history, Toronto Blue Jays' captain Joe Carter drove rookie Derek Bell’s car out onto the stadium floor in the middle of the game as part of a mock raffle, where even the announcer gets in on it and reads a winning raffle ticket. Priceless.
How about an HBO Film on the wheelie boyz? Check out the trailer for "Charm City Kings"
Jordan Jarvis in Fox Racing’s “Unplugged” Series
And here’s the Troll Train vlog from the Thunder Valley National!
Listen To This
JT and Weege join host Steve Matthes to review what happened at the Thunder Valley National in Lakewood, Colorado, from J-Coop's win to dogs on the podium to ET’s great ride and Zach Osborne’s ankle, it’s all right here. Oh and stay for another recap of the WW Ranch National incident between Marv/AC!
Scott Cavalari sent us this hilarious pic that had us doing second and third takes...
"Check this out, from Sunday @ Walden Playboys OP," wrote Scott, "The guy watering the track in the back ground, the water lines up perfectly with the exhaust. You couldn’t photoshop it any better…."
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!