Welcome to Racerhead and the continuation of the off-season. We’re more than halfway through December and the second “December surprise” is here. Fortunately, it wasn’t a rider this time like the first surprise, which was Dylan Ferrandis going down hard and hurting his hand. This time, the December surprise turns out to be the entire state of Arizona. Changes in coronavirus restrictions led Feld Motor Sports to announce the three rounds set for Glendale’s State Farm Stadium were being canceled and moved. Here’s the new schedule:
2021 Supercross Schedule
There was also some back-and-forth with whether to start with East or West Region 250 races, and I will let Matthes explain more about that below. But the simple fact is that in 2021, given the seemingly 50 different state rules on social restrictions due to the coronavirus, the furthest west the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is going to get is Salt Lake City (and for the final two rounds, not seven like last year). It’s not ideal for anyone, but as I’ve mentioned before, the only reason Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship was able to make the last round of the 2020 series work at Fox Raceway at Pala was because it’s on the Pala tribal lands, and thus it’s the tribe and not the state of California that sets the rules of what goes on there. Going downtown to Anaheim, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, or anywhere else other than tribal lands in California, appears to be a no-go, at least in the first quarter of the year. We still hold out hope that things will have changed by the time we head to Hangtown in late May for a return of the traditional opener, but right now, that’s a very, very long way off.
In speaking with folks at both Feld Entertainment and the AMA, I suggested it’s a shame that they couldn’t just change the East and West Regions to North and South for 2021, right? But is it really that big of a deal that most of the West races will now be in the East? Not in 2020, nor 2021. Remember, every NBA team, from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Toronto Raptors, played the second half of the season at Disney World, in a bubble. And as I joked with Daniel Blair today on his podcast, “Supercross Beyond the Track,” Monday Night Football happens almost every night of the week now as the NFL tries to squeeze in all of their games, despite breakouts of the virus and exposure of players leading to quarantines, lockdowns, and postponing games. Knowing all that, it’s understandable that even a race on the far East Coast, like almost literally on Daytona Beach, is now going to be in the West Region. The schedule is not ideal, especially for fans out in the southwest, but the fact that a series is even going to happen beginning on January 16 in Houston is a very big deal for our industry and sport in general.
I also know how much work it’s been to even have races happening at this point. Last March, when everything shut down after Daytona, my big sister Carrie Russell called me, Tim Cotter, Jeremy Holbert, Jeff Canfield, and Roy Janson into her office and said that despite races and sporting events all over the world being shut down—the JS7 Classic in Texas and the Red Bull A Day in the Dirt Down South were both literally stopped in their tracks—now was the time to roll up our sleeves and get to work. She felt that we needed to build a Race Leadership Team and a task force of promoters from all over the country to study the shutdown, figure out what we would need to do to get races back up and running safely, and also building a toolkit that could be given to event promoters all over the country that would help them go to their local health officials and show them what the tracks were going to do to keep both riders and spectators safe. Whether it was mandating masks on the starting grids or closing the paddock to spectators or having socially-distant podiums, the toolkit would have the input of promoters, doctors, officials, and anyone else we could get on what we were now calling the Safe-to-Race Task Force that could bring some sort of expertise to the cause. Besides our original group from MX Sports and MX Sports Pro Racing, some of the familiar folks who joined were Dave Prater, the Director of Supercross for Feld Motor Sports, RedBud’s Amy Ritchie, JH Leale, Dr. Nona Colburn, Britt Cotter, MyLap’s John Dains and Gabe Ellett, the AMA’s Bill Cumbow, Mike Pelletier, Alexandria Kovacs, the Alpinestars Mobil Medical Unit’s Dr, Reiman, and many more. In the end there were maybe three dozen folks involved, and we worked for weeks to get all of the information we could find on how to open racetracks back up again to riders and their families, and eventually fans.
And here is the Safe-to-Race Tool Kit, a 43-page handbook of information, resources, protocols, contacts, signage ideas, and more.
The protocols and best practices that were gathered were then shared with event organizers all over the country, and by May we were started to see the Safe-to-Race Tool Kit helping tracks reopen. And by late summer, races were happening everywhere, under various levels of restrictions. Carrie was right—the quickest way for us to get races back up and running was to present as much information as we could to local health authorities, many of whom wanted to see sporting events of all types happening again.
The very unexpected thing about all of this, other than the fact that we actually pulled the Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship off without a hitch, was the recognition that came out this week from the American Motorcyclist Association. On the cover of their January 2021 issue, they named the members of the Safe-to-Race Task Force as the 2020 Motorcyclists of the Year! And a cool shot of the Spring Creek National made the cover of the magazine:
“This group provided the leadership that motorcycle racing needed during a crisis that threatened the continued existence of the sport, not just a single racing season,” said Russ Ehnes, chair of the AMA Board of Directors, in the press release. “From the top professional racers to the young amateur competitors, motorcycle racers were able to participate in well-run events and battle to bring home AMA National No. 1 plates.”
So congratulations to my longtime friends like Tim, Britt, Roy, Jeremy, Jeff, JH, Amy, Dave Prater, Ken Hudgens, Tim Murray, Mike Pelletier, Doc Reiman, and especially my big sister Carrie, who got the whole thing rolling, on earning this distinction, as well as all of the other folks from various forms of motorsports listed below. Also, thanks to the AMA Board, AMA President Rob Dingman and the rest of the folks at AMA headquarters for appreciating and remembering what all of these folks did when the motorsports world and everything else shut down in early 2020.
Logistics (Jason Weigandt)
We passed the one-month-from-Houston mark this week, so 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross is starting to round into sight. I have a feeling a lot of riders and teams are happy to have an extra ten-or-so days before round one than usual, which makes the holiday crunch seem a little less stressful. There are things we discovered through necessity that would not have never been tried during normal circumstances, but suddenly they actually seem pretty smart. For real, if the world is back to “normal” in 2022, it won’t be easy to go back to the regular supercross-every-Saturday schedule, because there are real benefits to weekday races. This is the rare motorsport where competitors can practice on real equipment between races. Now everyone has realized that if you’re going to ride on Tuesday anyway, why not race and make it count and then take the weekend off?
However, if we get back to allowing full seats of spectators in '22, the weekday races aren't going to be as strong for ticket sales. Supercross fans come from far and wide to get to a race and you can't count on everyone getting a random Tuesday off work to come watch. So, this will be interesting to watch. I bet a lot of riders want to keep the weekday races going in the future. Maybe they’ll feel differently after experiencing this through a full 17-round championship, but I know that last season’s Utah plan (originally the “Glendale plan”) was a hit.
I’m still wondering if teams will build in some contingency plans, such as renting or building SX practice tracks in Texas near Houston. And because it’s Texas, you know someone has some huge, legit supercross track around, because it just seems so Texas to have that. Getting to test after the opening round and getting ready for Tuesday’s round two seems huge to me.
This week’s announcement of the full schedule does include some other oddities. Don’t expect the Daytona Supercross to ever be a 250SX West round ever again, but we do have a real (forced) experiment happening over at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Yeah we see an infield supercross at Daytona every year, and we’ve seen this happen before (like the Charlotte Motor Speedway events in the late ‘90s) but in general, we’ve seen lately that anything is possible. Could this be a viable event in the future or just a stop gap for one year? We’ll see how it plays.
With the season closing in, we’re making plans of our own. We’ll be shooting our annual Monster Energy Supercross preview videos in early January, so we’ll get you the good stuff on YouTube in the days before Houston 1 (sounds so weird to type that). We’re also bringing our Racer X/Pulp MX live shows back, starting with a show you can attend Friday night in Houston. Three Palms MX will be the host site, and I for one think it’s cool to hold a show at a race track. See! Necessity might have just pushed us to find something better! The show takes place January 15, tickets are $25, and myself, Matthes, and JT will be there ready to joke, laugh, inform, and argue (from a distance on stage). Come on out.
Finally, I just booked my tickets and Matthes just locked us into an AirBNB for #Houstonweek. The New Year will be here soon enough!
FLIP FLOP (Matthes)
When the schedule for the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship first dropped there were a few TBAs on there that were definitely thought of as good landing spots for some West Coast races if we could get clear of this COVID-19 thing. Southern California is the birthplace of SX and it's only natural everyone would want to go there if California, a state that’s proven to be very restrictive in its virus measures, loosened things up. At least we had a Glendale race on there that could be driven to by people in SoCal, right?
Well, no we don't anymore. The people of Glendale decided that there couldn't be fans there anymore and with that, Feld Entertainment pulled out of that venue. So now with no real West Coast races at all, Feld made some changes and added in Atlanta Motor Speedway and Orlando to those TBA rounds. And then because Houston was the furthest west race, Feld went ahead and flip-flopped the 250SX West and East rounds as well. It made sense in that Orlando and Atlanta were further east than Houston so those could be east and Houston can be west, as well as Indianapolis the week after.
Except, well, it doesn't make sense for the 250SX West Region teams. Team owner Michael Lindsey joined us in a Renthal Reaction Podcast when the initial changes were announced and laid out the reasons this didn't work for him or for some of the other 250SX West teams.
The big factory teams, well, they would be fine with whatever, but as Michael stated in the podcast the teams have had mid-February in mind as a start date and with the series just over a month away, it wasn't feasible for him and others to get going. With the shutdown earlier this year, parts and supplies haven't been easy to get, the teams have been put on the backburner with some of their suppliers because they aren't totally urgent, and to move the start of their series up was really going to ball up Michael's FXR/Chaparral Honda team, the Team Solitaire/Nuclear Blast Yamaha, JMC Motorsports Racing Husqvarna, and others. Trust me, I was on many race teams and you need ALL your available time to be ready for the series. You plan around this, you make appointments for this, etc.
So why not just switch to the East then if you're Michael and the others? Well, they have contracts in place to be 250SX West and then some OEMs have other teams for the East Region so you can't just pile on top of one another, right? The whole thing wasn't ideal for these teams so Feld announced that they were switching it back to the way it was before.
Yes, Atlanta, Daytona and one Orlando will be "West" Region races while the race that's geographically the most western (Houston) will be "East," but we're in a different world. Who cares where the races will be?
It's not a great look for anyone to change these things so much and so fast, and yes, it's not ideal, but I think in the end it's a positive that Feld listened to the smaller privateer teams and understood how this change really would have harmed them. They wanted to try and have some sort of symmetry to the series, I get that, but the time-crunch for these smaller teams might have ruined them in their preparation for the series.
MotoXDream360.com Fantasy League (Denny Stephenson)
Tonight we wrap up round one of our 21SX Preseason Fantasy game with a randomly selected race from the 2019 season. The first two races, one from 2017 & another from 2018, were thoroughly dominated by Eli Tomac. Who definitely earned his million dollar salary in our league with a perfect 1-1 over the two seasons.
As we all know, despite not winning the title from 2017 to 2019, the #3 Kawasaki won by far the most main events over those three seasons. The 2017 Detroit Supercross and 2018 St. Louis Supercross saw Tomac lead every lap for maximum points.
Marvin Musquin also earned his near million dollar salary with 2-3 main event finishes in the Motor City and STL, The Gateway to the West.
A rider who far exceeded his salary was the HOT Broc Tickle. Broc scored two seventh-place finishes which set up his team managers with the 10-point bonus at both races. A near perfect 48 points for the Michigan rider.
Tonight's race three of round one takes us back to somewhere in the 2019 season as BigB116 will wear the coveted MXD360 Red Plate. His eight rider team led by Tomac, Tickle, Jason Anderson, Ryan Dungey, and Davi Millsaps looks to wrap up our opening round with the points lead.
If you have signed up and hired a team yet, registration opens back up tomorrow morning with an updated salary list. Sign an eight-rider team under the $3 million salary cap and MXD360 does the rest. And again, it's FREE. Visit MotoXDream360.com to sign up!
The february 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Watch Alex Martin spin laps on his Manluk/Rock River Yamaha/Merge Racing YZ250F on his latest vlogs.
listen to this
We joke about 49 riders racing for Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing, but only one of them has a story like this. Aaron Plessinger will transition from the Monster Energy Yamaha in-house factory team to Star's new 450 squad. Will the Star YZ450F be different than the previous factory bike? Can Aaron make a step forward after two frustrating seasons in the 450 class? Jason Weigandt chats with the very friendly, very honest Plessinger, who is always laughing, even when he's describing bad news!
The debut episode of the new LeattRe-Raceables Podcastwhere Steve Matthes and Jason Weigandt take you through the epic Anaheim 1 2005 SX opener. From the mud, to Stew's 250SX debut to RC throwing it away, Weege and Matthes recap all the drama on TV and behind the scenes of this epic race. Weege says this is hands down the most hyped opener in the history of the sport and he will not back down from that position. This race had Carmichael, Reed, Stewart, McGrath and Pastrana all on the same gate, people! Check out the pod with the link above or just search for it where you get your pods.
HEAD-SCRATCHING HEADLINE/S OF THE WEEK
“Man was taken into custody after he climbed onto the wing of an airplane preparing to takeoff in Las Vegas”—CNN
“Santa Claus tests positive for COVID, exposing 50 kids in Georgia”—Newsweek
'BATMAN' to drop first F-bomb...”—Drudge Rep
“See Santa Claus, elf bust alleged drug dealers in Peru”—CNN.com
We hated to spot this on our friend Jason Hooper's Full Gas Sprint Enduro Facebook page:
Granite Falls, NC (December 18, 2020) Hooper Media, LLC, the parent company of the Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series, announces that 2020 was the final season of the series. The company has no plans to continue promoting the unique off-road racing series in the future.
The Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series introduced a new format of racing to the USA in 2014 in a one-off event that was attended by the top ISDE riders in America and was a smashing success. Because of that success, a 5-round series was scheduled in 2015 with successive 8-round championship series in 2016-2020.
With Full Gas rounds serving as club team ISDE qualifiers every year since 2015, and with many of the USA men’s and Women’s Trophy Team and Junior team riders competing in the series, the Team USA efforts dramatically improved at the International Six Days Enduro culminating with Trophy and Women’s Team wins in 2019. The series founders are proud to have played a small part in that massive accomplishment by providing a series for riders to sharpen their special test skills, something that wasn’t available anywhere else in the USA at the time.
“This wasn’t an easy decision to make by any stretch,” said series founder Jason Hooper. “The series has grown beyond anything we could’ve expected when we did our first one-off event back in 2014,” Hooper added. “Promoting this type of event requires an incredible amount of work that we’ve always tackled with a small but mighty crew, but that work and stress has taken its toll culminating at this point where no longer promoting the series is the right move for my family and myself,” he concluded.
The Full Gas Series and its founders would like to thank all of the riders who participated in the series over the last six years as well as our series sponsors, both past and current, as well as the many workers who helped put on the events.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!