Welcome to Racerhead.
Looks like we made it—the off-season is finally, mercifully over. Tomorrow night it’s go-time again as the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship blasts off at Houston’s NRG Stadium. The action kicks off with live qualifying coverage beginning at 12 p.m. EST/9 a.m. PST on Peacock TV. NBC Sports Network and Peacock TV will both carry live coverage of the opening-round night show beginning at 6 p.m. EST/3 p.m. PST.
Racer X Online been blasting out season preview shows and interviews and stories ever since the schedule came out, and we will be posting breaking news, photos, updates, and results on the site and on social media all day and night tomorrow. We have Weege, Matthes, and Jason Thomas on hand, as well as the guys from Align Media down there in Houston. Personally, I am sitting this one out—okay, I’m sitting all three Houstons out, as they’re trying to limit the footprint in the paddock and press box as everyone tries to be safe and smart and socially distanced as best as they can as we all navigate through the ongoing coronavirus threat.
I will say that I applaud Feld Entertainment and the AMA for all the precautions they’ve undertaken to get the 2021 series started tomorrow. It’s one thing to figure out a way to finish a series during the coronavirus, which they had to do last year after it stopped everyone in their tracks in early March; Salt Lake City stepped up to help save the day after more than two months in limbo. Now they will start in a much different environment, various states and cities working to be as open for business as they can, as we all want life (and sports) to go on, but it’s going to be very different and somewhat difficult for starters. COVID-19 testing is mandatory for everyone who has access to the paddock, and social distancing will be strictly enforced between various teams, between media and the athletes, between riders and race fans. No one wants to expose someone else the virus, especially if a positive test might mean removing the entire team from the event. We’ve seen it happen in the NBA, college football and basketball, and even the NFL. This will be a season unlike any other, no doubt. Let’s just hope everyone stays safe and smart and cooperates in what will be a very unique experience for everyone.
Finally, before we jump into the rest, a tip of the visor to the great Joel Robert, who passed away earlier this week at the age of 77 after contracting COVID-19. Robert had already been in poor health after a series of minor strokes and heart attacks, but the virus took its tragic toll. We wrote about Joel and what the six-time 250cc World Champion and lifelong ambassador for the sport meant earlier this week.
Godspeed, Joel Robert.
Press Day (Jason Weigandt)
We got to watch some riding today at Houston, and it’s awesome to get a real view of supercross as supercross. It’s not Anaheim, and yeah, some rules are weird and different than the past, but once it’s dirt bikes out on the track, it’s still racing and it’s still awesome! We’ve rolled out about 5,000 videos, posts, stories, podcasts, and more this week, so if you’re hankering for 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross info, just keep scrolling through this site. I’ll also have a Weege Show video posting tonight, but first it’s off to 3 Palms MX here in Texas to host a live show with Matthes and JT for a small group of fans.
But I can tell you what I saw today. In the 250s, OMG—OMG!—Jett Lawrence. Team Honda’s new kid looked so good. The calling card on Jett’s talent has always been that he has one of those styles where he looks like he’s not even trying when he’s going fast. Well, it was in full bloom today. What does it mean to look good on press day? Probably not much, but it’s something to think about tonight. Tomorrow night? Not sure.
Christian Craig also looked amazing, which is an annual thing, and he threw in some whips as icing on the cake on his new Star Racing Yamaha. It was great. His teammate Colt Nichols was solid, and RJ Hampshire was out there aggressive and feisty as usual. Everyone else looked a tick off to my eyes. The separator was a tricky table-to-double. Jett jumped off the knuckle on the table and double wheel tapped both jumps on that double. Only a few others ended up doing it.
In the 450s, Zach Osborne’s bike cut out and he went over the bars just two laps into the session. Ouch. Zach limped off and didn’t attempt to get back on his bike, which I suppose meant the bike was done. Zach texted that he banged his knee but should be okay. Whew.
It’s hard to say he looked good in the 450s because everyone was rolling at times. The double wheel tap the 250s did wasn’t needed because 450 dudes just jumped right over everything. I saw so many guys look fast—Tomac, Musquin, Webb, Anderson, Sexton, just to name a few. Ken Roczen threw the best whips in that game, so maybe that means something. He’s relaxed and having fun? Justin Barcia was the only man to bust out a quad after the finish line, and I just happened to be in earshot of Troy Lee himself, who was ecstatic that his 450 rider was the first to hit it—and the only! No one else did it. Barcia and Adam Cianciarulo appeared to briefly mess with each other for a lap or two, not sure there’s anything there. Heck, I saw Brandon Hartranft looking fast on his HEP Suzuki while following Dylan Ferrandis around. Everyone on a 450 looked good today. Can’t wait for tomorrow!
Fantasy League Sign-Ups (DC)
Weege’s report is a great segue to this: I have recently found myself lined back up on the starting gates, only not for real—for fantasy leagues! I’ve written a time or two here about my rollercoaster ride in the MotoXDream 360 league that Denny Stephenson and friends got going during the off-season, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’m taking it a step further this weekend by not only joining the Pro league there (after my 11th-place run in the last series), but I’m also jumping into the deep end where the PulpMX Fantasy sharks swim.
Oh wait, and Matthes added this about PulpMX Fantasy:
"Just one day left before the sign-ups for 2021 PulpMX Fantasy people! Get in there and if you pay for the year, you have a chance at four Yamaha dirt bikes! You don't even have to be good at SX or MX fantasy to win a TTR 110 or a YZ450F as those are given away via random draw. Make SX more fun by signing up at Pulpmxfantasy.com please and thank you!"
Matthes himself is down in Houston getting ready to do this week’s show in front of a live audience over at 3 Palms with Weege and Jason Thomas and whoever else they get to come out and chat, so I didn’t get to ask him for more info, but here is the fine-print pitch:
- When you join the Championship League for both supercross and motocross, you automatically get two (2) entries into the random drawing for a brand new YZ450F when the season is over. That means you don't have to be a fantasy expert (or play at all) to win!
- Prizes to the top 20 at every event, as well as random prizes and gift cards no matter what place you get.
- Series prizes, which include a YZ450F and a YZ250F to first place in the supercross and motocross series', respectively.
- Sign up for both SX and MX before the Houston 1 deadline and receive an extra entry into the YZ450F random drawing! (1 entry after)
- Compete for a national number, awarded to the top 99 in combined points for the year!
And then Denny sent me this note about MotoXDream 360, which Racer X is sponsoring the first round with this very cool custom T-shirt featuring a lucky shot I got of Jeremy McGrath from the 1994 Houston Supercross, one of his first nac-nacs! Anyway, here’s Denny:
Less than 24 hours until the gate drops on the 2021 Supercross season at H1. Yes, that's Houston 1 kids and with it, time is running out to get signed up for MotoXDream360.com's Storm Lake Honda 21SX fantasy game. Four 450 riders. Four 250 riders. A 3.5 million dollar budget. With a 2021 TiLube / Storm Lake Honda CRF250R replica race bike for a Grand Prize.
Houston 1 is sponsored by Racer X as we give away 10 digital subscriptions & 10 t-shirts. We will be giving away some rad prizes to the top 10 of every round, as well as a special helmet trophy to each of the 17 race winners.
And if that's not enough, we have added a new twist to the upcoming game. The ARMA Sport MC Triple Crown. Yes the King is back and well, I'll let him tell you all about it....
So get signed up tonight at MXD360.com before it's too late!
EAST VERSUS WEST (Matthes)
With no West Coast races on the schedule for 2021, I thought I'd take a chance to look at the riders who might benefit or be hurt by the fact that we don't have the left side of the country involved in the series. (I don't count SLC as West Coast, although those two races will be that type of dirt.)
With the help of Clinton Fowler, we took a look at the active riders and the points scored on the two coasts (the East points are tabulated with the tracks on the schedule in 2021—Atlanta was the dome, not the speedway we're going to this year). Interesting that Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac are a couple of riders who scored almost two points worse on the East Coast tracks, and Benny Bloss saw a dramatic rise in his points scored in the East. Bloss's sample size is small for sure, so we're not going to declare Benji the new Beast from the East just yet, but Cooper Webb is indeed a bit better out there. That's probably one that passes the eye test, right? Anyways, take a look at what Clinton and I found over on PulpMX.com.
Pro Perspective (JT)
Houston has arrived! It's a cold and windy day in southern Texas, but things will heat up inside NRG Stadium tomorrow night. For the riders, it's the culmination of seemingly endless work. The goals that were set months ago will turn to reality. While tomorrow night is only one of 17 rounds, it can set the trend for how this season will go. The long days of bicycle rides and on-track training will all feel worth it when sitting on the starting line for the main event.
Those few minutes before the racing begins are by far the most nerve-racking of all. So many questions flood your mind amidst the attempts to block out any doubt. It's human nature to second-guess every step of the process that led to those final few moments. For those who were dedicated to their preparation, they will have a quiet voice of reassurance during the final minutes before the gate drops. All that suffering in November and December brought me a bit of peace when it was finally time to take the first test. And make no mistake, the opening round is a test. Physically and mentally, riders will be tested, with the result being the report card. Team managers, sponsors, fans, and their peers will be watching and judging. Everyone wants to leave the opening round with a smile, but that's simply not possible. Some will leave with their heads filled with more questions than answers. Others will leave with confirmation that they have done the necessary things required for success in 2021. All of these scenarios will be determined tomorrow night over the course of 20-odd minutes. I, for one, can't wait.
Houston Astrodome History (DC)
The three rounds that will start the 2021 season will all take place in NRG Stadium, which has been the home to Monster Energy AMA Supercross in Texas since 2003 (though it was not on the schedule at all last year). From 1974 (the very first AMA Supercross Series) through 2002, the Houston round was held in the famous Astrodome, the first stadium that ever hosted an AMA Supercross event with a roof over it.
The Houston Astrodome was the world's first domed, multi-purpose stadium and dubbed itself the "8th Wonder of the World." It was also only the third stick and ball stadium to host what we now know as supercross, behind only the Los Angeles Coliseum and John F. Kennedy Stadium in Philadelphia. (The LA Coliseum race was first held in 1972 as part of the old Inter-Am Series, and JFK held a nighttime Trans-AMA race in '73 and has since been demolished.) Before its first "stadium motocross" in '74, the Astrodome, built in 1965, hosted its first TT and flat-track racing in 1968. In 1971 our beloved daredevil Evel Knievel jumped 13 cars—twice—in a stunt show doubleheader that attracted 100,000 fans.
The first SX was also a weekend doubleheader, with two classes—250cc and 500cc. Each night had two motos for each class, so it was basically a four-moto main event in the record books. The overall winner in the 250 class was Bultaco rider Jim Pomeroy, who tallied 3-1-1-2 finishes, while the 500 class winner was Yamaha rider Tim Hart, who posted 2-5-2-3 finishes. (Sadly, neither Pomeroy nor Hart is alive today.) The Astrodome race was combined with the previous weekend's Daytona race as a mini series, and the overall champions turned out to be Yamaha's Pierre Karsmakers in the 250 class and Husqvarna's Gary Semics in the 500cc division.
Over the years the Astrodome hosted a remarkable amount of events, from the NFL to Major League Baseball, from tennis' "Battle of the Sexes" to a heavyweight fight for Muhammad Ali to the Victory Tour concert by the Jackson 5. And, of course, AMA Supercross. Among the big winners at the Astrodome were Jeff Ward, who won it four years in a row (1985-'88); Jeremy McGrath, who won Houston five times over seven years (1994-2000); Mark Barnett's back-to-back sweeps of Astrodome doubleheaders in 1981-'82; and Bob Hannah's double sweeps in 1978 and '79. The Houston race moved over to NRG Stadium in 2002 and has remained there ever since. The Astrodome, though, is still there, though it's mostly in a state of disrepair and sits idle. Its last big headlines came in 2005 when it was used as a shelter for people in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina. Despite local officials not really knowing what to do with the once state-of-the-art Astrodome, it was place on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.
With the first new OEM joining AMA Supercross/Pro Motocross this weekend, the burning question in editorial circles is whether to call them "GasGas" or "GASGAS"? A second question: Is there a space between the gasses? "Gas Gas" or "GAS GAS"? The most obvious way to figure that out would be to go to the company's website, but it shows up in multiple styles (as of Monday, anyway). KTM is all caps because it stands for something specific as an acronym: Kraftfahrzeuge Trunkenpolz Mattighofen. What does GAS stand for? And does it stand for it twice? Lost and in need of some style clarification, we punt to our wordsmith Jeff Kocan for his take on GASGAS/GasGas:
GAS CAPS? GASGAS CAPSCAPS? (Jeff Kocan)
As the Keeper of the Company Style Guide around here, I’m in charge of telling our writers how things should be spelled and capitalized. But this stuff is more fluid than you might think, and you can get sucked into a pretty deep grammatical rabbit hole before you know it. Come with me as we bang our heads on the bottom of the pool for this shallow dive into all-caps motocross.
If you’re a company looking to stand out in a crowd, few tricks are more effective than PENIS, which I’m guessing your eyes darted to before you even finished the first paragraph in this article. That’s a big penis! And that’s the point: if you’re a publisher, lots of companies will try to convince you to write their name in all caps. To snuff out potential abuse, our rule is that those letters have to stand for something other than your marketing team’s desire to stand out in a wall of text. NASA stands for plenty of things in tasteless jokes, but it’s really the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and that’s why it’s not Nasa.
Okay, let’s take a break for some BUTT (as in Brief but Unnecessary Tangent Time). The 9/11 terror attacks on America birthed what we know as the Patriot Act, but it’s actually the USA PATRIOT Act: the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act. That just makes me want to die. A lot of people dislike this piece of legislation, and they should: if you’re willing to get that sweaty just to make an acronym, God knows what else you’re capable of. See, but the trick there was just to get people to call it the Patriot Act without thinking about it, making it seem as American as Ryan Villopoto’s flags-and-eagles back tattoo (one assumes?). But I want the reality of it burned into your brain folds. It’s f@!#ing reprehensible. Oh, and in a future issue of Racer X, the rock band KISS comes up. Some of you will recall that panicked lawmakers and church groups in the 1980s wanted us to believe they were “Knights in Satan’s Service,” but the truth is more boring: drummer Peter Criss had been in a band called Lips, and singer Paul Stanley connected the dots. All two of them. Despite their branding preferences, they’re just plain old Kiss.
In motocross, some cases are more clear-cut than others. GEICO, if you don't know, is really the Government Employees Insurance Company. Boom, easy. THOR, on the other hand, despite being born Torsten Hallman Off Road, actually preferred plain old Thor for a long time—a rare instance of a company voluntarily de-capping. Respect. In recent years, they’ve returned to their all-caps glory, and we’ve allowed that in the magazine. They’ve got the receipts.
All of which finally brings us to this week’s conundrum: the return of Spanish (now via Austria) brand GasGas to AMA Pro competition. Or is it Gas Gas? Or, as the OEM itself would like us to print, GASGAS? Honestly, every possible variation short of “Gasgas” exists in print somewhere, but it’s my job to choose what we’ll use going forward. In deciding, I asked what I always ask: what do the letters GASGAS stand for? We’ve made official inquiries out of politeness, but I think we all understand that it’s not an acronym. So for now, based on the historical record and our own collective moral compasses, we’re sticking with GasGas. (If you’ve got your own ideas about what GASGAS might stand for, by all means hit us up: email@example.com.) Another case closed.
And if you really want to see me fired up, buy me a drink one day and we’ll talk about the bLU cRU.
Upcoming Special Edition 450 Motocross And Off-Road Machine Tests (Keefer)
It's been kind of slow since the holidays for testing over here at Racer X, but it's about to ramp up once more here in the coming weeks. Honda is releasing their 2021 Honda CRF450RW, and Husqvarna and KTM will be handing their bikes off to the media on the 28th. These models all have something different compared to their more stock 2021 brethren. Not to be outdone by the motocross side, we will also be getting a few off-road test videos up for your enjoyment just in case you want to take that trail ride with your buddies the day after supercross. Stay tuned to Racer X Films for all your bike evaluation needs. If you have any questions about any of the new bikes, as always, my door is cracked open for you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
No California? (Andras Hegyi)
For the first time ever, California will miss a supercross season. It all started in the Golden State in July of 1972 with the first Superbowl of Motocross in the Los Angeles Coliseum—two years before the actual series started in 1974! Between 1974 and 2020, California hosted the AMA Supercross Championship every year, usually starting at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. Missing California means that only Texas and Florida have hosted AMA Supercross since the beginning 1974 season.
Another tradition has been broken regarding the opener: in the last 22 seasons, between 1999 and 2020, the season opener was always held in Anaheim. All told, there have been 30 season openers there. Now, Houston will receive the season opener only for the second time in the history of the AMA Supercross. It also happened there in 1988, though there was an Anaheim SX before it—it just wasn’t an AMA-sanctioned race due to the battle between promoters Michael Goodwin and Mickey Thompson. Goodwin had the exclusive right to promote AMA races in Southern California, but Goodwin had the stadium rights with Anaheim and San Diego to be the only promoter allowed to hold dirt motorsports events in those buildings. It ended ugly. Very ugly.
For the first time in the history of supercross, the schedule will have seven different venues. Only three other seasons—1974, 1975, and 1976—had fewer: 1974 had three, ‘75 had four, and 1976 had six. But in those early years, each stadium held just one race. Now we’re seeing double-headers and triple-headers, with just one venue holding just one round: Daytona International Speedway.
The 2021 championship is starting on January 16. This is the very first time that a supercross series will be starting on this date—the latest in the past 30 years. Between 1991 and 2020, the AMA Supercross Championship started on dates between January 3 and January 15. And in 1990, 31 years ago, AMA Supercross started on January 27 and the race was won by 250 class rookie Damon Bradshaw. Will we see another premier-class rookie win tomorrow night? If it happens, it will almost certainly be either Dylan Ferrandis or Chase Sexton!
The march 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Hey, Watch It!
Introducing the SCOTT Prospect Pro Circuit 30 Years Goggle!
Exceptional look back at Joel Robert in his prime...
Fast Freddie (Ep.2): Going to the JGR shop one last time
Listen To This
A very interesting life, in two clicks:
Chad Reed has always been next-level with his passion for the sport. Many times it appeared there was no ending in sight, regardless of age, team situation, injuries, or any other reason—Chad was just always going to line up. Well, on Saturday, the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season will begin, and for the first time since the 2001 SX opener, Chad Reed will not be on the starting gate. Jason Weigandt called Chad on Wednesday morning to find out why he didn't attempt to ramp up an effort this time and found Chad much more at peace with retirement than anyone—including Chad himself—ever expected.
Pete Fox has a new gig and for the first time he talks publicly. Steve Matthes called up Fox to talk about his new venture Renen, what it is, how you can get it, signing Ryder Difrancesco, his inspiration for starting it, and we talk some Fox Racing as well.
Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team boss Bobby Regan has put together one of the largest teams in the history of motocross and supercross. Can quantity bring them victory in 2021? Jason Weigandt reads his feature article "Recruitment Center" from the March 2021 issue of Racer X magazine.
For more from DC, Jason Weigandt, Steve Matthes, and the rest of the Racer X crew, subscribe to Racer X.
Racer X Read Aloud is brought to you by Renthal.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“NASCAR DRIVER HAILIE DEEGAN USES R-WORD DURING VIRTUAL RACE... Apologizes”—TMZ Sports
At least two gorillas have tested positive for coronavirus at San Diego Zoo”—CNN.com
“Snowflake Shaman gets his wish: Judge grants horn-headed QAnon Capitol rioter his special organic diet on 'religious grounds' after three-day hunger strike”—dailymail.co.uk
“Sales of unapologetically ugly Crocs soar due to Covid”—CNN.com
“Lawyer for Florida man seen at Capitol riot with Pelosi’s lectern says photo a problem: ‘I’m not a magician’”—Fox News
“Australia plans to kill Joe, a racing pigeon that crossed the Pacific Ocean from the US, over quarantine concerns”—USA Today
“Australian authorities investigate the case of 'Joe the Pigeon' who could be euthanized after being deemed a biosecurity risk”—Australian News
“Fake US leg band gets pigeon a reprieve in Australia”—Associated Press
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #2.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!