Welcome to Racerhead. After two very different Indianapolis Supercross races—one good and close and the second something of a mess—we’re getting ready for the third and final Indianapolis SX of the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. After a fairly dramatic Indy 1, the second on Tuesday night felt more like Infrastructure Week than a supercross in Indiana, as a lot of little things went wrong, completely overwhelming the racing on the track. The only thing that seemed the same was the fact that we saw the same two winners. It wasn’t exactly Groundhog Day 2 inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
I think we’ve all discussed, debated, written, and posted our thoughts on the mistakes enough times to memorize them. One little thing went wrong that cascaded into a whole chain of events that culminated to make Indy 2 more of a train wreck than any race I can remember, with the possible exception of a couple outdoor nationals out west, or maybe the Seville, Spain, FIM … or maybe the first Toronto Supercross. The thing that triggered it all—or at least what I perceived as the trigger—was an unfortunate human error. Someone on the infield crew that Matthes, Weege, and JT like to refer to as “dig dugs” moved a Tuff Block too far out onto the backside landing of a small double jump right in front of the starting gate. Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence landed on it, and everything just went downhill from there. Without his unfortunate shoulder injury, with which he tried to race and actually won the LCQ, we don’t find ourselves watching Mitch Oldenburg up on the starting gate just before the gate drops on the main event and all hell seems to break loose.
Oldenburg was out there due to a completely different chain of events that also included human error. His engine let go in his heat race while he was launching a triple, causing a very ugly crash from which he was very lucky to walk away. His Muc-Off Honda Racing team did superhero work in a short span of time to swap out his motor before the LCQ, but when the eighth-place rider in points went back to the starting gate for the LCQ, he was turned back by an official at the starting gate who was checking frame stickers. They would not let Mitchell start the race, which was a very big mistake—he should have been allowed to ride the LCQ and then, if there was something amiss with his bike, they could always disqualify him after the LCQ. That, in my opinion, was another unfortunate error.
The next decision was one I agreed with, though many of my esteemed colleagues—okay, everyone on the PulpMX/Racer X podcasts—thought it was a terrible idea. Having realized too late that Oldenburg’s bike was indeed legal, they decided the “make good” would be to let him line up in the main event despite not qualifying—but he had to be in the second row. I know it’s really not in the rules, but sometimes people make mistakes that affect others in a very big way, and that was the case with the officials who did not give the veteran a chance to qualify. They were doing their job, but they did it wrong at that moment, due to a miscommunication. In press-release-speak, “Officials erroneously believed at the time that the sticker did not match the frame to which it was assigned. According to the 2021 AMA Supercross rulebook, riders ‘must use the same motorcycle (same mainframe) for qualifying and the main program.’” The decision to let Oldenburg ride was about to become one of those “no good deed goes unpunished” moments that we’ve all been in before.
Let’s go back to last summer for a second, and two instances that I was involved in with similar scenarios. After the Regionals for the Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur National, the father of a young rider who qualified signed him up for the finals. But a couple weeks later, the boy’s mother called and said they weren’t coming after all and pulled him off of the entry list. Another young rider was added to the 42-rider final lineup. Turns out the parents of the first little boy had divorced, and the mother didn’t tell the father she’d pulled him out of the race. The father and son showed up at the Ranch to race, only to find out they were not signed up and the class was full. The kid was crushed, the father angry (as well as apologetic), so the AMA and MX Sports decided to have 43 riders in that particular class, and the little boy lined up on the left side of the last starting gate. It wasn’t the kid’s fault that the parents were fighting, right?
Conversely, there was the Mike Brown situation. The fastest 48-year-old in the world qualified in both Junior +25 and Senior +40, only to end up with a work conflict—he was supposed to be training riders getting ready for the upcoming Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, so he didn’t bother to sign up for the final. But then, the week before the race, he realized he could race after all. Unfortunately, the deadline passed and his two spots were taken. He came to the Ranch anyway, hoping that someone would drop out, but they didn’t. This time MX Sports and the AMA officials decided his situation was different—Mike could have signed up but didn’t until it was too late—and so he did not get to line up on the outside.
Every case is obviously different, but I believe it’s always best to err on the side of the rider, especially when something happens that’s not their fault. And that was the case for Mitchell Oldenburg. An official’s error caused him to miss the LCQ and any chance to actually qualify, which he almost certainly would have—he ended up making seven laps in the main before his bike broke, which is the same number of laps in the 250 LCQ.
No one explained any of this to privateer Bobby Piazza. He had finished fifth in the LCQ and was told by the track officials to take off his transponder and go back to the pits, which he did. His night was over, and in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, unlike Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, they do not have alternates in case someone can’t make the main event. (Coincidentally, the fifth-place finisher in the 450 LCQ, Justin Starling, was also told to take off his transponder and head back to the pits—and both his parents and his sister work at the races for the AMA!) Piazza had gone up into the stands to watch when friends started blowing up his phone telling him they were going to let Oldenburg race, despite the fact that he wasn’t even in the LCQ. Whether or not Bobby realized Mitchell wasn’t in the LCQ due to an official’s mistake remains to be seen, though he obviously knew he was fifth in the LCQ, and if anybody should be added to the race it was him. (Matthes’ “Privateer Island” podcast with Bobby Piazza this week was very timely and entertaining. If you get a chance to listen to it, you’re really going to like this kid!) But again, there are no alternates in a race like Tuesday’s Indy 2, and at no point would Piazza or Starling or anyone else who finished fifth or worse in the LCQ be allowed to race. The problem, however, was that Oldenburg was allowed, albeit on the second row.
And our own Kellen Brauer did an excellent job with this Racer Rapid News in breaking down some of what exactly happened:
Now we’ve come to the point where that seemingly good deed gets the punishment. Remember Jett Lawrence? After the sighting lap, he decides he can’t actually race—his shoulder hurts too much. His mechanic pulls his bike away and he heads back to the pits. The camera is following him and he walks right past #49 in red gear, Mitchell Oldenburg, who sees that a gate is now empty because Lawrence is out, so he pulls right up into what is effectively the 19th gate pick, and no official down around the starting gate apparently notices. Bobby Piazza, however, does, and by now he’s not only confused but pissed. Also, Will Christien has explained what happened to Oldenburg before the LCQ, and then during the main TV host Todd Harris says, “Good story here with #49, and that is Oldenburg. As Will pointed out he did not.… Wasn’t basically allowed to race the LCQ because they thought he might have done something inappropriate, but that was not the case. He gets in as Jett Lawrence vacates, and what a change for him as he gets in there… As you look at the start list he’s not even on the start list right now because it was such a late change, Will?”
“And what a tricky position to be in, Todd,” answers Will from the floor. “I saw Mitchell down there, and you could see he was just kind of distraught. He was throwing his hands up in the air. At this point, remember, Jett Lawrence is in the gate.… He was just waiting, saying, ‘This is so disappointing, not just for me but the team as well because they just worked so hard to do an engine change in 40 minutes, but for no fault of our own we’re just standing here and might not be able to race.… The fact that he’s now running fourth right now is just really impressive.…”
As you can imagine, people watching and listening from home who are Bobby Piazza fans were probably getting angrier by the minute, as it all seemed like the AMA gave Lawrence’s gate to another Honda rider in Oldenburg, not realizing Oldenburg’s situation had nothing to do with Lawrence—at least not until Mitchell pulled into Lawrence’s gate.
Mitchell Oldenburg explains it all really well on his Instagram:
In the end, Mitchell Oldenburg’s bike breaks on the 7th lap and he’s out anyway, though he will get paid main-event money and pick up three points for finishing 20th. Unfortunately, those three points and main-event money would have meant a great deal to the struggling privateer Piazza, and he aired his frustration and confusion on social media, which is turn led to others getting really pissed off at the AMA officials, Feld Entertainment, Team Honda.… The AMA tried to explain to Piazza that his fifth-place LCQ finish did not make him an alternate, and that Oldenburg was allowed to race for an entirely separate reason and that he had not “replaced” Lawrence, but by then it was all a raging fire.
And by the time the finish-line flagman made the last mistake of the night, missing the 250 leader, who was right under the 15-minute mark at 14:56 but giving it to second place just after the 15-minute mark, you have a truly disastrous night down on the infield. Tuff Block placement. LCQ drama. Back-row starts. Finish-line flagging. Like I said, Infrastructure Week.
I truly believe everyone’s hearts were in the right place, from the riders to the officials to the TV crew, but a little more communication between officials (and maybe a second opinion before stopping a rider from lining up to something that could have very well been a clerical error) might have saved a lot of people from getting a lot of hate emails and posts for the rest of Indianapolis Week, which concludes tomorrow night. Here’s hoping the Muc-Off Honda Racing team gets Oldenburg’s bike dialed in, Lawrence’s shoulder is good enough to go, and Bobby Piazza makes the main on that mostly stock, slightly used YZ250F he bought from a mud-bogger on Facebook that he and his girlfriend have been sleeping next to in the van. (Like I said, listen to Matthes’ podcast with Bobby, it’s hilarious.) I do know Piazza’s got a bunch more fans and followers, plus some new personal sponsors that are helping him out.
Here’s The Weege Show on Indy 2’s “Drama and Comedy”
This year hasn’t been easy for Monster Energy AMA Supercross by any means, as budgets have been slashed, new health and safety restrictions are placed on everyone, and the infield crew and officiating crew are as sparse as can be. It’s the kind of things that happen in a worldwide pandemic that hasn’t yet run its course. But everyone involved in the series is trying to make it happen, and other than a few errors that cascaded on top of one another at Indy 2, it’s been an excellent series to watch and report on. Supercross gives us all something to do while we’re waiting for our world to get back to normal, so I’m good with a missed white flag or an official’s error here and there as everyone navigates the strange new world we live in.
New Attitude (Jason Weigandt)
Sprinters versus marathoners. There are strengths and weaknesses throughout this field, and since many of the riders have been at this for a while, we know where they stand. Ken Roczen has an incredible ability to start strong. His opening laps are amazing. It makes you think he’s a better starter than he is, because he can start fourth and get into the lead halfway through lap one (that’s basically what he did on Tuesday, and also Houston 3). He usually starts each season strong, too. Kenny won the SX season opener in three of his first four seasons (2014, 2015, 2017) and has led the supercross points early in 2014, 2015, 2017, 2019, and 2020. Ken can show up, immediately, and go fast.
Other riders are more of a slow burn. That’s what has made Roczen versus Tomac so enjoyable through the years, because Roczen is a fast starter but Eli is a strong closer. That means they both get their highlights and their accolades, and sometimes they meet right in the middle, ready to battle. Ryan Dungey was much the same way as Tomac. I’m sure he tried and tried and tried to do sprint laps at home, and he didn’t like the nickname Diesel, but in the end, Dunge was just going to run a steady pace the whole race and whole season, and try to beat you that way.
Training can only do so much. Athletes come in all body types, so some sprint and some come on late, and it’s in their DNA. Cooper Webb? I think you all know how he operates. That’s just how it is.
As Steve Matthes pointed out today (Observations on a Friday!), Roczen could easily have won the first four rounds of 2021. He was right there picking his battles with Justin Barcia at round 1, he got blocked by Dean Wilson at round three. Kenny has ridden well enough to win four of six races, and while he has a decent early points lead, it could be nearing a full race already with a few breaks!
There’s no doubt Kenny has the momentum right now. He’s on fire. Of course, we will hear more from title know stalwarts like Tomac and Webb, but so much of this season is in Kenny’s hands. If he keeps this up, he’s going to be hard to stop. In past seasons, he hasn’t quite been this strong, but he had led the points and ran into trouble. Can he sprint hard all the way to the finish?
There’s a chance, because this isn’t the same Kenny. He’s spoken so much about his new attitude, his revamped training program, all of it. I covered a lot of this in my podcast yesterday, culling clips from Kenny in a variety of press briefings this year.
Even though I was great in ’16 and ’17, I’m mentally in a completely different spot,” he says. “Back then, I feel like I rode the highs a lot more than I do now. I’m just quite a bit older and a lot has happened in-between there and then. So it’s really hard for me to compare that kind of stuff.”
Clearly the new Honda is working well for him, fatherhood has treated him well. Kenny isn’t wasting time on the negative. He moved on from the Wilson incident in a day. He’s not bogged down imagining a Hollywood-style comeback story. He’s not out to show any haters or doubters anything. He’s just showing up, enjoying his life, and riding his motorcycle. Whatever happens, happens. So far, it’s been the best of anyone in 2021.
MORE CHIZ (Matthes)
The 450SX class is deep. It's really deep and with Dean Wilson, Jason Anderson, Shane McElrath, Justin Hill (he's still alive yeah?), and Chase Sexton getting ready to come back in the next 3-4 weeks, it's going to get even deeper. But that doesn't matter, the guy on the Yamaha wearing #11 with his dad wrenching for him will just be making the main every week. Because that's what Kyle Chisholm does.
I thought to myself this week that Chiz has to be creeping up there in all-time 450SX starts and so I asked my buddy Clinton Fowler if he could scrounge that stat up and he replied with "He's now at 153 total (250+450) sx main events (thru Rd 5) and that puts him 17th all-time. He's 2 behind Ezra Lusk (155), 3 behind Jason Thomas (156), and 6 behind Ryan Dungey (159)."
Watch out our own JT! Here comes Chiz about to chiz all over your 450SX start stat!
ICE TREY (Matthes)
Yeah, I know "Ice Trey" has been used a ton before but I always liked it so anytime I can bust that out for the now retired Trey Canard, I will! Trey's working with factory Honda on being a test rider and then another voice of reason at the races. One of the things that Trey's done is do a lot of SX testing on the all-new 2021 Honda CRF450R before Ken Roczen got to it and there's no doubt that some of us (AHEM) that thought the new bike was going to need time to get sorted were a bit off. I know the new bike only shares a couple of parts with the 2020 machine but as Canard explained to me, it's more of a refined 2020 bike and not "all new" like one might think.
"I've said this a few times, this bike is an evolutionary bike. Honda has done this in the past with big steps and this bike, although it is different, it's not so different you know. We were never so far off with this bike, the first day we rode SX, it was pretty good. We could race it like this. It gave us a good head start on things" he told me.
The biggest thing for me is there is less rigidity in this frame, at the end of the mains when the ruts are choppy and bumpy, you have to be perfect, this bike makes a difference for the rider to sustain a hard effort. These guys are going fast the whole time. The power is more usable in more ways also."
Canard was also bummed about how the bike was received in the 2021 media shootouts as well, "The geometry is different but it’s fairly close, it was a real big bummer for me to see the bad reviews in the shootouts. I think Ken and Justin (Brayton) were proving it was a good bike."
I was one of those guys that didn't like the bike, the little I rode it at State Fair MX one day. It had some sort of mapping issue (if you were fast, you barely noticed it though) on it and I thought the suspension was WAY soft. Yes, I'm heavier than the recommended spring rate but I had my YZ450F there with stock springs and it was definitely better.
Anyways, Canard had more to say about testing specifically for Kenny, his own test skills, and more. Read about it over on MX Vice.
Colt Nichols (Andras Hegyi)
Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Colt Nichols has made great strides in 2021. Oklahoma’s Nichols is a veteran in the 250SX class—he debuted as a professional in 2013 but had only taken a single win before this season. But '21 has been a turning point for the 26-year-old. On Tuesday night he collected his third consecutive win in the 250SX East Region. As a result he became the ninth Yamaha rider to get at least three consecutive victories in a 125/250 SX season. So far there have been 30 different Yamaha winners in all in this class, which goes back to 1985. The Yamaha rider with the most consecutive wins is Chad Reed, who won six straight 125SX East Region wins in 2002, while riding for Yamaha of Troy in his first year in America. (And the first Yamaha winner in 125 SX was Mike LaRocco, back in 1988 at the first night of the Pontiac doubleheader.)
The record-holder for consecutive 125SX wins is Ricky Carmichael. The GOAT was undefeated in 1998 while riding a Pro Circuit Kawasaki KX125, winning all eight rounds in the East region, then also winning the East-West Shootout in Las Vegas to give him nine consecutive wins.
Here are the Yamaha riders to get three or more consecutive wins in 125/250SX:
Big Dave (DC)
It's been 23 years since my dad, Big Dave, passed, but I still hear and read new stories about him all the time, and then I share them with brother and sister and of course my mom, Rita. I spotted this one on the Western PA Motocross Time Machine that Bobby Show runs, posted by Michael Thomas Damratoski:
I think 92, not sure? Was up on the hill at Steel City watching Dave doing his magic on the “pit jump” behind the uphill doubles on a dozer. He shut it off and yelled over to the group of people hanging on the fence at 10:30 or so. “First person that brings me a beer gets pit passes for tomorrow!” I grabbed a fresh one out of my buddy’s hoody pocket and squeezed through the fence and ran it over to him. It was a Miller High Life, and he said it will have to do with a smile. He said what’s your name and I told him. He said that’s not hard to remember! All night long I told everyone that story and they didn’t think I would get a pass. I went up to the sign up trailer and there they were, two of them! Spelled my name wrong but Rita said close enough. What a great time my whole crew had! I put the wrist band on real loose so we could take it off and switch up so everyone could check out the factory guys. A great time was had by all cause I gave Dave a beer.
So I asked my mom if she remembered this whole deal and she just laughed and said, "Yes, and that damn can of beer your dad just had to have basically cost us $20!"
The Winningest European (Andras Hegyi)
By winning Indianapolis 2 on Tuesday, the German import Ken Roczen broke a 31-year-old record for European riders. In the history of the 250/450 SX class there have been seven different winners from Europe: Pierre Karsmakers (Holland), Jaroslav Falta (Czechoslovakia) Jean-Michel Bayle, Marvin Musquin, David Vuillemin and Sebastien Tortelli (all France) and Roczen (Germany). JMB was the most successful of all European riders going into 2021. During his very short American career (three and a half seasons) Bayle made it to 57 main events between 1989 and '92 and scored 16 wins. JMB got his 16th victory in his 54th main event in 1992.
Roczen got his 17th win in the premier supercross class in his 11th season—he debuted in the 250/450 SX in 2011 and has been a regular racer there since 2014—and in his 95th main event. Roczen is also now the only European rider to have at least 50 podiums there, as he got his 50th podium on Tuesday.
Riders to get at least 50 podiums in the 250/450 SX podiums
Chad Reed: 132 podiums
Jeremy McGrath: 111
Ryan Dungey: 101
Ricky Carmichael: 87
Mike LaRocco: 81
James Stewart: 76
Kevin Windham: 75
Eli Tomac: 67
Jeff Ward: 66
Ryan Villopoto: 63
Jeff Stanton: 56
Ricky Johnson: 51
Ken Roczen: 50
Another First for GasGas (Andras Hegyi)
This is the first season for the Spanish-turned-Austrian brand GasGas in AMA Supercross. In the premier 450SX category, the brand won immediately as Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing captain Justin Barcia triumphed at the season opener in Houston, winning start-to-finish and taking the red plate in his first race on the bike. Now 250SX rider Michael Mosiman from California has given the brand its first podiums in the smaller division as he finished second at Indianapolis 1 and third at Indianapolis 2. Besides KTM, Husqvarna, and Cagiva, GasGas became the fourth non-Japanese brand to get podium results in the small-bore supercross class, in existence since 1985.
The Italian Cagiva was the maiden non-Japanese brand to collect podium as Florida’s Brian McElroy finished second in Daytona in 1988. The Austrian KTM got its first 125/250 SX podium ten years later at the '98 Tampa SX when Georgia's Robbie Horton finished third. And then Husqvarna took its first podium in 2001 when Travis Preston won the Houston SX aboard a Fast by Ferraci 125 (this was long before KTM owned Husqvarna). The most successful non-Japanese brand is KTM, as the KTM Group owns KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas. The three brands all together have taken 171 podium results in the 125/250 SX division.
And finally this: Michael Mosiman has joined the veteran Martin Davalos as the second racer to get podium results in the 125/250SX with two different non-Japanese brands. Davalos had podium results with both KTM and Husqvarna, while Mosiman got podium results also with Husqvarna and now GasGas.
Non-Japanese brands to get podium results in the 125/250 SX class:
KTM: 140 podiums
The april 2021 ISSUE OF raCER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
The long-lost footage from Steve Matthes cleaning the Pro Circuit shop has been found!
Check out this behind the scenes video that AJ Catanzaro posted from the Indy 1 SX:
Houston, We Have Supercross | Moto Spy Supercross S5E2
Listen To This
When GasGas rolled up to the starting line in 2021, it became the latest in a long line of brands to participate in AMA sanctioned racing. In the newest Racer X Read Aloud, Davey Coombs reads his feature article "Brand Exchange" from the April 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.
Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, and the lead pack of 2021 have taken a new lease on racing, enjoying the process and having fun with their crew instead of using results to determine their entire life's worth. Guess what? They ride better when they enjoy life. Roczen, in particular, has been through too many ups and downs to approach this any other way. In this Racer X Exhaust podcast, Jason Weigandt narrates through quotes from Kenny in 2021, illustrating his new approach. When Kenny was frustrated, he moved on. When Kenny won, he also moved on. You'll also hear from the new, much happier Eli Tomac, Christian Craig, Colt Nichols, and more.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Kim Kardashian's alleged thief in Paris robbery releasing tell-all book”—Fox News
“ROBINHOOD Banner High Above San Fran Headquarters ... 'SUCK MY NUTS'”—TMZ.com
“Did Factory Husqvarna run out of yellow fenders?”—Vital MX Forum thread started by "tek14"
“Fans ejected after LeBron James confronts unmasked 'Courtside Karen'”—The Guardian
“'COURTSIDE KAREN'APOLOGIZES FOR CUSSING OUT LEBRON' I Take Full Responsibility'”—TMZ.com
“Tampa’s famed strip clubs brace for an unusual Super Bowl”—Associated Press
“Madonna? Harry Potter? Churchill? Tom Brady May Be Beyond Compare”—dnyuz.com
“US toddler to release debut album recorded in the womb”—Theguardian.com
“Subaru Blames A Single Factory Worker For A Recall”—Jalopnik.com
Our friend and colleague Sharon Cox will soon be printing and distributing the first issue of Women in Motorsport Magazine. With over 10 plus years nurturing development of content on Women in Motorsport, this is quite significant milestone for Sharon as well as women in motorsports all over the world. The first Issue includes articles on Jordan Jarvis of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and WMX fame, Kristen Matlock who raced Dakar Rally 2021 with husband Wayne Matlock (Matlock Racing, California) and Colorado-born Sabre Cook who is selected for Formula 3 WSeries, which will be running in conjunction with F1 this year.
You can find out more about Women in Motorsport right here: http://www.mxlink.co.nz/product/women-in-motorsport-issue-one/.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #5.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!