Welcome to Racerhead. We are at the unofficial halfway mark of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, that weekend when we go from West to East Region in 250SX—or this year's very different case, East to West, but staying put in Orlando. Confused? Welcome to 2021.
It’s another one of those “firsts” brought on by the pandemic: One city hosts a round for each region, East last week and now West this week. After seven rounds to start the season, the riders in the East Region are now on a break that will last until April 24 and the first Salt Lake City round, and then a final East/West round that will end the season, also in Salt Lake City. It’s a well-deserved rest, too, because the 250SX East has been fun to watch but uniquely rough on the competitors. It’s allowed a lot of privateers and smaller-team riders get some better-than-expected finishes. The strange thing is that the injuries seemed to be concentrated mostly in the 250SX class. The 450s, on the other hand, still have all the big guns on the starting line for what will be the eighth round of 2021. Ken Roczen still has the red plate, though Cooper Webb still seems to have his number when they start together, and everyone is waiting for Eli Tomac to start putting some kind of run together.
Orlando’s place in AMA Supercross goes back to 1983, when Bill West organized the first SX race ever to be held in what was then called the Tangerine Bowl. That first race got off to an auspicious start when series points leader Bob “Hurricane” Hannah snapped his wrist on Friday afternoon during a press ride. That opened the door for a title battle between Suzuki’s Mark Barnett and Hannah’s Honda teammate David Bailey that went down to the last couple of rounds. “Bomber” Barnett had a 27-point lead over the “Little Professor” Bailey with two rounds left, only to have his engine lock up in the semifinal heat at Boston’s Foxboro Stadium, which knocked him out for the night: the DNF meant he didn’t even qualify for the LCQ, let alone the main event. And since they gave championship points in both heat races and the semis, as well as the main, Bailey picked up 36 points by racing and winning all three. That gave David a 6-point lead going into the finale at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, which he held onto for the 1983 Wrangler AMA Supercross Championship.
But back to the Orlando ’83 race. Yamaha’s rookie sensation Ron “Dogger” Lechien rode a nearly perfect race to lead all 20 laps and win by nearly 25 seconds. In doing so, he became the youngest premier-class SX winner ever, at barely 16 ½ years old. (I know Marty Tripes was younger—16 years, 10 days—when he won the 1972 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but technically that “first supercross” race was part of the old Inter-Am series, as AMA Supercross didn’t start until 1974.) That would be like Jett Lawrence winning the Anaheim 450SX main event … if he had raced it in January 2020! Lechien’s record was the first of four really big things that happened over the years at the Orlando SX.
The next year, Rick Johnson won in Orlando aboard a white Yamaha, as the brand changed colors from yellow between 1983 and ’84. And then in 1985 Lechien won Orlando again, only this time aboard a Honda. Eighty-five was also the first year for the 125 class in AMA Supercross, and the winner of the 125 East Region race was Honda support rider Larry Brooks—the same Larry Brooks who would win multiple AMA Supercross Championships as as a team manager and is now in charge of the Bar X Suzuki team.
From there, Orlando dropped off the schedule for a half-dozen years, then returned in 1991 as the season opener, with Honda’s Jeff Stanton winning. That race, though, was more memorable as the debut of the Peak/Pro Circuit Honda team—the most successful 125/250 team in the history of the sport. Armed with a white-and-blue Honda CR125, Brian Swink went out and won the first AMA 125 Supercross he or Mitch Payton’s team ever entered. It was the start of a remarkable run for Pro Circuit that continues to this day.
The next big thing to happen at Orlando came in 1994, and it was a different kind of game-changer. During practice, defending AMA Supercross Champion Jeremy McGrath decided to debut his new trick, the nac-nac, for an AMA audience. It quickly went viral (well, as quickly as things spread back then before the internet, smartphones, and such) and became Jeremy’s signature move. Our colleague Brett Smith of @wewentfast wrote a whole feature about the invention of the trick.
Of course, Jeremy could back the trick up by winning that night in Orlando, and then again in ’95 and ’96 to start more AMA Supercross Championship runs.
Orlando again fell off the AMA Supercross schedule at that point and would not return until 2005. This time, the big story was the fact that this would be the first true AMA Supercross battle (that wasn’t a mudder, at least) between Florida’s own Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart, as well as Australian import Chad Reed. It was a remarkable three-way fight that our guys Jason Weigandt and Steve Matthes reviewed for their very cool “Re-Raceable” podcast series.
Finally, there is the 2007 Orlando Supercross, the last time the series visited what is now called the Citrus Bowl. It’s also the last time Carmichael would ever line up for an AMA Supercross, as the five-time series champion was calling it quits in 2007 with a part-time schedule. He wanted to go out with a win, and he gave it hell, but James Stewart was just a little better that night—maybe the best he’s ever been, to be honest. (Check it further below in “Watch It.”) It was another remarkable moment in Orlando, which finally returned to the schedule last Saturday night and will run again tomorrow night. Will we see something as special and spectacular as some of those previous Orlando moments? Tune in tomorrow night and find out!
And if you don’t get your fill of racing there, remember that the 2021 AMA Grand National Cross Country Series is starting up this weekend as well, the first GNCC of the post-Kailub Russell era. Trail boss Jared Bolton previewed the series.
And you can watch the action for the first round, dubbed the 24th Annual VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC, all weekend on www.racertv.com. Sunday’s bike race will likely start a little after 1 p.m.
FLORIDA WEEK (Matthes)
After Orlando 1, I stayed in Florida this week to hang out a bit. I put my Intense Tazer E-Bike on the Fly Racing semi for the entire series, so in Houston and now here in Orlando, I've been getting some time to go explore.
I hit some trails Sunday and Monday that were recommended to me by Mark Murphy, an old pro racer back in the day, and had a good time. It's so flat out there that I can't even hit 1,000 feet of climbing after two hours. So weird for me as a guy who regularly gets 2K out in Vegas. Most of the pedaling out here I haven't turned on the electric assist much, if at all. #humblebrag
Monday night we did the PulpMX Show with me and JT here at an undisclosed location in Orlando. Very nice of Jalek Swoll and Tim and Evan Ferry to drop by and educate us on the amateur motocross scene for Evan, Timmy's outrageous claim about RC and Stew, and more. We also had Logan Karnow on to talk about his season so far.
I headed out to CR22's old compound on Tuesday after the PulpMX Show to watch Joey Savatgy, Justin Bogle, and Hunter and Jett Lawrence ride. I also met the owner, Mark McKenzie (whose son Ethan races EMX in Europe, although he may jump into MX2), an Englishman who, due to COVID, hadn't been able to visit his new place until the other day. Even though THE JETT's series is on hiatus right now, he put some gear on and rode for a bit. Savatgy and Bogle did sprints under the watchful eye of Michael Byrne, and Bogle told me he made the difficult decision to leave Robbie Reynard's place in Oklahoma to base himself in Florida and ride with the above guys and Jason Anderson (who wasn't there that day). THE JETT looked great in the limited amount of time I saw him ride—he was jumping this quad into a turn that was pretty burly for a 250 guy. Byrner had Savatgy start out front, and Bogle's job was to try and run him down, which he couldn't do. But that's how these things work, the riders pushing each other.
Hunter Lawrence was there with the Honda guys shaking down the race bike and generally trying to peak for this weekend’s 250SX West series kickoff. Seeing #41 on a Honda again looked cool!
Dan Truman and I headed out e-biking after that. It was fun, except I went on some red-colored trails that I probably had no business being on. Good times!
The next day I headed out to my dear friend Eric Peronnard's place on the coast of Florida to mountain bike with him and his son Alec, interview him for something I'm working on, and enjoy a nice dinner with his family. That was cool. Eric's been the guy for the European races for a long time now and has done so much for Justin Brayton over the years, JB gave him a full race bike that he put in his living room!
Eric's a good dude. I love listening to his stories about his time in the industry, and he took me to this piece of land he's got where he's got an Endurocross and motocross track. Pretty cool for sure.
Yesterday was more biking in the morning with PulpMX superfan Gringo ("I just want to hear the motocross stuff") and his wife in Croom, where for years the factory riders went to prepare for the Gainesville National. I hadn't been there in 20 years or so. It was cool to experience pedaling around there yet again.
Very busy week—I think I've put 1,100 miles on the rental truck so far—but a fun week at that.
Quick Orlando 2 update: I think Justin Brayton will be out with an injury from a crash this week, but he should be okay for Daytona in a couple of weeks. Someone check on Weege, please!
Movie Review (DC)
If we had folks who actually reviewed movies in this column, which we don't, it might go something like this:
If On Any Sunday was the Citizen Kane of motocross movies, and Crusty Demons of Dirt was the Godfather of freestyle films, then the brand-new Slayground 3 starring Axel Hodges may very well be the Star Wars of YouTube-friendly freeriding media. With a budget probably as big as a supercross race, Monster Energy built out a playground full of ramps, jumps, walls, and anything else the uniquely talented Hodges wanted launch off of (or onto). I say uniquely talented because Hodges is an incredible jumper with amazing balance and bike control. He's also fearless. But we will never really know how fast he could have been, because he chose a much different path when he was younger, going the freeride route rather than professional racing, despite having clear talent. (I've always said Hodges is the second most famous C-class winner ever from Loretta Lynn's, having won 250 C in 2012. The most famous? Nineteen eighty-seven’s 125 C class champion, Jeremy McGrath—though on Instagram alone Axel has the King of Supercross covered by about half a million followers!)
With his brother Ash Hodges of Dirt Shark fame producing and directing, and cameos by their dad and Axel's girlfriend, the video is a day in the life of Axel, boiled down to seven minutes of just wow. The time and effort put into this short film is impressive in a Ken Block's Gymkhana kind of way, and that's meant as high praise. I mean, when the helicopter pilot gets a credit, you know it's well done. Seriously, it's on par with Red Bull and Ken Roczen's incredible shot-by-shot nod to Jeremy McGrath in Terrafirma 94—the Groundhog Day of this genre, if you will. Anyway, take seven minutes this weekend to watch this, though you may end up at 14 minutes, or 21, or even 28, because I promise you that you're going to want to watch Slayground 3 more than once. See for yourself:
Loretta Lynn's Qualifier (Keefer)
Yes, that's right, it's that time already! Holy crap! It seems just like yesterday we were at the Ranch, but the family and I are headed to Arizona Cycle Park this weekend for the Southwest Area Qualifier. My son Aden has moved up to B class, so he has a lot of work to do, but I’m looking forward to seeing his progress as he races with faster kids. The B class has been some of the fastest classes at the Ranch, so getting him prepared will be a big focus for us this year. When we do motos together, he’s not far off of my times, so pretty soon I’ll be the slower Keefer out of the family. CRAP! This year it looks like I’m not allowed to race the Senior 40 class, as it's a "Sportsman" class (I have scored a pro point), so I’m going for the Senior 45 and Junior 25 classes for 2021. It's a 20-year gap between my classes, so I’ll have to bust my ass in the young-guy class, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Good luck to all the families starting their journey this weekend to the Ranch, and I hope to see you all either at a qualifier or in Tennessee this summer!
Shutting Down in Belgium (DC)
The relatively small Western European nation of Belgium has long been one of the most successful motocross countries in the world, at least when it comes to world titles and Motocross of Nations wins. The list of legendary champions to hail from Belgium is long: Joel Robert, Roger De Coster, Gaston Rahier, Harry Everts, his son Stefan, the Geboers brothers, Andre Malherbe, Georges Jobe, Joel Smets.... But more recently, Belgian talent has been impeded by the growing number of tracks and riding facilities that have been forced to close due to a push by environmental groups and noise critics. That's a big reason why the Citadelle circuit at Namur, probably the most famous track in the history of the sport, no longer hosts races.
This week, another important part of Belgian motocross was lost, as the Honda Park MX facility in Olmen was forced to shutter after anti-noise activists convinced the government to disregard their own policies when it comes to motorsports parks and close the place down, according to this Dirt Bike Rider report.
Stefan Everts posted “RIP Olmen (Honda Park). The umpteenth death sting to our sport. Thanks shit Belgium.”
Sadly, this has been an ongoing problem in Belgium. According to an FIM-Europe.com report posted in 2012, "During the seventies there were about 60 motocross training tracks in Belgium used for practice and/or competition. At the end of the eighties and beginning of the nineties the permit restrictions imposed by the government became more and more difficult to respect by the track owners and a lot of them were obliged to close their track. At the end of century there where only about six tracks left open for practices. Many races are organized on temporary tracks with only a permit for one, two or maximum three events per year."
Joel Roelants, another well-known Belgian racer, made the argument that, if anything, motocross racing has gotten much better in the last ten years. "The sport that got a lot cleaner, stricter and more quiet over the last decade," he wrote. “The racing side of motorbikes/cars go hand in hand with developing faster, smaller, lighter, cleaner and more durable engines. Without racing we wouldn’t be even close to where we are today considering energy efficiency. Sadly traveling hundreds of kilometers to ride on tracks that are open takes more fuel than the few liters we use during practice itself."
Here's hoping that there is some kind of drastic reversal in Belgium before the sport of motocross disappears completely from what was once a kingdom of champions.
Freddy Van's Cycle Land??? (DC)
A few issues back we ran a feature about the pre-Loretta Lynn's AMA Youth and Amateur Nationals that were held all across the country, from Carlsbad, California, to Atlanta, Georgia. In 1975, the AMA Youth National was held at a track in Pittsburg, Kansas, called Freddy Van's Cycle Land. It had a good run as a motorsports facility but was closed in the early nineties and may now be part of a housing subdivision.
Our friend Eric Golden reached out this week looking for more information about the old track as he once raced there:
I'm trying to find the remains of the track on Google Maps, but I can't. I've seen directions on old flyers that said it was 'four miles east and three miles north' of 4th and Broadway in Pittsburg. I think from there I followed signs to the entrance, but I can't recall where it was at. I'd like help with locating where the starting line was, the grandstands, etc., on Maps. There may be parts of it still remaining, but I read that the land was sold for development in the late 90s, so it may be completely gone - I'm not sure.
I raced there back in 1992, so it's been a minute or two. Do you think Tim might be able to mark some locations on Google Maps and send me the coordinates if he remembers where it was at? If not that's okay; I don't have a real purpose other than to reminisce a little bit.
A reunion was held at Freddy Van's awhile back; here’s a local newspaper story about it.
If anyone can help Eric with directions or information about where exactly the old track is now, please let us know in the comments below or email me: email@example.com.
The 30 podiums club (Andras Hegyi)
For the top three riders in Monster Energy AMA Supercross right now—Honda’s Ken Roczen, Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb, and defending champion Eli Tomac—2021 has provided more chances to move up on some all-time statistical lists. For instance, Tomac now has more podium results than Kawasaki great Jeff Ward, while Roczen now has more main-event wins than Jeff Stanton, Mark Barnett, and Jean-Michel Bayle. As Cooper Webb has been heating up, he too is making gains.
Last Saturday night in the Orlando 1 race, Webb won after pulling off a 2-for-1pass on Roczen and surprise early leader Justin Brayton. Webb celebrated his 13th victory in AMA Supercross and second of '21, which means he has overtaken 1980 AMA Supercross Champion Mike Bell (11 wins) as well as 1983 champion David Bailey (12). Webb also overtook longtime title contender Ezra Lusk (12 wins) on the all-time wins list. Webb has also become the 28th supercrosser to get at least 30 podium results in the history of the 250/450 SX. (Webb picked up two podiums while riding for Yamaha in 2017-'18, so he now has 32, which ties him with Barnett, Jason Anderson, and the late Bell.)
Webb has raced for KTM in the 450SX since 2019 and last Saturday he took his 30th KTM podium in his 41st main event on orange and in his third season. The most successful KTM rider, Ryan Dungey, got his 30th KTM podium result in his 44th main event and in his third season. The other KTM rider with at least 30 podiums in 450SX is Marvin Musquin, who reached that mark in his 58th race and in his fifth season (2019).
Riders to get at least 30 podiums in the 250/450 supercross
Chad Reed (132), 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), Ken Roczen (52), Ricky Johnson (51), Marvin Musquin (41), Johnny O’Mara and Ezra Lusk (40 each), Bob Hannah (39), Jean-Michel Bayle (38), David Vuillemin and Damon Bradshaw (37), Ron Lechien (36), Mike Kiedrowski, Davi Millsaps and Broc Glover (35), Mike Bell, Mark Barnett, Jason Anderson, and Cooper Webb (32).
Moto Fite Klub—in cars! (DC)
Remember last spring when the whole country—the whole world, actually—shut down due to the coronavirus and there was literally nothing to watch on TV or online as far as sports go? That’s when Rob Buydos and his friends pulled off the Moto Fite Klub in Youngstown, Ohio. It was a fun get-together featuring former professional racers together for a pay-per-view match race between the likes of Travis Pastrana, Ryan Villopoto, Kevin Windham, Damon Bradshaw, Jeff Stanton, and many more. The event was a huge, fun success during a time when racing—and all forms of entertainment as we know it—had come to a screeching halt. Mike Alessi walked away with the belt, and almost everyone else walked away with a hangover thanks to Ryan Sipes’ sponsorship of moonshine, plus the fact that the riders huddled in Villopoto’s decked-out sprinter van and threw back beers and the aforementioned moonshine to avoid the unusual May snowfall in Ohio. Who knew it was going to be a springboard for more things to come? Turns out Rob Buydos did.
With Fite, which recently streamed “Iron” Mike Tyson’s return to boxing, providing the platform for thirsty race fans, this concept featured some unique, never-see-before racing formats. From flat track to four-wheelers to pit bikes, Buydos and Fite have continued producing some very fun events with marquee names, despite the fact that other sports started getting back online last summer.
Which brings us to MotoCar Fite Klub. If you’ve been paying attention to the social media of Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, Jeremy McGrath, Ryan Dungey, Brian Deegan, and Justin Brayton, you’ve probably seen them hammering one another about the upcoming MotoCar Fite Klub. It takes place this coming Thursday, February 25, and will be the perfect programming as Monster Energy AMA Supercross takes a quick break before Daytona. They will be battling in stock cars at Travelers Rest Raceway in South Carolina in an event that will stream live on Fite.tv beginning at 6:30 p.m. As you may recall, Carmichael raced NASCAR trucks after his SX/MX career ended, and Deegan and McGrath are both accomplished off-road truck drivers. And Chad Reed has raced in plenty of different cars before, including Lamborghinis! Brayton and Dungey are question marks (and they should all be glad that Mike Brown isn’t in this one, because he’s pretty damn good race car driver too).
Buydos hasn’t limited these events to just former racers (and one current one in Brayton, who will no doubt have Jason Weigandt there as his cornerman). In June, Buydos went old-school and put on a wrestling event—the world’s original sport—for Fite.tv It was something foreign to Rob but that didn’t stop him.
“When I saw that the Olympics was cancelled, I saw an opportunity,” Buydos told me. “These Olympic hopefuls had nowhere to go during the pandemic.” Buydos’ friend and cohort Denny Hartwig, once upon a time the media manager for AMA Supercross, spent most of his life wrestling and had a thumb on the pulse in that world, so in conversation a new event was born.
“I have never watched a wrestling match but remember walking through the gyms where those guys worked out and it wreaked of hard work,” added Buydos, who played college football. “I wanted to do this wrestling event but wanted to do it at a very non-traditional location. I originally asked for an airplane hangar but settled on a rooftop in downtown Chicago.”
All of the major media outlets in the wrestling community covered it, as did that mainstream pillar Sports Illustrated. Dubbed Rumble on the Rooftop, the event was one of the biggest paydays for Olympic-level wrestlers.
“Our goal is to entertain the end user,” said Buydos in between negotiating a deal to have Gary Port of Butler Tire serve as the Grand Marshall of the upcoming MotoCar Fite Klub race. “What’s important is that we use this time to be creative and think outside of the box and understand that untraditional is the new traditional.”
Moving forward, Buydos hopes to extend the four-wheel option to motocross generations in order to even the playing ground. He noted that Broc Glover, Jeff Stanton, and Jeff Ward have all expressed interest in the event and this line up will serve as the 2.0 in Buydos’ Moto Fite Klub ideas.
In the meantime, remember to tune in to MotoCar Fite Klub next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. It should be a lot of fun!
Colt .7 (Andras Hegyi)
Going back to the beginning of the 125/250 SX class in 1985, if a supercrosser takes seven consecutive podium results in the first seven rounds, he will be champion. This tradition is a very good omen for Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Colt Nichols. Nichols, who has been showing his best form ever, has taken podiums in all seven 250SX East Region rounds so far. Colt went 3-2-1 in Houston, 1-1-3 in Indianapolis, and then second in Orlando 1. The last rider before Nichols to get seven podiums in the first seven rounds in a 125/250SX series was Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, who took nine consecutive podiums in all in 2015. In the history of 125/250 AMA Supercross there have been eight riders who took podium results in every round of a series: Doug Henry, Ezra Lusk, Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, Marvin Musquin, Jeremy McGrath, Jimmy Gaddis, and Damon Huffman. We will have to wait until the East resumes in Salt Lake City on April 24 to see if Colt Nichols will join them.
The april 2021 ISSUE OF raCER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Hey, Watch It!
With qualifying now starting for Loretta Lynn’s, here’s a look back ten years ago of what the whole process was like through the images and words of the great Troy Adamitis, called The Heart of Motocross, that he made with Red Bull.
Orlando 2007 is a must watch for every supercross fan:
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.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Young Florida women dressed as grannies to get coronavirus vaccine—and it may have worked”—ClickOrlando.com
“Gov. DeSantis to order flags lowered after Rush Limbaugh’s death”—Fox News
“Look at These Blue Dogs Discovered Near a Russian Chemical Plant”—Vice.com
Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha's Christian Craig made the cover of the latest CROSSMagazine in Germany.
And here is an idea of what's going on up in Canada this summer.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #7.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!