Well, it’s been a hell of a year. At this time last year, the world was just about to seemingly stop spinning, paralyzed by the global pandemic that practically shut everything down. The 50th Daytona Supercross was the last race we got in before a forced break the following week. Now, more 500,000 deaths later here in the U.S., it really is starting to feel like we’re almost out of this thing. States like Florida and Texas are pulling back their mask mandates and restrictions, though Daytona will still have a limited capacity to allow for social distancing, and Feld Entertainment’s director of supercross, Dave Prater, told me they’re still trying to figure out what kinds of things they can do at the three races in Arlington, Texas, as the stadium will ultimately make the decisions as to how many people will be allowed and whether they’ll allow a Fan Fest or pit party of any kind. What is clear is that Feld will continue to require testing and ask everyone in the paddock to continue to wear masks. It’s not ideal, but it’s absolutely getting better, finally.
As far as Daytona goes, we’ve got a great series going with Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, and everyone is just sort of waiting and wondering whether defending champion Eli Tomac will finally get on a roll. And in the 250SX West Region, I’ll be watching ClubMX’s Garrett Marchbanks, last year’s Daytona 250SX winner, coming back as a privateer. What a cool story it would be to see Marchbanks win again against the factory guys, and to do it in the 700th AMA Supercross race in history.
Of course this is Bike Week in Daytona, and while it’s not nearly as crowded as it normally is, there is an endless soundtrack of motorcycles going up and down the streets. And in another sign of good news, we have a record crowd for the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross (RCSX), as almost every class is full at a little over 1,300 pre-entries. That takes place Sunday and Monday on what will be a tamed-down Daytona track, then on Tuesday we’ll have the vintage motocross race, hosted by Jeff Stanton, a four-time winner here at Daytona. And if all of that is not enough, we also have a GNCC happening all weekend about an hour and a half up the road in Palatka. The GNCC and the Monday motos of the RCSX will be streamed live and free on RacerTV.com.
Add it all up and it’s a pretty busy weekend for everyone at Racer X Online as well as Racer Productions and MX Sports. It’s also a blessed off-weekend for everyone at Feld Entertainment, who have done a really good job getting the first eight rounds of Monster Energy AMA Supercross safely in, sticking to their safety protocols and giving the riders a great platform to compete and all of us fans some great entertainment. Here’s wishing them well on the remaining rounds, which pick up next week in Texas, then to Atlanta and the finals in Salt Lake City.
Eli v Kenny v Cooper (Jason Weigandt)
As one of the live announcers for the Daytona Supercross, I usually get to host a media day on Friday and record some interviews for the fans to watch on race day. In order to maintain social distance, we instead recorded interviews over Zoom this week. I got the chance to talk to both Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen about their seasons and their goals for Daytona.
Tomac is not shying away from anything. He knows he needs to win Daytona to get his season back on track.
“It’s all I can hope for, and all I can go for is to win at Daytona to try to get something going,” he said. “I’ve kind of had a … I don’t know, a kind of so-so first half to the season, right? At least for my own expectation, only having one win at this point, and we’ve had a handful of fourths or fifths. Yeah, I need to get this going.”
Eli has been amazing at Daytona, with four wins in the last five years. Does he put more pressure on himself to win this one? Would he be less satisfied with just a second or third in this race than at another track?
“Yeah, I go into this race win-at-all-costs,” he said, being brutally honest. “You can see everyone’s number on the tower when you’re leaving there. I like leaving there when you can see my number on the top.”
I asked Eli if anything has changed in his program this year. He says he’s doing the same things as usual.
“At this point in the game, why change what you know and why change what’s worked in the past?” he said. “In that sense, nothing has changed. It’s a year where competition is strong and stars are so key—it seems more key than in years past. I feel like that’s where I’m losing a lot of it, those opening laps.”
What has struck me in interviews with Tomac all year is how happy he seems. He’s ridden past the point in a career when pressure and injuries seem to sap the enthusiasm from the top riders. Last year he said he enjoyed riding his motorcycle as much as ever. He says that’s still the case—but he isn’t happy with the results.
“When I look at how many years I’ve been doing this, I do absolutely enjoy it, but I did get asked this the other day and I said, ‘No, I don’t enjoy it when I’m getting beat!’” Eli said, while still smiling and laughing about it. “The riding and training portion, I don’t feel burnt out at all.”
Last year Tomac and Roczen had a big battle, with Roczen leading most of the way before bobbling in an off-camber. Tomac got by and held on to win by .7 seconds. The Daytona win continues to elude Roczen.
“For sure, Daytona has been on my list for a long time, and I’ve never been able to pull it off,” he said. “And then I’ve been hearing about this Daytona win from my teammate last year, Justin Brayton, for I don’t know how many years! So I really need to get the Daytona win so he can stop giving me crap for it.”
Kenny has been better in 2021 than 2020, but it’s only netted him a 6-point lead over Cooper Webb. Last year Roczen and Tomac were tied for the lead coming into Daytona. So big gains for Kenny, but the points battle is still tight. Roczen, like Tomac, seems to be enjoying racing now more than ever, though. He’s not stressed.
“Yeah, I feel like I’ve definitely stepped it up a notch, but of course the points are tight, and that’s what the fans want to see,” he said. “I’ve not really worried about it. I’m not the one with the point deficit. It’s going to be a grind all the way to the last race. I’m enjoying being in this position once again, because it was a tough decision last year to not race the outdoor series and miss out on a lot of races. I felt like I really needed it, and this year just confirmed it. It’s difficult to make that call, and in general sitting on the sidelines is not ideal. But there were other factors. I made the decision, and we’re back in the championship hunt. I know some people had written me off, but we’re battling for it again.”
“You can see whether it’s my lap times or my racing, it’s been consistently good,” he said. “That’s so much better and so much more enjoyable. I want to go to all the practices and races feeling good and having a good shot it at—I’m getting back to why we started racing, which is to get the butterflies and having fun with my family and my team. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still competitive, but I’m just done letting a bad race dictate my mood all the time, especially now that we have a family and a little one. It’s so much fun.”
“One hundred percent, this win would be a boost,” Roczen concluded. “It’s just a very unique race. I’ve won in a lot of other stadiums, and winning is always good, but this race is so unique and so special. I would love to do it, absolutely, and I’m going to give it a little extra juice. The track map looks pretty jumpy, but I see it could also rain. You never know with Florida weather. I’m really just excited to get going and go racing. It’s been a long time since we’ve raced, and I’ve enjoyed doing three races in a week. The off-weekend was refreshing, though. It’s been nice.”
What about Cooper Webb? I talked to him, too, and he says he loves Daytona even though he hasn’t won there yet. He has finished on the podium every time he’s raced there, including on a Yamaha in 2018 and last year while fighting back from that big injury at Dallas. Now Cooper feels like he’s in a great position—even with two weeks to work with his team in Florida, they haven’t made any major bike changes. So you’ve got Roczen and Webb surging this year (they’ve combined to win the last six races in this championship), but Tomac is always tough at Daytona. Should make for one heck of a battle!
700 (Andras Hegyi)
Daytona International Speedway is a unique, unparalleled venue in the history of American supercross. Daytona has the longest supercross history among all the supercross venues, with this marking the 51st year, which actually makes it older than the AMA Supercross Series itself. Daytona hosted three different motocross races between 1971 and ‘73. For the first two years it was part of the Florida Winter AMA series, and then in 1973 it was the season opener of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship for both the 250cc and 500cc categories. Then on March 9, 1974, Daytona hosted the maiden race of the first AMA Supercross Championship, though it was called the Yamaha AMA Super Series of Stadium Motocross. It has been a part of all 48 AMA Supercross seasons.
In addition, Daytona is the longest track on the supercross schedule, and easily the roughest. Daytona is usually the only stop on the schedule that does not take place in a baseball or football stadium, though this year Atlanta International Raceway will host three rounds.
There have been 13 different first-time winners in Daytona. Roger De Coster took his one and only AMA Supercross win here in 1974 in the 500 class, and then Steve Stackable got his maiden 500cc SX win in 1975. In the 250/450 supercross Dutchman Pierre Karsmakers won in both 1975 (when it was a 500 National) and then in ’74 in the first sanctioned AMA Supercross history. Others who got their first wins here Tony Di Stefano (‘76), Rex Staten (‘80), the privateer Rick Ryan (‘87), Mike Kiedrowski (‘93), Ricky Carmichael (2000) and Justin Brayton (‘18). In the 125/250 supercross Todd DeHoop (‘88), Travis Pastrana (2000), Marvin Musquin (’13), and Garrett Marchbanks (‘20).
In 2003 Daytona hosted the 400th round of 250/450 AMA Supercross. The winner was Ricky Carmichael—his last supercross win riding with Honda. And in 2018 MotoConcepts’ Honda’s Justin Brayton became the oldest supercross winner ever at 33 years, 11 months, 24 days. Tomorrow, Daytona will be hosting the 700th round AMA Supercross, in existence since 1974. Here are some of the previous jubilee races:
100th: Yamaha’s Ron Lechien won in Orlando on June 11, 1983, and in the process became the youngest AMA Supercross winner ever at 16 years, 5 months old.
200th: Yamaha’s Damon Bradshaw won in the Los Angeles Coliseum on June 23, 1990.
300th: Kawasaki’s Jeff Emig won in the RCA Dome Indianapolis on February 15, 1997.
400th: Honda’s Ricky Carmichael won in Daytona on March 8, 2003.
500th: Yamaha’s James Stewart won in Toronto, Canada, on March 28, 2009.
600th: KTM’s Ryan Dungey won in Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium on March 14, 2015.
1st race: Karsmakers at the 1974 Daytona Supercross Racer X Archives 100th race: Ron Lechien in the 1983 Orlando Supercross Moto Verte 400th race: Ricky Carmichael at the 2003 Daytona Supercross Simon Cudby 500th race: James Stewart at the 2009 Toronto Supercross Steve Cox 600th race: Dungey at the 2015 Indianapolis Supercross Simon Cudby
WACKO’S BACKO (Matthes)
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne has had an up-and-down 2021 SX season with lots of speed and a podium but also some crashes and bad starts. He was my choice for a breakout rider of the year coming off his 450 Class title in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and SLC 7 main-event win, but it hasn't come together for him ... yet. Well, now it's going to be a bit longer for the #16, as he put out on his social media yesterday. He's got a back injury that started the week of Orlando 2 when he was seat bouncing a jump all day long. He noticed a bit of a twinge the next day, and by the end of Orlando 2, he told me he could barely walk to the car after the race. He's got a herniated disc. It's not going to require surgery, but he will be off the bike for a bit. He got an epidural shot in the affected area to try to calm things down and hopes to be back by Atlanta, but as he told me, he's got a 450 MX title to defend here, and if he's not 100 percent ready for SX, he'll wait until the outdoors start.
Back injuries are nothing to fool around with, as anyone, including myself, who has had one, can tell you. So we'll see what happens from here for the team and Osborne. Also, something I spoke about yesterday on the Fly Racing Moto:60 Show was that I was told the whole three-man team over there at Rockstar Husqvarna 2022 deals are on hold because Rockstar, the energy drink, was sold to Pepsi, and the sponsorship deal is up. I was told there can be no commitments to any riders until they shore that deal up for Husky worldwide. The old management team at Rockstar are all gone now, so the ties to our sport are as well.
So with Osborne, Jason Anderson, and Dean Wilson's deals up (not sure about the 250 guys), it was going to be interesting to see what happens over there. After the show, though, I had a source reach out to tell me there have been some contracts being worked on with the riders over there, and with or without Rockstar Energy, Husqvarna was going racing in 2022. So there you go!
Antonio Cairoli (Andras Hegyi)
Last Sunday the 2021 European motocross preseason got started with the three-round Italian International Motocross Championship. The most successful Italian motocrosser ever, Antonio Cairoli, was present at the season opener at Riola Sardo, located on the island of Sardinia, but he was there only as a spectator. The 9-time world champion and 20-time Italian champion, Cairoli missed the Italian season opener because he has not recovered yet from surgery on his left knee surgery back on December 5. Cairoli has started riding his Red Bull KTM again but did not feel able to take part in a race just yet. Cairoli will not race in the second round, this coming weekend, but he might try to race the last round on March 14 in Mantova.
“It is only two months that I had a knee operation, but my recovery is progressing quite well,” Cairoli said. “I have been riding for about 20 days, but I feel that I would not be able to participate in a 30-minute or more moto. I am training, my knee is working good working, but I have a priority. It is the motocross world championship. It is not the time to take any risks of racing in the preseason events, the level of which is very competitive. As I train right in Sardinia, we decided to be present at the season opener and to cheer some friends. As regards to my shoulder, it is feeling good, I no longer have pain. At the beginning of last year, my shoulder was not okay, though later on during the season it got better, but now I feel it is much better and that has an effect on my performance, especially in riding in the sand. I have to say I am content how the things work out. I want to be ready for the world championship. It is my main goal.”
Cairoli can take his time, as the 2021 MXGP season does not begin until May 23.
As far as that Italian races goes there were three leading riders. The MX2 race was won by Yamaha’s Jago Geerts, last year’s MX2 world championship runner-up. The MX1 race was won by Cairoli’s teammate, the two-time world champion Jorge Prado, while the Superchampion finale, which included the top twenty riders MX1 and the MX2, was won by the 2015 MXGP World Champion Romain Febvre on his Monster Energy Kawasaki.
Win Ads Hall of Fame (DC)
Stumbled across this funny ad in the April 4, 1984 issue of Cycle News. Kawasaki was very proud of Jeff Ward's accomplishments up to this point, with 1984 being a tumultuous year for supercross. With the promoters battling the AMA (sound familiar?) over the question of who exactly "owns" supercross, there were not one but two '84 Supercross Championships: the Wrangler Supercross Series, sanctioned by InSports (promoters), and the AMA Supercross Championship Series (a three-stop tour run by the AMA and Daytona promoter Jim France). And while France's Daytona SX would count for both series, his next race at Talladega in Alabama would not. Oh, and there was also the AMA Grand National Championship, sponsored by Wrangler, which counted points from both SX series as well as the AMA Pro Motocross Championship. The overall winner of that got a big check and the right to wear a blue plate the following year with a yellow #1. All of that would be ironed out later, but in April the whole industry was in a bit of a mess. Ward and Team Kawasaki decided to compete in both SX series, though Honda and Yamaha elected not to. So after the Talladega race, which Ward won over Suzuki's Mark Barnett and Scott Burnworth, Kawasaki realized he was the points leader in all three championships: InSport SX, AMA SX, and the Wrangler GNC standings. Their ad agency came up with this clever ad stating that Ward was "currently three times faster than everyone else" and then took a jab at those very same competitors. "Ward is simply the fastest thing on knobby tires. He out-blows the hurricanes, blasts the bombers, upstages the other shows, roosts the golden boys and trounces the teacher's pet." These, of course, were hardly-disguised mentions of, in order, Bob "Hurricane" Hannah, Mark "Bomber" Barnett, Johnny "O'Show" O'Mara, Broc "Golden Boy" Glover and David "Little Professor" Bailey. (Can't believe they left Scott "Burner" Burnworth off the hit list.)
Ironically, or maybe just coincidentally, the ad appeared two weeks after the Talladega race, and right after the Houston Astrodome race, where Wardy had one of his worst SX races ever, crashing multiple times and finishing 16th. That meant Ward was no longer the points leader in two of the three series. The new AMA Supercross points leader was O'Mara, while the GNC points leader was Houston winner Bailey. Both would end those respective series as champions, while Ward would claim the all-but-forgotten "AMA Supercross," which would end up being just two races (Daytona and Talladega) after the final round was canceled following a peace deal between the promoters and the AMA. Oh, and adding to the confusion, he would also beat O'Mara for that year's AMA 125 Pro Motocross title.
The one championship NOT mentioned in the Kawasaki advertisement? Kawasaki missed a golden opportunity, because the first race had already been run back on March 4 at Gatorback Cycle Park in Gainesville, Florida. Ward won that, too, so technically he was the points leader in FOUR different series when this advertisement ran!
Bill Dill of 3-D Racing can really use some thoughts, prayers and support right now...
Here is a link to help out this longtime moto/supercross sponsor and team owner:
The april 2021 ISSUE OF raCER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
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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.
The night before MotoCar Fite Klub, Road2Recovery hosted a fundraiser Q&A with fans. With Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, Brian Deegan, Justin Brayton, and Tour de France cyclist Christian Vande Velde gathered, there was no shortage of great stories from the good old days. Jason Weigandt recorded the best parts of the session so you can listen in as the legends describe their old rivalries, their current relationships, and other cool takes on racing then and now. Topics include Reed growing up as a McGrath fan, only to take him out at the Bercy Supercross, and Reed having Carmichael posters in his room growing up, only to battle him for wins and titles. McGrath describes taking a young Carmichael under his wing in California, then later trying to hold him off for supremacy. Deegan describes battling Travis Pastrana at the X Games and the reaction to the double backflip, and Brayton describes turning pro and getting lapped by Carmichael!
While there are success stories of privateer teams eventually morphing to strong factory-supported outfits, the road there is long and winding. What's the motivation for the teams in the back of the pits? Where does the money come from? What's the lifestyle for the team owner? Jason Weigandt chats with PR MX's Julien Perrier about the evolution of his team, with riders such as Cade Clason, Josh Cartwright, Ludovic Macler, Devin Simonson, Luke Neese, Ryan Surratt, Dakota Alix, and Justin Thompson. Perrier can best sum up his effort to run this big program like this: "I'm really dumb and very stubborn!"
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“ILLEGAL COCKFIGHTING ROOSTER KILLS MAN IN INDIA... Slashed Owner In Groin”—TMZ Sports
“Heard of the Steelers? No, not them, the gay rugby team from London”—ESPN.com
Looking for a very cool rug? Check out these MX rugs!
And check out the artwork my son, Vance, pulled together last night for a T-shirt giveaway for the MotoXDream360.com league's top winners from this weekend. It's an old illustration from the UK of Ronnie Lechien at the Paris-Bercy Supercross in the mid-eighties. I want one of these!
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #9.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!