Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from a very busy week of moto all over the country. We are two-thirds of the way through the Arlington tripleheader in Texas, finishing up the JS7 Spring Classic in Texas and coming off another record weekend for GNCC, as The General in Georgia hosted a hefty 2,000+ riders (riders, not entries). There was also the competition of Red Bull’s A Day in the Dirt Down South with a record crowd there at Dade City in Florida as well.
Before we get to all of that seemingly very good news, a little bit of the sad: George Singler, a moto man through and through, passed away last Friday at the age of 86. Singler was the owner and promoter of Smith Road Raceway in Medina, Ohio, a place he opened in 1968! Singler was a racer himself, and he stayed active in vintage motocross for almost all his life. He did a great deal for motocross in Northeastern Ohio and could call the likes of superstars Bob Hannah and Chuck Sun his friends. George will be missed, but he won’t be forgotten. Godspeed.
On a slightly brighter note, it’s MX Sports Pro Racing’s Kelly Kirby’s birthday, and if you’ve ever been to sign-up, will call, the MX Sports trailer, or anyplace involved in the general running of events at Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, then you know she is the epicenter of the inner workings of it all! Well, Kelly also just came out of surgery yesterday, as she was taking one last step in finishing off her battle with breast cancer with a big W. Happy birthday and congrats to you, Kelly!
Now, supercross. Further on, Jason Weigandt and Andras Hegyi are both going to talk about Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb and his midseason surge to the front. Weege is also going to talk a little on Honda’s Ken Roczen and Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, who were most everyone’s preseason favorites, only to both appear to be unable to stop this momentum shift to the #2 KTM of Coop. So I will fish in the 250 pond here.
I was bench-racing with Weege this morning about this interesting little tidbit: In the last three rounds of the 250 SX West Region—Daytona, Arlington 1, and Arlington 2—we have seen seven of the nine podium finishes, in order, be career-best finishes. At Daytona it was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Cameron McAdoo getting his first career win and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Stilez Robertson getting second in just his second AMA Supercross race, and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing rider Pierce Brown getting on the box for the first time in third.
One week later at Arlington 1, McAdoo’s teammate Seth Hammaker won in just his third AMA Supercross start, while Honda HRC rider Hunter Lawrence was an impressive runner-up (and McAdoo again on the box in third).
Finally, on Tuesday, Hunter Lawrence won—his first AMA win ever and, for me, just as big a surprise as Hammaker’s, given all the adversity and injury Hunter has been through. Runner-up was another impressive young Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider in Jalek Swoll, and third place went to Phoenix Racing Honda’s Kyle Peters, one position short of his career-best finish in AMA Supercross (and yes, Peters has wins in Kicker AMA Arenacross, as in 20 in a row). All of this in a series where a lot of us went in thinking 1-2-3 would end up being some combination of Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha’s Justin Cooper and Jeremy Martin and Jeremy’s older brother Alex Martin. Two-thirds of that prediction were done by the time the red flag came out to stop the first lap of the first main event of the series. As for Cooper, he’s just having trouble staying up and staying even.
So we’ve had four winners in four starts in the 250SX West Region. And Seth Hammaker is now the fourth rider from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (as Jake Tapper likes to call the Keystone State on CNN) to win a 125/250 AMA Supercross main event. The others were Branden Jesseman (2003 AMA 125 East Region champ) and Broc Hepler (former Team Suzuki and factory Yamaha rider) and Butler, Pennsylvania’s Darryn Durham (Pro Circuit Kawasaki). And we would be remiss to not include the legend Tony DiStefano, who actually won several AMA Supercross races back when it was just the premier 250 class, before 125s became a thing in 1985.
As far as Hunter Lawrence goes, it’s weird to think that he’s the first Australian to lead a 125/250 SX series since Chad Reed back in 2002, almost 20 years ago—a gap older than Hunter’s little brother Jett, who also got his first win this year, albeit in the East. And when Reed was racing a Yamaha of Troy YZ250F in ’02, there was no such thing as a “red plate,” so Hunter Lawrence will be the first Aussie to ever wear it on a 125cc or 250F motorcycle in AMA Supercross. If you’d told me it was going to be Hunter to do it rather than Jett, I would have laughed out loud at you.…
My Hot Take (DC)
And speaking of laughing out loud, I do want to weigh in here briefly on “RutledgeGate.” Rutledge Wood is the man NBC Sports likes to bring in for an outsider’s inside look at supercross. He’s an offbeat sideline reporter who tries to suss out the little nuances of the series, some of its hidden working parts, and introduce a different set of eyes and ears to the proceedings in hopes of offering a different take. I enjoy his reports because I come for the Kenny Mayne/Keith Olbermann school of SportsCenter-style reporting. And I have had the chance to do that kind of reporting myself, as I was the ABC/ESPN sideline reporter for the better part of a decade, and I know what the networks ask of people commentating on the race: Don’t get into the weeds explaining technical little things, you’ll lose much of the audience, even though that’s what the core fans want to hear, but they aren’t really going anywhere, so let’s try to talk to the new fans as well….
Seriously. I remember being on the floor of Angel Stadium at Anaheim, in the middle of an epic Ricky Carmichael-versus-Travis Pastrana (or maybe Chad Reed) deal, and having the director tell me through my headset that I immediately had to go to the podium to do a quick late-race interview with Charlie’s Angels—all three of them at once, because Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu were there to promote their upcoming film. We were running out of time in a very close race, but this was what they wanted. Turned out two of the three Angels had maybe had a little too much to drink and really didn’t want to talk on live TV, but they had questions for me about little things: How can you tell who’s actually winning? How fast can these motorcycles go on the freeway? Where can I cross the track to go potty? It would have made for riveting TV, I’m sure. But that’s what the networks want for the mainstream every now and then—three thirsty Angels sprinkled in with a report on whether it’s better to blitz or jump through the whoops, and why exactly are the bars so low on Ricky’s CR250 anyway?
Rutledge Wood’s man-off-the-streets style has been a popular form of MX/SX pit reporting ever since Bruce Jenner—yes, the future Miss Caitlyn—was sent out onto the Carlsbad USGP infield to mispronounce Heikki Mikkola’s name while stunning in a yellow ABC’sWide World of Sports polo shirt. Rutledge’s approach may not be everyone’s favorite style of SX reporting, but I really don’t see anything wrong with it, nor apparently does Ricky, Daniel Blair, Weege, or anyone else who’s ever had a producer/director yell into his headset, “Show me that pit board and then find me Ellie Reed!”
The particular hate Rutledge is getting—especially after his appearance on the PulpMX Show with Steve Matthes and special guest cohost David “Al Bundy” Vuillemin and all that entailed—has been more embarrassing for our sport than anything Wood actually said or did, and really anything any TV pit reporter has ever said or did, and that includes dumping a handful of rocks in front of Justin Barcia’s gate just before the card turned sideways. You may think supercross deserves better, but when some of us act like this … well, maybe we don’t. Not liking a TV reporter is not the end of the world, so let’s not take it so seriously that we run off every other sport’s crossover interest because we’re apparently allergic to plaid shirts. I agree, Rutledge Wood is no Daniel Blair, but then again, he’s no Jamie Bestwick either.
RICKY AND THE RUT (Matthes)
Fun PulpMX Show this past Monday night. As DC said, we had David Vuillemin come in-studio for the first time in almost three years to co-host with us, talk some Arlington 1 & 2 and more. Le Cobra has been working with Dylan Ferrandis the past couple of years, plus he was a great racer in his day. He's also pretty opinionated, which is awesome and why we love DV, right?
First up we had Ricky Carmichael on to talk about the races and his work in the TV booth. RC and I didn't speak for a long time, but we buried our beef at SLC last SX season and it's been refreshing on my end to have conversations with him now and then. Who knew? LOL. Anyways, Ricky came on and was talking about Webb and Roczen and all was going well when he flipped the tables on me a bit. He wanted to explain the GOAT nickname to me that was brought up in this Jeremy McGrath interview I did. RC explained that it wasn't his choice to be called that and went into that a bit with me. Look, even though RC and I are better now, my assertion has always been that he can't be the GOAT of the sport because SX & MX are both equally important in our sport (as opposed to, say, AX) and he isn't even close to MC's win mark of 72. I could be wrong—it's just my opinion and it makes for great bench racing, which is what we all love, right? RC was cool about it, but he just wanted to explain the origins of the name—Matt Walker came up with it—and all that.
Then DV got into it with his opinion that RC is the GOAT and that Ricky needs to act like that more on the TV broadcast, which Ricky disagreed with a bit. It made for compelling (internet) radio for sure. Have a listen to RC's interview here, and yeah, we get disconnected right at the end and had to move onto our next guest.
Speaking of our next guest, it was NBC's Rutledge Wood, who's got a couple of popular shows on Netflix, plus he's a big gearhead and does stuff on NASCAR, NHL, whatever NBC wants to do with him. He's dropped in a couple of SXs this year, to mixed reviews, depending on how serious and technical and deep you want your sideline reporting to be. I wanted to have him on to talk about what he thinks about the sport, if he rides (he does), his Floor is Lava Netflix show, and more.
But that didn't really happen, because it turns out DV is one of those guys who liked his sideline reporting to be serious and technical and deep and all of the things that Rutledge is not. Le Cobra wasn't happy with his work on TV, and Rutledge wanted to defend his work and speak to some of the hate he gets for coming on the show. Am I fan of everything he's done on the show? No, but that's not all on him—he's doing what he's told. I do know he's got a big following on social media and he's doing the kind of stuff that I once did on my Bottom Line show, so I get it, you know? But yeah, Vuillemin was NOT a fan, and you can watch the sometimes-awkward interview here
Rutledge called me yesterday to talk about the exchange and he was all good with it. We discussed some stuff in regard to the TV show and his role in it. I just wanted to explain that I didn't invite him on and then spring an ambush on him! I had no idea DV felt that strongly about his short little segments. Anyways, that's what makes our show great (sometimes) in that you never quite know what's going to happen.
Webb Wagon in Arlington (Jason Weigandt)
Jerry Jones’ billion-dollar AT&T Stadium is over a decade old now but is still considered the gold standard of American sports stadiums. Hey, kind of like how the Dallas Cowboys get the love (or the attention, at least) as “America’s team” no matter how the team actually performs on the field. Is that right, Daniel “Dak Prescot” Blair? (Cowboys haven’t won the Super Bowl in 25 years.)
Well, Jerry’s stadium has now become a key component in the career of Cooper Webb. It was his 2019 come-from-behind charge to steal victory from Ken Roczen that really sealed him as a 450SX title contender. I remember heading to Atlanta the week after that race knowing there were still ten races left that season, yet those who knew Cooper well (and in Atlanta, deep in the Southeast, that’s many people) already knew his confidence alone made that 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship nearly a lock at that point. That proved to be true. The Arlington 2019 race was the centerpiece of Cooper’s championship season.
But then Arlington 2020 was the lowest point, with that crash on the concrete we’ve seen on TV a thousand times. Now Arlington 2021 looks to represent another high, as Cooper has wrestled the red plate away from Roczen and aims for the Texas sweep. It’s so crazy how quickly the tide turns: at the beginning of February, Roczen was working on the Indy sweep and looking better possibly than ever. It was all clicking for Ken, and now it’s switched completely in Cooper’s direction. Yes, anything can happen in racing, but when you’re holding the hot hand, things rarely fall away. Case in point, Webb had a big crash in the whoops during Tuesday’s practice but ended up getting up unhurt, and he says it actually fired him up for the night show!
Can he carry this to the end? An Arlington sweep would go a long way toward answering that. From there, he would just have to avoid trouble (rain, maybe?) at outdoor venues in Atlanta and Salt Lake City. If he ends up with the title by then, we can very much look back at Arlington as the turning point yet again.
As for Roczen, he seemed a little less enthusiastic than usual in Tuesday night’s press conference. He’s still finding a way to find positives, though, as this rollercoaster championship chase rolls forward.
As for Eli Tomac, the champion admits he isn’t having his best season, but he wants to make it clear his motivation and desire have not waned. Here’s a Tomac piece for the latest thoughts from the defending Monster Energy Supercross Champion.
So Roczen owned Indy, and Webb seems to have Arlington on lockdown. Will it finally be Tomac’s turn when we get to Atlanta 1-2-3? He needs it badly, but it may already be too late.
Brotherhood (Andras Hegyi)
It was a great week for Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence, the Lawrence brothers, and the whole Australian motocross scene. On Tuesday night (Arlington 2), Hunter got his first AMA 250SX win, joining his younger brother and teammate Jett as an SX winner. The 22-year-old Hunter, who debuted in supercross last year, won in just his sixth main event. Besides Australian legend Chad Reed, the Lawrence brothers are now the second and third winners ever in AMA Supercross from Down Under. And due to a post-race penalty on Cameron McAdoo for missing a large section of the track, Hunter took over the red plate in the 250SX West Region. That makes him and Reed the only Australians to ever lead the point standings, as Reed led the whole way in 2002 on his way to becoming the 125 East Region Champion (though as DC mentioned there was no "red plate" back then for Reed to put on his Yamaha of Troy YZ250F).
Also, besides the American brothers Tyson and Tallon Vohland, as well as James and Malcolm Stewart, the Lawrence brothers are only the third set of brothers to both win in the history of the 125/250 SX. They also became the first set of brothers to win in the same year.
In the Vohland family, younger brother Tallon was the more successful. He took three wins in 125 SX, while older brother Tyson had just one victory. Here's the cool stat about the Vohland brothers: At the 1991 Houston 125 SX, a combined East/West event, Tallon won on a Suzuki RM125 while Tyson got third on his Kawasaki KX125. Finishing in between them was Peak/Pro Circuit Honda rider Jeremy McGrath. This was the only time in history that two brothers were on the same podium in AMA Supercross.
The Stewart brothers were even more successful. James, of course, is one of the true legends in the sport. Not only did he win two AMA Supercross Championships in the premier class, but Bubba is also one of the greatest riders in the history of the small-bore class. He won two titles in the 125 class while riding a Kawasaki KX125, and his 18 main-event wins in this class are the record. The younger Stewart brother is Malcolm, aka Mookie. He got three wins in small-bore supercross and was East Region champion in 2016. That makes the Stewart brothers the only ones to have both won AMA Supercross titles. And Malcolm is of course still racing, riding for the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing 450 team.
The Lawrence brothers have raced in the U.S. since 2019. Jett also has a Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship 250 Class overall win, having won the '20 season finale at Fox Raceway at Pala, while Hunter, often injured the past two years, took a moto one win at High Point and Spring Creek in '19. Hunter was also the 250 class winner at the 2017 Motocross of Nations in Great Britain and has an MX2 Grand Prix win.
Sweet 16 (Andras Hegyi)
The 2019 AMA 450 Supercross Champion, Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, is having a very similar year in 2021 compared to '19. As a matter of fact, he has been having an even better series performance than he had two years ago. In 2019, in the first 11 rounds, Webb racked up five wins, eight podiums, and 243 points. In the first 11 rounds this year he again has five wins and eight podiums, but he totals 249 points, six more than he had at this point during that championship season.
Webb is also moving up on the all-time AMA Supercross wins list. Already this season Webb has overtaken three big names: 1980 AMA SX Champion Mike Bell (11 wins), Ezra Lusk (12) and 1983 AMA Supercross Champion "Little Professor" David Bailey (12). On Tuesday Webb caught up with yet another great in 1991 AMA Supercross Champion Jean-Michel Bayle. By winning Arlington 2, Webb is now tied with JMB at 16 wins in the premier class.
During his very short career, which was three and a half SX seasons (1989-'92) Bayle raced in 57 main events, all aboard Honda. He got his 16th win in his 54th main event in 1992. Webb has already been in the premier class longer JMB as he has raced in 450SX since 2017. Webb's win on Tuesday meant that he got his 16th victory in his 70th main event and fifth season. And all 16 if Coop's wins have come aboard KTM.
The may 2021 ISSUE OF raCER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Hey, Watch It!
1975 California State High School Motocross Championships at Santa Clara...
And here's Harry Everts winning the 1975 Yugoslavian 250cc Grand Prix on a Puch:
And sticking with 1975, here are highlights of Marty Smith's dominant win at the Valvoline Mid-Ohio 125cc USGP
Daniel Blair Breakdown of Arlington 2:
Mid-Season Momentum Shift | Moto Spy Supercross S5E4
Behind-the-scenes footage, laugher, and of course, Alex Ray, can all be enjoyed in the SGB VeeLog.
Here's the Roto Moto take on the off-track excursions and penalties:
Listen To This
In terms of pure talent, competitive racing, and AMA Hall of Famers on the gate, it’s tough to beat the seasons spanning 1979 to 1986. Davey Coombs reads his feature article "The Deepest Fields" 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
“FBI: Anti-Mask Airline Passenger Arrested After Urinating In Seat Area; faces possible 20 years and $250,000 fine”—CBS Denver
“Sources: LeBron James becomes part owner of Boston Red Sox, joins Fenway Sports Group as partner”—ESPN
“NY Man Convicted of Shark Trafficking, Kept Pool Full of Them in Backyard”—TMZ
“Marvel Reveals First Gay Teen Captain America”—The Hollywood Reporter
“Meet Sports Illustrated's First Black, Asian Transgender Swimsuit Model”—Huffington Post
“Young Female Japanese Motorbiker Revealed To Be 50-Year-Old Man”—AP News
Jeff “6-Time” Stanton is helping put together a big benefit ride for fellow Michigan legend Todd DeHoop:
Our longtime friend Tim Buffaloe (BSY Racing) sent us this #signjousting pic of a billboard he spotted while driving through Haines City, Florida on U.S. 27. Very cool!
From "Professor" James Hanson:
Every book has a final chapter, every chapter a last page, except Family Guy, South Park and the Simpsons of course.
After 16 years, today marks my last day with Rockstar. As this era comes to an end, I could go on forever, I could write 9 books just covering the awesome things I forgot. I was blessed to do once in a lifetime things almost weekly for the entire duration. I’ve made hundreds of friends all around the world, and we will always be friends and family.
I’ve lived the the lifetime of 100 people in 16 years. Now it’s time to move on. I don’t know what to yet, I don’t know if I will be staying in the sport that has given me so much. If it makes sense I will. I’ll let you know when I know. Hey, we will always have the gram
And here is a really cool salute from Bell's friend, rival and fellow AMA Supercross Champion David Bailey:
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #11.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!