Main Image Courtesy of Atlanta Motor Speedway
Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome back to racing! I think we’ve all been spoiled a little by these three-a-week residencies that Feld Entertainment has been giving us for the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, to the point where, when we have a couple weeks off with no races (which I’m sure the riders and the race teams and the series workers all love), we get a little anxious and impatient. But now we’re back with a three-race run at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, once known as Atlanta International Raceway and home to multiple AMA Nationals, Trans-AMA races, and even the 1978 AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships (where David Bailey won the 250 class on a Bultaco!).
This tripleheader at Atlanta Motor Speedway will mark the fourth location to host the Atlanta Supercross. First, of course, was the old Fulton County Stadium, which held its first SX race on a cold and wet March night in 1977. Team Honda's Jim Pomeroy seemed to have the race won, only to stall in the last corner and hand the win to Yamaha's Bob Hannah. Fulton County hosted SX every year through 1992, with Damon Bradshaw winning the last one. From there, the often-cold race moved indoors to the brand new Georgia Dome, and Bradshaw won again. As a matter of fact, it was the last AMA Supercross the "Beast from the East" would ever win.
And the finished product.
The Georgia Dome would be the home of the race (and the Atlanta Falcons) until it, too, started getting a little outdated. Its last race would be held in February 2017 and was won by Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey. A new downtown Atlanta stadium was built right next door and named Mercedes Benz Stadium. It was said to cost $1.6 billion, making it one of the most expensive stadiums in the world. It was opened in August '17, and its first Monster Energy AMA Supercross race was held in March 2018. The winner? Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider Jason Anderson.
Mercedes Benz Stadium held the 2020 round of AMA Supercross (won by Honda's Ken Roczen) and would have almost certainly been the site for the 2021 Atlanta round, but then the coronavirus hit and the whole 2021 schedule became something of a tightrope walk for Feld. They didn't even know what the situation was going to be like in Georgia, or really any other state this year, so they took their chances on just a few venues, each having multiple races (except for Daytona). The outdoor setting of Atlanta International Raceway made more sense for the series than staying downtown for maybe ten days in order to get in three races—though the certainty of dry races under the roof of Mercedes Benz Stadium will be missed.
We’ve been previewing the upcoming events all week long and whether the red-hot Red Bull KTM rider Cooper Webb can keep marching toward the title. After his Arlington sweep, he’s on a three-race winning streak (and he’s won five out of the last six). If anyone wants to keep him from a second AMA Supercross crown, they’d better get started tomorrow night!
Tragedy in Argentina (DC)
First, some awful news. On Monday morning we received an email from Sergio Luis Clot, our longtime contributor from Argentina. It was tragic news about the passing of multi-time Argentine National Motocross Champion Geronimo "El Wey" Bucar. He was killed on Easter Sunday in a crash during a race called the Cordoba Motocross Championship in the town of San Agustín. Bucar crashed on the landing of a jump just after the start of a race and was hit while he was still down by two different riders, neither of whom had time to miss the downed rider.
According to Clot, Geronimo Bucar had become quite the inspiring rider since an automobile accident last November saw him lose his left arm at the shoulder. For Bucar, who had been the Argentine National Champion in 2006, ’08, and 2012, each time in different categories, as well as the Peruvian Supercross Champ in 2018, it seemed like his motorcycle racing career was over. But within two months of the accident he was back on his motorcycle, teaching himself to ride with only his right arm.
“Without a doubt, in these months after his accident, Geronimo made us reflect on the limitations that a person can have,” Clot explained in an email. “With a lot of passion, he was able to drive a dirt bike without an arm in a beautiful way.”
The accident that cost Bucar his life was captured on video, and it's hard to watch. He crash lands in the middle of the track and is almost immediately hit by the next two riders following. Here is a newspaper report on the tragic crash and the life of Geronimo Bucar, who was just 23 years old.
This is the funeral procession/ride-out for "El Wey" Geronimo Bucar:
In talking with Sergio, he told me that some folks in Argentina were questioning whether El Wey should have even been allowed to race in “regular” events given his physical situation. It’s almost akin to Doug Henry being out there, though Doug always has someone follow him in case he tips over. Bucar only hand one arm, but he did not need outside assistance to start and race, outside assistance being the thing that has caused some issues for some disabled riders who have attempted to qualify for the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. Rather, I think Bucar’s situation was more akin to my friend Harold Glissen, a longtime New Jersey motocrosser who only has part of his left arm. El Wey’s death was caused by the impact of riders who were unable to avoid him—they were just coming down off the jump—and not the crash itself, the cause of which we may never know. In my personal opinion, he had every right to be out there. He was capable, competitive, and he knew what he was doing. El Wey was an inspiration to all, and it’s a tragedy for all of motocross in Argentina that he’s gone. Godspeed, El Wey.
THE A-T-L (Matthes)
I mean, why not have something new in the supercross series, right? In the past year or so, it seems all we've been doing is seeing or doing something we've never seen or done before in the history of the sport. So we're heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway for three races! The track looks really different and kind of gnarly, to be honest. It should have long lap times, and we will hopefully see some great racing. It does look like we'll see some rain for tomorrow's race (I'll let JT and Weege battle that one out), so hopefully that doesn't turn out to be a complete mess.
Good dirt in the dirty south, though, usually equals some great racing. Atlanta has long been a great race whether it was in Fulton County Stadium or the Georgia Dome or Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Back in the day, though, the dirt was very soft and rutty, and I remember that it didn't always work out to be great racing. But the track crew has learned a lot about keeping dirt quality high while in storage, it seems, and man, we just didn't see much of the OG ATL dirt in the last ten years or so. Now it’s all new and it’s going to be very interesting to see how it holds up.
I don't look for things to change as far as the series is concerned if I'm being honest. I think Cooper Webb will continue his great riding, Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, and Justin Barcia will be right there, and the rest will sort themselves out. Our own Keefer thinks the Honda guys may have found something on the #94 bike during the break to make him a bit more comfortable.
We'll see how that shakes out, but either way, two weeks is too long to be off in this series. Looking forward to getting back into the swing of things at a new place.
The 1983 Atlanta Supercross (DC)
The 1983 Atlanta Supercross at Fulton County Stadium was, on the surface, nothing special. The race was dubbed the Miller High-Life Superbowl of Motocross, just like the races in the Los Angeles Coliseum, as SX founder Mike Goodwin was the co-promoter of the Atlanta race (which first ran in 1977) with Florida-based Bill West. Supercross had steadily been expanding over the years, and by '83 it was up to 16 rounds, Atlanta being the fourth after Anaheim and the Seattle doubleheader. By the time the series reached the ATL, Team Honda was in control, as David Bailey won the Anaheim opener and then his teammate Bob Hannah swept both nights in Seattle. But in Atlanta they were met with rain—lots of it—and that threw a big wrench in the works. No one liked a mudder more than Bob "Hurricane" Hannah, and he was considered the heavy favorite in the terrible Atlanta conditions. However, mistakes in a main event that the announcer called "only memorable for its comic relief" left Hannah in second at the end. The winner? Team Suzuki's Mark Barnett, the '81 AMA Supercross Champion. Nothing real special about that, because the Bomber was a badass.
However, what made Atlanta '83 so special was the fact that it was the first race that a young Atlanta-based television producer named Lou Seals produced. Seals, who knew the co-promoter Bill West, cobbled together enough money for a budget to try to make a TV show out of the evening's event. With his friend Scott McLemore helping out down on the sloppy stadium floor, Seals and company filmed their first SX race together in horrid conditions, using a local cable station outlet as their production base. Despite the rain and mud, Seals and Scotty Mac and crew made a good show. And from that successful program, Seals would begin to unify production of SX/MX on television from a hodgepodge of various producers and directors spread across the country to a uniform-looking "series" production, much like we see today. Seals would go on to film almost every round of AMA Supercross for the next 20 or so years. It was also from that Atlanta '83 SX program that he would also roll out the weekly MotoWorld show that was once our sport's weekly news/highlights show, and really the only time you could watch SX/MX and pretty much any other form of motorcycling.
We didn't have any luck in finding the full Atlanta '83 program, but one of the producers of the day, Peter Starr, used the footage as part of a 1983 AMA Supercross Season in Review reel for Team Honda. You can see the Atlanta footage beginning at the 7:30 mark. It's only about a minute, but it's pretty obvious what the riders were up against, as well as Lou Seals and Scotty Mac!
All of this made the '83 Atlanta Supercross a very pivotal race in the growth of AMA Supercross as well as the sport in general in the 1980s and '90s—it was Seals who was putting together the shows and TV deals that would introduce the sports world to a kid named Jeremy McGrath. As for Scotty Mac, he's currently an executive with Lucas Oil TV Productions and has been highly instrumental for the last dozen years in televising the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Kailub Russell: Red Bull KTM's New 250 Pro Motocross Factory Rider (Jared Bolton)
We were all hearing the rumors that eight-time GNCC Champion Kailub Russell was eyeing a summer on the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship tour in 2021, but we weren't quite sure what to make of it. But then KR557 abdicated his #1 plate rather than go for nine straight, just as he'd said he would last fall. And then this week, official word came out from Red Bull KTM: Kailub Russell will join rookie Max Vohland under the Red Bull KTM tent, along with 450 riders Cooper Webb and Marvin Musquin, being at Fox Racing in Pala, California on May 29. We've seen Russell race Pro Motocross before, as he acquitted himself well a couple years ago in the mud at Unadilla. But how he went from a cameo appearance a few years ago to a full factory ride is quite a story, so we went next-door and asked Racer Productions' GNCC trail boss Jared Bolton to fill everyone in on how it all came to be:
One of the biggest rumors making circles in the off-road racing world for quite some time has been that recent GNCC retiree Kailub Russell would be going Lucas Oil Pro Motocross racing. Well, the word is finally out via Red Bull KTM Team Manager, Ian Harrison, and Russell will be contesting all 12 rounds of the Pro Motocross series in 2021. This deal has actually been in the works for quite some time, dating back to late 2019, and there has also been a lot speculation as to what the exact plan would be for Russell (though he let it be known he had no interest in jumping into Monster Energy AMA Supercross).
Early on it sounded as if Russell would be on a 450, much like his appearances in 2018 at 'Dilla. However, that soon changed into rumors that the plan would be for six rounds on a 250 and six rounds on a 450. After numerous rumors citing changing plans, the final word is that Russell will contest all 12 rounds in the 250 class, which comes as a surprise to many. At this point, KR has much more experience on the 350 and 450 KTMs he’s ridden for quite some time, and other than the ISDE and some National Enduro appearances on a 250 years ago, it’s been since 2010 that Russell raced a 250 full-time when he claimed his second and final GNCC XC2 class championship.
For KTM, however, it makes perfect sense. With the Troy Lee Designs team making the switch to GasGas, KTM would be left with only one factory rider aboard a 250 coming in the form of young Max Vohland. The addition of Russell to the Red Bull KTM team makes a four-rider squad with two riders in each class, putting the Red Bull KTM squad on par with other teams who have multiple riders in each class, such as the Rockstar Husqvarna, HRC Honda and Star Yamaha squads just to name a few.
Speculation as to how Russell will fair seems to be all over the place, but there is one thing most everyone agrees on; if there’s a full-blown mud race, Russell will be a real threat to win. Regardless, if Russell and the KTM Group didn’t believe he could produce decent results then we likely wouldn’t be discussing this. Russell is incredibly fast in a wide variety of terrain, and he's spent more time riding with the Red Bull KTM and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna guys at Aldon Baker's than you might be thinking. And during his eight GNCC championship runs, there never was a single track or type of terrain where folks would bet against Russell. The guy is simply a phenomenal athlete.
Russell’s transition to the Pro Motocross world is especially unique as he’s virtually doing the opposite of what history has taught us. For years, it was not uncommon for former Pro Motocross racers to turn GNCC riders. Fred Andrews, Rodney Smith, Ty Davis and Ryan Sipes were ex-motocrossers who transitioned into off-road racing and found success. At the same time, a number of GNCC race wins are credited to Pro Motocross like Guy Cooper and Doug Henry and each of the guys mentioned above. And guys like current AMA 450 Pro Motocross #1 Zach Osborne, Ryan Hughes, and even Travis Pastrana have tried their hand at GNCC Racing as well.
However, no rider has transitioned from the top level of GNCC Racing into Pro Motocross, until Russell. Even Aaron Plessinger, who cut his teeth in GNCC Racing, winning numerous Youth and Amateur titles, was already focused on becoming a full-time motocross racer before he ever transitioned into the professional ranks of off-road. Plessinger does have one GNCC XC2 class win to his credit, but that win came in a season where he just dabbled in a few rounds while working his way towards a Pro Motocross career and a couple of championships so far in 250 SX and MX.
This is essentially history in the making and for off-road and motocross fans alike will be interesting to see how things pan out. Could Russell start a new trend? Could a young and upcoming GNCC star win several titles and then transition into a successful Pro Motocross career? Only time will tell if this will happen again, but there’s no doubt that Russell has set the bar high and is giving the current GNCC youth something new to strive for in their racing careers.
Wake-Up High Point (DC)
Last Saturday we had our Wake-Up High Point ride day and had a massive crowd turn out for the track in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, which was established back in September of 1976. The track was mostly grass, which was a real treat for everyone. But as the day wore on and hundreds and hundreds of bikes made lap after lap after lap, well, it got brutally rough. Here is a little comparison to show you how smooth it started and how gnarly the track got by the end of five hours of nearly constant traffic…
…and the before pics.
And here are a couple of Devin Hazlett’s photos from last Saturday.
Here is the very interesting thing: We had a lot of new riders, new and old bikes, and an extremely rough track, first day of spring and first time in a long time out on a track for many, yet the ambulance never moved—knock on wood. If you want to read more about the ride day at High Point, check out Insight: Racer X Riders where our guys Ryan McLeod and Mitch Kendra recap the event from their perspective as we mentioning the riding our staff has done recently.
Speedway Venues (Andras Hegyi)
This week's new Atlanta venue is the latest chapter in the history of Monster Energy AMA Supercross in the Peach State of Georgia. Over the years, 11 different riders got their maiden professional wins in Atlanta: Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Dungey, Jeff Stanton, Trey Canard, Martin Davalos, Wil Hahn, Chuck Sun, Josh Grant, Eddie Warren, Keith Turpin, and Denny Stephenson. Five other racers took their maiden supercross wins there: Bob Hannah, Doug Henry, John Dowd, Dean Wilson, and Zach Osborne (and could arguably Marty Tripes and his '78 win here, though before that he won the 1972 and '73 Superbowl of Motocross races at the LA Coliseum, but that was pre-SX).
Atlanta is also thought to have another historic record: the largest attendance in supercross history, as the former Georgia Dome once hosted 71,009 fans, though the Anaheim SX and Los Angeles Coliseum boasted similar but uncorroborated crowd numbers.
Having started at Fulton County Stadium then moved to the Georgia Dome, and then Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta Motor Speedway now becomes the fourth place to host the Atlanta SX and the 60th venue in the history of the AMA Supercross, in existence since 1974. Atlanta Motor Speedway also becomes only the sixth non-baseball, non-football venue to host supercross, joining Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama (1984), Oklahoma City's State Fair Speedway (1989-'91), Charlotte Motor Speedway (1996-'98), Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois (2000), and of course the legendary Daytona International Speedway, which has been hosting dirt bikes since 1971 and SX since the first official one in 1974.
But the Atlanta Motor Speedway is not an unknown venue in the history of the American motocross. Under its former name Atlanta International Raceway it hosted AMA Pro Motocross in 1978, '79 and '80.
Next week we will have a full list of all 60 venues to have hosted rounds of AMA Supercross.
Honda Hills! (DC)
In some unexpected and very good news, the old Honda Hills track in central Ohio is set to reopen later this year. Honda Hills was originally run by AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Dick Klamfoth and his wife, Bev. He was a flat track and road racing star, winner of the Daytona 200 three times back when it was still run on Daytona Beach. The Klamfoths were also one of the OG Honda motorcycle dealers, and they used the track in coordination with their dealership, giving their customers a place to ride and race their motorcycles. The Klamfoths have both unfortunately passed, and for many years the track was abandoned and left to the elements. But the once-proud home of Trans-AMA races and national-caliber TT and flat track events still lay under all of the brush and overgrowth that took over starting about 17 years ago. I personally visited a few times, just to have a look around, as well as capture the occasional photo of the iconic sign that still sits alongside Interstate 70 on the north side, just west of Zanesville. Here’s the announcement, as well as some photos from the Dick Miller Archives of the 1974 Trans-AMA event (only the creek-crossing section was really rocky!).
Also, if you want to go check the place out and also contribute a little to the revamp work being done, they are hosting Spring Fest at Honda Hills on the weekend of May 14-16. Check it out and try to stop by and pitch in if you can!
Injury Updates (Kellen brauer)
As the homestretch of the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship begins this Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, riders on the injured list currently are now making the decision to forego the remaining rounds of supercross to be fully prepared for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. With just five rounds of racing left in four weeks’ time, the limited amount of time to be ready to race any of the remaining rounds is now slim and four riders were announced this week to be changing their focus to motocross. RJ Hampshire, Kawasaki's Austin Forkner and Adam Cianciarulo, and Max Vohland all confirmed they would not compete in any remaining rounds of supercross as they prepare for the Pro Motocross opener on May 29.
Then, Zach Osborne was added to the list of riders out until Pro Motocross as he announced he is just getting back on the bike after a back injury and will not be ready to race until Lucas Oil Pro Motocross kicks off on May 29. Osborne, the defending 450 National Motocross Champion, will run the #1 plate on his Husqvarna FC 450 this summer.
The may 2021 ISSUE OF raCER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Congratulations to Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Cameron McAdoo on getting his first-ever Racer X Magazine cover, shot by Rich Shepherd of Align Media.
Inside the June issue: Examining the benefits of the East-West split in AMA Supercross. MC, RC, Reedy and more go car racing. The 1975 AMA/Yamaha Super Series of Stadium Motocross opener in Dallas. A Day in the Dirt Down South makes its triumphant return and much more.
Hey, Watch It!
Do Top Riders Actually Get Tired in a Moto? Ryan Dungey on Training and Pushing Through
FMF Racing’s F-amily M-oto F-amily video
Exhaust #148: Austin Forkner Joins Jason Weigandt to Talk Injuries, Life, Haters & Lovers
And here’s a little drone work by Vance Coombs and DC discussing the brand new High Point backdrop and some of the history on the big billboard:
Listen To This
Forty-six years ago, Texas Stadium in Dallas opened the 1975 AMA/Yamaha Super Series of Stadium Motocross—a much different gathering than the tripleheader of 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross that just took place in nearby Arlington. Davey Coombs reads his feature article "Opening Night in Dallas" from the June 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
“Disgruntled Ex-Employee Drives Car Through Walmart”—TooFab.com
“PAUL PIERCE: OUT AT ESPN... Days After Wild Twerking IG Sesh”—TMZ.com
“Rapper will.i.am is selling a smart mask for $299”—CNN Business
“TIGER WOODS: DRIVING 83 MPH IN A 45 AT TIME OF CRASH... Speed Was Sole Cause”—TMZ Sports
THOR Is Now Hiring
Poway, California—THOR, the definitive pioneer of modern motocross and off-road apparel, is now hiring for two product marketing positions; Product Integration Manager, and Product Support Coordinator, both to be based in our Poway, California headquarters.
These roles are focused on THOR product integration throughout racing and industry events at the professional, amateur and consumer levels. Working directly with riders, teams, industry partners and our internal marketing team to support and grow our global reach is the primary function of these positions.
Race and event attendance with regularly scheduled domestic (U.S.) travel throughout the business and racing seasons is a component of these positions. For interested candidates, please submit your resume to email@example.com and reference “Now Hiring” in the email subject line.
If you're in the Ohio/Pennsylvania/West Virginia area and looking for a place to ride this weekend, Youngstown MX (site of the original Moto Fite Klub last May) is open for practice on Saturday.
And after a year on the sidelines the always-fun gathering known as AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days returns to Mid-Ohio in July, and this time it's not on top of RedBud! The event, which is part-racing/part-swap-meet/part-reunion, is set for July 23-25, and if you order now you can get a discount on entries. We're definitely hitting Vintage Days this on the way to Loretta Lynn's Ranch!
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #14.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!