Welcome to Racerhead, on the eve of the last night of supercross racing in the second-to-last city that will host the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. After Atlanta Motor Speedway, which has been a hit for the most part, it’s off to Salt Lake City, Utah, next week for the twin-races that will end this very excited (and somewhat strange) season of residencies and rolling restrictions. Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb is still in the driver’s seat, though HRC Honda factory’s Ken Roczen definitely got things turned around at ATL 2, but was it too late?
With the first two Atlanta races running since last Friday’s Racerhead, there’s a lot to cover this week, like why they went to Atlanta Motor Speedway in the first place rather than downtown Atlanta? I think a big part of the move is that in order to get the downtown Mercedes-Benz Stadium, they also have to lease the nearby convention center parking for the paddock, which is a big added cost. With them needing to stay in place for three events over eight days, and knowing that there was a serious question as to whether they would even be allowed to have indoor spectating back when they were making the schedule, I am sure Atlanta Motor Speedway made more financial sense in 2021 than downtown. Of course some restrictions are still in place as we continue to come out of coronavirus, so it’s hard to tell just what the crowd would have been like had they been allowed to sell as many tickets as they could. The racing has been good for the most part and facilities are excellent, so I think Feld Entertainment has to make a difficult decision between two good settings—stay at Atlanta Motor Speedway or go back downtown to Mercedes-Benz Stadium—when they start planning out the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.
As a fan at the race on Tuesday night, I can tell you that one of the things they should look at tweaking if they stay at the speedway is a shorter, more condensed track. The 1:40s are very long laps for a supercross track, maybe the longest ever for a dry track, and certainly the longest since the old days of Daytona going across the pavement and behind the pit wall and all that. And because they went so far out in either direction, it was hard to see what was going on at the far ends, even sitting right in the middle of the grandstands. Other than that, it was an excellent night at the races, and great to see some wild and unexpected racing… But first, let’s go back to Atlanta 1.
All season long I’ve been thinking that the three Atlanta races at the speedway would play right into Eli Tomac’s hands. He’s always up for the Daytona race, and no matter what the dirt was going to be like in Atlanta, to me he’s still more of a motocrosser than a supercrosser, despite being the current #1 in SX and having come off his first outdoor season without a championship in years. And the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider came through, though not without a few late-race surprises, as first surprise runaway leader Aaron Plessinger made a mistake that cost him the win, and then Chase Sexton found himself hung up behind Cade Clason with barely a lap to go, giving Tomac the opening he needed to flash by and win. Yes, not one but two guys let what would have been a first-ever 450SX main event win slip through their fingers in the late-going.
The story of the 250 class came into shape during the LCQ. The top four finishers were the last four to go to the starting gate for the main event: Nate Thrasher, Derek Drake, Pierce Brown, and Ryan Sipes. Of course Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Thrasher would have the race of his young life with a flag-to-flag win, Brown placed ninth and "General" Sipes would score 12th (at 36 years of age!). Only Drake had a bad main, finishing 21st.
As far as Thrasher goes, I’m not sure we've ever seen someone with more than one or two finishes go from a career-best ninth to a win in SX, but it's worth noting that a few guys went from disastrous debuts to quick wins. Ricky Carmichael went 11-19-1 in his first three races in 1997, and Ben Townley went from 22 to 1 in his first two SX races in 2007... Thrasher's first five races were pretty modest, but he wasn't even going to race SX—he was racing B class at the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch last summer—but he did seem to have a lot more talent than all those ninth, 10th and worse finishes, and man did he show it last Saturday night!
Looking in the vault, Ricky Ryan's best finish in SX was a sixth (between 1984 and March '87) before he won the 1987 Daytona Supercross in the premier class. He had a bunch of finishes, but never a top five before he showed up and won Daytona as a privateer in the 250 class.
Thrasher's win, coming from the LCQ to holeshot the main and just ride away from everyone, reminded me of Jeremy McGrath one year at the Pontiac Silverdome, where he had to go to the LCQ and then line up on the far outside. Of course he almost got the holeshot from there—he's Jeremy McGrath! Here’s that whole race:
Tuesday Night Derby (DC)
After a really off Saturday night where he finished ninth, many thought it was over for Ken Roczen and time to just get ready to crown Cooper Webb for the second time in three years. Webb had opened a 22-point lead with just four races to go, and momentum was all his. But on Tuesday, Roczen came out firing on all cylinders and grabbed his first win since he swept Indianapolis back in the early going of the tour. This coincided with an uncharacteristically poor night for Webb, who finished sixth. That changed the math drastically as Roczen was suddenly just 13 points down with three rounds to go. Webb still controls his own destiny, but he’s lost most of his cushion and can’t coast from here (not that Webb ever would)…
But no one is really going to remember much about Tuesday night’s Atlanta 2 except for Cameron McAdoo’s wild crash. For the second race in a row, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki ride crashed on top of the over-under bridge, this time spectacularly. It was right up there with Chad Reed’s “Chadapult” of a few years ago at Spring Creek as one of the all-time crazy crashes, and the internet and Twitter immediately went to work on it. And the fact that Cameron "Bridgerton" McAdoo got back up and back in the red-flagged race and even got the holeshot, well, there’s a lot to unpack there in regard to the rulebook, but he became an instant supercross folk hero.
McAdoo getting helped by the Alpinestars Medical Crew. Align Media McAdoo getting examined by the Alpinestars Medical Crew. Align Media McAdoo going back to the pits... Align Media NO, he's on his way back to the starting line! Align Media The team preps McAdoo for the restart. Align Media McAdoo almost grabbed the holeshot on the restart. Align Media McAdoo charged to second place. Align Media Eventually, Hunter Lawrence got around McAdoo. Align Media However, the #31 held off Nate Thrasher for the final spot on the podium. Align Media McAdoo acknowledging the crowd after his podium finish. Align Media
Our man Kellen Brauer did an amazing job on breaking it all down, not only the crash itself but the rulebook, in this Racer X Rapid News breakdown:
And Kellen also did this deeper dive in his Race Examination:
And here’s what Cameron himself said on social media:
And don’t forget the Weege Show recap, where Matthes also weighs in on Wackers!
McAdoo’s remarkable effort kept him in the points chase in the 250SX West Region with two rounds to go—tomorrow night and then the combined East/West Showdown finale on the last night of the series at Salt Lake City. He’s got his work cut out for him if he wants to catch Justin Cooper, Tuesday’s winner and points leader. McAdoo may not win this title, but his crash and subsequent effort will be remembered for a very long time to come.
We'll leave the last word on this to the GOAT himself, Ricky Carmichael, who posted after the race, "Cameron McAdoo, you are one tough dude. I don’t know when the last time I’ve seen more of an inspiring, tough, gutsy, courageous ride or comeback. That was something to see. I wouldn’t know or understand how anyone could ever second guess your toughness after your display tonight."
THE A-T-L (Matthes)
A real tale of two races, huh? The dichotomy between Atlanta 1 and 2 was extreme. Outside of Chase Sexton finishing as the runner up, we had a lot of different dudes doing different things. Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen both won and had so-so races, Cooper Webb was just okay at both of them, Jason Anderson rode great at ATL2 and so on and so on. Roczen was able to make up a bunch of points which is awesome for the series and of course for Ken and Honda. This third last race coming up tomorrow is gonna be big for one of Webb or Roczen methinks.
The tracks were similar but the rains made ATL 1 very tricky with just one practice session. ATL 2 was way more traditional. And of course, there's the Cam McAdoo "thing." As I wrote in my OBS column, I know all the rules were followed and I'm a big RAM IT fan but I just don't see how that rule doesn't get changed in the off-season. If you cause a red flag, you can't go back and line up. I know that means the riders are at the mercy of someone’s judgement call that they're hurt and they may not be but too bad. It's something I've grumbled about for a while and it even happened earlier this year with Justin Bogle.
But yeah, anyways, that was COOL, right? RAM IT got over 25K new followers on IG according to PulpMX's own Travis Marx and he was the talk of non-endemic sports shows as well. Much like the Chadapult, it was the story of the race—which Alex Ray is very thankful for!
As always with these three races, it's been a very busy week for me here. I grabbed my Intense Tazer and went out for a ride on Sunday and Monday with Chris and Christina Denney from Roost MX (remember they ran the Cycle Trader Yamaha team for years) outside of Atlanta. That was great and I met up with John and Mike from Yamaha (they have most of their operations out here now) as well as Chris from Maxxis tires one night as well.
On Wednesday, Weege and I drove from Atlanta to Charlotte and of course, Weege refused to get Starbucks and bought two massive waters on the gas stop because they were two for one. We went to JGR's NASCAR HQ and met up with Jeremy Albrecht who transitioned from the MX team to working at the car HQ and helping Coy Gibbs with some special projects. For the first time since 1991, J-Bone is not going to the SX/MX races and he admitted that was weird. Coy and J-Bone let us set up in a fancy boardroom to do the PulpMX Show on Wednesday night. We had Justin Brayton, Phil Nicoletti, and Seth Rarick come down there also which was a lot of fun. We talked about ATL 1 & 2 and also bench raced about JGR MX and the good times they had with the moto team (Jeremy said that there's definitely a chance they come back to the sport if they ever find a sponsor). It was an epic show, a lot of fun was had for sure. Head to Pulpmxshow.com and have a listen. Good times!
Yesterday I went out to the USA Olympic team WhiteWater Rafting facility to ride some mountain bikes with Brayton, Phil, Rarick, Josh Obsy, and a few more guys. It was great! Maybe the best trails I've ridden so far during my SX tour of 2021. Really fun day. As you read this now, I'll be driving back to Atlanta for the third race and stopping to pedal some more with the FMIP AKA Randy Richardson.
Enjoy the race!
The Year of the Jubilee (DC)
Troy Adamitis has done it again. The creative talent behind The Great Outdoors, The Moto: Inside the Outdoors, Supercross: Behind the Dream, MX Nation and MX World, his latest film project is The Year of Jubilee. It’s a remarkable look at American motocross in the year 2020, directed by Nate Scribner.
According to the introduction, “After watching On Any Sunday, a multitude of children, parents, workers and thrill seekers escaped the turmoil of their times on motorcycles. Nothing like that explosion of off-road motorcycle racing in 1971 had been seen ever since, until 2020. Fifty years later, when everyone was told to go home, a new generation discovered the passion of their fathers.”
Adamitis and his team have made another excellent film, and we can’t wait to see the next episodes!
The "Hang" in Hangtown (DC)
In the sport of motocross, the name Hangtown is synonymous with season-openers, at least when it comes to the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case in 2020, as the event was canceled due to COVID-19, and it won't be the case this year either, though this time its fortunately at the end of the schedule on September 11 in the hopes that it can run without any restrictions. The event has been on the schedule since 1974, when it hosted the first 125 AMA National ever, which was one by Team Honda's rookie sensation Marty Smith. The race is run by the Dirt Diggers North Motorcycle Club, and it was held in Plymouth, though now it's in Rancho Cordova.
So where does the name Hangtown come from? The Dirt Diggers were originally based in Placerville, California, which was a Gold Rush town from the 1800s. It was known for its gold mining and the hard-scrabble men and women who went west to try to find their fortunates. It also had a reputation as a don't-mess-around town of vigilantes where thieves and the like might just find themselves hanging from a tree. Placerville's city logo even had a noose over the shoulder of a man panhandling for gold, a grim warning to would-be criminals.
Today, in a story in the New York Times, it was reported that the Placerville city council voted to take the noose out of the logo after complaints that it was a racist symbol turned into a public debate about today's civil discourse. According to the newspaper article, "Over more than three hours, some callers said the noose was a racist symbol that needed to be discarded. Others said the city had no right to 'erase history.' Some spoke forcefully about the national conversation around racism, and others about how a vote to remove the noose would be caving to 'cancel culture.'”
Before you take a side on this, you should know that the logo was only designed in the 1970s, well after the Hangtown Motocross Classic first began running in 1968. The Dirt Diggers do not have a noose in their logo, though my old friends Ed Santin and Glyn Long used to love telling folks that the big tree up on top of the hill where the drop-off is was the tree that was used for hangings. (It isn't—the stump of that tree is apparently in the cellar of a bar in downtown Placerville, several miles away.) Also, the noose in the old logo had nothing to do with racism, or racing, but rather the history of the city founders who came along in a time when frontier justice was a way of keeping order.
Nothing is going to change with the name of the Hangtown Motocross Classic, but it's cool to know the true history of the name, and how some elements of the past sometimes evolve, and other times devolve. If you want to dig more, here's the full New York Times article.
Shooting Star (DC)
Was doing a little thrifting on Sunday afternoon with my daughter Sloane when I came upon a few crates of old vinyl records. As I thumbed through I found one I remembered from long ago, Shooting Star. It featured a seventies' Yamaha YZ jumping through the wall of a hotel room, which was the only reason I remembered the band or the album. Then I found another one! They were worth every penny (600 of them, actually).
Jimmi De wrote on Facebook, "They been around since the early 70's From Kansas, There is another album cover with a motocross bike jumping. In 2000 (they released) 'Leap of Faith' I have both these alums. ROCK ON!"
Rick Conley added, "This was a great record..love the title song 'Hang On For Your Life Tonight' And looking at the side covers, it's a '79 YZ."
Hang on for Your Life, 1981 (Billboard Top Album #92, on chart for 30 weeks)
And someone named Isidro Maroto wrote, "One of my favourite rock n roll albums ever released! It's so tight yet so soulful! And the cover is great too (similar concept to Cozy Powell's LP "Over The Top" from 1979)."
Lo and behold, here's that album cover, which I found on the net:
According to the album cover the motorcycle was provided by Hunter Motorcycles of Thornwood, New York. And the "stunt wok" was performed by J. Johnson and K. Kromberg. That's all I could find. Some of the songs on the 1981 album were the title track "Hang On For Your Life" as well as "Flesh and Blood," "Teaser," "Hollywood" and "She's Got Money."
So how does Shooting Star sound? According to Allmusic.com's review, "The producer ups the horsepower on Hang on for Your Life, driving these rocky cornfield boys further into the AOR commercial zone. The hell-bent title track of Shooting Star's sophomore sizzler is an obvious and enjoyable clip of after-work blue-collar rock."
Google them or search them out on Spotify, and then hang on for your life!
Wait, there's more. Apparently 20 years later Shooting Star made another album that again used a dirt bike on the cover. This one was called Leap of Faith and it marked the band's seventh album with Van McLain at the helm as lead vocalist and lead guitarist. Here's the thing: The bike is backwards on the album cover.
And then I got this note on Instagram from Al Roof:
Davey, that Shooting Star album cover you posted was like deja vu all over again. My brother Don shot this photo of me on my ‘79 YZ250F in the Yamaha of Lake City (FLA) showroom in 1982. I swear we had never seen the album cover!
Al wrote, “The photo was taken by my brother Don Roof. I worked there selling parts and accessories from October 1981 until my Daddy's death in April 1983. My brother Don worked there as a service technician for many years.”
What a cool coincidence, and a cool old record by Shooting Star.
Speed & Sport Adventures (DC)
Speed & Sport Adventure, LLC is a new company founded by a bunch of industry friends who came from a wide variety of backgrounds and experience. They specialize in high-end dual-sport rides. According to their recent PR, “The company will focus on providing VIP-style tours that are celebrity led with some of the biggest names in the motocross, supercross, off-road and road racing communities.” The list of people involved with Speed & Sport is very impressive: Jennifer Emig is the CEO, Ken Faught is President, Mark Kariya is V.P. of Special Events and Vanessa Doleshal is the V.P. of Marketing. The rest of the crew is made up of a lot of fast and talented folks you may recognize: Destry Abbott, Grant Langston, Andrew Short, Ryan Sipes, Colin Edwards, Cody Webb, Matt Buyten, Paul Krause, Kevin Hines, Scott Bright and many more. Said Roger De Coster himself, “Those involved in Speed & Sport Adventures have a lot of real history in the off-road industry. No doubt their tours will be exceptional."
Also, former AMA National Motocross champions Guy Cooper and Grant Langston were just named celebrity guest hosts for Park City 2021 and the Legends Ride, put on by Speed & Sport Adventures. According to their release, “This event, which is scheduled for August 22-26, will take place in Park City, Utah, and will be based out of a home that is nearly 30,000 square feet. The company is only accepting nine riders for the Park City 2021 event, and the cost is $9,850 per person. This is off-road riding at its finest, and nothing else compares.
Riders are encouraged to bring their own bikes, but Speed & Sport Adventures also has a fleet of KTM 350 and 500EXC-Fs for rent. The company will also help arrange private jet service, helicopter pickup from the airport, and/or exotic car rental for an extra fee. A complete itinerary is available on company website.”
For more information visit www.SpeedAndSportAdventures.com.
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.
Hey, Watch It!
Tomorrow night’s animated track map:
Here’s MX World: Episode 3 – The KTM Diaries
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
“ROB GRONKOWSKI: '69% CHANCE' EDELMAN JOINS BUCS... After Pats Retirement”—TMZ.com
“SUPERCROSS RACER GETS GUMBY’D IN WILD CRASH, GETS BACK ON THE BIKE & FINISHES 3RD”—Outkick.com
“A year into the pandemic, it’s even more clear that it’s safer to be outside”—The Washington Post
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #15.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!