Welcome to Racerhead and the earliest silly season kickoff in recent memory. I mean, it’s barely May, and we apparently have a bunch of guys already making plans to switch teams come the fall. In case you missed it, our esteemed contributor Steve Matthes of PulpMX fame broke the story that Eli Tomac would be leaving Monster Energy Kawasaki for the Star Yamaha Racing team, filling the spots they’re about to lose with Aaron Plessinger said to be moving to Red Bull KTM with and Malcolm Stewart’s time with Star Racing also over (according to his social media), possibly heading to Rockstar Husqvarna to replace Jason Anderson, who now appears destined for Kawasaki to replace Tomac … or something like that! I don’t remember a change this early nor this big since Ricky Carmichael announced in March 2004 that he would leave Honda for Suzuki at the end of the season. Matthes will have more on Tomac’s unexpected move below, but it already seems like this could be the most interesting off-season in quite some time—and it doesn’t even start until late September! I’m already wondering how it might affect the chances of Tomac riding for Team USA at the Motocross of Nations in September, if he’s chosen, as riders and race teams parting ways usually want to get it over with as soon as the domestic season ends….
The 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship only ended six days ago, yet it already seems like it’s a long way in the rearview mirror. Maybe that’s because of how it ended, with an emphatic win by Cooper Webb to clinch his second title in three years and firmly establish himself as the top dog right now, and Honda’s Ken Roczen seeming to run out of steam in the closing rounds. Fortunately, Roczen (as well as Tomac) can get things turned around in a hurry with the upcoming Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series, but if the same Cooper Webb we just saw indoors shows up outside, he’s going to be very tough to beat this summer—even if he took a couple of days off to celebrate his most recent championship.
Webb and Roczen and Tomac were all big topics of discussion in an epic bench race I got into with some of my favorite people in the industry the past couple of days, namely Simon Cudby, Brett Smith of @WeWentFast fame, and Jeff Stanton, the multi-time AMA Supercross/Pro Motocross Champion we all refer to as “6-Time.” Simon and Brett and myself, as well as our new friend Dave Frazee, all found ourselves in the heart of Michigan on Monday afternoon as guests of Jeff Stanton Adventures, which is 6-Time’s latest venture. Already successful at raising whitetail deer and hosting weddings at his farm in Sherwood, Stanton, apparently still not busy enough, decided to get into the “guided adventures” business by teaming up with Two Hats Ranch, an amazing hunting lodge, and Triumph Motorcycles to bring folks to Michigan to do just about anything they want: riding, shooting, fishing, riding some more, whatever!
Having gone from Salt Lake City back home to West Virginia, by way of Denver, then right back to the Pittsburgh airport with a brief stop in Minneapolis, then Grand Rapids, I was already beat when I got to meet up with everyone else … but tired is a word that Jeff Stanton doesn’t even speak. He had me kitted up and out on a Triumph 900 Tiger early Tuesday morning, and the five of us put in hundreds of miles over the next couple days, riding everything from lazy country roads to pounding through endless single-track whoops in the endless Michigan forests. And each time we stopped, we went right into some heavy bench-racing about everything and everyone ever since Yamahas were yellow and Stanton himself was riding them. Of course, everything kicked into overdrive with the news of Tomac’s imminent move from green to blue, as one would expect from five middle-aged moto geeks.
If you’re looking for something epic to do with a few friends, I strongly suggest looking into Jeff Stanton Adventures. The bikes were great, the trails were excellent, the accommodations were incredible, and all the people there at Two Hats—from the Skipper to Colby to our tour coordinator, Jeff Segirs—had great stories from either the hunting world, the motorcycle world, or the seed world (long story). Check it out here:
And look for a feature of 6-Time’s all-including adventure tours in an upcoming issue of Racer X Magazine.
Well, that's a wrap on the 2021 SX series, and congrats to the three champions. Colt Nichols was perhaps the most "feel-good" champion of the three, and we had him on the PulpMX Show on Monday night. Colt's a good dude—there's not many people in the pits who weren't happy for him after a few years of very good results but also some very good injuries. I can remember Nick Wey and his mechanic Big Nasty racing down in Costa Rica telling me about this Colt Nichols kid who was down there—Wey specifically told me that someone needed to give him a ride. I had literally never heard of him, but he was in AX, he was in Costa Rica, and Wey and Nasty were big fans.
Guess they knew what they were talking about! Nichols told us on the show how he wasn't getting much traction with his career, his Honda team had taken his bikes back, and he was wondering what he was going to do when Christina Denney of the then-Cycle Trader team offered him a lifeline of a ride. He got on late there but made the most of it; the journey to the top began then. Really cool story for sure.
Here's the show in entirely, Colt comes on 30 minutes in.
The big news was the Eli Tomac to Star Yamaha thing for 2022, and props to EJ for asking Eli about that, but the chances of anyone confirming anything on the record are like me getting a Pulitzer. Just not going to happen out of respect for everyone involved until after the season, I would think.
Making a few more calls and texts after I put that out, it doesn't seem like it's anything that's going to have animosity behind it. I think both sides—Kawi and the Tomacs—wanted a change. I don't get the sense that Kawasaki was sick of him or anything, but if Yamaha wanted to entice the Tomacs over there, they also weren't going to use their right of first refusal. To me, from the Star Yamaha side of things, I look over there and see that there are people the Tomacs have worked with in the past and trust when it comes to bike setup. Also, Tomac's last two series, while very good, haven't seen him in a spot to win the championship, and this was an OEM that let Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart walk out the door, not to mention firing Jeff Emig and Davi Millsaps.
To see the #3 on a Blu Cru will be very interesting indeed. In other silly season news, it seems it was a fait accompli that Malcolm Stewart was going to Rockstar Husky, but from people I talk to close to Star, they say they’re going to make him an offer to stay at Star Yamaha another year. Also, look for Jason Anderson to take that Tomac spot on green.
Raceapalooza (Jason Weigandt)
I really dig this time of year when so many racing series are in full swing. Last weekend was great enough for hosting the supercross finale in Salt Lake City, and by the way, it was a really fun and dramatic year for supercross—so much so that I wanted to put together a small podcast to kind of wrap it all up, so I fired up the computer and hit record on Wednesday … and next thing you know, 44 minutes had passed. Yes, me just talking by myself for 44 minutes straight! If you’re insane and that kind of thing interests you, go check out this week’s edition of my Exhaust podcast. It helped that this big Eli Tomac-to-Yamaha news dropped. Gave me even more to talk about. Could I do an hour straight if we get two big silly season bombs at once?
I’ve written and said plenty about supercross. Clearly. Ah but supey is just part of it! So, I had to skip going to SLC because we were putting together a live TV show for American Flat Track, which raced Saturday night at Atlanta Motor Speedway. I got to call the race with former series champ and Mile Master Bryan Smith, and also Ralph Sheheen! Thanks to time zones, supercross was just getting started when flat track ended, so we headed to a sports bar, flicked on NBCSN, and bench-raced during the finale. Hey, most of the crowd wanted to watch some UFC match but there it was, Ralph and me talking supercross over in the corner. I mean, that’s some hardcore talking. It’s literally all we do.
Oh, congrats to Estenson Yamaha for winning all three classes in Atlanta, with JD Beach crushing the Mission SuperTwins class as expected. Then the 17-year-old phenom Dallas Daniels won both the Production Twins and Singles classes. Ralph says Daniels might be the biggest young American talent in all of motorcycle racing, and there’s a legit case there. Daniels was incredible as an amateur, won the Flat Track singles title as a rookie last year, and appears even better in year two. Sky is the limit for him. I mean, could he go to MotoGP? I don’t know if anyone is thinking this, but it’s been done before. Let’s connect some dots.
That’s not all. Since I had to go down to Atlanta Motor Speedway anyway, I got a call from MotoAmerica TV announcer Greg White. MotoAmerica (the road racing series) was racing at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, so Greg told me to stop by and take the Dunlop two-up ride around the track. Yessir! I put on some leathers, boots, and a helmet and jumped on the back of Chris Ulrich’s Suzuki Ecstar Suzuki GSX-R1000. It was friggin’ nuts! We hit 160 mph on the back stretch, but all I could think about was trying to impress Chris because I’m a “motorcycle guy” and I laugh in the face of fear. Well, I tried so hard to be cool that I think I forgot to breathe, and after two laps and about five minutes, I was completely exhausted and about to fall off the back of the bike. But I played it cool! I was fine! Look for a Weege Show video on that next week.
While at the Flat Track, I got to hang out with Ryan Sipes and Travis Pastrana, who were trying to feel their way through the event, always a bit fish out of water. It was hilarious watching them try to learn pavement. They were fast and both ended up inside the top ten in Singles. Travis, of course, found the one jump on the track and did a backflip on his flat track KTM 450 SX during opening ceremonies. Oh, then they jumped in the Red Bull rig and took a ride up to the Grand National Cross Country Series Hoosier race in Indiana. That’s 500 miles away from Atlanta! Apparently, Travis and Sipes have become friends with GNCC Women racers Becca Sheets and Korie Steede, because these girls also rip on minibikes and Travis and Sipes also have some sorta minibike racing thing going on right now (I’ll try to get this all figured out and recap it with these folks next week. I’ve heard from experts on the minibike scene that Steede can match up with anyone in the world on a 110). So, the boys bet the girls a dollar over who would win the GNCC 10 a.m. race overall. Travis did Travis things, trying to jump over a creek bed and wadding it, then smashing a tree “wide open, third gear.” Sipes rode solid, but he ended up second to Sheets! All hail the GNCC WXC (women’s class) champion—she beat The General and is a dollar richer.
Oh, and meanwhile, Steward Baylor continues to win everything. Like seriously, between GNCC, National Enduro, and Sprint Enduro, he has hasn’t lost a race in months. I love this time of year. So many stories happening at once!
Fast Brothers (DC)
Last weekend during the Salt Lake City SX finals I was sitting near Jeremy McGrath as the 250 race was winding down, with Jett Lawrence leading and older brother Hunter battling for third. I asked Jeremy if he remembered the last time two brothers finished on the same podium in an AMA Supercross race and he laughed and responded, "Absolutely—it was the Vohland boys, and I was in between them!" MC was correct. Back in 1991, the Houston Astrodome race on January 19 marked the first for McGrath on Mitch Payton's brand-new Peak/Pro Circuit Honda team. It was also a combined East/West race like SLC, though it was only the second race of the season, not the grand finale (nor was in called the Dave Coombs Sr. East-West Shootout—that didn't start until 1999). Tallon Vohland was a Suzuki factory rider in the 125 East Region, and older brother Tyson was on a Team Green Kawasaki in the West Region. They ended up first and third in the main event—the first time two brothers ever appeared on the same podium together in AMA Supercross. As for McGrath, he would go on to win that year's West Region title.
Thirty years later, it finally happened again, and under similar circumstances: the younger of the two brothers, slotted in opposite regions from one another, won the East-West Shootout, only this time Jett and Hunter were on the same team (Honda), and rather than Jeremy McGrath finishing between them, it was Colt Nichols, this year's West Region title winner!
But then Jeremy remembered something else. The night before, as I mentioned here in Racerhead last week, we were all at a cool new indoor karting place called the Grid as guests of Ken Block and the Hoonigan Racing team. In the main event, Jett Lawrence finished first, with older brother Hunter third, just as they would finish two nights later in the Salt Lake City East-West Shootout. And in between them on the podium? None other than Jeremy McGrath.
I will say that if you had told me at the beginning of the season that a pair of brothers would end up on the podium together, I would have guessed it would be the Martins, Alex and Jeremy. But as it turned out, the Martins, who have shared podiums together in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, barely got to compete, as both were hurt early in 2021. But they should be back strong for outdoors, which raises the question: which set of brothers is more likely to reach the podium together at a race this summer, the Martins or the Lawrences? That should be fun to watch!
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
With one of the longest breaks between Monster Energy Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross that I can remember, this weekend provides a nice opportunity for the industry as a whole. Riders will likely have ridden quite a bit in the latter days of this past week, but most will not go near their motorcycles this weekend. Rest and recovery is just as important as hard work, this weekend being the perfect time for it. These opportune times don't come around too often, so I would suggest everyone make the most of it.
The most important aspect of this break is to actually rest, though! It’s very easy to turn this time off into a fun weekend of wakeboarding and mountain biking (or whatever you're into). That is undoubtedly going to be enjoyable, but in the grand scheme of being the most prepared for Pala on May 29, those activities might be counterproductive. After months of racing, bodies and minds need to completely unplug. This doesn't mean riders can't have fun—I would just recommend something less taxing. Ideally, riders will wake up Monday morning feeling the most rested they have in months. That's what this time is best used for. A full summer of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is coming, and there will not be time to completely disconnect once we reach the end of May. Use the time wisely! Spend time with family and slow down for once. There will be plenty of time to put in work starting Monday.
Blu Cru x 2 (Andras Hegyi)
The 125/250 class goes all the way back to 1985 in AMA Supercross, and the 2021 season was the best ever for Yamaha. The Blu Cru picked up their most wins ever by taking 10 main events in all, while also winning both the East and West Region titles. A total of 4 riders had a hand in these wins: Colt Nichols, Justin Cooper, Christian Craig, and the rookie Nate Thrasher. This year also marked the first time ever that Yamaha riders won both championships, with Nichols in the East and Cooper in the West. All told, Yamaha has now won 16 Monster Energy AMA 250 SX Regional titles.
The 27-year-old veteran Colt Nichols is in his seventh season of AMA Supercross. The Oklahoma-born rider took his maiden AMA professional title mainly thanks to his consistency, as Nichols was the ninth rider in 125/250 SX history to get podium results in every round of the season. He is only the second Yamaha rider to ever do that, joining Chad Reed in this very small club. In addition, he is the third Okie to win the 250 SX title, joining Trey Canard and Justin Bogle. As for Justin Cooper, 24, he won his first AMA professional title in his fourth season. He's only the second rider from New York to win a 250 SX title, following in the footsteps of two-time champ Justin Barcia.
Brands to win in the same year:
1994: Damon Huffman (West), Ezra Lusk (East)
Riders to get podium results in every round in a 125/250 SX series
Doug Henry: In 1993 the Honda rider finished on the podium in all ten rounds that he rode.
Ezra Lusk: The Suzuki rider went 9-for-9 in 1994.
Ricky Carmichael: The future GOAT was perfect in 1998 abroad a Splitfire/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, winning all nine races for the only perfect season in 125 SX history.
Chad Reed: In 2002, his rookie AMA season, Reed got on the podium all eight time while racing for Yamaha of Troy.
Marvin Musquin: The Frenchman was up on the box all nine times aboard his Red Bull KTM.
Colt Nichols: The latest addition to this club was 9-for-9 this season.
Jeremy McGrath: The Pro Circuit Honda rider was eight-for-eight in 1992.
Jimmy Gaddis: Riding a Splitfire/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, he took podiums in all eight rounds.
Damon Huffman: For a third and fourth straight years, a 125 West Region rider made every podium, as the Suzuki rider was eight-for-eight when it came to podiums in both 1994 and '95. And it hasn't happened since in this region!
Justin Cooper Align Media Colt Nichols Align Media Colt Nichols Align Media Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols Align Media The Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team celebrating Nichols and Cooper's titles. Align Media The Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team celebrating Nichols and Cooper's titles. Align Media
Rapid Advancement (DC)
Missing from the lineup last Saturday night was Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing's Nate Thrasher, the impressive rookie who had just bagged two of the three 250SX wins at the Atlanta Motor Speedway tripleheader. Thrasher, who hails from Tennessee, was contemplating not even racing supercross this year and just waiting for the outdoors, but he talked it over with team owner Bobby Regan and decided to give it a try. He struggled a bit at first, but by Atlanta he was winning—twice. He was also getting close to the 135-point threshold that could cost him a year of eligibility in the 250SX class, which is probably the reason he sat out the SLC East/West Showdown grand finale, as he had 127 points in the bank already.
Thrasher's rapid rise got to me thinking about past 125/250 class rookies who won quickly, having been amateurs the previous season, like Ricky Carmichael in 1997, Ernesto Fonseca in 1999, Travis Pastrana in 2000, James Stewart—the youngest 125 SX winner ever—in 2002, or later Ryan Dungey (2007) and Trey Canard (2008).
But here's the thing: all of the guys mentioned above came out of Loretta Lynn's from the A classes or the Schoolboy divisions. Thrasher, on the other hand, was in the B class last August at Loretta Lynn's, and he didn't even win. Thrasher raced the 250 B class as well as the Schoolboy B/C (12-17) on a KTM. He was beaten by Matt LeBlanc in the 250 B class and Chance Hymas in the Schoolboy group. How was he still in B, you ask? He missed all of the previous year (2019) with an injury. The year before that he was unbeatable at the Ranch in the Super-Mini classes, winning all six of his motos over his California rival Maximus Vohland. Thrasher's progression to pro got held up a year due to that injury, and he ended up on Yamaha instead of KTM after the Troy Lee Designs team, he was destined for ended up switching to GasGas, giving him an out. Now he will ride into the 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship as one of the early favorites for the Marty Smith Rookie of the Year award, along with fellow 250SX rookie winner Seth Hammaker, as well as his old minicycle rival Max Vohland.
The point here is that Nate Thrasher is moving up fast—so fast that he may be the only rider to ever go from the B class one year to winning in AMA Supercross the next! If anyone recalls anyone else doing that, please let us know in the comments.
KTM and Webb (Andras Hegyi)
Cooper Webb and KTM have worked together since 2019. In those three 450SX seasons they have taken two titles (2019 and '21). Webb also has the most wins and the most podium results during this period, with 19 victories and 39 podiums in 51 races. Comparing his two championship seasons, Webb was at his best this year, getting more wins (8 to 7) and total points (388 to 379).
So far there have been 65 different winners in the history of the AMA Supercross. But among them, only 10 riders have won as many eight rounds in one season: Jeremy McGrath, Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Eli Tomac, Damon Bradshaw, Chad Reed, Jean-Michel Bayle, and now Webb. The record for the most wins in a season is shared by Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael at 14. McGrath alone holds the record of the most seasons with at least eight wins, having done it six different times (1993-'96, 1999, and 2000). In addition, there have been four supercrossers who, despite getting at least eight wins in a season, did not take the title that season. Damon Bradshaw had nine wins in 1992 but lost the title to Jeff Stanton, Chad Reed got eight wins in 2003 but Carmichael was the champion, and then Carmichael took another title in 2006 over James Stewart, who posted eight wins. Finally, in 2017, Eli Tomac took nine wins but lost the title to Ryan Dungey, and then Tomac scored eight wins the following year but lost out to Jason Anderson.
All told, there have been 23 different riders to win the AMA Supercross Championship. Among them, there have been 11 riders to get at least two titles: Jeremy McGrath (7), Ricky Carmichael (5), Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey (4), Bob Hannah and Jeff Stanton (3), plus Rick Johnson, Jeff Ward, James Stewart, Chad Reed, now Cooper Webb (2 apiece).
Between 1974 and 2014, KTM had zero AMA Supercross titles in the premier category. But since 2015, KTM has been the most successful brand, as they just picked up their fifth title since then thanks to Cooper Webb. In the history of AMA Supercross there have been seven different brands to take titles: Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Husqvarna, KTM, and Can-Am. KTM also moved up on the list if the most wins, now holding fourth behind Honda, Kawasaki and Yamaha, with KTM's five titles topping Suzuki's total of four.
Nicky Hayden Day (DC)
We got this note from Donny Emler of FMF about an upcoming event honoring the late Nicky Hayden, "the Kentucky Kid" himself, that he's hoping to turn into something major for everyone involved in motorcycling:
"I wanted to pass along something that we are hoping you could share to your audience to help raise awareness for June 9th “6-9-21” Nicky Hayden Day. We will be having a group cycling ride leaving from Specialized Costa Mesa Riding 69 Miles #69MilesForNicky on a planned route. We will be giving gift bags for the first 50 people in attendance and also promoting that if you can’t attend the SoCal-based event please feel free to RIDE your Bicycle, Motorcycle, drive Car 69 Miles or even Run/Walk 6.9 Miles and tag us in your social post #69MilesForNicky- Let’s make this a GLOBAL EVENT!"
#69 Nicky Hayden was a flat track prodigy from Kentucky who would go on to become a global superstar. After winning the AMA Superbike title here in America in 2002, he moved to Europe and became the last American to win the MotoGP World Championship, which happened in 2006. Hayden continued racing in Europe through 2017, but in May of that year he was killed while cycling in Italy after colliding with an automobile. His death sent shock waves through the entire motorcycling world, as he was just 35 years old.
Tough Days for Vets (DC)
First there was a pretty big crash for the ageless John Dowd that left him battered and bruised. Then Todd DeHoop went down hard while practicing at the RCSX at Daytona, leaving him with a broken back. (Fortunately, Todd is doing much better, thanks to the support of family and close friends like Jeff Stanton and the help of Road 2 Recovery.) Now comes the news that yet another fast veteran rider, New York's Scott Sheak, suffered serious injuries in a crash last weekend. He was practicing at Walden MX when he went down hard. He was rushed to Mid Hudson Medical Center, and then later helicoptered to the Westchester Medical Center. Doctors are still uncertain about how permanent his injuries may be, but they are calling it a traumatic spinal injury. The Metropolitan Sports Committee has set up a GoFundMe page to help Scott and his family during this very unfortunate time. Please have a look and see if you can help this all-around awesome former factory rider and 125 National winner.
The July 2021 ISSUE OF RACER X MAGAZINE IS NOW AVAILABLE
Inside the July issue of Racer X magazine: The Monster Energy Supercross three-round residency at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We go deep on unusual venues that have hosted AMA Supercross and Motocross events through the years. Travis Pastrana sat down with us to talk life after pro racing. South Carolina’s ClubMX training facility and a pro team, and much more.
And here’s a crash compilation from NBC Sports from the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, featuring Cameron McAdoo, of course!
And here’s the last Dirt Shark of 2021 SX:
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #18.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!