Welcome to Racerhead, and another really busy, really fun weekend. Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is in town, as the GEICO High Point National will blast off tomorrow just about 15 miles up the road from the Racer X offices in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania. It's busy because there's soooo much to do to get the track and facility ready for company again, as High Point was one of the rounds that had to be canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Now we're back, the restrictions are dwindling by the day, and we're hoping we get a huge crowd tomorrow, just as we saw at both Fox Raceway at Pala and then Thunder Valley. But we also keep looking up at the sky, the forecast, the radar, the wind—anything that might tell us if it's going to rain or not tomorrow. (It's almost a certainty for tonight.) It almost always seems that way here at High Point, so one might think we would be used to it. But after so many weeks of work getting the place in tip-top shape, it's downright depressing to see a forecast for anything less than what Tim Cotter likes to call a "chamber of congress–type day."
And of course, it's a lot of fun for us because the whole U.S. motocross industry descends on our town for the better part of a week, which means lots of entertaining, a few beers, and almost constant bench-racing. Some of this week's topics included things like "When was the last time a pair of Team Honda riders were the respective points leaders?" My guess was 1996, Steve Lamson in the 125 class and Jeremy McGrath on the 250. "When was the last time a series points leader had never been to a national track?" My guess is Jean-Michel Bayle in 1990—he was the 125 class points leader in 1990 when High Point was the fourth round, and it was the first time he ever set foot here. "When you guys going to bring something like 'The Wall' back?" Tomorrow.
Unfortunately, not everyone will be here to hit it. Joining former AMA Supercross Champion Jason Anderson and two-time AMA 250 Pro Motocross Champion Jeremy Martin on the sidelines is our current 450 Pro Motocross #1, Zach Osborne, whose back injury has now completely dashed his title hopes after he was forced to pull out of the second moto at Thunder Valley. Osborne has had a terrible go of it in 2021, and while it's unfortunate that we probably won't get to see him for the rest of the season, it's a wise career move to get himself sorted out now and start aiming for 2022.
There are also the ongoing questions surrounding Eli Tomac's relatively mediocre results so far—mediocre for a four-time Pro Motocross Champion, anyway. There's a feature I wrote in the brand-new issue of Racer X magazine that just dropped today called "All Things End Badly," which is about famous breakups in SX/MX and how things became strained between riders and teams. I wrote it after the opening round, where Eli just wasn't on the pace, not realizing that he would be even less so at the next race, in his home state of Colorado. I haven't given up hope that Tomac will get back up there on his Kawasaki at some point, but it's really looking and feeling like he won't get to be there in the championship mix again on his green 450.
Featured on the cover is Jett Lawrence, the current 250 red plate-holder, who is visiting for the first time, as I mentioned above. He was here this afternoon and did get to ride a little, but it was for an NBC show, while chased by a very fast and well-flown drone, and only on a couple of parts of the track. Jett was wired up and connected with brother Hunter, who was talking to him about parts of the track he remembered from his first AMA moto win here back in 2019 (something most have probably forgotten about the older Lawrence brother). What caught my eye about the shoot was how many little kids gathered around where they were shooting and shouted out for Jett like he was a rock star, which he seems to be becoming quickly!
Inside the August issue of Racer X magazine: Lucas Oil Pro Motocross returned with a refreshing sense of normalcy. Ryan Villopoto goes to Boise for the Racer X Inter-Am and gets seriously hooked on vintage racing. The pending split between Eli Tomac and Monster Energy Kawasaki brings back memories of ugly moto-breakups. Jeff “6-Time” Stanton is now leading all-inclusive adventure tours through his home state of Michigan with Jeff Stanton Adventures and much, much more.
And making his 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross debut will be Kailub Russell, the eight-time AMA Grand National Cross Country Champion who joined Red Bull KTM's 250 program, alongside rookie Maximus Vohland. I wonder if there have ever been two factory teammates, on any team, with fewer combined races but more of an age different than Vohland and Russell? I should mention that KR557 is my sister Carrie's stepson, as well as a graduate of Morgantown High School, which means he’ll have a lot of fans here between his GNCC and MHS ties. He's also probably the only one in the family probably okay with a little rain ... or a lot.
On a non–High Point note, it was shocking to get home last night, get online, and see the news of Alex Harvill's tragic death yesterday on CNN. Harvill was in his home state of Washington practicing for an attempt to break Robbie Maddison's world record leap of 351 feet at the Moses Lake Airshow when he came up short and slammed into the upper edge of the giant berm he was using as a landing ramp. He was thrown from the bike, tumbling dozens of feet, according to eyewitness accounts. He died a short time later at a nearby hospital. He was 28 years old. Alex Harvill was also the father of two children, the younger of whom was born just last month. Godspeed, Alex Harvill.
They’re calling me on the radio to go help figure out who can test a camera mounted on a KTM for tomorrow's TV coverage, so I’m sorry to cut this short. Happy Father's Day weekend to all the dads out there. Here's hoping it's a dry one....
NATURAL HIGH POINT (Matthes)
I'm not heading to High Point this weekend—wife headed out for some R & R so it's my turn to stay home for once. But yeah, I'll be glued to the TV tomorrow to check out all the action. Sweet to see DC showing us that the wall berm is back. That was always a pretty cool deal and added to the uniqueness of each track on the circuit, you know?
I'm not sure how Eli Tomac turns his season around, but this weekend presents another chance for him and the Kawasaki guys. That Lakewood race was very bizarre and not something we're used to seeing from the champ, that's for sure. We have the two Red Bull KTM guys, Marvin Musquin and Cooper Webb, as well as Tomac who aren't doing what they or their teams thought they would, and I would put Eli as third on my list of who's going to turn around their results first. Webb's been getting starts, he's been trying pretty damn hard, and Musquin has been okay. Eli, though. Wow. I've never seen him holding riders up like he was at Lakewood. I said Lakewood was huge for ET and it didn't work out, so I'm leaning more and more to where he's just going to be a 5-10 guy with a few podiums here and there. I can't believe I just typed that.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Rain at High Point is not unusual and has created some of the most iconic races in motocross history. As a rider, though, I would be lying if I said mud was something I look forward to. It was usually met with a sigh and a realization of what was to come. Muddy races present a different sort of challenge to the weekly grind. Racing at this level is always difficult but mud puts more stress on the mental side.
Going into a potential mudder, I think an optimistic approach is vital. It's very easy to get downtrodden, knowing that crashing and chaos is likely. Viewing it as a huge opportunity to post a better-than-expected result is my suggestion. Mud is often called the great equalizer, lessening the talent gap between factory riders and privateers. Ricky Ryan's 1987 Daytona Supercross win is a perfect example of what's possible when the skies open up. Kelly Smith's 2000 win at this very High Point track is another. Even Damon Bradshaw's heroic performance in 1997 was seemingly out of nowhere. Instead of focusing on how difficult tomorrow's race could be, why not get excited about what's possible? I know that's likely to be wishful thinking, but there is merit behind it. Positivity can do wonders in a difficult situation, and if it rains hard enough, most will need a little pep in their step. After all, when it's raining, do you see riders like Aaron Plessinger sighing with frustration, or do you see them smiling at the opportunity? There is power in that.
This weekend marks the debut of GNCC god Kailub Russell after a nasty preseason crash at Pala that left him with a broken jaw. KR will be under the factory tent with a factory bike, so that's a great starting point for him in the series. Russell walked away from the GNCC series to try out the nationals, and props to him for that—the 250 Class is pretty hard for an older dude to jump into, but he'll be okay. If the rain comes like it looks, maybe he'll really shine! It's a cool thing for the series to see him in there and a cool talking point for the media and the fans. Remember how good he was in the mud at Unadilla in the 450 Class a couple of years ago. The biggest thing for him is he'll have to amp up his aggression level early in the race. The 250 guys are wide open, and everyone is trying to kill everyone early in the race. If you don't, in the words of Phil Nicoletti, "see God" a few times a lap early in the moto, you're not being aggressive enough! So, with his off-road background hurting him a bit there, Russell will have to get into that mindset to do well. But fitness (once he gets a few races in), line choice, and maturity will all help him out there.
Father’s Day (Keefer)
I took this picture of a father and son at the Loretta Lynn’s qualifier at Fox Raceway a couple weeks ago. To some it may be just another photo behind the start. What's the big deal? Yeah, I probably could have taken several photos like this across the starting line all day long, and to us enthusiasts it’s just another day at the races, right? In fact, you probably could of taken a pic of my old man and me back in the day just like this, if they had phones back then! For those who are just outside of our close-knit dirt bike community, our sport is family driven (even when we are old and gray, we still share our passion with grandkids, etc.) and most of us learned the love of two wheels from someone within the family. Seeing this father and son on the starting line this day made me reflect a lot on how much my pops did for me and taught me. Hell, I’m trying like a son of a bitch over here to help my son grow into a good human through dirt bikes today.
This sport impacts our lives, good or bad. It created a job for me. It gave me responsibility. It kept me out of trouble. It has given me some of my best friends. It’s what drives me! Most recently it has driven my wife crazy because I can’t do it at this moment, but that’s neither here nor there. Here’s to all the friends and family member dirt bikes have brought together and created over the decades. Remember to thank whoever introduced you to this sport that you think about, listen to, bet on, read about, and talk about every day. If it wasn’t for them, we would be lesser human beings. Thank you to my dad for getting me that PW50 back when I was six, just so I could rip around the house and pretend I was David Bailey.
HIGH POINT 97 (Matthes)
Thanks to Damon Bradshaw and DC for jumping on the line to talk about the epic '97 High Point mud race that saw Bradshaw collect his last professional win. You can listen here and stay for the DC story about his dad "helping" Damon out in the mud. It's awesome.
Hey, Watch It!
Check out the highlights from Tim Gajser's charge in the second moto at the opening round of the FIM Motocross World Championship in Russia.
Trey Canard: Rider Coaching
LISTEN TO THIS
This week on The MotoXpod Show, Darkside has Austin Forkner talk about his struggles at the firs two rounds, what he's been working on, and what he would tell himself as a rookie if he could. Then Kristin Anderson joins to talk about Dubya USA and being the daughter of the legendary Tom White. Then privateer Connor Olson talks about his outdoor program.
Head-Scratching HeadlineS Of The Week
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #24.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!