*Main image courtesy of Jeremy Holbert.
Welcome to Racerhead, and a return to the way things were—only better! The 2021 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is enjoying another blessed off-weekend, as what was supposed to be Southwick ’21 was moved back two weeks in the hopes of COVID-19 restrictions easing up and a larger capacity of fans being able to gather. They have, and now the riders are looking at a solid month of excellent and diverse tracks in July: RedBud, The Wick 338, Spring Creek, and Washougal. If it’s anything like the first three rounds have been, it will be epic!
Of course, last weekend was the High Point National and what I have to say was a really exciting race, on an exceptional track. Yes, weather and a little bit of luck once again played into the course prep, as the weather channels were all calling for massive showers as that big heat wave out west keeps pushing weather east. At one point on Friday afternoon my iPhone weather app showed an 80 to 90% chance of rain from early that evening to midday Saturday. We all planned for that infamous High Point rain, not watering the track as much nor digging it quite as deep. But when everyone woke up on Saturday morning, it had yet to rain, and the forecast was changing. By 6 a.m. Randy Poulter was out on the tractor and my brother-in-law, Jeff, and his crew were on the water trucks spraying the circuit. It would rain later on, briefly, during the first 250 moto, but that was it. We ended up with another track full of line options, easy to move around on and very challenging, but without long, deep ruts that tend to lock the riders in for large swaths of track. I was stoked to hear Ken Roczen, after two third-place finishes turned into an unlucky fourth overall, still call the track (and the fans) “amazing!”
Today I had a chance to catch up with RedBud’s Tim Ritchie about how things were going, and while they’re having some rain up there now and through the early parts of next week, the hope is that the forecast will get better for July Fourth weekend. I also told him the same thing I told my mom after Thunder Valley: get ready, because the fans are coming back, and there’s going to be a lot of them! And RedBud deserves it, as last year they took not one but TWO for the team, holding nationals on both Friday and Monday of Labor Day weekend, with limited spectators, knowing they would lose money, but it would help keep the series and teams intact during the pandemic. We got nine races and what seemed like a full series in, and the only teams we lost were GEICO Honda and JGR Suzuki, though those were more about their inability to find new title sponsors after they were told in the middle of the worst time of all, 2020, that their respective previous sponsors were not coming back. (Luckily, GasGas jumped into the fold as an OEM brand in motocross, run under the KTM Group, and Team Honda got back into 250cc racing directly, so it was kind of a push, depending on whether you have a glass-half-full or a half-empty outlook.)
As far as the High Point racing went, it was awesome to see Eli Tomac back on form (at least in the second moto) as well as Adam Cianciarulo, who very nearly saw his first moto win ripped away with a crazy moment in the last corner. We also saw the mounting duel between Honda’s Roczen, and Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis take another step together as they battled in both motos, and the red plate ended up back on the Frenchman’s YZ450F. Both have been masterful so far, and I look for them to continue this back-and-forth at RedBud—and in a very respectful way, as both tend to ride on the cleaner side when battling in close confines. It was also cool to have Ferrandis win because back in 2000 and 2001, his current coach/trainer, David Vuillemin, won here as well.
In the 250 Class we saw another first-time winner at High Point, though this was for the first time in more than a decade! After a long run of seeing guys win their first outdoor national here in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, going as far back as 1980 with Chuck “The Rising” Sun, it has not happened since Tyla Rattray’s first AMA 250 Pro Motocross win here in 2011. For the record, the first-time AMA National winners at High Point include Chuck Sun, Erik Kehoe ('85), the late Brian Swink ('91), Tim Ferry ('95), the late Scott Sheak ('97), Kelly Smith ('00), Chad Reed ('02), Mike Alessi ('05), Ryan Villopoto ('06), Josh Grant ('07), Tyla Rattray ('10), and now Jalek Swoll ('21). Swoll’s old coach was Tim Ferry, so like Ferrandis and Vuillemin, Swoll and Ferry now have something in common too!
We will have more on both Swoll and 250 points leader Jett Lawrence below, but I want to give a shout-out here to a few folks who did a cool thing for a privateer member of the motocross family. After Alex Martin got hurt at the Thunder Valley National two weeks ago, Ty Masterpool found himself without a way to get his stuff to High Point since Manluk/Rock River/Merge Racing Yamaha was going to pull their rig off the road, as the team had been helping the GasGas rider. When word got out at the end of the day in Colorado that Masterpool needed a hand, several folks stepped up to do what they could. The always-there-when-you-need-him Ted Parks agreed to haul Ty’s motorcycle, and Dunlop’s Brian Fleck found room for some of Masterpool’s gear bags and parts bins. I called Larry Brooks to see if they had any room on the BarX/Chaparral/Ecstar Suzuki rig, but they did not. However, LB suggested trying Brandon and his team down at Club MX, just as they were pulling out of TVR. They stopped, found room, loaded up Masterpool’s parts bike/frame, and everyone headed east—the Masterpools in pieces! Once everyone gathered at High Point, the Masterpools rounded everything up and got Ty’s bits back together, and then he went out and finished a season-best seventh overall. Thanks to everyone who helped the privateer and his family!
Looking ahead to this weekend, there’s no racing here in regards to Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, but MXGP is back, too, and their second round will go off this weekend at Matterley Basin in Great Britain, which you can stream on www.mxgp-tv.com. Also, the AMA Grand National Cross Country Series is just down the road from our offices in Morgantown, West Virginia, at Snowshoe Ski Resort, which is where I’m headed as soon as I can get loaded up (to watch, not race). You can watch the Snowshoe GNCC streaming for free over on www.racertv.com. And the last regional for qualifying for the 40th Annual Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s will take place at Briarcliff MX in Nashport, Ohio, so that should be interesting as well!
Thanks to all of the fans and their families, and of course the riders and race teams, who made last weekend’s High Point National one of the best we’ve ever had. It felt great to have that race back, after missing it in 2020, and to also be able to have a podium with fans and all once again. Let’s hope all of the rest of the rounds in 2021 are as good and exciting as the first three have already been….
SWOLL UP (Matthes)
What a race by Rockstar Husky's Jalek Swoll, right? The kid set a career-best MX finish at round two of the series at Lakewood (seventh overall) and then blew that result out of the water with a 1-3 finish at High Point for his first MX podium and overall, along with his first laps led of his career. Coming off a good SX series, the future seems bright for Swoll right about now. Of course, we know he's over at Baker's Factory training and riding, but before that he was under the watchful eye of Tim Ferry. Timmy and his wife, Evie, and sons Evan and Beckett took Jalek into their family a long time ago when Bobby Hewitt, the then-owner of Rockstar Husky, took an interest in Jalek and asked Red Dog to help him, as Jalek's father was incarcerated. So that turned into more than just a coach/rider relationship; The Ferrys really became a second family for Jalek.
At some point, Jalek probably heard some sort of criticism I had given him during his first full season last year, and so with my friendship with Red Dog, I heard about this "beef" I had with Jalek. Ferry, Evan, and Jalek came in-studio to Orlando for a PulpMX Show this SX series, and it was obvious to see how much personality he had and how he and Evan had grown close. Really cool kid for sure. At some point Jalek sent me an IG DM saying I should get him back on the show, which I guess I ignored? I don't know, man, kids these days and social media! So, I guess Jalek and I had "beef" and I tried to claim I never got a DM from him, but apparently messages say "seen" on Instagram when you read those things. Who knew? Oops, my bad! We settled the beef on the Lakewood post-show video, just in time for him to be a winner and for me to claim I saw all this coming.
But in all seriousness, very cool story building here, and it's awesome to see Swoll maturing and growing as a rider this year. Red Dog, man, the guy's got the magic touch!
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Last weekend at High Point the broadcast team tried to take a step forward in how we present the viewing experience. Joey Savatgy’s KTM was equipped with a camera behind the front number plate in hopes of showing the action in a new way. Unfortunately, the hilly High Point course made things difficult, but I do believe the tech will get sorted out as we roll into courses with a better line-of-sight. Not only are there signal challenges to work through but adding weight to a motorcycle is always met with a frown. If rumors are true, the camera equipment added something like three pounds of dead weight and, even more precarious, added to the front end. In the end, Savatgy chose to hold off and wait for a better application. Watch for the camera to return soon as the kinks get worked out.
I can remember two other situations in my own racing career where weight collided with the goal of introducing new technology. Back in the mid 2000s, I was fortunate enough to wear the helmet camera for Speed and ESPN. The first camera, provided by Speed (now FS1), was incredibly heavy—so much so that we had to strategically position it on the helmet, so I didn’t become a bobblehead doll. If it was too far forward, I couldn’t hold my head up as I was riding. Too far back and it would pull my head back under acceleration. I was willing to go through whatever inconvenience imaginable for the right to wear it, though! Weird coincidence that I’m involved in moto media now, eh? Probably not.
As we transitioned to the ESPN camera, things improved. The nicer camera might have been a wolf in sheep’s clothing, though, as Ricky Carmichael agreed to wear the new, lighter model. Unbeknownst to me, RC had turned down the Speed camera for the same reasons that I was battling. Wait, you mean changing your body position on the bike in order to wear the camera wasn’t a good idea? Shocking. So, with the new, lighter camera, my opportunity dried up. To the winner go the spoils, I guess.
Another weight-related story goes back to the 2010-’11 era. Fly Racing has a line of racewear called Evolution, or EVO for short. It has been the premium line for over a decade, but it also was incredibly overbuilt in that time. The sheer durability rivaled a Sherman tank. That durability brought a surplus of heavy materials, plastic (TPR), and reinforced seams. While the customer could rely on this EVO pant to last them until the apocalypse, racers like Trey Canard and Andrew Short (factory Honda recruits) were struggling with the added weight. As the story goes, a Honda engineer finally stepped in and requested innovation and weight reduction in their gear. Honda was spending a small fortune on titanium and magnesium to make their factory bikes lighter. Meanwhile, the EVO pant was eradicating that effort.
That conversation spawned years of innovation. Hydrogen Lite pant (now referred to as Lite) was the first step, a true minimalist pant geared around pure performance. Utilizing stretch materials and an athletic cut, durability was still a factor, but performance was prioritized. Slowly but surely, that same thought process was applied throughout the line. “How can we maximize performance, reduce weight, while still living up to consumer durability expectations?” That was the ask, but the solution was not easy.
Ten years later, the brutally heavy products from 2010 are now lean and mean. Light weight gear is much more common throughout the industry. Hopefully, our attempts to improve the average viewer’s experience will see the same sort of long-term improvement. I applaud the broadcast team’s willingness to branch out from the normal viewpoint. Technology will catch up to our ideas. It always has.
BERMY ELI STUFF (KEEFER)
If you witnessed High Point Moto 2 in the 450 Class, then you saw the old Eli. Sometimes some media is quick to write off a rider when he's in a slump, but I feel like we don’t look at some of these dudes as human beings sometimes. I mean, I've had a bad week with normal crap around the house—imagine being a factory motocross racer and trying to minimize those bad weeks in time for race day. I knew we shouldn’t just write Eli off. People are saying he’s done, he’s riding his Kawasaki contract out, etc., etc. Please just stop!
Eli went all Cortez, Colorado, on the High Point track the second moto, as he was ripping outside lines everywhere and just bermin’ his way around for some blazing lap times. The High Point track seemed to invite the berm-blaster Eli to come out and play and play he did. If you look at Eli’s practice facility in Colorado, you will see that his track is fast, flowy, and downright … well … bermy. Eli is made to shred dirt walls and hold the throttle wide open. Not to say that technical, rutty Eli isn’t available to win, but when the track allows the rider to move around, is fast, bermy, and rough, then Cortez Tomac is ready to rock! I also like that on the broadcast GL pointed out that Eli looked different the second moto very early on and low and behold he was right! I have also heard that Eli did go back to some older settings, just like his teammate Adam Cianciarulo did, but he mentioned he had the same stuff at Lakewood (and also High Point’s first moto) so the old settings alone didn’t magically change the results. Will we see the old Eli return when we get back to racing at RedBud? Well, this part is big: he needs better/more consistent starts! He’s had one good start this year, and he won that moto. Will we see this happen on 4th of July weekend? I for one can’t wait to see if “Bermy Eli” shows up once again. Aggression sprinkled with technical riding. That is Cortez Tomac!
JETT'S WAY (DC)
Team Honda's Jett Lawrence is getting rave reviews for not only his talent and skill on the track, but just the whole way he approaches his career, from the donut thing to his social media presence to just doing the right thing for the most part. Check out this little anecdote that user Jarrod458 posted on the Vital MX Forum about last Friday afternoon, when Lawrence was doing a little riding for an NBC feature as they took a break from the amateur day racing:
"As if Jett wasn’t already a huge fan favorite here’s what happened yesterday. I was in staging for my moto.... they pull everyone off the track and some camera crews come down to the track to film Jett ride. I’m assuming for a high point intro for today’s broadcast.???? Anyways they wanted Jett to do a few starts for the video. Jett looks at the riders on the gate then tells the camera crew. “Let’s move over to the side a little bit I don’t want to mess up these guys start line” it wasn’t much, but for a young kid to have that much respect for some riders on amateur day was impressive to me. good luck today Jett!"
BILL HAHN (MATTHES)
Maybe the worst-kept secret in the sport dropped this morning when it was announced that Wil Hahn is leaving Star Yamaha. Wil was, of course, a past 250SX champion and the 250 team manager with the Blu guys. He's also done a hell of a job over there, as the 250 guys have racked up win after win along with a bunch of titles. With the Star guys purchasing the GOAT Farm in their attempt to take over the sport of SX/MX, Wilbur didn't want to relocate to the East Coast, so he and the team parted ways. The next shoe hasn't dropped officially yet but look for Wilbur to join up with the GasGas guys to be riding coach/trainer/Justin Barcia's buddy real soon. Wil's a smart dude—he'll do well with whoever he works with now and in the future. The Star guys have had Seth Rarick over there for a month or so working with Wilbur to make sure the transition is seamless. Rarick, a former pro racer, was a trainer at Baker’s Factory for the past couple of years and will be the new 250 team manager. The Star Yamaha guys are also picking up Marty Davalos to help out with riding, training, mentorship or whatever. Maybe a fill-in? LOL
WEBB SEARCHING FOR A SETTING? (KEEFER)
Another rider we DO NOT need to be writing off would be Cooper Webb. It has been weird to see Webb out of the top five and being able to mix it up with the leaders. I’ve heard that he’s searching for a few things out of his KTM 450 SX-F's chassis and is simply not finding it out on the track on race day. As usual I am a geek when it comes to these factory bikes, but did anyone notice the new-style clamp that graced Webb's bike at High Point that wasn't on his bike at Thunder Valley? It looks like a blend of the factory KTM split clamp he was using and an old Neken solid-style clamp. From the outside looking in, this clamp looks to be stiffer, but without seeing the webbing underneath the clamp, it's tough to say. However, this is proof that Webb and the KTM team are searching for something. Let's see if this week off helps Webb and the Red Bull Factory KTM team find what they are looking for.
WHITE LIGHTNING (MATTHES)
Off-weekend in the series, four in a row starts next weekend, and as the temps begin to climb back east, the test will be tougher for the riders as we go week in and week out. But for now, enjoy the time off, everyone! Andy Jefferson, the Bro-Show himself, has been working with the KTM/Husky/GasGas media machine for a few years now, and remember, Andy was an OG Husky rider back in the early eighties, working with some guy named Mitch Payton. Andy rang up Keefer and me with an offer to test out the new Hard Cross 7 and Mountain Cross 7 Husqvarna E-bikes out in the high dez. I know it disappointed Keefer hugely that I can never seem to drive down to his place to go dirt bike riding, but try out a new e-bike? I'm there!
Anyway, Andy, Keefer, and I went out along with Racer X video man Spencer to try the bikes out. They come with the new Shimano EP8 motors, the MountainCross model is more XC, the HardCross one is more Enduro/DH (has more travel) and they're spec'd pretty well with Fox suspension on the MC and Rock Shox on the HC. It was cool to hang out with Andy for the day, he's a great guy.
CARLSBAD RACEWAY MONUMENT (SCOTT COX)
Still buzzing from the blockbuster debut of film maker Todd Huffman’s 2010 hit movie Carlsbad USGP 1980: One Day of Magic, a group of over enthused movie going beer drinkers swore an oath to someday—and somehow—erect a monument to Carlsbad Raceway. Days later when the beer buzz died off, those left standing were Huffman, David Moates and a few committed hangers on including the USGP promoter, the late Gavin Trippe.
Forty-one years to the day that Moates’ brother Marty won the 1980 USGP and 11 years after the hops-addled movie premiere night confab, the Carlsbad Raceway Monument arrived at a significant milestone by announcing a location just yards away from the original raceway property. To commemorate the good news, an enthusiastic crowd of racing fans, dedicated project volunteers, drag racers, sportscar racers, motocrossers, skateboarders, and members of the media gathered in Vista, California, at the Keystone Innovation Industrial Park.
Todd Huffman kicked off a midday press conference with speakers and special guests including drag racing icon Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Carlsbad Raceway co-founder Larry Grismer and his legendary friend promoter Stu Peters, musician/skater Mike Palm, and SCCA driver Oscar Jackson. Scott Merry of Baidee Development, assured everyone that the micro-breweries housed within his Keystone Innovation Industrial Park, Dogleg and Eppig, were more than prepared to support future Carlsbad Raceway Monument celebrations.
Former factory pro Jimmy Button shared his personal story about Road 2 Recovery, the charitable foundation he and his mother Anita founded after he suffered a traumatic career ending injury. Serving the needs of injured action sports athletes is their key mission and those efforts will continue in years to come in partnership with the Carlsbad Raceway Monument Project.
AMA Hall of Fame inductee Broc Glover, himself a 7-time national champion, said that his first taste of real speed occurred at a very young age riding along in very a fast car - not a motocross bike – as it raced down Carlsbad’s historic ¼ mile dragstrip. His best Carlsbad Raceway highlight was winning the 1984 Carlsbad USGP.
During her brief address, Mayor Judy Ritter welcomed the Carlsbad Raceway Monument while unashamedly enjoying a well-deserved win for her City of Vista. With an assist from Huffman and Moates, she unveiled an artist’s rendering of the Carlsbad Raceway Monument. Then Mayor Ritter waved a white flag to signify that the monument project had never surrendered and now had begun its “final lap” toward completion.
HELP US BUILD THE MONUMENT, BUY A BRICK! Commemorative bricks for the construction of the Carlsbad Raceway Monument can be purchased here:
Hey, Watch It!
Here's a funny commercial for (we think) a Dutch convenience store chain featuring Jeffrey Herlings:
Privateer Freddie Noren needed a mechanic for High Point, so his wife Amy decided to put the babies down (with friends) and pick the wrenches back up to help her husband out! Here's the video of their weekend today, courtesy of Motocross Action:
Head-Scratching HeadlineS Of The Week
“Netflix to air 'Sexy Beasts,' a dating show that doesn't care about looks” - CNN Entertainment
And finally, be on the lookout for what we hear is an amazing 148-page special French book by the gang at Moto Verte (with assistance from our man Eric Johnson) about the career of Jean-Michel Bayle, the legendary crosser who came to America and, in 1991, swept all three titles: AMA Supercross, 250 Pro Motocross, 500 Pro Motocross. It had never been done before or since, and remains one of the greatest accomplishments in our sport's history. As of now it's only available in French, but the photos alone are worth it! We would let you know how to get this JMB book as soon as we find out how to get one ourselves!
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!