Happy 245th birthday, America! Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome to ReeeedddBuuuuddd! Get ready for a long weekend of RedBud chants and social media posts from the swarm of fans they have rolling into the Ritchie family’s beautiful motocross facility in Buchanan, Michigan, the centerpiece of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and usually the biggest round of the series. I say “usually” because last year it was limited in the amount of spectators who could attend, but that didn’t stop RedBud from running twice over Labor Day weekend to help make a 2020 series even happen. They didn’t take one for the team—they took two! And now they are back in their usual spot, on Fourth of July Weekend, and the place is already filling up as if it were the 2018 FIM Motocross of Nations, only it’s going to be dry.
It's a wonderful coincidence for fans of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and MXGP that two of the most iconic and famous motocross tracks on the planet—RedBud in Michigan and Maggiora in Italy have to be on the podium of every fan's list of great motocross tracks—will race on the same weekend. Both have hosted FIM Motocross of Nations, both are extremely familiar with fans on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, and both are looking like they will have good weather. One big difference, however, is the fact that while both places should be packed, only RedBud will have a large throng of fans, as Italian authorities are still very weary of COVID-19 and have limited the amount of fans who can be at Maggiora to 1,000. It will look a lot like RedBud did last September when they hosted two rounds of the abbreviated 2020 series with hardly any fans. The racing was great but the emptiness was sobering.
COVID-19 is still a big thing in Italy. The city of Florence in Italy, with all of its rich history, architecture, churches and statues, is actually banning traditional evening walks to cut down on human contact. Florence is less than 250 miles from Maggiora. (Not sure if my colleague Jason Thomas, who is in Italy for the race, has any plans to stroll through the popular Santo Spirito neighborhood of Florence but he might want to stick to Milan.) Here’s hoping things get better in Europe soon, and MXGP gets to celebrate being back to normal just as we will with RedBud this weekend, and Southwick next weekend, and so on…
Another good part about all of this is that RedBud will take place on Saturday while Maggiora will go on Sunday, so fans can watch all of both! Here’s a guide of all the ways you can watch this weekend.
And while RedBud is always a big celebration of the United States of America, I have a feeling this year’s celebration will include a lot of red, white, and blue donut signs among all those American flags… Also look for former two-time champion Jeremy Martin to make a very quick return after seeming to say he was done for the summer after breaking his hand at Thunder Valley while leading the 250 series, as well as yet another Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha prospect in Washougal, Washington’s own Levi Kitchen, who will make his pro debut at RedBud under what will be a six-rider Star Racing tent… In the 250 class alone! (Wow, has any factory team every field nine riders in one outdoor national or supercross? Because that’s how many Star Racing will have at RedBud!)
Welcome back to the races for both Simon Cudby and Chris Hultner, two of the best SX/MX photographers ever. Simon has been focusing on adventure riding while Chris, who helped start Racer X Magazine back in 1998, has been out of motorsports photography until recently. He decided to do the Oklahoma flat track race for Cycle News a couple weeks ago and had a blast, and so he arranged for a press pass and rode his BMW adventure bike from Oklahoma to RedBud! We should be seeing even more amazing photos than usual with these guys joining the usually exceptional lineup in the media tent.
We should also mention that there’s a third excellent motocross track running this weekend, as Walton Raceway in Canada will be the site of the 2021 Canadian Triple Crown of Motocross Series. Canada also has some continuing lockdown issues, and it’s hurt the series up there before it even left the starting gate. The whole series will stay on the east side of the country and have limited fans. With Rockstar Energy having gone away in the last tumultuous year, things are not well north of the border, but here’s hoping all that turns around and soon. Walton is an excellent track and an excellent place to start all over in Canada. Matthes did a preview podcast that you can listen to.
Before we get into the rest of the week, here’s a nod to Italian legend Antonio Cairoli, who will soon be 36 years old. After last weekend’s amazing win at Matterley Basin in Great Britain, he has now won at least one Grand Prix in each of the last 18 seasons—that’s 18 years in a row with at one least one win! Have we ever seen a motocross rider this old have such a great race against such younger competition as multi-time world champions Tim Gajser and Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado? And don't forget about Romain Febvre... This is the same Matterley-Basin circuit where he battled with a young American kid who was riding for Team USA for the first time ever, as he was only a rookie: Ryan Villopoto! RV has as many major AMA titles as Antonio's world titles (nine) but stopped racing back in 2015, a half-dozen years ago. And that MXoN day in 2006 is most remembered for Stefan Everts' amazing performances against James Stewart in his last-ever race, but it should also be remembered for Cairoli's efforts on a YZ250F, when he became the first 250cc four-stroke rider to ever win a MXoN moto outright. No matter, it will now be remembered as the place that Antonio Cairoli took his 93rd career Grand Prix win and served notice in 2021 that he ain’t done!
Supercross Comes Home (DC)
You probably saw the blockbuster news this week that Feld Entertainment, organizers of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, decided that after 20 years of having two sanctioning bodies oversee the series, they told the FIM on Monday that they were not renewing the contract for 2022 and beyond. It brings to an end two decades of imperfection where the AMA and FIM kept butting heads over things like noise levels, unleaded fuel levels and, worst of all, an ineffective system of anti-doping testing and penalties that great affected the careers of James Stewart, Christian Craig, Broc Tickle, and Cade Clason. Myself and Jason Weigandt and Steve Matthes all posted our thoughts on the whole saga which you can read here in this week’s 3 On 3 column.
I will add here though that supercross may be coveted by those in Europe, but whenever the actual series went there in the early 2000s for races in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Spain, none of the top Europe-based stars except Marc DeReuver ever turned out to even try to compete, just as we saw very little Canadian participation when the races were in Toronto and Vancouver. And it’s understandable because SX is a uniquely American form of motocross, and while riders from all over the world come here to compete, the ones that don’t simply didn’t want to have anything to do with it. As great as Antonio Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings and Tim Gajser and Jorge Prado are, their SX windows are all but closed. They are all every bit as good as Ken Roczen and Dylan Ferrandis and Marvin Musquin and Dean Wilson (and before that Chad Reed) in motocross but because they didn’t come here like the others, it would be ridiculous to risk a whole season of MXGP by trying to ride a couple of SX races when you know you’re a fish out of water. Had Antonio or Jeffrey or Tim or Jorge came here as young as Reed and friends were, I have zero doubt that they would have been just as competitive indoors as they would be outdoors. But they didn’t, and they aren’t, so why bother entering what would be a one-off SX race when it’s just not your thing?
Conversely, Monster Energy AMA Supercross factory teams are driven by the budgets of U.S. distributors, not the Japanese or Austrian factories. So it never made sense for them to go do international rounds of a series based in America, because they would rather do every round in the states in front of potential customers rather than haul everything to Europe and not be able to sell any bikes there based on the results. A few tried in the very beginning, but within a couple of years, by 2004, it was obvious that the U.S.-based riders and race teams did not want to go abroad for SX races. And when things like WADA’s drastic drug penalties greatly affected AMA-based riders like Stewart, and that in turn affected the OEMs in America as well as other AMA series like Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, the whole idea of having the FIM involved started nose-diving. As I said in 3 on 3, the recent arrival of FIM President Jorge Viegas as the man in charge helped matters improve, but the writing was already on the wall… And then came COVID-19. That was the nail in the FIM’s supercross coffin.
Coincidentally, and on a mostly unrelated note, today it was announced that Team USA track star Sha’Carri Richardson tested positive for marijuana and suspended for one month (not two or four years) by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA). Unfortunately, she also had to vacate her results from the U.S. Olympic Trials, where she qualified in the individual 100-meter sprint. But since it’s only a month penalty, she can still possibly compete in the 4x100-meter relay race, which will take place on August 6 after all of the individual events are completed. Richardson admitted to using marijuana as “a coping mechanism” after her biological mother died recently, and took full personal responsibility for letting her team down. It is just a shame all around. Though it did lead to another amazing headline from The Onion:
“Dream Crushed Over Trivial Bullshit Represents National Better Than Gold Medal Ever Could.”
The FIM, Ferrandis, and Europe (Jason Weigandt)
I know a podcast interview with a fellow journalist might not seem like the most revealing piece out there, but go check out the podcast I did with European motorcycle journalist Adam Wheeler this week. Wheeler handles our MXGP coverage here for Racer X Online, but he’s also well connected in the MotoGP paddock. I really just wanted to chat about Ken Roczen and Dylan Ferrandis, but then just hours before our already-scheduled zoom call, the news broke that the FIM would no longer be part of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Neither Wheeler nor I know too much about the long-term aspects of this deal, it’s always good to hear from both sides.
I can tell you that over here in the U.S., I don’t think the fans and riders were ever happy that the FIM was involved in the series. From Wheeler’s perspective, in Europe, though, I think the prospect of real points-paying FIM World Championship rounds out of the U.S. seemed enticing. He makes a great point that all racing is more global now, and there could be more interest than ever in American-style supercross in Europe. What if the Paris Supercross became a points-paying round? It’s all good bench-racing fodder, but clearly, any overseas expansion of supercross is on the back-burner now. And really, I think that’s just because the riders and teams here absolutely don’t want more required (points-paying) races. But it’s good to get different perspectives.
As for the Roczen/Ferrandis battle at the top of Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship right now, I wanted to get Wheeler’s take on it. Roczen has always been a high-flying star, but Ferrandis has had more of a slow climb. He’s absolutely arrived at the elite level, though, a spot Roczen has been in ever since he won supercross races and the 450 Class National Motocross title as a class rookie in 2014.
“They [Roczen and Ferrandis] seemed to miss each other,” said Wheeler. “Ferrandis was a unique character, very much a loner and a nomad. He wasn’t quite at Jeffrey [Herlings’] level but he would try to rattle him. He did his best to rattle him. I think there was a press conference in Germany where Herlings took the microphone and said, ‘These guys are trying to run me off the track. That’s the only way they can beat me is to hurt me.’ It was quite something to see Ferrandis just doing a deadpan face, not reacting to this. Not to go on too much, but I think everyone here is surprised to see how good he’s come in supercross. He was always a great motocrosser, but to see how much he has won in supercross now, that’s kind of cool to see. I really hope he can get it done, just to see him upset the apple cart a bit.”
Did Wheeler, covering the GPs in Ferrandis’ early years, think he would make it all the way to this level, where he’s an absolutely contender for 450 wins and titles in the U.S?
“No,” he replied. “I thought he could be a guy that could fight for a world championship but he quite quickly made his opinion known, from maybe uncompetitive machinery, and maybe his dislike of the preparation of certain tracks, which has actually gotten so much better over the last five years, than what it used to be. It used to attract criticism, and I think rightfully so, but I don’t think that spear can be thrown at the series anymore.”
Ferrandis, then and now, is someone who really pushed to get things the way he wanted them. You have to respect his hustle—and his willingness to rattle a cage or two if that’s what it took to find success. Through hard work and zero distractions, Ferrandis has risen to the elite.
“Dylan, especially his adaptation to the 450, it has been surprising to see, and it has been cool to see,” said Wheeler. “Those athletes really split opinion. Maybe they’re boring or one dimensional. But you have to admire someone who is so utterly focused on their craft.”
Buongiorno from Italy! I write this from Bellagio, on the shore of famed Lake Como. I haven’t had a George Clooney sighting just yet but the search continues. In an hour or three, I will make the journey down to Maggiora, site of round three of the FIM Motocross World Championship. I have the privilege of joining Paul Malin on the broadcast team for the racing action. Not only do I enjoy every second of being here, it also presents a great opportunity to share FLY Racing with a worldwide audience. For now, the weather is beautiful and life is good. With rain in the Sunday forecast, I will soak in the Italian sunshine for all its worth until then.
Stateside, Americans will be celebrating the birth of our great nation. For motocross fans, this weekend is synonymous with one phrase that will echo throughout the Midwest. “REDBUUUDDDD” has been seared into the memory banks of anyone and everyone who has crossed into Buchanan, Michigan. This race is truly a rite of passage for motocross fans. If you haven’t ever been, do yourself a favor and start driving. RedBud has morphed into “America’s track” and for good reason. The venue, track layout, attendance, and overall atmosphere make this one tough to beat. There might be no better way to celebrate the Fourth of July than watching 40 of America’s best racers launch from the starting gates Saturday afternoon.
As for me, I will be watching RedBud via the Peacock app on Saturday night. It will be a weekend chock full of racing for me, both live and remote. For now, though, I will enjoy my lakeside cappuccino as I wander through this dolce vita.
Random Stats (Producer Pete)
With our man in Hungary, Andras Hegyi, still dealing with some health issues—get well soon, Andras!—we haven't had as many cool stats to share in Racerhead as we've had previously, thanks to Andras. So we turned to our buddy Producer Pete, who helps out with stats for the TV coverage, to start finding nuggets of data and results to share here. Here's what he had on Jalek Swoll's High Point win and the record book:
We have a first-time winner in the 250 class at High Point, as Rockstar Husqvarna’s Jalek Swoll (1-3) won his first career moto and his first career overall. They came in the Florida native’s ninth career start. He is the 87th different rider to win an overall in the 250/MX Lites/125 class, and the 109th to win a moto.
Swoll is the third different rider to win a 250 o/a in three races in 2021, joining Fox Raceway winner Jett Lawrence and Justin Cooper, who won at Thunder Valley. Those two riders rounded out the overall podium at High Point. Lawrence (3-2) was second overall, and Cooper (5-1) was third. For Cooper, it was his sixth career moto win and first of 2021. The New Yorker has the second-most moto wins among active 250 riders:
Most Career Moto Wins
250 Class - Active Riders
On Red Flags, Restarts and Reordering... (DC)
Remember back at the Atlanta 2 round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross when Cameron McAdoo had that horrific-looking crash that caused the red flag early on in the 250SX main event? He has crashed by himself on the over-under bridge, his feet caught up in his bars and the bike cartwheeled, giving us one of the all-time spectacular crash highlights as well as a red flag. It was impressive that McAdoo even got up, and somehow his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team got his bike unbent enough for him to line up for the restart... And he promptly grabbed the holeshot and rode a hell of a race!
But here is where I had a problem with it all, or at least my personal opinion of what happened deviated from the rulebook. McAdoo was able to get up and get back in the race because there was a restart which he alone caused. He was going to be last in the field had he gotten up with no red flag, but because there was a red flag, he was able to get up, go back to his original starting spot, and then grab the lead off the restart. He did absolutely nothing wrong, but the rule gave him a pass in that there was no penalty or even loss of position due to his crash. In fact, he ended up benefitting more than everyone else in the race—none of whom crashed with him and were all up and running when the race was stopped. Because the crash was before the third lap, it was a full race restart.
Now let me explain what happened last weekend at the EMX125 race at Matterley-Basin in England. Late in the second moto (or at least past the halfway mark) an Italian rider named Ferruccio Zanchi was leading with British GasGas rider Bobby Bruce second, Dutch Husqvarna rider Kay Karssemakers third, and first moto winner Haakon Osterhagen, a Norwegian aboard a Fantic, fourth. All of these young 125cc riders are very impressive, to say the least. Osterhagen passed Karssemakers for third just as they were completing the fifth lap. Shortly after they started the sixth lap Bruce and Osterhagen both passed Zanchi and then started battling one another. And just before they crossed the finish line to start the seventh lap, Osterhagen made a pass for the lead on Bruce.
However, before that sixth lap was completed, a red flag came out all over the track because Karssemakers and Zanchi had collided in midair, with the Italian crashing extremely hard and knocking himself out—and it could have been much worse.
Here's the rub. Because they were past the halfway mark, the rulebook says the red flag marks the end of the race, and the positions will be determined by the last fully completed lap before the red flag. And that meant that despite the fact that Zanchi, the rider who collided with Karssemakers while battling for third, was knocked out and would not have finished the race, was declared the winner because he was in the leader that last time they crossed the finish line before the red flag came out. And Osterhagen, who was leading at the start of the sixth lap, was scored as finishing third, which was where he was at the end of the previous lap.
Like a lot of folks watching the race on MXGP-TV.com I was very relieved when it became clear that Zanchi was awake, just as I was relieved that Cameron McAdoo got up in Atlanta. But I'm guessing a lot of viewers were also very confused when Zanchi was declared the moto winner and second overall and his team manager went up on the podium and accepted his trophy on his behalf because the kid was still in the ambulance.
Even with red flags, early in the race or late, there has to be better ways to end up with results that are more fully reflective of what actually happened out on the track, who went down and caused the stoppage, and who was actually leading when it all came to a stop.
The leaders continued to the point of almost of the crash before the red flags actually came out, so Osterhagen had been in the lead for nearly a lap and a half when the race ended, but due to where and when the crash happened, the results said otherwise. And I’m not picking on Zanchi, as Karssemakers was still there on the side of the track when the leaders came around again, so he would have been at the back of the pack as well.
Even MXGP-TV.com host Paul Malin wasn’t sure, saying "Osterhagen will be confirmed the overall winner with two race wins, and Marc-Antione Rossi, with a second and a fifth, would be second overall..." While Osterhagen did win the overall, it was with a 1-3. But poor Marc-Antoine Rossi, a fast young Frenchman, he would drop from second overall to fourth with his 2-7, costing him a spot on the overall podium.
I don’t have the answers to either the AMA rule or the FIM, and I know that safety should always be the priority, but with timing loops all around the track, it seems like there must be a better way to score the races exactly when they ended, and not before the reason it ends early even happens. Thoughts?
Remembering @IronSheak (DC)
Drew Witherell sent us this note and a photo from the AMA Amateur National Regional at Pleasure Valley Raceway near Johnstown, PA:
Tribute to Scott Sheak by Johnny Lyon and Sebastian Witherell—Seabass518. They ran the #4 at his regional race to honor Scott's own "Road to Loretta Lynn's."
Here are all of Scott Sheak's finishes at Loretta Lynn's as a Team Green kid growing up, beginning with the first year ever, 1982.
And here are Scott's results from his years as a Vet rider at Loretta Lynn's, which are apparently separated because he had a different address from his original (we will get them combined again soon):
His last year, 2015, was the year he earned that #4 that you see on Seabass518 in the photo. Sheak was preparing to come back in 2021 when he was fatally injured in a practice crash in New York in early May.
In a class all himself is Mike LaRocco. The Kawasaki rider won the 1993 AMA 500cc Pro Motocross title, but then found himself a champion without a class in 1994 as the AMA disbanded the class! Instead, LaRocco would win the '94 250 Pro Motocross Championship, so it was a successful season anyway! But that last #1 Kawasaki KX500 is in the Kawasaki lobby museum at their U.S. HQ in Irvine, CA.
And Jeremy McGrath posted some of his own RedBud highlights:
Did you see Henry Jacobi's frightening crash from Matterley Basin last weekend?
How about Alex Ray's High Point vlog?
Kris Keefer shakes down the new KTM 250 SX-F for Racer X Films:
And here’s what’s happening today up in Canada at Walton’s opening round of the Canadian Triple Crown Series of Motocross:
Head-Scratching HeadlineS Of The Week
“Nude Sunbathers fined in Australia for violating virus lockdown after deer scared them into forest”—Drudge Report
“Ralph Lauren has designed Team USA's uniforms for years. Now Kim Kardashian is designing their loungewear and undergarments”—CBS News
“COPS: Man threatened to blow up MCDONALD's over missing dipping sauce...”—The Smoking Gun
“She’s up! Bat girl 60 years in making reaches Yankee Stadium”—Associated Press
“Woman who allegedly caused Tour de France crash arrested”—CNN Sports
“Britney Spears' dad Jamie unrecognizable amid conservatorship battle
TMZ.com (He's wearing a Loretta Lynn's MX hat and a Wiseco Pistons T-shirt)
“Rep. Matt Gaetz invites Britney Spears to testify before Congress”—Politico.com
One week after barely surviving Howard's Hole at the Snowshoe GNCC, @evanthedeer is back at RedBud, all cleaned up and ready for more! Happy July Fourth weekend everyone!
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!