Welcome to Racerhead. Now it’s time for something really different! Tropical Storm Elsa (sponsored by Disney, maybe?) is wreaking havoc on the East Coast right now, and specifically on New England. It’s worked its way up from the west coast of Florida and all along the eastern seaboard. Of course, it’s happening right when we get to Southwick, the farthest north and east of our tracks on the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship schedule. As I type in the media center here at The Wick, I can barely hear my taps on the keyboard because rain is hitting the tent so hard. It’s bottled-up parking (though many got in yesterday) and is doing a number on the track, which is fortunately sealed and very good at draining. If you’re going to have a wet and rainy Friday, Southwick is the place, because the sand serves as a sponge, the track is sealed for draining, and no one will be out on it until tomorrow morning. It will be interesting early for sure, but with the weather looks pretty good for tomorrow, so hopefully we get lucky—again. Southwick of course did not run in 2020 due to coronavirus restrictions, so they were looking forward to a big rebound this time. Hopefully, the weather will work out like it did at High Point a few weeks back and it will be an epic day of racing!
Like last week’s Twisted Tea RedBud National, which was one of those epic days. Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Dylan Ferrandis kept his roll going, winning the overall for the third time in four races. He’s also been on the box in every 450 moto he’s entered, often coming from behind. At RedBud he won the first moto after a great battle with his teammate Aaron Plessinger and Team Honda’s Ken Roczen. Then in the second moto he came through to nearly catch Eli Tomac, who had another blistering second moto after not even reaching the box the first time out. (Maybe Kawasaki needs to get all the good parts back on Eli’s bike for the first moto and not just the second.… That’s for you, Hopper.) Plessinger looks like he’s another step closer to getting his own 450 win, and Roczen would have fared better than fourth overall had he not crashed hard in the corner after LaRocco’s Leap.
The 250 class saw its fourth different overall winner of the year. Rockstar Husqvarna’s RJ Hampshire used 2-2 finishes to snatch the overall, joining Jett Lawrence (Fox Raceway), Justin Cooper (Thunder Valley), and Jalek Swoll (High Point). But Lawrence continues to lead in the points and wear the red plate on his #18 Honda. Tomorrow will also be his first visit to Southwick’s sand. After last week’s race, in the “media corral” that they’re now doing, Steve Matthes asked Jett if he had good sand skills. Jett laughed and said, “Of course I do, I’m from Europe!” To which Steve replied, “You’re from Australia.” It’s a pretty funny exchange, as were the comments from Aaron Plessinger on just how fast Eli and Dylan were going at RedBud—give it a listen, the guys are all pretty animated, even the unfortunate and painfully honest Adam Cianciarulo: LINK TO MATTHES’ POST-RACER RIDER COMMENTS
So, after four great and dry races, we’re on to something different for tomorrow, and I can’t wait to see if Ferrandis can keep it up, or if Tomac can put two motos together, or how both Lawrences will be in the sand. It all starts tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. ET on MAVTV and the Peacock streaming platform. And even with the rain today, I can’t tell you how cool it is to be here at Southwick again after that year off. Here's hoping this race keeps the streak of great races going on for 2021.
Big Week for Jalek (Mitch Kendra)
Not only did Jalek Swoll land his first pro moto win at the High Point National two weeks ago (in his first visit to the track), but he also landed the first overall of his young career. The day was historic, as according to Davey Coombs, Swoll became only the second African American rider to win a Pro Motocross overall after James Stewart. But it gets better: Jalek’s win came on Juneteenth, the day honoring the emancipation of African American slaves. Because of his breakout ride, Swoll landed on the latest issue of Racer X Illustrated. Congrats to Jalek (and the wall!) for his first cover. Here’s what Swoll himself said about landing the cover:
"I remember all the magazines I used to try to find myself in as a kid, back then had no luck🤷♂️….. now I’m on a cover🙏pretty cool moment for me #LFG"
Check out the cover below and dig into the digital edition of the September 2021 issue now!
Inside the September issue: The High Point National returns to the Pro Motocross calendar with a great race and a surprise winner. The 2021 FIM Motocross World Championship also got back on track, thanks to a tricky visit to Orlyonok, Russia. New York’s Unadilla spent 15 years as the center for international moto supremacy with the 250cc U.S. Grand Prix of Motocross. Jeremy McGrath goes big—very big—in a monster truck to celebrate his upcoming 50th birthday. These features and much more in the September issue of Racer X magazine.
2022 Yamaha YZ Lineup (Keefer)
Yamaha was one of the last ones to drop the news on their 2022 motocross lineup (besides the CRF250R) and with that, it meant the rumor mill was hot and heavy on the message boards. It's funny to read some of these comments on what Yamaha was going to bring to the table, as I heard everything from a 350 four-stroke to direct-inject two-strokes. Even though none of those theories came to fruition, Yamaha did bring us huge changes to their two-stroke lineup. As Weege mentioned yesterday, the YZ125 has a host of changes that include a new engine, brake system, improved ergonomics, air intake design, and carburetor! The styling has also been updated across the board on all of the YZ two-strokes, which to me makes them look much better!
Yamaha also decided to add a YZ85LW, which stands for "Large Wheel," which helps growing young kids graduate into something slightly larger rather than jump right up to a 125cc machine. This larger wheelbase is nice to actually have in stock form rather than having to buy accessories to make it an “LW.” Yamaha redesigned the chassis, ergonomics, air intake, brakes, styling and of course BNG's.
The YZ250 doesn't have as many updates, but still does have a few things done to it like different ergonomics, new brakes, revised suspension, new air intake design, as well as styling.
Even though people were hoping for a brand new YZ450F they only got minimal changes to the YZ450F as well as YZ250F. The YZ450F/YZ250F gets a lighter rear hub/rear sprocket/chain, a three cross spoke pattern wheel, updated suspension, graphics and the YZ250F finally gets a wider 2.15 rear rim as well as Dunlop MX33 tires.
Yamaha sees the need to continue with moving forward with two-stroke technology like the Austrians do. No other Japanese manufacturer is currently doing this, so it's a nice option for the die-hard two-stroke consumer or even the new post pandemic riders out there.
Remember Miss Motocross Leticia Cline? (DC)
Remember when Leticia Cline was Miss Motocross for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross? She was also a model and appeared often in magazines like Maxim and Playboy. It's been maybe a dozen years ago, but she was also super nice and popular because she knew her stuff—Leticia grew up around motorcycles and especially loved riding vintage roadsters. Her Instagram (@leticiacline) describes her as "Journalist, Motorcycle Racer, Heritage Tourism Preservationist, Cancer Survivor, Buffalo Slayer & Proud Kentuckian." Oh, and she also has a very cool bar in Cave City, Kentucky, called The Dive (@thedivecavecity) which we stopped at last year on the way to Loretta Lynn's. It's filled with all kinds of cool vintage art as well as a few old motorcycles. I mentioned all of this because Leticia popped up in the headlines today as she's now dating Mike Wolfe of American Pickers, another person who loves old bikes and art and just any unique bit of Americana.
Anyway, just a random find this morning about a longtime friend and moto personality. And if you're driving through Kentucky to the ranch later this month, or on the way home, check out The Dive.
Dive Bar shots from last summer.
RedBud Donuts (DC)
Our friend and contributor on the Gear Race Services track crew Alec Gaut snapped a few shots of some of the @jettson18 donut signs that popped up all around the RedBud track, and especially the podium, where fans hoping to get Jett Lawrence's attention and maybe his jersey had to battle with Evan the Deer to catch #18's eye. Here are a few.
McAdoo’s Weekend Plans
Pro Perspective (Thomas)
Southwick is one of the toughest tests of the season. The weather can be a big variable (keep an eye on the skies tomorrow), but regardless of temperature or precipitation, Southwick's deep sand coupled with choppy bumps make life hard for everyone. The physical ask is obvious. The track is rough and the sand demands strength. The track also asks much of the motorcycle. The deep sand corners put a heavy load on the engine and the mix of terrain challenges even the most seasoned of suspension tuners.
The challenge in terms of suspension is to find a setting that will work well in both the sharp braking bumps and also the slow rollers when railing an outside berm. Finding happiness with your setup at Southwick is finding a compromise. Ideally the bike will work reasonably well everywhere without being a complete mess on either end of the spectrum. Will it be perfect? Probably not. The track simply asks too many things of the motorcycle for perfection.
On a fitness level, there is no way to fake it at Southwick. If you're out of shape, this track will expose you. The last ten minutes of this race are incredibly transparent. Those who have put in the work will be charging forward, making late race moves. I love to watch the last few laps and compare lap times, letting the stopwatch tell the tale. As a racer, I always wanted to match or best my mid-moto laps. I knew that if I could keep that pace at the end, I would be doing a lot of damage to my competitors. Southwick is one of those races where it can be much more important to hold the pace rather than set a blistering one at the beginning. Consistency pays this weekend. Who's strong enough to maintain that intensity as the moto wears long? It's a true test and for some, will be pass/fail.
Pro Perspective (DC)
Okay, I was a pro for a hot minute, but I do have some perspective on tomorrow's visit to Southwick, and especially the morning qualifying. With all of this rain, and no amateur racing or practice today, The Wick 338 has been rolled and sealed with the hopes that the rain passes tonight and tomorrow we get a good day. If there is any track that can handle rain on the Pro Motocross schedule, it's this one. But it also plays well into the hands of local privateers and NESC regulars who know the Southwick track like the back of their hands. The 250 B group will go first, and that's when the track will be at its absolute smoothest. As we've seen before—I'm talking about you, Mike Sottile in 2011—given the right set of circumstances and weather, a local privateer (Sottile was from Marlborough, Massachusetts) can hit the track running at the 5-minute mark of that first session and lay down a blistering lap or two, because they already know the track and the sand. By the time 250 A practice comes up, it will already be getting rough. Some very good riders in the A practice may not make the top 36 in timed qualifying and be forced into the LCQ. That's why Jeff Canfield is probably getting blindsided today by fast guys who want to be in the B practice rather than the A one where they usually are, and also why MX Sports Pro Racing has been asked many, many times to flip the sessions, which we will not do—the privateers are usually the ones with the wetter, deeper tracks as they are the first ones out.
The exact opposite will happen in the 450 division, as the 450 A group goes first, and then 450 B. The track will be better for the fast guys, rougher and deeper for the privateers. It's the luck of the draw, and always fun to watch at Southwick when the weather is iffy.
It was awesome to see last weekend the great Larry Maiers get honored by the folks at RedBud last weekend for their wall of fame deal. Of course, a lot of us grew up with Larry being the voice of the sport both indoors and out. I was hoping to see him somewhere around to get a word in but no luck. Larry Maiers, like Dave Despain, are truly treasures of the sport and it's great that they get recognized every now and then.
JOHN V DOUG
My guy Clinton Fowler took a look at the Southwick stats of John Dowd and Doug Henry over the years and did a little comparison between the two as well as other NESC locals who kicked ass at the 'Wick over the years right HERE.
Speaking of Dowd and Henry, we got them to join Weege and I to talk about the epic Southwick 1998 race where they both won their respective classes with great rides. Dowd especially beat RC there in both motos which, looking at Carmichael's Southwick record, was REALLY hard to do. Check out the latest Leatt ReRaceables right HERE.
Check out James Lissemore’s photo report from the first two rounds of the Canadian national series right HERE.
Producer Pete's Random Stats (Producer Pete)
It's no surprise that the all-time winningest rider at Southwick is Ricky Carmichael. He won eight years in a row in the 250/450 class, from 2000 through 2007, and has two wins in the 125 class (1997 and '99). The only time he lost was when local legend John Dowd beat him in 1998. (RC blew his engine in the first moto but Dowd had him covered the second time out in what was also a wet one.)
Here are the active riders to have Overall wins at Southwick:
|Eli Tomac||3||450 (2016, 2017), 250 (2013)|
|Marvin Musquin||2||450 (2018, 2019)|
|Adam Cianciarulo||1||250 (2019)|
|Dylan Ferrandis||1||250 (2018)|
|Zach Osborne||1||250 (2017)|
|Cooper Webb||1||250 (2016)|
|Justin Barcia||1||250 (2009)|
And with his second moto win last week at RedBud, Eli Tomac is now alone in sixth on the all-time moto wins list, having earned his 73rd and moved out of a tie with Rick Johnson at 72. He's the only active rider in the top ten of the all-time moto wins list.
Most Combined Moto Wins
|All Classes||Rider||Total Wins||450/MX/250||250/Lites/125||500|
Team USA Possibilities (DC)
Last weekend the AMA's Mike Pelletier announced that Team USA would be returning to the FIM Motocross of Nations. The team was not going to go last year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions and the virtual lockdown in Europe, which caused the race to be canceled anyway. Now it's on for last September, two weeks after the end of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross at Hangtown on September 11. Pelletier says he has commitments from several of the teams that they would support it if their rider or riders are chosen, but which riders will be on which teams at that point remains to be seen. For instance, will Tomac be completely done with Kawasaki by then or will be extend his relationship with the team for two more weeks before he goes to Star Racing Yamaha? What about Aaron Plessinger—still in blue or orange by then? Jeremy Martin and RJ Hampshire seem like they would both be good 250 choices, but will they still be with their respective teams by that point?
There's also the fact that right now our top two 450 riders on the AMA circuit are from France and Germany, respectively, and two of the top three in the 250 standings are from Australia, so those guys are all off the table, as is Jo Shimoda (Japan). Adam Cianciarulo will probably have off-season surgery, so he is more than likely out as well. And Zach Osborne will be out for this year's event due to his injury. (Justin Barcia might be a good second 450 rider, though.)
And then there's the simple fact that to this point in motocross, two-time AMA Supercross Champion Cooper Webb hasn't quite shown his real speed outdoors, and Honda's Chase Sexton and Star Racing Yamaha's Christian Craig have been a bit up and down.
Pelletier's timetable is to make some kind of announcement at Budds Creek in August, giving Team USA Manager Roger De Coster more time to sort things out before picking a team to go race in Mantova, Italy. He's also keeping an eye on the coronavirus because while it may be receding here in the U.S., its raging elsewhere. In Japan this week they announced that there would be no spectators at the Olympics for the first time ever, and parts of Europe still have a lot of restrictions too.
Local Legends (Mitch Kendra)
Last night on my flight into Harford, Connecticut, I boarded the plane and was set to depart—little did we know we would end up sitting in the loading zone for over an hour before we actually took off. After we boarded the plane, we’re awaiting takeoff before getting a message from the cockpit that a delay from refueling would have us out on the runway soon. It was taking longer than expected but they reassured us we would be on in the air in no time. The airport workers outside the plane seemed to be making the best of their late-night shift—one danced around and threw his bright orange handheld lights up into the air as another zoomed by on a tricycle. I figured I might as well make the best of the wait myself, so I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting next to me. It started off with the typical, “I cannot believe this is taking so long” small talk. We chatted some more until she asked if it was my first time to Connecticut. I said yes, but more importantly, it was my first trip to Massachusetts since I would be attending a Pro Motocross race there for the first time. She stopped digging in her bag, turned, and asked: “Do you know who I went to high school with? John Dowd!”
She talked about how they both attended the same school and graduated together. She said she did not know he made it big in motocross until about ten years ago when her son told her, but she remembers back in the day that there were signs: “That explains his greasy fingernails!” she said with a laugh.
She said their houses used to be only a few streets from one another and she would pass his every day while she was walking to school. “He had a passion for it, that’s for sure,” she said.
We chatted some more about my awesome job and then about how she had been to the Southwick pro races all the time before she said she had just retired at 55 years old and was going home to visit family for the first time in three years. I lucked out by sitting next to probably the only person on the flight who knew anything about motocross. Moral of the story is I’m glad I talked with her. You never know who you’re going to meet and what you’re going to talk about. The legacy of local legends will live on. See you guys at The Wick 338 tomorrow—and happy retirement, Lisa! Enjoy this time with your family!
Matthes just spotted this on Twitter....
Hey, Watch It!
Weege, Grant Langston and Ashley Reynard previewed Southwick for NBC Sports
British motocross legend Derek Rickman passed away last week after what was described as a short battle with cancer. Derek and his brother Don were among the sport's best riders in the 1960s, helping Great Britain win the FIM Motocross of Nations a couple of times. They also established Rickman Motorcycles, from 1960 to 1975. This is the introduction film for the Rickman brothers that was produced for their induction into the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in 2007. Godspeed, Derek Rickman.
ROCKIN IN RED BUD - Justin Barcia BAMTV
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“EXCLUSIVE Frustrated by delays, Tokyo 2020 sponsors cancel booths, parties”—Reuters.com
Sumitomo Rubber USA, located in Huntsville, Alabama, is looking add another Test Technician to the team. Learn more details about the position and apply at careers.sumitomorubber-usa.com.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!