Southwick was a great day of racing. The Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship didn’t have The Wick 338 on the schedule last year due to COVID-19 reasons, but the race returned this year. And boy, was it ever back! I love having this race on the calendar, it’s historic and the vibes there are as real as anything out there.
I get a lot of people that have asked me over the years to shadow me at the races as I go around from truck to truck, they want to be able to hear some of the conversations I have and see the things I do in the course of a day. Of course, that’s a ridiculous idea, I just can’t bring in some random guy named Gary into the factory Honda truck to listen to secrets, but what I CAN do is try to give you guys a taste here in my column of what my day looks like.
Lucky for you, I made copious notes of my day at The ‘Wick so you guys can see what exactly happens behind the scenes.
If you want to read about the race, this is not the column to do it. We’ll be back to the regular format next week, K? Thanks.
At 5:30 a.m. and the alarm goes off and that means it’s race day. It’s 2:30 a.m. on the West Coast ICYWW. The struggle is real. This being the Northeast, that means I’m going to have a real issue finding Starbucks in the morning for my coffee. I won’t have a problem finding any number of 854 Dunkin Donuts though.
I set my GPS to take me out of the way through some town named Granby which I remember has a Starbucks. Can’t wait to get some of that delicious non-fat, caramel, no foam Latte into my system. My GPS doesn’t take me through Granby though, I screwed up somewhere and there will be NO Starbucks for me this morning. Oh boy, this is a problem.
Arrive at the Wick, without Starbucks, but it feels good to be back at this track. I walk in behind all the Red Bull KTM guys including The Man, Roger De Coster. Wonder if he’s been busy making me my KTM plaque? I recorded a podcast with him recently and I suggested he make one for me considering I was the mechanic for KTM’s first ever USA national/SX win.
He doesn’t say anything at all so I’m sure he’s still busy making it.
I head right to the Pro Circuit truck to get a coffee, it’s not Starbys but it’s Caribou Coffee Keurig with some flavored creamer so that’ll work. I talk to Olly Stone, Austin Forkner’s mechanic for a bit. He brought some parts for me from Doc Wobbles for my CR500 so we break that down for a bit. I don’t ask him about Forkner’s season in the same way that you don’t ask your wife about her drunk, crazy uncle. I don’t want to drudge up any bad memories.
Got my coffee and stop to chat with Justin Shantie, AC’s wrench, about Adam’s Vlog, him being in it and posing for photos now. He’s a big star thanks to Adam and he’s soaking it all in. We also talk about how insane it is that you can make crazy money by doing nothing but acting like you’re an influencer as you travel the world.
I walk by the SGB Racing/Maxxis/Babbitt’s Kawasaki team and Alex Ray and Justin Rodbell are out front talking about the expansion of A-Ray’s “Sketch” Merch line. This may or may not be what Davi Millsaps was talking about when he said A-Ray needs to get back to his roots. They’re both in good moods, we’re talking about socks and what else he needs to get made. Enjoy the ride indeed.
Back to the press tent, get settled in and the Wi-Fi there doesn’t work right. This continues an unprecedented run of 15 years where there are issues with the Wi-Fi in the media tent. Ripken-esque!
Stephan Legrand aka "LeBig" is in there and we talk e-bikes and when he’s coming back to Vegas so we can pedal together. He rode with RedBud track owner Tim Ritchie last week in Michigan and told me about how great it is. I’m sure it was. I’m immediately jealous because I ride my Tazer on the face of the sun.
I watch the first practice from the media tent tracking the times, Tweeting for Racer X, debating on my PulpMX Fantasy team 678 times. They have the video screen playing with the Weege show on and he’s standing in a rain rut on the track the size of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Can’t stand that guy. Weege. Kareem seems fine.
After practice I take a walk around the pits, I run into (roughly) 73-time GNCC champ Kailub Russell and he seems happier than he was after Redbud when he looked like he was on suicide watch. He talked about his practices and how his ankle is better from last week.
I go over to factory Honda, where the Lawrence brothers are getting ready to head out for their second practices. I spot Shane Drew, the chassis/suspension guy over there and we chat a little bit about specific sand set-ups for this race.
Turns out, there’s not much different for the sand. A switch from the old days, that’s for sure. Droopy and I go back a long way, he’s the guy that helped me first make the move from Canada to the USA to start wrenching in 1996 so if you hate me, my columns or my shows- blame him.
I’m on my way back to go watch practice when I see Derek Rankin, Christian Craig’s mechanic and Alex Campbell, Dylan Ferrandis’ guy, working away. So of course, I stop to chat to these guys about the day so far. Except we don’t talk about the first practice much, we talk about moving to Tallahassee, death metal, Slipknot, Fredrik Noren, Alex Ray, and how I need to get some 7/8 bar mounts for the CR500 parts that Olly gave me earlier. I explain to them that in 2005, when I was last at Yamaha, where the bar mounts might be and can they look when they head back to the shop in SoCal for me.
Well now I need more coffee so it’s back to the PC truck for more. The factory Kawasaki guys have a sweet coffee maker in there but with COVID-19 going on, none of us media scum are allowed in there. That’s too bad, I miss that machine, can’t wait to be reunited with it one day.
I see Mitch Payton there but just give him a head nod, I don’t want to ask how things are going.
Back to media tent and JT’s there hanging out, probably leeching our shoddy Wi-fi to make his PulpMX Fantasy picks. We chat about the track, our picks, and what his plan is for the week.
Weege walks in, and he’s very amazed that JT and I are having civil conversations. He asks us if we want to do the post-race podcast after the race right there in the tent. JT can’t. You’ve never seen anyone leave a race when the checkers come out faster than Jason Thomas. He didn’t even move that fast when he was winning German SX races.
Weege proceeds to talk to everyone in the press tent for a long time. Little does anyone know that in a few short hours, he will totally ruin the TV broadcast for all of America.
I leave the tent after seeded 450 practice is done to go do some “research” AKA, get some PulpMX Fantasy intel. Joey Savatgy looks like someone that could do well today so a quick check-in with manager Michael Byrne about Joey Savatgy’s practice and anything else I could get was in order. Byrner immediately knew this was for fantasy right away and called me out for it. Dammit.
After we chat about the #17’s chances at The Wick, I ask him about the Aussie FIM Motocross of Nations team and although they’re not committed 100 percent to going, if they do it looks like the Lawrence brothers will be an easy selection along with an Aussie that’s over racing MXGP now.
From there I see Scott USA’s Johnny Knowles and Wayne from Polar Watches, we chat about the watches a bit, and Knowles is getting into e-biking and more. We all walk over to the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing team to go talk to the other Wayne from Polar about stuff. That Wayne talks to me about the PulpMX Show and while we’re talking, unbeknownst to me, Wil Hahn comes up and flips me off thereby winning our little weekly game and pulling out a 3-1 lead in the outdoors. CRAP!
JIMMMYYYY DEEEEEEEEE was there! Good to see Da Rippah and we caught up a bit on the races.
Time for the motos to get started, I head back in defeat to the media tent, gather up my phone (that’s not working), try to make changes to my PulpMX Fantasy team (not working), grab a water and head on out to the track for moto one of the 250 Class.
Met a couple of PulpMX Show fans alongside the fence, that’s cool. Someone yells out “Matthes you suck” which is not so cool.
I run into NESC legend Mike Treadwell who’s a beauty and a great racer as well. He’s on the mend from a bad crash and was telling me the details of that. Sounds gnarly. He was getting transported to one hospital but wanted to go to a different one where he has gone before. The doctor said, “Uh no, you better sign here because you might die here if we don’t get you into surgery immediately.” It was that close! Wow. Of course, Treadwell being Treadwell, he’ll be back racing in no time.
I didn’t run into JoJo, Dowdy, KJ nor Doug Henry in the course of my day and this saddens me.
I head to the first turn/mechanics area to watch the action. The parade lap hasn’t started yet but DC is up there. We chat about me returning my jar of Southwick sand I took years ago when the “final” national at Southwick took place.
Tim “Toolie” McAdams walks up, he works for the AMA/MX Sports now but for a long time, he was a mechanic at Factory Suzuki. He worked for Mike Alessi at Suzuki and we trade stories because that’s what you do when you come into contact with someone like that.
First moto of the day drops and my fantasy guy, Kailub Russell pulls into the pits for a shifter change two laps into the first moto and is dead, dead last. Yay for me.
Austin Forkner is struggling badly out there and all 74 of my group texts are going off simultaneously about this. These texts are all flooding in at once while my phone goes in and out of service.
Hey, look at that…KR557 is putting in some work and salvaging my fantasy team and maybe, just maybe, some points for himself.
Nate Thrasher pulls into the pits for a check over. It seems like his motorcycle isn’t running very well. ICYWW, we don’t have pit stops in our sport, so this isn’t good. Soon, everyone realizes that Thrasher’s moto is over.
Luke Renzland is out there giving it the beans on a 125 two-stroke. I don’t know how but somehow, he qualified fastest in the unseeded practice. That’s impressive for sure. Watching Luke, I’m thinking of someone like Steve Lamson, on a factory CR125, and wondering if you dropped Lammy into this field on his 125, would he look as slow as Luke looks on that 125? I don’t mean this as a slam on Luke, it’s just the 125 in general. These are things we’ll never know for $200 Alex.
The moto is over, and these things move pretty quickly, the 450 riders are already in staging for their first moto of the day.
I quickly relocate across the track to the Buckley Berm where you can see a bit more of the track. That’s the good part. The bad part is I lose TV and lap times that I was getting from the mechanics area.
JT’s over there and so now I have a buddy to watch with all day long. Lucky me!
Dustin Pipes, one of the owners of the HEP Motorsports Suzuki team is over there watching and we witness Dean Wilson and his rider, Brandon Hartranft, have a battle to the death over a number of laps.
Dylan Ferrandis has a pretty easy time of the whole first moto really, he’s looking so good this summer. Pretty surprising, right?
I wish there was an intermission at the nationals, it would be good for the riders and teams to have a bit more time to get ready in mostly tough conditions, it allows the tracks to sell more merch and food/drinks. It would also allow media guys to go get a drink of water or something. I know live TV is paramount here, but I mean, we can’t squeeze 20 minutes in here? Really?
In the second 250 Class moto, JT and I witness a two-time national champion have a really bad second moto. Jeremy Martin is probably not too stoked on his day as he crashes, I think, four times in two motos and passes 45 riders on the day…some of them two or three times. I’m sure the dealership back in Rochester is looking more and more attractive at this point for J-Mart.
Poor Mumfy…he’s having a rough moto. Crashes right by us, picks his bike up, goes two more turns and crashes again.
RJ Hampshire is must-see TV at pretty much every single moment these days. Poor RJ. He should be on a six-moto winning streak if not for his Stew-like ability to throw it away while yarding the field. Marty Davalos called, he wants his front end washouts back.
Kailub really helping me out there, he’s looking good in 16th. Thank you, KR. I won’t go into details about my thoughts about Dilan Schwartz right now but it’s NOT good.
After the moto JT runs to the Fly hospitality truck and grabs some waters and granola bars. He’s a savior, like one of those St. Bernard’s that have medical supplies in the Himalayas. Thank you, JT.
The second 450 Class moto starts and it’s a barn burner as Eli Tomac starts doing Eli Tomac things. It looks like he’s going to come from nine seconds back or so and get the leader Ken Roczen. Might take him two or three laps though.
Oh. There it is. Like, a lap and a half later he’s right by the #94.
Weege is in the booth focusing on Ferrandis’ smoking bike though. This was the track where he missed the start of the race so it’s ironic he’s also missing one of, maybe THE, ride of the year.
Nick Wey wanders over to watch his pupil, Adam Cianciarulo. He’s talking to JT and I and it struck me that we’ve been friends for 20 years and here we are, still at the races, just all in different roles. For example, this a reunion of the Bercy-Germany SX tour of 2002 with us three. Good times!
Nick Wey is cool, that is all.
Michael Antonovich from Swap Moto Live comes over with his big ass camera to get some shots. His photo vest is about 32 sizes too big for him and I immediately make fun of that.
We’re all confused about Marvin Musquin. He did win this race twice in the last three years, right? The same guy is now a roadblock if he gets a good start? Wow. Life comes at you fast, huh?
I may or may not have talked to someone close to the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing group at some point in the moto that told me he doesn’t think Yamaha can keep Aaron Plessinger for next year.
Alex Ray has something wrong with his exhaust. We all laugh because of course that happened to A-Ray. DC wanders up and says, “Either I’m finally deaf or A-Ray has DNF’d,” which was legit funny.
Checkers fly and NYK and I walk back to the pits. Because the checkers are out, JT is a ghost at this point—probably already on I 95—and we come up to some guy with an Answer T-shirt on. Wey bros him down, takes a photo of the dude because he says he’s sponsored by Answer. Always doing the B to B that Nick Wey.
Good to talk to Nick all moto and laugh about past races here at the ‘Wick…he tells me about the time he was factory Suzuki, running fifth late in the race when his filter fell off. Ouch.
I tell him about pushing Tim Ferry’s YZ450F back from a late race ignition DNF in 2005. Double ouch. Funny how you remember the bad times more than the good, right?
Back to the press tent, grab a drink of water, my microphone and recorder and head off into the pits to grab some interviews. First up, because they’re close to the press tent, are the SGB Kawasaki guys who are enjoying the ride. Both Rodbell and Ray are basing their days off how they did against Kyle Chisholm. Ray also points out that his mid pipe broke, his bolt was tight, and it wasn’t his fault. Fair enough.
I grab a bunch of riders’ thoughts on the day and head to the media corral which is something new they’re trying. Surprisingly the riders from Kawasaki and Honda all show up to talk. That helps us out immensely.
I talk to everyone I can, grab my stuff and go to head out of the pits for the day. It’s the end of a 13-hour day for me and I’m tired. Despite me doing nothing compared to the riders and team personal. Nationals are hard, I can vouch for that.
I walk by the Kawasaki rig and see AC and the crew hanging out. Of course, I have to stop and chat. This is where I was when Adam dropped the bomb on me that I cannot stay in his motorhome this summer. Wow. You think you know someone right?
Grant Langston comes by with a beverage in hand to talk about the day, no sign of Weege because I’m sure he’s walking and talking with a GoPro in his hand. Or just talking. Either one.
After a fair amount of bench racing, I’m out of there. Back to the hotel, I’ll put the post-race podcasts up, get some dinner and go to bed. Early flight in the AM and back home for another week of work talking about the day that was at The Wick.
Thanks for reading, email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this race or whatever else. See ya next week!