Main image is from the 2020 Spring Creek National (by Align Media)
Welcome to Racerhead and a very busy weekend in motocross. The Circle K Spring Creek National in Millville, Minnesota, goes off tomorrow at noon Central (yes, an hour earlier so the second 450 moto can air live on NBC at 3 p.m. Eastern), and then on Sunday MXGP goes off in the sands of Oss in The Netherlands. The X Games were yesterday out the Slayground of Axell Hodges, and while all that was going on the list of finalists was posted for the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Championship at Loretta Lynn’s.
Last weekend’s Southwick National was an amazing return to the legendary New England circuit, and I believe we are now 5-for-5 in having really good racetrack prep, excellent racing in both classes, and the continued mysteries of Dylan Ferrandis’ rise to the top of the 450 Class, Eli Tomac’s seesaw motos, and the continued parity in the 250 Class, where Justin Cooper and the Lawrence brothers are up front in the rankings, but we’ve had—for the first time in the 125/250F class history—five winners in the first five races (and even more silly crashes for RJ Hampshire). It all makes for a good place to be as we are about to hit the halfway mark with round six in Minnesota, the literal home of the early 250 points leader Jeremy Martin (my bet to be the sixth winner in this series) and Alex Martin, who will somehow be making his return to racing only 42 days after breaking two bones in his right arm at the second round in early June!
There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with Jason Weigandt….
Door is Open (Jason Weigandt)
Early in this 250 campaign, I thought I knew what we would get. Jeremy Martin, Justin Cooper, and Hunter Lawrence would be good, but I felt like Jett Lawrence’s consistency was underrated (he might be just 17, but in his rookie year last year he finished in the top eight in every moto besides the Loretta’s 2 mud motos when he had bike problems). With another year of seasoning, I really thought he could stamp this title as his, especially since Jeremy Martin was nursing injuries and then got hurt again at round two. Through the first few motos, it looked pretty simple: this was Jett versus Justin, with Hunter perhaps just on the edge of contention. The 450 class would be the crazy one this year, with so many contenders for wins and that classic #deepfield.
Well, at the halfway point, that has flipped. The 450s have featured the same weekly story, while the 250 class has gone crazy!
Several 450 riders have fallen out of contention: Zach Osborne is out with a back injury, Adam Cianciarulo had his ulna nerve issue pop back up, Chase Sexton and the KTM teammates of Marvin Musquin and Cooper Webb have been underwhelming. We’re seeing similar outcomes each week in the 450 class. Meanwhile the 250 class just made history with five different winners in five rounds.
For starters, Justin Cooper has gotten much better. The supercross title hangover was clearly harming his first few races, and he’s faster now—first-moto errors are his issue now (by the way, Cooper came from basically last to sixth in moto one at Southwick after a first-turn crash. He said he was pretty spent before moto two even started. Even snagging second there and holding off Jett was big).
Then you have the surging Rockstar Energy Husqvarna squad. RJ Hampshire and Jalek Swoll have won races, and rookie Stilez Robertson is getting better quickly. The trio took three of the top four qualifying spots at Southwick, they’re getting good starts, and Hampshire can roll into Millville believing he’s the fastest rider in the class. Of course, he might not be able to go that fast without crashing, but a racer can’t be realistic like that. If you’re Hampshire, you tell yourself you’re a few issues away from a six-moto win streak.
Now Hunter Lawrenceis an overall winner (finally) as well, and he’s sneaking back into contention in the standings. He has to be beaming after the Southwick 1-1. Cooper has to think he’s just a clean first moto away from winning. Jo Shimoda is surging, getting better every weekend, and now Jeremy Martin is back, healing, and racing at his home track. Think about how many riders will come into this weekend’s 250 race feeling like this race win is theirs for the taking. That’s how the 450 class looked early in the season.
Meanwhile, I feel like Jett has gone too far trying to be consistent, and is focused more on avoiding the big mistake than just going for broke and trying to win every moto. His starts have been inconsistent, too, and then his motos shift to “avoid the worst-case scenario” races instead of just attempts to collect race wins. On paper, that consistency strategy works, but it helps other riders build confidence. At the first few races, Jett could have really stamped his authority. Now a ton of riders are surging. Getting back to winning races will be a challenge.
If you want another reference of this, check out Ferrandis in the 450 class. He nursed his bike home in Southwick’s second moto to salvage third-place points. He won the overall for the day. And yet he was still bummed he couldn’t try to run down Ken Roczen! Ferrandis is treating every moto like it’s his last, and he wants to hang it out on every lap to get every position.
Could we see Jett shift into that mode? Perhaps. His podium comments at Southwick indicate the kid is fired up. He talked about catching and passing riders and demoralizing them. He talked about not backing down from a challenge. He’s been eating a lot of roost and watching a lot of other riders win. Cooper and Hunter are cutting into his points lead. He’s managed the series well enough so far, as he is still the points leader, but there’s more to it than winning the math game. The confidence throughout this 250 field is palpable now. Can Jett reset it, or is more craziness to come?
Pro Perspective (THOMAS)
The halfway point of the series is here, and with it, an arrival into Millville, Minnesota. We have seen five great rounds with parity and unpredictability in both classes. Most riders are generally healthy, and that's leading to competitive racing. As we turn the proverbial corner and head down the stretch, temperatures will ramp up. Riders will be pushed as their bodies face mounting wear and tear. This Saturday looks to be another perfect day, though.
Spring Creek Motocross Park is a rider favorite and a track I always looked forward to. Many race weekends are purely business for riders regardless of where we may be on the calendar. The track is simply a variable that riders need to be analyzing and improving upon throughout the day. When the track is as fun as Spring Creek, though, it makes the job more enjoyable. Qualifying practice brings a smile to riders' faces. Traction is prime, the elevation changes are challenging, and the floating jumps add character. Once the gate drops, riders revert back to the "all business" mode, but riding an enjoyable track still elevates the mood of the day for everyone.
This particular weekend has an unusual wrinkle. Due to available NBC television windows, the first moto will be run at 12 p.m. local time instead of the standard 1 p.m. That will allow our schedule to coincide with the 2 p.m. availability for national NBC coverage. Maybe even more importantly, the 450s will run first, flip-flopping the normal schedule. For riders, this is a significant change. Everyone will need to adjust their schedules in several ways. When to warm up, when to eat, when to try to force a nap—these are all things that will need to be adjusted. Most Saturdays are routine and built to be that way. A big change like this will force riders to adapt and prepare ahead of time. For example, if a 450 rider's normal schedule involves eating at 11, he will need to move that much earlier to ensure digestion. Even if you don't feel hungry, forcing food down when the time window dictates is critical. Nutrition typically is only noticed when you fall behind, and that’s too late. A huge schedule shift can catch riders and trainers off guard if they don't plan for it. The 450 practices will be earlier, motos will be earlier, and all of the rest windows will be different. These are all things that can be managed but making a plan today is very important. Preparation is everything when it comes to motocross on literally every level. This sport is too hard to simply wing it. It will be interesting to see who adapts smoothly and who suffers from a change in routine.
LONG GAME (Matthes)
Speaking as a guy that was a mechanic for 11 years on the circuit, the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship is a long, grueling series that isn't 12 rounds. It's actually 24 races, and an hour a day (plus four laps) is a lot to ask of the riders and the machines as well. The temperatures that the motors reach are extreme, and to ask them to perform all summer long is big. We saw Dylan Ferrandis, the points leader, have smoke coming out of his bike early in moto two at The Wick 338. Insert your joke here about seeing it too much BTW.
Obviously, we saw Dylan was able to finish the moto and ride well to win the overall, so all was fine, but when I see bikes breaking out there, I can understand it. Motocross is tough, bro. Anyway, from people I talk to around the team, they think Dylan's radiators got plugged with sand early in the moto and the bike wasn't able to cool sufficiently and puked the coolant out. Of course, once you do that, the next thing that follows is steam from the motor. So that's what we were seeing out there. Lucky for Dylan and the team, the Blu Cru made it the finish line.
We're still very early in this thing despite Millville this weekend being the halfway point. Lots of things could change for sure, one crash or bike issue and either class could pivot in an instant. Trust me, I've seen it.
The Lawrence Brothers (DC)
With Hunter Lawrence's win this past weekend at Southwick, he and his little brother Jett are claiming more "brothers" records in the AMA record books. They were already the first set of brothers to each win a 250SX main event in the same season, which they did earlier in the year. (Tyson and Tallon Vohland, as well as James and Malcolm Stewart were brothers who won 125/250F supercross races, but not in the same year.) Now they each have an outdoor national win to their names, joining Bob and Billy Grossi from the early 1970s on this even rarer list of brotherly accomplishments. But they are now the only brothers ever to have each won a SX race as well as to each win an outdoor national in the same season, or ever—the Grossis never won SX races, and neither Tyson Vohland nor Malcolm Stewart ever won a national.
In the whole big scheme of things, at least as far as recent history goes, the only thing that a couple of brothers have ever done that might surpass where the Lawrence brothers have done this season, it is Christophe and Sebastien Pourcel, the French brothers who in 2007 swept the Grand Prix of Italy at Faenza, with Sebastien winning what was then called the MX1 class and Christophe winning MX2.
Also, the Lawrences are very close to doing what the Jones brothers did at Lake Whitney in Texas on July 17, 1973. That was the day Gary won and Dewayne finished second in the 250 National aboard their factory Honda CR250M Elsinores, the only 1-2 in AMA Pro Motocross history.
And then there's the Rickman brothers, Don and Derek, from Great Britain. Way, way back in the day, they both rode for the British team in the FIM Motocross des Nations on Metisse motorcycles, and finished on the podium together as Great Britain won in both 1963 and 1964. Sadly, Derek Rickman passed last weekend, but surely he would have approved of the job the two Australian brothers are doing in so far this season.
And What About Jo? (DC)
We also want to give credit to the records and standards that Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda is piling up. Jo hails from Japan, which has had exactly one truly, world-class status motocross rider since the late 1970s, and that was 1978 125cc World Champion Akira Watanabe. Shimoda is now doing things no other Japanese rider has done. After joining Akira Narita as the only Japanese rider to reach a podium in 125 SX, he did it even better by becoming the first to win an AMA 250 Supercross main event at Salt Lake City 1. Then Shimoda became the first Japanese rider ever to podium a AMA Pro Motocross last weekend at Southwick, where he was solid all day long. Now it seems like it’s only a matter of before “Sushi” (as his butt patch says) becomes the first from his country to win an overall AMA National. (And he’s already the first Japanese rider to have ever won an AMA Amateur National Championship at Loretta Lynn’s.)
More Lawrence brothers (DC)
We spotted a report online from our Australian friend Alex Gobert of www.motoonline.com.au where he discussed with Hunter Lawrence whether or not he and his little brother might want to race in the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations in September for their home country.
”For sure, we sent our resume, so yeah, dude, me and my brother are both trying to get selected for it,” answered Hunter. “What we think for it, obviously with Jed Beaton over there and Mitch [Evans] being unfortunately injured, looking like he probably won’t be ready even though I’m not 100 percent sure, it depends where Jed is with his championship because there is talk of the Nations being a point-scoring round towards the world championship. If that’s the case, does it mean Jett and I would be on 450s, or? There’s so much in the air, even if we get selected. I want to do it, but there’s so much uncertainty in regards to the event itself. I’ve ridden the 450 in Europe pre-season when we had no 250s and then same thing last year with GEICO when we were struggling with bikes or whatever, waiting on an engine or something, we had some stock 450s to ride. I mean, we can ride them!”
The only actual MXoN team that has been announced is the Dutch team, the reigning champs (from 2019, as they didn’t have an MXoN in 2020). The Netherlands will send Jeffrey Herlings, Glenn Coldenhoff (who has a four-moto MXoN winning streak going), and Roan Van De Moosdijk.
THE PHONE CALL (Matthes)
Weege and I like to make fun of riders who ride for Roger De Coster and don't perform, and how we're not sure if RD even speaks to them or knows who they are. Roger, by all accounts from riders who have been there, doesn't really do the whole “pep talk” stuff if he feels like you're not performing. “The Man” is very cut and dried—either you're getting results that make him happy or he's going to just move on mentally from you.
We had GNCC legend Kailub Russell on the PulpMX Show this past Monday to talk about his switch to motocross for this year and how, just two races in coming off injury, he got a phone call from De Coster basically saying he needs to get results or it's not worth it. LOL! I mean, RedBud was terrible for Kailub, but he was decent at High Point and he's coming off a serious crash before the year. Tough crowd for the GNCC hero, right?
You can watch his appearance on the show below:
On-Again, Off-Again, On-Again... (DC)
We need to again give credit to the work that David Luongo and everyone at Infront Moto Racing (preciously Youthstream) are doing to make the 2021 FIM Motocross World Championships happen. Europe is in a precarious situation with COVID-19 right now, much different than the U.S., and the ever-changing rules and regulations have made for a minefield of challenges that MXGP has to navigate to even be running. It seems very similar to how things were here in the U.S. last fall when we were trying to get the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in, and having to do so without going to many of our traditional tracks. They have managed to hold three rounds so far, in Russia, Great Britain and Italy, with limited fans. Still, the racing has been excellent, with three different MXGP winners and three different MX2 winners so far.
This weekend MXGP is in The Netherlands, at the Oss circuit, and only after months of negotiations with local and government officials. The race has been in jeopardy seemingly ever since it was announced, and health officials there keep changing the terms of holding a mass-gathering public event. For instance, everyone who attends the race will have to be seated in their own chair. And now The Netherlands is reinstating work-from-home guidelines just weeks after lifting them. Also, restrictions were reimposed last week on bars, restaurants, and clubs, and now the government has further canceled all multi-day festivals and events with large crowds until August 14.
Luongo explained in an open letter this week the lay of the land for MXGP as they try to keep the ball rolling, despite a very uncertain and different coronavirus situation in each country:
“Those three Grand Prix events highlighted again the difficulties we are still experiencing for hosting the public onsite. The situation is very different country by country, in Russia we got a full attendance, when in the UK it was capped to 4,000 people, and Italy unfortunately up to 1,000 attendance. The fact to put in place the green (vaccination) pass throughout Europe with the vaccination campaign will help us to increase the global attendance in the upcoming weeks, but is it still very challenging for all of us.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, we did our best with the organizers, the federations and the FIM to facilitate the access of the public to the events and to adapt ourselves to the national and international regulations concerning the Covid-19 restrictions.”
In The Netherlands, for instance, everyone will have to have proof of vaccination or a negative test within the last 24 hours, and spectators will again be limited. But the race will go on, which is a testament to the resolve of Infront and everyone in the MXGP paddock to complete this year’s series, despite all of the obstacles being placed before them. As we saw here in America in 2020, as well as with Monster Energy AMA Supercross in 2021, the teams are able to stay together and afloat as long as there are races to run and show on TV and streamed online. While it’s almost impossible for the promoters of MXGP to run a profitable event right now, it’s very important that they continue running them. And then, as we are seeing with the huge crowds at Lucas Oil Pro Motocross so far in 2021, fans will come back out in droves when they are finally allowed to.
You can watch the livestream MXGP of The Netherlands in Oss on Sunday morning on MXGP-TV.com while the second motos will air on CBS Sports Network.
You've no doubt seen that Twisted Tea has slowly come into our sport in a bigger way lately. First it was with the title sponsor of the HEP Motorsports Suzuki team, and the beverage company was the title sponsor of the Southwick National this past weekend along with being the associate sponsor of two more this summer. Cool to see any non-endemic sponsor come into the sport (next up the goal should be keeping them—Jimmy John's, Dodge, EA Sport, we hardly knew ya!), and we wanted to learn more about Twisted's introduction into the sport. So we had Twisted's marketing/activation/man about town Billy Grotto on the show Monday night to talk about it. And Billy was a rad dude—our listeners really liked him. Love to see HEP's #722 and Grotto hang out together!
You can watch Billy's appearance on the show below:
Max Matters is Coming Soon (DC)
Last month at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, a gathering was held called MX Revival. It was part of the upcoming kickoff to a new initiative that is building awareness and offering help for a matter of health that has long been overlooked in our sport, and that's the mental health of racers, both past and present. Over the years we've seen too many tragedies affect our friends and fellow riders. Sometimes it can be a slow descent into depression; other times it can be a sudden and unfortunate turn of events. What happened to well-known former racers like Marty Moates, Tyler Evans, and Brian Swink only touches the surface of this problem. With generous help from Rick Doughty of Vintage Iron fame, Road 2 Recovery is finalizing its Max Matters Mental Health Initiative, set to go live by the end of summer. More than $30,000 has already been raised, in large part from the MX Revival at Glen Helen. You can help get this program started by clicking on the Road 2 Recovery link here:
Here's a look at the MX Revival coverage from the new Racer X Magazine, courtesy of the legendary Dennis "Ketchup" Cox.
Hey, Watch It!
The third and final installment of the superb The Year of Jubilee by Troy Adamitis is a must-see for every moto fan:
Trailer for the Eddie Braun Disney+ documentary about the Snake River Canyon jump.
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“Invasive, football-size goldfish found in a Minnesota lake”—CNN.com
“Olympic athletes will hang medals on their own necks”—Axios.com
“The Pool’s Oldest Lifeguard: 36-Year-Old Dives into the Deep End for a Dream Job”—Walll Street Journal
“All in the Family: Amazingly, mom, dad and son qualify for the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s.”—American Motorcycle magazine report on Justin and Tressa Rau and their son Jett.
Motomike137 posted this link on Vital MX for a website devoted to the history of Canadian motocross: visit www.locmx.com.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!