Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you at the end of a long slog of four straight weekends of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. After having a few off-weekends packed around the High Point National in June, the month of July has been busy, with RedBud, Southwick, Spring Creek, and now Washougal all run on four Saturdays in a row. Fortunately for us fans, the racing has been amazing—six different 250 winners in six rounds is unprecedented!—and the tracks have been excellent. We’re halfway through the 2021 summer series, and now we’re returning to one of the biggest events of all at Washougal MX Park, one year after it had to be canceled due to the uncertainty of all the COVID-19 restrictions in both Washington as well as Oregon, right across the river. That sucked for fans in the Northwest, as they also lost the Seattle round of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. Now it looks like the weather is going to be perfect, the track looks amazing, and Washougal is going to be packed tomorrow. And if that’s not enough, the Northwest also found out this week that supercross is coming back to Seattle in March 2022. It’s been a very good week out there, and here’s hoping Ryan Huffman and his crew put on an amazing race at Washougal, which will be running for the first time without the great Ralph Huffman, Ryan’s father, who passed away on March 25 at the age of 83. It would be really cool for the Huffmans if tomorrow was the biggest and best Washougal ever!
Last weekend’s Spring Creek race in Minnesota saw Justin Barcia with a somewhat surprising win—the first ever for GasGas in AMA Pro Motocross. Barcia rode with aggression and confidence all day long, and in doing so he found himself in a very elite club in the AMA Pro Motocross record books: he’s only the second rider in series history to have won a national in three different decades. Barcia’s first win came in 2009 at the Southwick 250 National, and he won several times in the 2010-’19 decade. Now he’s got the ’20s too. The only other rider to have done this three-decade thing has a connection with the Northwest: Snohomish, Washington’s own Larry Ward. “Big Bird” also got his first win at Southwick, but he did it in 1989 in the 125 class. Ward won Southwick again in 1992, and capped his career with the ’01 RedBud 125 win—the first in Pro Motocross history on a 250F four-stroke.
Barcia’s win last Saturday came after withstanding heavy pressure from series points leader Dylan Ferrandis, who finally had what could be called an off-day at Spring Creek, and yet he still ended up on the overall podium and extended his points lead to 32. Ferrandis has been the biggest surprise in Pro Motocross that I can remember since maybe 2014, when Jeremy Martin all of a sudden won the Las Vegas Supercross East-West Shootout and then dominated the first four motos outdoors in 250 Pro Motocross. Ferrandis is certainly an established talent—he was last year’s 250 Class Champion—but to see what a complete package he is on the 450, and so quickly, has been a shocker in these past six races. Even the resurgent Eli Tomac, who suffered a horrible start, could not get around Ferrandis at the end of the first moto as he pushed Barcia, which is saying something.
Also, hats off to Honda’s Ken Roczen for getting up off the deck after that huge first-turn crash and winning the second moto to keep his own bad day from being any worse. It would have been amazing to have Roczen up there in the first 450 moto battle, as well as his teammate Chase Sexton. The 450 Class has definitely delivered some great racing, though only Ferrandis has been in it every single time. Tomac is long overdue for a win, and he’s been getting incrementally closer each of the last four rounds—he just has to put it all together in back-to-back motos.
With the Olympics up and running in Tokyo after more than a year of delays, NBC and NBC Sports are heavily focused on showing everything they can from Japan, so that pushed Lucas Oil Pro Motocross way down on the schedule. Fortunately, MAVTV has nothing to do with the Olympics and was more than glad to feature all four motos tomorrow on their channel. So beginning at 4:00 p.m. Eastern, MAVTV will air four straight hours of live coverage from Washougal. If you don’t get MAVTV, you can also watch it all stream live on Peacock Premium.
It should be a very good Saturday to watch moto, and on Sunday the FIM Motocross World Championship visits the Czech Republic; you can watch the second motos from there on Sunday morning at 9 and 10 a.m. ET on CBS Sports Network, or watch the livestream on www.mxgp-tv.com. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Herlings will not be there, as that crazy accident last week when Ivo Monticelli accidentally landed on him left Herlings with a fractured shoulder blade. He didn’t crash and still somehow came back to win the moto, remarkably, then could not ride the second moto after the doctors took a closer look, as you can see from his X-ray below.
Okay, let’s get into the news of the week, but first an important public service announcement/call to action…
AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Voting (DC)
Voting for the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame Class of 2021 has opened. On the ballot on some very deserving motocross- and supercross-related people, including Loretta Lynn, who has hosted the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships at her Tennessee for going on 40 years. Eligible voters include AMA Charter Life Members. If you are an AMA Charter Life Member (which means you have been an AMA member for 25 consecutive years), you must have up-to-date contact information on file with the AMA for access to the electronic ballot. Update your email with the AMA today by emailing email@example.com with “Contact Information Update” in the subject line. Then, once you receive the invitation to vote, VOTE!
Risk and Reward (Jason Weigandt)
Never sleep on the 250 Class. Early this season, I thought we were in for a rare year where the 450 division offered the parity and the 250s would be more predictable. Things have evolved, though. Dylan Ferrandis is making every 450 race feel pretty similar, and the points are spread out in that class. The 250s just keep bringing new stories, now including six different winners in six races, an all-time record. Plus, the sixth win crowned Jeremy Martin as the ultimate spoiler, because he’ll likely only get better with more time and more health. The series has two weeks off between Washougal and Unadilla. Anyone betting against more wins from J-Mart?
Meanwhile, you have Jett Lawrence struggling with his starts. This has now become a mental game. Can Jett quickly forget? If the bad starts keep building on themselves, it’s going to be harder and harder to fix. If he can block out the past few weeks, he can solve the issue. That’s easier said than done when you have championship pressure hanging around. Meanwhile, Justin Cooper has taken over the points lead, but he’s doing it in his usual style with starts and consistency. That’s not what Cooper wants. He wants to finally become that guy that just wins races. He wants a 1-1. He wants a win streak. That’s why he was not happy even after taking the red plate at Millville. Cooper has been trying to turn a career of 2-3 days into a season of 1-1s. At Millville he went 2-3. So, you ended up with both Cooper and Jett Lawrence feeling bummed on the day.
That makes them vulnerable. That means other guys can get wins. Maybe this is the weekend J-Coop finally gets the 1-1, or maybe this weekend Jett finally gets a holeshot. Or Maybe Martin wins again? By the way, J-Mart is 68 points back with five races to go. Because Cooper rarely has terrible motos, it’s hard to imagine Martin making up that many points. If he starts to close it down, though, he could make the series’ leaders sweat a bit more going into the home stretch. This has already been interesting, and if someone like J-Mart, RJ Hampshire, Hunter Lawrence, Jalek Swoll repeats, or we get a seventh winner (Michael Mosiman perhaps?), it will be even wilder heading into the break.
Roczen, The Washougal Bridesmaid (Keefer)
After witnessing Kenny not only get up from a gnarly first-corner crash at Millville but race the second moto and win, it got me thinking about the upcoming hard-pack Washougal National. Even though he downplayed his preseason performance, Roczen has been really good and has surprised a lot of people with his outdoor fitness. (I, however, wasn't fooled). With his recent second-moto win, as well as how good he is with his right-hand to rear-wheel control, I’m thinking we’re due for a Roczen win up in the Pacific Northwest this weekend. I went back to the archives and noticed that Roczen has placed second a lot at Washougal (2016, 2018, 2019) and was surprised that he hasn't won more up there. I know Kenny and the team have been testing during the week here in Southern California in order to try to make the bike more consistent for his riding style as of late, so getting up to Washougal is perfect timing for an overall.
For those of you attending or even watching from home this weekend, I’ll give you guys some homework: Focus in on how Roczen puts the track together, as well as his line choices. Watch him cut across lines that are normally worn in and used. Listen to his bike and how low he keeps his rpms around the slick dirt at Washougal. I had the pleasure of being at a baked out/hard-pack track this week when Roczen was testing and it was amazing how much traction he found when there simply wasn't any. I mean, the dirt was at Carlsbad levels, and the German looked to be riding on loam! Even though Kenny is still pretty sore from Millville, the factory Honda, as well as Roczen's technique, looks to be ready to step out of the Washougal shadows and get that overall win that has eluded him for some time.
Great race this weekend up in Washougal—always look forward to going up there. It's a bit earlier than usual in the series; I feel like, generally speaking, Washougal is where we start really getting into the home stretch, and this year it's just the start of the second half. I have no stats to back me up on this, just a feeling from going up there since 1996.
I've raced Washougal a couple of times. It's awesome, and yes, the roost up Horsepower Hill really does hurt. One time I was there as a mechanic for Ty Birdwell for a local race and at the last minute decided to race myself, so Ty's buddy lent me a CR500. I duct taped knee pads to some sweats (I'm being serious), borrowed the rest of the gear I needed, and raced 500 B class. Oh the memories!
As a mechanic, I think my personal highlight was in 1999 when I was on Chaparral Yamaha for Ferry, and all summer long it was Ferry and Steve Lamson on the team, which was fun. But then in 1999 some guy who rode for them, I think his name was Jeremy McGrath, decided he wanted to come out for the national. That was pretty sweet sharing a truck with MC, and the crowd around the truck all day was amazing. He went 5-9 on the day and Ferry went 8-5. We beat MC! Of course, he was just coming in from Lake Havasu probably, but it all counts, right?
Thanks to Clinton Fowler, we know that the all-time moto win list for Washougal is as follows:
The PacNW's own Ryan Villopoto only has four moto wins there; over the years, for whatever reason, he just couldn't win at his home track. One of the odder stats of RV's career.
Forkner in the Road (Weigandt)
I have to think really hard to find another season like the one Austin Forkner is having right now. Forkner has the speed and talent, but injuries have been a problem. When he’s on the track, he’s podium speed at worst, winning races at best. Lately, though, he’s been healthy but also way back in the pack. Forkner currently sits 11th in points behind Michael Mosiman, who has missed races. Forkner finished 16th and 17th overall, respectively, at RedBud and Southwick. He was 17th in the first moto at Millville. Then, suddenly, a decent start and a decent finish. He was fourth in moto two.
“Yeah, it’s something…. I’m not really celebrating a fourth, but it’s definitely something I can hang my hat on," Forkner said when I talked to him for The Weege Show after Millville. "All the stuff I’ve been trying to figure out. When you get an injury bug like I have been, you want to figure out how to ride fast and get results but also not get hurt. I’ve never had a problem riding fast. It’s always been the getting hurt thing. I’m never going to say it’s just bad luck. I have to look in the mirror and say, ‘What do I need to do to get better?’ So, part of the process of figuring that out is trial and error.”
As mentioned with Jett Lawrence above, starts are often mental at this level, so as Forkner’s confidence wanes, so do his starts. There are probably other starting issues at play—everything from clutches to body positioning can impact starts, so there might be some mechanical bike settings at play here. But it’s hard not to think at the same time he’s struggling in the motos, he’s also struggling to get off the line. Confidence impacts starts. He finally got a good start at Millville, and then he had to figure out what to do again.
“This is definitely the best start I’ve gotten, but even when I’ve gotten top ten starts, I’ve been like, ‘Okay, go go go go!’ and then I’ve been falling,” he said. “So I said I’m not going to do that, I’m going to find my flow, and if I get passed by a few guys, I get passed by a few guys. One guy got me. The leaders got away. But that was a decision I made. I didn’t push early, and they got away. Once I found my flow, I was matching those guys and I think even catching them at one point. I never forgot how to ride. Just getting that result is really what I needed, though.”
New Cobra CX65 (DC)
If Li'l Keefer wasn't already ripping 250Fs we'd have him shake this down for us—here’s the PR intro:
“The all-new 2022 CX65 is built on a heritage of carrying some of the top minicycle pilots to multiple national championships over the past decade. Cobra Elite Team graduates like Chase Sexton, Austin Forkner, Pierce Brown, Jett Reynolds, Casey Cochran, and Drew Adams helped develop this bike into the fastest, lightest, and best handling 65cc bike on the planet.”
Hey, Watch It!
Here's a cool video by Jesse Smith on the track prep happening all week out at Washougal:
Christian Craig's vlog from Spring Creek, co-starring his wife Paige and the rest of the Monster Energy/Star racing Yamaha crew:
Alex Martin's Troll Train is back:
Here's an excellent video from the gang at Vurbmoto, All In: Who is the future of Pro Motocross?
Another cool breakdown by our man Keller Brauer on some of the cool passes and close calls—and one big crash for Cooper Webb—in the Race Examination of Spring Creek:
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“Jeff Bezos’ Penis-Shaped Rocket Launches Dr. Evil Comparisons”—Drudge Report
“Covid-positive man disguises himself as wife on flight in order to fly”—CNN Travel
“It’s so hot in Dubai the government is paying scientists to make it rain”—Seattle Times
“Cianciarulo Out of MXoN”—MXLarge.com
One of favorite moto media colleagues, Steve Giberson of Vital MX, let the world know that this summer would be his last of covering races full time. Needless to say we will all miss his friendship, humor, writings, photos, videos and more. He wrote about what his future may hold here.
And check out the excellent report on New England locals that Jared Conley wrote right after the Southwick National two weeks ago for In A World of Echo.
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #29.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!