Main Image by Mitch Kendra
Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from the pleasantly mild media tent at Budds Creek Raceway in Mechanicsville, Maryland. We're here for the ninth round of the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, plugging right along as we head to the conclusion of the series. Budds Creek is tomorrow, followed by Ironman in Indiana, Fox Raceway at Pala, California, then we wrap it all up with the Hangtown Motocross Classic, which is set to end the series for the first time rather than begin it as usual. Next year we will hopefully be back to normal, and also have a new track on the schedule, or bring a previous one back, rather than visit one track twice.
It's a rather quiet day here at Budds Creek since the place got absolutely blasted with rain for much of the week, so amateur practice was canceled. Fortunately, Jason Baker of Dream Traxx and his crew are here, and they did a superb job of sealing the track up as best they could so the rainwater would run off, but a bunch of new dirt was trucked in a few weeks back that is rather soft, so expect some messy morning practice sessions tomorrow as the track hopefully dries out. Had we been racing today it would have been a muddy mess.
Budds Creek is a track beloved by many, and over the years it has produced some epic battles. I still regard Ryan Villopoto's incredible performance at the 2007 FIM Motocross of Nations here as one of the all-time greatest rides I have ever been fortunate enough to see, and the '92 AMA 125 National Championship finale, where Jeff Emig was putting an astonishing eight seconds a lap on the rest of the field for the first four laps as he closed the championship out in dominant fashion. And of course, James Stewart's mind-blowing efforts and the introduction of his scrub here in 2003 will always be up there too. (Steve Matthes will probably tell you about the moto that Tim Ferry won here, but I digress.)
Of all the tracks on the AMA circuit, and this includes Monster Energy AMA Supercross, no rider has ever been more successful at a single track than Ricky Carmichael here at Budds Creek. In his professional career he raced here a total of 11 times, 10 outdoor nationals and that 2007 FIM Motocross of Nations. He won here 10 times, including the MXoN where he was teamed with RV and Ferry. Carmichael won here eight years in a row, from 2000 thru '07, plus he won his first two years in the 125 class ('97, '98). His wins came on a wide variety of motorcycles: Kawasaki KX125, KX250, Honda CR250R and CRF450R, and the Suzuki RM-Z450. The only time that Carmichael lost at Budds Creek came during his final year in the 125 class. On June 20, 1999, Carmichael was riding a Pro Circuit Kawasaki when he had problems in the first moto with a first-turn crash, finishing 22nd. He came back to win the second moto but his 22-1 finishes were only good for sixth overall. Who won that day? FMF Honda's Tallon Vohland, the father of current Red Bull KTM rider Max Vohland, who went 1-3 on that muddy day. So, here's a tougher trivia question: Who got second in the second 125 moto at Budds Creek '99? Hint: He almost gave his brand its first-ever moto win in AMA Pro Motocross.
Going into tomorrow's race, we have a much tighter battle in the 250 Class after Honda HRC's Jett Lawrence got his second overall win of the year, going 2-1 and trimming series points leader Justin Cooper's lead down to just four points. And in the 450 Class Lawrence's older teammate Ken Roczen put on a clinic, winning both motos and the overall. Roczen managed to trim a few points off Dylan Ferrandis' sizable lead, though the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing rider was as steady as he's been all summer long, just not quite as fast. Lawrence and Roczen both winning had us scratching our heads as to when the last time Honda swept both classes at an outdoor national was, but then we remembered last year's finale at Fox Raceway where Jett Lawrence won the 250 Class and Chase Sexton topped the 450s, both first-time AMA Pro Motocross winners. The harder question, as I saw on the Vital MX Forum, is when was the last time two riders on the same team swept an outdoor national? At first, I thought it was Team Suzuki in 2009, with Chad Reed (450) and Ryan Dungey (250), but then I remembered Ironman 2014, when Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen topped the 450s and Marvin Musquin the 250s.
The answer to that previous trivia question, who finished second in the second moto of the 1999 Budds Creek 125 National between winner Ricky Carmichael and third-place Tallon Vohland? It was Michigan's Kelly Smith aboard a KTM. And had it not been for Carmichael quickly learning how to be a mud rider after some early misadventures, Smith would have given KTM its first-ever moto win in AMA Pro Motocross. Smith was leading as the 2-lap board came out, but then RC splashed past him. But one year later Smith would get another shot at history in the mud, at High Point Raceway. This time he did even better, winning the first moto and then the overall, both firsts for KTM.
And check out this stat from the Racer X Online Vault: In 1997, the then-beleaguered KTM brand had a grand total of two riders, Lance Smail and Keith Bowen, score points in this series, and they did it at only one race: Gatorback. Bowen was 16th and Smail 17th that day in the 250 class. No other points were scored by KTM riders for the rest of the series, not even a single point in the 125 class.
Team USA (Cont'd) (DC)
The AMA was set to announce Team USA for the 2021 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations this weekend at Budds Creek, but they have put a hold on the announcement due to the uncertainty of these latest COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions. The plan now is to way until Fox Raceway at Pala 2, which is September 4, because there is talk that the European Union will be announcing new developments on September 1 that could affect the race and the opportunity to travel.
We mentioned before that neither Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing nor Monster Energy Kawasaki plan on participating, as the Star team is moving house and shop to Tallahassee as soon as Pro Motocross ends, and Kawasaki will be parting ways with Eli Tomac and Adam Cianciarulo is out for the rest of the season, and the Pro Circuit 250 effort hasn't been beset by injuries as well. Now, with the ever-changing pandemic situation, everyone at Honda is wearing masks at the races on orders from the higher-ups, and they are traveling lightly. And that's domestic, let alone international travel. That could not only affect Chase Sexton's chances of participating, but the Lawrence brothers with Team Australia—if there is a Team Australia this year, as they are having scares there too (especially with nearby New Zealand completely shutting down)—and of course Ken Roczen and Germany, though he's already said he won't be going.
“I really wanted to race,” Roczen said last week. “I was ready to go and whatnot, but now after further review with Honda, it’s a little bit difficult time with the whole COVID situation, with parts and all of that kind of stuff. Then of course the whole situation over in Europe, I just feel like there’s a lot of uncertainty. Obviously, as of right now, it’s happening but who knows if there will be any fans allowed... Obviously, a lot of riders are not going to race, so I feel like the pros and cons for me, there was a lot more on the cons side for everything. I feel like this is such a special race that I feel like if you can’t do it all the way then [it’s a] don’t do it at all type of thing.”
Among the guys he's talking about are not only America-based riders but FIM Motocross World Championship contenders like MXGP frontrunners Tim Gajser and Romain Febvre, as well as current MX2 points leader Maxime Renaux. All would certainly go in any other year but the late-starting '21 MXGP season is in full swing now and the MXoN will fall in the middle. And you can't blame them or their teams for this stance. When the date for the '92 race in Australia in mid-September, with two rounds of AMA Pro Motocross yet to run, big-hitters like Jeff Stanton, Damon Bradshaw, and Mike Kiedrowski all passed on going. (Team USA sent the B team of young Jeff Emig and Mike LaRocco, as well as Grand Prix veteran Billy Liles, and somehow still won.)
So, keep an eye on this space, but don't expect to hear anything on Team USA this weekend—they are still planning on going, though they are now in a holding pattern for two more weeks.
And there was one cool story this week from Europe, and one controversial story. The cool one is that young Liam Everts will be the third-generation Everts to race for Belgium, as he was named to the national team despite having yet to race an actual Grand Prix (he's racing EMX). The controversy is in Ireland, when Irish mainstay Martin Barr, a standout for the national team since 2005, has been left off by the new team manager, and replaced by a promising kid named Jake Sheridan. That led our friend Jonathan McCready in his Talking Point column to remark, "Let’s be clear, this decision is ridiculous, akin to dropping Ricky Carmichael for Kyle Lewis back in the day or Tony Cairoli for Alberto Forato in today’s terms, the replacement is good but simply not on the speed level of the talisman of the team!"
A-Mart’s Out (Mitch Kendra)
Unfortunately, Alex Martin is parking it for the summer. The Manluk/Rock River Yamaha/Merge Racing Yamaha rider announced he suffered an injury to the same wrist he hurt during Monster Energy AMA Supercross and has decided to sit out the remainder of Pro Motocross.
Loretta Lynn’s graduate Tommy Rios will be the lone rider under the Manluk/Rock River Yamaha/Merge Racing Yamaha tent this weekend as he prepares for his second pro race aboard a #172 Yamaha YZ250F.
eBay Auction for Atlas Animal Shelter (Matthes)
We've had a Fly Racing Formula helmet in the PulpMX Show studio for a while now and everyone that's involved with the show or have come in studio have signed it at one point or another. Well, it's full of signatures now and we're auctioning it off with all funds going to Atlas Animal Shelter. It's a one-of-a-kind item for sure, here’s the eBay link.
THE CREEK de BUDDS (Matthes)
Just four rounds to go in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and we're going to Budds Creek this weekend. What a track, who can forget the USGPs there or the MXoN later on after that. Of course, there was the red flag thrown early when half the track was floating away that one time and Tim Ferry's first moto win in 2003 is STILL talked about by so many.
As I've stated many times, I've never been a fan of the start that was put in for the MXoN (same as RedBud) which rewards the fast qualifiers way too much IMO. There are so many things that can go wrong in a short qualifier that you could end up with a tenth but really be one of the faster guys. So then with a start like Budds, you're going up there that is, even with a tenth gate pick, at a disadvantageous position compared to a "traditional" start. The key to a great day at Budds is to start with a very fast qualifying time so get out early and get some heaters in. Don't wait too long because again, someone falls in front of you or whatever and there goes a gate pick for moto one and your work is cut out for you.
The news dropped this week that Justin Brayton is going back to the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda team for his last professional SX season. Brayton of course rode for the team before and scored that very emotional win at 2018 Daytona SX. He rode for the Aussie-based Muc-Off Honda squad last season and although he got a podium early on, left the series early due to injury. Look, it's rare to ride for the same factory team twice but Larry Ward, Damon Huffman, and a few others have done that. Justin Brayton has also done that with Factory Honda and the JGR MX squad which is pretty rare. When you add in the factory-supported MCR squad, Brayton's now ridden for three teams twice. That's got to be some kind of record, right? That speaks more for Brayton and the type of character he is I think than any sort of bad thing. When he leaves a squad, it's done in a professional manner, and he's obviously welcomed back. Mike Genova, the owner of the MCR team, has always stayed tight with Brayton over the years and I imagine is happy to get him back. Word on the street is that the team’s other rider from last year, Vince Friese, will ride 250SX next season and I also hear that Brayton's teammate from this year, Mitchell Oldenburg, will join Justin on the Honda 450 over there.
Hey, Watch It!
Jeff Emig Returns to Loretta Lynn's | Fro at 50 Ep 2
Check out some highlights from the drone footage from Loretta Lynn's
Here is that muddy 1999 Budds Creek National, from The Motocross Race Vault:
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“Sea snakes that attack divers may not want to fight, scientists say”—New York Times
"Nude man stabs second nude man on Seattle sidewalk"—Kiro7.com
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!