Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from Ironman Raceway here in Indiana, where we just finished up this afternoon's first Moto Scouting Combine, and where tomorrow we will run round 10 of the 2021 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. But before we get to any of that, let's take about what happened last weekend.
Last Saturday, August 21, as motos 250 and 450 motos were going off like clockwork at Budds Creek in Maryland, Hurricane Creek in Middle Tennessee was rising. The Hurricane is the usually calm creek that runs along Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, home of the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championships since 1982. Countless motocross racers and their families have dipped a toe in that cool water. It’s especially refreshing after a long, hot moto in the heat of a day in early August. The creek flows down to a grist mill adjacent to the front yard of the actual home of Loretta Lynn, known as Hurricane Mills. It’s usually a beautiful, idyllic place, but on this day, it was starting to flood.
The rain had begun early late Friday and would not stop for more than 24 hours. A record 17 inches fell in one day, and much of it came down the small valley. The banks of Hurricane Creek were quickly crested as the water rose quickly. Soon the entire area, including nearby Waverly, the seat of Humphreys County, was under water. Homes and businesses were flooded, cars and trucks were swept away, lives were lost.
At Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, Wayne Spears, the longtime foreman, was trying to move a vintage tractor away from the creek up to higher ground by the pavilion when the current turned the machine over, and Wayne was swept away. He was able to cling on to the staging area structure right behind the starting gate until it too was swept away. There was a photo circulating on the internet of Wayne’s struggle that a friend trying to help rescue him had taken before the structure gave way and it washed away down the flooded racetrack. Wayne Spears’ body was found the next day in a soybean field about a half-mile past Loretta’s home.
Tragedies like this were happening throughout Humphreys County and the surrounding area. The devastation was immense. The Tennessean newspaper called it a “once-in-thousand-years event.” Twenty people died, and a similar number are still missing one week later. Many families lost everything.
Ever since 1982 the people in this severely impacted area have welcomed amateur motocross racers and their families to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and the town of Waverly with open arms. They help support the event, many of them working on and around the track, doing things like caution-flagging, directing traffic, parking cars, cutting grass, collecting garbage, working the concession stands, and even setting up little laundry stands out by the front gate to wash clothes and riding gear every night at home. If you’ve ever been to the race, you have no doubt met some of these folks. Three generations of them have now worked at and around the races. Without their help and support, there would be no motocross races at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch.
Now, in the wake of this unprecedented storming and flooding, these same folks need our help for once. Racers 4 Waverly is a platform set up by Road 2 Recovery, the motocross industry’s official charity organization, in order to collect donations to help the residents of Waverly and the surrounding areas in this time of urgent need. MX Sports will rebuild the motocross track and all of the structures, no problem. It’s the people we’ve come to know and love in that tiny community—the flaggers, the gate workers, the garbage crew—that really need a helping hand now, and those are the people Racers 4 Waverly are entirely focused upon, with a goal of raising $250,000, all of which will go to them.
Please visit Road2Recovery.com
Racers 4 Waverly will help them rebuild their lives and their homes. Waverly has always been there for us, and now it’s time for us to be there for them.
Grant Langston, TAKE 2 (DC)
As you probably heard or saw on his social media, Grant Langston announced on Thursday that he was quitting the TV crew for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Langston, the multi-time AMA and FIM champion in both SX and MX, has been the color commentator on the NBC, NBC Sports, and MAVTV shows for the past eight years and has been warmly received across the board. He's smart, funny and unpredictable, not to mention an excellent fit with host Jason Weigandt. I am personally a huge fan.
So why did he quit? Earlier this week the Lucas Oil TV Production company had an outbreak of COVID-19 among the crew of 40 or more that works in and around the production trucks, setting up the cables and cameras all around the track, then producing the shows and sending the signal out to the rest of the world. They follow OSHA guidelines as well as the CDC and have managed to show all of the races we've held since this whole ugly pandemic started. Sometimes it probably looks like overkill to see the pit reporter wearing a mask and social-distancing from the riders she interviews, but those are the kind of things that all television productions have had to do in 2020 and '21.
When the crew found out on Wednesday that several people that worked at Budds Creek had tested positive for the virus, the production company followed the guidelines and told everyone involved in production—the camera guys, the cabling guys, the engineers, the producers and directors, and the talent—that they needed to go get a COVID-19 test whether they were vaccinated or not. They also said that anyone who was not vaccinated would not be able to work the race this weekend because they needed to quarantine, in case they caught it last week but are asymptomatic. Several people who were already here working were sent home at that point because they were not vaccinated and told to get tested again next week and return to the crew at Fox Raceway and Hangtown.
Grant Langston tested negative before for COVID-19, but he explained that he has not been vaccinated, so the production bosses called him yesterday and told him to just sit Ironman out this weekend, quarantine to be safe, get another test next week, and then return for the rest of the races. At no point did they tell him he had to be vaccinated; they simply said they would find a fill-in color commentator for this week's shows, and then he could come back next week.
That all apparently rubbed GL the wrong way and he decided to quit TV, effective immediately. He sent a text to our staff saying as much and we were all caught off guard by it--I didn't even know about the whole outbreak until after the fact, but I was nowhere near the TV truck at Budds Creek and really have nothing to do with the show or the production company. Before I had time to call Grant to find out what was going on, he posted a video announcing his resignation on social media, implying that he was frustrated about having a negative test but not being able to come to Indiana, while also saying he was told he could come to the final two events. Langston explained the situation pretty accurately, though he did say that he believed "it wasn't about COVID, it was about the vaccine." I believe that is simply not true. It was about the policy of a company he was employed by (NBC, not MX Sports). They were being cautious because of a real and recent outbreak and didn't want anyone else to unknowingly spread or contract COVID.
Companies and colleges, and restaurants and bars, and churches and schools all over the world are dealing with trying to figure out how to stay safe and how to stay open as COVID-19 continues flaring up, and that includes the production company that travels around the country filming these races. They have a policy and a playbook about what to do in an outbreak, and when they had one, they followed that policy. Grant was not the only person affected by this policy, but he is the only one that quit because of it, and I'm still scratching my head as to why exactly, because he was never told by anyone that I've spoken to over there that he needed to get vaccinated to keep his job, he would only have to skip one race and then could return next weekend. I would hate to think this whole thing was some kind of misunderstanding about what the production company was really telling him, but they are adamant that vaccinations are not a requirement for anyone, but outbreaks (especially now with the Delta variant) are taken very seriously and the policies during those times do change.
I am bummed that GL felt so wronged by this that he quit a very good job, which he was very, very good at and really seemed to enjoy. He has been a huge part of the shows over the years, and I would put the team of Weigandt/Langston up there with anyone, including the gold standard that was Art Eckman and David Bailey. I hope he reconsiders his decision, because color commentary is a very difficult job, and Grant Langston is great at it.
The production company had to fly in a few other engineers to fill-in for the ones they sent home, and they have invited Jeff Emig to fill-in next to Weege. Here's hoping they have a great show.
in case you missed it! (kris keefer)
It's been a busy week as most of the 2022 machines are here if not arriving as we speak. Yamaha had us out for a day on their 2022 YZ250F/450F machines and even though there may only be "refinements" to each bike, they do act differently on the track, compared to their older counterparts. Check the breakdown of each machine right here in these two videos we got up for you this week!
ironman winners (dc)
Ironman is a relatively new event, with a lot of different winners across both classes, as our friend Producer Pete pointed out:
|Ken Roczen||2||2014, 2016|
|Eli Tomac||2||2019, 2020|
|Aaron Plessinger||2||2015, 2018|
The Combine (Mitch Kendra)
Getting amateur riders a taste of what they can expect at a round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship—that was the goal of today’s Moto Combine. It was an eye-opener for all in attendance—as I heard first-hand from a vast majority of them afterwards (we’ll have more on this event over the next few days). However, hosting an event such as this to show the riders what they can expect in the future will only help them progress in the right direction until that day.
First, the riders took to the track for their qualifying session, between regular amateur day practices here at Ironman Raceway. Then, they attended training/fitness/nutrient/recovery talks hosted by some knowledgeable industry members. Then the riders were split into groups to chat with retired racers—and legends of the sport—Chad Reed, Damon Bradshaw, and Broc Glover to talk about riding technique. The riders attended media/social media training to provide an insight on podium interviews, engaging social media posts, and basic media dos and don’ts. Then, riders took to the track for the first moto.
Once the gates dropped on the motos. Longer motos (25 minutes plus 2 laps) pushed the limits of each rider. In the first moto, Ryder Difrancesco was leading Chance Hymas for over half of the race, unti a mistake from DiFrancesco found him tipping over in the turn before the finish line, handing the lead to Hymas. Hymas went on to lead the final six laps to take the race win. Riders went back to their pits and recovered for their shorter-than-normal turnaround for the second moto.
The quick turnaround is really the key here, as the riders were pressed into the teaching workshops, timed practice and the motos to make for a hurry-up day just like the pros deal with on Saturdays.
In the second moto, Daxton Bennick led DiFrancesco early before the Kawasaki rider once again got out front. Hymas suffered a crash and was forced to work his way through the field. He made it to second place and was gaining on DiFrancesco but was not able to make a pass. DiFrancesco’s 2-1 gave him the overall on the day. Although no championship or trophies were awarded, it was an impressive ride to hold off Hymas. Hymas was fresh off of moto wins in Open Pro Sport (the A class) at the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch while DiFrancesco is just getting back to riding after he broke his femur in May.
“I surprised myself out there,” said DiFrancesco.
Hymas also took away the positives from the day and enjoyed battling the competition at the event.
Afterwards, the group had a debriefing with closing thoughts and interacted with media. The overall feedback from the ten individuals I interacted consisted of several: “This was an eye-opening experience,” “I learned a lot today,” “Today was really difficult but I learned a lot.” For riders to have an opportunity like this is huge. While the inaugural East Region event has concluded, the West Region Pro Racing Scouting Moto Combine will take place next weekend at the Fox Raceway 2 National in Pala, California.
Chance Hymas took moto one. Mitch Kendra Hymas. Mitch Kendra Hymas gets the podium experience. Mitch Kendra Ryder Difrancesco Mitch Kendra Ryder Difrancesco Mitch Kendra Difrancesco leads Hymas. Mitch Kendra Difrancesco Mitch Kendra Moto 1 is underway. Mitch Kendra Hymas takes the first moto. Mitch Kendra Gavin Towers. Mitch Kendra
helmet protection (keefer)
My son had a big get off this week and completely rag dolled his body as well as our new 2022 Honda CRF250R test bike! Something about coming around a turn and seeing your kid laying in the middle of the track is the worst feeling ever. However, when I got to him, he was awake and semi coherent. As a 15-year-old you try and push the limits, so armoring your child with the best helmets we have on the market is crucial. There are a lot of helmets out there to choose from, but it's our duty as parents to diligently research all of the safety features that are built inside. As bad as Aden's helmet looked, it was by design that his 6D ATR-2 helmet saved him from anything more than the mild concussion that he received from the crash. I am not the Mr. Know It All of helmet safety, but I have crashed in a few helmets over my years. I want to keep kids on dirt bikes so if you have any questions on possibly a helmet purchase, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is more than one option out there and those options don't always have to be $700.00-$800.00 helmets. Now if only Aden can learn that he doesn't have to scrub every single anthill on a track we'll be good!
anthony carcaramo BUDDS CREEK photos (dc)
Hey, Watch It!
Kevin Moranz is making his return to Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross this weekend following rib, lung, and scapula injuries. Check out this bike build video he made as he prepares to get back to racing.
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“KANYE WEST: I'M RECREATING CHILDHOOD HOME ... For 'Donda' Listening Party”—TMZ.com
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!