Welcome to Racerhead, and Fox Raceway at Pala, where the hits just keep on coming. As you probably already saw Team USA will not compete at the 2021 FIM Motocross Nations. The uncertain COVID-19 landscape, new restrictions in Italy for travel from the U.S., and a recent injury to Justin Barcia and an illness for Chase Sexton that will keep him out of tomorrow's race here in California was enough for the AMA and team manager Roger De Coster to make a final decision not to attend.
The American Motorcyclist Association will not participate in the 2021 Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme Motocross of Nations, Sept. 25-26 in Mantova, Italy. Ongoing COVID-19 mitigation efforts and ever-changing travel restrictions presented logistical challenges that contributed to the U.S. team’s decision.
“A number of issues have contributed to the logistical difficulty of attending the 2021 Motocross of Nations, on both an individual and team level, and these have been exacerbated greatly by current and expected COVID-19 mitigation efforts surrounding the event,” said AMA Director of Racing Mike Pelletier. “Due to the sizeable financial risk faced by all the team stakeholders, and the unknowns in play here, we came to the unanimous conclusion that suspending our participation was the responsible decision.”
“The AMA takes great pride in our efforts to compete in the Motocross of Nations each year, and we hope to return to the Motocross of Nations in 2022,” Pelletier added. “As we look forward to competing again in 2022, it’s our goal to bring back the Chamberlain Trophy to the U.S. once again.”
So, what were the issues? After the European Union took the U.S. off the list of "safe list" and suggested that each country revisit their restrictions, Italy now requires unvaccinated travelers from the United States to quarantine for five days and asks that vaccinated travelers take a coronavirus test. And if you were anywhere near social media these last two weeks, then you already know by now that a lot of riders and race crew members in the paddock of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross fall into the unvaccinated category. MX Sports Pro Racing has no rule or mandate to get a vaccine here for anyone, unless it's coming from the company they work for. Italy does not now mandate one either, just a five-day quarantine and a negative test (which is quite literally the exact same thing that Lucas Oil Studios asked of Grant Langston and anyone else that might have been exposed at Budds Creek, where they reported an outbreak after the race--more on that later).
According to the New York Times, "Under Italy’s newly announced policy, unvaccinated American travelers will now have to “self-isolate” for five days upon arrival in the country according to the Italian National Tourist Board. Previously, unvaccinated visitors from the United States needed to take a coronavirus test 48 hours before touching down in Italy, but they did not have to quarantine."
That made it all still doable, according to Team USA manager Roger DeCoster, who I just spoke to here at Fox Raceway. "But with Justin still out and now Chase not feeling well, who else can we send? Bobby Regan always supports the event, but he can't this year because they are moving shop, and Kawasaki is also not in a place where they can support it. We would be reaching outside the top ten for 450 riders." I mentioned Coty Schock, to which Roger replied, "Hey, he's riding really good, I am impressed." But then he explained that the costs involved and the risks to have a positive test once over there in Italy were just too much. Added De Coster, "I really want to go, but there's just too much going on right now."
Meanwhile, there's a petition being circulated online at Change.org that is titled "NO MANDATORY VACCINE FOR SUPERCROSS AND MOTOCROSS RIDERS, TEAMS & INDUSTRY!" I can't speak for Monster Energy AMA Supercross, but I have not heard anything from them along these lines, and I know we have never considered it for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Brian Deegan is here at Fox Raceway, and he just asked me about it, and I explained this, but I added that there is a real chance some buildings may require vaccines to enter--the new Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, new home of the old Oakland Raiders of the NFL, is already requiring it, which might be one of the reasons Las Vegas is not on the 2022 schedule. I also told Deegan that what I expect for SX in January is just a negative test before every round.
Meanwhile, we're still missing Red Bull KTM's Marvin Musquin after he didn't feel very good, went to a local pharmacy to get tested, and it came back positive, as well as Max Anstie, who posted he had come down with COVID as well. The gist of all of this is that COVID-19 is still here, it's still causing problems for riders, race teams, and events like the Motocross of Nations.
So back to Grant Langston. I am going riding up the Lost Coast of California early next week before the Hangtown finale and needed some riding boots. Knowing that Langston Motorsports is just 45 minutes up the road, I texted GL to see if he was around. He welcomed me with open arms and showed me around a very big and busy bike shop. We talked about the business, the series, and of course what happened between him and the TV production company. There was some miscommunications before I ever got drug into it, and then more afterwards. We talked them through, then we talked about what a crazy, weird time this is for everyone, how much motocross racing and the moto community mean to each of us--especially when the chips are down in other parts of your life--and that we'd been good friends for too long to stop now, for any reason. It was good, and while GL can't make the races tomorrow--he gave his managers the day off so they could go to the races--I invited him to Hangtown next week. He said he would be watching either way, and we would hang out again together soon--maybe even tomorrow evening for dinner after the race. And then I bought a pair of sweet Size 10 Alpinestars CR-6 Drystar riding boots and went back to the track.
Let me close on this: There are a lot of people with a lot of different opinions on what the best way forward is for our sport--motocross and supercross--as this very real pandemic continues. I don't know anyone smart enough to know exactly how to get us all to navigate it collectively, so we each will have to just do what we believe is the right way forward for ourselves and those closest to us. We are divided, no doubt, but we are also all still in this together. Everyone gets to make their own personal choices. Hopefully, we will be content with wherever those personal choices take us or leave us.
Moto Combine, West (DC)
This weekend marks the second West Moto Combine, presented by U.S. Air Force—Special Warfare. Just like last weekend, there are several very fast amateurs here that will soon be in the 250 Pro Motocross, next year or the year after. They include last weekend's two moto winners, Ryder DiFrancesco and Chance Hymas, as well as Daxton Bennick, Hunter Yoder, Talon Hawkins, Luke Kalaitzian, Gavin Towers and more. They are being coached once again by Chad Reed and Broc Glover, and since Damon Bradshaw had a previous engagement, the third coach is Buddy Antunez. Also helping them with training tips and best practices are Gareth Swanepoel and Brian Federow, as well as social media training from Sam Nicolini of @promotocross and @racerxonline and race announcers Jason Weigandt and Rob Buydos. The whole program is being organized by MX Sports Pro Racing's Jim Perry, and it includes two 25-minutes-plus-2-laps motos this afternoon--very long motos from these A and B riders.
The biggest surprise this morning in timed training was a kid named Preston Boespflug, who was second fastest qualifier, just .3 seconds off the 2:10.146 of Ryder D. Boespflug is from Washington state and rides a Yamaha. He's only raced at the Loretta Lynn's AMA Amateur Nationals once, and that was this year. He finished fourth in the 250 B class and eighth in Schoolboy 2 (12-17). Besides that, the only other Boespflug in the Vault is Don Boespflug, who finished second in the Senior +45 class in 2019. We'll see how Preston does in the motos later but he's off to an impressive start!
Moto Scouting Combine West Moto 1 just wrapped up. Chance Hymas wins and runs the fastest lap. He had a bad start and rode through the field to catch Ryder D. Hymas fell, then caught and passed DiFrancesco. Ryder’s lap times suggest he was getting a little fatigued late pic.twitter.com/Q6mxl0OkoU— Kellen Brauer (@kellenbrauer) September 3, 2021
Marty Smith Rookie of the Year (DC)
Gracing this weekend's Racer X National sticker is Marty Smith, the late legend from San Diego. Marty and his wife Nancy passed away last year in an off-road buggy accident in the desert, and MX Sports Pro Racing and the AMA named the annual Pro Motocross Rookie of the Year trophy after the three-time AMA Pro Motocross Champion, who won the 1974 AMA 125 Pro Motocross Championship as a true rookie. The winner of last year's Marty Smith Rookie of the Year was Jett Lawrence, the current points leader in the 250 class. As for this year's ROY, it's looking like it will be Red Bull KTM's Max Vohland, who is currently tenth in the points standings.
Racers 4 Waverly (DC)
Road 2 Recovery is continuing to do some amazing work for the motocross community at many levels, including the Racers 4 Waverly fund that will go to help the people off Waverly, Tennessee, who were hit by that devastating flood two weeks ago. They are nearing $150,000 of a goal to raise $500,000, and all the money will go the residents of the community, many of whom have worked at and around the races, which started there back in 1982. Among the recent and very generous donations was $10,000 each from Fox Racing, KTM North America, Husqvarna Motorcycles North America, GasGas North America, and MX Sports Pro Racing. There are also many folks and fans spread out across the motocross community who have pitched in, and of course last weekend Team Honda's Jett Lawrence pledged his prize money for winning the Guaranteed Rate Ironman National.
Starting on Sunday, and lasting for one week, Road 2 Recovery will be hosting an online auction of rider jerseys, helmets, and other equipment donated by many in the paddock of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, as many of those riders came through the ranks as youth and amateur riders at Loretta Lynn's Ranch. You can check out all the items and bid on them right here:
In other Loretta Lynn's news, the massive Monster Energy 40-year trophy that was thought to be lost in the flood has been recovered. The trophy, hand-carved by master engraver Hank Robinson of Hanro Studios, was unveiled at opening ceremonies of this year's race. It includes the names of every Loretta Lynn's champion from 1982 through 2020 and was still at the ranch in a semi-hauler container when it was washed away. The ranch staff recovered the container downriver, flipped on its side, opened it up and found the trophy. It was slightly damaged, the bottom motor that turns completely destroyed, but otherwise intact. After it's cleaned up a little it will be shipped back to Hanro Studios for some repairs, as well as to add the names of the 36 champions from 2021.
Finally, several staff members of Racer X Online and MX Sports are heading down to Waverly in a few weeks after Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is over to pitch in and help out the community as best we can. The residents of Waverly have long been generous hosts to motocross, and this is a chance for us to show how much we appreciate their hospitality, year after year.
PICS Loretta Lynn's before and after--and this was after the water started to recede! The track will be rebuilt this fall, but it's the local townspeople that need help now.
Damon Bradshaw (left) and Pete Fox at last weekend's East Moto Combine. Fox, who designed much of Bradshaw's iconic gear of the late 1980s, said he had not seen Damon in person for 30 years!
Can’t Believe We Are Here (Jason Weigandt)
You want to talk fill circle? Not only are we back at Fox Raceway for the third National here in 11 months, but sheesh, COVID is back in the darned headlines? Ugh. This feels more like the race here last October than it does the one here back in May, when things seemed on the verge of normalcy. If we even remember what normal is. Which we don’t, because we have all lost our minds. Maybe you’ve noticed?
That racing has gone full circle as well. Dylan Ferrandis and Jett Lawrence won the opener here in May and left with red plates. They have the points leads now, but in between we’ve seen some of the closest 450MX racing ever. Ferrandis winning the title early, which could happen, doesn’t indicate how close the racing has been this year. He has just six moto wins. He has been the best guy, for sure, but he has had to battle, fight, scratch and claw for every point. Those battles have been amazing.
In the 250s, a month ago Justin Cooper had one hand firmly on the trophy. Jett Lawrence was struggling at mid-season with five out of six motos off the podium. Cooper crashed away the overall in Washougal’s second moto and then faded in moto two at Unadilla. Those two races could have been the nail in the coffin. If Cooper goes 1-2-1-1 with back-to-back overall wins at Washougal and Unadilla, this whole thing is different. That’s what makes racing so intriguing. Now we’re left wondering what happened? Did he get hurt in that Washougal crash? How bad is this illness that he has talked about since Budds Creek? Meanwhile, Jett has rallied, not really under pressure but because the 18 year old doesn’t seem to even know what pressure is. I asked him about this last weekend, and he basically said his strategy is to try to come to the races and have a good weekend. If he doesn’t, try to have a good weekend at the next one. No one is going to accuse Jett Lawrence of over thinking any of this. One underrated part of Jett’s season is managing that mid-season slump. Yes, he was carding some sixth and seventh place finishes at the time, but looking back now, those motos were key to the title. He could have gotten desperate when he had those bad starts and tried something risky. He could have crashed and turned those sixths into 16ths. He could have injured himself forcing the issue. Instead, he just took whatever he got, even if it wasn’t a podium. Again, I don’t think Jett over analyzes any of this, but if he wins this title, he will define, “You win your title on your bad days.” Through Spring Creek and Washougal at one point he had gone 4-6-7 in a three-moto stretch. It could have been a lot worse.
As for Cooper, all year he has searched for the elusive 1-1 finish. His whole career, really. Cooper has been one of the most consistent riders ever if you look at his career as a whole, and that includes this season where he has landed on the overall podium in every race. Yet, he still has just one overall win, fittingly with a 2-2 at Thunder Valley. If Cooper is ever going to get that 1-1, there will never be a better time than this Saturday. Does his 2022 season have one more push in it? Do we still have a little drama yet to go? You never know in the 250 class.
One note on the 450s: Cooper Webb had a much better day at Budds Creek, getting his first podium of the season. Sounds weird to say that, right? On my Exhaust podcast this week I dove into Cooper’s frame change and his move away from the Baker’s Factory, with both his own quotes from a press conference and some insider info I got from Ian Harrison at Red Bull KTM. What really matters is what comes next. We know the narrative is “Cooper is dangerous when he gets some confidence.” In 2019, he went 1-1 at the Spring Creek National and we said the same, but the next weekend at Washougal he went 3-5. So, there are no guarantees that he’s completely turned a corner yet.
Yes, this thinned out 450 field means a lot of riders are indeed putting in better results, so sometimes you have to look deeper. Cooper beat Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton at Ironman, and he wasn’t even close to doing that at the other races this year. Ironman was a legitimate improvement. Coty Schock continued the Summer of Schock with sixth overall. Yes, a lot of riders are out, but I went back to the High Point National, round three, when the field was healthy. Schock was 30 seconds closer to the leader at Ironman Moto 1 compared to High Point Moto 1, and ONE MINUTE closer to the leader in Ironman Moto 2 compared to High Point Moto 1. There’s a similar pattern when you look at other races—yes, he’s benefitting from guys being out, but he’s also riding much better. Sometimes two things can be true at the same time. Are you listening, America?
800 + Matthes= SUPERTEAM (Matthes)
With Marvin Musquin out again at Pala and no word is Chase Sexton will be out, the 450MX class is crawling to the finish line here with two to go. The beneficiaries of that are the privateers who will continue to rack up career best rides and gather points like Mrs. Pac Man here late in the season. Guys like Cody Schock, Jake Runkles, and Jace Kessler are all doing really well out there. Speaking of Kessler, I was doing a Privateer Island Pod with Jace a week ago or so and he mentioned he didn't know if he was able to come out to Pala for the race. He didn't have a bike, etc. I stepped up and offered him my own personal BLU CRU Yamaha YZ450F.
He's from Michigan so my buddy Nick Wey is also helping Jace out, I took my bike to The Helen this week, rode a bit and then Nick took it from there. Jace flew into SoCal yesterday and those two guys put all Jace's stuff on. It's possible my bike shuts off at some point because of the shock of how fast its going but let's hope not. Happy to help Jace out and also thanks to Yamaha for being cool about me loaning out their loaner to me. So PulpMX is the title sponsor for the #800 this weekend, who would've thought?
Oh, and also, the guys found my upper shock bolt had backed out 3/4 of the way once they got in there. Yikes
FXR CHAPARRAL HONDA (Matthes)
The Michael Lindsey owned FXR/Chaparral Honda team has had some real high moments this year with Coty Schock and Carson Mumford both landing in the top ten in outdoors and there's no doubt that the #72 privateer ride of Schock has been a real shock to everyone (thank you, I'll be here all week). From what I'm hearing the team won't be around next year, Mumford seems close to a deal with Bar X Suzuki guys and the owner, Lindsey, is going back to Vital MX to take Guy B's spot over there as lead "go to the races" guy. I think Honda will do something to help Coty with somebody (Phoenix Honda?) as he's certainly ridden well enough to make himself some money and get some good parts for his red machine.
GUY B (Matthes)
And speaking of Steve "Guy B" Giberson, he announced a while back that his days of traveling to the races, shooting photos and running the Vital MX forum were coming to a close at the end of the year and although I'm sure he'll be around, the pits are going to miss him week in and week out. Guy B's a good dude, he's a hard worker and sweet Jesus I wouldn't want the job of moderating a motocross message board in these times so he's a hero just for that. I just want to take the time here, as he's got two more to go, to say thanks for the friendship all these years whether I was a mechanic or a media guy and good luck in whatever's next for you GuyB!
Cale Kuchnicki (Keefer)
Who? Exactly. Cale is a rider 95% of you reading this haven't even heard of and maybe for good reason. Cale is journeyman privateer that has been chasing the outdoor series all summer and hasn't made the 40-man 250cc class show. YET. Just like my guy Jacob Runkles, I stumbled across Cale through social media and quickly found out that I like this dude. Why you ask? I mean I don't even know him, but he is what I viewed in a short amount of time from following him on social media (@cale168). In a world of racers (especially some privateers) acting like the AMA or sponsors owe them for being out there, Cale is just a guy who loves to race his dirt bike and see the country. There is no bullshit with Cale, and he is not complaining about what he doesn't have or get. When Cale gets 12th in the Consolation race, he lets his followers know he got 12th out of 13 riders. He doesn't act bigger or better than he really is. When he gets 25th in the Consolation at Budds Creek, he doesn't blame it on what HE DOESN'T have, he simply says he made some mistakes and worked his way back to 25th and he's on to the next race. This is rare in our sport! Acting like you're cool or possibly being on a team that is all smoke in mirrors on the outside is more common than a kid from Alanson, Michigan just being happy he gets to race his dirt bike with the best riders in the country. He tries to Go-Pro his LCQ's and lets you in on how his race went. Cale is the reason why we all race dirt bikes. He loves the feeling! Does Cale have all the best shit on his bike? No! Does Cale's gear look like I got hit by a Mack truck? Yes! Does Cale give a crap what we all think of him? NO! These are all the reasons I wanted to help him, so if you see a dude with some beat up Leatt gear, some long hair hanging out of his helmet, some Keefer Inc. Testing graphics on his shroud, all while smiling from ear to ear, give him a big windmill and cheer as loud as you can for him. Let's get Cale into the 40 man show this weekend! I mean when I went to try and find a photo of Cale, I couldn't even come across one in our file photos from each event (so here is a screenshot of his Instagram)! #TeamKuchnicki
Hey, Watch It!
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“China bans kids from playing online video games during the week”—CNN.com
"Heineken® to send ‘Pit Wall Bars’ to fans at home to enjoy F1® races"
"Imitating the Red Bull Racing Honda pit wall, fans at home will be able to win the next best thing to being trackside at the Formula 1®. However, unlike the pit walls you see at the circuit on race day, this version comes complete with its own bar - with a Heineken® 0.0 blade, glassware and coasters built in.
The Pit Wall Bar comes complete with multiple screens to watch every angle of the action or race telemetry, Heineken® 0.0 on tap, racing team headphones and much, much more.
This unique at-home experience will be available for fans across the globe to win in their living rooms, via a competition on F1.com, with competitions running across the 2021 season."
“MCDONALD'S Federal Trade Comission Wants To Know ...WHY ARE MCFLURRY MACHINES ALWAYS BROKEN?!?”—TMZ.com
“Cats are falling ill with life-threatening STRESS as owners spend longer at home and damage felines' daily regimes, vets warn”—Daily Mail UK
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!