Welcome to Racerhead, and another week down early in the off-season. But it was a big one, as after last Friday’s news drops of new-team signings for Eli Tomac and Jason Anderson and amateurs Jett Reynolds and Chance Hymas, we are already seeing them on their respective new bikes, and talking about the hows and whys of switching things up—especially Eli Tomac, who has been very open and accessible to talking about his big change to Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing. Steve will have a bunch more on that further down. And there is some racing this weekend. The FIM Motocross World Championship is in France, and the battle royale that’s happening right now between defending champ Tim Gajser, the amazing Jeffrey “Schipol” Herlings (that’s an airport joke, and if you’ve been following MXGP you know what I mean), Romain Febvre, and Jorge Prado—with occasional cameos from Tony Cairoli—has been amazing. They are entering the stretch run now, so check them out Sunday morning on www.mxgp-tv.com. And here at home we have the Buckwheat 100 GNCC happening right down the road from the Racer X offices here in West Virginia. That series is also in the home stretch and just as close as MXGP, but with less guys; check back tomorrow morning for a preview on that battle between Steward Baylor Jr. and Ben Kelley.
We also got a closer look this week at the full 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule, tracks and formats, which includes more Triple Crown races, a return to many of the traditional stops as COVID-19 hopefully continues to creep away, not one but two East/West Showdowns, and also the introduction of SX Futures’ premier 250 class lining up on Saturdays as part of the actual event program at several races. Read about all of the stuff on the menu for 2022.
Personally, I like the Triple Crown events—they are fun and add a unique mix here and there. But I’m not racing, so I don’t have to do the added start (though it’s only one added start, as they don’t have heat races at these events, just three main events for the top guys, but all of the top guys and not half of them are out there together all three times). This one of the things that Matthes talked to Tomac about on the Fly Racing Racer X Podcast (which you can check out below):
"What's funny is, I'm not really a fan of them, but I seem to do well in them," Tomac told Matthes of Triple Crowns. "I don't like doing three starts in one night... Doing the three starts thing, with all of the dudes, it's just a lot of gnarliness in one night, you know?"
There has also been some continued confusion as to whether or not Feld Entertainment will have a vaccine mandate in order for athletes to compete. Jason Weigandt got with Dave Prater, Feld Motorsports' Supercross Director of Operations, 2-Wheel, to get to the bottom of the issue.
"There is no vax mandate for riders, team personnel, fans, anyone, at supercross. There's definitely a lot of misinformation out there and I just want to set that straight. There is no vaccination mandate for supercross, period."
With that, let me turn it over to Jason Weigandt himself with more on with Dave Prater on this most 2020 of 2022 issues…
First, a quick look at the newest issue of the magazine. We picked Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Jo Shimoda as the main photo for this Racerhead since the Japanese native landed his first cover shot on the December 2021 issue, which you can check out below.
Dylan Ferrandis and Jett Lawrence came from abroad and conquered American motocross in 2021. Event founder Eric Peronnard opens up about the official history of the U.S. Open of Supercross (with an exclusive epic oral history in the Racer X Digital Edition). AMA’s Vintage Motorcycle Days at Mid-Ohio are an old-school moto paradise. Riding Ducati Multistrada V4 S adventure touring bikes through California’s desolate, gorgeous northern coastal towns. These features and much more in the December issue of Racer X magazine.
Distraction (Jason Weigandt)
As DC mentioned, I was able to interview Feld Entertainment’s Senior Director of Operations (2-Wheel), Dave Prater, this week. I wanted to get his and the company’s position on the vaccination mandate rumors for Monster Energy AMA Supercross. We now know, for sure, Feld is NOT requiring a vaccination for riders, fans, or anyone at the races in 2022. As I suspected, there has been some confusion, and I think it dates back to David Pingree’s video on Instagram last week. What Ping said was correct—Feld doesn’t have a mandate, but there might be some cities or stadiums that could decide to enforce one, and that would tie Feld’s hands. That led to some confusion that supercross would be enforcing some kind of self-imposed mandate. They are not.
As of now, there aren’t any stadiums on the 2022 schedule that are requiring a vaccination, so everyone is in the clear as of today. Feld hopes that holds, and Prater is optimistic it will. You might have heard that Los Angeles is enforcing a vaccination mandate, but Anaheim is in Orange County, not Los Angeles County, so it doesn’t impact the race. Seattle’s stadium recently revised its rules, but a negative COVID-19 test can also be used for entrance if you’re not vaccinated.
Ping’s video centered on what would happen if a city changes its rules. Would Feld move the location of the race? Prater says that’s very challenging to do, because so many live events and sports are trying to come back in 2022, so a lot more stadiums are more booked than usual. It’s not easy, for example, to just stay in Glendale for a few more weekends and hold more races there, because that building is probably rented out to other events. When Feld put the 2022 schedule together, they tried to pick stadiums that looked less restrictive than others, based on the info they had a few months ago when they were putting the schedule together. Yes, there are some traditional supercross sites that aren’t on the 2022 calendar. This is part of the reason why.
And since there aren’t any stadiums with a vaccine mandate yet, there’s no reason for Feld to move or change anything, and even if they did, there’s no guarantee wherever they move to would also remain clear of a mandate. All they can do is wait and hope nothing changes. It would be cool if Feld could say “we would move races for sure,” but booking and rebooking stadiums is not simple or easy. Let’s hope it doesn’t even come to that.
If you don’t like vaccination mandates, just know that Feld isn’t pushing for them at all. A lot of sports leagues actually have created their own, but supercross has not, nor did the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, so you can applaud them for staying out of that fray.
Anyway, can we stop talking about this for now? The biggest bummer in all of this is that we’re talking about vaccinations and COVID-19 instead of dirt bike racing. The walls keep closing in. I try to stay far away from political discourse and also any other topics of which I admit I’m not an expert (and there are many, many of those). I just want to talk about racing—that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. But everyone is so fired up and angry about everything all the time that it’s getting harder and harder to find topics that don’t touch the political lightning rods. Now it has reached into this sport. I mean, does anyone know or care what Jeremy McGrath or Jeff Emig thought about political topics back when they were racing in the nineties? Did serious topics like that have any impact on racing at all? Hell no. I like it that way.
By the way, there was some news about Facebook this week, and even a Senate hearing. The rise of social media and the rise of everyone being angry about everything all the time are in lockstep on a timeline. Think about it.
TOMAC ATTACK (Matthes)
Welcome to Eli Tomac Week here on Racer X Online! May we interest you in an Open Mic Interview by Weege with Eli? Perhaps you want to hear the audio from that conversation with Weege? Maybe you'd prefer an Eric Johnson chat with Eli or what about my own podcast with Tomac? We have all that for you, any style you want, any author you want—it's all here!
But yeah, I mean, it's big news when a guy like Eli leaves a longtime home, and I'm sure ET didn't love talking to all the media that he had to, but hey, the people want to know. I particularly wanted to talk to him after he'd had some time on the bike, and he mentioned on the podcast that the width of the Yamaha was a bit better for him and that, yes, it was weird seeing a blue fender in front of him. He's got a new mechanic in Josh Ellingson (Justin Cooper's old guy) but a familiar suspension chassis guy in Ricki Gilmour from KYB.
In talking to Eli, it really seemed like what we had all speculated on beforehand on why he left Kawasaki was true: he and his father, John, wanted more control on the motorcycle. To me, Eli confirmed this on our podcast together. Nothing bad against the Kawasaki guys, but I think he and Gilmour are going to spend quite a lot of time together to make sure this bike is exactly where he wants it to be. Also, it seemed like Eli was open to spending more time at the GOAT Farm in the Southeast where Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing is based than I thought he would be.
Anyway, this should be a great thing to watch for all of us, right? BLU CRUUUUUUUUUUUUUU for Eli.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
The Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations is arguably my favorite event of the year (nod to Anaheim 1). The camaraderie amongst riders and industry personnel from around the globe creates an atmosphere that is unrivaled. Further, the fans absolutely lose their minds for a few days, delving headfirst into nationalistic pride. Cultures collide as their nation's riders face rivals they may only see once a year. The event itself is the culmination of months of hype, too. There is a ramping of anticipation as August rolls into September. All of this is how a normal year works. For the last two years, we haven't seen much of that dynamic, unfortunately.
The 2021 edition went off in Mantova, Italy, two weeks ago, and it was missing much of the star power this event typically commands. With the event occurring in the middle of the MXGP series, several series contenders chose to take the weekend off. Defending champion Tim Gajser (Slovenia), Jorge Prado (Spain), Jeremy Seewer (Switzerland), Romain Febvre (France), Pauls Jonass (Latvia), Jago Geerts (Belgium), and current MX2 championship leader Maxime Renaux (also France) all took a pass on adding another event to their schedule. Keep in mind, that's just the regulars who had countries attending the event. Add in the headline-grabbing absence of both Team USA and Team Australia, coupled with the choice to sit out by Marvin Musquin, Dylan Ferrandis, and Ken Roczen, and you would have heard a huge hissing sound as the air was let out of the event.
Yet even with all of that bad news, I thought the 2021 event was a huge success. Italy won their home event, and the place went absolutely bonkers. I nearly got trampled trying to cross the track as I made a break for Rome's Fiumicino Airport. A few of the stars did show up and delivered. Jeffrey Herlings put on a clinic, running away with all three races he was in throughout the weekend. Defending MX2 champ Tom Vialle rode well but suffered a mechanical failure in his second race, effectively ending any hopes for Team France.
The real story was Tony Cairoli in his farewell season, though. After a huge crash in Sardinia left heavy doubt about his availability for the weekend's festivities, TC222 fought through the pain and logged a runner-up finish in his final race. His performance was backed up by Mattia Guadagnini's heroic ride and Alessandro Lupino's rollercoaster day. For an event that needed substance, a home win from Team Italy provided just what the doctor ordered. The last moto was a wild one, as Lupino was penalized mid-race, creating a tumultuous last few laps. Drama was high, and anyone on site could attest to the emotions flying around the venue. With so many global riders missing, I didn't expect the event to be drama filled, but thanks to the craziness, it was exactly that.
As for me, I had a great time broadcasting the weekend with Paul Malin on the MXGP-TV.com and CBS Sports telecast. For those who don't know Paul, he might just be the best motorsports broadcaster this planet has to offer. His ability to transition from a promotional cue to a highly delicate racing incident is something to witness. His patience for my work-in-progress skillset is also impressive. I learn each and every time I am allowed alongside him and hope that continues for years to come. With next year's event returning to RedBud, I will likely begin practicing screaming RED BUDDDDDD! in front of my bathroom mirror sometime around Memorial Day.
That Lowest Number (DC)
A few years back we "crunched the numbers" and tried to figure out the lowest number ever in AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross that had never actually won a race in either series, in either class. We know all of the high triple-digits that have won, like #971 (Larry Ward), #934 (David Vuillemin), #800 (Mike Alessi), etc. But what about the lowest numbers NOT to win? We mentioned this because in the span of seven days in 2016, two AMA numbers won for the very first time in SX/MX—#49 and #50, belonging to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Martin Davalos and GEICO Honda's Malcolm Stewart, respectively—in the Atlanta and Daytona 250SX races.
But the number was actually even lower than those two. Turns out that #47 was the single lowest number that had never won a supercross or outdoor national, despite having some very good journeyman pros using it. Going way, way back over the years, the #47 has been worn by Billy "Sugar Bear" Grossi, Team Moto-X-Fox rider Pat Richter, Team Honda's Rich Coon, Canada's Ross "Rollerball" Pederson, New Jersey legends Mickey Kessler and Barry Carsten, Ohio's Fred Andrews and David Hand, future top wrench Alley Semar, Tuf Racing's Andy Stacy, New York's Chris Coleman, British import Jason Buttle, Texas AX great Dennis Hawthorne, Arizona's Shaun Kalos and Chris Blose, future FMXer "Mad" Mike Jones, future 125SX Champions Nathan Ramsey and Shae Bentley, Washougal's Ryan Huffman, longtime privateers Bruce Stratton and Clark Stiles, French import Matthieu Lalloz, Sean Collier, the young Kyle Chisholm, Portugal's Joaqim Rodrigues, "Top" Jimmy Albertson, Matt Boni, our own Jason Thomas, Matt Lemoine, Kyle Peters, Tommy Hahn, Malcolm Stewart, Jimmy Decotis, Australia's Hayden Mellross, and in 2020, Lorenzo Locurcio.
Sadly, at least three riders who wore #47 are no longer with us: Texas great Wyman Priddy (1976), Maryland's Kevin Crine (1995 and '02), and California's Tyler "One Punch" Evans ('01 and '05). Adding to the number's backstory is the fact that "Flyin'" Mike Brown (1981) and Brian Manley ('87) also each had it, and later on, after their professional racing careers were over, both would be heavily injured in distance-jumping accidents.
There was also Martin Davalos, whom we mentioned at the time as the first man to win wearing #49. Davalos would actually win 250SX races with several different numbers, but not #47. Ironically, Davalos won the last race he rode before he was #47—the '14 St. Louis 250 SX, when he was #31—and the first race he rode after he was #47—the '16 Atlanta 250 SX when he was #49.
But finally, in 2021, way back in June, someone finally won with #47, taking it off this unique list. Jalek Swoll, who hails from Florida, won the High Point 250 National with 1-3 moto finishes aboard the #47 Rockstar Energy Husqvarna.
So, the question is back, if someone cares to try to answer it in the comments below: What is now the lowest number never to win an AMA Supercross or Pro Motocross event, and who has that number for 2022?
20-Something RM (DC)
Speaking of #47, we got a note from our friend and longtime Travis Pastrana collaborator Ron Meredith with a shot of a new Suzuki he built with the note "This is the bike that Suzuki should be building." Meredith says he bought a 2020 RM-Z250 chassis from JGR and a donor 2006 RM250 off of Facebook Marketplace. "What a fun bike to ride!" And it would probably sell like hot cakes.
"I had it at Pleasure Valley a couple weeks ago and put it next to Jeff Cernic’s merch trailer. Lots of offers to buy it. That was before I even got a chance to ride it myself. Lol!"
Photos from last Friday night's Grand Opening of Terry Good's Chicago-based Motocross Museum, featuring some of the best bikes and riders of all time...
Remembering the U.S. Open of Supercross (steve Matthes)
I finally finished another one of those longform articles that I like to do from time to time. This one is based on a conversation I had with longtime friend Eric Peronnard one day. We were talking about him starting the U.S. Open of Supercross back in the nineties, and how cool that race was when it started, plus why did it, by the end, have to go away? Think about the $100,000 winner’s purse that it offered in 1998 and how it was still the same at the Monster Cup in 2019. That $100K was unbelievable at the time, and I suppose still is. Oh, and he got sued after he started the race!
So, all of this talk led me to writing a story about it in the oral history format, and I dove in like I usually do. It's now available, thanks to the folks at Maxxis, on the Racer X Digital Magazine for FREE! You just need to sign in or create an account if you haven't already.
Some cool stuff in there, from Damon Huffman's unexpected year-one win to Jeff Emig's win in year two as a privateer fresh off getting fired from Kawasaki. The Reed-Ferry fight, the Weimer win, how Eric fought off the lawsuits, why he sold the race, and on and on. Thanks for checking it out.
If you have some time to kill, check out some of the other long form stories I've done.
Jean-Michel Bayle remembers Budds Creek '89 (DC)
I have long been a fan of Jean-Michel Bayle. I think his story of conquering Europe, then America, in a matter of just a few years, and then quitting SX/MX to go road racing, is one of the most fascinating our sport has ever known. Now the French legend is writing an autobiography about his incredible journey, and he posted a little excerpt (or at least one of his bench-racing stories) on Facebook. Mind you, English is his not his first language, but you'll definitely get the gist of this little adventure at the end of the '89 season, when Bayle won the first 250 National in Florida in the spring, went back to Europe and the FIM 250cc Motocross World Championship (adding it to the previous season's 125cc world title, and then back to America to race the last few 500cc Nationals:
I'm going back in the past for writing my book so I'll share it with you...
When in 1989 you are 250cc World Champion for Honda HRC (but) you want to go for the last four AMA Motocross Championship races (500 class). Pick up a motorcycle from a Honda dealership in California because American Honda doesn't have one for you. Bring the engine to Pro Circuit. Test the engine and your Showa factory suspension that you recovered from your 250 training in Manosque (France). But you're in California and the last four races are on the East Coast, 5000 miles away. But no mechanic at American Honda wants to bring my bike to the East Coast. (But) it's Tuesday and the bike is in your garage. Roger (De Coster) has found a solution. (But) you have to be very discreet because whoever picks up my bike is a competitor's guy. He can pick up the motorcycle at my house in Redondo Beach but he has to drop it off as soon as they arrive on the east side at a hotel because no one should know that he carried my bike.
So you can fly with your mechanic, rent a car, go to a hotel and take a room on the ground floor with easy access in the parking lot. Waiting 23 hours at night for your motorcycle delivery with the competition truck parked discreetly right next to it. And as Roger says once there we'll always find a mechanic from a Honda 125 rider who will bring your bike to the race. Then you go to Budds Creek with this motorcycle, and then you win the last race at Unadilla, you have a certain pride in having managed to face all those difficulties that will forge my mental for the upcoming tests.
I can't wait to read Jean-Michel Bayle's whole book! In the meantime, here's another reminder that if you haven't picked up Rob Andrews' amazing book about his time on the FIM Motocross World Championship circuit in the 1980s, entitled The Inside Line, it's a must-have for any motocross enthusiast, and now in its second edition.
U.S. Open 2 (DC)
Let me give Matthes’ U.S. Open feature its first review: It’s amazing! I was at those early rounds, as we had just started Racer X magazine, and going to Vegas and seeing the best SX riders in the world basically battle it on an arenacross-sized track in the MGM Grand Garden Arena made for some good times. Matthes talks to pretty much everyone, too, from event founder Eric Peronnard, sponsor Pete Fox, the MGM’s desert-riding boss Mark Prows, our man Eric Johnson (who helped handicap the riders for the betting parlors), and of course competitors like Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, Jeff Emig, Damon Huffman, and more.
Give yourself plenty of time to sit down and read it, because it's very comprehensive, and downright entertaining!
One other thing I would suggest: If the film On Any Sunday, which is being celebrated by the entire industry for its 50th anniversary, shows up at a theater anywhere near you, by all means go see it on the big screen. Racer X’s own Mitch Kendra’s family set up a screening on Wednesday night as a surprise birthday party for his dad, Mike, who turned 60 in April but underwent a quadruple bypass heart surgery on his big day (hence the delayed party). But five decades ago, when Mike was just 10, his family took him and it changed his whole life, as they all instantly became even more obsessed with motorcycling. It’s a passion that lasts through this day, and it was really cool to sit in a packed theater and watch the remastered version of Bruce Brown’s seminal motorcycling film. Like Brett Smith (who went to a screening on Thursday in Baltimore) said to me, on the big screen there are so many little details you just don’t see on a computer screen or even a TV. To find out how and where you might be able to see it, check out the website for the 50th: www.onanysunday50th.com.
Hey, Watch It!
Keefer Vs. Keefer, Part 2: Three motos, professionals doing the lap timing, a competitive 45-year-old dad and a know-it-all 15-year-old son. What could go wrong?!
Gypsy Tales w/ Jalek Swoll (#47 as mentioned above) is a deep one this week, check it out:
Built To Win: Introducing the All-New 2022 Limited Edition KX450SR
The New-to-Blu Cru's Eli Tomac: "Day One, we're out here at the ranch..."
Check out the latest MXGP video game trailer:
Listen to This
On this episode of the Fly Racing Racer X Podcast, the newest member of Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing, Eli Tomac, joins the show to talk about how his switch went down, his thoughts on the new bike, his 2021 season, going to Florida, the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, and more.
Exhaust Podcast: Anatomy Of Rivalry with Bauman and Mees
Things happen when you're fighting for a championship. Jared Mees was once the top man in Progressive American Flat Track and Briar Bauman was just a young gun with big dreams. Bauman trained and worked with Mees, learned, and eventually became the new series champion. Bauman has won the last two titles and looked strong for a third, but Mees never gave up, even after a knee injury earlier this season.
A late surge by Mees on his favored mile-long tracks has vaulted him to a slim points lead heading into this Friday's season finale at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The points are close enough to where whoever wins the race wins the title. Of course, such tight competition means Bauman and Mees are no longer friends like they used to be—it's just part of human nature.
Jason Weigandt chats with both in this podcast, and you'll learn how rivalries develop and how they can actually heal back up once the showdowns are complete. Bauman has always wanted to maintain his social, outgoing demeanor, but it's getting harder with the pressure to be champion. Mees, meanwhile, has been in this exact position before, and he knows things can go full circle in more ways than just on a flat track.
Listen or watch below:
Head-Scratching Headlines Of The Week
“Justin Bieber Launches Pre-Rolled Joints Called Peaches”—Popculture.com
“Cops: Man, 90, Slugged Neighbor In "Get Off My Lawn" Dispute”—The Smoking Gun
“He's been on the run for 23 years. US Marshals say he may have been spotted at a Dodgers game”—CNN.com
“Man Cops Plea In Dipping Sauce Rage Case: Iowan threatened to blow up a McDonald's”—The Smoking Gun
“'WHAAAAT?' Justin Bieber fans ‘confused’ as Diane Keaton, 75, plays his love interest in pop star’s new music video”—The Sun
For the latest from Canada, check out DMX Frid’EH Update #40.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!