Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome to the world’s center of racing, Daytona International Speedway. The longest-running round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross will go off tomorrow night, followed by three days of amateur and vintage racing in the Ricky Carmichael Daytona Supercross. There’s also the second round of the GNCC taking place just up the road in Palatka, Florida. Add it all up and it’s going to be a long, busy few days for all of us!
Daytona is also the last place we were when the world shut down two years ago. COVID-19, as we would come to know it, really began to pick up steam at the 2020 Daytona round. One week later, Feld Entertainment had to make the difficult but necessary decision to put the whole 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship on hold. And one week later, Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis would host the single most expensive track-build ever—expensive in that it was completely built, starting gate and infrastructure and Tuff Blox and all, only to never be touched by a single knobby, and not seen by a single fan.... That was two years ago, and those two years have felt like the longest decade of our collective lives. And then right when it’s starting to go away, the little dictator in Russia decided to invade his Ukrainian neighbors and give us all yet another global crisis to deal with.
On a side note, Bravo to InFront (formerly Youthstream) for almost immediately canceling the Russian MXGP set for May 1 due to the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine by the Russian military. They are said to be looking for a replacement venue, maybe even in Holland.
Earlier this week was the announcement of the brand new "World Championship" of Supercross by an entity called SX Global and backed by $50 million in oil money. The press release offered some explanation of how it’s all going to work, with ten teams, 22 riders per class, their bikes shipped around in containers from race to race, all over the world. Sounds good—any additional opportunities for the riders is a good thing. But there were a couple of concerns that I can already see coming, like the fact that we already have a Supercross World Championship—we have had for the last 20 years, and will continue to have it, in the form of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. The only thing that's changed is there is no "FIM" attached to the series anymore. But all of the world’s best SX riders and all of the teams are here racing in the world’s most important and prestigious dirt bike series. Just like the Major League Baseball World Series, and the NBA's World Championship Finals, the fact that the best supercross athletes are all here competing together is what makes Monster Energy Supercross the world championship of supercross. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
So tomorrow night, the world championship of supercross—Monster Energy AMA Supercross—will continue, at its oldest stop of all, Daytona International Speedway. And it will be back here for many years to come.
The Hybrid Track (Jason Weigandt)
You all know the drill with Daytona: it’s a supercross, but with a little more motocross flavor thrown in. That mix does vary year to year. I talked to a suspension tech from a factory team today and he said one of the big differences comes when they build the track “beneath” the ground, as in digging out pits to create obstacles. That really adds the rough, choppy motocross feel to the event. Over the last few years, we haven’t seen those pits, and the entire track is built up above ground, which makes it much more like a normal supercross track. I asked Cooper Webb about bike setup, and he said honestly all they end up doing is opening up a few clickers and running it. No huge bike changes for the riders here these days.
I talked to Eli Tomac about his run toward Ricky Carmichael’s record at this track. He said as exciting as it would be to win again, he added that it’s “not like you’ve won a championship,” so he knows it’s really just one round in a season, and the title fight is what really matters. I found a similar story for Cameron McAdoo, who is tied for the 250SX points lead with Jett Lawrence. McAdoo won this race last year, but as special as that is, he said he can’t get too hung up on winning any particular race. McAdoo has learned that when he gets too far ahead of himself, the crashes and chaos starts to happen. He’s trying to just ride his best in every practice and every race and not overextend himself.
What I really find fun is McAdoo’s story right here at this track. I first met him back in 2016 here when he was racing the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross. He was getting help from Tony Alessi and the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas MotoConcepts crew and seeing Tony back an amateur rider is a big deal. Justin Brayton recommended him to Tony, and they gave him some support. McAdoo then went out and battled Austin Forkner throughout the amateur weekend here, then MCR kept him on, and he won Monster Energy Cup’s Amateur All-Stars, then started with the team as a pro in supercross, then ended up getting a fill-in ride with GEICO Honda at this race in 2017. As McAdoo described it, he went from not even getting a free pair of goggles as an amateur to a pro on a factory bike in exactly one year. That’s wild.
By now you’ve heard the news that Jeremy Martin and Levi Kitchen are out for Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing. They have tapped none other than Kyle Chisholm to fill in for the team starting next weekend in Detroit. That is awesome for Chiz! This weekend Kyle will be on his regular privateer 450, but it will be fun to see how he does against the kids next weekend.
ONE OF RICKY'S RECORDS (DC)
Last month I was invited to contribute a story to the Daytona Bike Week souvenir program, so I wrote up a bit on the potential of Ricky Carmichael surrendering one of his many, many records—the all-time wins standard at Daytona. Since a lot of our readers won't actually be at Daytona, I wanted to share the gist of it here:
During his professional career, which lasted from 1997 through 2007, Ricky Carmichael set A LOT of records. During his time on the track, Carmichael won an astonishing 150 SX/MX races, 15 major titles—10 in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and five in Monster Energy AMA Supercross—and as well as the longest national wins streak and the longest moto wins streak. And he’s tied with Jeremy McGrath for the longest AMA Supercross wins streak. And he’s the only rider to have a perfect season in 125/250 SX. And he has a column of individual stadium and racetrack records for most race wins.
Daytona International Speedway is one of those venues, as Carmichael has five wins in the premier class at the World’s Center of Racing. Daytona is regarded as the most unique and prestigious race on the SX circuit because it has elements of both supercross and more traditional outdoor motocross, as the soft sand that lines the trioval where the track sits becomes incredibly rough and difficult over the course of the evening. To win here, one has to be as strong as they are smooth and being in superb physical condition is a must. In other words, one must be a beast—or GOAT, if you will. Besides Carmichael, only renowned workhorses and multi-time AMA Supercross and Pro Motocross champions Jeff Stanton and Ryan Villopoto have been able to tally four wins here.
But that was all before Eli Tomac came along. The 2020 AMA Supercross Champion and four-time Pro Motocross #1 from Cortez, Colorado, picked up his first Daytona SX win in 2016 and has won here five times in the last six years. Only Justin Brayton has been able to beat him here since ’16, and only just barely.
“Daytona is always a race where you really have to just grit it out,” Tomac said after last year’s record-tying win. “It’s got the combination of supercross and motocross, and the way it breaks down, you’re always hunting for a special bike setting, but a lot of times you just have to deal with what you’ve got. That’s what I’ve learned over the years. The jumps are still always in play and the track gets real rough, like a crazy-rough supercross track for all of us.”
When it was pointed out that he was now tied with Carmichael on the all-time wins list for Daytona, Tomac responded, “It’s a little hard to believe. Five out of the past six years is more than I would ever have expected. I can only credit it to just the track. It just fits me. Whether they like it or not, certain guys are better in certain conditions. This style is me.”
Come this Saturday night, Tomac has a straight shot at claiming the Daytona wins record all for himself. Because while the 29-year-old may now be the veteran in the 450SX field, he’s breathed new life into his career this season by moving over to the Tallahassee-based Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing squad. After a relatively disappointing ’21 season, the change of scenery to a new team has helped push Tomac right back into title contention with several early wins and podiums, putting the series points leader’s red plates on his Yamaha YZ450.
“For this stage in my career, it was a perfect fit for me to go down to Florida for preseason time and ride with different guys,” Tomac said of the move to Star Yamaha Racing. “It was something new to do and look at. And this Yamaha is one of the best bikes I’ve ridden in supercross.”
Ironically, if Tomac is to break Carmichael’s record this Saturday night, it will be on a track designed by Carmichael himself. As a matter of fact, every time Tomac has won here, it’s been on a track that the GOAT designed, as Carmichael has drawn up the Daytona track every year since his retirement. He’s also the host of the eponymous Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross at Daytona, which takes place on Sunday through Tuesday on a tamed-down circuit. And Ricky will have a front-row seat to any record-smashing, as he’s also the color analyst for the global television coverage of what will be the 52nd Daytona Supercross.
“If anyone is going to break my Daytona record, I’m glad it’s a rider like Eli,” Carmichael says. “He’s the complete package—he works hard, he’s a fighter, he’s got a ton of talent and the heart to match. Heck, I’m honored to even still be tied with him at this point!”
Anytime your peer in the supercross/motocross record books is the GOAT himself, you’re doing something right. But the fact that he’s on the verge of smashing the record and Ricky’s alright with it? Eli Tomac has been doing everything right, especially when it comes to the challenge of racing and winning here at Daytona International Speedway.
Yamaha LCQ Challenge RACE (Matthes)
We've given over $140K to privateer riders the last three years thanks to Yamaha and the partners we have at the PulpMX Show. This year, though, we wanted to do something different, and thanks to the folks at Feld Entertainment and the AMA, we're getting our OWN RACE on Friday afternoon before the Denver SX. Yes, you read that right! We're qualifying riders via the 450SX LCQ all year long, and the top 17 will get to line up for the 6 minute plus 1 lap race with five wild cards of my choosing. This is gonna be really cool—Denver is an extremely early day race, so two practices for each class will be held on Friday afternoon and then our race at the end of those sessions.
We're giving 100 percent of the money to the riders in this race (purse breakdown to be decided at some point), and for $30 you get a chance at a brand-new 2022 Yamaha YZ450F or 19 other prizes from our partners. Support the privateers, support this race and get a ticket!
MXGP PODCAST! PODCAST!... PODCAST! (DC)
With a nod to Jason Weigandt's timeless nod on his own podcasts to the groundbreaking TV show MotoWorld, we are introducing a new MXGP-centric podcast devoted to the Monster Energy FIM World Motocross Championship, which started last week in Great Britain. Two MXGP insiders, our longtime contributor Adam Wheeler (of Off-Road On-Track fame) and our more recent contributor Lewis Phillips (MXVice.com) decided to team up and do a post-race podcast after everyone round of MXGP. The first one came out on Monday, drilling down on all the things that happened at Matterley Basin last weekend, including the battle setting up between Team Honda HRC's Tim Gajser and GasGas rider Jorge Prado in the MXGP class, as well as the seemingly out-of-nowhere win by German GasGas rider Simon Laengenfelder in the MX2 division. Both Wheeler and Phillips are widely respected in the MXGP paddock, and their insight and opinions on the goings-on of the Grand Prix circuit are as informative as they are entertaining.
Adam and Lewis' MXGP Review Podcast serves as both a review of the series opener, as well as a preview of this weekend's second round, which will take place in Mantova, Italy. It also needs a new name, and we're working on that! And don't forget you can watch the MXGP from Italy on www.mxgp-tv.com early Sunday morning, and also find all of the results in our Monday Morning Wake-Up Call, and then we will have the second version of MXGP Review up sometime Monday. Don't miss it!
Loretta's Already? (Keefer)
The kid and I are back at it again for Loretta's. That's right, Area qualifiers have begun, and we are here in Mesquite, Nevada, for the Midwest/Southwest Super Area. What the hell is a Super Area, you ask? See, if you have a crazy moto wife, she makes you go to these Area qualifiers that allow you to ride two different Regionals. This way if her boy doesn't make it out of one Regional, he has another one he can make it in. I am somewhat against this, but when it comes to the boy, I get overruled. I do agree if Aden has a mechanical that this is a good idea, but if he just doesn't cut the mustard at one Regional, he's obviously not ready to compete at the highest level of amateur racing, and that is what he wants to be. He wants to be a professional racer. I am more of a hardass when it comes to Aden racing, because I know how hard it is to be a professional motocross racer. You can be a gnarly, gnarly rider and still not make it in our sport. However, I am here to help him achieve his goals, and with the level head of my wife, I am here to travel to two regionals if necessary.
Our last trip to the Ranch was a successful one, and we have a lot of great memories from that week in Tennessee, so sometimes I need to take a step back and realize that I get to spend a lot of time with my family while enjoying a sport we all love. Even though I bitch about the lack of time and money we have at times, the memories we are creating together is something I can't put a price on. So here's to all the parents who are sacrificing their time and money to create memories with their kids and extended family members through dirt bikes. The Keefers hope to see you at the Ranch in August!
St Louis, Seattle and Foxborough LIVE Podcast Shows! (Matthes)
These things are a lot of fun and they're back this year. Just had really fun ones in Dallas and Minneapolis, so if you want to hang out Friday night before the SX in St. Louis, Seattle, or Foxborough, come watch Weege, JT, Keefer, and I talk about the sport, have some laughs, maybe argue a bit and more.
Good Times Fast Approaching (Sam Nicolini)
The 2nd official running of Red Bull’s Day in the Dirt Down South is closing out bike week next weekend in Dade City, Florida. The event is looking to be even better and bigger than last year’s and so is the party! DITD is a unique race where you get to rub elbows on the racetrack and in the party with the likes of Tyler Bereman, Robbie Maddison, Ronnie Renner, Ryan Sipes, Jason Lawrence, Zach Osborne, and MANY MORE. Gates open Thursday, March 10, and racing will be all weekend long, with live music on Friday night in the pits and a Supercross Watch Party & DJ on Saturday night! Good vibes only, see y’all down south!
Want a look at what Red Bull’s Day in the Dirt Down South looks like? Check out the video below.
Note: Strong language is used, viewer discretion is advised.
Check out Red Bull’s 2022 Day in the Dirt Down South track map:
Hey, Watch It!
BAMTV in Texas:
Here's the Daytona animated track map:
Here's another Race Examination by our man Kellen Brauer from Arlington last weekend:
MXGP had a beautiful day in Great Britain for their opener, which was delayed by a week due to the storm that blasted the UK the week before, with one surprise winner and one that was not such a surprise:
Head-Scratching Headlines of the Week
“Formula One permanently cancels Russian Grand Prix”—Fox News
“Where Do You Hide A 500-Foot Yacht? Asking For An Oligarch”—Techilive.com
And here's one from long again, when the cold world was still a thing...
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!