Welcome to Racerhead, just back from a very big Bike Week in Daytona, with record crowds of spectators, amateurs, and GNCCers. It truly felt that everyone is finally done with COVID-19, as the only masks I saw in Florida were the Scott ones attached to goggles on the starting line for Tuesday’s vintage race. And speaking of that, we got extremely lucky to have the 52nd Daytona Supercross, a jam-packed Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross (RCSX), and the second round of the AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series over in Palatka all take place before the rains hit on Tuesday—and hit hard. Tuesday’s vintage and ATV race was swamped, and then American Flat Track races were postponed as well.
But man, what a race they had on Saturday night. The ninth round of the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship saw Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing’s Eli Tomac snatch the all-time Daytona SX wins record for himself with six, one more than Ricky Carmichael. Eli has always been masterful at Daytona. I don’t think there is any other race in supercross where one rider has been so dominant: Tomac has now won Daytona the last four years in a row (tying him with Jeff Stanton) as well as 2017 and ’16. Since moving up to the 450 class full-time, Tomac has eight total podiums and two runner-up finishes at Daytona International Speedway. The only two guys to beat him are SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda’s Justin Brayton (’18) and Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey (’15). This time he had to track down a very driven Cooper Webb, who was trying to win his first main of 2022. The victory, combined with another off night for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jason Anderson (who had yet another run-in with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Malcolm Stewart), gives Tomac an 18-point lead on Anderson, with defending champ Cooper Webb another 15 back.
Tomac leaves round nine with the most points he has had in his 450SX career through the first nine rounds of a season.
In 250SX, Team Honda’s Jett Lawrence made his Daytona debut a very successful one, winning handily while also taking over the points lead for himself. He entered the day tied with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Cameron McAdoo, who finished third on Saturday night behind Jett and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Stilez Robertson.
When all was said and done, the Daytona folks let the packed grandstands out on the racetrack for a fairly chaotic scene that reminded me of the end of the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations, only without all of the various national flags. Jason Weigandt, who was doing the podium announcing, recorded the scene on his phone:
Now the series heads to round ten in Detroit, which will be a much different type of race given that it’s back indoors and up north. There’s still a long way to go, but with Tomac making the Daytona turn with a sizeable points lead, the only other two contenders with past SX titles (Anderson and Webb) really have their work cut out for them now.
After the pros left, the Daytona track was tamed down and made easier for the amateur and youth riders in the Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross. That race begins the really big three-weekend run to kick off the “amateur national” season. While not nearly as cutthroat competitive as the JS7 Spring Championships at Freestone, Texas, or the following Spring-A-Ding-Ding at Underground MX, also in Texas, the RCSX is a fun first race of the season for many who come down from the northern winter. Among the standouts in the 35 different classes were several riders you’ll likely be seeing at the pro version of this event, including California’s Ryder DiFrancesco, Florida’s own Logan Best and Evan Ferry, Pennsylvania’s Gavin Towers, North Carolina’s Daxton Bennick, Georgia’s Gage Linville and Landon Gibson, Texas’ Kade Johnson, Utah’s Tayce Morgan, Tennessee’s Drew Adam’s, and Australia’s Tiger Wood, just to name a few. Lots and lots of fast kids on the way to the top right now.
There was also a guy you probably won’t be seeing at future Daytona Supercross races, at least not as a professional, in Mike Alessi. Having gone full circle, #800 is back racing amateur but still absolutely flying. He and Ryder D had an excellent Open Pro Sport battle, after which Mike was seen playing in the pits with his daughter, smiling ear-to-ear. He’s coming back to the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch this year to race Junior +25 and start working on regaining the record he once held as the all-time winner there.
While out on the infield helping at the RCSX, I missed the big news that dropped early in the week that Team Honda’s Ken Roczen was pulling out of the AMA Supercross Championship to focus on his ongoing health issues, along with the mental frustration he’s found himself in over the past couple of months, “compounded by a bout with COVID-19 just after the San Diego round.”
Having watched Kenny struggle, and knowing the big injuries he’s had in the past, I think this was the right call for both the rider and the race team. We’ve seen similar situations like this in the past, be it Damon Bradshaw’s self-exile at the end of the ’93 season that lasted for 20 months, or Kawasaki briefly benching Jeff Emig late in his corner, or Jason Anderson early in his professional career. They all came back, though only El Hombre was able to later win a championship. With Roczen it was plain to see that something is wrong in his program, and I hope #94 and the team get it sorted and he comes back stronger than ever.
First look at Kyle Chisholm on his Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing YZ250F fill-in ride. Align Media First look at Kyle Chisholm on his Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing YZ250F fill-in ride. Align Media First look at Kyle Chisholm on his Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing YZ250F fill-in ride. Align Media
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Now that the series has officially started, two very similar rounds are up next. Detroit and Indy are only a few hours' drive apart and pose challenges of the same sort. The dirt for both of these rounds will be softer and likely develop ruts during the main events. The whoops will develop a jumping line at some point like Minneapolis did, opening the door for those who don't excel at blitzing monster whoops. These variables often reflect a change in the results, too. Cooper Webb has gone 2-3-2 since we left the West Coast, and you'll never convince me that the change in soil isn't the biggest reason for his uptrend.
The larger question is on the mental side. I don't think it's arguable whether Webb's chances of success go up when the dirt gets more pliable and the whoops aren't hard-packed, edgy monsters. Is that simply because he struggles out west, or is it a combination of his skillset aligning with a particular mental bias that's been reinforced by results? Riders are very influenced by what they "think" is going to happen. If Webb walks onto a track on Saturday morning and finds soft dirt, small whoops, and tight corners (he's a master of turning tightly), he probably smiles and says, “This is going to be a good night.” Conversely, if he walks out onto the Anaheim 3 course and finds a hard-packed track with some of the nastiest whoops of the season, I think he would be more in salvage mode than "I'm going to win" mode. Is his approach hurting the result? Hard to say, but it certainly can't help. These biases are created from past experience, though, so his subconscious is likely just remembering the tough nights on tracks just like that one. It's an interesting subtext in contrast to what some outsiders would assume. Riders aren't simply dumping the clutch at the start of Saturday night's main event and hoping for the best. They never stop thinking about the next race. It is the dominant thought, whether that's a good thing or not. It is all-encompassing, pervasive, and exhausting. In that vein, it becomes so important to monitor those thoughts. They can be one's most powerful asset or harmful liability.
Nothing could be more true for Webb's 2022 campaign thus far. I believe his struggles compounded as the suboptimal results mounted. Not only did he struggle, he began to enter races subconsciously believing he would struggle. The whoops were the toughest we’ve seen in decades. The dirt was hard and slippery, culminating with a 93-degree day at Anaheim 3. Flash forward to today and we’re coming off of three totally different rounds with more of those on the docket. The dirt for the next two will be right up his alley. The whoops will likely come around to his liking by main-event time. My guess is that he knows this and feeds off of it—exactly the opposite dynamic of what was happening in January. Time will tell if we see the results continue to reflect the change in psyche. I'm betting on more podium finishes and a more confident Webb. His belief in himself has returned and that fire we all expect seems to be rekindled.
Four Red Plates? (DC)
There was a weird moment last Friday when four different guys showed up for press day with red plates on their bikes. Of course the first one belonged to Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing's Eli Tomac, who was holding a small but comfortable lead in 450SX and has his big #3 in white on the red background. (He also had a cool Dale Earnhardt look going on his Alpinestars kit with a big #3 in the front below his chest.) The second and third red plates belonged to Team Honda HRC's Jett Lawrence and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Cameron McAdoo, as they were tied in the 250SX East Region points and both got to run red as co-points leaders.
The fourth one was the unexpected one. Christian Craig is leading the 250SX West Region. And while last year's Daytona round was actually a West Region event due to all of the weird scheduling caused by COVID-19 restrictions (remember those?), this year it was back in the East where it belongs. So why was Craig out there riding on press day? Turns out that Ricky Carmichael, the color commentator for Monster Energy AMA Supercross, as well as the track architect for the Daytona SX and host/promoter of the eponymous Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross at Daytona, was really, really busy and needed someone to do the riding for him for the track preview. Because Craig is not only off right now but also nearby—he and his family are living in Tallahassee full-time—he threw his #28 bike in the truck and came over on Friday to help the GOAT out. Him being there led to some conspiracy theories/skullduggery on social media and the Vital MX Forum, but he wasn't there to crash the 250SX East party or jump up to a 450 to help his teammate Tomac or anything like that. He was just helping out a friend! So that's why on Friday in the staging area we saw #3, #18, #48 and #28, all with red plates.
The Texas Two-Step (Keefer)
The big spring amateur races have started in Freestone this week with the JS7 Invitational, and next week will be another big race, the Spring-A-Ding-Ding, that takes place at Underground MX in Kemp, Texas. These two weeks of amateur racing will give us a glimpse of who we can expect to be on top come August at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch and the Monster Energy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. Most of the heavy hitters will be attending these two events, and this is the last time Team HRC Honda's Chance Hymas and Team Green Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Ryder DiFrancesco will be lining up as amateurs in Texas. Both look to be moving to the pro ranks after Loretta's, and you guarantee their rivalry will continue well into the pro ranks in years to come. The tip of the spear in the B class also looks promising as riders like Evan Ferry, Preston Boespflug, Haiden Deegan, and Daxton Bennick, along with a couple others, can all go "A" level speed. If you're looking for Freestone results as well as live timing, check here: http://freestone.escoremx.com/liveresults.asp.
If you want to know more about Spring-A-Ding-Ding at Underground MX that starts March 15, click this link: https://www.springadingding.com/
Privateer Logan Karnow has been grinding away the last couple of years, getting better and putting his Kawasaki inside the top ten in 250SX, and now he’s been in a few 450SX mains as well. He went out and got a title sponsor this year and struck out on his own after a solid year on the Bubba Pauli squad. Well, it's not going so well now, as you can go to his Instagram and see the dilemma he's in after his sponsor stopped paying the bills. Not the first time it's happened in our sport, also probably not the last. Check out his Instagram to see if you can help out a privateer, people.
No, not that JT, but rather John Tomac. Eli’s father called in to the PulpMX Show on Monday night and, in my opinion, gave a great interview. This switch to Star Yamaha has obviously gone pretty well for the family, and as John mentioned, the easy thing would've been to take the money from Kawasaki and ride out a legendary career there. But they wanted more control of the motorcycle, wanted to try some more things on the bike, and the Star guys have been willing to go outside that box of what they think would work to get Eli comfortable. John mentioned Eli has been happier because he's not as frustrated as last year, he talked about how he separates being Eli's trainer/coach and his father, and more. Great interview, lots of information in here.
No Thanks, Russia (DC)
The FIM, as well as the FIM North America, announced that no Russian motorcycle racers would be allowed to compete in FIM-affiliated events until the situation in Ukraine is resolved. It’s another step in the worldwide condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing violence against its people:
On March 5, 2022, the Board of Directors of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme (FIM) announced its condemnation of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and its decision to suspend the Motorcycle Federation of Russia (MFR) and the Belarusian Federation of Motorcycle Sport (BFMS) as a result. The FIM Board also recommended that all affiliated members of the FIM and FIM Continental Unions take similar action.
In keeping with this decision and the FIM Board’s recommendation, the Board of Directors of FIM North America unanimously concurred with the FIM Board’s action and will honor its request by prohibiting riders from the Russian and Belarusian motorcycle federations from participating in FIM North America activities.
Consistent with this action, riders from these federations will also be prohibited from participation in the activities of both FIM North America member federations, the Canadian Motorcycle Association and the American Motorcyclist Association.
Riders are typically required to secure start permissions from their home federations to race in a foreign country or be released from their home federations to the federation of the country hosting the event. Since the rights and privileges of the Russian and Belarusian federations have been suspended by the FIM, neither can grant a start permission nor provide a release. As a practical matter, riders from those federations are already prohibited from riding in other countries by the original FIM action.
While there are no Russian or Belarusian riders in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, one was planning on racing some rounds of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, as well as the British Championships. Evgeny Bobryshev, now semi-retired from MXGP racing, has been in Florida the past three months training. Now he will not be able to compete until there is resolution in Ukraine. Unfortunately, he won’t be able to get a release from the FIM to race anywhere.
Bobryshev at the 83 Compound recently.
WORLD SX (Matthes)
I did a Fly Racing Racer X Podcast with two of the principals behind the new FIM Supercross World Championship Series venture this week. Adam Bailey and Ryan Sanderson are with SX Global and hoping to get a new series going this fall. Next year will see them create a longer ten-race series that runs after Monster Energy AMA Supercross and during the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and the FIM Motocross World Championship (MXGP). Should be interesting to see how it all goes. I'm on the record as not seeing in-their-prime top factory riders ditching the nationals to go race WSX. The guys with WSX made it clear to me that their goal is to get "some" of those guys to race their series, so we'll see. Do I think a Justin Brayton or Marvin Musquin go race the WSX? Sure. But do I see a Jett Lawrence or Chase Sexton not racing the American nationals? No, I do not. It'll all play out in the end, and we'll see what goes on, but make no mistake about it, I got the feeling from the podcast that SX Global is trying to make this a pretty big deal. There will be team charters, so not anyone can sign up and race—there will be some payment to the teams to show up, and the purse is roughly double of an AMA SX. That's all good. The bad is there are races all over the world, and that's expensive to send people to! Whether it's MX podcasts or race promoters, I think competition is a good thing, and riders getting paid is always good—but color me a bit skeptical on the WSX becoming anything more than the old WSX was. But maybe I'll be proven wrong.
New Amateur Moto Podcast (DC)
Carter Biese and his family have been involved in amateur motocross for a long time. Growing up in Wisconsin, Biese and his brother Jordan have long been in the thick of it up front in the big amateur races, with Carter winning the 125cc Schoolboy AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship on a Husqvarna in 2017. After a couple unfortunate injuries, Carter is now transitioning into some new things, and he came up with the idea of a podcast focused on amateur motocross racing. Minor League MotoPodcast will dig into all the elements of amateur motocross, from how training facilities work to the pros and cons of homeschooling programs to race previews and reviews. As a matter of fact, the first two shows are up, and the first one is a preview of the big spring amateur events—RCSX, the JS7 at Freestone, and the Spring-A-Ding-Ding in Texas—and the second is a deep dive with Steven Squire of SSR Training about riding facilities. You can find both podcast episodes here. The RCSX may already be over, but the "Texas Two-Step" is just getting started, so definitely give the preview a listen where Carter B and Scotty Nowlin of Powerband Racing go over the top contenders in the top classes as the JS7 is underway and Spring-A-Ding starts up next week. And follow Minor League Moto wherever you get your podcasts.
Remembering Flipper (DC)
Hard to believe, but it’s been ten years since the sport of motocross and supercross lost Phil “Flipper” Alderton, the man behind the Honda of Troy and later Yamaha of Troy teams. My buddy Michael “The Rock” Rigdon sent me a note reminding me of the somber anniversary of Phil’s tragic passing, which came as a result of addiction issues. Alderton was once a promising Ohio motocrosser and then a very successful businessman before starting his groundbreaking team. Along the way he sponsored countless riders, from early teammates Erik Kehoe and Todd DeHoop to a whole stable of future (and sometimes current) superstars: Larry Ward, Brian Swink, Mike Kiedrowski, Michael Craig, Stephane Roncada, Ernesto Fonseca, Nick Wey, Nathan Ramsey—the list goes on and on. He even sponsored Jeremy McGrath in 1997 when the King of Supercross switched from Team Honda to Suzuki.
Those were the good times. The bad times came later, and Phil was very honest and open about his issues. He even gave our man Eric Johnson an exclusive and heart-wrenching interview about it that became the feature “To Hell and Back … Maybe” (June 2005). Lots of people tried to help Flipper, unfortunately to no lasting avail. Still, he left a huge mark on the sport and every person he crossed paths with, and his friends all still miss him.
Rigdon sent me this photo and explained in a note: “Bunch of us old Dayton and Honda of Piqua racers and friends and even his first wife are getting together for lunch shortly and I am bringing down photo albums that I brought back from California to share with the group. This is a shot when Phil was on a sponsored Ossa ride. It was from a track in Winchester, Indiana, on a day he diced with Marty Moates and beat him one moto (but not sure about the OA). Someone today will remember. I got emotional just wiping down the photo albums realizing what I am doing and where I am going today. Will be good to see old friends just wish it was under different circumstances.”
Upon his passing 10 years ago, on March 9, 2012, Motocross Action’s Jody Weisel wrote this excellent memorial for his longtime friend Phil Alderton.
If you are near Dade City MX in Florida this weekend, stop down and check out the Red Bull Day in the Dirt Down South! Check out the 2022 track map below. Our guys Jason Weigandt and Tommy "Tenders" Journet are on site, as well as Honda HRC's Hunter Lawrence; the Fastest Man in Piedmont, #222 Randy Richardson; State of Ethos' Kelana Humphrey, and more! Come check it out!
Hey, Watch It!
End of an Era: 9X MXGP Champ Calls Time on His Career
39-year-old Andrew Short made a cameo appearance at the JS7 Invitational at Freestone MX in Texas and nearly pulled the holeshot! He stayed with some very fast kids (Ryder Difranseco, Chance Hymas, Gavin Towers) for the early part of the Open Pro Sport moto. Vurb Moto posted this highlight clip of the moto.
The Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross at Daytona was lucky enough to have perfect weather on Sunday and Monday, but then the skies opened up early Tuesday morning and wreaked havoc on the rest of Bike Week. Check out this clip from Moto America where one of the road racers has to put out the fire on his crashed motorcycle with the supercross slush!
BAM TV is back with Justin "Shake" Barcia's own unique take on Talladega Nights, with cameos by F1 driver Daniel Riccardio and Will "Bake" Hahn:
Garrett Marchbanks raced his ClubMX 450 Yamaha at Daytona and chronicled his day in another episode of Manchild Moto, which ended with a 15th place finish in the main:
And finally, here is Cameron McAdoo's vlog on his day at Daytona, where he rode with the red plate and ended up third overall in the 250 SX East Region:
Head-Scratching Headlines of the Week
"Things Get Real Batty When Real Bat Appears During Screening Of 'The Batman'" - Huffington Post
It starts off with this gold:
“Social media is having a wheelie big dilemma at the moment.”
And it ends talking about the 2015 debate on the gold and white or black and blue dress viral debate:
"Ironically the door on that debate is still wide open."
Our friend Mike Stevens went to the Evel Knievel Museum in Topeka, Kansas, and sent in a few pics. If you ever find yourself in the neighborhood, check out https://www.evelknievelmuseum.com.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!