Main image is from the 2019 Seattle Supercross, photo by Rich Shepherd.
Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you on a very busy Friday. The Seattle Supercross is tomorrow night, which means a return to the 250SX West Region. Last Saturday night's Indianapolis SX will be hard to top. We saw some drama (see Justin Barcia and Jason Anderson), some excellent race craft (Jett Lawrence going from last to first in his heat race), and another Eli Tomac win—his 43rd career win has him one behind Chad Reed on the all-time wins list, and if things keep going like this he should pass Reed soon and tie him with a second AMA Supercross Championship. And we also saw another excellent crowd in Lucas Oil Stadium, which you may recall was the first race canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. (Two years later, hopefully we're almost done with even talking about the whole pandemic.)
Tomorrow night Tomac can tie his personal best for consecutive wins in SX—five in a row, back in 2017 when he won Toronto, Daytona, Indianapolis, Detroit, and St. Louis on the trot. He was finally beaten by Marvin Musquin in Seattle, the same Marvin Musquin who can still finish on the podium, as he proved just last weekend. Yet Tomac did not win that title—Ryan Dungey did. That's because Eli started that season going 5-6-8 in the opening three rounds, and then tripped badly at Arlington with a 15th. Meanwhile, Red Bull KTM's Dungey just get putting in the podium rides.
Eli still hasn't has that "bad night" that's haunted him for much of his career—that 22nd at the '18 Anaheim opener, or that 12th at Arlington '19, or that 13th in the '21 Houston opener. But he doesn't have a Ryan Dungey chasing him either, as his primary competition—Jason Anderson, Justin Barcia, Cooper Webb, Malcolm Stewart—have all been inconsistent for one reason or another. Tomac may, however, be riding better (or at least smarter) than ever, which explains his 51-point lead. He's managed to stay above all of the bar-banging going on around him, as he hasn't been Barcia'd or even Friese'd by any of the usual suspects. That doesn't mean it's not going to happen; it just means it hasn't happened yet.
The same could almost be said for Jett Lawrence in the 250SX East Region, with the exception of a steady chaser in Cameron McAdoo, as well as the occasional uh-oh moment, like tangling in the air with Austin Forkner in Arlington. Lawrence was once again patient and calm under pressure from McAdoo, and continues to gain fans with every new stadium he goes to, just as he did at Ford Field in Detroit and Daytona International Speedway. Now he gets to go into a short break riding a three-race winning streak.
So we turn our attention to Seattle, and to Jason Weigandt....
Related: 250SX West Region Refresher
Numbers Lie (Jason Weigandt)
Here’s what I find interesting about this stage of the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship: Eli Tomac has a gigantic points lead of nearly two full rounds, and someone even mentioned in the post-race press conference from Indy that he could wrap it up a race early, in what would be his home race in Denver. That would be quite a scene, as I remember Eli winning Denver in 2019 and the stadium going absolutely bonkers. I usually don’t forecast points this far in advance, but I feel like this is in play because you can see Eli making smart decisions and thinking big-picture while guys like Jason Anderson, Justin Barcia, and Malcolm Stewart are pushing the envelope and each other. In his Indy heat race, Eli got alongside Malcolm and then decided to just get on the brakes and let him have the position at the finish. No reason to get into trouble.
What’s weird thing about Eli’s points lead is his gap is huge, but the racing on the track is still tight. At Indy, Tomac, Anderson, Barcia, Stewart, Marvin Musquin, and Chase Sexton all either held the lead or could see it at one point during that main; I counted five guys on the same straightaway around the halfway mark. That’s incredible! We’ve been lucky that several riders have taken on crashes that cost them points but have stayed in the series to keep the racing tight. Same thing with Tomac’s win streak. He has four in a row, but some of them have been nail-biters. So while the points are spread out, we still don’t know what’s going to happen every Saturday when the gate drops. Plus, we haven’t been to Seattle in a few years, and track conditions there vary. We’ve seen mud and rain, of course, but also dry races where the track was still super rutted, soft and tough, but also some years the conditions are surprisingly good. Hard to predict what we’re going to see, which is what we want.
By the way, this should be a really fun weekend—come out to our live PulpMX/Racer X show tonight in Renton, Washington, or if you’re in the St. Louis area come join us next Friday night. We have a lot of fun taking fan questions at these shows.
Also, our Racer X MXGP scribe Adam Wheeler will be in Seattle, and I’ll probably grab him for a podcast while we’re in the press box. Have you been listening to Wheeler and the madcap/completely unfiltered Lewis Phillips on our MXGP podcasts? Even if you don’t care about GPs, you’ll still enjoy these shows. Lewis has some seriously hot takes on things. It’s hilarious!
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Seattle is quite the flight from the Southeast. Riders will arrive stiff, tired, and jetlagged after literally crisscrossing the USA. This trip will also likely mark a start to outdoor testing. Many riders will fly down to Southern California on Sunday for a week or two of testing before the series reconvenes in St. Louis on April 10. That first foray into testing for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship brings on a change of mindset for most riders. Up until now, every thought has been about how to improve on this year's supercross results. Staying singularly focused is important in a world with endless distractions. Next week, though, motocross is impossible to ignore. Training programs will begin to shift in subtle ways. Some of the training geared toward intensity will transition into longer base fitness–building work. The temperatures will start to ramp up and the work will get a little dirtier as a summer of hard racing awaits.
The few who will likely resist the change wholeheartedly are those in championship contention. Eli Tomac, Christian Craig, Jett Lawrence, and Cameron McAdoo will need to keep their eye on the prize a little longer than the rest. They can't allow themselves to be completely unprepared for motocross, but they must execute more of a balancing act than the likes of a Hunter Lawrence, Chase Sexton, or Dylan Ferrandis. They will likely all test outdoors next week, but they will keep practicing supercross throughout April, where many others will do a few SX laps at the end of the week just to stay sharp.
The interesting question that arises is whether winning the Monster Energy AMA Supercross title is a disadvantage for motocross prep. We haven't seen the SX champ carry his winning ways into motocross in a long while. Even Eli Tomac suffered the same fate, looking a bit "off" during that COVID-19 summer of 2020 after winning his first SX championship. Assuming Tomac holds on to win his second SX title, will that late emphasis on SX and lack of focus on motocross take a toll when we move things outside? The last person to back up their SX championship with a motocross title was Ryan Dungey in 2015. Eli may have a chance to break that trend in 2022, but he will need to find the right balance between the two disciplines.
I have some questions about points, and then I have some points to make. First up, has anyone asked Weege about how someone else other than Tomac can win this title if they win every race from here on out? Anyone done that math? Weege likes that stuff, so please let him know on Twitter ASAP please and thank you.
Headed to Seattle today and glad this race is back on the schedule. Yes, the weather usually sucks, but it's great to be up there, as the fans are hardcore about the sport and it's always one of the races I get stopped at the most to talk about PulpMX and all that. Reminder: we have a live show Friday night, tickets on Pulpmx.com and we have Alex Martin and Carson Brown stopping by as guests. We're gonna try to convince Brown to ride a TTR 125 and see if he can make the main.
When I think of Seattle SX, I think of Larry Ward and Chicken in 1990 playing the you-slow-down-no-I-slow-down game and then Ward taking off for a very popular win. That was great. The old Kingdome was pretty cool—it was also pretty dark if I remember right. The old Seattle SX doubleheaders were around for a long time also. Those must have been pretty cool for the riders and teams.
I think Malcolm Stewart wins one of these remaining six races. I don't know which one—might be this weekend—but he's so close. When he gets the start, he crashes or gets help crashing; when he's fast enough, he doesn't get the start. He's yet to put everything together, but Mookie Fever is coming on, I have no doubt about it.
Remember the 250SX West? Last time we saw these guys there were about eight of them sprawled out in the whoops and the managers’ tower in the infield looked like riders’ meeting. All of this carnage allowed Christian Craig to ease out a 28-point lead in the series, and he looks good to clinch this thing at some point here. His advantage in the whoops won't be in Seattle, so maybe he just cruises around and takes a podium? Nah, probably not! Hunter Lawrence put some white backgrounds on a bike and set social media aflame with talk of him taking a dive, but no, he's not doing that. He's in his second year of the class of scoring over 135 points, but I've been told in 2023, if he's not in position to win the title, he will stop showing up at the races. Nothing to see here folks, the 250SX class is doing just fine….
Justin Brayton, Dylan Ferrandis, and Shane McElrath will all miss Seattle this weekend with injuries. Brayton's going to still be there signing autographs and kissing babies, but he and Shane will most likely be back at St. Louis after the week off, while Ferrandis, look for him at Fox Raceway at Pala.
And speaking of Ferrandis, in 2023 if I'm on the Racer X SX Preview shows screaming about how the 450 MX title will bring some dude some great wave of confidence and he'll be a 450SX threat, I've told Weege to punch me in the face. Dylan, like Zach Osborne the year before, did not see an appreciable jump up in 450SX after winning outdoors.
I asked about Ferrandis signing back up in 2023 with Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing and was told "we're working on it," so I'd say that’s a good sign he'll stay BluCru in 2023.
I sat down with Matthes and Weege to talk about my one professional racing highlight, which was 2004 Anaheim 3. It was a race where I had some "help," and that help got me a holeshot in my heat race but also got me into some hot water with DV. It was cool to sit back and reminisce with the guys about that year of racing, how I even got to that point, and how I was helping develop the new KTM 250 SX-F at the time. We even covered some things that I forgot about, which included the clothing company SMP, catching frisbees while doubling over a small person who threw those frisbees to me, and why I had to go back to my "normal" bike after A3. Wow. Matthes got a lot out of me in a short amount of time. Get the show wherever you get your podcasts or visit Pulpmx.com and get it there, or listen below:
You can watch the heat from that race in the video below, starting around the 13:45 mark!
Remembering Mel Harris (DC)
Longtime Suzuki executive Mel Harris passed away earlier this week after a long battle with cancer. Harris was with Suzuki from the time they won their first AMA Supercross title in 1981 with Mark Barnett to well past the next time they won it, which was 2005 with Ricky Carmichael. Throughout his time there he helped guide the brand through countless championships in AMA Superbike, AMA National Enduro, Grand National Cross Country, Amateur National Motocross, the X Games, and more. He was largely responsible for hiring Roger De Coster to help revive the brand's SX/MX efforts in the late '90s, which led to Roger working with Jeremy McGrath, Greg Albertyn, Travis Pastrana, Carmichael, and eventually Ryan Dungey. They also had off-road legends like Randy Hawkins, Rodney Smith, and Steve Hatch, and of course a whole long line of minicycle and amateur motocross legends that included Buddy Antunez, Charlie Board, Branden Jesseman, Broc Hepler, Davi Millsaps, and even Eli Tomac. There were also some of the top road racers of the times: Nicky Hayden, Mat Mladin, Ben Spies, Aaron Yates, John Hopkins, and more.
Mel Harris supported motorcycle racing across the board, from young amateurs to seasoned professionals, and in practically every discipline.
According to a press release posted by Suzuki:
"Mel was a long time Suzuki employee first joining the company in June, 1981 and remaining with Suzuki through December, 2008. During his long tenure with Suzuki, Mel held many sales positions ranging from Regional Sales Manager to his last position as VP, Sales and Marketing. Mel was also Suzuki’s representative on the AMA Board of Directors.
"Perhaps Mel’s greatest strength was his relationship with our dealers. He knew many on a personal level and took pride in being a strong advocate for their businesses. Mel was also a passionate supporter of racing and was connected to many of our successful Suzuki championships in the past.
"Many of you will remember the dealer meetings Mel oversaw. Bound to entertain dealers at all costs, Mel loved to try and top himself year after year. Whether he came on-stage astride an elephant, by jetpack, or suited up as “Melvis” (Elvis Presley) Mel loved to put a smile on our dealers’ faces while delivering important product and sales information. Mel Harris was truly one of a kind and will be sadly missed."
"Please join us in offering our thoughts and prayers to Mel’s wife Gail and the rest of his family. A celebration of life has been announced by Mel’s son-in-law Ken Faught and will be held April 24 from 10a to 2p at Pole Position Raceway, 1594 E. Bentley Dr., Corona CA, 92883. The celebration is open invitation and flowers can also be sent in tribute."
Hey, Watch It!
Check out Kellen Brauer’s race examination from the 11th round.
Round 12 preview with Leigh Diffey, Ricky Carmichael, and Will Christien:
Husqvarna’s Grit and Grind – Episode 2 – Jalek Swoll
And if you have not yet, give the latest Racer X MXGP Review ShowPodcast #3 recap from the MXGP of Patagonia-Argentina a listen!
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“DENVER BRONCOS: MILE HIGH STADIUM CATCHES FIRE... Massive Smoke Clouds”—TMZ Sports
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!