Welcome to Racerhead and the end of the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. Salt Lake City is hosting the 17th and final round of the series, which started back in January at Anaheim. It’s been an entertaining series, and hopefully a successful one for Feld Entertainment, which struggled through the last two years of COVID-19 restrictions and safety protocols and all that to keep the series going—and, in the process, keep the teams whole for the most part. It’s weird to think that in 2020 there were seven Salt Lake City rounds with zero spectators. But then again, everything was weird in 2020. Thank goodness that all appears to be behind us.
As you probably know by now, Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Eli Tomac wrapped up the title last weekend in Denver in front of his home fans. Unfortunately for SLC fans, Tomac will be actually be on the sidelines tomorrow, as he announced he’d picked up a knee injury in Atlanta (and kept very quiet about) and could use the time off to heal before the start of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on May 28. When he mentioned the knee after clinching the title, my heart sank a bit: I was afraid the next thing we were going to hear was that he was taking the summer off to have the knee worked on (as Ryan Villopoto did in 2014) or maybe even retiring (as Ryan Dungey did in 2017). Fortunately, he’s still going racing this summer, which was welcome news for motocross fans all over the world.
Here’s Eli himself on his knee injury, from this past Monday’s PulpMX Show with Steve Matthes and special in-studio guest Wes Williams of Vurb Moto:
Tomac’s championship, his second in 450SX, was actually the second title clinched this year, as Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence had already wrapped up the 250SX East Region. It appeared that Tomac’s teammate Christian Craig would do likewise in the 250SX West Region last weekend until a crash while chasing the other Lawrence, Hunter, dashed his hopes to clinch what would have been his first professional title in Denver. Now Craig will have to deal with not only the stubborn Hunter Lawrence but little brother Jett as well, because tomorrow night’s 250SX program is a Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Showdown round—the second of the season. It’s a very slim chance that Craig gets overtaken, as he has an 18-point lead going into SLC, but it still adds a little bit of drama for the fans. And remember, at last year’s SLC East/West Showdown it was Jett winning and Hunter third, and then at the Atlanta East/West Showdown last month it was Hunter winning and Jett third. So the brothers definitely seem to like racing together. (And congrats to Hunter on his first Racer X cover with our brand-new issue!)
Chad Reed makes a special return to supercross as his son makes his SX debut. A look back at 1972, the first season of AMA Pro Motocross. New England’s latest crop of stars are dominating the woods. Kyle Chisholm is gonna Chiz. These features and much more in the July issue of Racer X magazine.
Also happening in SLC (probably even while I’m typing this) is the PulpMX LCQ Privateer Challenge, which Steve Matthes does in conjunction with Yamaha Motors and a bunch of other sponsors. The special race was supposed to happen last Friday in Denver, but extremely high winds caused Feld Entertainment to suspend any riding or racing in the stadium. (Those winds had a lot to do with why the track was so dry on Saturday.) So Feld is allowing Matthes to hold the race today. Check out the site and our social media later for news on how it all worked out, and a tip of the visor to Matthes for doing this each of the last four years and making it a massive bonus payday for the series’ top privateers. Steve has now raised over $112,000 and still climbing...
Back to Tomac’s title run for a minute. When was the last time Yamaha held the #1 plate in both AMA Supercross and 450 Pro Motocross? You have to go back to 1998, when Jeremy McGrath won the AMA Supercross crown on his Chaparral Yamaha YZ250 and Doug Henry won the AMA 450 Pro Motocross title on the YZ450F. Of course Tomac won't put #1 on until SX '23, and Dylan Ferrandis won't debut his #1 until the '22 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross opener at Fox Raceway in three weeks, but it's a sign that Yamaha is on one of its best runs in history. Don't forget they also have Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing’s Christian Craig about to win the 250SX West Region and keep that plate as well. And they had both #1 plates going into 250SX in '22, but both Colt Nichols and Justin Cooper ended up hurt and on the sidelines for the whole series.
Only maybe 1978 was bigger for Yamaha. That's when the trio of Bob Hannah, Broc Glover, and Rick Burgett took every title on the circuit that year: AMA Supercross and 250 MX (Hannah), 125 MX (Glover), and 500 MX (Burgett). Hannah also won the Trans-AMA title, which was still a major deal in 1978, so all five AMA titles were with the bLU-cRU—though Yamahas were actually yellow back then!
Tomac's clinching early, as well as the fact that the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is no longer affiliated with the FIM, led to a rather strange congratulatory statement from the FIM that seemed to go out of its way to explain that this is a “now national America” championship, and not the FIM World Championship, despite having been a strictly domestic championship for many years, regardless of the FIM affiliation, and overlooking the fact that all of the best supercross racers in the world compete in this series:
All change for 2022 FIM Supercross World Championship
The FIM would like to congratulate Eli Tomac on clinching the 2022 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship with one round of the now national America series still remaining this coming weekend. This is the first edition of this championship since Feld Motor Sports and the FIM terminated its long running agreement at the end of last season.
The 2022 FIM Supercross World Championship will get underway in September of this year under the management of the new series promoter SX Global. The full championship calendar will be released soon, when announced these events will determine the official 2022 FIM Supercross World Champion.
I guess what they’re saying is that despite Eli Tomac being the 2020 Supercross World Champion for winning this same series, he’s not the 2022 Supercross World Champion for winning the series this time, despite beating all of the best supercross riders in the world, in the biggest and most prestigious supercross series in the word, but it will instead be someone from this new startup deal, so congratulations to Eli anyway? Somewhere out there, Heath Voss might be thinking about a comeback.
Looking ahead to next weekend, I’m sure all the riders and race team staff will be stoked to have some time off before the motocross season gets started in three weeks’ time, but I’m headed to Des Moines, Iowa’s Riverside Raceway for the Muc-Off Justin Brayton Shootout. Yes, I am the replacement co-host for Jason Weigandt, who underwent knee surgery last Thursday and, like Tomac, is trying to get himself sorted before the motocross season begins. I haven’t been to Iowa since the National Arenacross days, back when Des Moines was the opener every November, so I’m really looking forward to hanging out with Justin, as well as longtime Midwest motocross promoter Tony Wenck, plus special guests Damon Bradshaw and Phil Nicoletti, co-announcers Dave Derringer and Wes Kain, and maybe even Denny Stephenson. It should be a lot of fun for everyone, and props to Justin himself on hosting this event and giving back to the local moto community he grew up in. It should also be a fun retirement party, as tomorrow night’s Salt Lake City race will be the last Monster Energy AMA Supercross of Brayton’s long and distinguished career.
Let’s Try This Again! (Matthes)
Well, after high winds postponed the Yamaha LCQ Challenge Race Presented by Blowfish for Hangovers, we're back today in SLC for the race! And this time we're looking good. The race is scheduled for 2 p.m. local time, it's 6 minutes plus a lap, and the extra week allowed us to get over the 100K mark! Yes, that's right, we're going to be giving out over $100,000 to 22 riders in this race. The cool part is the raffle is not until Monday evening on the next PulpMX Show so there's still time to enter!
One of the bonus fun things about this race is people in the industry, people on social media all chipping in for various contingency bonuses. It started with Christian Craig giving the rider that is first to the finish line $1,000 and it's gotten weirder and bigger ever since. Attached is the contingency right now that's added to the 100K we're giving out. [Ed. note: If you weren’t a fan of @afaithxx Ashley Faith’s before today.…]
Yes, Weege is in for $100. Amazing, really. He pledged this last week when he was on pain pills and tried to back out once the fog cleared, but we wouldn't let him.
We'll post live timing and scoring link right here at Racer X Online when we get it. [Ed. note: The total is now over $122,000—and still climbing!]
Jeffrey Herlings is Not Coming (DC)
Alas, it's not going to happen. After pushing his decision as long as possible, Red Bull KTM's Jeffrey Herlings, the multi-time FIM World Champion from the Netherlands, decided that he needs more time to heal his fractured heel and will not be coming across the Atlantic Ocean to compete in the 2022 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Having missed the chance to defend his MXGP title when a crash during a photo shoot during the off-season left him injured, Herlings and the folks at both KTM in Austria and KTM North America starting discussing the idea of him coming here once his injury healed. But after riding on Monday, Herlings posted this:
"I wish the situation was not like this and it’s so frustrating that my career keeps throwing things at me! I’ve been recovering from the injury but the condition of my foot – because of some old problems – means it is not in the best shape and not enough to think about racing at the highest level this summer. It’s a bummer not to run the #1 plate in MXGP or to think about the chance of doing the AMA Pro Nationals but we’ve made our decision and now my only goal is to get my body right, get pain-free and think about preparation for 2023. It feels like a long way away but I know it will also come quickly. Thanks to all my fans for the messages of support and of course to the best team in the sport. Red Bull KTM have always had my back and I’m really grateful they still do and to all my partners and sponsors involved. I had a wonderfull day on the bike yesterday, and this old man still has the raw speed, and I will show that once again next year. One day I will race at Promotocross, believe me."
Herlings' decision is absolutely understandable. He has been the Fastest Man on the Planet (at least in pure motocross) for some time now, but he only has five FIM Motocross World Championships due to a terrible string of injuries have knocked him out of several seasons and title bids. While us U.S. fans would have loved seeing him out on our racetracks for the summer with the likes of Star Racing Yamaha's Dylan Ferrandis and Eli Tomac, HRC Honda's Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton, Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jason Anderson, and of course those other two unexpected guests heading our way—Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey and Antonio Cairoli—this is the right decision for #84. We'll keep our fingers crossed that he does get back over here someday, but in the meantime a collective get-well-soon goes out to The Bullet!
And speaking of MXGP, don’t forget that the MXGP of Maggiora, Italy, takes place this weekend. Maggiora is one on the most beautiful and famous tracks in motocross history, as well as an important one in the history of Team USA. Unfortunately for this weekend, MXLarge.com is reporting that GasGas rider Jorge Prado is out, which means the closest competitor to runaway leader Tim Gajser’s speed is on the sidelines. HRC Honda’s Gajser has won five of the first six rounds in the series and has a 71-point lead over the next-closest rider in the standings, Yamaha’s Maxime Renaux.
Silly Season (Matthes)
Some more news is dropping for the upcoming Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and although I had heard from people close to the situation that Max Anstie was going to get a factory Kawasaki 450 for the summer alongside Jason Anderson, it turns out that it will be former Kawi rider Joey Savatgy on the bike. It makes sense because Joey rode great there for one year before being bumped for Adam Cianciarulo, but I specifically asked about Savatgy filling in before I put out the rumors about Anstie and was told that Kawasaki didn't think that Joey would be up to speed fast enough from his ACL surgery. Well, guess he is, or they’re prepared to let him work his way up. Good to see the former BBMX rider find a home.
Also, it doesn’t look like Red Bull KTM is adding another 250 rider this summer, according to the press release they put out this afternoon. Some thought that with Max Vohland struggling with injuries they might add Savatgy or McElrath as backup, but that’s not apparently happening. They also added: “Red Bull KTM has confirmed that team rider Cooper Webb will not be lining up for the AMA Pro Motocross Championship in 2022. The two-time 450SX Champion will shift focus toward welcoming a new addition to his family this summer, before getting back to work in preparation for a third-career title fight in the 2023 AMA Supercross Championship.”
I thought that Jeremy Martin's surgery on his shoulder was going to allow him to compete in some races this summer, but it doesn't sound like that's the case; he'll be out all year. Bummer. I have also heard that he's inked a deal with Club MX on a 450 for 2023.
Jordon Smith to Star Yamaha for 2023? There's no deal yet, but there are rumors.
Ads We Could Not Get Away With Today (DC)
2022.5 KTM 450 Factory Edition (Keefer)
Got the ol' Racer X filming crew out this week for some filming, so if you're a new orange brigade owner or maybe thinking about getting a 2023 (which will be revealed May 10), this new Racer X "How To Make Your Bike Better" test video should be right up your alley. The new-generation KTM has been getting some shade in the pro paddock, but for us regular Joe riders, this bike is pretty damn good and, to me, is better than the current 2022 generation machine. However, there are some things I thought needed a couple tweaks, and in a video that will be up shortly right here on racerxonline.com you will get some knowledge on how to make your new KTM even better. Don't always go off of what our top professional riders say about their machines. Their bikes are not always what they seem from the outside.
Interesting Stat (DC)
For nearly a month now we've been counting down the 50 years of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross with our MAVTV+ 50-Day Countdown to the opening round of 2022 at Fox Raceway at Pala. Each day, either Jason Weigandt or myself does a year in review, with the invaluable help of the Cycle News Archives—especially in those years before Racer X magazine came along, let alone the internet. In looking back at these years, we often find cool little trends and trivia nuggets buried in the stats—the kind of thing data specialists and number-crunchers like our friends Clinton Fowler and Producer Pete love to mine. I caught one yesterday while editing Weege's bit on 1998 that really popped out at me, especially given the fact that Antonio Cairoli will be lining up for his first outdoor national on May 28, and could very well get his first win the same day, just as Jeffrey Herlings did at the '17 Ironman National when he debuted in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.
The stat that popped out for me was the fact that from 1998 through 2002, five different riders all won for the first time in an outdoor national at the series opener. Back then the series started at Glen Helen Raceway, and it began in '98 when Suzuki's Mickael Pichon won the 250 class. One year later, Sebastien Tortelli lined up for his first national on a Honda CR250 and won. In 2000, a third straight Frenchman earned his first national win at Glen Helen, only this time it was Yamaha of Troy's Stephane Roncada in the 125 class. Incredibly, a fourth straight international rider got his first national win (and also his first national start) when South Africa's Grant Langston won the 125 class at GH. And then finally, in the '02 opener, James Stewart made his AMA Pro Motocross debut and won the 125 opener at Glen Helen. So five different first-time winners—Pichon, Tortelli, Roncada, Langston, Stewart—all got that first win at the opening round of the series, all at Glen Helen. Sweet.
Hey, Watch It!
The Weege Show: Brayton Finale Edition, featuring a great interview with Justin Brayton on the eve of his final AMA Supercross:
Here's a great listen: Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb talks to DMXS Radio's David Izer about taking the summer off to get himself sorted and also that he will be back with KTM in 2023.
Dirtbike Off the WORLD'S LARGEST ROCKING CHAIR! Brett Cue Jumps in Casey, IL
Vurbmoto went to Loretta Lynn’s Ranch for the big rebuild last week, here’s Part 1 of their video diary:
Also, the Racer X Read-Out from the new issue’s 1972 feature, about the first year of AMA Pro Motocross, is available now to subscribers right here:
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“British lawmaker Neil Parish resigning after watching porn in the House of Commons”—npr.org
“Nantucket Residents Vote To Allow Women To Go Topless At Beaches”—WBZ/CBS Boston
“Shaun Palmer's Truck, Motorcycle, & Mountain Bike Stolen & Truck Totaled in High Speed Chase”—Pinkie.com
(The GoFundMe campaign has, at the time of this writing, raised more than $9K of its $25,000 USD goal and can be found here.)
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!