Welcome to Racerhead, and welcome to Round 2 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, coming to you from the oldest race on the tour, the Hangtown Classic. Last week we saw Team Honda paint Fox Raceway red, with retro flare, and it’s been much of the talk this week, along with Ryan Dungey’s amazing comeback. More on that later. What we really need to talk about is the overall failure of the livestreaming on several levels.
First of all, I apologize for MAVTV+ and MX Sports Pro Racing for not being better prepared or the tsunami of problems that hit last Saturday morning. An astonishing surge of new viewers and subscribers crashed the servers that MAVTV+ was using, in part due to a denial of services attack from a corrupt email that tried to break into the paywall. There were also problems with the fact that they decided to run commercials with the stream, without first having a box-in picture in place so at least none of the racing action would be missed. And they also did not better plan out where to add in-content features that would also take away from the racing. As soon as they realized they had a big issue MAVTV+ dropped the paywall and moved programming to live and free on their Facebook page and the American Motocross channel on YouTube. That helped at least salvage some of the day, but the damage was done. Fans expect to see what they are promised, especially when they are paying for it, and both MAVTV and MX Sports Pro Racing are committed to getting this right, and now. In what should have been the biggest race of the season, we ended up taking out our own starting gate. I apologize for the product, but not the effort, which consisted of months upon months of planning for every scenario, good and bad. We have to do better, and we will.
Referencing an earlier post, qualifying will be broadcast on MAVTV Plus, and then the motos will be broadcast on both MAVTV and MAVTV Plus. However, this weekend, the qualifying broadcast for the second round will also be live streamed for free on the Pro Motocross (American Motocross) YouTube channel. They are also extending by two weeks everyone’s subscription to the service.
Needless to say, it’s been a long week of Zoom calls, handwringing, armchair engineering, angry emails, and social media posts, and just a lot of attempts to correct all that went wrong or even just sideways. MAVTV is fully committed to making things better, and they have been an amazing partner since 2009 with the whole series through Lucas Oil, the parent company. We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for them, and we’re working alongside them to make this better, and better now.
As far as the opener goes, Chase Sexton was amazing, as were Jett and Hunter Lawrence. Ken Roczen looked like his old self, or at least 90 percent of his old self—the improvements and fixes he’s made since he dropped out of supercross back in March were obvious. It was fantastic to see Ryan Dungey back out there and very fast, and if he’s put in the right situation, I wouldn’t be shocked if he won one of these races. Antonio Cairoli was also impressive, though the whole new format and way of racing seemed to throw him off. I bet he does much better this week. (Cairoli also signed up this week for the next two rounds at Thunder Valley and High Point.) Eli Tomac didn’t look comfortable in the first moto, but he was much better in the second. And both Jo Shimoda and Christian Craig had very good days but were just overlooked because of the two Hondas up front in each class. The track held up great, the crowd was very enthusiastic, and the racing got off to a great start. Here’s more from the rest of the guys…
Honda’s a Fast Starter (Jason Weigandt)
I can’t really make any sense of this data. Team Honda’s glory days, with Dave Arnold and Roger De Coster at the helm, began in 1982 and essentially ended when the last dominant rider of that generation, Jeremy McGrath, left at the end of 1996 (by then Arnold and De Coster had already moved on, but McGrath and company were keeping winning traditions alive). The brand signed Ricky Carmichael for the 2002 season and Ricky, being Ricky, won just about everything in front of him for his three seasons on red, but beyond RC, who proved he can and will win on anything, Honda has tried and tried to get back to the promised land, but can never quite get there.
Here’s the data that is so weird: in season after season, Honda gets off to a hot start. Ezra Lusk winning early in ’98. An entire army of Honda riders getting off to a hot start in ’99 (Lusk won the first two AMA Supercross rounds, and Honda went 1-2-3-4-5 at the AMA Motocross opener, led by Sebastian Tortelli’s incredible 1-1). Carmichael’s success after that was end-to-end, but after that Honda enjoyed the riches of the GEICO Honda 250 program, getting riders like Trey Canard, Justin Barcia, and Eli Tomac into the mix. Again, those guys would win early and often. Like in 2013 when Canard nearly won the supercross opener after a huge battle with Davi Millsaps, and then a rookie Barcia won round two. They were arguably the two best riders at the start of that season, but they couldn’t maintain it. Two years later, Tomac crushed the start of the 2015 Pro Motocross campaign, but he crashed out of it at round three. Then came the Roczen era, with many early season wins and lots of time with the red plate, but no titles. That includes this very season itself, when Roczen and Chase Sexton pulled away from the field at Anaheim 1. They only ended up with one race win each. Now we have another early-season Honda show, with Sexton and Roczen again pulling away from the field at Fox Raceway. One of these years has to be the year, right? Honda hasn’t won a 450 title since Carmichael left at the end of ’04.
It’s a strange thing. Honda has rotated through many bikes, team managers, technicians, mechanics, riders, and all during the last 18 years. You really can’t point to any one thing that leads to early-season success but no title at the end of the year. It’s just the way it goes, usually, and it’s a reminder to never get too excited or call the dawn of a new era too soon. We’ve been there before. So with Sexton and Roczen way ahead at round one (and the Lawrence brothers equaling it with a 1-2 in both 250 motos) things are certainly looking good for the Red Riders right now. Will we finally look back at this opener as the one where it finally turned around for good? Or is it just more of the same? It all makes this second round this weekend at Hangtown very important.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
Round two means different things to different people. For those who excelled at the opener, it’s all about keeping the momentum rolling. Take the good and continue on while working on weaknesses along the way. For those who had a tough start to the series, round two is a different thing altogether. Most will want to simply try to reset and pretend last weekend never happened. Chalk it up to bike settings, first round jitters, bad luck, or anything else that will allow you to enter Hangtown with a clear head. Turning things around starts with one good moto and Hangtown is as good of an opportunity as any.
As for the Hangtown track, it will be a little more forgiving than Fox Raceway. The added sand will provide more traction and allow riders to be more aggressive. It’s also not a track that the majority of the field practices on regularly. For riders like Tony Cairoli, he won’t be at such a disadvantage. I never like to draw conclusions from the opening round, especially when it’s at a track that so many consider familiar. Hangtown should be much more indicative of what we should expect in the near term.
No track has improved as much as Hangtown in terms of my first time visiting there (1996) as to now. The Dirt Diggers have done a great job in bringing in some loam and making things better. It's a cool track, lots of history and the temperatures should be again pretty cool. I don't see much changing in either class as far as results, but Jason Anderson should be on the box. JA21 rode great at round one but bad starts and crashes did him in. He certainly looked the part of a race winner to me.
We had Chase Sexton on the PulpMX Show and he talked about how he did notice that, in all of the pre-season prediction stuff, he saw that no one was really picking him to win much. He did exclude me in that so whew.... I guess that "MC in '93" stuff worked! Anyway, as I related to him on the show, whether it was Zach Osborne the year before or Dylan Ferrandis last year, the first-round winner was looked at as a bit of a surprise and then, as the races went on, it made a lot of sense why that dude was winning. Sexton is in the same boat. His raw speed is there, fitness is there, and his team and bike are top notch. Why not Chase, right? He did admit on the show that sand is a weakness and he's been working on that, but mentioned that it wasn't even Southwick that was the main point of weakness because, as he said, there's a hard base there.
The hits keep coming for Mitch Payton lately as one of his top riders, Cameron McAdoo, crashed on the opening lap of moto 1 at Pala and will be out for a while with some gnarly injuries. Now it was announced that Austin Forkner needs shoulder surgery after a crash a couple of weeks before Pala did him in. Forkner was steady at Pala and the thinking was he'll build from there but now he's back on the injury treadmill thing and will miss more time. Forkner had bounced back a bit here late in SX with a win and some speed, but man, it's been a tough three years for the kid once thought to be Kawasaki's next great star. As far as PC, well Seth Hammaker hasn't shown he's been able to stay on the bike much so someone bubble wrap him after his great opener. But there's always Jo Shimoda!
Glover in the Booth (Weigandt)
If you tell 10-year-old Jason Weigandt he’s going to someday announce a motocross race on TV with Rick Johnson, well, he’d be looking for a time machine to get to that date and time. Because there’s no way I’d believe it until I actually see it happen. This is the way it’s going to go this summer, though, because we’re bringing legends into the booth every week. RJ is just right in the wheelhouse for me, when I first started following the sport hardcore as a kid, he and Jeff Ward were the two top dogs. Yes, I also worked with Jeremy McGrath last weekend, but MC reigned when I was a teenager. Childhood heroes just have a little more panache in the brain.
I was a little worried about having both MC and RJ in the booth because the three-man TV crew is tough. I feel like both guys really tried to hold their line, not say too much, and not talk over each other. It was really, really fun and really, really good. I feel like most ex-racers know they can talk racing, but can they stay focused and enthusiastic for four-straight hours? MC and RJ did.
This weekend we bring Broc Glover into the booth. I would not be surprised if Broc ends up being the best of everyone we use this year. He’s been helping with the live announcing crew the last few years, he’s super plugged into the current racers via his work at Dunlop, and of course he was a hell of a racer in his own right. And Broc is not afraid to talk! We are going to find some gems this summer and the Golden Boy will be one of them. Should be a fun show, tune us in on MAV or get streaming with MAVTV plus.
Huge news for 2023 as the PR went out this morning, our guy Filthy Phil Nicoletti has re-signed with the ClubMX team for 2023. Same program as this year 250SX, and 450MX, and no word on whether he got a raise or not, but either way, sources say Phil is grumpy about the deal and thinks he's getting screwed. Also, Racer X hasn't locked him in for his very popular Friday column, but sources also say those talks are "ongoing" between Weege and Phil.
As far as actually racing, Phil is still shooting for Millville for his 450MX debut.
The Dutch Connection (DC)
Max Schwarte is a Dutch rider who showed up at Fox Raceway at Pala to give AMA Pro Motocross a try. He’s done some EMX racing in Europe before but not actual MXGP or MX2. He’s getting help and support from Brent Norman, who helped another Dutch rider in Rick Elzinga last year.
“The biggest challenge is just seeing how we compare to them.” When asked how much different the Southern California scene is to “Lommelwood” in Belgium, he laughed. “It’s so much different. And there are some nice tracks here that I want to race on some time. Lommel is just deep sand.” He hooked up with Norman through Rick Elzinga’s mechanic Robert. “Racing the AMA is a big dream for me, and Brent was able to help."
Brent Norman is a SoCal motocross enthusiast who has become sort of a conduit for Dutch riders, much the way that Jim Holley has long been for Japanese riders. “It’s kind of unintentional,” he explains. “Rick’s whole thing came up kind of last-minute last year. He wanted to come and race the AMA Nationals, and then when I saw how fast Rick was, I started meeting some of his friends that he grew up racing with. There’s a really deep talent pool in Holland as well as Europe. They are really talented, but they end up flying under the radar because there are so many guys to contend with. They are more than capable of coming here and racing. They are talented, they are polite, and they are a pleasure to have here.”
Schwarte qualified in the 40s and did not make it through the LCQ, but the plan was to try again this weekend at Hangtown.
Hey, Watch It!
Infield Access: 2022 Fox Raceway 1 250 Class National Raw
Infield Access: 2022 Fox Raceway 1 450 Class National Raw
Kellen Brauer’s Race Examination from the first round:
Here’s Dirt Shark’s “Hot Wire” feature with Jason Anderson as they get ready and go through opening day:
Another episode of BAM-TV, this time for Fox Raceway:
And this from FELD, to add to your viewing tomorrow: The 2022 Supercross Year in Review special airs tomorrow - Saturday, June 4, at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, and then will be available on demand at 3:00 p.m. ET on Peacock. The one-hour program features the biggest stars of the sport and follows the major storylines as they unfolded throughout the season. Monster Energy AMA Supercross is the most competitive and highest-profile two-wheeled off-road motorcycle racing championship in the world and the 17-race series is a constant roller coaster of emotions for the athletes and teams that compete at this level. Going into the season, many questions surrounded Eli Tomac and Jason Anderson as both switched teams and manufacturers. Defending champion Cooper Webbmade pivotal changes to his racing program that included leaving long-time trainer Aldon Baker who helped Cooper win two championships. The 2022 Supercross Year in Review special revisits these key storylines and showcases the season-that-was for Ken Roczen, Malcolm Stewart, Justin Barcia, Chase Sexton, Justin Brayton, and others, plus Eastern and Western Regional 250SX Class Champions Jett Lawrence andChristian Craig.
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!