Welcome to Racerhead and round three of 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, the second Anaheim round, and the first Supercross Futures race of the year. Unlike last weekend, when we were set up at the Ohio Regional Volleyball tournament, far away from the race in San Diego, we are inside Angel Stadium this morning. I'm not only back, but so are 45,049 others, as the stadium is sold out for tomorrow night’s race. That’s three in a row for the ’23 SX tour, and a very good sign for our sport writ large. We’re all enjoying an exciting series that currently pits a couple of multi-time SX champions in Eli Tomac and Cooper Webb in a battle for early momentum in this series. Tomac is the defending champion as well as the ’20 SX #1, while Webb is the ’19 and ’21 champ. (And we have yet to see a solid main event by ’18 champion Jason Anderson, but it’s no doubt coming.) There’s also that rising star Jett Lawrence in the 250SX class, though it’s starting to feel like he’s no longer rising—he’s already here. (RJ Hampshire seems like he’s a good start away from giving Jett fits, though.) Tomorrow night should be a lot of fun.
Anaheim 2 (A2)Triple Crown + Supercross Futures + KTM Junior Supercross
Saturday, January 28
The season has barely begun, but the news early this week was about the end of the season. The first SuperMotocross World Championship (SMX) playoffs and final had to be moved from their announced dates, as a conflict with the University of Southern California’s Trojans football team and the Los Angeles Coliseum forced a big adjustment. Rather than ending on October 14, the final championship event had to be moved to September 23 because the new USC calendar calls for games on October 7 and 21. As the primary occupant of the L.A. Coliseum, the Trojans are the building’s priority. But because USC is leaving the Pac-12 Conference for the Big 10, they’ve lost sway with the rest of the Pac-12, especially when it comes to scheduling. The University of Utah wanted to visit the Coliseum on October 7, which means the stadium authority would have to completely dismantle the Audi VIP Area in the east endzone, at the bottom of the peristyle, for the SMX race and then rebuild it before the October 21 game with Notre Dame, which is nearly impossible. (If you don’t run up and down the peristyle, why even go the Los Angeles Coliseum?!)
There was also the issue of the first three weekends for the people at the Coliseum. Anaheim 1 was swamped with rain, round two in Oakland was completely wiped out due to rain and postponed, and then last weekend’s San Diego race required a massive save by the Dirt Wurx crew to even get the race in. They literally took all the dirt out of the building after it was soaked by days of rain and was more like baby food than terra firma, threatening a second straight postponement due to the heavy rain. Like Angel Stadium in Anaheim, they will no doubt be needing a new field once the dirt is taken out. And that made the Coliseum and USC folks (who now run the Coliseum) nervous, because while there is time in the winter to rework the playing fields in Anaheim and San Diego, there are now only seven days to fix whatever happens to the field at the Coliseum in October, thanks to the new USC schedule—and that’s before removing and then moving back in the whole Audi VIP structure.
That’s all in September, though, and right now everyone is focused on round three of Monster Energy AMA Supercross and whether or not someone can slow down the momentum of Eli Tomac in the 450SX class and Jett Lawrence in the 250SX West. Let’s get into what’s happening now…
Update: Breaking News (Jason Weigandt)
Bummer news this Friday afternoon, as we've now learned that Jo Shimoda has suffered a crash and a broken collarbone which will keep him out of next week's 250SX East opener in Houston. This on the heels of similar news for his teammate Seth Hammaker, who went down with a wrist injury. This leaves Mitch Payton's Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawaski team without any riders for the east at the moment. Same team also lost Austin Forkner to knee injury on the West at Anaheim 1, Supercross Futures rider Ryder Di Francesco to a thumb injury, and has Jett Reynolds still on the sidelines from racing due to last year's wrist injury. Terrible, terrible times for Mitch. We'll see how they plug these holes by next weekend.
Then after the Shimoda news, we found out Malcolm Stewart is out for this weekend...and maybe more. Rockstar Husqvarna's press release today was pretty vague, saying only that the popular rider is out for the weekend and seeking more evaluation. Malcolm was flying at the first two races this year. Get well soon to these riders, and look for more info once it becomes available.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
The first Triple Crown event of the year is here! I believe the perception of TC events for riders is much different than those of us watching. Having three starts and a short turnaround adds more risk and also a tougher night on an effort level. The feedback I've heard from riders is mostly “I would rather not,” where spectators are more like “heck yeah!” In the end, a better product wins out in most cases, and I truly believe the Triple Crown is a better show. There is nonstop meaningful action once the lights come on. The intermissions are almost nonexistent and there is less filler. The only downside for fans seems to be in trying to find time to visit the restroom and refill their tall, cool Budweisers.
For riders, they just need to accept that these events are likely to stay. Focusing on recovery and sprint speed is only going to help where complaining about the format won't.
If a team has the resources to build a second race bike, that can also take some of the burden off. They can use one particular bike in races one and three, switching to the fresh bike for race two. Team members will service the primary bike during the downtime so it's ready to go again in the final race. Not every team can afford this, of course, but it's a nice option for the well-funded programs.
Coming Soon: Jean-Michel Bayle book (DC)
If you're into motocross books, now is a very good time. Lately we've even fortunate to see several very good books about motocross produced by former riders and photographers. Eighties Grand Prix racer Rob Andrews' book Inside Line and three-time FIM 500cc World Champion No Regrets are both incredibly well-written memoirs of their racing days, and David Dewhurst's fantastic Motocross: The Golden Era is a must-have for your bookshelf or coffee table, as does British journalist Gary Tippings’ The Stolen Title, a biography of Jaroslav Falta, the ill-fated Czech 250 Grand Prix rider who won the ’74 Superbowl of Motocross at the L.A. Coliseum. Falta’s story was written by his family and the British journalist Gary Tippings.
Now it looks like we’ll be adding the long-awaited memoir of globe-trotting, world-changing French icon Jean-Michel Bayle, who conquered both Europe and the U.S. in the late eighties and early nineties, and then retired in ’92 to try road racing—at only 23 years old! Bayle recently posted this photo and description on what a particular set of gear was all about from 1991:
"We are early 1991 in the middle of the Gulf War. Americans and allies including France are bombing Iraq. (I was) supporting the U.S. troops with a little sticker on the back of my helmet. But it's also good to pinch the American riders a little... Inspired by the stars on planes after every plane (shot) down, and yes, Top Gun, is just around the corner, Marc Blanchard (now of 100%), who was working on my outfits at JT Racing, offered to put a bomb on my pants with the name of the city for every win. In this picture there is one without a name because the eighth race has not been won yet! Soon all of this will be in a book..."
We can't wait!
Keeps Getting Older (Jason Weigandt)
We keep saying it, but he keeps doing it so we have to repeat it: Eli Tomac is better than ever. With the AMA Supercross, AMA Motocross, and Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations titles together, his 2022 season was his best, yet he looks even more complete to start this 2023 campaign. It’s safe to say that this 30-year-old version of Eli Tomac is not diminished in any way.
Eli, actually, is undefeated in AMA Supercross since turning 30 in November. We’ve all watched the age of the contenders of this sport advance, and Eli is a big part of that, becoming the first father to win the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in 2020, and the oldest SX champion ever in 2022. This all led us to ask supercross stat man Clinton Fowler to provide some advanced analytics on age.
We uncovered those stats on this week’s episode of SMX Insider, hosted by myself and Daniel Blair. In the 1970s, just 9 percent of the race winners were older than 25. In the 1980s, 18 percent were over 25. That number climbed to 21 percent in the 1990s, 28 percent in the 2000s, and 31 percent in the 2010s. But now, in the 2020s (2020 season through the present), the win percentage of riders older than 25 has rocketed to an incredible 75 percent! Twenty-five was once an age when stars went into decline. Now that's when they do their best work.
Tomac is at the top, but Jason Anderson (who will turn 30 in February), Webb (27), Ken Roczen (28), Justin Barcia (30), and more have pushed those numbers forward. Chase Sexton is still just 23, and of course the world is waiting for Jett Lawrence’s full-time 450 debut. There’s some youth out there, but not nearly as much as there used to be, partially because superstars stick around longer—and stay competitive. How much further can Tomac go? That appears to be his call. The winning might only stop when he chooses to retire.
Tomac versus Webb (Weigandt)
It was fun watching the Eli and Cooper battle in San Diego. On paper it seemed pretty simple, as Tomac blew by Webb to take the lead, pulled away, and held it to the end. Webb, though, has an odd, reverse-engineering strategy to winning supercross races. He never wows you with the crazy lap time but instead just keeps attacking late, when the track is at its worst and his line choice shines. We’re used to supercross champs just being the fastest of the fast, but that’s never been Webb’s calling card. When the track gets bad and everyone slows down, he just slows down less. I asked Fowler to check the lap times, and we found that while Tomac’s best lap in San Diego was almost a full second quicker than Webb’s, Webb’s average lap was less than 1/10 slower. Webb was faster than Tomac in all five of the last five laps of the main. Eli was dealing with lapped traffic, but also Webb was attacking late, as he usually does.
“Well, he just kept me honest the whole time,” Tomac said. “I knew that was going to happen. I was just like, man, a couple of those guys were just battling in the bowl turns and there was nothing I could do. That’s just the way it goes when you’re in front. Some tracks are easier to get around the lappers than others. It makes you stay on your toes.”
“Eli was really riding good, and I tried to latch on and felt like our pace was pretty strong,” Webb said. “Made a few mistakes there in the middle, and the lappers at the end definitely helped me a little bit. It was pretty hectic with all that going on.”
Tomac and Webb have split the last four Monster Energy Supercross Championships, but they’ve alternated good and bad seasons. We’ve never seen them both at peak power fighting each other. This might finally be happening. The final margin of victory after 20 minutes was just 1.1 seconds. Tomac is better than he’s ever been, but Webb is gonna throw everything he has at him to try to get a win.
Supercross Futures (DC)
This weekend will mark the first round of the 2023 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship with a Supercross Futures race, and this time the prospects will get to race as part of the night program. The idea is to give young riders a taste of supercross before they actually have to line up for a real one. It's a cool program, similar to the Pro Motocross Scouting Moto Combines that give kids a similar taste of what it will be like when the go to a real outdoor national.
RELATED: How to Watch 2023 Anaheim 2 Supercross 250SX Futures Main Event & Entry List
It got me thinking about previous generations of supercross prospects and how they didn’t have a similar chance to ease into all of this. Many floundered. (I remember my first supercross race, Atlanta '85 at the old Fulton County Stadium, and being blown away by how narrow the track was and how steep the jumps were. I did not qualify after running into the back of Honda support rider Larry Brooks on the last lap of our heat race, in a stupid bid for seventh or eighth when we were both going to qualify anyway. He got in through the LCQ, then finished second in the 125 main event behind Eddie Warren; I did not make it and got to watch from the grandstands with my very pissed-off dad.) But some excelled beyond expectations, and at very young ages.
At the top of the list is the youngest winner of all time, and he did it in the first "supercross" ever, the 1972 Superbowl of Motocross at the Los Angeles Coliseum (which is where we will end the first SuperMotocross World Championship this September 23). Riding a Yamaha 250, Tripes was just 16 years, 10 days old, and he went 2-2-2 to win what we would now call a "Triple Crown" format like we're going to see tomorrow night for the 250SX and 450SX classes. It's a seemingly unbreakable record, as a rider would have to turn 16 within eight days of his first 450SX race and then win in order to top Marty's amazing feat. That seems even more unlikely now than it’s ever been!
In 2002 James Stewart was exactly 16 years, 15 days old when he turned pro before the Anaheim opener. He signed up for the 125 class on a Chevrolet Trucks–backed Kawasaki KX125 and went out and crashed three or four times, but still managed to finish second behind only Travis Preston of the Factory Connection Honda team. One week later, at age 16 years, 22 days, Stewart would win the 125 main event at the old Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego, breaking the record of Kyle Lewis as the youngest 125SX winner ever. Lewis, a Honda support rider at the time, was just a little less than 16 years, four months old. (Tragically, his father had a heart attack during the race while watching from the mechanics' area and died before the race was over.)
In 1983, Ron Lechien was a 16-year-old tenth-grader when he won the Orlando Supercross. This was two years before the addition of a 125 class. In other words, he won the premier 250 class over the likes of Bob "Hurricane" Hannah, Broc Glover, Mark Barnett, David Bailey, Jeff Ward, Johnny O'Mara, and more.
And in 1988, not long after his 16th birthday, Damon Bradshaw went to Japan to race in the Osaka Supercross in the premier 250 class. The Yamaha factory rider would pull off an astonishing upset, beating veterans like Ward, Glover, Rick Johnson, and many more on a Yamaha YZ250. Two months later, Bradshaw, slated to ride the 125 East Region for Yamaha, talked the team into allowing him to ride a couple of 250 races on the West Coast. He crashed out of his heat race at the San Diego opener and took an ambulance ride to the ER before the main event even went off. But two weeks later, at Anaheim, he returned and finished third in his very first AMA Supercross in the 250 class.
While we will see excellent prospects like Haiden Deegan, Daxton Bennick, Casey Cochran, Talon Hawkins, and more, I can't see any of them showing up for a round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross in the premier class instead of the SX Futures and winning like Tripes and Lechien did (and Damon Bradshaw almost did!).
How Many Anaheims? (DC)
In a feature for the April ’23 issue of Racer X magazine, I wrote about how Anaheim is the home away from home for those who follow or participate in Monster Energy AMA Supercross. Since 1975, and with only the occasional break for various reasons, it's been a fixture on the AMA Supercross schedule. Some years there have been as many as three rounds of the series held under the Big A, making this the venue that has hosted the most SX rounds in history. So how many Anaheim Supercross events have there actually been? It's complicated. As far as actual AMA Supercross races go, this will be the 81st round held here, dating back to 1976, when Team Honda's Marty Smith won. There were 19 races (as Anaheim Stadium from 1976 to 1996, then it closed to be remodeled), and then 13 more under a new stadium name, Edison Field, from 1999 through 2003, and since 2004 there have been 49 more races here at what's since been called Angel Stadium of Anaheim, including tomorrow night's event.
Two more races here could be counted, but not as AMA Supercross events—and I’m not talking about the old Mickey Thompson races that were part of his off-road Ultracross truck series. In December 1975, at the end of the Trans-AMA Series, original promoter Mike Goodwin held a race that was not a part of any series. He called it the American Motocross Finals and it was a run-what-ya-brung race. Marty Smith, then just 17, entered his Type II prototype Honda RC125 but grenaded the motor. Suzuki's Tony DiStefano won in front of an announced 23,000 spectators. The race is not in the Racer X Vault because it was basically a standalone outlaw race.
And then in 1988, when promoters Goodwin and Thompson were almost literally at war with one another, the first two California races at Anaheim and then San Diego were not actually AMA-sanctioned. While Goodwin had the exclusive right to hold AMA Supercross races in California, Thompson has the exclusive to hold "motorized dirt events" in those buildings. The races were called the Coors Super Crown of Stadium Motocross and were supposed to include the summer race at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but then Thompson and his wife were murdered in March, Goodwin disappeared, and a long legal battle began that would last 19 years before Goodwin would be convicted of organizing the murders.
Here's the thing: Team Honda's Rick Johnson won both the Anaheim race on January 30 and the San Diego round in February, with all of other factories participating—only the races in those stadiums were not recognized by the AMA as true AMA Supercross events. If they did count, RJ's career total would actually be 30 SX wins and not the 28 he's credited for now.
Further confusing the count is the fact that the stadium was shut down in '97 and '98 for renovations, as the stadium's capacity was trimmed down from 72,000-plus to 45,050 to became more of a boutique baseball park for the California Angels, before reopening and hosting as many as three SX races a year moving forward. And then there were no races there in 2021 due to COVID-19 restrictions.
So the answer to the original question appears to be 81 official AMA Supercross events, at least two more unsanctioned events, and who knows how many Ultracross events!
2023/2024 FXR Dealer Meeting (Keefer)
I flew up to Minnesota this week for the 2023/2024 FXR dealer meeting, and although it was mostly snow dealers, there was plenty of moto represented at the Mystic Lake Hotel/Casino. Phil Nicoletti, Alex Martin, Brandon Haas, and Mike Brown among other media members, like Jamie “Darkside” Guida, got a sneak peek at FXR's upcoming offerings. The highlight of the whole thing was the fashion show where Hayley Shanley MC'd as Phil walked the catwalk with Mike Brown.
He looked to be in his element while shaking his backside and even smiling. FXR owner Milt Reimer gave a speech about how the company started, where it's going, and the passion that drives the company. Even though FXR started out as a snow-based clothing company, their passion has always been moto, and it’s showing the last few years. It was nice to be at a dealer show once again post COVID-19, and you could tell by the turnout the dealers also were glad to be back talking product.
Alex Nagy has been a journeyman SX privateer for quite some time. What I like about Nagy is that he doesn't really ask for help. He's not out crying about not having a new bike or wishing he had A-Kit suspension. Instead, he sleeps in his van while traveling the states with his girlfriend, he runs an older 2020 CRF450R race bike, he goes out during the week and jumps huge gaps, and he does all of this on his own dime. However, last week in San Diego, Nagy was having a hard time passing AMA sound tech because his mufflers on his ol' Honda were blown out. So instead of running around asking for a new muffler system, Nagy simply improvised his way through tech, MacGyver-style. That's right: a little bailing wire and some mesh screen will get that dB level down! I also witnessed a high front end on Nagy's machine while the TV broadcast panned over on him while he was staring next to Sexton. Nagy didn't have a holeshot device! Today we’ll be delivering some parts to Nagy to make his A2 experience a little more enjoyable. Thanks to Honda as well as Eric from Works Connection for helping us make Nagy every working man's favorite privateer.
Dick Bigelow, Godspeed (DC)
The motocross world lost a great friend and advocate with the passing of Dick Bigelow earlier this week. Bigelow was the patriarch of the Bigelow motocross family, charter members of what we long known as the Michigan Mafia. Dick and his wife, Barb, raised four very fast boys in (from left) Kreg, Kris, Kirk, and Kip. (That's Dick on the #18 Penton in a photo sent to use by lifelong family friend and fellow Michigan fast guy Steve Ellis.) The Bigelow brothers made big waves in amateur motocross, especially in the pre-Loretta Lynn's seventies, and Kris went on to become a Yamaha and Husqvarna factory rider, finishing fourth overall in the 1981 AMA 250 Pro Motocross Championship. Dick himself was also an AMA Congressman for Michigan's District 14 and practically a motocross institution in his own right. He passed on Sunday morning at his home in Daytona Beach, Florida, surrounded by his family. A celebration of life will be announced at a later date.
Hey, Watch It!
Breaking Down Unique Techniques in Supercross | San Diego Race Examination
SMX Insider #8
2023 Anaheim 2 SX Track Preview with Cade Clason
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“Let the Green M&M Be a Nasty Little Slut!””—Rolling Stone
“Space is 'running out of space,' say experts – and it could end in war”—DailyStar.co.uk
“Cowboys' own Twitter account roasts Dak after 49ers loss" - NBC Sports
"Cowboys Twitter Account Gets Called Out for Dak Prescott Tweet" - Sports Illustrated
“King Charles will abdicate next year according to psychic who reads asparagus- Express.co.uk”
“DUQUESNE VS. LOYOLA CHICAGO: UBER EATS DELIVERER INTERRUPTS GAME... This Your Order?!?”—TMZ.com
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!