Welcome to Racerhead, coming to you from somewhere in between Phoenix and Glendale—Phoenix where this round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross used to be, Glendale where they actually hold the race now. It’s been a while since I attended this round, and one early takeaway is that I already probably to get a new travel agent…
We’re back out west, and ready for the sixth round of what’s been a very compelling and somewhat wild series. Round one was about Jett Lawrence. Round two was about the mud and Chase Sexton. Round three was about Aaron Plessinger and Jett Lawrence and Jason Anderson. Round four was about Cooper Webb and booing. Round five? Umm... A very robust crowd of some 52,000 midwest supercross fans saw Team Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence become the first two-time 450SX winner of 2024 and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner win the 250SX East Region opener after a first-turn pileup for the ages. But from the moment the checkered flag fell and the various photographers around the track started exchanging notes and did-you-see-what-I-saw comments as they raced back to the new photo den, it became obvious that the '24 Detroit SX would be remembered for something extraordinary. Something crazy. Something downright nutty...
There’s been a lot of crazy things happen in this sport, and some of those have been truly surreal. Like the time Shane Trittler went somersaulting over the old building jump in the ’94 Las Vegas SX and landing on the back of Damon Huffman’s bike. Or Greg Albertyn leading the FIM Motocross of Nations that same year and hitting a deer that was crossing the track at about 60 mph (Albee, not the deer). Or the time that Mike Alessi T-boned Ivan Tedesco at Glen Helen ’05 and then tried to hold him down. A lot of people will tell you they were right there and saw it up close and personal, but they would probably be fibbing. But with what happened last Saturday in Detroit, with the internet and social media being what it is today, well, we all saw it/them with our own eyes, er, iPhones.
If Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Cameron McAdoo ends up winning the 250SX East Region Championship, it will have been those seven points he earned in Detroit the hard way, er, well, the ballsy way. I know, I know, you've been reading and hearing puns, and plays-on-words related to the unfortunate first-turn situation and ensuing wardrobe malfunction that led to more people seeing poor McAdoo's junk than they've seen of Brittney Spears strutting her stuff on those crazy topless Instagram dance vids she likes to post. But while she apparently means to share all that bare nakedness, Cameron, on the other hand, was desperately trying to hold on to every point he could after that big crash-and-burn (and then tear-and-bare) in the first turn. Kudos for the guy sacking up like... See, it's impossible to avoid! And remember not so long ago when everyone was worried about OnlyFans girls on Logan Karnow's shrouds and not seeing Cameron's macaroons?
I was in Detroit and even from a decent seat in the middle of the stadium I did not see or realize what was happening, nor did anyone around me. Same goes for the AMA officials and race production staff, most of whom watch from race control at the press/suite level. McAdoo was a lap down and not really on the big screen, and most of the crowd couldn't see it with the naked eye (sorry again). But as the photographers and videographers started their downloads afterwards, and riders in the race with a much closer few like runner-up Max Anstie gave their post-race interviews, did it become apparent that this was the first full-frontal moto had seen since Bob Hannah pulled the top off of the highly-modified trophy girl at the '89 Unadilla 250cc USGP. What followed was a viral moment that saw supercross finally be introduced to Barstool Sports in the form of "deez nuts of Commando McAdoo," according to my college-aged son and his friends who all couldn't wait to show me that supercross was finally on one of their favorite follows... What a weird, strange turn of events, and thank goodness that Cameron (and especially his wife Maddie) haven't been offended and are actually making light of it all themselves. What a gritty, gutsy, ballsy effort, right? Even the McAdoos got in on the act, calling this week's vlog "Cameron Goes Ball Out in Detroit."
Lost in all of the post-race hoopla were a couple of interesting bits, like Jalek Swoll goes from that pile-up to a historic sixth-place finish in the maiden outing of the Triumph, or that fact that for the first time in years Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki has the red plate in both regions as Austin Forker joined Levi Kitchen a points leader (as Mitch Kendra pointed out earlier this week, first time since 2019), Daxton Bennick grabbed a podium in his very first professional supercross, Coty's Schock's incredible career-best fourth-place finish in his debut ride for the Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha team, or the fact that Michigan fans really turned out in a strong way for supercross, making this round feel like Pontiac back in the day, and, finally, Jett Lawrence wisely passing on the chance to poke the bear and saying, okay, now it’s 70 to go…
Weirdo Eli Race (Jason Weigandt)
Speaking of Eli Tomac, he is unquestionably one of the best to ever race, and perhaps his only weakness was the weird tendency to have, well, weird races every once in a while. There are races where he struggled and went backwards without warning, only to come right back and win the next weekend. This has happened a lot less lately, but it returned at Detroit over the weekend when he dropped from third to tenth. In ye’ olden days, we would have spent copious amounts of time, talk, and ink trying to figure out what the heck happened. We’ve spent so much time studying Eli in these moments over the last decade or so that we could have probably gone back to school and scored an MBA if we had applied our studies in an area that actually matters. We don’t have to think about this so hard anymore. Eli rarely reveals much, but I did talk to him in 2022 at the Thunder Valley National when he just casually mentioned at some races the rear end of his bike will feel too low, and he’ll feel like he’s going to fall off the back of the bike, so he has to pull on the bars too much, which leads to arm pump. That’s it! It was just arm pump.
Now, I did see some conjecture on social media that someone had talked to Eli’s father John and that something in the rear shock malfunctioned, so I texted Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing Team Manager Jeremy Coker, and he responded saying nothing in the shock failed. Of course, team guys don’t always admit to parts failures, but Coker’s explanation does make sense: "His current shock setup is good on harder, drier tracks. When we got to the sticky, rutty dirt like this weekend it sucked the rear of the bike down and in turn gave him arm pump.”
Detroit first was a lot softer than it has been in previous years. Softer dirt means instead of wheel-spin, a bike will “hook up” and that pulls the rider back and the rear suspension down. It’s that pulling that has caused arm pump for Eli in the past.
Now, that said, I did ask a suspension guy I know to watch the video closely when Tomac starts dropping back. We saw a lot more rear-wheel movement coming in and out of the corners on Eli’s bike than those around him. It’s possible a suspension part the controls low speed dampening/damping (used for control in and out of turns) failed, but parts that control high-speed (used for landing big impacts, like jumps) were still intact. That’s how a rider could struggle in braking bumps but yet also be able to keep doing supercross triples and on-offs, as Eli did.
But to me, that doesn’t really matter. Be it a setup problem or a part failure, the point here is that either one of them led to Eli dropping back. Setup and parts can be fixed as soon as this weekend. It’s not like Eli suddenly realized he isn’t good anymore, or he’s a dad with kids at home, or the other riders are too fast, or his Achilles hurt, or anything that complicated. We’ve seen this from him before and he always bounces back. Don’t forget he literally blew the field away a week earlier in the final Anaheim 2 Triple Crown race. That wasn’t a guy who is scared to go fast. They’ll get the shock dialed, or just enjoy the return to harder dirt this weekend, and Eli won’t end up getting lapped. Will he win? That’s a different story against this field. You can ride really, really well and still not win. But I don’t think you’re going to see what happened in Detroit happen in Glendale.
Pro Perspective (Jason Thomas)
This is a big week when considering championship momentum. Chase Sexton has the red plate, but I view this race as a bigger moment for two other riders, namely Eli Tomac and Jett Lawrence. For Eli, he has had quite the rollercoaster season. His 9-2-10-3-10 results have swung him all over the map. They've also taken a toll on his championship points standings. Each time he has struggled thus far, he has found a way to bounce back, though, and that's the ask for this weekend. He is historically great at Glendale and will need to be. A break in the pattern, especially at a venue where he excels, would not bode well. There has been so much parity in 2024 that mistakes haven't been as penal as they often would be in years' past. That dynamic usually shifts and the best outshine the rest down the stretch. Entering March with a big points deficit isn't how championships are won. That puts the impetus on this weekend to right the ship.
For Jett Lawrence, the story is both similar and different. His results have been all over the map like Tomac's but he has momentum on his side. He is coming off a convincing Detroit win where he looked like himself again. He sits second in points and has a real chance to form a breakout from the variance he's shown thus far. Another win would send a resounding message that Jett is already figuring things out. It would continue to grow his confidence in 450 SX and erode some of the head-scratching moments we witnessed this season.
Can Jett make good on all of that? Time will tell. Each week presents a unique dynamic and opportunity. The situations are different for Tomac and Jett but the importance of this weekend is all too similar.
Red Flag? (DC)
There was a lot of talk about the start of the Detroit 250SX main event and the chain-reaction pileup that saw pretty much half the field go down. It started from the far inside as Henry Miller and Tom Vialle touched Seth Hammaker from both sides, then Hammaker bounced out onto Vialle, and then it was like bowling pins going down getting knocked around. Haiden Deegan ended up with bent bars, Vialle needed to collect himself, the bikes of Hammaker and his teammate McAdoo were stuck together (and McAdoo needed a seamstress in the worse way), Pierce Brown, Jalek Swoll, Nick Romano, and more, all went down, Daxton Bennick was knocked off the track with several others, and ultimately Evan Ferry was at the last pin to fall, slamming into the stadium wall. Even though the bikes were still out on the track as the leader Forkner came around to start the second lap, the AMA officials did not throw the red flag because the bikes still down were not in a blind area and the only injured rider (Ferry) was well off the track.
Once he got back up and running, Deegan came around with his bars bent way down and flipped off either Vialle or the officials, and half of the stadium, over either the crash or the lack of a red flag. As I understand it the race officials decided not to fine him, as they had not fined Dean Wilson (Anaheim 1) nor Cooper Webb (San Diego) for doing the same thing, albeit in different situations. But now that it’s happened three times in five races, the AMA will probably offer a stern warning to the riders and teams that from this point forward anyone giving the bird to other riders/race officials will be getting a fine.
And if you’re wondering why they interviewed second-place Deegan after his heat race it’s because Jeremy Martin was unfortunately knocked out cold in the whoops and needed medical attention, which caused a delay in the program. (Get well soon, J-Mart.) One way to help fill it for the fans in the stadium and watching at home was to do another interview, and Deegan was there as requested by the podium manager.
Kitch And The Vets (Matthes)
Back to 250SX West Region this weekend, and when we last left them it was Levi Kitchen getting his second career 250SX win in the Triple Crown at A2. Also, RJ Hampshire finished runner up with points leader Jordon Smith not getting the starts he needed to be a factor. So Kitch and Jordon are tied for the red plate while Hampshire closed up. Look, Kitchen is on his way up and has lots of time to win races and titles but if you're Smith or Hampshire, you've got to be thinking this is your chance after—checks notes—years and years and years in the class. Either veteran winning would be a cool story for sure and these guys have always been tired together. RJ made his pro debut one year sooner than Jordon (‘14 and ’15, respectively) and they were teammates at GEICO Honda for a few years. They're friends and their wives are friends as well. Both are new dads and also, I would bet, both want this title VERY badly. I wonder if as we progress in this title and they're close, if things get weird between the friends… We've seen it before in title chases and both riders aren't afraid to be aggressive. Or maybe Kitch just gets the momentum and takes this thing leaving both vets stuck wondering what could have been? Or will we see a sixth different winner in six rounds and Jo Shimoda finally has a good race on his Honda?
More McAdoonuts (DC)
The internet remains undefeated in such matters:
Randy Richardson (@fmip222): "Looks like you've been shaving more than your lap times."
Levi Kitchen: "Bro, you actually have massive balls. Everything makes sense now."
RJ Hampshire: "Very ballsy!"
Charlie Burgess (@diffysmooth): "I guess the Lions ain’t the only ones getting sacked in that stadium."
Michael Antonovich: "Nuttiest thing I’ve ever seen at the races."
Kyle Landers posted: "Last night marks the first time SX has been a stick & ball sport."
Joey Savatgy: "Taking 'rock out with your c**k out' to a new level!"
Ryan Tuttle: "I’ve seen your junk so much the last two days I feel like I owe you a dinner at this point."
And then, in the end, James Stewart wins the week:
Yamaha LCQ and Fly Racing Live Shows(Matthes)
Reminder that we're giving away a 2024 Yamaha YZ450F and a bunch of other cool prizes to anyone who buys a raffle ticket for the Yamaha LCQ Challenge race that's going to be held Friday in Denver. Right now, Josh Cartwright leads the points and we're taking the top 17 riders along with four wild cards to race for all the money. Read more info and buy a ticket here:
Also, we're gonna do some Friday night live Fly Racing Shows at the St. Louis and Indianapolis SX rounds. These are Friday night before the races there and myself, JT, Weege, and whomever else we can drag out talks moto and more. Buy your tickets now!
C And B Over A (Keefer)
I don't think this subject was talked about enough the past week. It was interesting to see the 450 class kick off the night show in Detroit but what was more interesting was that the C and B rider groups got to take to the track before the A group of riders. I thought this was interesting because I every time I am up in that press box on Saturdays I feel so sorry for the 450 B and C riders. By the time they usually hit the track for qualifying it looks like a bomb went off. I just don't see how this can be fair for privateers who are ALREADY at a disadvantage. Trying to hang it out on a fast lap is hard enough and now throw in all of the qualifiers that came before these 450 B and C guys. It's horrible! In Detroit these B and C riders got a fresher track to lay some laps down on and in my eyes, I think it made a difference. Tristan Lane, Jerry Robin, and Justin Rodbell all benefited from this upside qualifying schedule, and I think AMA/Feld Motor Sports should do this more often to even things up a little bit, especially when we go back east where the tracks get chewed up from the soft dirt. I am not coming out with a flaming pitchfork to say, “DAMN THE FACTORY GUYS,” but why not throw the backbone of our sport a bone once in a while. Let the 450 B and C guys get a taste of a fresh track every now and again. I think this could really come in handy when we have Triple Crown races. Let some of these privateers hang it out for a top 18. Otherwise, these B and C qualifying riders have zero shot of making the main event on Triple Crown nights. Switching the daytime qualifiers up every weekend would be a nice change of pace. I will get off my soap box now, thank you.
The Other Jett (DC)
Jett Reynolds has the luck of a Kennedy. Two years after missing all of supercross with an injury he suffered on press day before the opener in 2022 that also cost him all of 2023, Reynolds was going to finally get to race a round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross. But the former minicycle prodigy again went down before the race even started, this time in free practice, injuring his shoulder. The Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX Yamaha rider posted afterwards that he still hopes to be in Dallas when the 250SX East Region resumes in two weeks. Let’s hope so. This kid has had seemingly nothing but injuries since he got off minicycles. If you would have told me six years ago that a guy named Jett was at the front of the 450 pack, I’m sure I would have thought you were talking about Jett Reynolds, not the one named Lawrence.
Legends & Heroes (DC)
The Legends & Heroes of Motocross is a traveling museum of sorts that sets up at every race and displays old bikes and artifacts from days and races gone by. At Anaheim 2 they honored both Gary Jones (who was presented the Gary Jones Cup for 250 Pro Motocross by MX Sports’ Tim Cotter during opening ceremonies) as well as Mercedes Gonzalez-Natvig, the very fast motocross rider from Southern California. In Detroit they honored Lisa Akin-Wagner, who was the other half of arguably the greatest rivalry ever at the AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch, the Women’s class battles throughout the eighties between Gonzalez-Natvig and Akin-Wagner. (I wrote about that rivalry a few years back when we were doing the 40 years of Loretta Lynn’s: https://llvault.racerxonline.com/1991/intro)
This weekend in Phoenix the Legends & Heroes will be honoring the late Rick “Super Hunky” Sieman, the legendary scribe of Dirt Bike Magazine and other publications who passed late last year. Rick had relocated to the Phoenix area after he retired, and members of his family will be present for the race.
Also this weekend, my friend Robert Naughton from Phoenix, a very fast 125 rider back in the late 1980s, with several AMA Supercross podiums and the runner-up in the 1987 125cc West Region Series, will be displaying the three 1982 Suzuki RM80s that he built out in honor of the three young men who lost their lives in the train accident at Ponca City in 1982—Bruce Bunch, Rick Hemme and Kyle Fleming. Naughton’s tribute bikes were a labor of love and a sight to behold, as they were modified by the late Rudy Dickerson and his son Dean of R&D Racing fame. Naughton is also bringing Fleming’s parents to the race. If you’re headed to Glendale, please stop by the Legends & Heroes display, and also look for three beautiful Suzuki RM80s wearing the numbers 2 (Hemme), 8 (Bunch) and 54 (Fleming, and the same number Naughton wore during his professional career).
And if you’re interested in the whole story of those three top prospects who perished in that tragic post-race train crash in 1982, Brett Smith of We Went Fast wrote the definitive article on the tragedy “The Darkest Day in Motocross” which you can read here: https://wewentfast.com/darkestday/.
Hey, Watch It!
"Cut Short/Rides On" is a new documentary about the prodigiously talented Donovan Mitchell, who suffered a career-ending neck injury not long after signing his first professional contract with KTM. It debuts tomorrow night in Costa Mesa, CA, at Triangle Squares Cinema as part of the VANHA Motorcycle Stories Film Festival. (We will let you know how and where to watch it as soon as we get more details.)
Jorge Prado is back overseas training to run the #1 in the FIM Motocross World Championship (MXGP) season that starts in March.
"We Built Him a Hunter [Lawrence] Bike" - Inside Jo Shimoda's Race Bike with Mechanic Ben Griffith
Head-Scratching Headline/s of the Week
“RAPPER ESCORTED OUT IN CUFFS AFTER WINNING 3 AWARDS...”—Drudge Report
“Cops pull over user for Driving Under Virtual!”—Drudge Report
"Rick Pitino says college basketball needs salary cap"—ESPN.com
In case you missed the press release on the new official pro replica jerseys that are coming online through Ryan Villopoto’s Lucid Manufacturing, check it out:
And we heard from a very good source that they’ve done a deal with JT Racing to start offering replica jerseys from yesteryear’s stars, which eventually/hopefully means David Bailey, Jean-Michel Bayle, Ron Lechien and all of the guys in this line-up from the very first issue of Racer X Magazine. How many can you name?)
Ran into longtime industry friend and marketing guru Jake Klingensmith in the Pittsburgh Airport last night. He’s back east now, living in Butler, Pennsylvania, where he just opened a really cool business called Electric Wheel Slot Car Raceway, which looks super fun. We will definitely be visiting for a chance to do some laps on this track! Check out @electricwheelstore and check out the website: https://electricwheel-store.myshopify.com/
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races!