Observations from Pala

Observations, the column that the pros read!
Observations, the column that the pros read!

And that's a wrap! The final round of the AMA nationals was set up nicely at the Pala Raceway just north of San Diego. Christophe Pourcel was a mere seven points ahead of Trey Canard in the chase for the 250 championship. There was going to be an epic battle on this day no matter what. The only battle we would see in the 450 class was the battle between Ryan Dungey and immortality. The Dunge was crushing everyone and everything in that class and there wasn't much doubt that he was going to do the same again.

For years Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino held the Southern California motocross national until this year when the national promoters (MX Sports) and the Glen Helen track got into a disagreement about term, improvements needed to the facility and the fact that Glen Helen needed to sell more than the 85% of its prime viewing spots that it was currently selling. Ok, I might have made that last part up but my point is that Pala was a brand new national this year and depending on who you talked to, it was either going to be a total bust or it was going to be awesome.

So how was it? Well in my opinion (I had never been here before) I think it was a big success. The crowd was very impressive, the track looked like fun and it looked cool from a spectator's point of view. The track is basically flat with one hill on the far side so the viewing could have been better. (My suggestion is a hill needs to be built on the north side of the track for fans to be able to see the racing better but what do I know?)

The riders I spoke to almost all liked it better than Glen Helen and they said it got as rough and as tough as the Helen as well. As a sport, I'm not sure if sanctioning bodies/tracks/media/fans taking sides and fighting it out on-line and with sly editorials as to what is a better track/facility (oh wait, I know why. Money. That's the bottom line…as with many things in life) but there were good things about Pala over Glen Helen and there was some things that GH did better than Pala.

The traffic in and out of Pala was, I guess, a nightmare but I didn't have to deal with it or see it. I was there, as usual, real early and left real late. I do know that many of the people that waited hours to get in and then were turned away at the gate because of the place being completely full won't be back next year and that's a shame. However, there was still a LOT of people there and I suppose with the absolute ghost town we saw at the "race of the century", we now know what the California fans want to see.

And that is American motocross racers.

Congrats to Trey Canard on his championship, really both guys deserved to have won it but only one is cashing the check.
Congrats to Trey Canard on his championship, really both guys deserved to have won it but only one is cashing the check.

We all know by now the disastrous day suffered by Pro Circuit's Christophe Pourcel. The man who would be king (twice!) was cruising around in third when he shoulder popped out and he went down. This was after Trey Canard had gone down earlier while attempting to make a pass on Pourcel. The gap going into the last moto was going to be eleven. If Canard won, Pourcel had to get top ten and it the title would be the Frenchman's.

Six minutes left until that rosy scenario was going to take place, it all went to crap. With the injury, Pourcel DNF'd and it was Canard who was eleven up going into the final moto. When Pourcel couldn't answer the bell for the second moto (who could blame him?), it was over. Trey Canard won the 2010 250 national title in an amazing comeback that will be talked about for a long, long time.

At one point in the year, Trey was over 50 points back of Pourcel and then simply caught fire (or as I like to call it, he met Tim Ferry) and started rolling on. When Pourcel caught Canard late in Unadilla, passed him and beat him, I wrote that as long as Pourcel can do something like that, the class was his to lose. There was never a sense of panic from the cool Frenchman, I never saw him worried about anything or anyone. Until last week at Steel City that is. After Canard went out and beat him straight up both motos, both guys clearly pushing and giving it their all, Pourcel looked depressed on the podium. He just looked shell shocked really. He knew that he was now in for a battle with the Okie.

I've been hanging out with Canard in the last half of the year (perhaps my presence is what did it? No? Ok.) because, as I mentioned, he met Tim Ferry and they started a coach/rider relationship around Texas. I've been out to dinner a bunch with the Canard crew and I've been around a long time, been out with many riders and have seen many of them be one way with the fans and media and then turn around and act entitled and indifferent when they're hanging out.

I haven't seen it with Trey, he's as good as they come in the sport (same as Shorty, never seen the dude not be the absolute coolest guy ever off the track. Want to know another guy that, although I didn't hang with him all that much, I saw enough to make a judgment that he was super cool? Jeremy McGrath.) and his nice demeanor isn't an act. He lives it and he's the kind of guy you want to win a title in this sport. He's also really funny and that goes a long way with me.

Not that Pourcel didn't deserve to win this thing, as happy as I am that Canard won his title, I'm as equally sad that the mysterious/shifty/crafty/quiet/funny/weird Frenchman did not. Christophe should've won the title last year but his motor blew up at Southwick, he probably should've won it this year but his shoulder popped out in the second last moto of the year. What else does this dude need to do?

I got the sense, early in the year, that Pourcel felt he had everyone covered in the class and truthfully I thought he was right. He was only in the 250's because no one would pay him what he wanted (I asked him at Lakewood '09 press conference what he was going to do in 2010 and he straight up said that he was going to be racing 450's) and with Ryan Dungey out, he probably thought he was going to cakewalk to the title. Case in point, at Millville people close to him told me a story about how he had a flight out that night and he asked to skip the press conference to catch the flight. He was told no, then he said that he would pay the fine and was still told that he could not skip the PC. His reply? "I will get fourth (overall) then" and you know what he did in the second moto after catching Canard and winning the first moto? He went from being in fourth place early on all the way to tenth. I'm not saying he dogged it on purpose (it was raining) but it's that kind of mentality that I saw/heard about that may have done him in.

He only realized that he was in a fight when it was too late.

Looking at the stats, Canard won five races and Pourcel won two so maybe the right guy won. I don't know what else to say, I'm bummed about Pourcel's deal but happy for Canard.

Want to know what Canard, Mike Alessi, Kawasaki PR man Tom McGovern and Andrew Short had to say after the race? Click HERE to listen to the podcasts

All this about the Pala national and I haven't touched on the guys that won. And they would be Ryan Dungey and Dean Wilson. Wilson was dominant; he had the kind of day that riders dream of. He led every single lap of both motos, went 1-1 on the day and the cherry on the top was celebrating his dominance with two heel-clickers over the finish line. Shades of Kevin Windham and David Vuillemin!

Wilson celebrated his perfect day with a couple of heel-clickers. His win is overshadowed by the championship chase, but it was as dominant as any this year.
Wilson celebrated his perfect day with a couple of heel-clickers. His win is overshadowed by the championship chase, but it was as dominant as any this year.

Dean has been a very pleasant (and fast!) surprise this year, had he not missed some supercrosses earlier this year he would've been in the hunt for two titles in his first year out. This Scottish born Canadian raised kid is super friendly and outgoing as well. I just hope that he stays like that and doesn't let the incoming money/fame/pressure/hangers-on get to him and he keeps on his upward trajectory.

So with Pourcel leaving the Pro Circuit team, team owner Mitch Payton has to feel good about the future of this team what with having the overall winners of four nationals (Wilson and Tyla Rattray each won two races) and having the riders who finished second and third overall in the series. The future of the Monster Energy Pro Circuit team is fine, no need to panic folks.

Ryan Dungey dominated the 450 class. Yawn…

The Dunge put a capper on a great season with a great ride at Pala. They say defending a title is harder than winning it and I have to say, I'm already looking forward to Anaheim 2011!
The Dunge put a capper on a great season with a great ride at Pala. They say defending a title is harder than winning it and I have to say, I'm already looking forward to Anaheim 2011!

The real battle in the four-fittys was the race for second in the points between Honda riders Brett Metcalfe and Andrew Short. Metty started the year strong, Shorty came on after that and then in the last three/four races, it was Metcalfe killing it. Going into the final round, Brett was only a few scant points ahead for second. Now from what I heard, Metty is racing the 450 motocross series for no bonus money or anything like that, just the purse. Short, on the other hand, had much to gain from finishing in the runner-up position versus the third spot. Like more than my yearly salary.

Short should've sided up to Metty and said that, since Brett has no season ending bonus, they will split Short's bonus and it would've been a win/win! Yeah right, I'm sure that would happen. Anyways, Metty caught Andrew in the first moto and gained three more points on him. Second moto, Brett fell early on and was just inside the top ten while Andrew was out front and leading. This would've been enough for Andrew to get second but it was not to be as Metcalfe got on his horse, worked his way up past guys and almost caught Andrew for second late in the moto. Brett got a very surprising second place in the 450 motocross series the hard way- he earned it.

If you're Shorty, you can look at the moto at Texas where his bike let him down, the first practice at Southwick where his bike crapped out and didn't allow him to get a time into the fast 40. The point of all this is you never know when, in the course of twenty-four 30 min +2 laps

Brett Metcalfe was in danger of losing second in the points but he pushed hard to get to the front and secure the runner-up spot this year. Who'd a thunk it?
Brett Metcalfe was in danger of losing second in the points but he pushed hard to get to the front and secure the runner-up spot this year. Who'd a thunk it?

Let’s take a look at the results from Pala shall we?


1 108 Dean Wilson Glasgow, GB Kawasaki KX 250F 1 1 50- Dean is going to do a great job for Canada at the upcoming MXDN…oh wait. Never mind.
2 28 Tyla Rattray Durban, ZA Kawasaki KX 250F 2 2 44- Rattars 2-2 day enabled him to pass teammate Pourcel in the series points and end the year in second.
3 38 Trey Canard Shawnee, OK, US Honda CRF250R 4 3 38
4 243 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO, US Honda CRF250R 8 4 31- Tomac was pretty good, the last few races have been more like what everyone thought they would see after Hangtown. He had a strange year for sure.
5 17 Justin Barcia Ochlocknee, GA, US Honda CRF250R 6 5 31-Barcia had a quiet day really, consistently consistent.
6 200 Cole Seely Newbury Park, CA, US Honda CRF250R 3 12 29- Look at Seely with a podium in the first moto! Great job and for a kid that has battled staying up front all moto long, he finally breaks through.
7 49 William Hahn Decatur, TX, US Honda CRF250R 7 7 28
8 20 Broc Tickle Holly, MI, US Yamaha YZ 250F 5 9 28
9 577 Martin Davalos Quito, EC Yamaha YZ 250F 14 6 22
10 87 Les Smith York, SC, US Honda CRF250R 13 11 18- Smith's team didn't bring the semi out west, they borrowed a bike from TWMX and yet, with this effort, he had his best finish of the year. Weird huh?
11 175 Phillip Nicoletti Cochecton, NY, US KTM 250 SXF 11 13 18- Filthy Phil almost made the top ten in a great ride. He needed it.
12 292 Austin Howell Red Bluff, CA, US Suzuki RMZ 250 10 14 18
13 603 Tommy Weeck Menifee, CA, US Suzuki RMZ250 9 18 15
14 942 Gareth Swanepoel Hechtel – Eksel, BE Yamaha YZ250F 38 8 13- Gareth has been just ok on the Star Racing Yamaha, weird how little press he's gotten since coming over.
15 99 Topher Ingalls San Luis Obispo, CA, US Yamaha YZ 250F 15 15 12
16 36 Darryn Durham Butler, PA, US Honda CRF250R 34 10 11
17 64 Taylor Futrell Clinton, NC, US Honda CRF250R 16 17 9
18 341 Nico Izzi St. Claire, MI, US Yamaha YZ 250F 12 39 9- It was a year ago that Izzi was a factory Suzuki rider getting top fives and now, after his heel injury, he struggled all season long. He should be better as he gets better.
19 211 Tevin Tapia Federal Way, WA, US KTM 250 SXF 19 16 7
20 310 Shane Durham Butler, PA, US Honda CRF250R 17 19 6
21 370 Drew Yenerich New Lenox, IL, US Yamaha YZ 250F 18 20 4
22 354 Christopher Johnson Ramona, CA, US Suzuki RM Z250 20 25 1
23 534 Travis Freistat Escondido, CA, US KTM 250 SX-F 23 23 0
24 793 Yuta Ikegaya Yaizu City, JP Suzuki RM Z250 27 26 0
25 772 Robert Noftz Red Bluff, CA, US Yamaha YZ 250F 21 32 0
26 160 Corey Pennington Santa Cruz, CA, US Kawasaki KX 250F 30 24 0
27 565 Preston Mull Livingston, CA, US Honda CRF250R 25 30 0
28 329 Chad Gores Anaheim, CA, US Honda CRF250R 24 31 0
29 166 Dakota Tedder Surfside, CA, US Kawasaki KX 250F 35 21 0
30 288 Dillon Alexander Newcastle, CA, US Honda CRF250R 29 28 0
31 446 Frank Lettieri Point Plesant, NJ, US Suzuki RM Z250 22 35 0
32 244 Ryan Zimmer Raleigh, NC, US KTM 250SXF 37 22 0
33 976 Josh Greco Hesperia, CA, US Suzuki RM Z250 33 27 0
34 875 Caleb Bertrand Lake Charles, LA, US Honda CRF250R 26 34 0
35 536 Erick Meusling Hubbard, OR, US Honda CRF250R 28 33 0
36 118 Bryar Perry Shasta Lake, CA, US Yamaha YZ 250F 36 29 0
37 377 Christophe Pourcel Marseille, FR Kawasaki KX 250F 31 37 0- Pourcel's terrible day and injury also means he's forced to miss the MXDN which was going to be his debut on a 450.
38 21 Blake Wharton Pilot Point, TX, US Honda CRF250R 32 38 0- Wharton crashed out in the first moto in what people told me was an ugly crash.
39 592 Jake Canada Sun City, CA, US Kawasaki KX 250F 39 36 0- it's ok Jake, your country is still behind you.
40 402 Josh LaJiness Deer Park, WA, US Yamaha YZ 250F 40 40 0

Congrats to the Geico Honda team on their championship, good bunch of dudes over there and some real fast riders.
Congrats to the Geico Honda team on their championship, good bunch of dudes over there and some real fast riders.
Pourcel will definitely replay this entire season over and over in his mind for the next little while. Onto the 450's for him!
Pourcel will definitely replay this entire season over and over in his mind for the next little while. Onto the 450's for him!


1 5 Ryan Dungey Belle Plain, MN, US Suzuki RMZ 450 1 1 50
2 29 Andrew Short Smithville, TX, US Honda CRF450R 3 2 42
3 24 Brett Metcalfe Mannum, AU Honda CRF450R 2 3 42
4 101 Ben Townley Taupo, NZ Honda CRF450R 6 4 33
5 46 Ryan Sipes Vine Grove, KY, US Yamaha YZ 450F 4 6 33- Sipes was great this weekend and man, if he hadn't fallen last week while in sixth with two laps left, he would have finished two races in a row in the top five. Next stop for Ryan- Star Racing and the 250 class.
6 55 Kyle Chisholm Valrico, FL, US Yamaha YZ 450F 9 5 28- The Chiz wasn't happy with his ride in the first moto but he was outside the top fifteen and worked his way up.
7 14 Kevin Windham Centerville, MS, US Honda CRF450R 7 8 27 Kevin Windham to me after the race "Matthes, you can say I rode like a douche today." I wouldn't say that, he came from the back both motos. Not a douche, maybe just a pansy. Kidding.
8 23 Justin Brayton Ft. Dodge, IA, US Yamaha YZ 450F 12 7 23
9 41 Kyle Regal Kemp, TX, US Honda CRF450R 5 14 23- Great first moto for Regal and he was up front again in the second moto before he crashed. Once again, when he's on, he's on.
10 27 Nicholas Wey DeWitt, MI, US Kawasaki KX 450F 11 9 22- Wey ends the year on the factory Kawi with a top ten ride. Could he do better? Yeah sure but could he be any more fun to have around for a team? No.
11 122 Daniel Reardon Queensland, AU Yamaha YZ 450F 16 10 16
12 42 Ben Evans Boise, ID, US Kawasaki KX 450F 15 12 15- Evans two best races were the last two, he's probably bummed that the year is ending.
13 26 Michael Byrne Queensland, AU Yamaha YZ 450F 14 13 15-Byrne, on the other hand, is probably super happy that the season is ending. Not a good season for the guy that a year ago tied for an overall win.
14 800 Mike Alessi Victorville, CA, US KTM 350 SXF 8 21 13-Alessi was up front early in the first moto before getting eaten up out there. Second moto, his clutch went out off the start, he stalled it after that and then rode around from dead, dead last. How appropriate his season ended that way.
15 35 Matthew Goerke Lake Helen, FL, US Yamaha YZ 450F 10 40 11
16 58 Weston Peick Wildomar, CA, US Yamaha YZ 450F 23 11 10- Weston rode well all day. In the first moto he came from behind a ways.
17 241 Derek Anderson Arvada, CO, US Kawasaki KX 450F 18 15 9
18 68 Robert Kiniry Syracuse, NY, US Honda CRF450R 13 36 8- Kiniry had a couple of pretty good finishes out east and had no plans to race Pala. But MB1 suspension company called him with an offer to get on a Honda for a future magazine story. Kiniry did just as well first moto on the strange bike with little time on it.
19 73 Ben LaMay Anchorage, AK, US Yamaha YZ 450F 19 17 6
20 57 Jarred Browne Nuevo, CA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 39 16 5
21 814 Bryce Vallee LaJolla, CA, US Yamaha YZ 450F 17 20 5
22 817 Nicholas Paluzzi , US Yamaha YZ450F 20 18 4- After his surprising 7th OA last weekend, Paluzzi couldn't back it up. So weird how a California dude can go 7th back east and then struggle at a track that he rides at.
23 63 Sean Borkenhagen Huntington Beach, CA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 21 19 2
24 795 Bruce Rutherford Murrieta, CA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 24 25 0 Mom & Dad- When you list "Mom and Dad" as your sponsors, I'm always going to leave that in. Awesome!
25 520 Tony Gallo Valley City, OH, US Honda CRF250R 29 22 0
26 510 Colton Udall San Clemente, CA, US Honda CRF450R 27 27 0
27 111 Michael Sleeter Temecula, CA, US KTM 350 SXF 33 24 0
28 776 Aron Harvey Carson City, NV, US Yamaha YZ 450F 28 29 0- I spoke to Aron on Friday and told him that I couldn't believe he hadn't qualified at the other races that he had hit up. He agreed with me and after that awesome pep talk from me, this former Canadian national winner went out and put it into the motos.
29 88 Ricky Renner Lakeland, FL, US KTM 450 XC 35 23 0
30 409 Dillon Huddleston Sesert Hills, AZ, US Kawasaki KX 450F 30 28 0
31 628 Joey Rossi Encintitas, CA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 26 34 0
32 69 Adam Chatfield Menifee, CA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 22 38 0
33 209 Heath Harrison Silverhill, AL, US Kawasaki KX 450F 25 37 0
34 636 Keith Knight Orangevale, CA, US Yamaha YZ 450F 31 32 0
35 652 Dustin Pipes Fresno, CA, US Suzuki RMZ 450 38 26 0
36 309 Spencer Dally Taylors Falls, MN, US Suzuki RMZ 450 34 30 0
37 589 Joey Olson Littleton, CO, US Yamaha YZ450F 32 33 0
38 707 Alexander Millican Rockwall, TX, US Yamaha YZ 450F 36 31 0
39 732 Tye Hames Palmdale, CA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 37 35 0
40 415 Nick Schmidt Maryville, WA, US Kawasaki KX 450F 40 39 0

Thanks everyone for reading the Observations column this year, it's been a lot of fun for sure. We'll be back for the MXDN, maybe Bercy, maybe an Australia race or maybe I'll just pop in an old sx race from the 80's and call the action from that. Want to stay in touch during this long off-season? Email me at and we can chat.