Alright here we are, same great column, brand new home! Looking forward to another season of bringing you guys my thoughts, dreams and opinions on the supercrosses and nationals. I get a ton of email from these columns which I always appreciate. I'm also working on new ways to come up with "James Stewart is fast" and I think I have a few things up my sleeve this year. So buckle in, hang on and read what I observed at Anaheim 1.
There is always a sense of anticipation at the first race and I got a sense leading up to Anaheim Uno that things weren't as hyped as in the past. People seemed to be preoccupied with little things like keeping their jobs or finding new ones to worry whether or not Ryan Dungey is going to be ok not making a million dollars a year like he would've in almost any of the last ten years except this one. I even got a couple of calls over the holidays from industry people asking me if I felt the same way about the new season and I have to admit, I did.
But once in the pits, I found that things were the same as they always were really. The semi-trucks were out in force as there were some new teams, there was some new sponsors and their accompanying paraphernalia. It didn't seem to be all doom and gloom and people were in pretty upbeat moods really.
Look, this is probably going to get me some flack from my rider friends but the sport needed some self-correcting. We had reached a point where the teams need some protection from themselves otherwise these kids that get fifth in a regional series and fifteenth in the nationals were going to be making $500,000 (What? We're there already? Allow me to punch myself in the nuts now.) I don't blame the riders and agents, they weren't wearing a mask and holding a gun when they went in to get a new deal. The OEM's just wanted the hot new thing at whatever cost but eventually, we end up where we are now. I'm not going to get all Ping on you and start talking about the guberment and what's going on in the world because I'm not that smart but we're in tough times and we all have to adjust.
I feel sorry for guys like Josh Summey, Ivan Tedesco and Michael Byrne as their gravy days are either over or coming to a screeching halt in the form of them having to lay off the pool guy and forcing them to skim the leaves out themselves every day. It's just that we were out of wack in regards to salaries (mostly in the Lites class) as many of the guys making three-quarter of a million dollars don't pass the "Matthes Shopping Mall" test.
What's that you ask? Here's my simple barometer on whether you should make over $300,000 in a niche sport such as ours. When you walk down your local shopping mall, does anyone ask you for an autograph? Have you ever stood on a 450 podium? If you answer no to either question, then the most you can make is $300K. Sorry but that's the deal. Take your $299,999 and cram it up your cram hole.
The track at Anaheim looked to be tough to pass on and rather simple follow the leader but I suppose that's not that bad of an idea for the first round. Let's get all the guys out of there healthy and onto the next round. There were a few tricky things and the whoops got beat down to the point where they were challenging but I thought it was pretty tame and didn't encourage a lot of passing.
Oh and there was no over/under bridge. I'm not going to bitch all year like I did last year as I see that the bridge is coming back this year for a few races and the Grand Poobah of Supercross, Dave Prater assured me that it's coming back full-time in 2011. Besides, as you'll read later on, I have a new thing to complain about every week.
We didn't know for sure if James Stewart would full-fill Ralph Sheheen's constant need for him to be 'the fastest man on the planet' but he did what he was supposed to do and that was win the race. I'm certainly not going to say that he sucks or anything like that but I was left wanting more from Ol'Crazy Balls. James is phenomenal to watch ride but on Saturday he looked like…I don't know…maybe normal would be the word?
Early on the main event, Ryan Dungey grabbed the lead with Stewie right behind him and although it was cute to see that James was letting the kitten swat the ball of yarn around for a bit, you just knew that soon enough the big dog was going to take over and put the kitten out of its mercy.
Only he didn't do that.
It was weird enough to see Dungey pulling away that I Twittered (pulpmx by the way for those of you just joining the new social media revolution) something was up with James. Maybe he was battling some injury or something? Eventually around lap seventeen, James put it into high gear and made up about four seconds on Dungey in a startling manner but still, what was up with Stewie laying up and letting Ryan Dungey lead the race, build confidence and start the year off with a bang?
So I don't know what happened and as I said on the Moto Show the other night (archive HERE) I don't believe that Stewie has the 'lay-up' gene in his body but maybe, just maybe this is a new mature thinking-man's James Stewart. Or maybe Ryan Dungey is as fast.
Any way you slice it though, James Stewart won the opening round but I think we go to the next round with more questions than answers. One of them might be…
Is Ryan Dungey for real?
I think he is, right from the first practice (oh yeah, there's an added practice session this year called Free Practice and although it's a short 8 minutes, it allows you to get all the bugs worked out on the bike to get ready for the real qualifying practices. In the past, if something was wrong with your bike or whatever and you were unable to put in a fast time the first time out, many times the track would be beat down in the second one and you were screwed. So kudos on the new Free Practice!) Dungey was fast and really close to James in times. He was smooth and although on The Moto Show (plug #2) he said he got a little sketchy, I didn't see it. The Dunge looked great and his confidence meter has to be jam-packed the way John Travoltas was after 'Pulp Fiction.'
Can he keep it up? I don't know but I think the odds are good that A1 wasn't just a one-off ride. He'll be there each and every week and he's ready.
What happened to the man we thought was the only guy who could challenge Stewie? Chad Reed had perhaps his worse day ever in supercross (actually I take that back, his worst day was probably when he lawn-darted himself in Detroit a few years ago) when his front wheel collided with Austin Stroupe's footpeg and resulted in a broken front wheel and a DNF. That's a tough thing to take for the guy that was looking for, at worse, a second place finish when the night was done.
Reedy wasn't himself all day and I heard that his stomach problems were back and bothering him a bit. His teammate Ryan Villopoto didn't have that great of a night either and I heard that he jammed a wrist at some point in practice. RV was passed by Kevin Windham and Andrew Short without much fight and that's not exactly normal.
Anyways, back to Reed. He has to be comforted that last year, James also scored a point at last year's race and still came back to win the title. Hey, whatever it takes to help him sleep at night. Look for a charged-up Chad Reed this weekend if he can get this stomach problem under control. I'm also very tired of typing the words 'stomach problem' and 'Reed' in the same sentence so I also hope to god he gets it figured out.
Should Reed have rolled around the track and waited till the end to finish to try and score some points? Well, I know you can't leave the signal area and enter back into the race so they couldn't have gone to the truck but if he had just idled around he would've been scored a 17th. That's four points and at the end of the year, could be important. Then again, I don't know the state of his wheel.
I tried to get the Feld guys to have a moment of silence before opening ceremonies for Timmy 'Red Dog' Ferry but I was shot down when Feld informed me that he wasn't dead yet. Still, it would've been nice as, for the first time since 1992 a supercross season kicked off without the big one-five there.
DV12 looked great out there on the Kawasaki 250F on his way to the Lites main event win. What? That wasn't David Vuillemin? Ok, fine. Jake Weimer rode great with his new number and really put a hurt down on everyone else on his way to getting that title that he lost by a few points last year. Yeah sure, Trey Canard and maybe even Josh Hansen closed up on him at different points but it never looked like he was pushed and that he might have had another gear if he was getting pressured. My only complaint with Jake is that he really needs a haircut. Like seriously Jake you need to get one ASAP.
I thought that the always underappreciated one, Ryan Morais, rode a great race to get third. He was caught and passed by Trey Canard but then closed back up and was right there at the finish. I like everyone over at PC and all that but I kind of hope that Ryan can show them that they made a mistake in not keeping him on the team. Let's all hope he wins one of these races this year.
Trey Canard was good and I think he was a little overlooked when people were talking about who could do what on the west coast. Trey was the only Lites guy tripling in one section and he used it to pass Morais and put a nice pass on Frenchman Gauthier Paulin. Trey will be there every race and realistically the title should be won by either him or Weimer.
One thing that's interesting is the switch from the kit suspension to just re-valved stockers over on Canard's GEICO Honda team. I think it was probably a cost-cutting move on the teams part as well as a marketing move because I'm sure we're going to see as ad here soon for Factory Connection and talking about how they use production stuff on the race team. In talking to one factory suspension guru, he commented that in no way is the production stuff as good as the kit stuff but it's close and shouldn't be the reason anyone loses a race.
Speaking of suspension, the JGR guys showed up at Anaheim with a whole new set-up on their bikes. The team has gone in a different direction by bolting Showa forks and a JGR/JLR rear shock on. The team makes its own triple clamps, bottom fork lugs and teamed up with a shock maker in North Carolina to start from scratch and make a new unit. All I have to say about that is…wow. That's a ton of work and JGR really flexed its in-house advantages with this combo.
Someone made a comment that you don't want to piss off owner Coy Gibbs because he'll just go out and buy a different brand of forks and make a shock and how do you like them apples? Take your works KYB stuff and pound sand seems to be the message coming out of the JGR pits. I applaud the guys over there for taking the bold move.
As far as team riders, Josh Grant was banged up big-time from a practice crash and did well to just make the main event. New rider and Hawkeye fan, Justin Brayton did pretty much what I thought he would do, be fast and solid while learning the ropes in the big boys class on his way to an eighth.
I went to Bercy this fall and wrote about these fast Frenchman and how they're coming over here. And at Anaheim, there was Gregory Aranda, Fabien Izoird qualifying in the 450 class and having their own little French MXDN battle the entire main event and Paulin, who showed great speed before Canard introduced him to American supercross. I told you guys these dudes were fast and you all should've listened to me.
In more of the "You guys should really listen to me" department, this is what I wrote two years ago. I would like it of you guys paid attention to the bolded part:
" I have no problem with Hansen, he's a talented rider that needs to hit (moto-x) bottom before he comes back with a vengeance. Like I where I think Sean Hamblin is now and that's why I'd hire him. I predict that in two years, Hanny will sign with Pro Circuit for nop money and win. Stamp it.”
Yeah, looks like I'm some sort of soothsayer or something as Hanny debuted his Pro Circuit ride and showed some speed but had bad luck. Early on in the main he fell over while in second and then later on he had some sort of problem and stalled the bike. An eighth is the best he could do but better days lay ahead for Josh and his green rocket.
The freestyle half-time show? Still good. The dudes in helmets and chest protectors firing cannons? Not so much. It's a work in progress and I think the powers that be are constantly seeing what works and what doesn't.
Great job by Justin Keeney making the 450 main event. He ended up finishing fifteenth which the Hart & Huntington guys would have killed to finish because neither of their guys made the main event. Tough way to start the new season.
TLD Honda's Will Hahn was quietly good, no one will talk much about him or mention his fifth in the Lites main but he rode really well in coming from ninth on the first lap. Wilbur had the second fastest time in the main event behind Morais and Canard. Interestingly, Weimer was only fourth quickest but like I said, he wasn't really pressured. Will Hahn- nice and cheap for the TLD team!
I went by Hahn's tent to see my buddy Ping twice but didn't have much luck. I swear I've never seen more people underneath a race tent than I did this weekend. I was wondering if I missed the memo on the fact that the TLD tent was the meeting place for the opening of the next Twilight movie. If I was a mechanic on the team, I think I would be slightly perturbed.
If you're Timmy or Evie Ferry or a member of either family, you might want to skip the next paragraph. A little while ago, Andrew and Jacki Short had to put Tim Ferry down. No, not the real one but one of their cows whose tag was the #15. They named all the cows after riders and it was too bad that Ferry had to go to the big barn in the sky. That's not the creepy part though, the kinda-creepy part was me getting the ear tag presented to me and me running it around my neck all day. Yep, I need professional help.
Andrew Short looked to have a new attitude in 2010 as he rode really aggressive all day long. I'm talking practice and everything. Shorty wasn't really cruising out there at all and seemed to put in some hot laps every lap he was out there. In the main he moved into third about three miles behind The Dunge and Stewie and most everyone thought that would be where he would end up. But it was not to be as the wily veteran Kevin Windham managed to get the last spot on the box.
Great ride for Windstorm, everyone's all freaking out about the opener and getting over whelmed and there is the old man (he's now the old man with Ferry out) just putting around out there and showing everyone that he's not done yet.
In speaking to a few teams that have the new Yamaha 450, it seems that they are behind the curve a bit in developing the machine for supercross. One guy made the comment to me that their final set-up isn't going to be developed until five or six weeks from now. The late release and the new technology of the 450 all add up to some late nights in the race shop.
I'm confused about who is calling the shots these days in our sport. I know that AMA Pro Racing was sold to DMG and they in turn leased out the nationals to MX Sports. That's motocross, dirt track, road racing, hill climb and maybe something else. Did you also know that there is an AMA Racing department that runs supercross? Yep, you now know that as well. There is also the FIM and they have a guy (John Gallagher) at every race. He used to just oversee the 450 class and work with Steve Whitelock but then he became the head guy in regards to the 450 class and now, starting this year, he's also in charge of the 250 class as AMA Racing decided to not bring back Karen Myron to oversee the 250's.
AMA Racing (notice no PRO in there) controls supercross and amateur motocross. The reason for that is that there is an existing contract with Feld that was in place or who knows? Maybe the supercross series would've gone to DMG as well. My concern lies with the fact that AMA Racing is a shell of itself and that Gallagher, to the best of my knowledge, has a real full-time job. So you're asking the race director to have quite a bit of responsibility for a part-time job. The teams spend millions of dollars to go racing and the fact that the chief at the races might not be able to answer a call during the week because he's at his real job seems silly to me.
I know that Kevin Crowther is the head of the supercross series and is a full-time official but we went from having a few officials working full-time to, well, none. And on top of all this confusion add in the fact that Feld has been long rumored to have quite a say in things as well. It's like, as one person told me, that everyone knew that Michael Jordan (in this case, Feld) really ran the Chicago Bulls and not the head coach back in the day.
Speaking of changes in the AMA, the technical director from last year, Dave Dye, has moved on and Mike Alessi's old wrench, 'Tooltime' Tim McAdams, has picked up the gauntlet. Good move I think.
It always bugs me that a lot of people don't list the entire finishing position from each class when they put out the results. So I'm going to try and do that from here on out.
1 1 James M Stewart
2 5 Ryan M Dungey
3 14 Kevin W Windham
4 29 Andrew T Short
5 2 Ryan D Villopoto
6 75 Joshua R Hill
7 9 Ivan Tedesco
8 23 Justin D Brayton
9 18 David Millsaps
10 8 Grant Langston
11 10 Thomas K Hahn
12 27 Nicholas A Wey
13 206 Gregory Aranda
14 877 Fabien Izoird
15 252 Justin F Keeney
16 26 Michael Byrne
17 338 Jason D Lawrence
18 45 Austin L Stroupe
19 22 Chad Reed
20 33 Joshua M Grant
1 12 Jake T Weimer
2 38 Trey G Canard
3 116 Ryan Morais
4 21 Blake Wharton
5 49 Will Hahn
6 20 Broc Tickle
7 19 Tommy Searle
8 100 Joshua Hansen
9 48 Max Anstie
10 801 Jeff Alessi
11 126 Hunter Hewitt
12 63 Sean D Borkenhagen
13 68 Robert S Kiniry
14 200 Cole Seely
15 321 Gautier Paulin
16 175 Phillip J Nicoletti
17 102 Christopher Gosselaar
18 42 Ben D Evans
19 124 Ryan D Clark
20 585 Travis A Baker
Some quick hits:
-Great job by Broc Tickle to win the first heat. Nice way to start the season off.
-Loved the No Fear gear that Tommy Searle had on. Looked sweet.
-Bravo GL8. Great job and your tenth is not something that I thought you could do. I suppose I should learn now to never count you out.
-It's weird to see Michael Byrne out in the back 40 in his motorhome with an EZ-Up (although Roger Larsen and Casella came by halfway through the day and upgraded his EZ-Up with a brand new hella-sweet one) but he seems to have a good attitude and should do well this year. Him, along with Wey, are going to be interesting to watch this year.
-I'm wondering what in the hell is a privateer these days? Yamaha is giving out works parts like they're driving a windowless Econoline and have a bunch of candy, Byrne has a giant Kawasaki sticker on his fork guards, Wey rides the Kawi track and the list goes on and on. A couple of years ago I was on a quest to keep the money for the real privateers but I've given that up. I can't keep it straight anymore.
-The old Cernic's Kawasaki team manager, Derek Sorensen, has moved on to be the general manager of a new suspension company called Suspension Direct.
-Well so far it looks like Kawasaki really blew it with the hiring of Reed over Ferry. For one, he DNF'd and Red Dog almost always keeps it on the track. So clearly Reed's inconsistent. Also, I don't know if the Monster Kawi team noticed this but Reed's ranked seven numbers higher than Ferry was. I'm just sayin…
-Personally, I blame Bruce Stjernstrom on the move. I think it's going to backfire and told him so in the pits but until then, thanks for the coffee guys and I'm glad you welcome me back. It's not too late to try and call Ferry to make amends.
-My new thing to complain about is the absolute horrid archive results kept by the AMA. I can't believe that a sport like ours doesn't have active links to the old national and supercross results. If you want to find anything older than 2003, you're out of luck. That's brutal and I know that MX Sports was looking into trying to do something about it and I sincerely hope they do. It's not cool.
Thanks for reading, thanks for the support this past weekend in the pits and let me know what you thought of A1. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Maybe one of these days, I'll be cool enough to get a TWMX email account. I can hardly wait. See you next week in the land of the rising sun and I'm not talking about Chuck getting out of bed.