Monday Kickstart:
2006 U.S. Open

By Josh Allen and Brendan Lutes. Photos by Brendan Lutes.

We’re still a little bleary-eyed from all of the post-race festivities, but here’s a recap of what happened beyond the racing in Las Vegas this weekend. They say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas, but we’re here to make sure you get all in the info you need on what happened behind-the-scenes at the 2006 U.S. Open. Well, maybe not all the info, but we’ll fill you in on what we remember…

The week started off with a bang when Ricky Carmichael finally made a formal announcement about his plans to begin racing NASCAR. Rumors about RC making the switch to four-wheel racing have been flying around for some time now, and on Thursday, Ricky held a press conference to make his announcement that he would be joining the MB2 Motorsports NASCAR team. In case you missed it, CLICK HERE for our write-up and photos from the press conference.

The pre-race festivities at the MGM Grand Garden arena included more lasers, pyrotechnics, fire works and just plain more bling than we’ve seen in any other rider introduction in recent memory. This included two very flashy looking motorcycles ridden by RC and Bubba that even had glowing number plates. Fortunately, they didn’t actually race these bikes.

It seems the new trend in off-season races is to offer ever-increasing prize money as each event tries to one-up the race before. Last week’s Jeremy McGrath Invitational offered a prize purse totaling $500,000. Not to be out done, the 2006 Rockstar Energy U.S. Open—which already featured a $100,000 prize to the overall winner—added the Toyota Trucks Trifecta bonus that could potentially pay out an additional $250,000 for the weekend, if a rider could complete it successfully.

The Trifecta program was made up of three parts; paying a $10,000 bonus to the fastest qualifier in each night’s Super Pole Qualifying event, a $5,000 bonus to each night’s Supercross main event holeshot winner, and a total of $50,000 to any rider that could complete the “Trifecta by being the fastest qualifier, getting the holeshot and winning the main event. The $250,000 would be awarded to a rider that could “Double Down by completing the Trifecta both nights.

James Stewart completed the first half of the Trifecta on Friday night, taking home a nice check for $50,000. And although he couldn’t complete the Trifecta on Saturday—Windham set the fastest qualifying lap time Saturday—James did win another $100,000 by winning both main events and walking away the overall US Open champ in the Supercross class. On top of all that prize loot, Bubba was also treated to a very special gift from Red Bull—one of his sponsors—in the form of a 2007 Bentley Continental GT. James seemed very happy about his Vegas weekend during Saturday’s press conference, jokingly proclaiming, “I’m rich! when he sat down in front of the media.

Another rider that had an outstanding weekend in Vegas was Sobe/Samsung Mobile/Honda’s Lites class champ, Josh Grant. Grant made winning the overall win look easy by taking the holeshot in both main events, and running away to the win with a gap of several seconds between himself and second place on both nights. Josh was clearly happy with his win, “I’ve been working really hard to prove a point out here and to get some practice for the Supercross coming up. I think I had a good race this week, and it was fun. Grant went on to say he most likely would not be running the World Supercross rounds in Canada, which means we’ll see him again in Anaheim.

As part of Live Nation’s ongoing effort to do things differently at the US Open this year, they made things interesting by reversing the track direction, and making some small changes to it on Saturday nigh On Friday, riders came into a fairly short left hand turn off the starting line, that lead into a rhythm section followed by a long set of whoops. The Saturday track design used the same start line, but instead it funneled into a long and flat sweeping left-hander that fed directly into the whoops (in the opposite direction). At first glance during Saturday practice, it didn’t seem the changes would make much difference in the racing, but come race time it became clear that going into the whoops right from the start made things interesting. In several races, the rider that took the holeshot didn’t hold onto the lead for very long, as someone carrying better momentum into the whoops could set up for an early pass.

Another change to the race format this year was the addition of a fast qualifier referred to as the “Superpole. Twelve riders took turns making one fast lap around the track in an attempt to set the fastest lap for the evening. Whoever won the Superpole received the $10,000 bonus as part of the Trifecta we discussed earlier. Kevin Windham won Saturday’s qualifier with an impressive 41.703 second lap time, making him the only rider to set a time under 42 seconds. The general feeling from people we spoke to about the Superpole was similar to the sentiments people had at the JMI; they’re just not sure it is very exciting to start a night of racing with hot laps.

Friday night was made a little more interesting when the sky opened up making the section outside a little slippery for everyone. Thankfully by Saturday, though, the rain didn’t return and the conditions were perfect.

We spotted a cool new sprocket from Pro Taper on the Rockstar/WBR Suzukis. According to Big E, the sprocket will be available soon and will come in the same color as the new EVO Pro Taper bars.

Like always the pits at the U.S. Open definitely had a different feel to them, compared to a typical Supercross. They were small and rather confining for the teams who usually pit out of semis. The Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team was pitting out of one box van, as was the Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy crew.

Both Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart were all decked out in their Team USA Motocross of Nations gear. Since RC didn’t race the event, it was his first time wearing it, and it was pretty cool to see the two fastest riders in the world wearing red, white, and blue.

An astute motocross fan will take note of the new teams and team changes that are often displayed publicly for the first time at the U.S. Open. The many rumors and theories floating around the Internet about where riders will end up for the upcoming Supercross season can finally start to be confirmed—well, most of them anyways.

One very noticeable rider change was the addition of a new Lites class rider to the Factory Honda team. Tommy Hahn moved from his Sobe/Samsung Mobile/Honda team to a sought-after spot under big red’s factory tent. Things started-off looking very good for the likable Lites rider as he took the holeshot in the first heat race on Friday, but then his luck took a turn when he went down. Unable to get his bike restarted, he eventually walked it off the track. This was followed with another DNF in the LCQ that left Tommy out of the main event. We caught up with Tommy in the pits on Saturday…

How do you feel about being part of the factory Honda team?

I feel really good. I’m pretty pumped about it. I’m really fortunate to get this kind of opportunity, so I’m going to try my hardest not to have it taken away.

Last night, needless to say, didn’t really turn out the way you wanted it to. What happened during your LCQ?

Yeah, I just kind of caught a tuff block and fell over, but that’s the way it goes, there’s always the next race. Everybody can’t have the best of luck all the time. I’m gonna put my head down for tonight, because it’s a new night, and I’m ready to go.

It was hard to tell from inside if it was raining outside all night. How slippery was it as the night went on?

As it went on, it got pretty slick. But today it’s pretty good, and hopefully if the rain stays away it will stay good. I’m just looking forward to a good night of racing, and I want to get up there and do good.

You got off to a good start in your heat race by grabbing the holeshot.

Yeah, I’ve been working on my starts a lot. I got the holeshot and started to inch away a bit. I just lost the front-end coming into a corner, just one of those mistakes. But, I’ve got to rebound from that and learn from it, and I’ll keep going.

What’s your schedule look like for this year?

I’m going to do the Bercy Supercross… I’m gonna do the two world rounds (in Canada), and then I’m going to ride Lites west. So, I’m going to stay pretty busy in the off-season. I’m looking forward to Anaheim.

So in the west you’ll be running with guys like Josh Grant, Villopoto and Josh Hill. How do you feel running with guys like that, in terms of your speed?

I know my speed has always been there. It’s just whether or not I can get my starts down. I know I can win if I can get a good start. I don’t really care who’s riding which coast, because eventually you’re gonna have to ride against them anyways. I’m just going to try to do my job, and that’s to win.

Despite the problems last night, do you feel pretty confident going into tonight’s race?

Yeah, I feel really confident. I’m definitely the fastest guy out there this weekend, and I just want to prove that. When I don’t make it to the main that’s not doing a very good job of proving it. I just want to get out there and run with those guys, get good starts and stay consistent and win.

Hahn did go on to improve on his results in Saturday’s race. Although he would again have to run the LCQ because of a get-off in his heat race, he showed that he does have podium speed by taking third place in Saturday’s Lites Main Event.

In other news on the new-factory-rider front, Tim Ferry made his first showing as part of this year’s Factory Kawasaki team. Call us sentimental, but we sure liked seeing Red Dog out there wearing factory colors. Timmy didn’t waste any time showing that he deserves his factory ride as he rode his new KX450F to a fifth place overall finish on the weekend.

While Ferry was making his Factory Kawasaki debut, another member of the team was running his last race from the green factory rig. Michael Byrne will be moving to the new Rockstar/WBR/Suzuki team after this weekend where he will join Kelly Smith, Troy Adams, and Andrew McFarlane.

In addition to a few new riders, the new Rockstar/WBR/Suzuki squad had their new rig out in the pits—well, actually it just looked new. As it turned out, underneath the nice shiny new graphics were the old ones, as the team quickly got the rig wrapped in order to have it ready for the Open. After the race, the plan is to remove the wrap and get the whole thing painted up right.

The Open marked the first pro Supercross race for two rookie Lites riders: Kyle Cunningham aboard his Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy ride, and Sean Hackley for the Motoworldracing.com/PPG team. Unfortunately for Cunningham, although he didn’t suffer any serious injuries, a nasty crash during Friday practice kept him out of racing for the rest of the weekend. Sean Hackley—this year’s Toyota TMX Pro Rider—finished ninth in Saturday’s Lites class main event.

Sean’s teammate, Justin Brayton looked very impressive aboard his YZ250F, taking third in the main event on Friday. Unfortunately, Justin got caught in a pile-up at thehe time. I’m gonna put my head down for tonight, because it’s a new night, and I’m ready to go.

It was hard to tell from inside if it was raining outside all night. How slippery was it as the night went on?

As it went on, it got pretty slick. But today it’s pretty good, and hopefully if the rain stays away it will stay good. I’m just looking forward to a good night of racing, and I want to get up there and do good.

You got off to a good start in your heat race by grabbing the holeshot.

Yeah, I’ve been working on my starts a lot. I got the holeshot and started to inch away a bit. I just lost the front-end coming into a corner, just one of those mistakes. But, I’ve got to rebound from that and learn from it, and I’ll keep going.

What’s your schedule look like for this year?

I’m going to do the Bercy Supercross… I’m gonna do the two world rounds (in Canada), and then I’m going to ride Lites west. So, I’m going to stay pretty busy in the off-season. I’m looking forward to Anaheim.

So in the west you’ll be running with guys like Josh Grant, Villopoto and Josh Hill. How do you feel running with guys like that, in terms of your speed?

I know my speed has always been there. It’s just whether or not I can get my starts down. I know I can win if I can get a good start. I don’t really care who’s riding which coast, because eventually you’re gonna have to ride against them anyways. I’m just going to try to do my job, and that’s to win.

Despite the problems last night, do you feel pretty confident going into tonight’s race?

Yeah, I feel really confident. I’m definitely the fastest guy out there this weekend, and I just want to prove that. When I don’t make it to the main that’s not doing a very good job of proving it. I just want to get out there and run with those guys, get good starts and stay consistent and win.

Hahn did go on to improve on his results in Saturday’s race. Although he would again have to run the LCQ because of a get-off in his heat race, he showed that he does have podium speed by taking third place in Saturday’s Lites Main Event.

In other news on the new-factory-rider front, Tim Ferry made his first showing as part of this year’s Factory Kawasaki team. Call us sentimental, but we sure liked seeing Red Dog out there wearing factory colors. Timmy didn’t waste any time showing that he deserves his factory ride as he rode his new KX450F to a fifth place overall finish on the weekend.

While Ferry was making his Factory Kawasaki debut, another member of the team was running his last race from the green factory rig. Michael Byrne will be moving to the new Rockstar/WBR/Suzuki team after this weekend where he will join Kelly Smith, Troy Adams, and Andrew McFarlane.

In addition to a few new riders, the new Rockstar/WBR/Suzuki squad had their new rig out in the pits—well, actually it just looked new. As it turned out, underneath the nice shiny new graphics were the old ones, as the team quickly got the rig wrapped in order to have it ready for the Open. After the race, the plan is to remove the wrap and get the whole thing painted up right.

The Open marked the first pro Supercross race for two rookie Lites riders: Kyle Cunningham aboard his Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy ride, and Sean Hackley for the Motoworldracing.com/PPG team. Unfortunately for Cunningham, although he didn’t suffer any serious injuries, a nasty crash during Friday practice kept him out of racing for the rest of the weekend. Sean Hackley—this year’s Toyota TMX Pro Rider—finished ninth in Saturday’s Lites class main event.

Sean’s teammate, Justin Brayton looked very impressive aboard his YZ250F, taking third in the main event on Friday. Unfortunately, Justin got caught in a pile-up at the start of Saturday’s main, keeping him off the overall podium. “It went good, I got a decent start, and I think that was the trick last night. I got my first podium, so I’m pretty happy, said Brayton of his results on Friday.

Factory KTM’s Josh Hansen has a new contract that has him riding exclusively Supercross in 2007. An injury kept him out of racing all but the final few rounds of the Outdoors this summer. On the first night of racing this weekend, Josh looked to be back in racing form, winning his heat race and riding in second during the opening laps of the main event. About five laps into the race, however, Hansen pulled off the track and was unable to finish. Josh tells us a wrist injury from the McGrath Invitational is nagging him, and it will be surgically repaired this week. He says his doctors tell him he’ll be healed up and ready for Supercross.

In other JMI injury news, when we ran into Ryan Clark this weekend he was sporting a pretty nasty cut on his hand that he suffered when it was landed on by Eric Sorby at the McGrath Invitational. “I thought I could come race and make a little money, but it hurt too bad. I get the stitches out in a few days, then three or four more days later and it should be good to,” said Clark about his hand keeping him from racing the U.S. Open.

Finally, this 2006 Rockstar US Open edition of TWMX Monday Kickstart would not be complete if we didn’t mention one of the highlights of the weekend in Vegas. No, we’re not talking about any late-night encounters with Vegas showgirls, or catching a Wayne Newton performance. One of the standout moments of the weekend, for us, was the goon-riding performance by David “Le Cobra Vuillemin during the Superpole qualifying on Saturday. DV12 is known to be one of the better goon riders in all of motocross, and he proved that by putting down an impressive 53.455 qualifying lap time all while displaying his hilarious goon techniques that included elbows-down, over-revving, and under-jumping. What made this doubly impressive was that DV followed up his comic antics by leading several laps, and taking third place, in the main event later that night.

In case you missed any of it, here are a few links to our coverage from the U.S. Open this weekend:

the start of Saturday’s main, keeping him off the overall podium. “It went good, I got a decent start, and I think that was the trick last night. I got my first podium, so I’m pretty happy, said Brayton of his results on Friday.

Factory KTM’s Josh Hansen has a new contract that has him riding exclusively Supercross in 2007. An injury kept him out of racing all but the final few rounds of the Outdoors this summer. On the first night of racing this weekend, Josh looked to be back in racing form, winning his heat race and riding in second during the opening laps of the main event. About five laps into the race, however, Hansen pulled off the track and was unable to finish. Josh tells us a wrist injury from the McGrath Invitational is nagging him, and it will be surgically repaired this week. He says his doctors tell him he’ll be healed up and ready for Supercross.

In other JMI injury news, when we ran into Ryan Clark this weekend he was sporting a pretty nasty cut on his hand that he suffered when it waas landed on by Eric Sorby at the McGrath Invitational. “I thought I could come race and make a little money, but it hurt too bad. I get the stitches out in a few days, then three or four more days later and it should be good to,” said Clark about his hand keeping him from racing the U.S. Open.

Finally, this 2006 Rockstar US Open edition of TWMX Monday Kickstart would not be complete if we didn’t mention one of the highlights of the weekend in Vegas. No, we’re not talking about any late-night encounters with Vegas showgirls, or catching a Wayne Newton performance. One of the standout moments of the weekend, for us, was the goon-riding performance by David “Le Cobra Vuillemin during the Superpole qualifying on Saturday. DV12 is known to be one of the better goon riders in all of motocross, and he proved that by putting down an impressive 53.455 qualifying lap time all while displaying his hilarious goon techniques that included elbows-down, over-revving, and under-jumping. What made this doubly impressive was that DV followed up his comic antics by leading several laps, and taking third place, in the main event later that night.

In case you missed any of it, here are a few links to our coverage from the U.S. Open this weekend: