Monday Kickstart:
Steel City, 2006

In an almost identical repeat of the weather conditions at Binghamton two weeks ago, rain on Saturday was followed by better weather on Sunday at Steel City. However, race officials this week made the decision to postpone Saturday’s scheduled practices and WMA races until Sunday, counting on the better weather forecasted for race day and hopefully giving the track time to drain.

As it turns out, they made the right call. While it was still very cloudy most of the day, there were brief occasions when the sun peeked through the cloud cover and there was only an occasional slight drizzle that was certainly not enough to impact track conditions. Although the weather Sunday was certainly an improvement over the previous day, the track was still quite muddy.

While roaming the almost empty pro pits on Saturday, we ran into Alex Ewing as he prepared K-Dub’s CRF450R for Sunday’s racing. Alex explained what went into preparing for the mud; “There’s really a few different types of mud. Sometimes the mud is sticky, and on other days the mud gets real wet and sloppy. Since it is supposed to be drier tomorrow we are preparing for the sticky stuff.” He definitely called it, the mud on Sunday seemed to stick to just about everything.

As they have for the past three races, Team Makita Suzuki swept the field in both classes with Ricky Carmichael taking yet another overall win, and Pennsylvania native Broc Hepler winning the Lites class in dominating fashion. Broc’s day could not have been any more perfect. He not only grabbed the holeshot and led every lap in both motos, he did it in front of his home crowd, and the fans rewarded him for it as they cheered and hollered every time Hepler went by. Broc definitely felt the love and thanked the fans for their support from the podium.

Ricky Carmichael’s statistics are incredible. His win this weekend was his 70th career National overall win. Steel City was also the ninth win of the season for RC, leaving him one win away from his fourth 10-win season. RC, of course, clinched the 2006 National Championship in Binghamton for his 10th career outdoor title, his sixth straight. And don’t forget that Carmichael has had an unprecedented three undefeated seasons (2002, ’04 and ’05).

“It’s amazing for me and Kevin (Windham), both. We’ve been here a long time, and it’s funny, time just flies by. We’ve both had great careers, with no regrets. It’s been fun for me and I’ve been very fortunate,” said Ricky of his career accomplishments. When aksed why he’s not running the number one plate for the last two rounds of the season, RC said, “Everybody knows that I’ve won the title, and I didn’t want to disrespect anyone.”

The G.O.A.T.? There’s no doubt.

Carmichael also added the 2006 Monster Energy Triple Crown to his growing list of accomplishments. Carmichael and Villopoto both won the first two rounds of the Triple Crown at High Point and Red Bud, but only RC was able to come away with the win at Steel City to clinch his second straight Monster Energy Triple Crown title. Carmichael definitely had good motivation; as the winner he received a check from Monster Energy for $30,000.

Although Ryan Villopoto did not win the Triple Crown, nor the Lites class overall at Steel City, he did finish in second place overall, three positions in front of rival Mike Alessi, and that is more important to Ryan at this point in the season. Heading into Pennsylvania, Villopoto had a 20 point lead on Alessi in the Lites championship standings, a lead that has now grown to 29 with one round to go (Glen Helen). It is possible for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider to clinch the title in the first moto at Glen Helen, but as we saw last year with Ivan Tedesco, the pressure can become intense and lead to first moto jitters. Ryan always seems to have cool head-especially for a rookie-and with his strong performances all year long, he looks to have a good shot at taking home the title.

Speaking of Tedesco, we noticed right away that the number nine factory Suzuki was missing from the morning practice session, and although we saw his motor home in the pits, we didn’t see the likable Ivan. Knowing that Ivan was just back from injury, we did some digging to see what was up? Well, apparently Ivan was hit with a flu bug that kept him from being able to ride this weekend. Hopefully that turns out to be all that was wrong, we’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Although they were bumped to the Sunday schedule (actually a good thing in terms of fan exposure), the Women’s Motocross Association finished out their 2006 season at Steel City this weekend. We asked WMA President Miki Keller about the season; “This is by far the best season for us, it really felt like a breakthrough year. The racing was great, and it feels like we are beginning a new era for the WMA,” said Keller. Miki was happy to see so many fans on hand for the WMA races on Sunday; “They all stuck around to watch, which was pretty neat. Our autograph signing today was huge, and I am hearing more and more talk about the WMA in the pits.”

We caught up with WMA Steel City overall winner Sarah Whitmore after the race. She was hard to miss, as you could see her smile from the other side of the pits. White chocolate will be spending this week out in California for the Motobowl on Thursday, and will be on hand at Glen Helen, Friday.

Although she didn’t get the overall win this weekend, Jessica Patterson took home a big victory by clinching the 2006 WMA Championship title. Patterson, who now has three WMA titles to her credit, said she plans to try her hand at Supermoto during the off-season.

Boost Mobile/Yamaha/Yamaha of Troy teammates Andrew McFarlane and Brett Metcalfe put on a pair of strong performances. McFarlane went 4-5 for fourth overall, and Metcalfe finished 5-6 for sixth overall in the Lites class. The Aussies have had a great 2006 season, both in the top-ten the championship point stands, with Metcalfe currently in fifth (303 points), and McFarlane in seventh (269).

KTM America was excited to debut the 2007 250SX-F in competition this weekend. Several factory riders were riding the new lites bikes, including Mike Alessi and Josh Hansen. Josh said of the ’07 model, “I like it a lot, I feel faster on it than I did on the 2006 bike.” In case you missed it, check out the TWMX first impression of the 2006 KTM250SX-F, here.

Speaking of little Hanny, Steel City marked Josh Hansen’s first national appearance for the 2006 season. Josh-who has been healing up from injury-was glad to be back in action. “I am pumped to be back out here. It feels great,” said Hansen. Josh finished the day in 20th overall with a 12-28 performance. He appeared to be running strong in the first moto, but went down in moto two and had to pull off. We checked in with Josh as he was heading out of the track and he confirmed that he is feeling good despite the get-off, and will be back for the final round this week.

Jason Lawrence also had a rough go of it this weekend, finishing a strong seventh in moto one, but having to leave moto two early with mechanical problems. After the race, J-Law’s mechanic, Scrappy, said he wasn’t sure exactly what went wrong with the RMZ250, but that he was digging in to find out what happened. In an unusual display, after pulling off the track in the second moto, Jason Lawrence jumped onto the track to wave and holler at Josh Hansen as he rode by. While most at first thought Lawrence was upset with Hansen, we asked Josh about it after the race, and he said there was no bad blood between the two. “Jason’s my bud, there’s definitely no problem,” said Hansen. The Internet chatter about this will no doubt be interesting.

Rookies Ryan Dungey and Josh Hill definitely didn’t get the results they had hoped for at Steel City. Hill struggled in moto one, coming off the bike on several occasions, but followed up in moto two with a seventh place finish, combining for eleventh overall. Early in moto two we found Ryan Dungey standing in the infield watching the race. He told us he’d ran into Zach Osborne, damaging his bike too severely to continue. Clearly disappointed, Dungey said he was looking forward to a better weekend at Glen Helen.

While cruising the pits, we couldn’t help but notice a sign hanging from one privateer’s E-Z-Up. The sign read “Gas money donations please.” We were quickly reminded just how difficult it can be to succeed in motocross. As it turns out, the sign belonged to Texas rider, Kyle Phenix. We’ve seen Kyle running at local races in Texas, and he is definitely fast, but unfortunately had mechanical problems in the LCQ and wasn’t able to qualify at Steel City. Kyle is planning to make it to the final round, but will not be joined by the rest of his team as they just don’t have the money to get there. Good luck, Kyle!

Cycra was in the pits reminding everyone about their fenders by giving away some cool mini fender key chains. James Priestnal, Cycra’s GM said the giveaways have been very popular with fans. We even grabbed a few to take home.

At the rider’s meeting before practice, AMA’s Steve Whitelock announced significant pro license qualification changes for the 2007 Supercross season. The changes put a bigger focus on the AMA Arencross series, and will make a big impact on who can ride in a supercross race. The new rules require that a rider meet at least one of several very specific criteria to compete in Supercross in 2007, including:

  • Qualify into at least one evening program in 2006
  • Qualify into at least three evening programs in 2005
  • Earn 100 points in the Arenacross series in 2006 or 2007
  • Win three Arenacross main events in 2006 or 2007
  • Finish in the top five overall in the 2006 or 2006 Arenacross series
  • Finish in thà¿e top three at Loretta Lynn’s in 2006, in the 125A, 250A, 125 Pro Sport or 250 Pro Sport classes
  • Earn 100 points at the Sprint East/West Pro Qualifier series of the Fall Pro Am Motocross Championship series
  • Earn AMA Motocross or Motocross Lites championship points in 2006

There is also a stipulation that riders who have a contract with a factory or factory support team will be considered for endorsement. The new rules also state that riders finishing in the top 20 in the Supercross class in 2005 or 2006 may not compete in the Lites class.

These rules changes will be generating a lot of discussion and debate as we head into the 2007 Supercross season.

jumped onto the track to wave and holler at Josh Hansen as he rode by. While most at first thought Lawrence was upset with Hansen, we asked Josh about it after the race, and he said there was no bad blood between the two. “Jason’s my bud, there’s definitely no problem,” said Hansen. The Internet chatter about this will no doubt be interesting.

Rookies Ryan Dungey and Josh Hill definitely didn’t get the results they had hoped for at Steel City. Hill struggled in moto one, coming off the bike on several occasions, but followed up in moto two with a seventh place finish, combining for eleventh overall. Early in moto two we found Ryan Dungey standing in the infield watching the race. He told us he’d ran into Zach Osborne, damaging his bike too severely to continue. Clearly disappointed, Dungey said he was looking forward to a better weekend at Glen Helen.

While cruising the pits, we couldn’t help but notice a sign hanging from one privateer’s E-Z-Up. The sign read “Gas money donations please.” We were quickly reminded just how difficult it can be to succeed in motocross. As it turns out, the sign belonged to Texas rider, Kyle Phenix. We’ve seen Kyle running at local races in Texas, and he is definitely fast, but unfortunately had mechanical problems in the LCQ and wasn’t able to qualify at Steel City. Kyle is planning to make it to the final round, but will not be joined by the rest of his team as they just don’t have the money to get there. Good luck, Kyle!

Cycra was in the pits reminding everyone about their fenders by giving away some cool mini fender key chains. James Priestnal, Cycra’s GM said the giveaways have been very popular with fans. We even grabbed a few to take home.

At the rider’s meeting before practice, AMA’s Steve Whitelock announced significant pro license qualification changes for the 2007 Supercross season. The changes put a bigger focus on the AMA Arencross series, and will make a big impact on who can ride in a supercross race. The new rules require that a rider meet at least one of several very specific criteria to compete in Supercross in 2007, including:

  • Qualify into at least one evening program in 2006
  • Qualify into at least three evening programs in 2005
  • Earn 100 points in the Arenacross series in 2006 or 2007
  • Win three Arenacross main events in 2006 or 2007
  • Finish in the top five overall in the 2006 or 2006 Arenacross series
  • Finish in thà¿e top three at Loretta Lynn’s in 2006, in the 125A, 250A, 125 Pro Sport or 250 Pro Sport classes
  • Earn 100 points at the Sprint East/West Pro Qualifier series of the Fall Pro Am Motocross Championship series
  • Earn AMA Motocross or Motocross Lites championship points in 2006

There is also a stipulation that riders who have a contract with a factory or factory support team will be considered for endorsement. The new rules also state that riders finishing in the top 20 in the Supercross class in 2005 or 2006 may not compete in the Lites class.

These rules changes will be generating a lot of discussion and debate as we head into the 2007 Supercross season.