Monday Kickstart: Freestone National MX 2012

The second round of the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championships concluded this past weekend at Freestone County Raceway in Wortham, Texas. And in spite of what you might think, not all the action happened on the track. There was plenty to report from the pits and behind-the-scenes.

Freestone once again marked the second round of the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship series. The track this year featured a few changes, but for the most part was the same as last year. We'll get into what was new further down in Kickstart.
The track was prepped immaculately, but wasn't dug as deep as some of the other tracks on the circuit. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Blake Baggett commented in the post-race press conference that it would have been nice to have more ruts and lines in the corners. He would know, since he had to make quite a few passes in the first moto.
One of the most noticeable changes to the track was this triple jump. Last year, this section featured some very deep rollers that developed numerous ruts.

 

There have been a lot of big jumps on the National circuit—LaRocco's Leap, Glen Helen's famous uphill step up, Holy Schmit, etc—but the leap into the Texas 12 Pack that only a few racers were attempting isn't only huge; it's also very technical, as riders flew over 30 feet high and landed on a whoop that was only three feet tall. KTM privateer Tevin Tapia (pictured here) was the first rider to make the huge jump.
Here's another view of the leap. Rockstar Suzuki's Jason Anderson used the jump to gain valuable time during qualifying, which allowed him to turn in the fastest time, netting him the top qualifying position. Unfortunately, Anderson had horrible luck during the motos, crashing in the first while running up front and going down again in the second. He finished 12th overall on the day.

Another rider that jumped into the 12 pack was Baggett, however, he was the only rider to do it consistently during the first moto. According to him, he wasn't even planning on jumping it during the race, but then ended up going for it. "It was super rutted and the face was all kickered out," Baggett said of the leap. "I literally wasn't planning on jumping it, but when I came around, I just sent it."
One last view of the massive jump. The top of the Lucas Oil sign is over 30 feet up.
Baggett put on an amazing charge in both motos. In the first, he was outside the top-10 on the first lap and by the end had caught up to second behind moto winner Geico Honda's Eli Tomac. For his efforts, Baggett finished second overall and retained the red number plate heading into the third round next weekend—something he failed to do last year.
Geico Honda's Eli Tomac had an amazing ride in both motos, as he battled to the front and ran away to take the win. The victory for Tomac was especially important as it helped push him to third in points. It was also especially gratifying since he suffered from heat exhaustion at the same race two years ago, which ultimately ruined his season that year.
While it was hot in Texas, it wasn't anything compared to the past two years. Normally the race is the hottest on the circuit with temperatures in the triple digits and high humidity. This year, though, the highs were in the low 90s and the humidity was much lower. Still, many riders, like James Stewart here, wore cooling vests on the starting line and for the parade lap.

Star Racing/VMS/Yamaha's Ryan Sipes wore this Leatt drink system. The system holds just enough water for a moto and attaches to the helmet, making the hose easily accessible for the rider.
Goggle selection is always important, however, when the temperatures are high, sweat absorption becomes a major priority. Here, 100%'s John Kuzo checks in with his rider Muscle Milk Honda's Justin Brayton.
The high temperatures not only affect riders, but their bikes as well. We spotted this dry ice cooler in the Yoshimura Suzuki pits. It was no doubt to help keep the fuel as cool as possible before going into the bike. For Texas, though, there wasn't any dry ice in the cooler when we took this picture.
The team also keeps all the gas in these metal gas jugs. The metal helps to protect the gas from the elements better than a plastic jug.
Many teams use fans like this to help cool the bikes off between practice sessions and motos.

Yoshimura Suzuki's James Stewart came into Texas with the red plate and points lead. After sweeping both motos again, he padded his points lead and will head to the third round in Colorado with the red plates again.
Both motos of the 450 class we very exciting, as Stewart and Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey were never further than this from each other. When Dungey would close up on Stewart, James would manage to find a little more speed and open up a slight gap. Like mentioned, though, Stewart went on to take both moto victories.
Here's another shot of the battle between Stewart and James. Both riders were in a class of their own and pulled a huge gap on the rest of the field as they engaged in their battle.
Not only did Stewart and Dungey battle close together, but they also looked similar. We couldn't help but notice how close the Answer gear worn by Stewart looked to the Fox gear that Dungey wore.
We got a little champagne on the camera, but got the shot.

After winning the second 450 moto, James stuck around to watch the second 250 moto that his brother Malcolm was racing in. Big James was out on the track for all four motos, and we even noticed that during the 450 class he sported a Yoshimura Suzuki pit shirt and he then changed into the JDR/J Star/KTM pit shirt for when Malcolm took to the track.
It's also worth mentioning that Big James always had some words with James following each moto. Here, the father and son talk after James' first moto win.
In only his second-ever AMA National, former World Motocross Champion Ken Roczen continues to impress. Admittedly, he has never ridden in the hot temperatures like the ones he experienced in Texas, but he still hung tough to take third overall in the 250 class.
If you were in attendance at Freestone, you would have likely heard Roczen's podium blunder. When asked about his second moto, he said something to the effect of, "It was good, but I got a shitty start… errr… I mean. I got a bad start." The crowd collectively laughed and the likeable German continued on with his interview.
Star Racing/VMS/Yamaha's Nico Izzi had an amazing first moto, as he ran as high as third until ultimately finishing fourth. Between motos, though, we caught him giving himself a hair cut. We're not sure if it was due to the heat or if he had a bet going on, but nonetheless, it was pretty funny to see. (Photo by Jeff Kardas)

In the second moto, Izzi was once again running up front, but unfortunately crashed and ultimately finished 25th. This photo was taken on the line before the second moto where he rocked his short cut.
New for this year is the Oakley Bomb award that goes to the fastest qualifiers in each class. Stewart and Anderson won these two trophies.
Mullets were plentiful in Texas. We captured this Red Fox mullet as it was roaming the Freestone pits.
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer was the lone rider underneath the team awning as his teammate—and the team's replacement rider for Villopoto—Tyla Rattray broke his hand at the opening round in Hangtown. Weimer rode well in the first moto, finishing third, but bad luck struck in the second moto.
Weimer went down in the first corner of the second moto, forcing him to play catch up for the entire race. He eventually finished a very impressive sixth, netting himself fourth overall.

Muscle Milk Honda's Tommy Hahn had this cool butt patch in honor of his hometown race. In the motos, Tommy went 9-7 for seventh overall. As a replacement rider, Hahn has so far proven to be the top contender on the team, as his teammate Justin Brayton has struggled in the first two rounds of the series.
We really didn't have a reason to run this shot other than the fact that it was cool. Enjoy.
Another local racer was Rockstar Suzuki's Blake Wharton. Wharton led a good portion of the second moto, but succumbed to charges by Tomac and Baggett to ultimately finish third. Wharton finished fourth overall on the day with his 6-3 moto scores.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's replacement rider Ivan Tedesco overcame some bad luck to salvage 11-22 moto scores for 19th overall. In the second moto, Ivan went down early and 22nd was the furthest he could climb back to in the intense heat.
Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs/Honda's rookie Jessy Nelson ripped the holeshot in both motos and ran up front for the majority of the race. A little known fact about the young racer is that he lost his left thumb in a crash as a kid and rides with a prosthetic thumb inside his glove. With as rough as the professional tracks get, we can't even image how he holds on—very impressive. Nelson's rides in both motos netted him seventh overall in only his second-ever professional race.

This photo was taken on the opening laps of the first moto. Jessy led the first few laps of the race before dropping back to seventh.
JWR/DNA Energy/Kawasaki's Josh Grant continues to improve. At the end of the Supercross series, Grant netted himself a second-place finish, and gained a ton of confidence heading into outdoors. At Hangtown, Grant finished inside the top-10, but stepped it up even further at Freestone, as he finished fifth overall on the day. Look for him to improve even further as the season continues.
If you haven't already signed up for the bone marrow donor registry, go to www.bethematch.com and do it now. At the Chaparral Honda/L&MC rig, Be The Match was set up and taking donors throughout the day.
It's very easy to do and can even be done through the mail.
Geico Honda was running these very cool custom aluminum gas tanks. Last week, the team was running carbon fiber tanks, but it looks as if these new aluminum ones are a larger capacity.

The JWR/DNA Energy/Kawasaki riders were running these larger capacity carbon fiber tanks on their KX450Fs. Very trick.
For the second week in a row, MotoConcepts' Mike Alessi finish third overall in the 450 class. While Alessi's finish is impressive, he still admitted that he has some work to do in order to challenge Stewart and Dungey for race wins.
We just couldn't go through this Kickstart without showing a closer look at Kyle Chisholm's custom Tagger Designs HJC helmet.
Here's another view.
"Uhhh, I think there's an air bubble on the number plate graphic…"

Former National Champion Johnny O'Mara was on hand in Texas helping Stewart out. O'Mara—who is also an accomplished mountain bike racer now—has been working with Stewart for the past few seasons now.
Another beautiful Texas Waterfall.
In the early morning, it was still up in the air as to whether or not Factory Honda's Ashley Fiolek would be racing, as she reportedly had suffered from food poisoning the night before. After the first practice, though, she showed up ready to race.
In the racing action, Fiolek went 2-1 to take the overall. As for the rumors of this being her last season, there is no official word on it yet, but once we hear, we'll be sure to let you guys know.
Kawasaki's Meghan Rutledge continues to shake things up in the WMX class, as she went 3-3 for third overall in Texas. Originally, Meghan was planning on only racing the first few rounds of the series, but we imagine that she is probably trying everything she can to raise some support to compete in the entire series.
Her second overall finish allowed Rockstar Suzuki's Jessica Patterson to retain the red number plate and points lead.
Each year everyone usually gets into the Texas spirit. After all, how often can you wear a cowboy hat like this one and get away with it?
See y'all next week in Colorado!