Monday Kickstart: Houston Edition

Compiled by the staff of TWMX

The most recent round of the THQ World Supercross series took place in the brand new Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas. Supercross has a lot of history in Houston, in the old Astrodome. The new stadium features a retractable roof, seats about 65,000, and will host the Superbowl there in ’04.

Due to what’s happening in the world right now, supercross attendance has been lower than normal. Houston attendance was only about 40,000, maybe. In a stadium that big, it looked like less.

The track last weekend was unique for a couple of reasons. It was one of the shortest we’ve seen. Chad Reed and RC ran about 48-second lap times while Branden Jesseman ran about a 51-second lap on the 125. Also, just before the finish line, there was a multi-level mountain of dirt. Different riders tried different jump combinations to get over it, but the most effective way was to come out of the corner on the outside and jump the mountain in order to set up for the finish line table.

The red, white and blue pride has spread to most riders in support of our troops fighting in Iraq. RC had a brand new helmet in Houston that featured stars and stripes with seven Fox stickers representing his wins on the season. Sean Hamblin ran stars and stripes on his gear, including his name and number on his jersey. It looked similar to his teammate Branden Jesseman’s jersey. Of the ten riders included in opening ceremonies at least eight of them ran the patriotic colors.

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Unfortunately, the injuries in the 250cc class continue to mount, as last weekend Ezra Lusk injured his wrist. According to new team manager Mark Johnson, “Ezra had x-rays done and nothing looked broken, but we believe he may have torn some ligaments.” Ezra flew home that night to see a specialist in Tallahassee, Florida. That reduced the number of full-time 250cc factory riders to three!

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Good and bad news for KTM. The good news is 125 rider Brett Mecalfe finished in third and made the podium for the first time. The bad news is lone KTM 250 rider Josh Woods crashed in a heat race and suffered a “fractured heel” according to Doc Bodnar.

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Team ECC’s Shae Bentley was a no-show in Houston. The former 125 East champion suffered a bad crash in St. Louis.

Danny Smith, who’s been putting in some impressive rides on the RM250, had a spectacular crash during his heat race. Smith was battling with Chad Reed and was actually holding Reed off for a few laps. When Reed made the pass, Smith’s feet hooked a tough block, came off the pegs and he unintentionally did a superman. His legs then flew off the side of the bike and he hit the ground hard with the bike landing on him. He was taken off in the medic mobile but gave a thumbs up to Reed who was on the podium. Doc Bodnar later said it appeared as though Smith sprained his knee and that nothing was broken.

Smith’s teammate Sean Hamblin will no longer be on a 125 this season. Hamblin said, “Suzuki admitted that they made a mistake putting me on the 125 and they want me to ride the 250 for the rest of the season.” He was also psyched about his heat race win, and told us, “I got a taste of being up on that stage, and I don’t want to leave it. Look for me to be a threat in Pontiac.”

Word also finally came down that Sean will be aboard a 250 for the outdoor season. “That’s what I want. I definitely don’t see why I shouldn’t podium half of those, if not all of them. I think we should do very well.”

Sebastien Tortelli’s on the mend. Rick Johnson told us thatebastien has been cleared to ride a bicycle after his knee surgery, and has been putting in some road miles to get ready to start riding his Suzuki again in a couple of weeks.

Ricky Carmichael continues his pursuit of a new lucky color. He’s been known for his winning orange over the last two years, but this year he seems to be trying something new. Since he’s been beaten five times so far, he’s been changing it up. We’ve seen him run yellow and red and last weekend in Houston he wore all blue.

Speaking of finding a winning format, 125 Houston winner Brock Sellards said on the podium, “last night I ate a ton of spicy crawfish and raw oysters. They were really spicy so the guys’ told me I’d have problems during my race.” I guess you could say it lit a fire under his a**! Whatever works to get the win!

A couple of riders returned to racing in Houston. Ted Campbell, the Subway rider who suffered a severe concussion in San Francisco and a separated shoulder while practicing two weeks later, returned to the 250 class and qualified for the main. Ivan Tedesco, who was a favorite to win the 125 East series, returned after suffering a concussion in Atlanta and injured ribs in Daytona. Tedesco was on fire as he worked his way up to finish behind his teammate, Sellards, for second.

Another rider who made his return to supercross after more than a year, but didn’t race, was Kevin Windham. Windham looked very healthy and was very optimistic about his future in racing. He confirmed, “I will return to the outdoor nationals this year backed by a factory Honda with support from Factory Connection and it will be my own team.” He went on to say he couldn’t imagine missing supercross next year. He said he’s missed it tremendously and is training intensively for his return.

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Privateer Isaiah Johnson also made his return after breaking his back in two places more than two months ago. Keith switched to Arenacross but his injury ended his plan. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the main and took home the Gas Card. He said he was happy with his results and felt good considering it was his first race back.

The MMI Top Tech award that is given out every week to a mechanic who has gone above the call of duty during the night was given to Joey Bass. He’s the mechanic for privateer Hans Neel. Neel reportedly broke off his swing arm. They ended up holding up the 250 LCQ about five minutes in order to give them time to fix it!

Ryan Abrigo was the recipient of the Doc Bodnar/Asterisk Medic Card. He took home $250.

You often hear of privateers getting back door help from the factories in the form of parts and support, but privateer Casey Lytle has been getting some back-of-the-truck support from the Yamaha of Troy guys. Camped outside their awning, he told us, “They’ve hauled my bike to the last few races, and I really appreciate the help.”

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Now that the Arenacross series is wrapped up, a few of the big names showed up to race supercross: Tommy Hofmaster, long-time supercross racer Phil Lawrence, and two-time Arenacross defending champion Josh Demuth. Hofmaster finished 12th in the 125 main, Phil Lawrence failed to qualify, and Josh Demuth finished 17th in the 250 main.

Travis Pastrana is reportedly back on his bike. Heath Voss said Pastrana is staying at his house just outside of Dallas. When Heath was asked if Travis is pushing him to try crazy things he said, “Well I asked Travis if I should reshape one of the jumps in my backyard and Travis said ‘No, that’s a perfect backflip jump!'” No word if Voss will be busting a backflip anytime soon, but he did say he and Travis are having a great time together and are staying very busy.

Erick Vallejo had some extra supporters at Houston. Well-known for his helmet-mounted sombrero during pre-main parade laps, he had a group of friends and family in Houston sporting similar headgear. Erick wasn’t the only rider from Mexico to make the mains, either. Rene Tercero Reyes, riding for KTM Mexico, made the 250cc main.

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Chad Reed gave his mechanic, Dave Dye, a thorough champagne shower after their second consecutive 250cc main event win. Unfortunately for Dave, he was a stationary target, because he was holding Chad’s bike and had nowhere to run.

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In last week’s St. Louis race report, Jamie mentioned that Brian Mason muscled his way by Tyson Hadsel en route to qualifying for the main event. This week we learned that he had a little extra motivation to make the main. Mason had competed in the European rounds of the World Supercross GP, and FIM Race Director, John Gallagher, had pointed out to him that by making another main event, it would push him into the top 20 in World points, where he’d earn a $5,000 bonus at the end of the season.

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With David Vuillemin and Tim Ferry on the sidelines, there are some privateers with shots at making some serious year-end bonus money in the World Supercross GP points fund. Heath Voss, Keith Johnson, and Ryan Clark are all scrambling to try and get into the top three, where the big money is.

We’ve heard reports that Bubba is looking really fast and smooth aboard a KX 250, and that he was also telling the truth when he told the crowd at the last Anaheim race that, “The next time you’ll see me, I’ll be on a 250.” The current 2004 plan calls for him to race 125cc East, and to race the 250cc class while out West.

Portions of Houston were, uh…interesting. There was a chain of stores called Houston 420, and a vast number of strip clubs. There was also a shop claiming to house the “Godfather of Tattoos”, which had the added bonus of touting, “Ladies Free!” There was also a tasty BBQ restaurant that Donn and GuyB tried where a guy was sleeping face-down in his food…in between bites. We also heard a tale of Ernesto Fonseca leaving a restaurant to find a guy trying to break into his car. When Ernesto confronted him, the guy wanted to brawl. Niiiice.

Brock Sellards’ 125cc win was even more impressive considering he had limited ability to shift gears for most of the main after tangling with Tiger Lacey. “I could only shift when I’d hit the mound in the middle of the whoops. If I put my foot on the footpeg, it automatically shifted because the shifter was there. So I’d stay in second and ride on my toes. Whenever I’d land on the double before the triple, I’d bring my foot around and click to third.”

Speaking of Tiger Lacey, the fast privateer impressed the guys from 3D Racing enough that they hooked him up with a deal for the rest of the supercross season, as well as the nationals. Tiger grabbed another holeshot and dueled with Brock Sellards before finishing in eighth spot.

You’ve probably seen shots of Larry Ward flashing a number one as he holeshot the 250cc main at Daytona. When we asked “The Hunter” about it, he told us, “It was just like an instinct. I got out of the gate sooo good, I felt like I was about a mile ahead of everybody. It was a total subconscious thing. Then I consciously thought, ‘You’d better put your hand back down, because Ricky’s probably going to lap your ass in this race,’ so I put it back down quick.”

Erick Vallejo had some extra supporters at Houston. Well-known for his helmet-mounted sombrero during pre-main parade laps, he had a group of friends and family in Houston sporting similar headgear. Erick wasn’t the only rider from Mexico to make the mains, either. Rene Tercero Reyes, riding for KTM Mexico, made the 250cc main.

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Chad Reed gave his mechanic, Dave Dye, a thorough champagne shower after their second consecutive 250cc main event win. Unfortunately for Dave, he was a stationary target, because he was holding Chad’s bike and had nowhere to run.

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In last week’s St. Louis race report, Jamie mentioned that Brian Mason muscled his way by Tyson Hadsel en route to qualifying for the main event. This week we learned that he had a little extra motivation to make the main. Mason had competed in the European rounds of the World Supercross GP, and FIM Race Director, John Gallagher, had pointed out to him that by making another main event, it would push him into the top 20 in World points, where he’d earn a $5,000 bonus at the end of the season.

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With David Vuillemin and Tim Ferry on the sidelines, there are some privateers with shots at making some serious year-end bonus money in the World Supercross GP points fund. Heath Voss, Keith Johnson, and Ryan Clark are all scrambling to try and get into the top three, where the big money is.

We’ve heard reports that Bubba is looking really fast and smooth aboard a KX 250, and that he was also telling the truth when he told the crowd at the last Anaheim race that, “The next time you’ll see me, I’ll be on a 250.” The current 2004 plan calls for him to race 125cc East, and to race the 250cc class while out West.

Portions of Houston were, uh…interesting. There was a chain of stores called Houston 420, and a vast number of strip clubs. There was also a shop claiming to house the “Godfather of Tattoos”, which had the added bonus of touting, “Ladies Free!” There was also a tasty BBQ restaurant that Donn and GuyB tried where a guy was sleeping face-down in his food…in between bites. We also heard a tale of Ernesto Fonseca leaving a restaurant to find a guy trying to break into his car. When Ernesto confronted him, the guy wanted to brawl. Niiiice.

Brock Sellards’ 125cc win was even more impressive considering he had limited ability to shift gears for most of the main after tangling with Tiger Lacey. “I could only shift when I’d hit the mound in the middle of the whoops. If I put my foot on the footpeg, it automatically shifted because the shifter was there. So I’d stay in second and ride on my toes. Whenever I’d land on the double before the triple, I’d bring my foot around and click to third.”

Speaking of Tiger Lacey, the fast privateer impressed the guys from 3D Racing enough that they hooked him up with a deal for the rest of the supercross season, as well as the nationals. Tiger grabbed another holeshot and dueled with Brock Sellards before finishing in eighth spot.

You’ve probably seen shots of Larry Ward flashing a number one as he holeshot the 250cc main at Daytona. When we asked “The Hunter” about it, he told us, “It was just like an instinct. I got out of the gate sooo good, I felt like I was about a mile ahead of everybody. It was a total subconscious thing. Then I consciously thought, ‘You’d better put your hand back down, because Ricky’s probably going to lap your ass in this race,’ so I put it back down quick.”

As he was scouting the track in Reliant Stadium (which is home for the NFL’s Houston Texans) Ryan Mills met Gary Walker, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who uses the same number (96). Walker gave them a tour of the facilities, including the weight room, where some of the team were already preparing for the 2003/2004 season. The two also traded jerseys, and Ryan wore his autographed Walker jersey on the parade lap before the start of the 125cc main.

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As he was scouting the track in Reliant Stadium (which is home for the NFL’s Houston Texans) Ryan Mills met Gary Walker, a Pro Bowl defensive tackle who uses the same number (96). Walker gave them a tour of the facilities, including the weight room, where some of the team were already preparing for the 2003/2004 season. The two also traded jerseys, and Ryan wore his autographed Walker jersey on the parade lap before the start of the 125cc main.

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