Monday Kickstart: Sweet Home Indiana

The 12th round of the AMA THQ Supercross Series took us to Mike LaRocco’s home state of Indiana over the weekend, as it visited the RCA Dome in Indianapolis. Prior to the race we asked “The Rock” if he felt he could take advantage of his hometown fans to help propel him to a higher step on the box. He responded by saying, “I definitely want to do well, and I think it can only help to be in Indiana.” Well, help it most certainly did. LaRocco snatched a very uncharacteristic holeshot aboard his Amsoil/Chaparral/Honda CR250R, and lead the race wire-to-wire, taking home his first victory since his win at Anaheim III back in 2002. Words can¿t really describe the emotion and electricity that surrounded the experience. The hometown crowd went bonkers when Mike got the holeshot, and continued to cheer on their hero the entire 20 laps. The Rock road the last lap in front nearly 47,000 standing fans. It was an awesome moment in our sport, to say the least. Great ride Mike! 

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We just happened to sit down with The Rock prior to the opening ceremonies on Saturday night to get his take on his season thus far, and how it felt to be home in Indiana. Here’s what he had to say¿

How does it feel to be in sweet home Indiana this weekend, Mike?

It’s good, but it’s difficult to do a home race because so many people want a little bit of your attention, and you want to give it to them, but it’s tough. It’s a cool feeling though. I am actually getting to go home after this race because we have the week off, so I am looking forward to that.  

Are the hometown fans enough to inspire you and push you up to the next step on the box?

I definitely hope so, but it’s still all about the racing. Hopefully I’ll feel the crowd when I am out on the track. I need to get a good start too. You can’t really hide that. I definitely want to do well though, and I think it can only help me that we¿re here in Indiana.

Your Supercross only season is quickly coming to an end. How do you feel about the way things have come together for you this season?

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It’s been ok. I obviously wanted a better season, but I’ve learned a lot and it hasn’t exactly been bad either. I still want to win a race or two before the season’s over though. That¿s my goal.

Are you planning to race a couple of selected Nationals, or will you totally take the summer off?

Yeah, I think I will ride some. We just started talking about it, so I am not totally sure how it will work out or which ones I’ll ride. I’ve never been home for the summer before, so I am not exactly sure how things will lay out.

What are you looking forward to the most during your summer break? It’s probably been since grade school that you had a summer off¿

Yeah¿ If that, even. I don’t know for sure though. I definitely don’t want to make any plans right now. I just want to chill a little bit and see what happens. I’ll definitely still ride because I don’t want to lose fitness or get too far away from things, so I am thinking maybe I’ll do like one race a month or something.

Well, right on Mike! Good luck tonight, stay cool and have a bitchen’ summer!

(Laughs) Thanks, you too!

Other big news from Indy came when James “Bubba” Stewart announced that he’d be sitting out of the re. Bubba went down hard twice in practice session one on Saturday, leaving him with a concussion and a big decision. After consulting with Dr. John Bodnar at the Asterisk Mobile Medical Unit, James decided that his health was more important than racing in Indy, and opted to sit it out. Head injuries are definitely no joke, and we’d like to commend Bubba for making a wise decision and helping to set a good example for the younger guys coming up.

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Bubba’s concussion came on the second of his two crashes when he collided with Amsoil/Chaparral/Honda rider Ryan Mills. After a left hand corner that sent riders back across the start straight and toward the finish line jump, Mills began pulling over to his right to exit the track and didn’t realize that Bubba was getting ready to pass him around the outside. The two hit pretty hard, but James took the brunt of the impact.

Speaking of left hand corners¿ This week’s track had seven of them out of nine total turns. That’s a lotta left¿ 

Josh Hansen was the beneficiary of Bubba’s absence on Saturday, winning his first ever Supercross main event. Kawasaki’s Paul Carpenter kept Little Hany in check all 15 laps, but Hany held tough under pressure and Paul was never able to challenge him for the lead. Hansen will finish out the two remaining West Coast rounds in Dallas and Salt Lake, and hopes that the confidence he¿s built back east will propel him to some podiums on what most regard as the more difficult coast. ¿I am looking forward to the West Coast rounds. The start of my season was rough out there, but I am healthy now and really riding well. I think I may have something for those guys this time around.¿

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Hansen’s weekend wasn’t smooth all the way through, however. During the second practice session on Saturday Hany went over the bars in the whoops and cut his finger when it got tangled up in the spokes. Ouch! After a change out of his blood soaked gloves and a little icing, Hany¿s finger was obviously good to go.

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While standing outside of the Factory Kawasaki semi on Saturday morning we heard a loud smashing noise coming from within the black covering around the rear-end of the truck. Shortly thereafter, Jeremy Albrecht emerged carrying one of Bubba’s Pro Circuit pipes with a huge dent in it. Hence, the smashing sound. J-Bone proceeded over to a trash can to dump the now unusable pipe. Apparently when Bubba’s done with them, he’s done with them. We’re guessing given Albrecht’s destruction process, that was no ordinary off-the-shelf PC pipe.

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The pit area this week was located inside the walls of the RCA Dome for most, however Team Yamaha and Team Honda, consisting only of Nathan Ramsey, opted to keep their bikes close to their semis outside of the dome. Some rain passed through on Saturday for a while, but the two teams still opted for the privacy of their haulers.

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For the rest, a fairly narrow hallway just inside the dome housed their bikes and equipment. “It’s not so bad unless there’s a crash or something that would require major repairs to the bike. Otherwise, we’re able to bring everything we need inside with us,” said KTM’s Oscar Wirdeman.

The factory teams had their own separate room adjacent to the hallway.

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When Nick’s not looking, mechanic “Bad” Billy Felts likes to play CHiPs on his factory Suzuki. He uses these Walkie Talkies to radio “Seven Mary Three and Four” over to Hamblin¿s wrench, Allen Terlecki. The two have never been spotted wearing the tight khaki CHP uniforms like Ponch and John, but then again, we only see them two days a week.

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Speaking of Billy and Al, the two got to visit CART driver Paul Tracy’s race shop near Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon. Billy comes from a family of sprint car racers and his uncle is now the crew chief for Tracy’s team. ¿Holidays with the family are always interesting,¿ said Billy. ¿We usually get into huge debates over CART VS. IRL racing. The family¿s split, so nine times out of ten I end up leaving the dinner table because it gets so ridiculous.¿ Billy and Al said that their tour of the shop was amazing. With the huge budget involved in CART, the race shop was said to blow Suzuki’s out of the water. They even got to sit in the car while being lifted up on its hydraulics to undergo a tire change. 

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Silly season is upon us once again, and this year there are even more rumors to be spread thanks to the large number of contracts that are about to be up. Rumors come and go, but one thing’s for sure this year. With James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, and Chad Reed all at the end of their current contracts, you can be sure that rumors about everybody else will remain nothing more than that, rumors, until the big three have signed.

Speaking of silly season rumor¿ Rumor has it that Suzuki cut their payroll by 30% the past couple of years to make room and have the dollars available for a marquee rider. We all know that there’s no hotter prospect than Bubba right now, and the rumor is that Suzuki has a blank check sitting on the table should Bubba choose to go Yellow. We asked Suzuki team manager Roger Decoster if the rumor was true and he just laughed stating, “Doesn’t everybody have a blank check with Bubba’s name on it?”

We spoke with Honda team manager Erik Kehoe in Indy to get the lowdown on their outdoor National line up and weaponry.  He confirmed that Ricky Carmichael will indeed ride the CRF450R, Ernesto Fonseca will be aboard a CR250R, and Nathan Ramsey will contend the 125cc class on the potent CRF250R. Speaking of Nate Dog, he followed up his third place podium finish in St. Louis with a strong fourth in Indy. Prior to Saturday night’s race we caught up with Nate to get his take on switching back and fourth between Honda¿s two thumpers.

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Nate, you’re coming off a great ride last week in St. Louis. Was it just a matter of gaining confidence on the 450, or did something else click for you?

I don’t think there’s anything huge to point out. I’ve been feeling really good on the 450, but I just haven’t got the starts, and everybody knows how critical it is to get out of the gate well. I’d like to keep getting up there with Chad and Kevin, obviously they’re the ones that are setting the pace, and so that’s what I am shooting for

Now that you’ve tasted some podium pie in the premier class again, will it be difficult for you to drop back down to the 125 class in Dallas?

Well, it definitely felt good to have a strong finish on the 450. I got a great start and everything just came together. As for stepping back down, that’s just part of the job. I really enjoy riding the CRF250 a lot. I tested on it this past week, and they’ve made it even better since I last raced it, so it keeps the level of excitement up for me. It’s a bit of a bummer that Ivan’s got such a big lead, but he did really well in the opening rounds and built a respectable lead. There are two more races left for points though, so I look forward to going out there and trying to end the series with a bang.

With a win at the last West Coast round in San Francisco and a podium on the 450, you’ve got to be feeling very confident as you look toward Dallas and Salt Lake.

Definitely. San Francisco was a big win for me in terms of shifting some momentum, and of course it feels great to put in strong finishes in the 250 class, so I hope the momentum will l Tracy’s race shop near Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday afternoon. Billy comes from a family of sprint car racers and his uncle is now the crew chief for Tracy’s team. ¿Holidays with the family are always interesting,¿ said Billy. ¿We usually get into huge debates over CART VS. IRL racing. The family¿s split, so nine times out of ten I end up leaving the dinner table because it gets so ridiculous.¿ Billy and Al said that their tour of the shop was amazing. With the huge budget involved in CART, the race shop was said to blow Suzuki’s out of the water. They even got to sit in the car while being lifted up on its hydraulics to undergo a tire change. 

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Silly season is upon us once again, and this year there are even more rumors to be spread thanks to the large number of contracts that are about to be up. Rumors come and go, but one thing’s for sure this year. With James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, and Chad Reed all at the end of their current contracts, you can be sure that rumors about everybody else will remain nothing more than that, rumors, until the big three have signed.

Speaking of silly season rumor¿ Rumor has it that Suzuki cut their payroll by 30% the past couple of years to make room and have the dollars available for a marquee rider. We all know that there’s no hotter prospect than Bubba right now, and the rumor is that Suzuki has a blank check sitting on the table should Bubba choose to go Yellow. We asked Suzuki team manager Roger Decoster if the rumor was true and he just laughed stating, “Doesn’t everybody have a blank check with Bubba’s name on it?”

We spoke with Honda team manager Erik Kehoe in Indy to get the lowdown on their outdoor National line up and weaponry.  He confirmed that Ricky Carmichael will indeed ride the CRF450R, Ernesto Fonseca will be aboard a CR250R, and Nathan Ramsey will contend the 125cc class on the potent CRF250R. Speaking of Nate Dog, he followed up his third place podium finish in St. Louis with a strong fourth in Indy. Prior to Saturday night’s race we caught up with Nate to get his take on switching back and fourth between Honda¿s two thumpers.

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Nate, you’re coming off a great ride last week in St. Louis. Was it just a matter of gaining confidence on the 450, or did something else click for you?

I don’t think there’s anything huge to point out. I’ve been feeling really good on the 450, but I just haven’t got the starts, and everybody knows how critical it is to get out of the gate well. I’d like to keep getting up there with Chad and Kevin, obviously they’re the ones that are setting the pace, and so that’s what I am shooting for

Now that you’ve tasted some podium pie in the premier class again, will it be difficult for you to drop back down to the 125 class in Dallas?

Well, it definitely felt good to have a strong finish on the 450. I got a great start and everything just came together. As for stepping back down, that’s just part of the job. I really enjoy riding the CRF250 a lot. I tested on it this past week, and they’ve made it even better since I last raced it, so it keeps the level of excitement up for me. It’s a bit of a bummer that Ivan’s got such a big lead, but he did really well in the opening rounds and built a respectable lead. There are two more races left for points though, so I look forward to going out there and trying to end the series with a bang.

With a win at the last West Coast round in San Francisco and a podium on the 450, you’ve got to be feeling very confident as you look toward Dallas and Salt Lake.

Definitely. San Francisco was a big win for me in terms of shifting some momentum, and of course it feels great to put in strong finishes in the 250 class, so I hope the momentum will spill over into the final two west rounds, and you never know what could happen.

Do you still plan to contend the outdoor Nationals aboard the CRF250R?

Yeah, I will. I think it just makes more sense for me right now to stay on the CRF250. I can go out there and ride it real aggressive, and hopefully put in some solid finishes. Not that it’s going to be easy by any means. I think the 125 class is really deep in the outdoors, so it will be a fight every weekend. It should be fun.

We also checked in with our buddy J.C. Waterhouse, team manager for the Amsoil/Chaparral/Honda team, to get the skinny on how the rebuilding of their team’s going. With Travis Preston, Chris Gosselaar and Billy Laninovich out due to injury, J.C. has a couple seats to fill. Justin Brayton, who made his debut on the team in St. Louis, will ride out the rest of the Supercross series, including the two remaining West Coast rounds and Las Vegas, but it’s uncertain whether he’ll make the cut for the Nationals. He will begin outdoor testing with the team next week in preparation, however. Kevin Windham will remain on his CRF450R for the Nationals; as previously mentioned, Mike LaRocco will contend selected races on a CR250R; Chris Gosselaar will be back and on a CRF250R; Ryan Mills is being given a choice between the 125 two-stroke and the 250 four-stroke, but remains undecided; and two new riders will most likely join the team to contend the Nationals as well. Prospects include Greg Schnell, and amateur star Josh Grant.

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As for our boy Travis Preston, J.C. tells us that he’d love to re-sign him to stay on the team for next season as a full-time 450cc pilot, but because of the nature of their sponsorship arrangements for the 125 squad, he likely won’t stay. The good news for Travis is that he has a better than average shot of being repositioned over to the factory Honda semi, according to Waterhouse.

Andrew Short is another guy on the list of teams for a possible factory ride in ’05. Andrew’s been putting in some great rides recently on his MotoworldRacing.com RM250, and won his first ever heat race this weekend in Indy beating a whole slew of factory guys. He’ll finish out the Supercross series in the 250 class, but will contend the Nationals on an RM-Z250 four-stroke.

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Sean Hamblin left Indianapolis and flew straight to Las Vegas to undergo corrective laser eye surgery. The week off will give him the time needed to heal, so Sean plans to be ready to go at the next round in Pontiac, MI in two weeks.

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Did anybody out there know that Suzuki’s Davi Millsaps’ middle name is Duke? We didn’t either until we saw his bling-bling “Duke” belt fully equipped with blinking lights and everything. Davi Duke sounds a lot like Daisy Duke, but we don¿t expect to see Davi sporting any of her famous cut off denim shorts anytime soon. At least¿ We hope!

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Shae Bentley made his return to racing this past weekend in Indy. Having been diagnosed with Epstein-Barr, Bentley’s suffered greatly from chronic fatigue and has been unable to ride. His immune system had gotten so low that he ended up with pneumonia. Doctors told him that the best remedy was rest, so Shae¿s been on the sidelines for some time now. He only spent a week on the bike heading into Indy, so his expectations were not very high. “I just want to get out and race tonight to see where I am at. I know I don’t have a lot of energy though, so I won’t push it. If I get out there and get tired than I’ll just pull off. I am not going to risk injury.¿ Shae finished 13th in his qualifier and didn¿t even line up for the last chance. We were unable to catch up with him after the race, but we¿re guessing that the fatigue got the best of him. Shae¿s scheduled to have surgery on Wednesday to remove his tonsils because they’re still holding infection in. Good luck with your recovery Shae.

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Bart De Jong fired off this report from the first round of the GP series in Zolder, Belgium¿

Giuseppe Luongo is bac