Southwick

SOUTHWICK

HEAD: MANLY MEN

SUBHEAD: ONLY THE STRONG SURVIVE SOUTHWICK

Story and Photos by Garth Milan

Each track on the National circuit has a distinct characteristic that separates it from the other eleven. Glen Helen has long, power-gobbling climbs and nerve-racking downhills, Millville has the lengthiest section of whoops known to man, and LaRocco’s Leap at Red Bud is hands-down the biggest jump going. Southwick, however, is not known for a single section at all; instead, “the Wick,” as it’s often called, is famous for its grueling sand. The only genuine sand track in the lot, Southwick has always been recognized as the one place that can chew up and spit out even the fittest of the fit. The course begins the weekend each and every year with a surface as smooth as a ping-pong table, but three or four laps in it develops knee-deep braking bumps and rolling whoops that seem to never end.

Bottomless, beach-like sand is the culprit, and it takes Southwick no time at all to develop into the nastiest, most punishing two-minute lap time there is. “It’s just a miserable place to race. As much as you enjoy it, you hate it at the same time,” said 125cc overall winner Grant Langston of the track. “I would hate to do this race more than once a year.”

Not only are the sands deep and the whoops brutal, making matters worse for those racing the Wick is the location. Nestled deep in the rural Southern Massachusetts woods, humidity percentages at Southwick are normally on par with the air temperature, translating into even more dismal conditions for those on the starting line.

This year’s Southwick National proved to be as severe as ever, and once again only the strongest survived. Those who held trophies at the end of the day on Sunday were not only required to best their competition, but also the track itself. Here’s what went down at the gnarliest race of the 2005 Nationals…

125cc Moto One

Lined up just to the left of the doghouse, Mike Alessi’s bright orange KTM rocketed out of the gate and up the soft, uphill Southwick start straight. For the first time in MX338’s recent history, the bikes sat behind the gates on dirt instead of concrete, but it appeared to be all the same to Alessi, who jumped out front immediately following his textbook holeshot.

This is where Alessi would stay for the entire 17-lap moto, though Mikey did face some very serious challenges in the opening stages from KXF-mounted Ivan Tedesco. Hot Sauce dogged Alessi and rode with extreme enthusiasm, perhaps a little too much. By the halfway point Ivan began to deflate slightly, and Tedesco’s teammate Grant Langston slid by on lap 15. On the last lap, privateer Mike Brown also got the best of Ivan for third.

Grant was surprisingly calm, cool, and collected while charging to his second-place finish behind Alessi. Langston was actually there just to get some points for the series, especially after going down hard and reinjuring his already tender ankle in practice. “In all honesty, if I was nowhere in the points by this stage in the season, I probably wouldn’t even be out here. There are not many guys who put two good motos together in the sand, so I figured maybe a top-five would be possible.

“From the outside watching, people say I looked kind of slow out there because I was trying to be smooth and take good lines and not waste energy, and I feel like I rode well within my potential and tried to be smart,” Langston later said of his performance. “I guess it’s one of those things, once you get your adrenaline going, it kind of overtakes a little bit, and then when the checkered flag comes out, it hurts like a son of a bitch again.”

250cc Moto One

Just as Alessi had done roughly an hour earlier, Kevin Windham jumped to the early lead in 250cc moto one with a solid holeshot on his four-stroke Honda. All the heavy hitters followed him one by one down the fast straightaway following the first turn. It was Chad Reed, John Dow Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart who were on K-Dub’s heels, but it didn’t take Carmichael long to steal the lead away from Windham. RC zapped Dowd, Reed and finally Kevin, all before the end of the second lap!

Appearing as if he was on the way to yet another easy win, on the fourth lap Carmichael experienced some whiskey throttle over a small tabletop and landed halfway down the next hill into some major braking bumps. Ricky went over the bars, but was able to remount quickly and-wait, first he had to start the thing… After kicking for a while with the clutch in and the bike in gear, RC realized it wasn’t happening and was forced to stop and find neutral. Meanwhile, in the midst of all this huffing and puffing for RC, Reed picked up where Carmichael left off and hauled off to a large lead after finally dropping Stewart about six laps in.

The rest of the moto was all Chad’s. Though Ricky eventually got going again and moved into second on lap ten, by that point Chad had checked out. RC was giving it his all in hopes of catching Chad and building on his record 31-moto win streak that he held coming in, but it just didn’t happen.

“For the past three years I’ve been trying to get up there and battle and get a race win. I’ve always been shut out,” said Reed after the race. “I was given an opportunity a thousand times before when Ricky crashed, and I was never able to take advantage of it. It feels good.”

As for Ricky, he handled the win-streak halt like the pro he is. “It’s awesome to see Chad do it,” said Ricky. “When Kevin (Windham) beat me, he knocked my win streak down, and if somebody’s going to (break) it, I’d like to see someone who works hard (break) it. He deserves it.”

And what happened to Bubba, the guy who many predicted coming into Southwick might offer #4 some competition, considering his similar background in the sand? According to a Kawasaki press statement, Stewart voluntarily pulled off of the track on lap eight complaining of feeling light-headed. James was evaluated by physicians and subsequently released, but later decided not to compete in the second moto. Here’s hoping James gets back to health soon, because the sport is not the same without him up front.

As for third place at the checkers, it belonged to none other than hometown hero John Dowd. In just a few months Dowd turns 40, but he didn’t let that little bit of trivia stop him from passing Windham on lap 13 to eventually follow Reed to the checkers aboard his privateer RM-Z450. David Vuillemin rode to fifth, while the other local hero, Doug Henry, finished top two-stroke in sixth on his YZ250.

125cc Moto Two

This time around it was Billy Laninovich who rounded turn one (and lap one) in the lead. Tedesco snuck by Lano on lap two, with Langston, Brown, and Alessi in tow. Considering his success in the moto prior, the race and the overall looked to be Alessi’s for the taking, but on lap three he didn’t come around. Eventually Mike showed, favoring his left shoulder and riding at a very slow pace. Alessi was unable to finish the moto and gain any points, and pulled off following that third lap, which would later make for some interesting overall results.

Tedesco stayed up front for eight more laps after getting by Billy, but on lap ten the smooth-sailing Grant Langston went by his teammate Ivan and into the number one spot. Grant eventually won by over ten seconds, but it wasn’t Tedesco who was behind him. Sneaking his way through the pack was Ryan Hughes, who rounded the finish line in ninth on lap one but was second by lap fifteen. It was a long, arduous task for Ryno, but it paid off.

“The first two races weren’t the best for me. I had some problems with my balls (laughs), and some bikes, but this week I kind of just got back to what I do,” said Hughes. “I’m not the fastest rider by any means, but I’m probably one of the fittest. I’ve been further down before, and anything can happen. Grant knows that, Brownie knows that, and so do I, so I’m just going to keep having fun, riding Ryan’s race.”

Meanwhile, Josh Grant put on a solid charge of his own, following Ryno through the pack and passing from eleventh to third. The ninth he got in moto one combined with third equaled a fourth overall with Alessi out, while Ryno snagged third overall with his 8-2. Brown finished fourth, and Tedesco faded slightly to a respectable fifth at the checkers.

250cc Moto Two

The already overcast sky turned a menacing shade of gray as the second 250cc moto was on the gate, and sprinkles were falling. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop John Dowd from jumping perfectly out of the gate and into the lead on lap one. Of course, the heavily partisan crowd was immediately on its feet, cheering loudly for their boy as he led the likes of Carmichael and Reed around his hometown track.

“I just love this track. That’s no secret, I guess. I grew up riding in sand. I’ve always been able to be pretty fast here. This year wasn’t any different,” said Dowd about his spectacular performance.

It was Reed who got by Dowd first, on lap two, and Ricky went by the following lap. That was all John was giving, though, as he managed to remain in third until the finish, garnering a 3-3 third overall.

After a disappointing first moto, it was obvious Carmichael had something to prove in the second outing. Once he passed leader Reed on lap four, RC put his RM-Z on cruise control and cranked out a pace fast enough to put him 30 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Chad at the end. Though the moto win streak was over after his loss earlier in the day, Ricky can be plenty proud of his TK-straight National wins, a record he maintained by clinching the overall.

“Unfortunately, I dropped the ball. It was a shame for the team, more than anything. They deserve it. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. When you make those mistakes and you’ve got guys as good as the competition, that’s it,” said Carmichael in an upbeat tone. RC was very professional about the whole thing, but still understandably bummed. I guess when you have the kind of batting average Ricky Carmichael does, though, getting second place in a moto would suck pretty bad…

CAPTIONS:

SOU01-06: Talk about a rare sight; Ricky Carmichael and mistakes are often never paired together in a sentence. At Southwick, however, RC got a bit ahead of himself while leading the first moto, and on lap four gassed it a little too hard over a small tabletop. Carmichael landed in gigantic braking bumps, resulting in a trip over the bars and onto the ground. What really cost Ricky the win, though, was the fact that it took him more than a few tries to fire his RM-Z to life, a result of the bike being in gear for the first couple of attempts. Once back on track, Carmichael rode like a man possessed in hopes of not having to relinquish his insanely long 31-moto win streak, but there just wasn’t enough time left for him to catch eventual moto one winner Chad Reed. Of course, Carmichael made mincedmeat out of the pack in moto two to take the overall.

SOU07: The first 250cc moto saw RC nowhere in sight come the top of Southwick’s infamous uphill start, but by the end of lap two Carmichael had already checked into the lead position.

SOU08: Chad Reed got his closest taste of victory yet at the Wick. Reed was the only rider on the track who was able to capitalize on Carmichael’s first-moto mistake, allowing him to finally break the Champ’s long-term winning streak and undoubtedly give himself a little more hope for besting #4 in the future. Though he couldn’t back it up with the second moto victory that was required for the overall, Reed and the rest of the Yamaha camp were plenty happy to finally win a moto. Chad is quickly becoming a noted sand master himself, considering he beat Ricky earlier in the year at Daytona, too.

SOU09-10: ***NO CAPTIONS; USE AS RANDOM ART***

SOU11: John Dowd is a god at Southwick. The New Enand so do I, so I’m just going to keep having fun, riding Ryan’s race.”

Meanwhile, Josh Grant put on a solid charge of his own, following Ryno through the pack and passing from eleventh to third. The ninth he got in moto one combined with third equaled a fourth overall with Alessi out, while Ryno snagged third overall with his 8-2. Brown finished fourth, and Tedesco faded slightly to a respectable fifth at the checkers.

250cc Moto Two

The already overcast sky turned a menacing shade of gray as the second 250cc moto was on the gate, and sprinkles were falling. A little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop John Dowd from jumping perfectly out of the gate and into the lead on lap one. Of course, the heavily partisan crowd was immediately on its feet, cheering loudly for their boy as he led the likes of Carmichael and Reed around his hometown track.

“I just love this track. That’s no secret, I guess. I grew up riding in sand. I’ve always been able to be pretty fast here. This year wasn’t any different,” said Dowd about his spectacular performance.

It was Reed who got by Dowd first, on lap two, and Ricky went by the following lap. That was all John was giving, though, as he managed to remain in third until the finish, garnering a 3-3 third overall.

After a disappointing first moto, it was obvious Carmichael had something to prove in the second outing. Once he passed leader Reed on lap four, RC put his RM-Z on cruise control and cranked out a pace fast enough to put him 30 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Chad at the end. Though the moto win streak was over after his loss earlier in the day, Ricky can be plenty proud of his TK-straight National wins, a record he maintained by clinching the overall.

“Unfortunately, I dropped the ball. It was a shame for the team, more than anything. They deserve it. It’s nobody’s fault but mine. When you make those mistakes and you’ve got guys as good as the competition, that’s it,” said Carmichael in an upbeat tone. RC was very professional about the whole thing, but still understandably bummed. I guess when you have the kind of batting average Ricky Carmichael does, though, getting second place in a moto would suck pretty bad…

CAPTIONS:

SOU01-06: Talk about a rare sight; Ricky Carmichael and mistakes are often never paired together in a sentence. At Southwick, however, RC got a bit ahead of himself while leading the first moto, and on lap four gassed it a little too hard over a small tabletop. Carmichael landed in gigantic braking bumps, resulting in a trip over the bars and onto the ground. What really cost Ricky the win, though, was the fact that it took him more than a few tries to fire his RM-Z to life, a result of the bike being in gear for the first couple of attempts. Once back on track, Carmichael rode like a man possessed in hopes of not having to relinquish his insanely long 31-moto win streak, but there just wasn’t enough time left for him to catch eventual moto one winner Chad Reed. Of course, Carmichael made mincedmeat out of the pack in moto two to take the overall.

SOU07: The first 250cc moto saw RC nowhere in sight come the top of Southwick’s infamous uphill start, but by the end of lap two Carmichael had already checked into the lead position.

SOU08: Chad Reed got his closest taste of victory yet at the Wick. Reed was the only rider on the track who was able to capitalize on Carmichael’s first-moto mistake, allowing him to finally break the Champ’s long-term winning streak and undoubtedly give himself a little more hope for besting #4 in the future. Though he couldn’t back it up with the second moto victory that was required for the overall, Reed and the rest of the Yamaha camp were plenty happy to finally win a moto. Chad is quickly becoming a noted sand master himself, considering he beat Ricky earlier in the year at Daytona, too.

SOU09-10: ***NO CAPTIONS; USE AS RANDOM ART***

SOU11: John Dowd is a god at Southwick. The New England native proved once again that he knows the Massachusetts sand like the back of his hand, as Dowdy posted solid 3-3 moto scores in the premier 250cc class without even practicing on Saturday! Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Dowd showed up in a tiny box van, sported full-blown privateer equipment, and will turn 40 in a couple more months… How would you feel if you were a 20-year-old factory rider on a works bike and got smoked by the Junkyard Dog?

SOU12: Mike Brown may not have been completely stoked with his riding at Southwick, but the fact remains that he got what he needed to do done and walked out of the place with a 25-point lead in the series after only three rounds. Brownie scored consistent 3-4 results on his #3 CRF.

SOU13: Ivan Tedesco was hotter than a Habanero in the opening laps of the first 125cc moto at Southwick. The Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider breathed fire down holeshot artist Mike Alessi’s neck during the first few laps and looked to be the fastest guy on the track, but soon learned the hard way that you need to pace yourself in deep sand. Tedesco dropped the pace substantially, but his aggressive style put him far enough ahead early on that he was able to hold on to fourth place in the first outing. Combined with his second moto score of fifth (he actually led half of the moto), Ivan pulled off an impressive fourth place overall.

SOU14: Mike Alessi was the man to beat in moto one. Alessi holeshot (as usual), then fought off early charges from Tedesco to eventually pull away to a sizeable lead at the checkers. A second moto get-off early on kept him from finishing more than three laps. The DNF hurt him slightly in the point standings, but the 17-year-old series rookie has plenty of time to make up the ground.

SOU15: Grant Langston rode the smartest race of his life at Southwick. Coming in injured, Cool G hoped to just score some points, but by riding smoothly and consistently Langston wound up with the overall. Grant rode like an old sand pro, never looking fast but obviously going fast. After one more round at Budd’s Creek he gets a week off, so Langston should only get faster.

SOU16: Southwick was kind to Kevin Windham, who kept his CRF chugging away for a respectable 4-4 fourth overall. K-Dub never really offered much challenge for the lead, but by riding conservatively Windham was able to score important series points (bumping him up to third after David Vuillemin’s DNF in the second moto), and leave the Wick healthy.

SOU17: After two frustrating rounds, Ryan Hughes finally found his pace again at Southwick, scoring his first podium of the year on his ECC-backed Honda CRF250R. Ryno is one of the fittest racers around, and that was exactly what it took to do well in the heat and humidity of Massachusetts. Hughes’s bulldogged determination could make things interesting at the end.

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w England native proved once again that he knows the Massachusetts sand like the back of his hand, as Dowdy posted solid 3-3 moto scores in the premier 250cc class without even practicing on Saturday! Perhaps more impressive is the fact that Dowd showed up in a tiny box van, sported full-blown privateer equipment, and will turn 40 in a couple more months… How would you feel if you were a 20-year-old factory rider on a works bike and got smoked by the Junkyard Dog?

SOU12: Mike Brown may not have been completely stoked with his riding at Southwick, but the fact remains that he got what he needed to do done and walked out of the place with a 25-point lead in the series after only three rounds. Brownie scored consistent 3-4 results on his #3 CRF.

SOU13: Ivan Tedesco was hotter than a Habanero in the opening laps of the first 125cc moto at Southwick. The Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider breathed fire down holeshot artist Mike Alessi’s neck during the first few laps and looked to be the fastest guy on the track, but soon learned the hard way that you need to pace yourself in deep sand. Tedesco droppeed the pace substantially, but his aggressive style put him far enough ahead early on that he was able to hold on to fourth place in the first outing. Combined with his second moto score of fifth (he actually led half of the moto), Ivan pulled off an impressive fourth place overall.

SOU14: Mike Alessi was the man to beat in moto one. Alessi holeshot (as usual), then fought off early charges from Tedesco to eventually pull away to a sizeable lead at the checkers. A second moto get-off early on kept him from finishing more than three laps. The DNF hurt him slightly in the point standings, but the 17-year-old series rookie has plenty of time to make up the ground.

SOU15: Grant Langston rode the smartest race of his life at Southwick. Coming in injured, Cool G hoped to just score some points, but by riding smoothly and consistently Langston wound up with the overall. Grant rode like an old sand pro, never looking fast but obviously going fast. After one more round at Budd’s Creek he gets a week off, so Langston should only get faster.

SOU16: Southwick was kind to Kevin Windham, who kept his CRF chugging away for a respectable 4-4 fourth overall. K-Dub never really offered much challenge for the lead, but by riding conservatively Windham was able to score important series points (bumping him up to third after David Vuillemin’s DNF in the second moto), and leave the Wick healthy.

SOU17: After two frustrating rounds, Ryan Hughes finally found his pace again at Southwick, scoring his first podium of the year on his ECC-backed Honda CRF250R. Ryno is one of the fittest racers around, and that was exactly what it took to do well in the heat and humidity of Massachusetts. Hughes’s bulldogged determination could make things interesting at the end.

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