The Race For Second

By now you probably know that Chad Reed ran away with his 9th 250cc race of the season in Pontiac, and that James Stewart (who had already wrapped up the 125cc East crown) finished a nearly unbeaten season in the 125cc class. (His only “loss” came at Indy, where he opted not to race after suffering a concussion in practice.) For some people, that made things all too predictable and, dare we say, boring. It’s hard for us to swallow that SX can actually be boring. Especially when there were enough other battles, both on and off the track, to provide plenty to talk about. Let’s dig in…

Race For Sponsorship

With nearly every big name rider in the U.S. reaching the end of their contracts this season (and Ricky Carmichael, Chad Reed, and James “Bubba” Stewart being the biggest of the available names), there are guaranteed to be plenty of new faces with new teams in ’05. But on Friday afternoon it almost seemed like an extension of April Fool’s Day when word quickly spread that Suzuki had won the race to lock up one of the big three… And that they’d inked Ricky Carmichael to a deal.

Even though it had long been rumored that Suzuki was building a war chest to go after a marquee rider, it was still a shocker, and much of the rest of the weekend’s conversations revolved around talk of Ricky’s signing. Not bad for a guy who wasn’t even at the race. Of course, there were equal amounts of speculation regarding where Chad Reed and Bubba will land, but as yet, nothing had been finalized for Chad (at least publicly), and Bubba was contractually prevented from doing any negotiating until May.

What does it take to sign a top-shelf guy like Ricky? Rumors put it at between four-and-a-half and five million dollars per season. Other rumors suggest that Ricky would have actually signed for less with Honda, but they disagreed over the length of the contract.

Suzuki will most likely have a semi for RC and one that will house their other riders (probably two 125cc pilots, and an additional 250cc rider).One thing that’s for sure… Suzuki ensured that someone else will be without the services of one of the top three. Where will Reed and Bubba land? And what about everyone else (who are all waiting for Chad and James to get signed so they can work their deals)? That remains to be seen.

On Saturday morning we couldn’t resist asking Suzuki Team Manager and five-time World Champion, Roger DeCoster, given the current salary levels, if he wished he was born 30 years later. “Yeah, but that’s how it is with everything. I can’t complain. I’m happy to be involved when I was, and that I was still able to make a living at a hobby, you know?”

Damon Huffman vs. Heath Voss For World Supremecy

Moto XXX’s Damon Huffman and Mach 1 Yamaha’s Heath Voss were at it since December 6th of ’03, duking it out for the THQ World Supercross GP title. Grant Langston had been sidetracked by on-track incidents (with Jimmy Wilson in Atlanta) and injuries. In fact, GL was missing in Pontiac after having surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome. Tyler Evans also slipped in the World standings, making it a two-man race for the World SXGP standings. At the start of the racing on Saturday night, the two were only three points apart.

Damon Huffman enjoyed a healthy lead in the standings up until Atlanta, but he seriously tweaked his ankle at the beginning of the main there and finished 19th. He skipped Daytona, and soldiered through St. Louis and Indy, losing points to the Yamaha-mounted Texan at each round.

Meanwhile, Heath was working on making adjustments of his own, trying to get a better balance of power versus hit on the Yamaha thumper. At Pontiac he showed up with the third brand of pipe in nearly as many races, after having gone through GYT-R, Yoshimura, and finally White Brothers exhausts. But even mounting the aftermarket pipes was proving to be a challenge since Heath was running a different linkage and subframe on his Yamaha.

We asked Heath what it was like toe racing for the World title. “It feels great. It’s really important to me to win that championship, but more importantly I’d like to get on the podium. I’ve got four races left and I know I’m more than capable of doing it, and I need to put it all together. That’s what I’m really going after.”

How about the possibility of a big payday at the end? “$100,000 is a lot of money for me. That’s a big payday. But to be World Champion, that’s something that I could look back on five years from now and say, ‘Hey, I was World Champion.’ To be World Champion you’re in some pretty respectable company. On my helmet I have a Donny Schmit logo. It says DS1. The 1D background is in green, and the other one is in black, and those stand for his 125 and 250 World Championships. So just to even have something that says I’m a World Champion would be great. Donny was a great friend of mine and he’s someone that I always looked up to. I wish he was here to be a part of all this.”

Heath grabbed a solid fourth place finish in his heat race, qualifying directly to the main. Damon scored a sixth in his heat, and thus had to race the semi, so he didn’t get any extra rest on his tender ankle. However, he came back to win his semi, ahead of Nate Ramsey.

When the two met in the main, Damon nabbed the holeshot and led for two laps. But hampered by his ankle and pursued by faster riders, he started to slip backwards through the field. Second on lap three, third on lap six, fourth on lap seven, and sixth on lap eight. Meanwhile, Heath was working his way up from an okay start. He was 13th on lap two, 12th on lap four, and 11th on the fifth circuit. Midway through the main it became apparent that given their current paces, the two would settle out somewhere close to each other near the end of the 20-lap main.

Sure enough, on lap 16, Heath settled in behind Damon, and even though he was almost a full straightaway behind, he kept charging, chipping away at the gap between the two. On lap 19 Heath got close enough to make a pass for seventh (good for first place World points) before the checkered flag fell. That tied the series with three races to go, and now they’re down to a three-race sprint for the championship… And the $100,000 prize that goes with it.

David Vuillemin vs. Mike LaRocco

After winning in front of his hometown fans in Indianapolis, Mike LaRocco moved into third spot in the season standings ahead of David Vuillemin, which lent a little extra urgency to DV’s charge through the pack in the 250cc main. He wanted to catch LaRocco, who was sitting in second spot. After starting well outside the top 10, he blitzed his way to third with a few laps remaining, rapidly reeling in Iron Mike. The tenacious LaRocco made a solid race out of it, and the two dueled for a couple of laps before DV bobbled while trying to get by a lapper, and Mike snuck away before the checkered flag.

Mike’s resurgence in ’04 has been one of the pleasant surprises of the season.

Josh Hansen vs. The East Coast

Sitting in the press conference after the night’s racing was over, Josh Hansen looked bummed and extremely uncomfortable. After winning the previous round in Indy, he was the hero in the Boost Mobile/Troy Racing/Yamaha semi. Now, after finishing in second spot (but ahead of his teammate, Danny Smith), Josh was in the doghouse with his team. Bubba grabbed the holeshot, and Danny was running near the front of the pack in the 125cc main, but after several laps, Josh slipped by his teammate. Later on, Suzuki’s Davi Millsaps also made it by Danny. Though he finished fourth, Danny lost second overall in the final 125cc East tally by one point to Suzuki rookie Broc Hepler, who’d finished in seventh spot.

The Future of the Silverdome?

Supercross has been a regular visitor to the Silverdome since 1976, when Marty Smith was the first winner there. But the Detroit Lions paid more than $26 million to break their lease at the Silverdome site four years early, and moved to a new downtown arena. Since then, the Pontiac City Council has been looking over several plans for the Silverdome site, one of which includes demolition of the current facility. Will Supercross return there in ’05? Or will another city get its slot in the schedule? We’ll have to wait for the new schedule to see. d moved to a new downtown arena. Since then, the Pontiac City Council has been looking over several plans for the Silverdome site, one of which includes demolition of the current facility. Will Supercross return there in ’05? Or will another city get its slot in the schedule? We’ll have to wait for the new schedule to see.