We were back at the Big A in Anaheim this week for round 3 of the super-duper cross series and, after last week's drama with James Stewart and Chad Reed, I'm not sure that the 2010 series could get any better. Although I would like to see opening ceremonies with Stewart getting introduced and then Reed dropping down from the ceiling like a Navy Seal or something. Once he touches down, he runs to Stewie and hits him over the head with his freshly minted cast, Stewart comes back by picking up the little wooden podium they stand on and shattering it over Reed. Reed gets up, tears the cast off and it's revealed that he's fine, his hand is okay and he jumps on his bike and launches the triple. Feld announcer Lurch then asks everyone if they are ready for Supercross.
I know this is a real sport and all that but it's also entertainment and we've had so much fun with this season, I just thought we could ask for a little more.
After all the rains this week, there was no way the track wasn't going to be an absolute disaster. I live in Las Vegas and we got more rain this week than in the previous three years that I've lived here combined. My friends in SoCal were relaying messages about how the ark building was going and it seemed that it was going to be mess this weekend. Even with the forecast calling for sun on Saturday.
But Dirt Wurx, the company responsible for the mounds of dirt used each and every week in Supercross, knew that the rains were coming and hightailed it out of Arizona early last week to get started on the Anaheim track. It was a smart move and when the tarp came off on Saturday morning, the track was perfect. Credit to the Dirt Wurx guys for all their hard work and for saving the show.
Looks like the constant rain scared away some of the Southern California fans as the attendance did suffer on the night. The official spectator count was 31,000-plus, but you can't really believe that. I would put it at half full or somewhere around 22,000. Still, the lucky ones that were there saw an absolute great night of racing.
The track was cool, it was pretty technical with some big whoops. The track required the riders to slow down sometimes to jump sections (like before the finish line) which is cool because it becomes a game of technique. The whoops claimed victims all day and the crew had to come out after the 250 heat races to fix them a bit. It seems that the carnage was not loved by all.
In 1993 we saw a relative rookie named Jeremy McGrath (who had raced a few 250 sx's) come onto the scene and after finishing fourth at the first two rounds, won the third Supercross that year and would go on to win ten races that season on his way to the title. No one really knew what had hit them as, although MC was supposed to be good and an up and coming star, no one had ever really seen a kid jump into the 250 class and dominate like that.
The year before MC’s rookie campaign, in 1992, the SX season saw three riders win 15 of the 16 races. The opener went, in a shocker, to Mike LaRocco but the champion, Jeff Stanton, won three races and had begun a transformation of his body that went in the wrong direction. Stanton started becoming a vegetarian and losing muscle mass, a mistake he admits years later. Damon Bradshaw, the rider that had the most wins in that 1992 season (9) but came up short for the title, had begun to feel the effects of burn-out and wasn't the same rider. Jean-Michael Bayle, still in his prime (3 race wins), had retired and gone road racing. Although MC was certainly gifted and on his way to winning, there were a few things that fell into place to allow him to dominate that 1993 season and start to become the legend that he is today.
Last year (2009) the SX season saw three riders win 15 of the 16 races. The opener went, in a shocker, to Josh Grant but the eventual champion, James Stewart, won 11 races on his way to the title but is now riding with a badly hurt wrist from his Phoenix crash. Chad Reed ended up winning 3 races and secured the runner-up position in the points. He left us last weekend for six weeks with a broken hand. Ryan Villopoto, an up and coming star, won 2 races and then tore his knee up and is still getting up to speed in 2010.
It's kind of eerie right?
I have a feeling that we might be seeing 1993 reincarnated. I'm not saying that Ryan Dungey is going to equal MC's record of 72 career wins and become a 7-time sx champion but this weekend we saw something very impressive. Thanks to some other things I documented above falling into place, Dungey is grabbing that giant gift that has been given to him and the others and running with it. This weekend he stalked James Stewart and then Josh Hill for thirteen laps before moving into the lead and winning Anaheim 2 in convincing fashion. It was a great ride and even more impressive to me was what he did when he finally moved into the lead.
He hammered down late in the race to pull away. Here are the lap times for the top three guys the lap after Dungey moved into the lead:
LAP 14- 58.62………………….. 1:00.51 ……………………………….1:00.23
LAP 15-59.00…………………. 1:00.19………………………………..1:01.29
LAP 16-59.19………………….. 1:00:84………………………………. 1:00.13
LAP 17-59.34…………………….. 59:90………………………………. 1:01:42
As you can see, Dungey got into the lead and sprinted away. He set his fastest lap on the lap after he got into the lead and that's hard to do people. He basically matched the two riders ahead of him for 13 laps and then picked up his game and demolished them. He had 3.5 seconds on Hill and 6 (!!) seconds on Stewart at the finish.
So Ryan's won two out of three and has a 15 point lead after three races. Incredible and impressive all at the same time. The moto gods have shifted the fates of everyone around and Dungey has grabbed the brass ring that was presented to him and doesn't seem like he's going to give it back anytime soon. We could be watching history in 2010 folks. Let's enjoy it.
One thing for sure is James Stewart is not enjoying this at all. The defending champion is riding hurt and trying to salvage points and getting third is a good ride for Stewie. He couldn't make it out for opening ceremonies but was on the line for the heat race to see what he could do. He got beat by an impressive Josh Hill in that race and again in the main. He's not the same rider as he was last season and to me, his bike still doesn't look that great. He got buck wild a few times in the whoops and isn't scrubbing with as much authority.
Hey, doesn't it take a fully functional wrist to scrub the way he does? Yes, I believe it does.
So we'll see how James does in the coming weeks, if Dungey keeps getting great starts (RD's jump off the line in this week's main event was the kind that riders dream about) and Stewie keeps going down by points, then we'll see what happens. No matter what the injury is, he's going to be dealing with it for a while and this is not good for da champ. Also, if Josh Hill keeps getting in between Stewart and the leader, well that's not going to be very good either.
Speaking of Hill, a great ride by the kid and he's gaining confidence each and every race. He rode great at Anaheim 1 but I didn't talk about it. He finished 3rd in Phoenix in a steady ride and this week he almost won his second career supercross. He seems to be throwing that bike around and perfectly happy jumping everything and anything. He needed a bit more fitness this weekend but that will come. More importantly for Hill, he is starting to now know that he belongs up front. Team manager Larry Brooks said last week on The Moto Show that his dream was going to be James Stewart and Josh Hill on the podium together.
Somehow I think Hill on the second step and Stewie on the third one isn't what Larry was dreaming about.
In the 250 class it was once again won by Jake Weimer. He's three for three this year and simply walked away from the field this weekend once he grabbed the lead from teammate Josh "Jesus" Hansen. Not that it's a big call by any means but I Twittered (pulpmx) that Weimer was going to win this weekend when I watched him in first practice. He just was aggressive and attacking the track at every opportunity. It was like the track itself got his girlfriend drunk and had its way with her at a party. He was mad at it, very mad. He railed the turns, laughed at the big whoops and looked to be extremely confident the whole time.
One thing that helped him was that he figured out jumping through the second set of whoops was faster than trying to skim them. They were so beat up that the guys who skimmed were struggling, Jake was jumping through the middle groove and pulling away for about half the race and then the other dudes figured it out as well.
Second place was TLD Honda's Will Hahn who has been affected by that magic dust that team manager David Pingree sprinkles on his riders. That TLD team had definitely produced some great rides by some unexpected guys over the years. Hahn isn't that big of a surprise to me, just look at last week's column for what I said about him, but what about other rider Cole Seely?
Seely scored a fifth this weekend in a great ride and now has two great rides in two weeks. As opposed to last year when he would start up front and fade to the back. I'm sure the combination of fast bikes, the teams support and the mentoring of Jeff Ward (who really is responsible for Seely being on the team) is all a big help.
Josh Hansen is just disgusted by me. Clearly by THIS and THIS, he really doesn't like me. He asked the DMXS guys what am I going to say when he's on the podium but I'm still waiting. He's on the premier team in the class and can't seem to make it happen. Another holeshot (just like last weekend in Phoenix) and a fade to fourth isn't going to cut it over there.
Still, I'm going to take the high road and say that he will make the podium soon and maybe even win a race if the stars and moons all align. He had everything right there in front of him this weekend and couldn't do it. That had to be disappointing to him and his team.
And I'm getting my running shoes on this week and busting out that two miles so that he'll come on the Moto Show.
What in the hell happened to cool parade laps? Last two weeks we've seen nothing out of the guys as they put in a lap before the racing begins. I remember when MC would do one and the crowd was drooling over each other like insane asylum inmates waiting for the inevitable Nac-Nac. Now we get lame cross-ups and one handers. Hey guys, 1984 called, they want their hot lap back.
Do we have to get MC back out? Don't make me call him because there was definitely sweet love being made between the fans and MC back in the day.
Andrew Short had a frustrating fourth place. The number 29 hung with the Dungey, Hill and Stewart freight train for the whole race but couldn't get real close to make a move. He would gain a bunch on one lap, look like he was right there to get into the mix and then a mistake would put him back to square one. Still, a good ride for Andrew and he knows that if he can get a start, he can possibly get his first career sx win.
I think a good saying in life is that if you come out in practice and jump one or both triples on the very first lap, you're a bad-ass. It's that simple. I know that the riders will tell you jumping a triple is the easiest thing on the track but to roll out on the very first lap of practice and have the confidence in your mechanic that the wheel is tight and that you can air out a 70-foot gap is something special. So with no press day this week, I watched every rider on their very first lap and made notes on who jumped either triple cold and blind. Here is the list of bad-asses:
That is all.
Michael Byrne debuted his new JGR Yamaha ride and put in a better showing this week than he had in either of the previous two races. With the switch to Yamaha, that makes it four brands in about four months for the Aussie. When I asked him about this, he strangely didn't seem very pumped. Look for an interview with Byrner on Pulpmx.com tomorrow.
He got better starts than he had been getting on his way to a ninth in the main event. I’m going to look for Byrner to get better real soon as he only had a day and a half on the new bike.
JGR's other rider, Justin Brayton, has been quiet this season but still very fast. After three rounds, he sits eighth in the points and this weekend was sixth. One thing that you won't read much about was his dead last to seventh ride in his heat race. It was very impressive and probably even made team owner Coy Gibbs stop playing Halo on-line for a few moments.
Here are the top twenty from each race:
3-Trey Canard- Another couple laps and he would've gotten Hahn for second. He was coming and we have yet to see him and Weimer start 1-2. Should be interesting when they do.
6-Gauthier Paulin-Good ride for the Frenchman in what is his last ride here. He learned from A1 as when Canard came up on him, he wanted nothing to do with him. Smart move based on the fact he was on the ground last time.
8-Blake Wharton- Good ride considering he had to go to the LCQ. A victim of the whoops.
9-Travis Baker- Best quiet rookie right now in the class.
10-Broc Tickle- Worst luck for the fastest guy.
19-Jeff Mann Jr
20-Jake Canada- Fastest in his practice, Jake let his country down with this ride. No, he's not Canadian but he still let us down. At least we have Dean Wilson coming!
11-Kyle Chisholm- Another good ride for The Chiz. Thirteenth in the points after only two races. He's looked better in the two races than he ever did at L&M last year.
13- Nick Wey
16-Grant Langston- Didn't look good at all at any point during the day. He was about a lap away from not making the main in his heat. Not sure what was up with GL8, better days for him lay ahead.
18-Manuel Rivas Gomez- Remember him? He's from Spain and a top rider over there, he came over a few years ago and was pretty impressive. I had to get an interpreter to interview him as his English is as good as my Spanish. Well after an off-year last year he's back and riding well again.
19-Justin Keeney- Another main event for this full privateer. Good job!
I spoke to GEICO Honda team co-owner Jeff Majkrzak (my-shack) this week as he wanted to let me know that the decision of the team to go with stock suspension components was not financially motivated like I suggested a few weeks ago. The riders were presented the kit stuff and the re-done stock stuff and they all chose the stock stuff for racing. The riders are all lightweights and the Factory Connection guys just thought (like a few KYB teams also) that the kit and works suspension components have reached a limit that is too stiff for the riders and don't offer enough flex. We've reached a sort of tipping point with the stiff aluminum frames and some teams and riders are now down-sizing in suspension girth. Rare are the 50mm forks and 18mm shock shafts right now. Except KTM and their steel frame, they seem to have on 68mm forks with a massive axle and lugs.
Jeff also said that he thinks new team manager Mike Larocco is really working well with Kevin Windham as he's challenging him every day to keep up the intensity while he practices. Jeff didn't say how Mike was managing to do that but I'm guessing he's just threatening to beat KW up if he slacks. The proof is right there for all of us to see as Windham has gone 3-6-5 in three races and sits sixth in the points right now. At one point late in the race, Windham was running the same times as the leaders.
Hart & Huntington's Matt Boni didn't make the main again and that's too bad, he's like the Broc Tickle of the 45 class. He's been fast and in position but always seems to have some bad luck. He and Davi Millsaps got into it in the heat and that was interesting to watch. The teams other rider Chris Blose made his second main in a row but once in there, doesn't seem to show the same speed as he had in the heat.
What in the hell does Suzuki have with Austin Stroupe? A last minute fill-in for Matt Moss in the 450 class, all Stroupe has done is go out and practically holeshot every single race he's in and run up front. This weekend he had some troubles but he was third for a while. He doesn't have much to show (14th in the points) for how fast he's been but it's been eye-opening for sure. He's also taken over as the "Rider most on the edge of crashing at any given moment" from Antonio Balbi who seems to be a bit-a bit-smoother on the 250.
Look, we reversed the absolutely horrible decision to include provisionals for the 450 riders last year so there is proof that the AMA (or whomever is running things, AMA, Feld or FIM-take your pick) can undo a mistake. With that in mind, can we please go back to 22 riders in the 250 class like we used to have? I asked around last year and never heard one good reason on why the decision to cut back was made. It's ridiculous; it hurts the riders and teams. Give the kids in the development class all the help they can have and go back to a full gate please.
I heard from a few people that as the night when on and it got colder and colder, the moisture started coming up from the dirt and made the track slippery and dangerous. This is where the tires come up huge and where the riders used to tell me that Bridgestone was awesome. Didn't hear many complaints from anyone about the Dunlops so they must have came up with something that worked.
In the press box, Rodil Cup champion and Canadian supercross legend Jim Holley came up to my wife and kissed her on the cheek to say hello as it was her first appearance at the races this year. That was cool, if you had told me when I was 14 and watching Rollerball and Hollywood going at it that one day Jim would plant a friendly kiss on my wife, I wouldn't have believed it. I’m a lucky guy!
I noticed that some teams are starting to bring spare wheels down to the line after the Kawasaki/Reed thing at the first round. The circle is now complete, first mechanics wearing back-packs with everything they need to split cases inside, then pit-boards for meaningless practices and now, wheels to change in a sometimes 40 second lap track. When do we just put a bubble around the riders?
One of Weimer's closest competitors and friends, Ryan Morais, went down in an ugly heap during the first heat race and will be out for a while with what can best be described as "whole body soreness." Get well soon Mo!
I spoke to Kawasaki team manager Mike Fisher about who they're going to get to fill in Reed's spot for about six weeks or so and Fish told me that he's gotten calls from every agent and every rider out there looking to get that spot. He says that what most people don't realize is that it's only for six weeks and is it worth it to drop all your existing sponsors for that short amount of time? Apparently, a lot of riders and agents think that it is. We should know something this week.
I even got two agents emailing me to ask me to talk to Fish for them because Mike hadn't got back to them yet. If I'm your last resort, then I'm afraid you're out of luck. I'm lucky to get coffee and food from the green team now that Ferry isn't around. Before, they didn't want to kick me out because it might upset Red Dog but now, all bets are off.
That's all I got this week, thanks for reading and maybe one day I'll have a cool TWMX email address for you to contact me on but until then, email me at email@example.com and we'll have a chat.