DISCLAIMER: THE VIEWS AND OPINIONS EXPRESSED IN THIS COLUMN BY STEVE MATTHES DO NOT NECESSARILY REFLECT THOSE OF THE ENTIRE STAFF OF TRANSWORLD MOTOCROSS
(I think having this disclaimer in here is cool. That means that I’m a bad-ass right?)
This week the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series was in beautiful San Diego and we were all expecting (once again) some wet conditions for Saturday night's race. It was pretty much a mirror of San Francisco but last week we avoided the deluge and this week, we kind of did again.
Whomever is running things smartly decided to push practice back until 5pm and let the track dry as much as possible. The plastic was then pulled off and the guys rolled out for their one and only practice session on the day. It was greasy but not in an Andy Garcia in Oceans 11 way, more like in the way the Fonz is greasy. It was totally rideable and according to some guys I talked to, there were spots with great traction.
There were some cool sections, like the whoops with the two big ones in the middle with flat ground in between them, the little double after the finish line and the rollers before one of the triples. Just some sections that required a little thought and strategy to them. Sure the slop hurt the track a bit but I enjoy watching the best riders in the world struggle a bit and make mistakes. There's enough cookie-cutter dome tracks where everyone does everything perfect in the series to offset the chaos of a muddy supercross. That's just me though.
Last week on the supercross webcast, Davi Millsaps mentioned that his early season struggles were due to his arm-pump which him and his trainer, John Louch, diagnosed was coming from the Creatine that was discovered in one of the supplements that Davi had been taking. If you're like me, you just read that last sentence and thought to yourself, "Yeah and next you're going to tell me that if I rub my Basset Hound Fred's belly three times clockwise instead of counter-clockwise, I'll be able to turn him into chocolate and then eat him." Or maybe you have some different thoughts but my point is that such a small change and the 18 goes from just inside the top ten to now top three? That not taking Creatine cures arm pump and that's all it took to wake him out of his early season slumber?
Well I'll be dammed if Louch and Davi aren't on to something with that as Millsaps passed early leader Nick Wey, rode off for his first win of the season and that makes him now the fourth different winner in five races. The Big Treat was a treat to watch as he made everything look pretty effortless which is usual with Millsaps. He also got his third career 450 supercross win. He did have a couple of bad laps in the middle of the race (he didn’t jump the triple one lap) that allowed Andrew Short to close up on him but he recovered nicely. Good to see Millsaps back up where he belongs.
I've been hard on Davi in the past (if you want proof, read THIS ) as I know that other riders are in awe of his talent, the Honda guys have been frustrated with his lack of results and to me, it's fascinating to see a guy with all the tools but who is unable to open the tool box. I don't know why that I'm into that and it would be an interesting story to look into why guys who weren't blessed with the most talent (RC, Stanton, Larocco, Hannah) became great champions while others who can make the motorcycle do anything they want (Lechien, KW, Mike Craig) often can't become the champions that their talent says they should be.
I spoke for a long time with trainer Louch on Sunday after the race and we covered different things about Davi and about other trainers in the sport. One of the things that makes me shake my head is the trainer jumping that guys do in our sport and Louch agreed with me. Some of the other points he made solidified the points I made in the above Pulpmx column about Millsaps. Of course, I learned some things about Millsaps, the Creatine story and according to Louch, there should be no reason from here on out for Millsaps to not be a factor each and every race.
One thing that people don't realize is the crash last year at Hangtown really hurt Davi and still affects him to this day. It was a scary incident and he's been dealing with that and personal issues off the track the last little while. But then my point to Louch is that he almost hurts himself and creates expectations with the fans and media when he goes out there, and with all this stuff going on with his body and mind, and won a moto at Budds Creek and should've gotten second at Millville but for a bike problem. He's just that talented folks!
Remember how, in last week's column, I spoke about Ryan Dungey and his starts? How it's amazing how quick he gets off the line and how his bike is just so good? Well he had the holeshot this week again but went into the first turn too hard and washed the front end. The start was his though, of that there is no doubt. It was a good news/bad news deal for Dungey, the bad news is that he fell and would be coming up from last. The good news is that his rival, Ryan Villopoto was also on the ground when he couldn't avoid the wayward RMZ450.
So the work was cut out for Dungey to remain the series points leader and despite another crash, he put in a good charge to get all the way up to sixth and remain in the points lead over Josh Hill. Villopoto did an even better job and made it up to fourth. Both guys were also the beneficiaries of Kevin Windham and Andrew Short DNF'ing near the end of the race.
With Kevin Windham going out of the race with a clutch problem (I was standing by the bike when the GEICO guys were investigating the problem and can I just share the fact that the air reeked of badly burnt clutch? Brought back a ton of memories of working for Nick Wey) and Andrew Short coming up short on a triple and injuring himself, Honda went from having three guys in the top five to, in the span of one lap, having just the winner. Bittersweet for sure.
Second place on the night was Yamaha's Josh Hill and it was a well earned second at that. Hill, who has been a revelation this season, was in a battle for fourth with Windham all race. Those two were slightly off the lead three and going at it. Like hard. Hill eventually moved ahead of the veteran, took advantage of an Ivan Tedesco mistake and Shorty going out to end up with a second. It was a smart race that Hill has to make happen if you want to be there at the end. Hill showed great resilience on the night as well. He also gained seven points on Dungey and now sits four back with a hell of a lot of races to go.
Third place was privateer Ivan Tedesco of the Valli Yamaha team. It was a good ride for IT9 as he gated well and hung with the front five pack all race. He would creep up to second place Short, make a mistake and have to work his way back up. It was Ivan's first 450 sx podium since 2006 and hopefully he keeps it up. I did visit with his mechanic Frankie before the race for the first time all season, I’m just sayin…
It was weird because when KW and Short went out, there was a mega-gap back to RV in fourth. In fact it was a 22-second gap! That's almost half a lap and indicates how much of a break it was for the fabulous five (Millsaps, Tedesco, Short, Windham and Hill) that got away from the Dungey crash early in the race.
After the race we all talked about the great race up front and the comebacks of Dungey and Villopoto but lost in the shuffle (as he usually is) was Tommy Hahn's great race. The number 10 Suzuki rider was down in the first turn with everyone else and got up behind de-facto teammate Dungey. He stayed right on RD's rear fender and looked to be able to pass him a few times at that. Not sure if he held back or not but at the end, when the checkers flew, he was seventh! Great ride for sure.
Jake Weimer won his fourth race of the series in another great ride. Last week Trey Canard won with a perfect race and when Canard grabbed the lead on the first lap, it looked to be set-up for a great race. Unfortunately Trey went down on the first lap (pretty good one also) and Weimer sped off with an almost-uncontested win.
Weimer is on a roll right now and has over a one race points lead with three rounds left. He's picked up where he left off last year and should be right there when the series goes outside. The thing that you really notice about him is that he's so confident right now, it seems that he can take any line and any time and make it work for him. Good for Jake and that tiny head of his.
When I say "almost-uncontested win" above, I mean that Weimer had some competition in Max Anstie. I'm not sure who that was under Anstie's helmet but he came out of the depths of his 7th to 10th place usual routine to challenging for the lead at times. I suppose that with the conditions the way they were, you have to think that the Brit was right at home in the slop. After all, in England it usually only stops raining for about ten days in mid-July.
Max definitely got jacked by some lappers (more on that later) and despite a last lap crash that knocked him from second to fourth, he has to come away from this race with some confidence. His fast lap time was virtually the same as Weimer's and had it not been for the lappers, we would have had an interesting finish.
Yawn, another race…another great showing by the powerhouse TLD Honda team. Cole Seely and Wil Hahn battled late in the race for the final podium spot. Seely was up front early and Hahn was back a little bit but they found each other later in the main. To me, they kept it clean and there were times that they could've been a little dirty but nice to see they didn't resort to that. Hahn has been great this year and Seely has now gone 14-6-5-5-2 this season.
Listen in as team manager David Pingree and I talk about his team, Seely's jeans and whether or not he's Merlin right HERE.
Also, it’s interesting to hear Ping tell me about MC working with Hahn on his starts. Good stuff.
I really thought that, early on, I was going to witness Andrew Short's first career 450 supercross win. He started well, was right behind Millsaps for most of the race and well, we all know the difference between Andrew and Davi late in races (of course, this was before I knew about the discovery of the Creatine thing.) Some small mistakes by Davi got Shorty close but then he would lose a little bit here and there. Millsaps pulled away but with two laps remaining, it certainly looked like Short was in for a second on the night.
But then disaster struck. After the finish, there were some rollers before the first triple and the guys had to keep their back end from slipping out, get lined up correctly and then jump a 65-foot triple. It was a bit gnarly and a few guys couldn't do it when everything wasn't copasetic. Short was one of those guys that didn't get all lined up and he spun up the face when he wasn't square to it. He was already committed and flew into the San Diego night. When he came down, he was short (sorry, bad pun) and he also was in pain. The race was over for the 29 and so was his next six weeks or so when it was diagnosed as a non-displaced fracture of his Talus.
So now Stewart, Reed, Short and Josh Grant are all out of the series for the foreseeable future. In case you're counting, that's 1-2-3-4 from the 2009 points standings.
Let's take a look at the top twenty from each class shall we?
1 12 Jake T Weimer
2 200 Cole Seely
3 49 Wil A Hahn
4 48 Max Anstie
5 20 Broc Tickle
6 38 Trey G Canard – I really, really wish he hadn't crashed. We would've seen a great race.
7 175 Phillip J Nicoletti- Another good race from 'Filthy' Phil, he almost won a heat and clearly, the New Yorker felt at home in the mud. He's now 11th in the points and stopped me after the race to thank me for the good things I've been saying.
8 44 PJ Larsen- Nice fill-in ride for Searle by the four-four.
9 21 Blake Wharton-Well, he avoided the LCQ this week and Purple Rain was in second for a long time before crashing back. Baby steps…
10 102 Christopher Gosselaar
11 100 Joshua Hansen- Oh Hanny, never has so much been written and so many have watched for someone that has done so little.
12 126 Hunter Hewitt
13 68 Robert S Kiniry- I went to dinner with Kiniry and JT on Friday night at some Japanese Steak House place where the chef did the whole onion volcano thing. Always a good time.
14 52 Antonio Balbi
15 410 Eric J Mccrummen
16 801 Jeff Alessi- Not a good night for the 801, he didn't look comfortable at all out there.
17 143 Michael R Horban
18 811 Hugo Dagod- Hugo Dagod did good!
19 585 Travis A Baker-T-Bakes is a cool kid, he had a rough night though. I bet he was still happy after the race though.
20 251 Joshua M Clark
1 18 David D Millsaps
2 75 Joshua R Hill
3 9 Ivan Tedesco
4 2 Ryan D Villopoto
5 23 Justin D Brayton-Brayton breaks out of his rut of not noticing him with a good race to get 5th. I think that's a career high for him.
6 5 Ryan M Dungey
7 10 Thomas K Hahn
8 8 Grant Langston-The number 8 gets eighth and a nice rebound from his DNQ last week.
9 27 Nicholas A Wey
10 55 Kyle P Chisholm
11 67 Chris Blose-Blose had his best race of the year. His teammate Matt Boni should be back this weekend. Or maybe not.
12 877 Fabien Izoird
13 122 Dan Reardon-Dandy Dan was back and grabbing holeshots in heat races. He'll get better as he goes along. I hope he's healthy.
14 26 Michael Byrne- Byrne got together with one of the French dudes and fell over. After the race I was asking him about it and he could've blamed the country of France for his problems but instead took the high road and mentioned that he was falling over anyways. Also, he's listed as being from Utah on the AMA sheets but upon checking, he's not from there. Whew!
15 86 Bobby B Bonds-Good ride for the desert hero.
16 14 Kevin W Windham-Heartbreak for KW on the night. Reminded me of Indianapolis last year.
17 876 Cyrille Coulon
18 62 Jason W Thomas- The Rolling Tank fell first lap and took a nice gouge out of his arm. Check my Twitter page (pulpmx) for all the gross details on that.
19 644 Kyle D Partridge
20 29 Andrew T Short-How does a guy go from second on lap 18 and then DNF'ing and he gets dead last? Almost always there are a bunch of dudes that drop out of the race. Not that he cares, but Andrew got screwed right here.
There were a lot of front-runners that got screwed, or almost screwed by lappers in the race. It wasn't that the back markers all got together and decided to eff with the leaders this week (note to self: do NOT talk about the riders getting together in any way, shape or fashion) but I think the reason is that the track was getting really bad. The rain had begun to fall at different points, the guys were chewing it up and if you got off the main groove, it was really slippery. So the lappers were simply trying to survive out there, not take out the leaders. That's my theory anyways.
But that doesn't mean I'm right. I have a lot of "theories." Ask my wife…
Saw one of the sweetest passes ever this weekend by Ryan Villopoto. I'm not sure who it was but it was in the right-hander before the finish. RV came down the straight and while the riders ahead of him went out to the berm, he stood up, braked early, pivoted to the right and snuck inside of two other riders. He was also standing up the whole time. It was beautiful!
His teammate Nick Wey grabbed the holie in the main event and even led for a few laps. It's no secret that the Mafia member is comfortable in the mud, after all he's from Michigan but what he's not comfortable with is running up front as he hasn't been there much. It was two laps of glory for the two-seven before getting picked off slowly and working his way back. To be honest I thought he could do better but I suppose you have to crawl before you can walk. Now he knows the speed those dudes are doing and will be better next time because, and maybe I'm over-estimating him, with a start like that I don't know how Wey could not finish top five.
I hung out in the press box with Ernesto Fonseca, "Factory" Phil Lawrence and Dave Castillo as we all watched the races. I felt pretty cool chilling with those guys and between all of us we have a lot of race wins.
There you have it, that's everything that I observed from the San Diego SX. Want to chat about it some more? Email me at email@example.com and we can talk.