“Dixie Stampede” – Atlanta Supercross 2013

Photos by Michael Antonovich and Jeff Kardas

Ah, Atlanta. While Anaheim may receive all the acclaim that comes with a new season, the Georgia race is by far the most attended event on the 17-stop Monster Energy Supercross tour. The fans are rabid (we mean that in the excited sense of the word, not medically, but who knows what happens when you eat bad raccoon), Carhartt and camouflage abounds, and the stadium bubbles with excitement and anticipation. We love heading to the ATL each year, as it allows us to fill up on sweet tea and Chick-fil-A, then see all of the racing action that takes place on the sprawling Georgia Dome floor.

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The Georgia World Congress Center which hosts the pits is a massive plot of floorspace. This section of the convention center is just one building in the complex, which was hosting multiple events (hardware chain True Value held a convention) in the same weekend.

Because Atlanta is the lone Supercross round to hit the Southeast and far East Coast (yes, there is Daytona, yet that round lacks the same interaction as a typical SX), it draws in a startling number of fans. The bulk of people at the event are from under the Mason-Dixon line, but we know of people making the event a vacation and coming from the winter-logged Northeast.

Once they were let into the main area, the fans swarmed every tractor trailer and waited for a glimpse of their favorite rider. This photo was shot at 12:45, over two hours before Chad Reed’s autograph signing was scheduled to take place.

There have been grumblings on the status of the Velocity 3 Race Team, and late last week, everything came to light. Just before the Atlanta Supercross, both Kyle Chisholm and Bobby Kiniry were released from their contracts and have linked with other teams for the remainder of the season. The quickly formed race team is said to have one major financial backer (not Kenny Germain or Brian Berry), but funds needed to compete have never come through.

Thanks to a call from the JGRMX team, Kyle Chisholm quickly rebounded from the setback. Chisholm will fill-in for the injured Josh Grant for the remainder of the Supercross season as Grant recovers from a broken tib-fib and injured shoulder.

While the initial agreement between Chisholm and the team have him contesting the latter half of the Supercross championship, there is talk that the team may create a third spot under the awning for him during the Nationals.

Speaking of JGR, when we asked Coy Gibbs if he was excited about the Daytona 500, he laughed and said that the cars “don’t do it for me anymore.” You’re not the only one, Coy.

Another rider making the mid-season switch at ATL was Andrew Short, who started his new deal with BTO Sports KTM at round eight. This is the third major shake-up to Short’s season and required a switch in bike manufacturers, but will bring much needed stability to his season.

Short and team manager, Forrest Butler, had only a few days of time aboard the bike prior to racing, but in a Pit Pass video that will be released later this week, both state that this agreement was weeks in the making.

The original roster for the team includes Michael Byrne, but the veteran is still on the mend from the broken leg he suffered at Unadilla late last summer. When the Nationals kick off this spring, expect to see “Byrner” back on the line and part of BTO’s now three rider team.

As Chad Reed continues to search for his first win of the season, the TwoTwo Motorsports pit area remains on lockdown. Unnecessary people and the media are kept at bay as the team of mechanics work to dial in the 2013 Honda CRF450R to Reed’s liking. After his mid-pack finish on Saturday night, we don’t think we’re getting on the other side of the ropes any time soon.

While Reed remains focused during the day, he still makes times for the legions of fans that crowd his pit area. Seeing Reed as the new “favorite” comes as no surprise, because he is extremely social and interacts with the fans, and the TwoTwo branded Shift merchandise was everywhere we looked.

Looks like Marvin Musquin started a new trend. Marv and his racer-savvy wife, Mathilde’, are known to kick around the pit area on Razor Scooters, and we saw a few more around the pits on Saturday.

Eli Tomac’s inclusion to the 450 class for the next few rounds adds more excitement to a class that was already heaped with talent. ET is a vocal about his love of the bigger 450 and has more experience on one than many would think. It is his practice bike of choice during the off-season and summer, and he claimed a main event win aboard one at the Monster Energy Cup last fall.

Good call to whoever to put Eli in hunter safety orange in the deep South.

Rather than be the shy and quiet freshman, Eli made his mark on the class. He was second quickest during the day’s timed practice, but was shuffled back in the field during the night show. Seventh place finishes in both his heat race and main event may be lower than what some expected of the Geico Honda rider, but many, including himself, expect a climb up the charts over the next few weeks.

Zach Bell has become a legend after that vicious Dallas crash and his determination to get up. Every time we passed by the Geico pit, he was receiving praise and support from new fans. No, he wasn’t this close with everyone.

A pair of wrist injuries halted Justin Bogle’s 2013 season before it even started, and his Honda sits idle in the top of the Geico trailer. There is no set time for his return, and there is a chance he may skip the SX season all together in favor of a summer return.

After years of trying, Wil Hahn has finally added his name to the record books as a main event winner. Hahn has been close to taking wins in the past, but setbacks and injuries have slowed his ascent to the top of the podium.

Hahn was expectedly emotional after his win, and thanked the Geico Honda team countless times for their support through the injuries and issues. When we spoke with him for “How Was Your Weekend?” he stated that the feeling of winning had not quite sunk in.

To put it bluntly, the 250 Main Event was rather boring when compared to the second 250 heat race. Zach Bell rocketed out of the gate and led the first five laps before teammate Hahn closed in and started a vicious last-lap battle. After the two riders hit the wall jump shown here, they flew down the straightaway and then made contact, which startled Bell and gave Hahn the lead and resulting win.

Bell’s troubles were not finished, however, as Marvin Musquin made a last-lap pass of his own. In an attempt to reclaim the spot, Bell went for a close pass over a double, cased the landing, crashed, and dropped to fifth.

Rookies have ruled the starts in the 250 class, as Zach Bell and Justin Hill (shown here) have been at the front of the field when the gate drops at the first two rounds. Both riders have shown they have the speed, but are missing the experience of dealing with pressure needed to take victories.

Having an older brother at the track is a benefit that many riders have, but few have someone of Josh Hill’s caliber to help guide their rookie season. The Hill brothers spend racing mornings together going over the track layout and discussing possible game plans.

In addition to their parents, the Hill’s grandfather is at every race and balances his time between the RCH and PC trailers.

One can not discuss rookies and leave out Myplash/Metal Mulisha/Star Racing/Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin. Missing the main event in Dallas was not the best way to start the season, but a fifth in the main event in Atlanta somewhat offsets the DNQ. He is now 12th in the overall standings.

Gavin Faith’s heat race win in Dallas was huge to the MotoConcepts team and its sponsors. While at JT Racing last week, they told us that they received a mass of orders following his win and TV time. His performance in Atlanta proved that the round win speed was no fluke, as he claimed second in his heat race and seventh in the main event.

Racing the East Coast allows Faith to return to the Millsaps Training Facility, where he has spent the past years as a full-time resident. The team has sent parts to Georgia and their suspension provider, Ohlins, has a visit to Georgia planned to help fine tune their settings.

We heard mixed comments regarding Saturday night’s soil. The trademark red clay was praised for its traction in some spots, but was extremely hardpacked in others. The small sand section was criticized more than it was touted, as it was one-lined as usual and led into the massive clay wall jump.

The clay also stained everything it came in contact with. Bikes, boots, and gear all came off the track with a red tinge, the telltale sign we were in the South.

If the red dust and sweet tea wasn’t enough of a reminder, the assortment of shirts such as this indicated where we were on the map.

Want.

In his first race back after a bout with pneumonia, Jake Weimer was sidelined with a set of broken ribs when Matt Lemonie collided with the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider at Anaheim III. Atlanta marked Jake’s return, where he carded an eighth place finish. Weimer said that his breathing was notably affected during the 20-lap race, but expects it to improve in the coming weeks.

Because Arnette is mounting a comeback in the eyewear world, it seems like Weimer is unveiling a new colorway every time he hits the track. Goggles are the last place a rider can personalize their “look,” and this bright blue pair certainly does the part.

Random fact: The blue shop rags used by Kawasaki are thrown away after they are used. Finding a facility to wash them is another chore they didn’t want to spend a day of the week doing, and no laundromat is keen to washing and drying them due to the chemicals they are covered in. The team buys the rags by the pallet, and one pallet is enough to carry them through the race season.

A new sponsor graced the front fender of the Monster Energy Kawasaki bikes at the Atlanta stop. The Bone Collector is a hunting bow brand known throughout the South and they have a working relationship with Kawasaki and their ATV branch. The deal was for one race only.

Michael Waddell is the man behind The Bone Collector brand. A avid motocross rider and fan, he and Ryan Villopoto formed a friendship during last year’s Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National which led to RV using his products and the company partnering with Kawasaki for the race. Waddell is also the host of a hunting show which also bears The Bone Collector name and spent the day signing his share of autographs for fellow marksmen.

A rough start to the season created a massive points deficit that Ryan Villopoto has fought to overcome, but as we hit the halfway portion of the season, the defending champion is finding his form. He has the most wins of the 450 class this season with three and is now just 22-points behind Davi Millsaps in the overall standings.

Now in his fourth professional season, Dean Wilson is touted as the favorite for the 250 East Coast championship, and his 1-2 finishes to start the season only help solidify the predictions. He holds a two-point lead over Wil Hahn as the series heads to St. Louis.

Wilson was noticeably disappointed in his “HWYW?” part and revealed that a get-off during the week kept him from his normal schedule.

We do have to give Dean credit for keeping his spirits up and the mood light when things are not going perfectly.

Apparently girls with Southern twang love Dean’s Scottish/Canadian accent. Seriously, Dean is probably only topped by Chad Reed when it comes to female fans.

When you can have your picture taken with trophy girls at Supercross, we have to wonder why someone would ever race? It only makes sense. You’re not sweaty and you didn’t just risk life and limb for a plastic trophy. Hopefully this kid’s pair of casted arms helps him come to his senses.

Kyle Peters has something to prove in 2013. His rookie season was marred by injuries and he became another name on the long list of riders that have been dropped by the Star Racing team after just one year. When no offers came during the off-season, he and his family assembled a team for the SX season and potentially the Nationals. His rides aboard a privateer Honda have been impressive and after two rounds, he is fifth in the points standings.

Are you North Carolina resident in need of a used car? Then you should look into Peters Auto Mall.

James Stewart invited his Seven MX amateur riders onto the track during track walk and showed the next crop of racers what to expect when they make the move to the pro ranks.

The Dallas’ starting line DNF was yet another setback in the Yoshimura Suzuki team’s 2013 season. When Stewart lined up after the main event parade lap, the clutch was not functioning correctly and rather than risk a mishap, they pulled off of the gate. Despite this, the team was upbeat and optimistic in Atlanta.

Though Stewart said that he felt more comfortable in Dallas, his weekend in Atlanta was perfect. He topped the charts in timed practice, led his heat race from start to finish, claimed the main event holeshot, and grabbed his first main event win of the season. His lead over Villopoto in the main event fluctuated from time to time, but at no point in the race was he under close attack.

On the podium, Stewart thanked the Yoshimura Suzuki team numerous times and stated that they were the reason for his success. During his “HWYW?” segment, Stewart claimed that the win felt like a comeback.

We are convinced that Toyota’s fan experience was created by a chiropractor. Pulling a Toyota Tundra that is in “park” on a slick concrete floor doesn’t sound like the best thing for a person’s lower back.

The concept of two Atlanta rounds over three Anaheim stops has been discussed for years, and we asked those in the industry their take on the idea. Seeing as they packed nearly 70,000 fans into the stadium on Saturday night, one would have to think a second stop would be a success, yet things such as scheduling and building availability are said to be the reasons that keep it from happening.

Marvin Musquin is on the brink of winning his first SX main event and his Red Bull KTM team feels that a victory is imminent. Musquin was the fastest in the day’s timed practice sessions, but two midpack starts during the night show forced him to climb through the pack. During the main event, his lap times were third-fastest, after Dean Wilson and Wil Hahn.

Musquin’s mechanic, Frankie Latham, is thrilled to finally be racing. Latham pitched in during the West Coast rounds and helped the KTM team with their daily chores, but it was not as exciting as his race day duties.

Thanks to the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge, the second generation has started to infiltrate the Supercross ranks. At the debut round in Anaheim, Brian Deegan’s son claimed a podium spot, and in Atlanta, Tim Ferry’s son, Evan, hit the track. Like hair color, speed must be hereditary, because the younger Ferry piloted his 50 SXS to an uncontested win. Stefan Everts’ son is also said to be part of a coming round.

Because the pits were indoors, the RCH Holeshot Experience was shelved and the bulletproof bike took a much deserved rest. This is for the best, because countless runs on the Dyno would have been too much to take in the already loud building.

DC Shoes’ latest film, Robbie Maddison’s AIR.CRAFT, recently broke the million plays mark and is popping up everywhere we turn, including video footage of Maddo’s shoulder coming undone hitting gossip site TMZ. The full video was on rotation in the DC compound and each scene garned positive reactions. Maddo’s TWMX cover is now on newsstands around the country.

On the other side of the DC rig was Dante “DJ Face” Thompson, an eight year old prodigy who ran the pair of turntables like a seasoned pro. Thompson has been featured on America’s Got Talent and has a YouTube following.

Best known in Europe for their road racing suits used by Valentino Rossi, Dainese is making a push in the American motocross market. One racer using their gear is ¬†Munn Racing KTM’s Lance Vincent.

Kevin Windham’s work load would be too much for the average man. He has picked up Nick Wey’s floor commentary duties, helps with the Supercross Online video interviews, has been part of Speed’s live broadcasts, and still throws down in the opening ceremonies. Now that he no longer views the racers has competition, he has become a voice of guidance and shares his views with many, like Davi Millsaps.

Mini Fro? You’ll have to check out Dirt Shark later this week.

Trey Canard’s stellar season continues on. Trey was ranked third at the conclusion of timed qualifying and until a run-in during the heat race with his teammate, Justin Barcia, was safely in qualifying position. The Team Honda Muscle Milk riders bumped a handful of times, which we must admit was odd seeing as both were on their way to the main event, and one impact busted spokes out of Canard’s front wheel. Rather than risk a mechanical failure, Trey returned to the pits and emerged ready for the LCQ. A win there would put him in the main, where he quietly rode to a fifth place finish. Trey is currently fourth in the championship chase.

Justin Barcia rode onto the track for opening ceremonies wearing a T-shirt over his Alpinestars riding gear. The shirt was for a young child named Tripp who was recently injured at his preschool from a falling tree limb.

The security personel dispatched around the pit area was nothing like we expected. Typically we encounter gigantic men with a presumed authority complex, but more often than not, we we welcomed into pit areas by cute girls and smiles.

Vintage iron behind the AMA rig.

Despite the fact that they have a rider ranked 12th in the West Coast 250 championship (Austin Politelli) and another who is well-liked within the industry (Jimmy Albertson), the Hansen Racing Team receives little in major sponsorship or attention. This is their second year as a competitive racing outfit, but it is always quiet around the pit area.

Another awesome Atlanta T-shirt.

Like we said before, the Atlanta fans take in everything moto that they possibly can. There was a line of people waiting for their turn to steal a glance at the inside of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rig.

As Fox Racing’s gear rep, Chris Onstott’s Saturday priority is to make sure that his list of riders have fresh gear. “Beeker” wheels two giant Fox bags through the pit area and to his many stops, where he distributes each rider two sets of threads for the day. He passed out 10 sets of gear in Atlanta, but the number bumps to 12 when Ken Roczen contests the West Coast.

Ricky Carmichael was part of the night’s opening ceremonies, as a mic’ed up GOAT rode two laps around the ATL layout and described the obstacles to the fans. RC still has it.

We caught Carmichael and his former mechanic, Mike Gosselar, sharing words during the morning track walk. Much could be made about this combination of rider and mechanic but their perfect runs to two National championships, among others, says it all.

We promised Mike at BTO a shot of his promo girls in exchange for an interview with Forrest Butler. Thanks, Mike!

Remember Mike Alessi’s illuminated number plate at the Monster Cup? Cyrca has made Kevin Windham his own for the blind opening ceremonies transfers.

See you in St. Louis!