Kevin Windham Wins Phoenix 250s Amid Controversy

If you think the action ended when the checkered flag flew at the end of the 250cc main on Saturday night in Phoenix, you’d be wrong…

Actually, things started early Saturday, at the rider’s meeting. There, the AMA officials did something new…they laid out a list of on and off-track incidents…and called out the riders behind them by name. The list of grievances was long, including 125cc winner Ivan Tedesco ghost-riding his bike after the finish line at Anaheim, and working through the Grant Langston/Tyler Evans incidents, among others. It was also mentioned that they’d be less tolerant of rough riding in the future.

The joke afterward was that there would be a special award for the rider whose name was mentioned most often at next week’s rider’s meeting. That brings us to Saturday night’s 250cc main event.

No one will dispute that Kevin Windham took the Butterfinger Holeshot award. In one of the left-handers as the track circled the outer edge of the stadium floor, David Vuillemin dove to the inside and took over the lead. But in the next corner, Windham cut to the inside, and he and David collided at the exit of the turn, with DV flying off the track. Windham continued on, leading the rest of the main event comfortably ahead of Chad Reed and Mike LaRocco, and taking his first indoor main event win since Dallas in 2000. He joked afterward that, “I had to get some help finding the press room.”

During the press conference. Mike LaRocco and Chad Reed answered the usual assortment of questions, but then it was Kevin Windham’s turn, and he was quickly asked about, “…the David Vuillemin block pass. That was a very aggressive block pass, you took him off the track. Could you walk us through what happened?”

Kevin’s explanation went like this. “It all started from the first left-hander after the triple. I don’t know what happened, but he (DV), kind of ran it out to me, and I was able to shut it off. I figured what comes around, goes around, and figured he’d probably hear me coming up on the inside on the big thumper, but he didn’t back off and our lines collided. I don’t want any of these guys to think they can run it up under me and just have me roll over, you know?”

“I think it was an aggressive pass, but the track here in Phoenix was fairly easy and you had to be aggressive. That’s just the way it went.”

The tension increased when David Bailey (who is still coaching Vuillemin) first congratulated Kevin on his win, but told him that he was disappointed at how it had played out.

Afterward, all the factory team managers, as well as K-Dub and DV (who had already left the track) were all called to the AMA truck. After the team managers were cut loose, both riders, along with AMA officials, reviewed video of the incident and discussed it at length.

Afterwards, we asked David for his take on what happened. “I started second behind Kevin, and I passed him right away in the second turn. I was inside of him, and he got kind of mad, I’m sure. He went to do a block pass again, and went straight, and kind of t-boned me off the track. I was bummed, because I was like all pumped to get a good start and be leading. I ended up seventh.”

So what was the result of the meeting?

According to DV, “They decided that he keeps the win, and they’re going to take 10 points out of his overall points total. Really, Chad gets the benefit. I don’t know if it’s the best thing, but at least it’s something, and it means we cannot ride like this. I could have broken a leg or ankle or something.”

“I’m happy that the AMA is going to do something. That’s the point. Last year with the Preston/Sorby/Walker thing, they got fined $1,000 or $2,000. I think it’s good that something is done. Next time when someone tries to do that, they’re going to say, ‘Hey, maybe I’m going to lose something.'”

We caught up with Kevin shortly afterward, and asked him what the outcome of the meeting was. “I don’t think that a solution is finalized yet. I do thinkk stuff like that needs to be done, but it’s so hard, because obviously my take on it and his take on it are going to be two totally different things. Of course he’ll try to play up the first move as not being aggressive, and play the second one up as being very aggressive…and I understand his point. But you’ve got to see mine too. What I thought he was going to do is obviously not what he did. But when you see an aggressive move in turn one, the following turn, everyone always protects their inside. When he didn’t go inside, I started to move over to the inside, and because I’m on a loud bike I thought he’d hear me and make an early exit out of the corner. Obviously he didn’t see it the way I did.”

“Once I left the ground on that last jump I knew we were going to hit, but at that point it was kind of too late. He didn’t do what I thought he was going to do. Ultimately, that’s what happened and that’s the bottom line. I don’t have any bad blood. I don’t think it was a retaliation move on my end. He just didn’t do what I thought he was going to do. Therefore, he’s upset about it. I’m upset about the first move. It’s kind of like politics. It is politics…that’s exactly what this is. There’s politics in racing, and we can talk about it until we’re blue in the face, but ultimately we’re never going to come to a conclusion, because you’re going to have some people who understood what I did, and some that don’t.”

So where does it stand with the AMA? “I’m not sure. I kind of stayed out of all that. There seem to be several points being brought up, and everyone wants to get a good look at it. This is an area that they’ve never touched, and they don’t really know how to assess a penalty.

What did Kevin think of the possible 10-point penalty? “That had been brought up, but I think that’s been appealed. Essentially for me, that was my whole first race. I think that to take a whole race away…it wasn’t this race, but it was my first race. If it comes down to a championship battle between 10 points, I don’t think that anyone in this industry would think that that was worth taking a championship away from a guy. That’s another interesting point that those guys can think about.”

“I’ve said what I can say. I’m not happy that it happened. If you look at my history as a professional, I’ve never taken a guy out in 10 years. Then all of a sudden now one comes up where we hit and he went down, and it’s unfortunate. I don’t like to see it, I wish that it hadn’t happened. Being that he didn’t do what I thought he did, with the position that I was in, and the speed that I was going, I wouldn’t have made a move purposely like that on him anyway, because I stood as good a chance at going down as he did.”

This is one that will be debated forever, and we’re likely to hear more from the AMA (who was still huddled in their trailer at nearly 1:00 AM. The best advice we can offer is to make sure you catch the action on ESPN2, so you can decide for yourself.

Watch for the TWMX Race Report later today.