Last weekend marked the unofficial end to the U.S. racing season. The U.S. Open typically serves as a great way to wind down the very long season, while offering a hint of things to come. Riders and teams often debut some new equipment, new rosters, and new sponsors. Yet this year was certainly different. Only a handful of the riders on hand already had deals lined up for next year, and really only two riders were even riding 2010 equipment, namely Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart. Stewart, of course, was riding what is arguably the most technically innovative motorcycle to ever hit a motocross track and took it to two very dominating performances. RV is again teaming up with the Monster Kawasaki crew in what will be his sophomore year in the premier class. 2009 saw the Washington native bring home his first two Supercross main event wins along with his first National win before being sidelined with a nagging ACL injury (which he has apparently had since his amateur days).
Other riders at the U.S. Open with '10 contracts were Red Bull Honda's Davi Millsaps, Hart and Huntingdon's Matt Boni, Moto Concepts' Matt Goerke, and…umm…hmm, well that's about it. Teams and sponsors are waiting very late this year in signing deals and getting budgets worked out. While the U.S. economy is slowly stabilizing, the effects of the slump will surely be felt for quite a while. Fortunately that is not stopping folks from going racing, but budgets are being cut, and lucrative contracts are now few and far between.
For this edition of Monday Kickstart, we thought we would get the user comments and message boards going by simply providing you with the knowns and unknowns; a list of riders with contracts, those without, and that juicy grey area that the rumor mongers love to sink their teeth into.
SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED
The fortunate few who can actually start testing instead of searching through the classifieds.
Red Bull Honda
Davi Millsaps- 450
Andrew Short- 450
Justin Barcia 250
Blake Wharton 250
Trey Canard 250
Brett Metcalfe 250 SX and 450 MX
Ryan Villopoto- 450
Chad Reed- 450 (unkown if this includes Outdoors as well)
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Tyla Rattray- 250
Jake Weimer- 250
Christophe Pourcel- 250 (unofficial)
Tommy Searle- 250 (no.123)
Mike Alessi- Premier Class aboard the yet to be seen 350SX-F
Ryan Dungey- 450
Josh Grant- 450
Justin Brayton- 450 (unofficial)
James Stewart- 450
Nico Izzi- 250
Martin Davalos- 250
Matt Goerke- 450
Jeff Alessi- 250
Vince Friese- 250
As of right now, there is no sign that the factory Yamaha team will be returning to the racing fray. If this is true, then this could mark the beginning of the end of an era. It has long been suggested that it does not make financial sense for OEMs to be running their own teams. Perhaps it is about time that sponsors begin footing the brunt of expenses, and Yamaha has positioned themselves very well to back away from funding their own racing efforts. With four factory supported teams, they will have a stronger presence in the pits than any other manufacturer in 2010.
Hart & Huntington
Matt Boni- 450
Chris Blose- 450
The riders who supposedly have deals lined up or are on teams' short lists.
Nick Wey- According to NYK, most of his team's sponsors will be returning for next year, including Boost Mobile. Obviously Jason Lawrence won't be riding a motorcycle for a little while, but when he is able to race again, don't be surprised to see him alongside Wey.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Josh Hansen- Josh's two race appearances this year aboard the Pro Circuit KX450F obviously has folks speculating on the possibility of Lil' Hanny returning for a full season on the powerful team. Rumors have him staying with Mitch Payton's team for next year, and his appearance at the US Open only further substantiated those claims.
Blake Bagget- One of the standout amateur graduates is supposedly between two possible teams as a long time Kawasaki rider, Pro Circuit or Canidae.
Dean Wilson- The Scottish/Canadian rider cleaned house this year at Loretta's, went up north and did the same in the Canadian Nationals, continued his streak at the first annual TransWorld SLAM, then made his official pro debut where he dominated the B-Final, although his team was unable to move onto the real finals. Deano is also between Pro Circuit and Canidae.
Ryan Morais- The 250 class veteran, while he missed nearly the entire outdoor season, had his best indoor season ever. Although he did not win a race, he did have the fastest lap times on more than one occasion and remains championship material. He is apparently being considered for the Pro Circuit squad.
While Canidae remains on board for 2010, the bikes and riders remain very much in the air. Bill Keefe has been running Xtreme Team Green for quite a while, so the assumption is that they Kawasaki would remain with the pro team, but it's not guaranteed. As previously mentioned, both Bagget and Wilson are two riders who could end up under this tent.
Tommy Hahn (pictured)- 2009 started off very slowly for Hahn, but as the year went on and the Nationals kicked into gear, he began gaining momentum. Finally at Steel City, Tommy was able to claim both his first moto win and overall. He apparently had the option to return to Canidae. Nonetheless, his late season results undoubtedly made Tommy a hot 450 prospect for 2010.
Christian Craig- The young second-generation pro motocrosser was able to try his hand at some top level equipment with JGR beginning at Unadilla. By Southwick, Craig was able to reel off a top five moto finish. He is naturally gifted rider who may end up as the lone 250F rider on the South Carolina-based team.
The only verifiable thing at this point is that Austin will not be returning to Pro Circuit for 2010. He is very fast, however, has championship potential, and will certainly have a good ride for 2010, we're just not sure where that will be as of yet. Rumors have him possibly riding for Star Racing/Yamaha or as the lone 250 rider on Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki.
The long time Star Racing rider had his best season to date and supposedly has a deal lined up for next season that he will be announcing later this week. Stay tuned.
IS THERE ANYBODY OUT THERE?
Riders with out deals and the speculation around where they might be going.
Michael Byrne (pitcured)- The long time factory and factory supported rider finds himself without a contract for the first time in 10 years.
Josh Hill- The amateur standout and long time Yamaha rider as of right now, does not have a ride officially, but rumors have him possibly riding alongside James Stewart on the San Manuel/Yamaha team.
Ivan Tedesco- Hot Sauce is probably one of the biggest surprises; still unsigned for 2010. One of the heroes of the MXoN only a few weeks ago is certainly deserving of a good ride and is obviously one rider who is capable of rising to the occasion.
Kevin Windham- Yep, as of right now, K-Dub is without wheels. The talented Louisianan, while he finds himself in the latter stages of his career, still has plenty of speed and is more than capable of top-five results
Tim Ferry- This was one of those seasons that Tim would probably rather forget. Unfortunately it came at a time when his contract was up in the air. As the Floridian showed us only a few years ago, age is not an issue and he still has the speed to win.
Broc Hepler- Remember this guy? No one has heard much from the quiet kid from PA, but as he showed earlier in the year, Broc still has podium speed. As long as he keeps his head off the ground, B-Hep can bring any team good finishes.
Dan Reardon- The Australian transplant had his last official ride aboard his Geico Powersports/Honda at the U.S. Open and now finds himself unemployed for 2010. Hopefully his $20,000 third place winnings can help carry him through part of the season if he is unable to secure a ride.
Michael Hall- Michael's first year in the pro ranks probably could have gone better, but he still had some decent results. He recently got a call from Italy to try out the some Husqvarnas as their lone 250F rider aboard their all new TC250. He will be trying out the bike at a few European SX races, and supposedly could wind up doing the MX 2 GPs aboard the factory Huskies.
Riders who, as far as know, are currently searching for support.
Chris Blose (no. 63)
Taylor Futrell (no. 977)