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Observations from 2018 St. Louis SX - Supercross

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Dome at America's Center St. Louis, MO St. Louis Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship

Yeah, St. Louis Supercross! Round 11 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross took place under the arch, and it’s a round that we in the media like to joke about. If you’re still going to the races in St. Louis, then you’re “real media.” Everyone wants to go to Anaheim. Everyone wants to go to Las Vegas. When the New Jersey race outside of New York City popped up, suddenly everyone had the travel budget to go there. St. Louis? No one seems to beg for press passes for that one. Unfortunately for Jason Weigandt, this means he’s out because he didn’t even go this year. Yeah, that’s right, DC knows I could be trusted with such a valuable assignment.

Okay, look, a lot of you want to get into the motocross pits in some capacity. I hear it all the time on social media, in emails, or calls to the PulpMX Show, whether it’s working with a rider, being on a team, or the easiest way in—being a media member. Think about it: There are no credentials other than starting a blog or podcast to cover the sport, and I guess a strong opinion about things that happen on the track. It’s not hard, and yes, I know that I am a media guy.

But you REALLY want to be a media guy? You REALLY want to get deep into the pits and find out what’s going on? Well, you’re in luck. I tracked my movements all day long in St. Louis, made some notes, and I’ll let you in on my day in the The Dome at America’s Center. Be warned, though—it’s not all pretty.

I stayed downtown so I was able to walk down to the dome. I went without a rental car this weekend. And because I flew with Dragon/Arioh/Rockstar/Scosche/Jason Anderson’s agent Kenny Adams (lesson number one: Lots of people have lots of jobs in the moto industry), he picked up the cab fare to the hotel. I was just out the $25 bucks from hotel to airport on Sunday morning. Jason Weigandt would be so proud of me.

[Editor’s Note: Cab? Why not Uber? —Weigandt]

I arrived at the dome right around track walk time so the pits were pretty empty. Knowing this, I decided to head up to the press box to get situated and start watching practice/tweeting out reports. St. Louis is one of the highest press boxes on the circuit. The riders look like ants and it all looks so easy from up there.

I met Sean Brennan, the media director for the series, and we have a chat about track walk access, some of the things Feld isn’t happy with me about, promoting the sport to the mainstream media, trying to get those guys to see the riders for what athletes they are, and so on and so forth. Sean’s a good dude; he tries hard and has been a big help to us in the year or so he’s been on the job. This man also has to go to every 4 a.m. morning news show press day all week long, so he’s a hero.

Track looks pretty good from up high; it always has that sweet St. Louis dirt, of course, and with the pits right indoors from the track, they’re always packed. Even though it no longer hosts the Rams, I’m told the dome keeps busy.

Saw JT up there with his merry band of VIPs, so I talked to them for a bit and then spilled my venti latte off a ledge, onto the carpet and all over my shoe and sock. Great start to the day.

The seeded 450s came out for their first practice of the day and  Monster Energy/Factory Yamaha’s Cooper Webb came up short on a triple and went right over the bars. He’s already beat up from a practice crash and this one wasn’t good, so he rides off and is done for the night. So, that’s it—he flew to St. Louis for three laps. Man, that must suck.

Okay, the first set of practices ended and down I went to the pits. The first truck I wandered to was the factory Honda team with just Christian Craig under it. Oscar Wirdeman was there turning the wrenches, and we talked about the practice a bit. Then he told me how he and Rich Simmons (Cole Seely’s mechanic) are “sharing custody” of Craig, but that it works out because the “dads are friends.” Oscar said he thinks that Ken Roczen, his regular rider, will be riding some outdoors soon, so he’ll be busy with that.

I left Honda and from there went to Monster Energy Kawasaki, where I got a new coffee to replace my spilled one and talked to the guys about our Racer X Podcast last week. In it, Weege said that Eli Tomac appeared to be a tad miffed at a question Weege asked, but when Weege went up to him afterward to try and smooth things over, Tomac brushed him off. The guys there—Mike Williamson, Dan Fahie, Theo Lockwood, Bruce Stjernstrom, and the rest of them—really like to make sure that above all else, balls are busted. They claimed no knowledge of Weege’s attempt after the press conference, and Eli himself said he was fine with the question. I quickly turned it around that they were the only team and rider in the pits not happy for Justin Brayton winning Daytona and that they were jerks for that. Tomac insisted he was fine with it, and the team said they were okay with it as well. Then we started going around and around about something else. The beat goes on around those guys.

The guys were signing for fans and I managed to get in a word with Tyler Bowers, where I told The Bear good job in that last practice, as it was the best we’ve seen him for a while.

Bowers, riding as a fill-in for Josh Grant with Monster Energy Kawasaki, left St. Louis with a 14th-place finish.
Bowers, riding as a fill-in for Josh Grant with Monster Energy Kawasaki, left St. Louis with a 14th-place finish. Jeff Kardas

Almost time for the second set of practices, so as I headed out, I stopped at Autotrader/Yoshimura Suzuki, where the riders were signing. I was impressed with Malcolm Stewart airing out this quad and told him good job. He said he knew I’d be coming around and mentioned that he jumped it just for me. This probably goes back to Arlington SX, where I asked him about this one jump he didn’t do and then I dropped a “James would do it” on him. Yes, I’m an a-hole. Anyway, I talked to Jeremy Albrecht and Roger Larsen a bit about a few different things, including how the General of the RM Army, Chris Wheeler, is doing. Wheeler crashed hard at Pala a little while back and will be laid up a while. Then some listeners/readers asked me for a photo, and that led to another couple of people wandering up to get photos with me. Malcolm either loved this or couldn’t believe this was actually happening, one of those two. Hey, man, I’m a star—get used to it, world.

Back up to the press box I went to watch the last set of practices. Without Weigandt there and with Anton from TWMX not around, I was all by myself in the corner just watching practice, making notes, and wishing I hadn’t spilled that venti coffee earlier. Yes, the Kawasaki coffee was good, as were the Cliff Bar and some kind of crackers, but it’s not the same as trusty Starbucks, you know? All day long, the guys way down there on the track were raising the game. First it was Eli Tomac doing a 3-3-3 in the first practice, then a few other guys picked that up. Then Malcolm did that quad, which a few other riders picked up as well. It was a constant balls-on-the-bars contest, which was impressive. Maybe the most impressive was privateer 250SX rider Josh Osby hucking the quad on his opening lap of practice. Yes, you read that right. Only one 450 rider had even done it at that point, but Osby figured, why not on his 250F? He came up short (but not by much) and saved it, but not before his bike did a complete 360 underneath him. It was amazing.

Those are the kind of practices that are pretty cool, watching guys learn things and pick it up, seeing who does go for it and who doesn’t. Then practices were over and I carefully studied my team for PulpMX Fantasy after the final qualifying times were posted. Well, actually, it took about six minutes, because Dan Truman from CR22’s team and GET told me they had Chipotle in their pit. So, like, I had to go.

Got down to Reed’s pits and, unfortunately, I missed the window on the Chipotle. It’s all cold and sort of gross-looking. No matter, I’m hungry and it’ll do [Editor’s note: Atta’ boy, Steve. —Weigandt]. I know Truman is super busy with working for Reed, but it doesn’t matter, I make a burrito bowl and get him to microwave it for me. He apparently nukes it for 15 minutes and I get a warm bowl of melted mush. Hey, man, media life can sometimes be rough. I devour that and oh, hey, look, Daniel Blair rolls up. DB and I talk about the practices, him winning the Lites Regional AX title (he’s always bringing it up), some business stuff, and we sit ourselves down by the door where Chad sits. Hopefully he doesn’t need these chairs.

Walked by The Bear getting a chiro adjustment with Bradi, his wife, and child there as well. And, of course, Dr. Feelgood was doing the cracking. Yes, the chiropractors in our sport give themselves names… like superheroes or something. Anyway, we talked about practice, but it’s weird when a dude’s legs are spread and arms are going everywhere to have a decent conversation, so I moved on quickly.

From there I headed over to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, where Benny from Bell Helmets, John from Scott Sports, and Clay from Fox Racing were all locked into some kind of conversation that I butted myself into. Benny was moving the arm of the exercise bike back and forth, and I made a joke about him getting his sweat on. We talked Knowles Johnny getting kicked out of the Daytona pen because he had shorts on, then Mitch Payton rolls up. Mitch’s team is always a loose atmosphere under the tent; if I was working there as a mechanic, it might’ve even bugged me because it really is an open-door team. Lots of people congregate there to talk about a lot of different things while the mechanics try to get their work done. Payton’s the best, though; he’s awesome to talk about anything. Stories for days.

From there it was onto the Daytona SX winning team, the Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda squad. Manager Tony Alessi and owner Mike Genova were talking to a dude from Showa (I’d assume about Brayton’s suspension), so I wandered inside to find Brayton in there hanging out. We talked about how his LIT KIT win trophy is probably a bigger deal than his Daytona win, then I started asking him about the 3-3-3 and quads. The team’s other rider, Vince Friese, was there, and asked me how many people were doing both, to which I said not very many and don’t worry about it. Better to do 20 minutes clean than one case of a jump that takes 3-4 seconds off your race. We talked about the Bullfrog Spa we got Justin on the PulpMX Show, and Tony told me the process of how that went. Genova then asked me if I was selling PulpMX as he had heard something. I have no plans to, but it’s 100 percent FOR SALE, in case anyone’s asking and wants to offer BIG money. But then I realized that I have to keep working in the event of a sale because PulpMX without me is, well, nothing, right?

Brayton went on to win his heat race, but placed just outside the podium in the main event.
Brayton went on to win his heat race, but placed just outside the podium in the main event. Rich Shepherd

Tony told us a crazy story about how when Mike Alessi was on 60s, the family was almost out of money for racing, but some guy saw Mike ride at the World Mini track in Vegas and said that he’s never seen a kid that good. He gave Tony a card and told him to come see him sometime. It was a casino in Mesquite, Nevada. So Tony went there, asks to see the guy, and just gets his secretary. The secretary hands him an envelope, and there’s a check in there for $90K! Yes, you read that right. By now, Tony Berluti had joined the conversation and couldn’t believe this either. Tony said it got them through a year or so of racing, and the rest is history. They went to the casino few times and hung out with the dude and his family here and there.

After that, I tried to find privateer Lane Shaw to tell him congrats on his first main event last week in Daytona, but can’t find him. I texted his coach, Tim Ferry, but he gave me bad intel. Imagine that. Couldn’t find Lane, but hey, man, nice work!

I wandered over to the #722, where he and his brother Tyler were entertaining fans. Yes, literally. That’s what they do. There was a crowd of people around them as they talked about their practices. Adam had qualified 20th, which was awesome. Upon seeing me, Adam insisted on a photo with all three of us and told me to “act gangster,” which I convincingly did. Tyler was bummed at me for not inviting him to the show when Adam came up a couple of weeks ago, but to me, he was jacked up with pelvis injury—I didn’t even know he could move! Eventually I had to go because I was holding up fans who wanted to come meet the #722.

From there it was over to Kyle Chisholm’s pit, where his dad Gary was working away on… Tevin Tapia’s bike! Gare-Bear is one of the coolest dads in the pits. He’s not crazy at all, and man, he’s so gnarly and dedicated to Kyle and his other son Cody, it’s nuts. Great for him, good dude. Anyway, they were there with Tapia, and Tevin had already gone through bars and clamps that day. He blamed it on getting transponder 91, which is Alex Ray’s number. Tapia said he was in control, but his bike just wanted to keep “sending it.” I talked to Kyle about the track, how he’s riding well and what his 51Fifty Yamaha team is doing for him while he’s on a 450 on the East Coast (sounds like a lot). Chiz is good, people, and remember, kids: Chiz’s gonna Chiz.

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It was almost time for the night show, so I headed back to “home base,” which happened to be the Monster Energy Kawasaki rig. Unfortunately for those guys, they hired Tim Ferry in 2009 and didn’t realize that I came with the package. Nine years later, Ferry’s long gone and I’m there like some sort of stink they can’t wash out. I think that hanging with those guys was a reason Ryan Dungey always gave me the stink-eye; I was always “team RV,” I suppose. But really, it’s the coffee, snacks, and laughs that bring me back there.

Anyway, grabbed another coffee, some M&Ms, and a water. Before being insulted and giving out more insults, I was off to watch the races.

...But not before stopping off at Honda one more time to talk to Gothic Jay, who’s some sort of VIP guy at HRC, but I remember when he worked for Mike Metzger and wore pants and long sleeves at Troy, Ohio, when it was 116 degrees. Anyway, saw Paige Craig with her son Jagger there and tried to get a selfie with the kid, but he ran away screaming and crying so no-go on that. Christian thought this was pretty funny. Honestly, Jagger reminded me of a lot of rider’s reactions I get.

Once arriving to the press box, I was greeted with some pizza slices from Anton at TWMX! Yes, he ordered pizza to a dome, and no, I don’t know how he and his brother pulled it off. It’s St. Louis; I don’t want to know. So, yeah, I happily took a couple of slices. This made me not eat the M&Ms from Kawasaki, so as I type this, they’re chilling (literally) in my fridge for later. Again, Weigandt would be so proud of me.

[Editor’s note: Indeed. —Weigandt]

Yeah, yeah, you want to read a bit about the race, so here’s some more “Observations.”

  • Yep, Eli Tomac absolutely crushed it in every way. What a performance; the guy was on rails. Of course, winning the way he did opened up other topics all week about, “Why isn’t this guy able to just crush everyone all the time?” talk. You can’t win, right, Eli? Perhaps the most impressive thing wasn’t the quad and wasn’t being the first guy to go 3-3-3, but was tripling from the inside before the first turn. Wow. He was amaze-balls.
  • I thought Austin Forkner showed a lot of his youth on Saturday night with the anger at Brandon Hartranft for innocently getting in his way on a fast lap in qualifying, crashing while leading the main in a spot where no one else crashed all night, then getting upset at Ramyller Alves for taking him down while he was lapping him. I saw Jacob Williamson getting the blue flag for running third in the heat, so pardon Alves if he can’t quite figure out who’s coming when the flags aren’t really given to him properly. Just chill out, Austin; you’ll be okay.
  • Zach Osborne won rather easily and said after the race that his plan was to just sit behind Forkner and see if the kid made a mistake. Brilliant plan, and it worked out perfectly. You know Osborne didn’t want any part of that quad, but Forkner did it, so he stepped it up.
  • Justin Brayton won his heat (again), then had second pick for the gate. He ended up going to the first gate to the right of the bridge, and I didn’t like that one bit. I asked him via text why he chose that, and he was standing firm in his decision. He said Baggett lined up next to him and he had fourth pick! What’s wrong with these guys? It looked way too far for my liking, but hey, I couldn’t go down there to see it for myself. Brayton rode great; had he started with Jason Anderson or Marvin Musquin, he could’ve beat them (no chance he was beating Eli Jesusmac on this night) but his start wasn’t there. Just sayin’.
  • Malcolm Stewart’s been camping out at the JGR shop in North Carolina and seems to love it. He’s getting some great testing done, and it showed in qualifying at St. Louis. Unfortunately he crashed in the heat, hurt his shoulder, and couldn’t carry that speed to the main. He told us on the PulpMX Show that he likes riding with people, so that’s why he’s loving being at JGR. Cue sad music for me, because that means James Stewart isn’t riding.
  • I wish Blake Baggett hadn’t hurt his hand. He’s a shell of his former self out there and told me this year’s series should be called “the survival series.” He’s trying to gut this out, and hopefully it gets better after the break. Props to Blake for being the only guy I saw all day go inside before the 3-3-3 and roll, 2-3-3.
Despite a hand injury, Baggett finished the night inside the top five.
Despite a hand injury, Baggett finished the night inside the top five. Rich Shepherd
  • Golf claps to the folks at Feld for not only putting Vince Friese in the opening ceremonies (he’s there on merit because he was 13th in the points and three riders ahead of him were hurt), but for also having him interviewed before the night show. Friese is from Missouri, and after the race, he told how much that meant to him.
  • Oh hey, Jeremy Martin just might be good at supercross after all.
  • Shout out to Weston Peick and Blake Baggett for having the most interesting battle all main event long. Baggett stalked Peick lap after lap after lap after lap while absolutely nothing else happened out there. It was interesting.
  • Nice job to both Thomas Ramette, the new Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider, who got a call at 1 a.m. in France to fill in for the team and was on a plane by 6 a.m. heading to the U.S.
  • Poor Marty. This has gone terrible for Davalos, as he keeps crashing over and over. I have a theory that he was SO good in the 450 Class last year in motocross that the SX gods are punishing him for yet again taking the money and staying in 250SX. It’s not a solid theory, but how else do you explain what the hell has been happening to him?
  • Hey Benji Bloss, I know you’ve gotten 11th for three straight races and have never gotten a top-ten, but it’s coming, bro. Hang in there.

So yeah, that’s the day. After the races I went to the press conference, where I introduced myself as “Steve Matthes, Main Event Moto” (geez, I can’t figure out why some people hate me), grabbed some interviews from riders there, went back to the pits to grab whomever else was there, and then walked back to the hotel. From there, it was uploading the podcasts from the night, typing out Saturday Night Live for Racer X Online, and closing my laptop at 1:42 a.m. I set the alarm for 4 a.m. (boarding time for my flight was 5:05 a.m.) and tried to grab some sleep. Welcome to the moto media—still want in?

Email me at [email protected] if you want to chat about this race or anything else; I’ll be around, bro.