Welcome to Racerhead. Let’s begin by wishing a happy 37th birthday to the fastest oldest guy ever, or better yet, the oldest fast guy ever, Chad Reed. A podium finisher in Monster Energy AMA Supercross just last month, Chad continues to defy nature and outrun Father Time. Happy birthday, #22.
As always, Daytona Bike Week was one big blur of riding, racing, pit-riding, sitting in bike traffic and just generally enjoying almost every form of motorcycling. We were there from last Thursday until today, which means we did the 49th Daytona SX/MX (it started in 1971, before Supercross was invented), helped out at the 10th Annual Daytona AMA Ricky Carmichael Amateur Supercross, skipped down to the GNCC at Palatka, then back to Daytona for the first Jeff Stanton-hosted RCSX Vintage Supercross, the ATV Pro Motocross opener, and then capped the week off with the American Flat Track TT opener last night. In between events there were trips to Main Street, Grom rides, the Iron Horse Saloon, and just more motorcycles than you will probably ever see in one place. Nice weather all week really helped out.
Daytona is something of a microcosm of what’s going on in the whole motorcycle industry, and it was plain to see that the Harley-Davidson crowd is aging, and the scrambler and hooligan crowds growing, Honda Groms and Kawasaki Zs were everywhere, and a bunch of very fast kids are coming up in amateur supercross. And while local racing is not doing very well all over the country, big events like the RCSX and GNCC can still pack them in. But the most fun I think I had was the Vintage SX. We had low expectations for this race because it was honestly our first stand-alone vintage race, and with the help of Jeff Stanton, a longtime vintage racer, and some creative track taming by Randy Poulter, the vet racers were stoked. They also had some amazing bikes out there, from Maicos and Pentons and Huskys and CZs to a spot-on homage to the 1977 Harley-Davidson SX/MX days of Marty Tripes and “Rocket” Rex Staten. All of those vintage guys found out what the RCSX regulars have known for a long time, and that’s the fact that the infield at Daytona is one big spring break for motocross and supercross enthusiasts and DIS is very good about letting you pit ride around, go in and out of the speedway (within reasonable hours) and just have fun tailgating and hanging out. (The Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen motorhomes were parked nose-to-nose, their clans grilling out and playing cornhole next to one and other and just enjoying what’s become a much different weekend than any other on the schedule, indoors or outdoors.) I really think that the vintage race is going to grow like gangbusters, and that’s the unsettling part, in some ways: guys were having fun riding cheaper old bikes that they can work on themselves and also not risk getting too beat up to go home and back to work. It was a much different vibe than what I was seeing during the RCSX, let alone the Daytona Supercross. Maybe I’m just getting older, but I could relate much more to riding with the vintage guys than I could being out there on a 450 with John Grewe and Greg Schnell and Barry Carsten and friends.
Beyond that, the SX didn’t offer many big surprises, as Eli Tomac won for the third time in four years, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki keep it’s resurgence going with an Austin Forkner win, and the expected frontrunners—Seth Hammaker, Jarrett Frye, Jett Reynolds, Nate Thrasher, Jace Kessler, Hannah Hodges, etc.—split up all of amateur class wins. The big upset of the week came at the GNCC down in Palatka, where Steward Baylor picked up where he left off last season with a convincing win over six-time GNCC #1 Kailub Russell. Everyone was pretty worked after the grueling race, and now they have to do it all over again in Georgia this weekend!
As for Monster Energy AMA Supercross, they went straight to Indiana for this weekend’s return to the indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium. Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb continues to impress, winning when the opportunities present themselves, and riding strong and consistently across the board. He was runner-up to Tomac at Daytona, but with Honda’s Roczen having a tough night after a first turn crash, and dropping out of second in the standings, Cooper’s points lead is up to 19 on Tomac. It’s almost time to start thinking about the mathematical chances of Tomac, Roczen, and Marvin Musquin.
With this being a travel day for everyone, we’re going to cut the opening short here. But remember the part about Daytona being a microcosm of motorcycling? We all left before the Daytona 200, once THE race during Bike Week. Now it’s fallen on hard times as road racing in America is just not getting the audience or attention it once did. The SX crowd was up and so was American Flat Track, but those folks have mostly left town by now. Here’s hoping someone gets that ship going in the right direction again soon…
IMG_1157 Davey Coombs IMG_1240 Davey Coombs IMG_1367 Davey Coombs IMG_1589 Davey Coombs IMG_1297 Davey Coombs IMG_1267 Davey Coombs IMG_1179 Davey Coombs IMG_1252 Davey Coombs IMG_1268 Davey Coombs IMG_1422 Davey Coombs IMG_1556 Davey Coombs
Our man on the MXGP beat, Adam Wheeler, posted a very interesting article on his On Track Off Road site after he spoke with Red Bull KTM's global racing boss Pit Beirer about the possibility of the injured Jeffrey Herlings coming to America if he returns to racing by May 18. Herlings, who visited with doctors earlier this week, is now almost certain to miss the first four MXGPs: Argentina (which already happened without him), Great Britain, the Netherlands, and Italy. That will make defending his title nearly impossible, and opens the door wide for Antonio Cairoli to get even closer to Stefan Everts' records of 101 Grand Prix wins and ten world titles. Wheeler's full story can be found here at On Track Off Road.
“He’s under contract to race in Europe and I’m not enthusiastic about this American story because we have a fantastic team with fantastic riders in the USA,” Beirer told Wheeler recently at the MotoGP race in Qatar. “Without Jeffrey we don’t have a full line-up in MXGP and we’d already made all these cosmetic changes with Pauls Jonass moving to [Rockstar Energy] IceOne [Husqvarna]. It is always good to have a back-up and a minimum of two top riders so I’m not super-happy about him going to America.
“It is not easy,” he added on the prospect of shifting the rider roster. “What would be easier is to add a guy [who is] already in America. In Europe we have a factory team that is ready to service three factory guys—minimum—and there is currently one in the structure that is still a rookie. Currently it is not enough for the effort we are making. I don’t want the team without a proper line-up because they want to work hard, they want to develop and make better bikes and better riders.
“It is still a little bit too much speculation and I’d like to take this decision when Jeffrey has a date set to ride,” Beirer concluded. “He should be riding for more than a week so we can see where he is and we can make a plan. Don’t expect this decision quickly. It will take time.”
And if you’re following along on social media, today @jeffrey_herlings posted a photo of himself racing last year and the caption “Halfway point” and nothing else for reference. Instagram nearly broke again.
Sandmaster (Andras Hegyi)
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac is already known as a specialist when it comes to the rough and sandy Daytona Supercross. Last Saturday night he won for the third time in four years, and if not for a crash off the start last year, when he came from dead last to second, he might have won four in a row. Tomac is now the eighth rider to get at least three Daytona wins in the premier class. (The record-holder is Ricky Carmichael, the only rider with five wins.) And besides Jeremy McGrath and Chad Reed, Tomac became only the third rider to take podiums at Daytona in five consecutive years. McGrath got podiums every year between 1996 and 2000, while Reed did it between '03 and '07.
Mike LaRocco, Reed and Carmichael are tied for the record for most podiums at Daytona with seven.
And besides Jeff Stanton, Ryan Dungey, and Reed, Tomac became only the fourth rider to get Daytona podiums in at least four consecutive seasons with a same brand. Stanton got four podiums in a row with Honda ('89-'92); Reed five with Yamaha ('03-'07); and Dungey four with KTM ('13-'16).
Two years ago I attended the “new” opener for the AMA Flat Track Series, the Daytona TT, an all-new event designed to symbolically launch a revamped series, under a new name, American Flat Track. The series had made some bold changes, but they hadn’t taken root quite yet—the paddock and the grid still felt grass roots or semi-pro, which was cool, but far from the glitz and glamour of other events at Daytona International Speedway. Last year’s event was better, but the revamp is really showing now. Last night’s Daytona TT packed all the buzz, hype and excitement surrounding the series, with so many new and old faces, teams and bikes, and an obvious renewed interest from the industry. There was a tremendous energy about the night, both on the track and off.
It starts with the debut of the Red Bull KTM factory team, featuring defending Singles champion Dan Bromley and Shayna Texter, aka “The girl who can really beat the guys.” This is a real factory team through and through—Texter is even training with Aldon Baker and Aldon himself was in attendance to watch. Over in the next garage stall stood Ryan Sipes, back on his Mr. Everything program for 2019, and surrounded by Red Bull cameras for his Sipes Knows video series. In the next stall was the ageless Jeff Ward, packing a lot of hype (and thanks for signing autographs for us, Wardy!)
Some of these names are familiar to us on the moto side, but Yamaha has also stepped up big via the Estenson Racing squad, competing in both Singles and Twins. The factory Indian Twins team, which has dominated the last two years, is back but packing two new riders, while one of its former riders, Bryan Smith, is back to riding custom-built bikes engineered by his tuner Ricky Howerton. Indian, with Jared Mees, dominated 2017 and ‘18, but rule changes could aid the Yamahas or Smith’s Kawasaki-powered bike. No one knew what to expect, plus, the Daytona TT track itself was totally new, now using the paved high banked front stretch of the Daytona 500.
I saw so many familiar faces checking it out, promoters like Eric Peronnard and MX Sports’ own Tim Cotter, or Yamaha brass like Keith McCarty. Doug Henry was there, probably thinking about his old supermoto days, and rooting for Wardy. People just really want to see this stuff right now.
Front brakes were a valuable lesson for Sipes and Ward. You need a lot more brake on pavement, and Sipes’ stock KTM unit was fading quickly, but Ward pitched it with a better set he had as a backup (special thanks to Johnny Lewis, who runs Ward’s team). Ward had a huge brake on his bike, but that worked against him when he bumped a rider with his brake lever in turn one of his qualifier, locked the wheel, and almost crashed. From last, Ward fought back but missed the cut for the main. Sipes got a bad jump in his qualifier, which led to a bad finish and a second-row start in the main. Both guys showed a lot of speed, but never got to show it at night. They’ll be back for the rest of the TT events dotting the AFT schedule.
Of course Travis Pastrana was there—he was seemingly everywhere during Bike Week, including a surprise entry in the GNCC Industry class on Sunday morning that left his hands looking like mincemeat! He was riding a big two-stroke Suzuki something in the Hooligan race and while he was fast on that thing, he didn’t qualify. But he stuck around with his Team Puerto Rico teammate Sipes and cheered him on.
In the premiere Twins class, brothers Briar and Bronson Bauman are the new members of the factory Indian team. Briar has spent a lot of time training with current champion Mees, learning from the best. But with the full-factory ride, it’s now up to him to not just learn from Mees, but develop a title run of its own. Briar was super-fast all day, and you could see his focus as he headed to the line, squaring up with the fact that this was going to be his race to win. You could almost see him wrestling to believe that sort of confidence—but when the green flag flew, he checked out and dominated. Mees, meanwhile, endured all sorts of crashes in qualifying, but gamely came through traffic in the main to salvage points… until his bike broke with a few laps to go.
Mees has completely dominated AFT Twins the last two years. Now he’s starting in a huge points hole against a young teammate coming into his prime and building confidence rapidly. Plus, the unique-ness of the partially-paved Daytona TT means you can only learn so much from the opener. Could be a wild season, we’ll see.
By the way, I’m back to do the TV announcing of these events on NBCSN. Check out the Daytona TT, which will air on March 24, at 4 p.m.
There was one other side trip at Daytona that I did that was truly enjoyable and entertaining. I have been helping write the Bike Week souvenir program for several years now and have gotten to know the folks down there at the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) pretty well, including Andrew Gertz. On Monday, in between RCSX motos, he asked me if I wanted to go across the street and check out the DIS Archives. We got in his car and drove around the actual Speedway and out through the back straight, then across Bill France Boulevard to a non-descript building about a mile from the front entrance. He went over and rang the doorbell. A man named Herb opened the door and we literally stepped into a time machine. Inside they had trophies, banners, uniforms, racing gear, pennants, programs, and an entire room full of filing cabinets packed with photo archives, race results, event brochures and much, much more. They had even rebuilt the office of Bill France Sr., the founder of NASCAR. It was one of the most incredible displays of motorsports history I have ever seen.
IMG_1477 Davey Coombs IMG_1487 Davey Coombs IMG_1474 Davey Coombs IMG_1520 Davey Coombs IMG_1466 Davey Coombs IMG_1511 Davey Coombs IMG_1468 Davey Coombs IMG_1469 Davey Coombs IMG_1467 Davey Coombs IMG_1542 Davey Coombs IMG_1464 Davey Coombs
For me personally, the most significant of all was a file Herb dug out with a stack of photos from the 1971 Daytona “Moto-Cross” race, which was the last round of the Florida Winter-AMA Series, and for all intents and purposes, the first AMA Supercross. Next year will mark the 50th version of this race, and while it will only be the 47th actual AMA Supercross, ISC and DIS plan on putting on a big celebration. I would mark it on my calendar as soon as the dates are announced because it’s going to be quite a birthday party!
Support John Fonteyn (Chase Stallo)
Many of you may not know the name Mandie Fonteyn, but she is a vital part of Honda HRC, as she serves as press manager for the team with Jonnum Media. (Chris Jonnum is a long-time friend of Racer X and even worked for us at Road Racer X.)
On February 8, Mandie’s father John was delivering product to a customer when he fell from his work truck and fractured his C4-5 vertebrae. According to Road 2 Recovery, John is currently paralyzed from the neck down.
Here are the details via R2R:
Mr. Fonteyn was immediately transported to Inland Valley Medical Center in Wildomar, California, where surgical physicians performed an anterior fusion and realignment to the vertebrae. Two weeks post-op, a CT scan showed signs of a left-side stroke, which explained the initial lack of cognitive ability. He is currently categorized as a complete Spinal Cord Injury, with no movement from the neck down, and is breathing with the assistance of a ventilator, via tracheotomy. His current state is very difficult for his family and friends, as communication is almost impossible. However, Mr. Fonteyn is showing signs of understanding and has attempted to communicate vocally.
The Fonteyn family is currently struggling with their medical and insurance systems, as well as looming bills. When Mr. Fonteyn is released, he’ll be admitted to a sub-acute facility, but available beds are limited at facilities that are both nearby and have a good standard of care. He has been quoted 100 days of sub-acute coverage, after which he will be set up with long-term in-home care. At that point, all submissions will be out-of-pocket expenses for the family. Mr. Fonteyn’s status is still critical, and he will likely require medical attention for the rest of his life.
Prior to his injury, Mr. Fonteyn was very active. He spent time road cycling and participated annually in the Great Cycle Challenge, raising money for childhood cancer research by dedicating himself to 750 miles of cycling in one month. His favorite pastimes revolved around boating, as he would spend time on the water with family and friends, slalom water skiing, wakesurfing and fishing. He also shares a passion for dirt bikes and has ridden for his entire life. He owns a small professional car care business, supplies detailing products to several supercross/motocross teams to keep their trucks looking good, and regularly sponsors the Temecula Rod Run, a popular local hotrod event.
If you would like to help the Fonteyn family, you can do so here.
Learning to Ride with Ping (David Pingree)
Honda introduced their entry level line of CRF motorcycles this week: the CRF50F, CRF110F, CRF125F, CRF125FB, and CRF250F models. This line hadn't gotten a face lift in a while and they got one across the board this year. Features include electric start, fuel injection, steel perimeter frames, CRF body styling, green sticker ready, and updated ergonomics making this the perfect bike for those looking to learn to ride or current riders who want to get family or friends started in the sport. I took my two daughters and my two nephews ("Factory" Phil Lawrence's boys) riding and it was like going back in time for me. I remember how much fun I had just riding around a simple track in a field; I'd ride in a circle for hours! The kids all did great and had a blast on the different bikes. Most importantly, it got them off their electronics and outside playing, which is something kids could use more of these days. The CRF line is awesome and whether you have a five-year-old who is just learning on the CRF50F or your wife who is trying to keep from getting left behind on the CRF250F, there is something for everybody. When you add up the proven reliability of Honda products and the new performance features, this is a really good option to enjoy off-road motorcycling. Check them out at your local Honda dealer.
This week we had legendary photographer/videographer Simon Cudby join us on The Whiskey Throttle Show. It was interesting to learn how Simon got his start in photography, how he transitioned to motocross, and what advice he'd give young photogs who want to shoot at the races. There isn't another camera jockey who's been to more team photo shoots and private photo shoots with the biggest stars of the sport, and he has some really cool stories to share. He's also related to Phil Collins, which is interesting. Not really, but Ricky Carmichael has been spreading that story for decades now so we just go with it. The show is up on YouTube or you can listen on iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher.
We've mentioned before our media friends and colleagues and their new platforms like Donn Maeda and crew's www.swapmotolive.com and Kris Keefer's www.keeferinctesting.com. Time to add another with an announcement from our friend Michael Lindsey. His start-up site is www.512testing.com and he explained his new career path in a post on the Vital MX Forum, where he's worked the last five years.
"While I've dabbled in a ton of aspects of media life here, testing and building cool bikes is of course the best part, along with some of the amazing places I get to go to," wrote Lindsey. "So I figured if there was a way I could focus on bike intros, builds, shootouts, and tech I would make it happen.
"So in December I came up with a plan to step out on my own and thanks to the generous support of a few brands who see what I'm trying to accomplish (Race Tech, Fox, Alpinestars, Chaparral, Specialized, and a few others in the works...) I now have a great opportunity to do so. Building a media website sounded like an absolute hassle and for anyone who has met me, they know I talk...a lot. So for the time being, all the content I'm generating will be video based and hosted on YouTube.... so I get to just keep talking. And thanks to the support of the big OEMs, I'll be hitting the same bike launches and intros I've been for the past five years, so I can continue to build on what I've started."
Lindsey added, "Outside of bike intros, project bikes, Shootouts (I'll be doing a lot more off-road, dual sport and adventure bike stuff then I used to) product intros, etc...I'm also launching a podcast which should be up tomorrow. First episode is with Donn Maeda, mostly covering what the heck happened with Transworld.
He closed with this: "Also a big thanks to Vital's owner Brad (McDonald) and my prior co-worker GuyB for giving me a shot at this stuff, and my good buddy Michael Morgan for being a great friend outside of the best co-worker I've ever had!"
Good luck with www.512testing.com, Michael!
Hey, Watch It!
The Closest Finish Ever | Moto Spy Supercross
Monster Energy Yamaha's Aaron Plessinger's ugly, heel-breaking crash from last Saturday night:
Want to see what the Daytona Supercross looked like in 1983?
And here’s what it looked like in 1985, when Bob “Hurricane” Hannah won his last AMA Supercross:
“Vice Mayor Terrence Rowe stepped in to become acting mayor after Dale Massad’s arrest. But now the acting mayor is also under arrest.” -Tampa Bay Times
"Maduro's muscle: Motorcycle gangs known as 'colectivos' are the enforcers for Venezuela's authoritarian leader" -Sun Sentinel
"12 years later, town flushes final roll of supersized accidental toilet paper order..." -DW.com
"Facebook turns to Twitter to explain outages" -eastidahonews.com
Electric bike racing took another hit this week when the brand new E-Moto garage at Circuito de Jerez-Angel Nieto in Spain caught fire and burned to the ground, and with most of the bikes that were to be used for the Moto-E World Cup during MotoGP. Here's the story on what happened and what the next steps are for E-Moto and MotoGP.
Thanks for reading Racerhead, see you at the races.