Welcome to Racerhead and what appears to be the last blast of winter. Unfortunately, its focus has been on Denver, site of tomorrow night's Monster Energy AMA Supercross. The snow hit yesterday and it was open season on Tucker Hibbert references, as the race was looking like a snocross for a while there, but now it's warming up some and Denver should be fine tomorrow night, if a little chilly. But I say that being from West Virginia. Folks headed there from California and Florida might feel it’s a lot more than chilly!
Of course, Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb keeps marching toward the title, navigating the minefield that is a busy supercross track and minimizing his mistakes—his jump from going backward on one lane to the lane he came off of showed once again that he just seems like he's riding with a halo above him, at least compared to the bum luck of, say, Ken Roczen. But credit Webb for putting himself in those positions with hard work and aggressive riding, just like he did back when he was on 250s.
Still, it seems like one of these nights he's not going to get out of a mistake so easy, or maybe he’ll be the unlucky one like Roczen was with Monster Energy Kawasaki's Joey Savatgy going down right in front of him. I've mentioned it here before, but this all seems like last year when Rockstar Husqvarna's Jason Anderson was marching toward the title, seemingly unscathed by any mistakes or traffic accidents. El_Hombre was 34 points ahead when the series headed to Salt Lake City, which was actually the next-to-last round. The team probably had the #1 T-shirts in a backpack. But then a tangle in the first turn cost Anderson enough of his front spokes to require a pit stop for a wheel change. Instead of putting on one of those shirts, Anderson left SLC with just a 12-point lead and had to wait until Las Vegas to finish the job.
Webb_RS_SX19_Indianapolis_063 Rich Shepherd Musquin_RS_SX19_Seattle_023 Rich Shepherd Tomac_JK_SX19_Nashville_1398 Jeff Kardas
Here’s a very interesting stat Chase Stallo posted earlier this week: Last year, after 14 rounds, Anderson had 311 total points and a 39-point lead as the series went to Foxborough, Massachusetts. This time around, Webb has a total of 309 points and a more narrow 21-point lead. This race is basically the hometown SX for last week's winner, Eli Tomac. I image he’ll be loaded for bear, but Webb just needs to keep doing what he's doing, which is race forward like he always does—and of course stay out of trouble!
The 250SX racing will revert to the West Region and the growing battle between Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Adam Cianciarulo and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Dylan Ferrandis. Cianciarulo is now just five points ahead of Ferrandis with only Denver and the Las Vegas finale left to go. It will be dramatic, but maybe not quite as much as the 250SX East Region suddenly is after last weekend's wild one in Nashville, where runaway points leader Austin Forkner crashed out in practice and is now a big question mark, and then Star Racing Yamaha's Justin Cooper dropped GEICO Honda's Chase Sexton and himself, costing both a great shot at a first 250SX main-event win. Now seven points separate Forkner, Sexton, and Cooper, with only East Rutherford and Vegas left to be run.
Cooper's aggressive attempt to pass Sexton brought the haters out on social media, and it led Justin to address them on his Instagram:
"Pretty blown away by all the negative comments that were given to me about the incident on lap 1. Got an awesome start in the main and got passed pretty quick. In my mind i wasn’t about to just roll over and give up the lead, so i dove in for a quick pass back only to take us both down. Real bummer and watching it now, it sucks because my only intention was to make a quick block pass to get back out front but in the heat of the moment you make mistakes and i just got a little too excited. I went in a little too deep to make sure the pass stuck and when i went to exit the turn our bikes were locked together and i went straight down. That was a really good passing spot for me all night so i didn’t think much of it going inside like that, but mistakes happen and all i can do is learn from it. Hear me out, I’m only at these races to win, podiums are great but I’m really striving for that win so mistakes like this happen when you are focused on just that, you get too excited at times. If you aren’t part of my program, you don’t know what goes into the preparation for these races and with me personally, so your opinions don’t mean anything to me. I know what i did wrong and it’s part of learning, if i could go back in time, i would have attempted the same pass again just maybe slightly different. It’s part of racing and if you guys are gonna cry and complain about it that much to where you feel the need to attack me, maybe you should skip the last two rounds because this championship is heating up and there is a lot on the line. It’s not over yet. We will move forward from here and set our sights on the next one to improve..."
That post got a nice comment from none other than Cooper Webb:
"Gotta have tough skin to be on instagram these days... trust me on that ? Mistakes happen all you can do is learn from it and move on."
And speaking of getting some hate, I got a little grief from some veteran (and even former) racers after MX Sports Pro Racing announced that the rules concerning CBD sponsorships were being relaxed for the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship so that the riders and teams can at least have the logos on their trucks, tents, autograph stock, on display under their trucks, whatever….
But it's still prohibited on the racetrack, on the riders' bikes, and on gear. CBD (without THC) is legal in all 50 states right now, but the rules for selling, marketing, and broadcasting CBD-related products are still being sorted through at the state level. Until there is a consensus, we're in a forced holding pattern to allow it out on the racetracks where 95 percent of the TV coverage is focused. But it won't be banned outright in the paddock, which is a change from what the rules are for SX right now, and that's largely because we've had the luxury of time—supercross started in January, and MX doesn't start until late May. That's how quickly the rules for CBD are changing. And as I told Chad Reed yesterday, the moment we get the green light that everyone from the network to the sanctioning body is comfortable that they won't end up in legal hot water, we'll open it up for the bikes and race gear too. Personally, I hope it happens before Hangtown, but in the meantime, this is the best we can do, and I hope people can take advantage of this loosening of restrictions.
Finally, a programming reminder: The opening ceremonies in Denver will start at 5:00 p.m. local time, which is 7 p.m. Eastern, and the first races will go off at 5:30. The race will air on NBC Sports Network at 8:00 p.m. ET following the Arkansas Derby. Live coverage will still air at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold App.
CASTILLO RANCH??!! (Nick McCabe)
If you live in California, your riding options have just grown by one more track—except the track is not exactly new and already has an outsized reputation, ranking it with places like Carlsbad and Saddleback Park. There’s one exception, though: it has never been open to most riders. Well, now it is, sort of. Jim Castillo, owner of the famous Castillo Ranch, along with his son Dave, have decided to open up the their track to the local motocross community. For now, they are keeping very low-key and rather informal. In order to ride, you must contact them via Instagram (@castillo_ranch) and get put on a list. They have no formal days of operation, and for now, it’s just when they decide to groom the track and open it up for the day. The few sessions they have held sold out very quickly, and the slots for each rider are limited, as they can only accommodate a small amount of riders.
This is a pretty big deal, and Jim and Dave deserve credit for going out and seeking a solution for the local moto community. Despite Southern California being the informal center of the motocross world, the Central Coast has always been limited in options for riders. Long drives to ride were the norm for moto families who lived in the SLO and the surrounding areas. Last summer, Zaca Station (which was about five miles south of Castillo) closed down. That meant there wasn’t a track within two hours of driving; the closest facility was in Bakersfield, well over 130 miles away.
The Castillos decided to do something about it—and are doing their own part to give something back to the local motocross community. They have invested a ton of time and money getting the track set up and running for the rest of us.
The track itself is amazing, and built into the side of a hill, with steep uphills and downhills and several fun, albeit very safe, rolling jumps. The surrounding hills have been the site of many well-known videos, featuring the likes of Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Emig, Travis Pastrana, Ken Roczen, and more. Adding to the goodness is the fact that the Central Coast has had a bunch of rain this winter, and that means green hills and moist soil at the ranch and for the next few weeks. For more info, give the track a follow on the 'Gram @castillo_ranch.
Last Saturday night in Nashville, the podium was an all-American affair, at least in the 450SX class. Eli Tomac, Blake Baggett, and series points leader Cooper Webb—hailing from Colorado, California, and North Carolina, respectively—went 1-2-3. It's been more than a year since that happened, on March 10, 2018 at the Daytona Supercross. That was 20 rounds ago. During the first 13 rounds, foreign supercrossers Marvin Musquin (France), Ken Roczen (Germany), Dean Wilson (Scotland), and Chad Reed (Australia) have taken turns getting on the box. And 20 races was the second-longest podium streak for the non-American supercrossers in the premier supercross class.
The longest podiums streak for the foreign riders happened between 2003 and 2004, and it consisted of 25 consecutive rounds. In 2003, thanks to Reed, the Frenchman David Vuillemin, and Costa Rica’s Ernesto Fonseca, overseas supercrossers made the podium in every main event over the last nine rounds. Then in 2004, through Reed and Vuillemin, foreign racers took podiums in all 16 rounds of the 2004 season. The streak ended with the "Perfect Storm" race of Anaheim '05, where the podium was Kevin Windham, Mike LaRocco, and Ricky Carmichael.
There are only two AMA Supercross seasons in which foreign riders took podiums in every round: 1974 (when the series consisted of only Daytona and Houston) and 2004. The 250SX class at Nashville was won by Martin Davalos, who was born in Ecuador.
The sport of motocross lost a good man last Friday when Walker Brightwell, a former top amateur prospect and the owner of Windy Ridge Raceway in Ohio, was killed in a bulldozer accident. According to news reports, Brightwell was working on his dozer when he got off and began to walk away, only to realize the dozer was still engaged and moving. When he went to jump back on and stop it, he lost his footing and fell under it.
Growing up, Brightwell was a two-time champion at the Loretta Lynn’s AMA Amateur National Championships—he went 1-1-1 in the 85cc (7-11) Modified class on a Suzuki RM80 in 2005 for his second title. Brightwell's big-bike career didn't quite pan out like his minicycle days, but he loved moto very much and stayed in the sport, along with his father, Ned, a popular face at the races. Walker Brightwell was just 25 years old. Godspeed, Walker.
I got the crushing news this week that one of my friends, famed bike builder Jesse Rooke, was killed in a motorcycle crash on the Carefree Highway north of Phoenix during Bike Week. I grew up with Jesse and was always blown away by his intellect and creativity when it came to creating bikes; in fact, many of us had no idea he was so mechanically inclined. Jesse raced motocross with us for a long time, then got into shifter kart racing and road racing before finding his niche as a custom chopper builder, working alongside Roland Sands and other industry legends. Rooke's Dinah build thrust him into the custom bike-build world and he was immediately regarded as one of the best in the business. Jesse even built a KTM Super Duke-based machine for Brad Pitt. The motorcycling community lost a friend this week, and for those who knew him, it feels like we lost a family member. A GoFundMe page has been set up for his daughter, Scarlett, and you can find it by searching Jesse Rooke. You are missed, my friend.
10 FOR DAVALOS (Andras Hegyi)
There is a big difference between the premier supercross class and the small-bore regional division. In the 250/450SX, in existence since 1974, seven riders have been able to get podiums in at least ten different seasons: Mike LaRocco, Chad Reed, Kevin Windham, Jeff Ward, Broc Glover, James Stewart, and Jeremy McGrath. The record holder is LaRocco, as the Rock stepped up on podiums in 17 seasons. But in 125/250SX, only one rider has podiums in ten different seasons: Martin Davalos. Thanks to his victory in Nashville last Saturday, the most successful Ecuadorian motorcyclist managed to get on the podium in the tenth different season of his long career after 2006-'09, 2012-'14, 2016-’17, and now ’19. This is not a new record for Martin—he had it at nine. Following him in the record books are Nathan Ramsey, Brock Sellards, and Greg Schnell with podiums in eight different 125/250 supercross seasons.
Last Sunday in Italy, two-time FIM Motocross World Champion Tim Gajser of Slovenia was able to take double moto wins, dueling all day long against nine-time champion Antonio Cairoli. The race was held at Arco Di Trentino, the beautiful Italian track that serves as a home race for both Cairoli and Gajser, as it's the closest round to the Slovenian border, and hordes of Tim's fans come to watch and cheer him on with flags, smoke bombs, horns, and more.
Regarding GP wins, the factory Honda rider Gajser stopped Cairoli’s winning streak after the Italian legend had won the first three rounds of this series. Gajser, who had some serious injuries in both 2017 and 2018 (after winning the MXGP title in '16), got his first GP win since August '17, when he was victorious in Sweden, at Uddevalla. In defeating the points leader Cairoli, Gajser collected his career’s 16th GP win that is his 11th GP win in the premier class.
Still absent is reigning MXGP World Champion Jeffrey Herlings, out with a serious foot injury, though he did post some photos of himself riding a bicycle, which means he is at least starting the process of getting back in the game.
UPCOMING PULPMX/RACER X LIVE SHOWS
You wanna argue with us? Or maybe you just want to watch JT and Matthes argue in person? You will have three chances, as we are taking the PulpMX/Racer X Show live to Denver, East Rutherford, and Las Vegas.
We'll have all the usual characters assembled from both the PulpMX Show and our Racer X Race Review podcasts. You know ’em: Steve Matthes, Jason Weigandt, Jason Thomas, Kris Keefer, and more. We will be adding more guests, so stay tuned!
When: Friday, April 12 (the night before Denver Supercross)
Where: Oriental Theater4335 W 44th Ave.
Denver, CO, 80212