Welcome to Racerhead. It’s Friday the 13th, but it seems to be a lucky one since everyone has the weekend off! Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is pausing after another fantastic Red Bull RedBud National, where the whole 450 Class got turned upside down in ways that didn’t seem possible just three weeks ago after Eli Tomac won his fifth straight race to start the series. And across the water, the FIM Motocross World Championship is also taking a week off after a two-race trip to Indonesia for a couple of rounds (and a couple more Jeffrey Herlings wins) as he moves closer to knocking off Antonio Cairoli as Europe’s current King of Motocross.
For amateurs, however, there’s no rest this weekend, or for the next three weeks, as we head into the 38th Annual AMA Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. That’s the big one here for youth, amateur, and vet riders. Everyone does three long, sometimes hot/sometimes muddy/always rough motos to determine the best of the best in amateur motocross. (And look for the release next week of a podcast about the very first Loretta Lynn’s back in 1982, produced and narrated by Brett Smith of @wewentfast—it’s a fun, informative listen about how this whole thing got started in the first place. Find it on iTunes here and subscribe, or just search for the Racer X Podcast Network wherever you get your pods.)
But first, more on RedBud. The venue that will host the 2018 Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations in October was in pristine form for last Saturday’s big American motocross celebration. Tim Ritchie and crew had the track in perfect form, and Amy Ritchie and crew made the whole event hum. The place was as packed as I’ve ever seen it, and the racing delivered. Tomac’s first-moto breakdown and second-moto mishaps saw him start the day with a sizable points lead and end it with the red plate on the rejuvenated Marvin Musquin’s Red Bull KTM. And that first-moto win by Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen may have been a gift from Eli’s rotten luck, but it was a huge accomplishment for Kenny, who had not won as much as a moto since his well-documented arm injuries of last January and this past February.
The good news for Tomac is that he didn’t get hurt in either of his recent setbacks at Southwick and RedBud, and he almost certainly gets to go back to RedBud in October and ride with a vengeance, which bodes well for Team USA and could spell trouble for the rest of the world. He will likely see Musquin there again for the red-hot French team (they’ve won four in a row) and Roczen, who will almost certainly race for his native Germany. He also gets to see the hottest rider of all, the Dutch wunderkind Herlings (for the first time since they split moto wins at the MXGP of the Americas last September at WW Ranch in Jacksonville), and, of course, the Italian legend Cairoli. Tomac is a proud rider who seemed to be aiming for a perfect summer. That’s all wrecked now, so let’s hope he carries the wrath into October.
Here is a funny video I shot of Eli preparing his far-outside starting gate after his first-moto DNF while leading. When the music picked up, Tomac just seemed to go with it with his own little (starting) line dance!
While the second Team USA 450 rider seems to be up in the air—Yamaha’s Justin Barcia is looking fast and fit, but AMA Supercross Champion Jason Anderson should be back soon and would still have time to get his hat in the ring—the 250 rider is looking more and more like it will be Aaron Plessinger. AP23 is starting to ease away from the pack (though not without some banging, as we saw with Austin Forkner). He won both motos at RedBud and straight-up beat a rider who very well may be on the defending champs’ team from France, his teammate Dylan Ferrandis. Plessinger is already an AMA 250SX West Region Champion this year and has a 45-point lead after seven rounds of the outdoor nationals. He absolutely flies at RedBud and is beginning to build a great relationship with the fans there, given his playfulness on the podium, his love of hucking LaRocco’s Leap at every chance, and the solid team behind him.
He’s also somehow avoided many of the big crashes that have taken down several of the other top riders in the 250 Class. Defending champ Zach Osborne went out at Thunder Valley, two-time champ Jeremy Martin at Muddy Creek, and then both Austin Forkner and RJ Hampshire, each runners-up in a moto at RedBud, crashed out of the other one—Forkner in that tangle with Plessinger and Hampshire in that nasty start-stretch crash, both of which were captured by the NBC TV crews.
With that, let’s get started with the rest of Racerhead on a slow weekend, and here’s hoping everyone has a safe and lucky Friday the 13th….
PLANES, TRAINS, TRAVEL… (DC)
On Sunday morning I walked into the South Bend Airport in Indiana at about 10 a.m., dreading the three-hour layover that awaited me in Detroit, where my trip to Pittsburgh would stop after a short 30-minute flight. I had some work to do, so it was no big deal, but still, I wanted to be home on Sunday early!
As I was walking through the airport, however, I noticed Sam from Team Honda sound asleep on a bench. Behind him sat Rockstar Husqvarna’s Dave Feeney, looking half-asleep, as well as another member of the squad. Then I saw Red Bull KTM’s Roger DeCoster and Ian Harrison huddled with Johnny O’Mara talking shop, and even Ehab, our side tech who was buried in a book. No one looked like they were in a hurry. They looked miserably uncomfortable, too.
Turns out that they were all supposed to be on a 6:45 a.m. flight to start their collective journeys back to Southern California, but the airplane they were scheduled to embark on had a mechanical issue.
“They are waiting on a part that has to get here, then replace it, check it, and then let us go,” explained Feeney, Zach Osborne’s multi-title-winning mechanic. “The problem is once we get to the next airport, we have as much as a four-hour delay before we take off for San Diego. I had planned to spend all day in the pool with the grandkids, but now I may not be home until after dinner!”
Such is life on the road. Fortunately, they all made it back—eventually.
How the Sausage is Made (Jason Weigandt)
It's an off-weekend for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, but the work continues. I know because this week, I decided to become part of the North Carolina MX rat race and hit up some of the practice tracks to see how work gets done. On Tuesday, I met Phil Nicoletti at 7:15 a.m. for a lift down to Club MX (well, it was 7:20. I was five minutes late and Phil wasn't happy). It's a long commute down to Club MX, but Phil was aiming for 9:30 a.m. motos alongside a bunch of amateurs prepping for Loretta's, as well as fellow pros Cameron McAdoo and Justin Brayton. Phil has returned to Club now that he's no longer part of the Autotrader/Yoshimura Suzuki team, but because he rode there for years, you get the feel that he's a de facto leader of the group. Or maybe that's just because Phil has zero filter and will tell everyone what he thinks. If you're an amateur, this is, um, good feedback, I think?
The main Club MX track is sandy, rough, and fast. It's the kind of thing you would buy a poster of and just stare out for hours ripping it up in your mind. There's an even sandier track in the back and a Vet-style track across the street that's actually open for practice on weekends. I didn't even know that. Luckily, we had a brief break from the normal heat and humidity on this day, but I'd imagine most summer days down there are super, super gnarly. Which is the point.
On Thursday I headed over to Cooper Webb's track, which is closer to Charlotte. What's funny is that most of the Club MX kids I saw on Tuesday were also at Webb's place, because these dudes like to do motos together and rough the tracks up. Webb's track is way different than Club MX. It's deep clay, and Cooper has his track man water the crap out of it to create super deep ruts. Sound like a national? Yup, that's the point. Coop's track doesn't look like the stuff dreams are made of, like Club MX, but it's awesome for technical rut practice that will come in handy at a place like RedBud or Loretta's. Cooper was so darned precise, too. It was impressive to see his skills under the microscope like that.
The riding is only part of the deal at places like this. Between the motos, you're watching a dozen or so hardcore moto heads sitting in lawn chairs resting between rides. As you would imagine, the bench-racing is epic. I seriously think dudes could charge fans to come and hang out for the day and make a handy profit. It's worth a visit for the conversations alone. I'll be writing about this stuff more extensively next week, so stay tuned. In the meantime, thanks to Club MX and Cooper Webb for having me, and thanks to Filthy Phil for the ride, which I did not donate a single cent to for fuel. #Winning
Saving the Industry with Blippi (Weigandt)
One other note this week: My three-year-old son Lane is mega-super-bonkers crazy about dirt bikes. And like most kids these days, he doesn't care for traditional TV and would rather just cruise YouTube. He's become a huge fan of this YouTube kids' video host Blippi. Blippi is a crazy guy who shows you how bulldozers work, how you drive a police car, or how a fire engine runs. It's basically an adult showing kids cool adult toys. Blippi has covered nearly every vehicle imaginable except for dirt bikes. One day, my wife suggested I find a way to get Blippi to produce a dirt bike video, because the hits on these are massive and it would certainly help promote the sport.
I had no idea how to do this, so I emailed my buddy Chris Jonnum from Honda's PR agency and made a suggestion. Maybe Honda could make something happen with Blippi? Chris told me thanks for the suggestion, and then, suddenly, three months later he told me the Blippi video was happening!
They shot it at Perris Raceway in May. The video finally debuted yesterday, and it's already up to 165,000 views in 24 hours. That's nuts!
Anyway, if you've got a kid age 0-5, this will be the coolest video they watch this year. Hopefully little things like this get more kids on dirt bikes. We need it. Tip of the visor to Blippi, Honda, and Chris Jonnum for making it happen, and also to Factory Connection Honda amateur ripper Hunter Yoder for starring as Blippi's riding coach. One hundred and sixty thousand kids watching dirt bikes in one day is certainly a good thing.
Wings for Life (Kyle Scott)
Last night, the Wings for Life Foundation held an event at Fox Racing headquarters in Irvine, California, to promote a scavenger hunt fundraiser they will be hosting with support from Red Bull, Fox Racing, K1 Speed, Oakley, and Volcom in the Orange County area on November 3.
Wings for Life is a spinal cord research foundation founded by two-time motocross world champion Heinz Kinigadner and the founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz, after Kinigadner’s son suffered an accident that left him tetraplegic in 2003. The foundation contributes 100 percent of its donations toward spinal cord research and helping injured athletes. Contrary to the popular belief that spinal cord injuries are a permanent sentence, the Wings for Life Foundation has proven that with certain treatments, significant improvements in limitations and cures are possible. There are even cases where athletes have made full recoveries. With spinal cord injuries making up such a small percentage of injuries throughout all sports, the amount of funding and research is low, which is why Wings for Life was born.
At last night’s event, Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, and other motocross industry folks were on hand to help raise awareness of the foundation and to interact with the injured athletes in attendance. Mario Bonfante, Jr., is one individual who is an example of someone who has been able to make an improvement on his condition. Mario is a former superbike racer who was injured on a BMX bike several years ago in a backflip attempt. After breaking his neck, Mario was left quadriplegic. After several years of rehab and hard work, Mario has regained the use of his arms and has even gone on to become a racecar driver using hand controls he designed himself. Mario’s hand control design has turned quite a few heads and is even being picked up by BMV and other rental car companies for others to be able to use as well. Aaron Baker, spinal cord injury ambassador, Wings For Life board member, and alternative athlete, was also on hand and spoke on behalf of the foundation.
Be sure to check out www.wingsforlife.com/us to learn more and to donate toward spinal cord research. On November 3, there will be a scavenger hunt where the participants will be bused to several locations while interacting with top professional athletes during the hunt. The scavenger hunt will consist of up to 150 people and teams of four; teams must raise at least $1400 in addition to the $300 registration fee to participate. One hundred percent of the donations will be put toward Wings for Life spinal cord research. To register, visit www.wflscavengerhunt.com.
Check out some photos from the event:
2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_29_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_23_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_13_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_10_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_11_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_12_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_04_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_16_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_27_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_03_WM Kyle Scott 2018-07-12_Wings-For-Life_Sano_08_WM Kyle Scott
At RedBud, the centerpiece of Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross, it was a great day for French rider Marvin Musquin. The 450 win was his second consecutive victory in ’18, giving him the points lead, and it is the first time since 2000 that a rider from France has been able to win the 250/450 national at RedBud. Eighteen years ago it was Team Honda’s Sebastien Tortelli—like Musquin, a two-time FIM World Champion. By winning at RedBud, Musquin made both KTM and French motocross celebrate milestones. Thanks to Musquin, KTM got its 60th win in the history of the AMA Motocross, while Musquin got the 70th French podium in the history of the 250/450 national.
In the past few years, KTM has become one of the most important brands in AMA Motocross. Before 2012, KTM had only ten wins here, all in the 125 Class, but since 2012, KTM has become the winningest brand in the nationals. Since ’12, the Austrian brand has collected 50 wins in the 250 and 450 classes. By RedBud, KTM got 21 wins in the 125/250 nationals and 39 in the 250/450 nationals.
Also, before 2016, French riders had 51 podiums in the 450 national. Since then, Musquin took 19 podiums in 31 rounds; only Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac has more. In that period, Musquin became the second most successful French podium athlete in 250/450 motocross, and he could get also the 70th podium for the French motocross in the AMA Motocross premier class.
KTM’s 60 AMA motocross wins
Jean-Michel Bayle also had ten podiums in the old 500 MX class, which disappeared after the 1993 season.
HERLINGS DOING 60 (Andras Hegyi)
Dutch superstar Jeffrey Herlings keeps climbing in the record books, and his reputation as a warrior is also increasing. On June 13, he crashed while practicing, breaking his right collarbone and two ribs. The same day, he underwent surgery (it was the third time that his right collarbone had been operated on), and he missed the 11th round of the FIM Motocross World Championship. He returned two weeks later and he won the MXGP of Indonesia, then the MXGP of Asia, also organized in Indonesia. Within 18 days of his injury, he was able to win again, and in only 25 days time he was able to get double moto wins. The Indonesian wins were his 76th and 77th Grand Prix wins.
Beside ten-time world champion Stefan Everts and nine-time world champ Antonio Cairoli, Herlings has become only the third rider to win at least ten GPs in an MX1/MXGP season. Herlings also got his 60th double-moto win, which is the all-time record. Cairoli, Herlings’ main rival this season, has 47 double-moto wins, while Everts had 42; however, there were one-moto formats in '03 and '04 when Everts was at the top of his game.
Herlings’ double-moto wins
Motocrossers to win at least ten GP wins in an MX1/MXGP season
PETE WEIDNER, R.I.P. (DC)
In doing our series On This Day in Motocross, it was fun to go back and look at the events of July 11, which included the '92 Los Angeles Supercross finale between Jeff Stanton and Damon Bradshaw and the '76 Valvoline 125cc U.S. Grand Prix of Motocross at Mid-Ohio, which featured a remarkable two-moto duel between Marty Smith and Bob "Hurricane" Hannah. But in mentioning that race, which lasted between 1975 and 1981, someone let me know that Mid-Ohio MX promoter Pete Weidner passed away on June 18. He was 78 years old.
Weidner ran the track in Lexington, Ohio, that also hosted Trans-AMA and Trans-USA rounds, an Inter-AMA and 125 National in 1974, as well as local and regional racing. Weidner's passing came just two weeks before the fatal traffic accident that took the life of 500cc U.S. Grand Prix promoter Gavin Trippe, who was also 78. Like Trippe, Weidner was very influential in the growth of motocross in this country in the seventies by hosting so many international events. The Mid-Ohio MX Raceway has been gone since the early eighties, but Pete Weidner's contributions to our sport should never be forgotten.
And speaking of On This Day in Moto, today we missed some all-but-forgotten races from 1975, and a big one in Europe. The July 13 Herman, Nebraska, Inter-AMA race was more or less the beginning of the end of Edison Dye's Inter-AMA Series, which was really the birth of professional motocross in America. The series started in 1967 but had been overtaken by '75 by the late-fall Trans-AMA Series, the AMA National Motocross Series, and the fledgling Yamaha Super-Series of Stadium Motocross, soon to be called AMA Supercross.
At the race in Nebraska, Tony DiStefano won the 250cc Inter-AMA—in fact, he would win all three rounds of the brief series. And in the 125 national that ran as its support class, Team Honda's Marty Smith won, as expected.
In St. Gabriel de Brandon, Canada, another new series was taking place with the inaugural FIM 125cc World Championships holding a round north of the border. The winner was Russian CZ rider Antonin Babarovsky over Belgian Zundapp rider Gilbert DeRoover; Yamaha factory rider Yoshifumio Sugio was third.
And finally, in West Germany, Suzuki’s Roger DeCoster reclaimed his crown from Finland’s Heikki Mikkola as FIM 500cc World Champion. DeCoster swept both motos to claim his fourth world title in five years with Suzuki.
Behind the scenes at RedBud with AC!
"Burglar Breaks Into Escape Room, Calls 911 When He Can’t Escape" — CBS, San Francisco
"Starbucks Bans Plastic Straws, Winds Up Using More Plastic..." —Drudgereport.com
Our man with the berm in New England, Paul Buckley, let us know that the New England Sports Committee is having a 60th Anniversary Celebration next weekend, July 21-22, at Crow Hill MX Park in Baldwinville, Maine. All the events on Saturday are free, courtesy of the NESC and a few of the tracks in New England.
A note from Andrea Leib, On Track School founder and director:
Dear Class of 2018
We are proud to announce our annual graduation ceremony and extend an invitation to you and your family to join us in celebrating your successful achievement with On Track School.
Every year our friends who promote the Amateur National Championship, held at Loretta Lynn's, honor our school by hosting our graduation ceremony on the big stage at the ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. MX Sports and Racer X care deeply about your education and take the time to recognize your success.
Please join us Friday evening, August 3, 2018 (Before the Talent Show)
RSVP by 7/20/18 and we will bring your diploma and graduation attire.
We will meet stage left.
It has been an honor to partner with you on your journey. Thank you.
Qualifying for Loretta Lynn's is no small achievement, and certainly not everyone has the skills to do so, but YOU did! Let the world know with Racer X Brands Officially Qualified Shirt! Available in adult and youth sizing. Only $20 on Racer X Brand.
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That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.