Welcome to Racerhead. After two tough, weather-challenged weekends, Monster Energy AMA Supercross is pretty much guaranteed to have better weather this weekend when they head to Arlington (and back inside) for the seventh round of what’s turning out to be an incredibly close season. Four guys are within two points at the top, we’ve had four different winners in six races, and the points leader right now—Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen—has yet to win! Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb has won three of the last four and is just one point behind Kenny, and then one point behind Cooper is Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and Webb’s teammate Marvin Musquin, who has also yet to win. Now we have Zach Osborne joining the championship this coming weekend, which could add even more interest to how it’s all be going. It’s good stuff!
And last weekend, wow, it was cold stuff. Minneapolis was right in the middle of that polar vortex deal, and it was about as cold as I have ever been. All the riders pitted inside in the bowels of the stadium, which made for some very close quarters. Privateers and factory teams were side-by-side, and as Rockstar Husqvarna SX debutant Thomas Covington told me, it was like an MXGP flyaway race, where everyone works out of shipping containers in a confined space. It was tight down there, but it was also pretty cool—sort of like the old days when teams pitted underneath the stands (or even out on the floor behind the starting gate) at the Seattle Kingdome, the Pontiac Silverdome, the Houston Astrodome, and more.
Of course, the thing everyone was talking about before the race started wasn’t the Minneapolis weather, but rather the San Diego weather the week before, and the aftereffects of the drying agents that were added to the track. To their credit, the people at Feld Entertainment are doing their best to make good on the unintended damage that the corrosive material caused, and also meeting with the riders and hearing them out—there was a Saturday morning get-together between the supercross organizers and any of the riders who wanted to come, and even a roundtable with the media, which Jason Weigandt attended and covered for Racer X Online.
And though there weren’t as many riders in attendance at that get-together as some had hoped, it appears that Tyler Bowers is trying to pull together some kind of organization and communication between the riders—he posted this on his Instagram (@tylerbowers):
No sooner had that begun to clear itself up than another controversial topic reared its head again. If you're wondering what the difference was between Dean Wilson's Ignite CBD oil sponsorship logos not being allowed at the early rounds and Chad Reed's cbdMD logo that popped up on his helmet this past weekend, so were we—and so was Feld Entertainment, the AMA, and NBC. Contrary to popular opinion (and the obvious direction things are going), CBD is still not legal in all 50 states, and until federal regulations say otherwise, it's problematic for both broadcaster and event promoters to allow the logos to be run by athletes.
The inconsistency of Wilson not being allowed to run Ignite but Reed being allowed to run cbdMD on his helmet was a matter of both location and timing. CBD oil is legal in Minnesota, but advertising it comes with specific provisions. However, it has been seen before on athletes in U.S. Bank Stadium during the X Games, which airs on a different network. Apparently, no one knew Reed was going to have this new sponsor until the day of the race, and then it became too late to track down the lawyers to get a clear ruling, so he was allowed to wear it, so long as he took full responsibility for any fines or penalties that may come. (Also, unlike Wilson's sponsor Ignite, cbdMD does not use the same logo to sell cannabis.)
Now, for this weekend's race in Texas, where CBD oils are not legal, no CBD logos will be allowed on the bikes or riders. And in order to avoid any more controversy or inconsistencies before new federal regulations are announced, officials will not allow any rider in the pits or on the racetrack to display CBD oils sponsorship or logos until further notice.
And in case you’re wondering, here is the law in Texas: Only some products are legal, require a doctor’s prescription, and must be purchased at a limited number of dispensaries (none of which advertise their products at this time).
To be continued.
Minneapolis was also the opener of the 250SX East Region, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner overcame a rough afternoon in practice and timed qualifying to win the main event and take the first 250SX East red plate. Add that to his teammate Adam Cianciarulo’s current points lead in the 250SX West Region and it’s first time in two years that Mitch Payton’s team has held both red plates. The last time it happened was this same point in 2017, when Justin Hill was leading the West after six rounds and then Joey Savatgy won the East Region opener.
And here is an excellent longform read on Austin Forkner and his family, courtesy of Brett Smith and We Went Fast.
Zach is back (Jason "Wheels" Todd)
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne will make his 450 debut tomorrow night here in Arlington. We checked in with him today during press day to see how he was feeling, and there’s not another person inside AT&T stadium with a bigger smile on their face than Zach O. He reminded me of a kid on the first day of school—just stoked to see everyone and having a good time.
“I’m just happy to be racing finally. I did a lot of training in the off-season, only to have it all kind of go away right before Anaheim,” he told us. “To finally be back here and ready to ride is a nice feeling.”
What’s the goal for the number 16 this weekend? Before the injuries he feels like he was on a level to win some races, now the goal is to get his feet wet, complete some main events, and see where he stacks up.
“The main thing is keeping myself in a good safe position where I’m not around sketchy people or whatever," he said, "so for me the main focus is going to be the start and just putting in the laps.”
After the first six rounds, Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb is the only rider with more than one win. Last Saturday in Minneapolis he took his third victory of 2019. This is the 16th season in which a rider has managed to get three wins in the first six races. (This is not counting other seasons in which a rider could get four, five, or six wins in the first six rounds.) But getting three wins in the first six rounds is not a guaranteed championship. In fact, there were six seasons in which riders got three wins in the first six rounds but could not close the deal: Darrell Shultz (1981), Ricky Johnson ('87), Ezra Lusk ('99), David Vuillemin (2002), and James Stewart ('06 and '11).
250/450 SX seasons in which a rider got three wins in the first six rounds
1978: Bob Hannah (champion)
1979: Bob Hannah (champion)
1980: Mike Bell (champion)
1981: Darrell Shultz (Mark Barnett was champion)
1986: Rick Johnson (champion)
1987: Ricky Johnson (Jeff Ward was champion)
1991: Jean-Michel Bayle (champion)
1998: Jeremy McGrath (champion)
1999: Ezra Lusk (Jeremy McGrath was champion)
2002: David Vuillemin (Ricky Carmichael was champion)
2003: Ricky Carmichael (champion)
2006: Ricky Carmichael (champion)
2006: James Stewart (Ricky Carmichael was champion)
2011: James Stewart (Ryan Villopoto was champion)
2012: Ryan Villopoto (champion)
2018: Jason Anderson (champion)
2019: Cooper Webb
Warm ’Em Up (Aaron Hansel)
If you were in Minneapolis (and other supercross races), you may have noticed some of the teams using tire warmers. The reasons for this may seem fairly obvious. A warmer tire is going to be softer and stickier, which should translate to better grip on the dirt, right? Well, not really. That would be true with a road race tire, which Pirelli’s Doug Schopinsky says sticks best at roughly 170 degrees. But when it comes to dirt, Schopinsky says a bond between rubber and dirt is nonexistent.
“So many people are so confused because they're used to street products. They're used to rubber adhering,” Schopinsky explains. “It has a friction coefficient on asphalt, cement, and stuff like that, but there is no friction coefficient on dirt. There's absolutely no grip for rubber on terra firma. Rocks, tree roots, yeah, it'll grip. But it will not grip on dirt. With dirt tires, the whole idea is to have an open knobby pattern so it can cut into the soil.”
So if tires don’t adhere to dirt regardless of temperature, what’s the point of warming them up?
“The truth behind why factory teams use tire warmers is because they’re trying to get more movement out of the tire earlier in its life. It has nothing to do with achieving a higher friction coefficient,” Schopinksy says. “A lot of people say they like a tire after it's got a ride or two on it. Once you ride on a tire and relax it a little bit, it has a better footprint on the ground. With tire warmers, they're not trying to make the compound softer for grip or adhesion, they're making the compound softer so it's more pliable. They're warming it up so it has a better footprint.”
So there you have it. It probably won't make you faster, but at least now you know!
YAMAHA PRIVATEER CHALLENGE (Steve Matthes)
We announced this at the beginning of the year and just thought I'd update you all on a cool deal that Yamaha is letting PulpMX do. They gave us a 2019 YZ450F to do whatever we wanted with. We thought about giving it to a privateer as a practice bike, we thought about using it as a demo bike for us then giving it away to a fan, but in the end, we thought about creating a Privateer Challenge—and because no one knows what a true privateer is anymore, we just went with the guys who don't make the main in the 450SX class. For $20 you get a raffle ticket for a brand-new YZ450F, and PulpMX sponsors like Works Connection, Race Tech, FMF, Roost, Vortex, GUTS, Michelin, and FXR have all stepped up to deck out the bike for the winner. All of the money goes to the top three privateers in the points at the end of the year.
What points? So we're tallying up the points in the LCQ from 5th (first guy to not make the main) to 20th, so it's a series within a series. Everyone wants to make the main, but if you don't, at least you accrue points toward being the best rider to not make the mains? I don't know, seems cool to us.
How we doing? Well, as of this typing, there's over 16K raised right now for the bike! Pretty awesome and thank you. To get a raffle ticket and learn more, go here.
Thanks to Yamaha for this cool opportunity! #BluCru
Dean Wilson continues to impress us with his efforts not only on the racetrack, but also on his personal marketing efforts ("Grandpa Earl," the Ignite "censored" logo drama, and hooking a kid up with a minicycle) as well as his continued efforts to help his competitors with his 2019 Deano Merch Privateer Performance Card. Wilson, once again back on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team, gives $150 to someone who is still in the privateer ranks. Our own Jason "Wheels" Todd got with Deano to talk about the program, which has already benefitted fellow riders like Jerry Robin, Chris Blose, Carlen Gardner, and more.
Back in the day, when we’d just started producing the souvenir yearbooks for what is now Monster Energy AMA Supercross, we were able to start a similar program we called the Racer X Privateer Gas Card, where we basically gave gas money to the next race to the highest-finishing non-qualifier in the LCQ (which, back when only 20 riders made the main event, was third place). The program proved to be really popular, and soon we had fans asking to match the money we put up so they could help out too. What is now Feld Entertainment allowed us to give each co-sponsor a couple of tickets, and pretty soon it was a nice bonus for the top finisher who did not make the main (which was almost always a privateer). We were soon joined by Doc Bodnar and the Mobile Medical Unit, who started a gas card for the 125cc class. Our program came to an end when the series itself needed more sponsorship inventory, and since we weren't actually a series sponsor, we were fine to hand off to others to continue and expand. It eventually morphed into the Road 2 Recovery Ultimate VIP Fan Experience, which continues to support the foundation as well as what is now the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Unit.
Now, to see an actual rider like Dean Wilson doing something grassroots and on his own to benefit his fellow competitors who don't have the same kind of support Deano does is very cool. Karma is good for #15 and his supporters! And the same goes for Matthes and Yamaha and all of the PulpMX sponsors and followers who have their own privateer program going on. Well done, Steve.
Hey, everyone, we did it before and it worked, so why not try again? Friday night in Denver at the Oriental Theater, we'll have another live podcast show with myself, JT, Weege, Keefer and some special guests. Thanks to Yamaha and Performance Cycle for helping us make this happen and hopefully we see you jerkies there. To buy tickets go HERE.
FINDING ROBERT HAAG (DC)
Last week in Racerhead I mentioned the mystery of one Robert Haag, the third-place finisher in the first AMA 125 Pro Motocross National, at Hangtown in 1974. Well, we got a letter this week from Robert himself, who not only solved the mystery of his whereabouts, but also explained in detail what his short, spectacular professional career was like, as he and the rest of a generation of fast guys were chasing Marty Smith and Bob Hannah throughout the seventies:
Thanks for the nice write-up, a friend sent it to me. It's an honor for a guy who was just a blip in mx history. I currently live in Las Cruces, NM, with my Konimon business restoring and selling early KONI shocks. Still riding on the local trails and do a couple VMX races a year. Went up to Boise last year for the Inter-Am and got to see Thorleif Hanson again after about 35 years. Also saw Gunnar Lindstrom, Scott Wallenberg, Broc Glover and bunch of other old friends.
You mentioned an update on my mysterious career. Sorry this is so long, but I will try to touch on the intricacies of the mental side of racing which gets so little attention. I think there's a place to share more about the mental, psychological, and spiritual components of MX, and maybe it could help some others with the extreme challenges and frustrations of racing, which parallel being happy and successful in life in general.
I did ride several other pro races, including Trans-AMA support races, qualifiers, and three other AMA Nationals along with those two you wrote of. I also got to race both Evel Knievel MX events, and the 1974 125 "World Championship" at Arroyo.
At my first AMA pro race I got 3rd 250 at Ontario Motor Speedway in '73. Then I had that dream day, 3rd at Hangtown 125 in '74. Got 3rd again at the '74 Superbowl high-school race also with Marty Smith winning (would love to see if anyone has photos and info on that event). A VMX friend condescendingly calls me “3rd place Haag….”
A few details: At Hangtown I was in really good shape for the three grueling 30-minute motos. Having just come off water polo season my senior year at Corona Del Mar HS (swimming and water polo were my first sport from age 5). There was a few months between Hangtown and the rest of the short series, and though I was still training, I was not in as good of shape. But really it came down to getting psyched out having had a couple of months to overthink things. Also by '74 Husky had a very tight budget and I was getting very little support. The Marty Smith mystique was growing and by the time I got to Utah, camping out or sleeping in my van on a shoestring, somehow on Saturday I ended up in the hot tub at his motel with him and a few of his buddies. I got so nervous and psyched out my race was already over!
Have to laugh about it now, but I was quiet and really a closet introvert, so hanging out with the stars could just crush me. Sunday I had a terrible day, and the next week in KS was even worse. So my girlfriend and I headed back home to So Cal. I quit so easy it's hard to believe, but it was just the beginning of a long story...
Raced locally the next year '75 on a Can Am GP support ride out of Orange County Cycle, and had a great and fun year, mostly cherry-picking smaller events. End of the year I had a serious knee injury and again gave up in defeat.
So again I went back to water polo and swimming for two years at Orange Coast College. During that time I rented a room from old HS friend Dean Bradley in CDM. Had a great time, even got to play in Europe, and my knee got stronger and I was ready to race again, as the dream was always with me. So in '78 I got a new Suzuki C2 and did well in my first few local races. Was riding quite a bit, some on that secret GP-style track of Gary Semics and Jimmy Weinert in the hills of Laguna, but was not really fully prepared for Hangtown though I did OK and had a fun day. Must admit when guys like Bob Hannah passed me in another time zone, again I was pretty psyched out and defeated.
Was excited about my next race at Escape Country. Did OK in my qualifier, but in the main just froze up. Literally had a panic attack and got tunnel vision. Managed to mostly calm down and was riding around mid-pack, then got hit by Jimmy Ellis lapping me. We both went down and my bike landed on the same knee, in one of those really deep rutted turns, and I had a very bad knee injury. Was in a cast for six months. So all summer I got to think about it and begin to look more deeply at my problems, blockages, negative scripts and hidden agendas.
I tried coming back but somehow I knew I was probably just going to repeat the pattern, and that would just be too painful. So I let the dream go and stayed away from motorcycles for about 15 years, though the questions were always with me.
All this eventually led to a lifelong journey of self-discovery, in coming to understand and heal why and how so many things went wrong, and how to make them right. As in all journeys of the heart, passion, and intensity, there were many ups and downs, successes and failures. After a lot of personal work, I came to realize I'm not a quitter or loser, I just took a fork in the road and went at a different pace. Ironically, other than on a motorcycle, I tend to do things very slowly and methodically.
So up at Boise last year I also ran into Marty. He was so respectful, complimentary, and positive. No longer jealous or envious, I was so impressed and could appreciate and enjoy his accomplishments, character and humility, and was proud to have played a small part in helping to make him look so good!
I'm still a big fan of MX and enjoy watching the races on TV. I feel so much admiration for all the racers, their friends and families, on their own unique and very challenging journeys. I always hope and pray that no one gets hurt, and when they do I hope and pray it leads to even greater things for them and their growth too.
Thank you very much for your time and interest and service to the greater good. Life can be rough. Motocross is a tough but very good teacher. I will always be grateful for it being a big part of my life.
P.S. I remember reading of when your dad died [in 1998]. I appreciated you sharing it with us, and I felt it along with you. I'm sure you still miss him greatly. My dad also just loved racing. He passed away last week, and somehow I feel this may all be connected, so I added the photo with him.
Cole Seely joined us on The Whiskey Throttle Show this week and it was a fun, candid interview with the Honda HRC rider. Cole talked us through his early years, the time he quit and went to college and his lucky break with the Troy Lee Designs race team. Seely is a very talented guy and very down-to-earth. You can watch the show on YouTube or listen to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify or Stitcher.
KTM also unveiled their 2019.5 FE 450 this week at Fox Raceway. The new machine comes with a host of changes geared at making the engine feel lighter and quicker-revving, better handling and keeping that factory look. By all accounts the bike is an improvement from the standard 2019 model and between the slip-on Akrapovic muffler, black rims and spokes with orange nipples, Red Bull graphics, orange frame, updated WP suspension settings, engine changes and gripper seat... it's probably $1000 extra dollars well spent. I had a blast on the bike and it certainly gets a big thumbs up from me. Stay tuned to Racer X Online for the video.
Well, since we had such good success in tracking down Robert, we decided to go back in The Vault to find another rider who really jumped out at us, and he's listed as being from Minnesota as well. Back in 1985, a rider named Gary Bronikowski lined up on a Can-Am for the Spring Creek 500 National. He finished 15th overall in a race won by Honda factory superstar David Bailey. What's so interesting here is the fact that no one had raced a Can-Am in an AMA Motocross race for the past four years when Bronikowski showed up on one at Spring Creek. Later on he would race multiple other nationals at Spring Creek, Washougal, and Broome-Tioga, but always on a Honda. That 1985 finish is the last ever in The Vault for a Can-Am, a brand that won the AMA Supercross Championship just a decade earlier.
Bronikowksi is listed as being in the Minnesota Motorcycle Hall of Fame, but we couldn't find much there either.
RETURN OF THE MINT 400 (DC)
For the first time since 1975, dirt bikes will be racing as part of the Mint 400, the renowned desert race that was almost lost the dustbin of history. It began in the late 1960s in Las Vegas and was first sponsored by the Mint Hotel & Casino. It almost immediately became a huge success. Notoriety followed in the form of gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson's trip to the 1971 race to ostensibly cover it for Sports Illustrated, but after some very heavy partying, that turned into a Rolling Stone article, and then the novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Within a few years the race—especially the motorcycles—had attracted too much attention from environmentalists as well as the Bureau of Land Management. The last motorcycle race went off in 1975, and the overall winners were the Yamaha-mounted duo of Jack Johnson and Mark Mason. (Cool fact: The 1972 winners were Husqvarna factory motocross racers Rolf Tibblin, a multi-time 500cc World Champion from Sweden, and Bob Grossi, who was a member of the first Team USA at the 1970 Trophy des Nations.)
Here is the race scene from the 1998 Johnny Depp movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.
As a collector of all things moto, I'm lucky to occasionally come across some real gems. The office collection has a six-pack set of Roger DeCoster beer glasses, Rough Rider lunchboxes, uncut sheets of Hi Flyer trading cards, a Heikki Mikkola belt buckle and matching badge, and so on and so forth.
But every now and then I come across some real head-scratchers—moto-related things that don't quite completely make sense. Take this Scholastic trading card from the early 1980s. It says "Trophy des Nations" but is spelled differently than the old Trophee des Nations, and the photo depicts the 1979 Daytona Supercross. And the riders are the late Marty Moates (175), Steve Wise (15), and John Ayers (99).
And then there's this Revell All-Star Card someone sent over from 1977. It's signed across the top by Husqvarna off-road legend Malcolm Smith, but the photos from the 1972 Superbowl of Motocross and the rider is actually Gunnar Lindstrom, the father of Team Honda mechanic Lars.
And how about this educational poster for some kind of engineering class featuring a random motocross shot from the 1970s of a guy on an Ossa. It's not exactly a Marty Smith Team Honda book cover like they used to give out at Honda dealerships, but it would still make my day if it was hanging on the math classroom wall when I was at Cheat Lake Junior High!
Finally, last week we mentioned the Mecum Auction in Las Vegas that Rick Doughty of Vintage Iron attended. Well, he surprised me this week when this sweet poster from 1972 of the Spanish-language version of On Any Sunday (Prueba 1) showed up on my desk. Anything with Steve McQueen and Malcolm Smith and Mert Lawwill is cool on its own, but this is even better because the photo is from the 1971 Daytona Motocross—the first time they raced dirt bikes on the infield of Daytona International Speedway, and the precursor to what became the Daytona Supercross, and ultimately the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. Thanks, Rick! (And now I will wait for Ludo Boinnard of 100%, a collector of all things Steve McQueen, to call.…)
And speaking of Malcolm Smith, check out the frightening stories of what happened to the icon as well as his son Alexander, each of whom ended up in the hospital with serious injuries, one from a golf cart, the other from a cow! Thanks to Mitch Boehm for helping us out with Malcolm and Alexander’s stories.
And congrats to Malcolm on being named as the AMA’s Dud Perkins Award winner for his lifetime contribution to motorcycling!
Hey, Watch It!
Four-time Monster Energy AMA Supercross champion Ryan Dungey was on Race Day Live in Minneapolis to talk about his work with St. Jude.
This Minneapolis GoPro footage from atop Jordon Smith's helmet shows just how close the finish of the perfectly executed the rear tire exchange was to the start of the 250SX East Region main event.
We also get to see some of what Dean Wilson saw in the 450SX main event.
Here is the Arlington animated course preview:
And we mentioned the return of motorcycle racing to the Mint 400 above and showed some cinematic footage from Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Here's what real desert racing looked like back in the day with JN Roberts, courtesy of ElRod Racing.
The Whiskey Throttle Show hosts David Pingree and Grant Langston had a cool show this week when Team HRC Honda's Cole Seely dropped by. Check it out right here:
Josh Strang getting ready for the start of GNCC:
They went to an abandoned home to smoke weed. Inside, they found a tiger —CNN.com
American parents say their children are speaking in British accent after watching too much Peppa Pig —ITV.com
Our regular contributor Nick McCabe likes to track down racers and industry personalities from the past for our Where Are They Now? features. Earlier this week he got with two-time AMA 125 National Champion Steve Lamson for what turned out to be an epic and open discussion about where Lammy's been—and what he's been through—the past couple of years. It's a heavy read but well worth it.
The Spring Creek that runs alongside the Spring Creek MX Park literally froze over, as you can see by this photo by Greta Martin sent.
Just figures that one of these guys would have a food sponsor.
The KTM kids may have gotten a bum deal the previous weekend in San Diego with all of the mud, but in Minneapolis, due to the cold outside and the lack of space inside, they got to pit right next to the Red Bull KTM team's Marvin Musquin and eventual race winner Cooper Webb.
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Want to win a brand-new 2019 Yamaha YZ450F? Here is your chance.
If you are attending the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross this weekend in Arlington, all you need to do is stop by the Racer X booth—located in the Party in the Pits—and enter into the drawing to win a new 2019 Yamaha YZ450F.
The winner will be picked at the end of the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season and announced on Racer X Online.
The sweepstakes is just the start. Stop by the booth and subscribe for as low as $10 and receive a FREE Racer X Drawstring Bag. You will also receive a complimentary magazine. See you at the races!
Finally, something heavy: FMX rider Colin “Scummy” Morrison has been doing a series of interviews called Talking Sobriety, and in a recent episode he interviewed former factory rider Nico Izzi, who is in prison right now in Michigan. Izzi talks about a lot of the issues he’s been having, how they started, how bad it got, and how he ultimately ended up in prison facing ten years. Again, it’s heavy.
Thanks for reading Racerhead. See you at the races.