December 30, 2005

Sparkplug 34

The Year in Motocross: 20 Things that took me by surprise in 2005

1) The rain at A1. In all the years that I've attended that race, that was the first time it rained... and it poured! My usual strategy of buying my tickets at my local Yamaha dealer backfired, as they didn't get assigned tickets for the first round. My good friend Paul Fleming came through with extra tickets, but they were three rows from the field, uncovered, right out there in the downpour. It was, as you probably remember, a fantastic race.
2) James Stewart's second round injury. What a huge letdown that was for the entire series.
3) Chad Reed's Daytona domination, particularly after getting smoked by RC at the race in Atlanta. Reedy showed a lot of heart there.
4) How good the Monster/Pro Circuit Kawasakis looked. Not only were they easily the prettiest bikes in the pits, but they were apparently pretty quick,too.
5) James Stewart pulling off in the second moto at Hangtown. Right there, I thought “this is not his year”… what an understatement!
6) Grant Langston throwing his championship away in the second moto at Hangtown. I thought it was an unsportsmanlike move when I was at the track; when I saw the tape, it was clear that he didn't intentionally try to run a “pick-up pass” on Mike Alessi, but still he should have chilled and taken the second place... he would have still won the overall for the day.
7) Mike Alessi losing his mind at Glen Helen in the final moto. Incredible to watch, sure, but a dark day for sportsmanship.
8) Ivan Tedesco. Talk about stepping it up, “Tabasco” showed the nation that he is truly an all-around motocross fastguy.
9) How cool it was to be able to watch the MXdN webcast LIVE. American motocross really needs to step up to this level of media sophistication.
10) Getting an assignment to write my first feature article for a major motocross magazine from Racer X's Davey Coombs. More about that later…
11) That Honda would actually market an additional silencer as a handling enhancement.
12) That arenacross racing is good stuff, and the BooKoo Arenacross series is the best of the breed.
13) That Erin Normoyle is even hotter in person than her photos lead one to believe!
14) James Stewart's physical ailments.
15) How funny the DMXS guys are. I mean, genuinely funny.
16) How cool One Industries' Danny Dobey is.
17) What nice people the Carmichaels (Big Rick and Jeannie) are.
18) That if you had to be trapped for the rest of your life in one state, Hawaii is the one to pick Preferably Oahu, somewhere near the Kalaku Motocross Park.
19) James Stewart’s year-end performance at the Canadian rounds of the Amp’d World Supercross series. I had no idea that he would be so dominant so soon.
20) That someone could actually take fantastic supercross footage shot by Troy Adamitis and edit it into a sub-standard television program.

All in all, it was a great year for American motocross and the future truly looks bright for our beloved sport. Thanks to all who make it possible, from the media to the mechanics… ya done good! Here’s hoping that your New Year is the best year yet!

December 28, 2005

Alessi Apologizes?

I read it on Sunday, but it took until today for it to finally register in my old brain: according to Racer X's Davey Coombs, Mike Alessi has finally apologized for his foolish actions at Glen Helen. The apology actually is part of his "800" column for Racer X Illustrated, and will be in the January 2006 issue. But DC printed part of it in last weeks "Racerhead" so you can read it here.

Way to man up, Mike. Yes, you should have done this months ago, but better late than never. Good luck in '06!

December 23, 2005

Sparkplug 33

It’s nearly the end of the year, and most enthusiast publications are running their typical year-end wrap-ups, or the top ten lists or some other way of summing up the events of the last 365. Well, Sparkplug will be no different, but my year-ender will come next week, when I’ll take a look back at the things in motocross that most surprised me in 2005.

For this week, I want to tackle women in our sport. Er, that is, the subject of how women get involved in motocross. Or to paraphrase Cleavon Little in “Blazing Saddles”: “Where are all the black women at?”

As an African American man and huge fan of motocross, I know all too well the fact that the sight of a single, adult African American woman at a local motocross race is about as rare as a Husqvarna winning a supercross. But since I didn’t get into motocross in order to pick up chicks, so to speak, this state of affairs has never been much of a concern to me. Yet the question has been asked numerous times: why aren’t black women into motocross like their white counterparts?

I think I finally came up with the answer, and it’s simply that 99.9 percent of the time, it’s a man that starts the interest in motocross. Think about it. Your dad probably was the person that introduced you to the sport. Or maybe it was an older sibling, or a relative or a friend. I was introduced to minibikes by my neighbors; my local Honda dealer was responsible for my learning about motocross.

Or to put it another way, very rare is the woman who enters the sport of motorcycling, and in particular dirtbiking, on her own accord without having someone else provide the familiarity. Yes, I know I’m heading down the path of dangerous generalities, but I appeal to my sisters of all races to let me know their own stories, if they’re different from what I’m proposing here. When you see a top female motocrosser, you also see somewhere in the background the man that gave her a start in the sport. Usually it’s her father, but it could be her brother, boyfriend or husband. I’m not saying that she wouldn’t be supported by her mother or sisters. But can you imagine a mother coming home to her family and saying “Hey, I’ve got an idea… let’s all get dirtbikes and go riding!”

So in the case of the black females, the absence of them in the sport of motocross points directly to the small number of African American males in the sport. It’s funny, when you think of how many black people are involved in streetbiking. There are plenty of beautiful black women that like to hang around the streetbike scene (okay, well here are two, and that’s because there are plenty of black guys riding streetbikes. As you probably know, there are only a handful of us racing motocross or riding dirtbikes. So that limits the opportunities for our sisters, wives and girlfriends to be brought into the sport. And that, in turn, decreases the opportunities for me to meet single black women at the races… it’s all about me, right?

What about the appeal of the sport itself? Is it not possible for some women to just be drawn to the excitement of motocross on it’s own terms? In a word, no. Or at least, probably not… I mean, let’s look at a sport like basketball. Even back in grade school there were two types of girls that liked basketball: the ones that played the sport, and the ones that liked to watch the guys play. It’s like us guys watching women’s volleyball; some of you watch for the action, I watch for the ACTION, if you know what I mean. I’m a big fan of women’s volleyball. And I’m sure that many female motocross fans are into the sport at a professional level because they think the guys are hot. I don’t have any problem with that, but apparently they’re not hot enough to attract a lot of attention from black females. Or maybe it’s just a media thing; if motocross received some coverage from the likes of Essence or Ebony magazines maybe that would turn the tide. That’s funny just thinking about it!

Some people in the sport believe that James Stewart will be responsible for making motocross more visible to a wider audience. I’m not sure how that will work, but if it means more black women at the races I’m all for it! Go James!

Oh yes... and Merry Christmas to All!

December 21, 2005

Supercross on TV? You Must Read This...

DC pulled off a killer interview with CCE's supercross/TV head honcho Ken Hudgens. Check it out here at Racer X Online. The man gives more insight into the network/cable motocross wars than I've read in quite a while. There's no doubt that Ken knows of what he speaks, and he speaks very plainly in the interview.

Also, look forward to seeing the special supercross preview show on CBS (!) at 5pm EST on Christmas Day! Christmas Day motocross (well, supercross) on network TV? How can you beat that?

Well, with live coverage every week, that's how. Where not there yet, but if this year goes good with the CBS/Speed coverage, who knows?

December 16, 2005

Lucky #7: James Tells All!

Here in is own words, James Stewart wraps up his Canadian Journey in his latest newsletter.

I gotta tell you, I really like what I'm seeing from the Stewart camp these days. It sounds like they've got a good plan for 2006 and beyond.

Sparkplug 32

I'm a big man, not just in physical size, but when it comes to doing the right thing, I try my best to do it all the time. So after I spent last Saturday evening in the Long Beach Arena THOROUGHLY enjoying myself at the BooKoo/K&N Filter/Toyota Arenacross, I realized that I would have to write a Sparkplug column that would basically retract the bad things I said about arenacross in an earlier column (found here).

So I will now open my mouth, insert my foot and chew upon it slowly and thoughtfully.

It was a full day of motorcycle immersion for me and my buddy Lliam, as we took in the International Motorcycle Show that afternoon before we went to the races, which were conveniently held right next door. After a few hours of browsing, girl-watching, throttle-twisting, girl-watching, shock-bouncing and girl-watching, we grabbed a bite to eat and headed over to Arenacross way...

... and the first thing we got to do was walk right out onto the arena floor and walk the track! Folks, that right there is just about worth the price of admission. Compared to supercross, where the security guards have snipers in the stands, ready to pick off any “civilian” that dares to touch the track, at an arenacross they literally invite the audience to come on down and feel the dirt between their fingers, and to stumble through the whoops and stand on top of the triples. Which, by the way, don't really look like triples when you're standing on them. The first triple only had about a four-foot run up out of the corner... no WAY anyone would triple THAT, right?

But that's what the track walk is all about: letting the spectators really get a feel for what it must be like to do battle in an arenacross. Plus, they set up autograph tables along the start straight, and all of the “factory” riders were there, instead of out in a parking lot somewhere. You could walk all around them, and most of them were just sitting there talking to each other... and trying to catch glimpses of Erin Normoyle, Miss Arenacross.

You wouldn't believe how hot this woman is in person. Sheesh. You may have heard that a speaker caught on fire during the Friday night races, but how did it get started? It must have caught fire when Erin passed by it...

During the track walk, the announcers were doing their thing, and I have to take my hat off to Mike Kidd for hiring DMXS Radio's Kevin Kelley to be one of the announcers. Kevin was calmly standing on the track just running his mouth like it wasn't anything. In complete control. And when he saw me, he actually came over and did a quick on-mic interview with me! Then my head blew up and that was my night...

No, I managed to keep my ego in check, but I must confess that it was quite a thrill to address all of those people who weren't listening to a word I said. 15 minutes? No, more like 15 seconds of fame...

But the racing was what we were all there for, and when it started, it was intense all night long. It was so exciting, I didn't even take a moment to record any laptimes, which must have been in the 15 to 20 second range. Maybe 30 seconds? In any case, there was no place to rest on that track. It was attack or be lapped... in three laps.

So who stood out? Turbo Reif came out and immediately starting kicking ass. Unfortunately, he ended up breaking his collarbone in the 250F main, I believe (correction: per David Pingree over at Racer X Online, Turbo dislocated his hip). Shane “Daddy Knows” Bess (remember him?) was a solid contender as well, but had some problems with starts in the mains. The man of the night, though, was “The Sheriff” Josh Demuth, who won both mains by riding as aggressively as I've ever seen a motocrosser ride. How aggressive was Josh? If Mike Alessi were there, Josh would have used him as dental floss, to pick the other riders out of his teeth. Demuth never did anything dirty, he just rode it hard and put it away panting and slippery.

This is not to take anything away from any of the other riders. Even the “privateers” came to race hard, and everyone put on a great show. Unfortunately, the fine citizens of Long Beach all decided to stay home that night, so the crowd was miserably small... truly a surprise considering it's in the middle of the motocross kingdom. Some blamed the promoters for not doing enough; I think that SoCal is more of a supercross town, and the Long Beach arenacross was the first event of its kind to be held in this part of the state in a long while. But the small crowd didn't slow the riders down any, and it didn't stop me from having a blast.

So if the K&N Filters presents BooKoo Arenacross Championship Series brought to you by Toyota shows up in your town, do yourself a favor, get yourself a ticket and go see the show. It's racing, baby!

December 15, 2005

Get Well Soon, Kevin!

A collective "arrrgh" arose over the motocross world last night, and it wasn't because people thought it was "Talk like a pirate day". Kevin Windham, it was announced, went down at the Honda practice track and broke his arm, effectively ending his supercross season just weeks before it even got started. (Here's the brief press release, courtesy Racer X Online)

I personally think that this is not such a bad deal for Kdub, because I feel that he's stronger outdoors than in, but my pal MXWordNerd (aka Steve Cox) reminded me in a friendly way that Windham has won many more supercrosses, both 125 and 250, than he has won outdoor events.

But since he returned from that broken femur to showcase the abilities of the mighty Honda CR450F, Kdub has seemed more of an outdoor specialist to me.

In any case, get well soon, Kev. Spend some quality time with the family, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, and we'll be looking for you on the line at Hangtown.

December 09, 2005

Sparkplug 31

This week, as the Holiday season gets fully underway, I've decided to tackle an issue that doesn't normally get a lot of attention, even though it truly is a very big deal. I want to discuss American Morality in American Motocross.

First, I have to admit that this is an extremely complex subject, and this little column will in no way offer any answers to this touchy matter. In fact, it will barely scratch the surface. But it's something that needs to be discussed; hopefully this will inspire further talks and introspection.

The funny thing about the recurring “morality in motocross” discussions is that they are usually triggered by a picture of a girl in a skimpy bikini. Transworld Motocross magazine or Racer X Illustrated will run an ad or poster of a bikini-babe, and then they'll get letters from irate prudes claiming that the publications are ruining the sport by exposing their children to human body parts. Most recently the subject was brought to the fore by a series of commercials aired during the first round of the Amp'd World Supercross series. I didn't see the commercials, so I cannot comment on them directly. But I do wonder how they could possibly be as big a deal as some have made it?

“Motocross is a family sport.” This statement is accepted as fact by just about everybody, but it's also the line in the sand drawn by everyone worried that the sport will be overtaken by oversexed imagery and outright debauchery. It is true that motocross is one of those rare sports that can be enjoyed by every member of the family, regardless of age or gender. But that doesn't change the fact that the primary audience is made up of MEN between the ages of 18 to 49, so it should come as no surprise that images of beautiful young women work wonderfully in attracting said audience. Yes, these men often want to get their women and their children involved in the sport they love, but again, look at the chain of influence: first, the men take up the sport, then they recruit the rest of the family. Since the man is the primary target, the advertising adjusts itself accordingly. This is simply the way business works.

Does the pandering appeal to everyone? Of course not. Does it offend some sensitive souls? Without a doubt, and guess what? They don't have to put up with it if they don't want to. But will they or should they be able to force the advertisers to change, to make them stop using their very effective marketing tools? Not in a free market society. Not in a society that guarantees the right of free speech to its citizens. Not in a sane world.

The truth of the matter is that American morality is pretty messed up. The fact that a bare breast nipple glimpsed during a televised sporting event can cause mass hysteria and much wailing and gnashing of righteous teeth proves my point. It's as if people have forgotten that if it weren't for nipples, many of them wouldn't be alive today. And don't even get me started on genitalia. Take a picture of a naked penis and everyone will call it pornography. Show that picture to a kid, and you'll be thrown UNDER the jail. How did we come to hate our bodies so much? But that's an entirely different matter, well outside the scope of this week's column.

The fact is, beautiful women and motorsports go together like, well, like beer and motorsports. And the best place for mixing beer, beautiful women and motorsports will be at Dave and Buster's in Anaheim on the Friday night before A1, but I digress.... Motocross may indeed be a family sport, yet it is driven by adults and their adult appetites. So that basically means pin-up girls forever and ever, amen. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as you remember your parental duties and take the time to explain to your little ones why they can see the umbrella girl's thong.

I told you there wouldn't be any answers!

December 05, 2005

James Stewart Wins Toronto SX!

I am sure this is old news to you true motocross fans, but I had to post something, right? I would have posted earlier, but blogger issues... woulda, coulda, shoulda, blah blah blah.

Anyway, James Stewart took an exciting race win on Saturday night in Toronto, leading many to believe that this will indeed be the year that he goes all the way to the Supercross title. Here's an excellent race recap by Jason Weigandt over on Racer X Online. And here's a great report by Brendan Lutes from Transworld MX Online.

I didn't get a chance to see the Speed Channel next-day coverage, but I listened to the race live via the CCE webcast, and it sounded like a great race! Jim Holley was the first person to say that James was "toying" with RC, which I found hard to believe... but then Ricky himself said the same thing in his post-race interview. What's funny is that James didn't feel like he was "toying" with anyone! Check out his interview with TFS over at Racer X Online.

In any case, there is now officially no question that this new supercross season will be one for the ages. And the Amp'd World Supercross rounds are finally on the map as being important races. I can't wait to see it all in person January 7th at Anaheim!

December 01, 2005

Sparkplug 30

Well, looky here! By the time you read this, we'll be less than 48 hours away from the start of the 2006 Supercross season, and it looks like it's gonna be a good one. My original intention for this week's Sparkplug was to list my picks for this season, but a press release I read yesterday over at Racer X Online has changed my mind. Instead, I want to talk about a favorite topic of mine: media coverage of our sport. In particular, I want to address the announcement of the new “broadcast team” for the Amp'd Supercross series.

First, let me make it clear that this isn't about WHO was or wasn't chosen to be the “voices” of Supercross. I've known for a while that my personal tastes in announcers apparently runs counter to prevailing opinion. For example, while I admit that Art Eckman has a superb voice and has shown a great deal of love for the sport, his consistent inability to get riders' names right, among many other things, used to bug the heck out of me, yet he was no doubt a huge fan favorite. I accept that I may be out of the mainstream... that's no big surprise.

But what I'm concerned about is our sport's insistence in “following the leader”, as it were, rather than going for the pass by using a new line. What I mean is that it seems that no one has asked the basic question of “how many announcers do we really need?”

This past Fall, I had the great joy of listening to live web coverage of the greatest single day motocross event of the year, the Motocross of Nations. How many announcers did they need to broadcast such an important event? Exactly one. And as I listened to that webcast, I began to question the “common wisdom” of our current two-in-the-booth and one-on-the-floor configuration.

The fact of the matter is the “color analyst” and “play-by-play announcer” setup was originated for television broadcasts of stick-and-ball sports, sports that actually HAVE play-by-play. ABC's Monday Night Football team of Al Michaels and John Madden are perfect examples of this. Network coverage of autoracing adopted this style of coverage out of familiarity, not necessity. But the concept sort of works: one guy focuses on describing the action factually, while the other adds “color” by giving voice to insights derived from his or her experiences with the sport. For a sport like Supercross, however, all this two-position team really adds up to, though, is a lot of chatter. The play-by-play person has to give up mic time in order for the color guy to get a few words in and many times, the color guy is pontificating on something that happened, just as a new development unfolds, changing everything. Then the play-by-play person has to play “catchup” to bring the viewers back to the present. It can be very frustrating for the viewers at home, who are watching the big pass for the lead unfold while the color man is still talking about the guy in third place.

And pit reporters? Why in the world do we need a pit reporter for Supercross, a sport that has exactly zero cameras in the pits during the race because all of the “action” (and that's stretching the term) in the pits occurs before the race starts? Even if they change the title to “floor reporter”, there is very little insight that they could possibly provide during a 20 lap sprint that cannot be effectively communicated by the main announcer. Now, I have always been an advocate of televising the behind the scenes aspect of motocross and supercross, but this is stuff that does not happen during the race, so that means the broadcast must make time to air pre-recorded scene-setting packages, just like they do with stick-and-ball pre-game shows. Our sport is dynamic, and the “story” changes from race to race. The audience must be informed of what is going on and what is at stake BEFORE the gate drops, otherwise they'll never “get” what the sport is really about: the athletes. Cutting away from race action to watch a pre-recorded piece, though, is more than annoying. It's bad TV.

My point is simply this: there's no point in carrying extra personnel simply because “that's the way we've always done it”, particularly if they add no real value to the broadcast. All that's needed is one very knowledgeable person to call the race, while occasionally adding limited “color”. This announcer would not be working alone, of course; they would have a staff of spotters and statisticians working with them, feeding them information that they can use as they see fit. But one voice is enough, and it's also okay for that lone voice to take a breath and be silent for a bit. There does NOT, contrary to American broadcast belief, have to be announcer-chatter filling every available millisecond of airtime. It's okay for us to only hear the bikes every now and then.

Think of all the times you have stood trackside at a race; did you really need to hear the announcer to know what was going on right in front of your face? Think of all the times you've watched taped replays of races, and turned the volume down so you wouldn't be subjected to all of that useless noise. Then think of all the times you've said to yourself, “I wish they'd just SHUT UP!” How much silence is it reasonable to expect, when you have a team of three competing for airtime?

So as far as this new team is concerned, I wish they would just let Denny Stephenson handle the entire broadcast and pay him double, then get rid of the other two announcers. Denny can handle it by himself and he knows the sport and the riders. Everybody else on that team, in my humble opinion, is just unnecessary fluff. Do I expect this to happen? Of course not.

P.S. I don't know who's gonna win Saturday night's battle, but I believe James Stewart is going to come out on top of the 2006 Supercross war.

November 30, 2005

James Stewart News!

It's getting to be so one can tell the new racing season is approaching by the number of James Stewart profiles written by mainstream media outlets. I came across the latest from USA Today here, when I did a google search on our man Stewart. It's an okay article, with only a few hiccups, but that's to be expected from the mainstream (more interesting, though, was the article about Rick Carmichael's possible NASCAR aspirations in the same paper).

But the biggest news is that James is retiring old #259. For 2006 he will take lucky number 7 as his permanent number. As he explains in his newsletter (found here): "When Tony (Haynes) got hurt, I asked him if I could race with his number, and I promised I would take the 259 to the top. I stayed true to my promise and broke all of the 125 class records, won 4 national titles, and 3 250 Supercross main events with 259. I still value my friendship with Tony Haynes as much as ever, and I talked to him about me taking my own number from here on out."

Personally, I think it's an excellent choice, James, and you did Tony proud.

Next up: December 3rd!

November 25, 2005

Sparkplug 29: Thanksgiving Edition

Here's hoping everyone is having a safe and fun Thanksgiving weekend here in America. And to those of you in other countries, well, you be safe and have some fun, too! For this week's Sparkplug, I think it is only appropriate that I spend some time giving thanks for the many wonderful things that happened this year in Motocross. Here they are, in no particular order:

1) For the 2005 Motocross of Nations, and being able to see it live vie webcast. This year's race was simply fantastic, and yes, much of that was because America was finally able to send a team. Even if we had not won, it would have still been a memorable event. But I'm glad we did! So I also have to give special thanks for...

2) The 2005 American Motocross of Nations team. Hats off to Carmichael, Tedesco and Windham for stepping up to the plate and knocking the skin off of it! Thanks for taking time out of your too-short offseason to represent American motocross. And along those lines...

3) For Roger DeCoster, for once again selflessly leading Team America to victory. No one can question his commitment to furthering the cause of motocross in this country.

4) For the National Promoters Group and the Outdoor Nationals. This year I had the good fortune of being able to attend three events (Hangtown, Steel City and Glen Helen), and each was a truly memorable experience. Fantastic racing, awe-inspiring circuits, large enthusiastic crowds and by-the-book organization. I think the Outdoor series is better than ever, and I think next year will be even better because of this next group...

5) For the Toyota Motor Company, for coming in to sponsor motocross in America in 2006. Here's hoping that next year marks the start of a long and mutually beneficial relationship, as the sport gets bigger and better.

6) For the internet and how it has made our sport more accessible. No longer restricted by the capricious whims of mainstream media, motocross coverage is now available 24/7 and motocross fans are able to get more information about the sport than ever before. For the first time in history, American fans were able to see the Motocross of Nations covered LIVE... and the same may soon be true for the American series. I'm crossing my fingers....

7) For the teams. The men and women who spend a large part of the year traveling from city to city to bring us the best in motocross and supercross racing. Sure, they're having fun and living the times of their lives, but it's still hard work. They ARE American motocross.

8) For Clear Channel Entertainment, for not completely destroying our sport. I'll just leave it at that.

9) For James Stewart, for helping make Anaheim 1 and Hangtown two of the most anticipated races in recent history. And for always being fast enough to be a threat to the dominance of the greatest rider in history....

10) For Rick Carmichael, for dedicating his life to being the best ever, and for being willing to show up every week, every year, every season to demonstrate his ability to all. He may be making a ton of money by winning everything, but we fans are truly the winners as we get to witness history as it's being made, every single time he takes to a track.

It was indeed a great year in motocross and the future is bright for the sport. The new season starts in just a few weeks, and it is sure to be just as exciting as this year. But the next time you're at a race, be sure to take a moment to walk up to a rider or mechanic, any one will do, and briefly thank them for what they do. It'll make both of you feel good!

November 21, 2005

Toyota Steps Up To The Plate!

Japanese Auto Giant Toyota has decided to become the title sponsor for the 2006 AMA Outdoor National Championship! That is great news! Here's the press release over on Racer X Online.

Here's hoping that the AMA put some real thought into this package and that the relationship bears fruit.

Thanks, Toyota!

November 18, 2005

Sparkplug 28

It’s almost that time. There are only 43 days left in this year, and that can mean only one thing: it’s time to talk about A1. That’s right, the first REAL supercross of the new championship season…

Okay, alright, I’ll admit it… the supercross season really starts in December up North in Canada. All the big guns will be there, and you Canadians better turn out and show some appreciation, dammit! By the time we Americans get the series, it’ll be two-races old.

But I still want to talk about A1, that is, the first American supercross of the season, and the first race to run at good, ol’ Anaheim Stadium (or whatever they’re calling it now). In particular, I want to talk about how the stadium officials can make my day at the races go smoother. You heard it right, it’s all about ME… and about 44,999 of my closest moto-friends.

So let’s start where it all really starts, in the parking lot.

Suggestion number 1: Cut us some slack on that parking fee, dude! It was $10 last year, and you’ll probably try to stick us for $12 this year. I mean, if you charge us any more, you’ll have to show us a movie or something to make it worthwhile. Come on, $5 or $7 is much more reasonable… and it will leave us with a little more folding money to buy your overpriced junk food and drinks…

Suggestion number 2: Rescind that stupid local ordinance that “suggests” it’s illegal to drink alcohol in the parking lot. It’s ridiculous laws like that one that have probably kept L.A. from having a proper football team! Everybody is drinking in the parking lot, anyway. I think I even saw a cop once taking a pull from a beer bong (just before he confiscated it, anyway). Now, you might be suffering from the delusion that if you outlaw liquor in the parking lot, the fans will buy more in the stadium. But the exact opposite is true… the people who come to the races to get shitfaced buy even MORE drinks in the stadium because they’re drunk! They’ve lost the ability to reason, and they keep spilling their damn beers, to boot! And then they buy that tasteless coffee and a lot of starchy food in order to sober up for the drive home. You’re never going to stop the drinking in the lot, so you might as well relax and go with the flow. Speaking of flow…

Suggestion number 3: How about some Porta-Potties in the lot? Why do you think so many people bring their motorhomes to a stadium race? So they can practice their debauchery in private and so they don’t have to pee on the tires of their pickup truck when they get full of beer. But you’ll notice that there are many more pickups than motorhomes in the lot. And you’ll also notice, right before showtime, that there are a lot of mysterious “wet spots” all over your wonderful parking lot. You can change this by making a civilized choice. And your post-race clean-up will be a lot less “messy”. Which leads to…

Suggestion number 4: If you give us trash cans, we’ll use them. Scout’s honor. Or at least, most of us will. Some of us have been trained by you to hide our empties under the bumper of our cars, so by the end of the night you’re left with a couple thousand stacks of empties and half-eaten, undercooked burgers. Help us to help you.

So far, these suggestions might strike some as being rather frivolous. Well, hold on to your hats, ‘cause here’s the big Kahuna…

Suggestion number 5: Make ALL gates “re-entry” gates. This one has stymied me since I’ve been attending supercrosses at Anaheim. Why do you insist on subjecting your security force to the mad rush at 6:45pm, when 20,000 or more people try to return from their two-hour parking lot party in time to get seated before the opening ceremonies… and you force them to all enter through one solitary gate? Your ballpark was designed to handle these numbers pleasantly and efficiently… and you destroy that with one ill-advised bureaucratic decision. Get real, guys. We’re supercross fans, and all we want to do is see a great race. You can perform the same level of security scrutiny at the other gates, so there is really no need to limit re-entry to one gate… except to simply piss people off. I really hope that is not your intention, but if it is, you must be pleased with your success!

Seriously, this is the only reason why the wonderful anticipation of A1 is always accompanied by a low-level feeling of dread. As great as the sport is, the overall fan experience at this particular stadium could be drastically improved with some very minor changes.

November 15, 2005

Sorby Publicly Apologizes!

You gotta check this out from Eric Sorby's open letter to motocross fans around the world.

Sorby says "I have to apologize for stopping Mike in the middle of the race, it was unprofessional and I should not have done that but we are all tired of the way the Alessi’s do things and it is time to be stopped." Now, even though he still complains about Alessi's actions, at least he took the time to address the issue with the fans. It's clear that he understands the ramifications of his actions.

Too bad Mike Alessi didn't do the same after that silliness at Glen Helen. Mike, it's not too late for your apology for losing your mind on that Sunday...

November 13, 2005

No Stranger To Controversy, This Alessi Kid...

He's more like a controversy magnet!

So this weekend they ran the famous Paris Supercross, and Honda's Andrew Short won it in the same dominating fashion he won it in last year. Also, last year, enfant terrible Mike Alessi made a bunch of French enemies by taking out a rider (who's name will never be remembered on this side of the Atlantic) in the next to last turn to steal second. This year? More of the same. Check out Jason Weigandt's report at Racer X Online.

This time, however, it looks like Mikey was in the clear and actually did not wrong... but French racers Steven Boniface and Eric Sorby apparently saw things differently!

Mike, you still owe us an apology for that stunt at Glen Helen. Do you feel like controversy is following you? It may well be...

November 11, 2005

Sparkplug 27

It’s “mid”post-season now, and while we still have plenty of great events to go to in sunny SoCal (we had both the World Vet Championships and the famous Elsinore Grand Prix last weekend), we’re still getting a little stir-crazy about not being able to watch the pros do their thing. If you want further proof, logon to one of the moto-boards and watch the flame wars erupt every 15 minutes or so… idle minds being the playground of that guy downstairs, and all that.

More proof of moto-cabin-fever is the fact that the Arenacross season is in full swing, now with TWO flavors, BooKoo and AMA! Despite this embarrassment of riches, I have to admit: I’m just not “feeling” Arenacross. And that’s the subject of this week’s Sparkplug - no love for miniature motocross.

First off, let me disclose the fact that I have only attended ONE Arenacross, and that was almost 20 years ago. Way back in the winter of 1986, I trekked over to the then-jewel of Landover, Maryland… the Capital Centre (which later became “US Air Arena” and is probably now called “the about-to-be-torn-down hole-in-the-ground”) to see my very first arenacross spectacular. I think Davey Coombs himself was racing that night! In any event, the event itself, the motorcycle racing part, that is… was completely overshadowed by the monster truck mud bog that played on the same ticket.

Now, I’ve never been a monster truck fan and I’m a lifelong motocross phanatique, but even then I had to admit that those trucks put on a hell of a show that night. Something about open-piped, fire-breathing, supercharged V8s going WFO in an indoor basketball arena makes them eminently watchable. And when you compare the sight of these alcohol-burning, 800 horsepower monsters flinging mud 40 feet in the air to a bunch of local mx experts circulating a comically-tight course, lugging the bikes in second gear, knocking each other down every other turn… ah, let’s just say that the motorcyclists were out of their league at that particular event.

I used to believe that Arenacross was the perfect “minor leagues” for the development of supercross racers, but after 20 years of arena racing, that theory has yet to be proven. Or, some might say, that the theory was soundly proven… wrong. We’re still waiting to see if dominance in the bullrings leads to high scores in the ballparks. The cold hard truth, though, is that if you intend to excel at supercross, you better find some real supercross tracks to practice on… Arenacross will not properly prepare you for the big show. So what good is it?

Some say Arenacross is good for motocross, and I would have to agree, conditionally. I think Arenacross is good for the manufacturers; the sport helps sell bikes and gear. It’s also good for promoters (or at least some of them), and it’s good for riders talented enough to earn sponsored rides for the series. This year in particular, it appears that the Arenacross circuit has become a haven of sorts for certain pros who couldn’t quite gain the success they desired on the National trail.

But it’s NOT motocross, let’s get real. It sort of LOOKS like motocross, and it uses motocross equipment and terms and stuff like that… but it’s not motocross and was never intended to be mistaken for such. It is its own thing, and for that it should be appreciated. Apparently, the residents of such towns as Towson, Maryland and St. Charles, Missouri, appreciate the subtle nuances of tiny track racing. My hat's off to them AND Arenacross…

Just don’t expect to see me at one anytime soon, post-season be damned.

November 10, 2005

New Supercross Logos Unveiled!

Were you DYING to see how CCE would revamp the Supercross logo, now that Amp'd is the title sponsor? Neither was I, but I was curious... so here it is, courtesy Racer X Online.

Whew! Glad that's settled! [/sarcasm]

November 04, 2005

Sparkplug 26

As the outdoor season came to a close, I had the fantastic opportunity to meet, on separate occasions, some people who really, REALLY love the sport of motocross. I was personally stunned that each of these people shared my dream of somehow finding a way to expose underprivileged kids to our great sport. Honestly, we all had different visions that came to us in different ways, but we all shared the same goal of exposing these children to dirtbiking in the hopes of changing the course of their lives for the better.

For the past 7 years or so, I have harbored and nurtured a vision for a nationwide, non-profit organization that would reach out specifically to foster children. Our great country has a problem with taking care of the nearly 135,000 children in the nation’s foster care system. It seems that families that want to adopt aren’t interested in the older children as much, and they certainly don’t want to adopt the “problem” children. So these kids stay in foster homes or institutions until they’re 18, when they are “emancipated”… basically kicked out into the streets to fend for themselves. As you might imagine, many of these emancipated teens become negative statistics: in poverty, on drugs, in jail, etc.

My thinking was that maybe we can help “turn around” some of these troubled kids, using dirtbiking as an incentive. So I came up with the concept of “Ride 2 Achieve Academy”. In a nutshell, the basic idea of R2AA is this: take a group of foster kids and teach them how to ride and how to perform basic bike maintenance as well as tutor them in marketable skills such as photography, video editing and website design. The kids would have to “earn” their participation in the program by performing well in school, staying out of trouble and things like that.

As I fleshed out this idea, it became clear to me that the real challenge of launching such a program was not financial at all. There are a ton of organizations and individuals willing to make charitable contributions to legitimate causes that clearly have society’s benefit in mind. The real issue is rounding up enough concerned and caring adults that are willing to put in the time and effort to make the program work. It’s not enough to buy a bunch of minibikes and tear around the desert with these kids… they need real life coaching from people who genuinely care for their welfare. And they need solid instruction and training so that when they are finally “emancipated” into the real world, they’ll be prepared to continue the road to adulthood, and become positive, productive members of society.

So when I found myself, on three separate occasions, meeting three different people who also shared similar concerns, I realized that perhaps this “challenge” of finding adults to participate in this program may not be such a big obstacle after all. This great sport of ours apparently attracts some of the best people in the world; generous, loving people who may be willing to donate their time and love to the process of helping prevent foster children from falling through the cracks. You may be one of those people. If you are, I’d love to hear from you; together we can make a hell of a difference.

November 02, 2005

BREAKING NEWS! Is Carmichael Leaving Suzuki?

Check out our man RC, with his new ride. It starts with "S", but it sure ain't an RM. It's an '05 Scorpa SY250. You can get more news from the Tryals Shop here.

Wonder if it can take the whoops like the '06 Twin Can Honda?

November 01, 2005

Honda's new 250F

Found over at the Honda motorcycle website, it seems that Big Red is touting the new "revolutionary twin-muffler exhaust system" with having the beneficial effect that it "centralizes mass and improves handling in the whoops and rhythm sections."

Beg pardon? Hanging another aluminum can under the rear fender improves handling in the whoops? Well, shut my mouth!

I guess the 2006 CRF450 is simply a pig in the whoops then, with it's old-fashioned single muffler system. Guess I'll wait until '07 for mine... maybe then it'll have electric start, too (like it should)!

October 31, 2005

Great FUTURE Woman of Motocross?

This is NOT Betty, but you have to admit... this kid has style!

Great Women of Motocross

There are a number of wonderful women involved at the deepest levels in the sport of motocross, and quite a few of these unsung heroines can be found at many of the tracks in Southern California. But there is one lovely lady that I want to give special recognition to today.

I was at Glen Helen yesterday afternoon, checking out a late season grand prix held by the SRA organization. While I was watching Gordon Ward lay waste to the other vets in the Vet GP, I saw her standing alone at a corner, yellow flag tucked under her arm while she applauded each and every rider that came through her turn.

Her name is Betty, and I first saw her when I attended some of the Saturday REM races at the Glen Helen facility. She reminds me of someone’s dear grandmother, and I wouldn’t be surprised if her grandchildren were famous racers, but that’s not what makes her special. What she does makes EVERY racer feel special. She claps for every single racer, every single lap, for every single moto. She’s a one-person cheer leading squad, and every time I raced there, I looked forward to seeing her clap for me.

So when I saw her at the SRA GP, I took it upon myself to thank her for all those laps of support. She just smiled the prettiest smile and thanked me for thanking her. And then she went on clapping for all the riders going by. If you have ever raced in an event where she was flagging, don’t forget to thank Betty for the support.

October 28, 2005

Sparkplug 25

(Continued from last week’s Sparkplug 24) We pick up where we left off, as Paul, the Open class team manager for the popular Citibank/Gap Racing (C/GR) team, as he replays the final race of the day in his mind while he heads over to the trophy presentation.

Coming into the race weekend, the North East division’s win-loss record was 3 – 3. Their opponent, the defending National Champions of the South West division, boasted a 5 – 1 record. This particular race was the seventh meet of the twelve-race series, and the NE division desperately needed to win the meet in order to remain in contention for a post-season playoff berth.

This is one of the things that make the Professional Motocross Racing League so interesting. Not only are team tactics allowed, but intra-division team tactics are utilized as well. Racers are able to block each other to prevent passing, as long as they do not come in contact with the other rider or place that other rider in harm’s way. The caveat is that riders cannot slow to a pace slower than 50% of their fastest lap.

Saturdays are when the teams of each division face each other to determine which riders will represent the region in Sunday’s division versus division showdown. On Sundays, divisional team managers have to work together to make sure the outcome is favorable for the division, not just their particular team.

Team C/GR’s five 250F riders repeated their stellar performance from Saturday, stunning their SW rivals by sweeping the podium on Sunday, while picking up positions 6th and 8th as well. This gave the NE division a slight lead going into the final Open class moto. Roger, Team C/GR’s top-ranked Open class rider had won the first moto, but got caught up in a first turn pileup at the start of moto two with the leader of Team Callaway Golf. These two riders were in contention for the overall… now they had to scramble to get on the podium. To make matters worse, SW division riders held the first six positions at the end of the first lap.

NE team statisticians quickly calculated the points situation, and soon team managers were issuing orders to their mechanics. (Each mechanic maintained a communication link directly with their rider via in-helmet earpieces. The riders could hear but the only response they could give was by pushing a “beep” button on the outside of their helmets. One beep signaled “Yes” or “I understand” and two beeps meant “No” or “What the heck did you say?”). As Roger and his rival stormed through the field, they had to pick their way through opposition riders determined to block their progress.

At the 35 minute mark of the 45 minute plus two lap moto, three NE division riders had made their way into the top 5. None of these riders, however, were Team C/GR riders. The other 3 Team C/GR riders followed team orders and had spent much of the moto slipping backward in the pack in order to block for Roger. By this time, Roger had made his way back to fifteenth, with his three teammates in front of him, and his rival just behind. In short order, Roger was in tenth and the poor guy from the Callaway Golf Team now had to contend with passing a determined Citibank/Gap Racing Team! If only he could get some help from his own team…

It wasn’t to be, though. The SW division could not afford to send riders backwards in the pack to help their star; there wasn’t enough time left in the moto to make up anymore places. When the checkered flag finally flew, a SW division rider took the moto win, followed by four NE division riders… and Roger was the fourth one. His 1-5 score got him on the podium in third, and the North East division won the meet by the barest of margins.

As Paul made his way to the trophy presentation, he was intercepted briefly by Team C/GR’s publicity manager, who gave Paul a fresh Citibank hat and reminded him of a few interview talking points they had agreed upon. Paul got to the podium just as the champagne started spraying and just in time to have a camera and microphone thrust in his face. Paul answered questions for the viewers watching the live coverage at home, making sure to praise the selfless efforts of his team and to thank his sponsors. He was joined by his three team riders that did not make the podium, but who gave their best efforts to make sure that one of them did. They were all smiles, as were most of the 50,000 fans as they left the facility looking forward to the next "home" race in two weeks...

October 27, 2005

Here it is again: the ENV

I touched on this phenomenal bike once before, and it looks like they've upgraded their website. Check it out: a hydrogen fuel cell-powered bike! I think they're on to something here...

October 21, 2005

James Stewart: Stomach Infection!

According to this press release I found over at Racer X Online, James Stewart has finally discovered the cause of his ill health: an infection in his stomach and intestines. Yikes.

The good news is that he is undergoing treatment for it, and hopes to be 100% for the new season. I certainly hope so. Get well soon, James, and thanks for letting us know what's up!

Sparkplug 24

This week I continue with my off-season “theme”, looking at what might be possible if professional motocross were run differently. This time it’s from the viewpoint of a team manager, who I will call “Paul” for fun.

In the Professional Motocross Racing League, teams can be as small as two riders, and as large as ten, but teams are only allowed to enter 5 racers in each class. Paul is the Open class manager for the powerhouse CitiBank/Gap Racing team, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Team CitiBank/Gap Racing, or C/GR, is one of five teams representing the North East division, and is the current division champion. C/GR, like the other top teams in the league, has a full complement of ten riders, and they hire separate managers for each class. Five of the riders are mounted on 250Fs while the other 5 race 450Fs that have been bored out to 475 (a necessary modification in the PMRL). All of the C/GR bikes are Kawasakis prepared by Pro Circuit.

It’s just past the halfway point in the season, and the North East division is racing at their home facility against the visiting National Champions, the South West division. The checkered flag has just fallen on the last moto of the day, and Paul has a few minutes to collect his thoughts and reflect on the weekend as he heads over to the podium presentation.

Coming into this weekend’s meet, it was clear that the NE division desperately needed to pull off a strong performance against the defending National champs if they wished to remain in contention for a slot in the playoffs. There are more than bragging rights at stake; all of the teams split the bonus money available in the post-season. If your region doesn’t qualify for the playoffs, then there’s no more racing at your home facility and that means no additional money is gathered and there’s no opportunity to share the playoff bonus.

At the same time, there were divisional title points on the line as well and C/GR was facing a serious challenge from their divisional rival Team Circuit City. Saturday’s qualifiers were the scene for this showdown, as this is the day when it’s decided who will represent each respective division in the final motos on Sunday. Team C/GR’s 250F team led the way, with all 5 riders advancing to Sunday. Paul was slightly disappointed in his rookie’s performance in the Open class, as the youngster failed to qualify, finishing 12th. Fortunately, his 4 other Open class teammates made it into the show. However, Circuit City’s star riders took the wins in both classes, further tightening the divisional points race.

But Sunday was a different story entirely. The only points awarded during Sunday finals are points for the division as a whole and points for the individual championships. One of Paul’s racers, a veteran named Roger, is in serious contention for the individual title, and he had a terrific battle for the win in the first Open class moto, swapping the lead numerous times with the captain of Team Callaway Golf, one of the top South West division teams. So going into the final moto of the day, the North East riders held a slight edge over the South East squad… the heat was on! (to be continued…)

October 20, 2005

Pastrana's Amazing DOUBLE BACK FLIP!!

I gave my man Travis Pastrana a hard time for breaking himself at the 24 Hours of Glen Helen, but I really like the kid. Honest. So here's an amazing video clip of Pastrana pulling off THE WORLD'S FIRST DOUBLE BACK FLIP on a dirt bike, courtesy of DC Shoes.

This kid has stones so big, I'm surprised he can fit into his riding pants!

October 19, 2005

MX Vacations: How Cool Is This?

Earlier today, I ran across this press release at Racer X Online. It describes a special package deal that MX Vacations is putting together for the great "A Day In The Dirt" race, which runs the weekend after Thanksgiving. I thought to my self, "what a cool deal!"

But then I went to the MX Vacations website... and came across this: The Ultimate Supercross Vacation!

Hey, the riding part is great... as many as 5 days on a fully prepped new model racing machine, with complete pit support, fuel, food and refreshments provided as well. And you get to ride on the best tracks in SoCal: Glen Helen, Perris, Cahuilla Creek and more. But the clincher is the Famous Pit Party with Jeff Emig, which included tickets and pit passes to Anaheim 1, snacks, drinks, dinner... ALL the good stuff!

If you're traveling to L.A. for the opening of the Supercross season, an MX Vacation package might be the best New Year's present you could give yourself!

October 17, 2005

24 Hours of Glen Helen: Pastrana Breaks Another Bone

Okay, this isn't really news. Unfortunately, injury has become an expected outcome whenever Travis Pastrana takes to a motocross track. Here's the story from Cycle News Online.

Big props go out to Ty Davis and his Montclair Yamaha team for absolutely dominating the race by sweeping the top two positions. I recently had the honor of meeting former pro motocrosser and current WORCS 40+ Masters champion Andy Jefferson. He was originally slated to ride on Montclair's B team, but wrist surgery forced him to sit out this year's event. So instead he helped prepare the bike. I guess it did alright!

October 14, 2005

Sparkplug 23

First, I’d like to open this week’s Sparkplug with a brief message to James Stewart, Jr.: Get Well Soon! I sincerely hope that you and your doctors get to the bottom of whatever ails you and that your healing is as rapid and painless as possible. Good Luck!

This week’s Sparkplug takes a look at a fictitious racer in my proposed Professional Motocross Racing League series. This guy, who I will call “Pdub” for giggles (try not to get confused), is at the end of his racing career and about to embark on the next phase of his life. Here’s how it all happened.

Like many of today’s top racers, Pdub started riding when his parents put him on a peewee at the age of 4. By the time he was 10 years old, he was an expert racer with years of experience and a bedroom full of trophies. Although Pdub was one of the top racers in his area, when his family took him to the big amateur events like Ponca City or Loretta Lynn’s, he usually finished in mid-pack, not quite fast enough to run with the top dogs in his class.

But since he was a local champion, Pdub was heavily recruited by the high school teams in his area. The school he eventually chose had a history of sending its graduates to the top college motocross programs in the country. Their team was well outfitted, and was one of a handful of high schools in the country that had enough sponsorship dollars to be able to provide bikes and gear to their riders, just like the big college mx teams. Pdub thrived at the high school level, gathering an individual state championship in his junior year. He was unable to repeat that feat his senior year, but he was still able to earn a full ride scholarship to one of the top universities in the country. This was a very big deal, because this particular school required not only a solid racing resume, but also very good academic scores in order to qualify for their scholarship program.

Pdub went on to become a bonafide college sports star, helping to lead his school’s mx team to two National Championships. Pdub, unfortunately, was unable to win the individual titles, but his performances were sufficient to gain the attention of a number of professional scouts. By the time he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing, he had deals on the table from five major professional teams. Pdub signed with Team Dell Computer, which raced in the South Central division of the Professional Motocross Racing League. His 4-year contract included a hefty signing bonus, six-figure salary, a lucrative performance-based bonus program, comprehensive health insurance and other perks. His team included a full training staff with nutritionists, sports psychologists and mentors. He moved to the team’s headquarters in Texas. He was only 21 years old, but by this time in his life, he had been racing for 15 years.

Pdub’s rookie season was rough. As a “newbie”, he was expected to be a team player and as such, was relegated to “domestic” chores on the race track: blocking for the team’s star racers, or by being the “rabbit” and setting an ultra-fast pace out of the gate in an attempt to wear the other team’s riders down. While Pdub qualified for over 90% of the races he entered, podium finishes were rare indeed. But his team was very happy with his performance and gave him great encouragement. And the fans loved his team-player attitude and rewarded him with long autograph lines.

Disaster struck for Pdub in his second year, when early in the season he suffered a broken femur. The injury also aggravated an old injury in his knee that he damaged during his high school career. The doctor’s diagnosis was grim: his racing career was suddenly over.

It was a sad couple of months for Pdub and the sport of motocross, but it wasn’t a total loss. The injury clause in his contract meant that he would continue to receive a portion of his salary until the end of his contract period. And Team Dell’s front office had become fond of the kid. After all, Pdub DID have a marketing degree and during his brief time on the team he had proven to be a valuable asset when it came to working with the team’s sponsors. So the team offered him a position with their marketing division, with the caveat that he return to school to get his MBA… on their dime, no less. Four years later, Pdub was Director of Sponsorship Marketing for Team Dell… at the age of 27.

What I have just described is a Cinderella story, of sorts. Yes, it is a pipe dream, but it describes the type of thing that actually happens in other professional sports in America. It can happen in motocross if we want it to.

October 12, 2005

Pastrana and Deegan on the Same Team?

Can you imagine what it's going to be like this weekend at the 24 hour race at Glen Helen? Travis "Yes, I do believe I HAVE broken every bone in my body" Pastrana has entered the race and has teamed up with none other than Brian "I've broken a few bones too, ya know" Deegan and Jason "I'm taking bad boy lessons from Brian" Lawrence. And another guy who's less famous. Check out the brief press release from Racer X Online here.

The race ends at 10am this Sunday, after 24 hours of banging around the Glen Helen track and the arroyo that surrounds it. There will be some great racing to watch, but the Pastrana/Deegan/Lawrence show by itself might just be worth the price of admission!

October 11, 2005

James Stewart Has a Mystery Illness

James Stewart has posted a letter to his fans on his website, explaining what happened to him last weekend. I am very glad that he has taken the time to keep everyone informed, and I am very concerned with the young man's health. Hopefully it was something simple, like a bad dinner from the night before. I'm crossing my fingers.

Just as RC had an unbelievably stellar year, James had his worst year ever in 2005, and apparently his bad luck isn't over yet. With the opening round of the 2006 season less than 6 weeks away, here's hoping Lady Luck can find her way back to the Stewart compound in Florida.

October 07, 2005

Say It Ain't So: Stewart's Out of the Open?

Check out this news from Racer X Online; it appears that James Stewart has missed both practice sessions for the U.S. Open! That's a pretty strong signal that the kid is not planning on racing the event. What now?

Sparkplug 22

Well, it's the U.S. Open weekend and it looks like the race is shaping up to be an epic conflagration between past winners Rick Carmichael and Mike LaRocco and superfast hopefuls James Stewart and Kevin Windham. But the only decently-paying race of the year is not the subject of this week's Sparkplug. Instead, I am going to continue to lay out my vision for a new day in American motocross. So put your thinking caps on and join me for a mental journey.

One of the benefits of a league-style racing season is being able to see multiple professional-level races at each facility. This means that each facility can sell “season tickets”. At a top notch facility, season tickets would give the ticket holders privileges that regular ticket buyers just don't get.

Imagine a small family at the races. Husband, wife, young child and toddler. They've got to carry enough gear to keep the kids safe and happy, so they have their hands full with bags and a stroller. They get to the track and because they're season ticket holders, they get to park in a reserved lot that's closer to the facility than general parking, so they don't have to walk as far.

They make their way to their seats, and because they decided to upgrade their seat option, they have box seats, which gives them extra room to stow their stroller and kid-related paraphernalia. Their box seat also includes a small tv monitor, which is currently showing replays from yesterday's practice sessions, with commentary from the in-house production staff.

Dad takes the older kid off to get snacks for the family. They go to their favorite concession stand, which is not too far from their seats. While they wait for their order, they're able to enjoy the practice videos from monitors at the stand. Meanwhile, Mom takes the littlest one to the restroom for a diaper change, where there is a clean diaper changing station. It sure beats kneeling on a blanket at trackside!

When the family returns to their seats, they're greeted by their neighbors who have just arrived. Since they're all season ticket holders, they see each other regularly and have become friends. Just as all are settling in, the announcers ask all to stand for the national anthem, and everyone can hear everything perfectly because of the top notch sound system.

As the riders take their sighting lap for the first moto, the conversation picks up. “Can you believe Team Dell? This is the third time this season that all four team members swept qualifying!” “Yeah, looks like hiring David Bailey as a riding coach was a good move for them, huh?” “I want to see the Motorola squad kick their ass, though.” “It might happen; Motorola had an easy time with Black & Decker/Pennzoil last weekend in New England...”

The banter slows only slightly as the first moto gets underway. On the box seat monitors, lap times and rider positions are presented, while the family is able to see the entire track from their seats. In comfort. In style.

Like all good motocross fans, they stay until the checkered flag falls on the last moto of the day. They watch their trophy presentation and give a final cheer for the victors. Then they pack up their belongings and stroll back to their car. They stop and buy last minute souvenir t-shirts on the way. They're in no rush because they know that there's no hassle in getting out of the parking lot and back on the road for the drive home, even though the place was nearly packed with over 70,000 fans. They're already looking forward to the next home race in two weeks. And waiting for them in their mailbox at home is the renewal application for their box seats, which they will enthusiastically renew.

Like the movie said, “If you build it, they will come.”

P.S. Enjoy the racing in Vegas!

October 05, 2005

He's Back!

Okay, it may be slightly premature, but the truth of the matter is James Stewart is back! After his worst season of professional racing ever, number 259 will take to the track this weekend for the U.S. Open of Motocross. Internet good guy Steve "TFS" Bruhn got in a few words with James over at Racer X Online. When you read the interview, you'll notice as I did that Stewart's tone seems reasonably subdued. Good for him! Let the talking happen on the track!

So, who's going to take the win this weekend? Smart money would NEVER bet against Rick Carmichael, but there's one thing that everyone has to finally admit: if ANYONE is going to beat Carmichael at the MGM Grand, it will probably be James Stewart.

September 30, 2005

Sparkplug 21

It is officially the “off season” for American motocross and we all know what that means: endless bench racing sessions where we talk about the “Perfect Storm” that wasn't, and pontificate about the new year of racing to come. For this week's Sparkplug, I want to kick-off the season with continued reflection on what I'm calling my “vision” for motocross in these United States, a Professional Motocross Racing League. Sorry folks, but I'm going to keep pushing this idea until somebody proves it completely, ridiculously impossible, or they step up to the plate and ask me to help them implement it. One or the other.

One thing that many fans of outdoor motocross agree on is the idea that the facilities at most if not all of the current National tracks are woefully inadequate. In short, we want our top tracks to offer the same amenities that stadiums and superspeedways offer: grandstand seating, luxury suites, real and plentiful bathrooms, easy access, pre-wired for television, etc, etc. It is also quite clear that such facilities are tremendously expensive, and there is basically no way that a promoter can afford to build such a motorsports palace on the shaky agreement that they will get one big National event per year. How do we get around this?

My solution is to give these facility owner/promoters MULTIPLE events per year. The only way to do this is to change the current racing paradigm. We must drop the current “traveling circus” format and adopt the multiple, simultaneous regional event structure as used by the professional stick-and-ball sports. The principle is simple: if we want to have facilities such as they have in the NFL and MLB, then we need to pattern our schedule after theirs as well.

Imagine living in the Southeastern portion of this great country, where you live in knowledge that the greatest motocross racer(s) of all time live in our region, but you have to drive all the way to Maryland in order to see them compete on a real outdoor race course. How frustrating is that? Suppose the new Professional Motocross Racing League constructs a state-of-the-art facility in Alabama or Georgia, and throughout the course of the racing season holds at least 6 top level professional events... would that be exciting or what?

Let's take a look at that a little bit closer. The Atlanta Supercross can get between 40 to 60-thousand fans in the door each year. I think the Daytona Supercross does similar business. For the blue-sky sake of argument, let's say the Southeastern PMRL event gets 50,000 at each of six events, for a total draw of 300,000. At $30 a pop, that's $9 million in just ticket sales. Do you think those fans might want something to drink while they watch the races?

Here's how the multiple, simultaneous regional schedule could work. Split the country into 6 regions: North East, Central and West and South East, Central and West. Build fantastic facilities in each. Allow teams to pick a region as their “home” region (the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit team could select South West... the Starbucks/Engine Ice squad might run in the South East), but there will be multiple teams competing to represent each region. Qualifiers will be run to determine which riders from which teams will represent the region each week in region versus region competition. Arrange the schedule so that teams play “away” on alternate weekends. The season will run for 16 weeks from late Spring to early Fall, regardless of what they do with Supercross. The season will culminate in Individual titles, Team titles and Region titles.

And let me take this moment to stress that this is NOT indoor motocross. These facilities are all about outdoor motocross, and every attempt should be made to take advantage of the natural terrain endemic to each particular region. The facility itself should be engineered to provide perfect viewing of a nearly natural track. If it almost sounds impossible... that's alright; nothing great ever came from a small dream.

Yes, this idea blows tradition clear out of the water. Yes, this idea means goodbye to the great old tracks, but it also means hello to a new era of motocross, one that is exemplified by increased numbers of people taking to the dirt to enjoy the sport firsthand. More track, less land closures, more fun for all.

And for those of us getting too old to ride a whole heck of a lot, more racing to watch on TV... or better yet, on the internet. Bring it on!

September 28, 2005

Where Do They Get These Guys?

Seriously. Where did they come from? Clear Channel just released a press blurb about the NBC announcing team for the U.S. Open (read it here at Racer X Online). I mean, who the heck is "color analyst" Robbie Floyd? Or "pit reporter" Kenan Harkin? Do you know? Because I sure don't.

September 27, 2005

AMA Pro Racing Penalizes Riders

So, the men in Ohio have passed judgement on that crazy second moto event at the season finale (see press release here at Transworld Motocross Online).

The verdict? $5,000 fine against Mike Alessi PLUS a disqualification for BOTH motos (?), which moves him back to 3rd overall for the season. Alessi was also put on 12 months of probation, whatever that means. Alessis is also now ineligible for the AMA Rookie of the Year award (like THAT was gonna happen after that episode!). The AMA also penalized Matt Walker, fining him $2,500 and disqualifying him for just the second moto. Oh yeah, he's on 12 months probation as well.

My take? I'm glad the AMA finally got its act together and did something about that flagrant transgression. I also think that waiting two weeks was a bit, how can I put it?.... LAZY? Obviously, they had bigger fish to fry than enforcing their own rules in a timely fashion. The press release mentions the difficulty in coordinating everyone's schedule... hey man, you're not trying to throw a party, YOU'RE HANDING OUT PUNISHMENT. It's called TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS. So what's first? Business or what?

I also don't quite understand the concept of disqualifying Mike for moto one, unless they are specifically punishing him for his altercation with Grant Langston (running him off the track and then kicking at him on the steep uphill). If they are, it should be clearly spelled out in the press release. The press release is the tool to let the racing public know that the AMA means business! Or not...

But $5,000? That's barely a penalty. As Motocross Action's Jody Weisel once noted, if the rider gets a win bonus of $50,000, a $5k penalty for cheating is hardly a deterrence. There needs to be another zero on the end of that fine. Penalties need to cause pain in order for them to have an effect. As it is, this doesn't even rate as a slap on the wrist.

Finally, does anyone really take the 12 month probation seriously? Does anyone really think Mike Alessi is going to change his style because he's "on probation"? Is the AMA seriously saying that if Mike Alessi has one more similar incident in 2006, they'll pull his racing license? This would be funny if it weren't so sad.

The AMA definitely sent a message to the troops with this press release today. Prepare yourself for more "Rollerball" antics in 2006.

September 26, 2005

I have seen the Future of Motocross...

And it has two names.

The first name is “Live, pay-per-view internet webcasts”. For the entirely reasonable sum of $4.99, a company called Mediazone streamed the 2005 Motocross Des Nations to anyone who wanted to see it; in fact, you can still see the archived version for the rest of the week. For less than the cost of an overpriced beer at a Supercross, I was able to watch, live and in real-time, Ricky Carmichael beat the best racers in the world. It was a phenomenal show, and to top the whole thing off, there were no commercials whatsoever. No breaks in the action. A single, moto-savvy announcer who could actually correctly pronounce all of the riders’ names. It was pure moto-magic, and it makes no sense at all that the American series have yet to be covered in the same way. We certainly have the technology, and the audience is just waiting for the opportunity. All we need is for certain persons to make the decision to do the right thing, for a change.

The second name of the Future of Motocross is Ben Townley. The young New Zealander put in the ride of his life at the 2005 Motocross Des Nations, turning lap times with a tenth or two of RC, and clearly beating Kevin Windham straight up, two motos in a row. Townley will be coming to America in 2006 to race for Mitch Payton on the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad in the 250F class, and he made it very, VERY clear on Sunday that he will be the man to beat. Current AMA 250F champion Ivan Tedesco could not even get close enough to Townley to smell his exhaust. I don't know what young Ben's supercross skills are like, but his outdoor style reminds me of Chad Reed; if Townley is anything like Speedy Reedy indoors, he's going to have a heck of a career in America. The just-married Mitch has got to be triple-happy right about now!

The Future is bright indeed.

Big Ups to Team USA!

We did it! Or more correctly, THEY did it, bringing the MXdN trophy back to America. Racer X's Davey Coombs tells it like it was.

September 24, 2005

Team U.S.A.: Number One in Qualifying!

Check out Ryan Cooley's excellent Motocross Des Nations report over at Transworld Motocross Online. Great story and pics. Man, did they get a big crowd for Saturday qualifying, or what?!

Sparkplug 20

It's the Motocross Des Nations weekend, so the first thing I want to do is say “Go U.S.A.!” However, this week's Sparkplug is not about the most important single day race of the year; I will let others tackle that assignment for now. This week I want to revisit an idea I have mentioned before on this site: how to improve the outdoor Nationals.

In particular, I want to propose, again, a total revamping of the way the series works, just for the heck of it. Some may say “if it ain't broke, don't go trying to fix it”, but I'm of the opinion that it's safe to muse about seemingly ridiculous ideas... sometimes they turn out to be sheer genius.

Do any of you remember High School Motocross? (Steve Bauer remembers here!) I remember back in the late '70s while I still lived on the East Coast, one of the many things that made me jealous of California was the fact that some of their public high schools had actual motocross teams, and they actually held a championship race at the L.A. Coliseum! To an Atlantic Coast racer the concept was mind-boggling back in the day; even now, it seems too surreal to be true. What ever happened to those teams? I'm pretty sure that our modern, litigious society and the correspondingly high insurance rates had something to do with demise of this extra-curricular activity, but the truth is I don't know for sure. But wouldn't it be cool if we could get it to happen again? And in more high schools around the country?

Here's the thing I fantasize about (when I'm not daydreaming about playing footsie at dinner with LeeAnn Tweeden): amateur motocross competition fashioned after amateur football competition in this country. Imagine high school motocross leagues featuring Saturday afternoon, multi-school race meets; city and state high school motocross champions; college motocross scholarships and college motocross leagues racing on Friday nights, all feeding the big show: a Professional Motocross Racing League that holds weekly regional team races on Sunday afternoons from Spring to late Summer, with a big, Fall playoff series and a final, championship race in October. How awesome would that be?

I'm talking about a significant, exponential increase in the amount of PARTICIPATION in our sport, while everyone else with ideas for improving the Nationals seems to be concerned primarily with increasing spectator attendance. Which approach do you think the manufacturers will most likely support? The one that holds the highest potential for improving their revenues, of course.

I also realize that this dream of mine is far from reality. There are many obstacles, some financial, some political, some institutional that stand in the way. But the one challenge that we cannot afford to hinder us is our own ability to DREAM BIG. Ridicule my idea if you like, but you have to admit that it is a bigger vision than any that have been recently floated by the powers-that-be. Some people don't want to see motocross get any bigger; I think they are constrained by poor insight. I think they can only see our current headaches increasing in size along with the sport. But I believe that exponential growth in PARTICIPATION will help to mitigate many of the problems we face, problems like track closures and shrinking, overcrowded riding areas. There's strength in numbers, folks! If more taxpaying, wage-earning voters are riding dirtbikes, there will be more reasons for the politicians to work in our favor, and more market incentive to open more tracks. Legitimizing motocross competition as an amateur athletic endeavor to be pursued in conjunction with academic achievement will also go a long way towards reducing public antagonism towards the sport.

I may have forgot to mention that the minimum age for a professional racer in the Professional Racing League would be 18, and that some college course work would be mandatory as well, unless “hardship” could be proven for those rare cases. Why? To give these kids a better shot at a longer, more fulfilling career. It is pretty clear that while a young man or woman may be physically capable of racing at a professional level, two more years makes a big difference in their ability to make mature adult decisions, both on and off the race track. This year's Josh Grant/Josh Hansen/Mike Alessi antics are just some of the stories that give weight to my assertion.

There's a lot more to this idea of mine, and I will not be surprised to see some version of it implemented before I'm gone. Actually, I take that back... it would surprise the heck out of me! But that's what Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals are all about.

And in closing, I would just like to say... “Go U.S.A.!!!!”

September 23, 2005

Where is Sparkplug 20?

Sorry, it's not ready yet. Don't kill me. Instead, visit Wonder Warthog's site to see what the privateer champions are up to...

Sparkplug will go up later today. For now, gotta go make that cheddar...

September 22, 2005

Looks Like AMA Arenacross is in Good Hands

Here's a press release announcing that the new AMA National Arenacross series has hired High Profile PR (HPPR) to manage their public relations campaign for the 2005 - 2006 season.

HPPR is owned by Pat Schutte, a tireless fan of MX and a proven PR specialist. This is probably one of the best decisions the AMA has made in recent weeks. Good job, Pat!

Lord Alfred Returns From The Dead!

Jason "Blogandt" has an eccentric rich uncle, Lord Alfred Weigandt who is quite the motocross fan... although he clearly holds tremendous disdain for American racers. He's put his thoughts about the upcoming Motocross Des Nations together for this article at Racer X Online. Cheers!

September 19, 2005

Anti-fourstroke diatribe!

I gotta give props to Lee over at On The Pipe Racing for his funny-as-hell take on all those damn thumpers! Give 'em hell, Lee!

September 16, 2005

Sparkplug 19

Well, the American motocross and supercross championships are now finally over, and it's time for me to pay my respects to the greatest motocross racer this country has ever seen. If you are in any way allergic to heaping amounts of praise for Rick Carmichael, then this is one Sparkplug you would be well advised to avoid.

RC. Two letters that stand for motocross, much the same way as “MC” used to stand for supercross. What Rick Carmichael has accomplished in his short professional career is nothing short of completely remarkable, and mere words cannot accurately convey his utter dominance of this sport. I will let other writers and publications list all of his wins, championships, titles and records (In fact, check out what Davey Coombs wrote about him in last week's Racerhead column on Racer X Online)... I am just going to focus on the man. I will also let other writers and publications dig up his supposed shortcomings; I have no interest in that. Regardless of what they say, it is abundantly clear to even the casual motocross fan that Rick Carmichael is the greatest American racer of all time.

And what's really, really cool about this fact is that you don't have to rely on a record book or an old video tape to prove this point. All you have to do is go to a race and watch him put it down, lap after lap. He is sheer perfection on a motorcycle, and he has the proven capacity to handle any track, any condition, any component and any unforeseen eventuality. It is unreal, but it is actually real. The kid is mind-boggling.

I saw him at Glen Helen last weekend. There was a wicked downhill double that preceded the infamous “Flounder” straightaway. It was the type of double that shoots you straight up in the air, and the second jump had a steep, unforgiving face. Finally, the backside of the double led immediately into a tight lefthand turn. Basically, there was no room for error on this jump and it spooked a good number of the very fast pros on hand for this race. Of course, Carmichael had the jump wired and hit it in the same spot on every lap. On the first moto's white flag lap, he casually whipped his bike so flat that it would have placed him third in the X Games Big Air event. NO ONE ELSE had the balls to try it, nor had they earned the right to do so.

That was just one of many, many times that I have been flabbergasted by what the man can do on a motocross track. What I am trying to say is that he, more than any other American rider, embodies the sport itself. For not only is he the winningest rider ever, he has grown up to become the greatest ambassador of the sport to date, even eclipsing the great Jeremy McGrath. He has an untarnished reputation for having a good work ethic, for practicing good sportsmanship and for being open, honest and forthright. He is truly a good role model for your kids, a position that many of today's professional athletes have sadly relinquished. And it's easy to tell where RC got these wonderful traits: I have had the good fortune to meet his parents, and they are genuinely nice people whose love for the sport of motocross is only eclipsed by the love they have for their son.

I went back into my collection of old Racer X magazines and pulled out the May 2001 issue. Savvy motocross fans will remember that 2001 was the year that RC finally pulled the plug on Jeremy McGrath's string of supercross titles. In the magazine, Davey Coombs pulls double duty, penning an interview with Carmichael and also writing a short story about “that moment” at Anaheim 2 when the guard formally changed. It was during the opening ceremonies, during the “hot lap”, when Rick pulled up alongside the King and whipped his KX hard over the triple, blowing everyone's minds.... including McGrath. A poster of this later became a semi-famous advertisement. According to the story, David Bailey, announcing for ESPN at the time, said “I think Ricky just won this race.”

That seems so long ago, but it was only 4 short years ago. Back then, while RC's outdoor dominance was well established, it wasn't quite clear whether he was going to be the supercross superstar as well. By the end of that season, clarity was no longer a problem. RC owned supercross as well.

And then, during those 4 years, Carmichael somehow managed to redefine “dominance” with regards to outdoor motocross, by doing the unthinkable TWICE. The fact that he's still undefeated outdoors after that win by Windham back in '02? What more proof do you need?

Soon, RC will lead Team America in the Motocross des Nations, and all of us can rest assured that no matter what happens that day in France, Mr. Carmichael will proudly represent American motocross in a way that will make other nationalities feel good about Americans, even as he pummels their favorite riders mercilessly lap after lap.

Rick Carmichael, congratulations on your new 450F Championship and a heck of a year.

September 15, 2005

"Sorry if they upset you, but they’re our names - get over it!"

That quote is from AMA Pro Racing's Steve Whitelock. There's more of that at Racer X Online.

Another nail in the old-fashioned sanctioning body's coffin, if you ask me.

September 13, 2005

You Owe Us An Apology, Mike Alessi

Dude, this goes beyond the standard “What were you THINKING/SMOKING/DRINKING?” exclamation. By now, everyone has seen the video, and if not, they will when it’s finally aired on OLN. You were cold busted, Mike. Ain’t nothing left for you to say but “I’m sorry.”

Mike, you had a great season going! Your very first full professional series, and you were second in the points with an actual shot at the title in the final moto! It was an awesome year for you and it surely changed some peoples’ minds about you. And then you went and burned it all up in just a few seconds of stupidity. You owe the entire motocross world an apology for your actions on Sunday.

Hey man, it’s great that you have the eye of the tiger and all that, but you seem to have forgotten that honor and respect are important parts of motocross. Any honor and respect you had gained this year have been completely wiped out. Did you honestly think that tackling Tedesco in front of the scoring tower and grandstands would win you more friends? Did you seriously think that winning the title with such a move would actually count for anything? Did someone brainwash you into thinking that blatant cheating is an accepted tactic in motocross? Mike, when are you going to grow up?

If you care to peruse my archives, you’ll see, Mike, that I picked YOU as the favorite to win the 250F class this year. And you came mighty close, and for that you should be proud. Now, you have absolutely nothing to be proud of. Sure, you won a National and a few motos… too bad none of that counts anymore. Didn’t you learn anything from the Kobe Bryant story? Kobe had built his career not just on his stellar basketball playing, but also through his carefully cultivated good guy persona. That all went to shit when the real Kobe got his freak on in Colorado… and got cold busted, just like you. Now, you have to start with an apology to everyone, and hopefully, we’ll forgive you and move on.

September 12, 2005

Who is this? None other than Tony Alessi, watching his boys study the gate before they pick their spots for the first Motocross Lites moto. There's no way to tell from this shot what Alessi shenanigans are going to happen in just a few hours... Posted by Picasa

Here's Kevin Windham's Factory Connection Honda CRF450R, wearing Sebastian Tortelli's number for some reason. Actually, #103 is Kevin's MXdN number, but Tortelli ran his number anyway, the only difference between the two being Kevin's yellow backgrounds. I love the way the AMA bends the rules when they want to. In this shot, Kdub's wrench is about to do a last minute silencer change. Now, I wonder if they sound-tested both silencers, or did Factory Connection pull a fast one in the pits? Posted by Picasa

"Let Broc Bye" Here's a shot of former multi-time national champion Broc Glover, now hard at work for Dunlop tires. What's he doing? He's using his cell phone camera to take pics of the Dunlop logo on Tedesco's bike. Why? YOU ask him... Posted by Picasa

I couldn't resist this shot of Yamaha of Troy team members Kelly Smith and Bret Metcalfe. I think their gear looks awesome. But man, were they ever outclassed on the track by the might Monster/Pro Circuit team! YOT was never in contention this year, indoors or out. Posted by Picasa

Here's Ivan "Tabasco" Tedesco's race bike, outfitted in special Motocross des Nations colors. I guess that ends the speculation on which bike he'll use. This is the last time he'll ride a Kawasaki in 2005. These Monster/Pro Circuit bikes were the prettiest of all this year. Check out the trick Pro Circuit kick starter. Posted by Picasa

New Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki hotshot Ryan Villapoto calmly waits to line up for the first moto at the Glen Helen season finale. This kid is gonna be a star! Posted by Picasa

Glen Helen 2005: You Shoulda Been There.

Yeah, I was at Glen Helen for the final round of the AMA Outdoor National Motocross Championships, and it was a great day of racing. I will report on the 450F class later, because Sunday's biggest deal by far was the suspenseful 250F (ahem, the AMA Motocross Lites) class, and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team had the hottest hand of all. With Ivan Tedesco enjoying the comfort of a 35 point lead over KTM's Mike Alessi in the championship standings, it looked like a sure bet that Mitch Payton would be adding yet another number 1 plate to his team's transporter. It only took half a lap of the first moto for that “sure bet” to disappear.

Tedesco was hit by Team Makita Suzuk's Broc Hepler in the back section whoops. Tedesco went over the bars and his chain derailed. He was able to put it back on, but it put him about a minute behind the next-to-last rider. Ivan put on a charge, but was unable to finish in the points. Meanwhile, Alessi finished second to Grant Langston in what looked like a replay of their titanic duel at Hangtown, but Langston was assessed a 5 second penalty for cutting the track, so Alessi got credit for the win... and 25 points. Tedesco's points lead was cut to ten. The stage was set for the second moto, the last race of the year.

At the start of moto 2, Tedesco's teammate Ryan Villapoto got the holeshot, followed by Jeff Alessi, of all people. Close behind was Tedesco, Mike Alessi and Andrew Short. Chaos again ensued on the first lap. Here's how Ivan described it at the post-race press conference: “I was in third, I believe. And going down that mud straightaway, that's what I call it, I don't know what they call it, that long straightaway into a right-hander, I was kind of in the middle, I think he went inside and starting clicking gears and never shut off and just aimed for me. Took us both down; I'm pretty sore from that. When I was trying to get up he was actually standing on top of my bike, you know, trying to keep me from getting my bike up. Trying to push me down and stuff. You know, it took every ounce of everything to try not to just hit that kid, uppercut his helmet. But I knew I didn't want to get disqualified or anything, I knew the points, so I had to hold back. Finally Walker came over and kind of helped me out. I got my bike up, got going and just kind of... not rode around but my bike was pretty beat up and I was beat up so I just cruised into twelfth and pulled off the championship.”

Meanwhile up front, young Villapoto looked as if he was going to take his first National moto win, until his teammate Langston passed him for the win and the overall. Villapoto, in only his third National, took second and second overall... his first podium finish. A remarkable performance for the 17-year-old.

I went to the Monster/Pro Circuit pits after the press conference just to get a feel for the vibe there. I was expecting a jubilant celebration, but instead it was a quiet, almost reverential atmosphere. I watched Team Suzuki chief Roger DeCoster come over to congratulate Pro Circuit owner/manager Mitch Payton, and it made me think about how far Payton and his company have come. I was wondering how Payton felt about getting kudos from a legend like DeCoster. I wonder if Mitch Payton realizes that he has become a legend in his own right. The side doors of the Monster/Pro Circuit transporter were open, and on those doors are a series of championship number plates for all of the many championships the team has won. This year, 2005, Mitch's team has absolutely dominated 250F (er, AMA Motocross/Supercross Lites) racing, winning every title available. And when you think about how many weekend warriors use Pro Circuit pipes and equipment, you understand the tremendous contribution this company has made to the sport of motocross in America.

While I was hanging out, pretty much by myself... no one really knows me in the pits... Ivan emerged from the transporter with a beer in his hand. He raised a toast to Mitch and they shared some words. I wasn't close enough to hear, and it was a private affair anyway. Then Mitch reached up and hugged Ivan. They talked some more and Mitch hugged him again. Call me a softy, but I was nearly moved to tears. These guys worked long and hard for this title; they earned it and now they'll go their separate ways, Tedesco to Team Suzuki while Payton will tackle another year of proving that his company is the best hop-up company in the sport, and that his team is the winningest non-factory team ever.

(For a full race report, check out what Steve Bruhn posted over at Racer X Online.)