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)!