December 29, 2006
2006 was the year that James Stewart became a solid 450 racer. It was also the debut year for Kawasaki’s big thumper, and the two of them kicked off the year with the win at the Anaheim opener. That was the race in which RC went down in the whoops and the next thing you knew, all tracks built after that were a bit tamer. Of course, that had nothing to do with Carmichael.
2006 was also the year that the AMA/FIM fuel penalty turned the hat trick, claiming it’s third set of victims in as many years when they caught Team Makita Suzuki’s star rider with his hand in the leaded cookie jar. Of course, the difference this year was that neither the FIM nor the AMA wanted the penalty to affect the title chase, so they gave Carmichael his points back and took his money instead, leaving Kawasaki team manager Mike Fisher to believe that the rules were not meant to be take seriously. Unfortunately, Fisher was not the only one left with that belief.
Speaking of bone-headed moves by the sanctioning body, new class “names” were announced at the start of the year. They were and continue to be not only ridiculous, but almost unanimously disliked by everyone involved in the sport. Of course, they will not be changed for 2007.
2006 marked the first time that the Supercross championship went down to the absolute wire at the finale in Las Vegas, and to top it off, it was broadcast live. Apparently everybody but me thought it was the most exciting race since Anaheim ’86… I thought it was a parade, since the top three settled into their positions early and stayed there until the end. It also marked the end of a phenomenal second season of supercross for James, as he became the first person to deny Carmichael of a Championship (the under-respected World SX crown). He also became the first racer to win ALL of his heat races in a season... although most people could not care less about that particular stat.
2006 was the first year in a little while that I didn’t attend the opening race of the Outdoor Nationals, choosing instead to stay warm and comfortable while it rained from Pasadena to Sacramento. Of course, that meant I missed a hell of a race, with James Stewart again achieving the another pair of milestones: snapping Carmichael’s ridiculously long winning streak as well as taking the KX450F to a victory in it’s maiden outdoor voyage.
Unfortunately, the 2006 Outdoor season didn’t turn out to be the race-to-race battle we had long hoped for, as Stew crashed his brains out one too many times, and Superbad Chad just wasn’t feeling it. So RC steamrolled to another title and did the unthinkable: he retired.
Maybe THAT’S why I’m feeling kind of melancholy about 2006; this was the last year of the Reign of Rick(y). Late in 2006, RC fired the shot heard ‘round the world: he’s going to NASCAR. And I hope he kicks big time ass there.
Sometime in the middle of 2006, Israel invaded Lebanon, and I regained perspective. Motocross suddenly seemed frivolous, and I stopped writing about it. I remembered that Americans were still dying in the Middle East, for reasons that I personally cannot excuse. My love of this sport never wavered, but I had to admit that it was not as important as many other things in this world. Since then, they’ve called a ceasefire in Lebanon, American troops are STILL dying and an election was held and some politicians lost their jobs. Motocross remains less important than geopolitical affairs, but… but I still love this sport. So here we are.
Ryan Villopoto made Mike Alessi very sad by seriously kicking his ass at the Glen Helen outdoor finale. But Mike shouldn’t take it personally; RV kicked EVERYONE’S ass that day, lending credence to the concept that there will always be a fast, freckle-faced redhead in this sport.
Also at Glen Helen, RC fired the SECOND shot heard world wide when he crashed and, unbelievably, hurt himself badly enough that he not only left the track, but was unable to race in the Motocross des Nations. Thousands of international Carmichael fans had their hearts broken that day. Ironically, RC’s dnf insured that Stewart took the win at Glen Helen, giving him the “bookends”: wins at both the opening and closing rounds of the series.
With RC out, James was able to don the number 1 plate at the MXdN, and led America’s team to victory, even though he finished 2-2 to the incomparable Stefan Everts.
And that was it for the racing, folks. Oh sure, there were the big money events held in Carson, CA and Las Vegas, NV, won by Kdub and Stewart, respectively. But all of the drama, tension and excitement of the big title chases were over and done by then. Nothing left to do but fight and argue on the motoboards.
And then, the unthinkable: Marty Moates killed himself.
Okay… THAT’S the reason for my melancholia. I’m still slightly out-of-sorts about the whole deal. I used to get quite a thrill at seeing Marty at A1 and going up to him to say “Hi”… and he would actually talk to me, would actually remember me! Even with 45,000 people in that stadium, it’s going to seem empty without him. Dammit.
2006. Some good things happened, for sure, but I’m ready to let it go.
Happy New Year to all!
December 12, 2006
Finally, here are some photos taken at Marty's very last race, courtesy The Factory Spectator himself, Steve Bruhn.
Rest well, Marty.
December 11, 2006
December 09, 2006
December 08, 2006
(photo courtesy Motocross Action)
Marty Moates, a hero to all motocross fans, took his own life yesterday. I am numb.
I first met Marty a few years back after reading one of his posts on the old Fresh Dirt board. He basically invited everyone on the board to come to the Carlsbad Christmas Grand Prix and have a beer with him as he celebrated his birthday on his brand new YZ250F. I showed up, looking forward to meeting the first American to win the USGP at Carlsbad, and he was true to his word, offering me a Coors Light from a big ol' cooler filled with brew. He was unbelievably nice and I was amazed that he would take the time to chat with me. I was just getting back into racing and I mentioned that I really like the No Fear gear, but was disappointed that they didn't make it in "fat boy" sizes. To my surprise, he told me he had some gear that would fit me, and offered to bring it to A1 for me.
Cut to Anaheim stadium a few weeks later. I was standing outside the restaurant when Marty Moates walked up and shook my hand. He introduced me to his wife and then handed me a bag full of McGrath-replica No Fear gear. I was nearly delirious... it was one thing to get a good deal on great gear, but to have it personally delivered by Marty Moates, right in the middle of MX/SX Central? I was in heaven.
I saw Marty many times after that... he even gave me a tour of the No Fear facility once... and everytime, EVERY SINGLE TIME I saw him he was smiling and friendly and happy. Which is why I can barely believe what has happened. I can't, I don't want to imagine what made him do this.
Marty, take care. You are greatly missed. Thanks for everything.
December 06, 2006
As for my take? First: Congrats to Team San Manuel Band of Mission Indians/L&M Racing/Yamaha rider Chad Reed. "Superbad" Chad put a lot of bad memories behind him with this one. Good for him!
And as a Stewart fan, I'm happy to see him hanging in there to get podium points after what was at best a questionable move, but sheesh... it wasn't pretty. Glad to see that Preston wasn't seriously injured, and I hope Ivan is able to answer the bell at A1. But I'm not mad at Stew... like I said before, I wasn't there to see it in person, and the guy I linked to above describes the practice stuff pretty accurately.
December 04, 2006
Motocross Illustrated has a great feature they run every issue, the “Earnings Leaders”, a list of the top purse winners to date. This list shows who won how much over the course of the season, and it only counts prize money and points-fund money; sponsor payout, salaries and bonuses are not included. And what's striking about this list is, you guessed it, the fact that it truly represents a paltry sum of money.
Now don't get me wrong; if someone handed me $10 grand, I'd gratefully accept it and consider myself lucky. But when you consider the effort Grant Langston expended to win his regional 250F supercross championship, then his year-end prize money total of only $17,420 seems more than pitiful.
Seriously, a championship nets less than $20K? What year is this again?
Let's move to the top of the leader board, where we're not surprised to find James Stewart. Stew clocked $438,300... and more than a third of this was earned at just one race, the U.S. Open. Stewart's string of supercross victories and his World SX title made up the difference.
Same with the number two earner, Ricky Carmichael. Even though RC took home the 450F Outdoor crown, there's no doubt that his Supercross championship brought him the bulk of the dollars.
Here are a few things that bug me about this money index:
Only four guys in this entire country, in what is arguably the greatest motocross nation on earth and in the the richest and longest motocross/supercross series on the planet, were able to win more than $100,000 in prize money. The guy in fifth place on the leader board, Josh Grant, only made $93K.
It gets worse: only two racers were in the $90s, just one in the $80s, four made between $60 and $70... and NO ONE made $50K.
Four racers were in the $40s; five in the $30s (and one of them was 250F National Champion Ryan Villapoto!); EIGHT in the $20s; and seven racers made less than $20K, including the King of Supercross himself, Jeremy McGrath, who only took home $18,850 (which really isn't too bad considering the limited number of races he competed in... all supercrosses, of course).
The total amount prize money handed out to the top 35 Earnings Leaders comes to about $2.35 million. I'm not even going to begin to compare that figure to any other sport; I'll let you do that yourself.
So what's the verdict? That our sport is too stingy and cheap? That purses must be raised, or our sport will never be taken seriously? That our riders are under compensated for efforts they exert and the risks they take? Well, yeah. But there's a problem with those thoughts, and it mostly comes from the way our sport was formed and the REASON the whole thing got started in the first place.
Motocross was never meant to be a big money sport like the popular professional sports that dominate the nations airwaves and newspapers. Professional motocross in this country was developed as a means to sell motorcycles to enthusiasts, bottom line. And Supercross was developed to sell stadium seat tickets to casual fans. The men behind these endeavors never intended for racers to become millionaires; they wanted to get that money for themselves! The Japanese manufacturers didn't build big racing teams in this country so that fast kids could live lavish factory-supported lifestyles; they just wanted to get mini-dads to buy more bikes!
The truth of the matter is, while I'm bitching about the amount of prize money paid in 2006, I should really be thankful that these heroes were able to make as much as they did... because it was never in the play book for purses and earnings to be this high. For that, we have to thank the unsung visionaries who toiled in the background and made it happen. It's a long way from perfect, that's for sure, but it's a lot better than nothing, and it could be a whole lot worse. Here's hoping, though, that the far-sighted will continue to do what it takes to make sure our riders get paid what they're worth.
November 13, 2006
David Izer racing a couch? For a 1000 miles down the Baja Peninsula? Dude, didn't you see "Dust to Glory"??
I'm not sure whether I should cheer or say a few prayers. Probably both..! And I tell you what: this will turn into the greatest episode of DMXS Radio ever. Of that I'm sure...
November 11, 2006
Tortelli was always quick, and I remember when he first started racing in the states, in the winter of '98 I believe. At the fabled Perris Invitation Supercross, he battled Jeff Emig down to the very last lap. Now, back in those days the promoters at Perris would use tricks to make the racing more interesting... on this day, certain turns had "lanes", that is, they ran stakes and track ribbon in the middle of the turn to separate it into distinct "inside" and "outside" lines. One of these turns was set up just a few turns from the finish, and Emig had the advantage going in, choosing to take the faster outside line. But before these two riders reached the corner, another rider had blown through the ribbon, leaving a hole... which Tortelli used to his advantage. Sebastien went inside-outside, blocked Fro, and went on to win the race.
I remember Emig being pissed, but he was still a good sport about it. And "Bashen Telly", as some internet wag once called him, seemed slightly embarrassed... but he wasn't about to give up the $10k winner-takes-all prize money.
And then a few weeks later, "Tortellini" lucked into the win at the opening round of the Supercross series at the L.A. Coliseum, when Doug Henry, after leading from start to the last lap, stalled his works thumper Yamaha and couldn't get restarted in time. The young World Champ from France was on a roll. Too bad it didn't pan out into an AMA title.
Good luck, Sebastien, with whatever you do. And thanks for all the good rides.
November 03, 2006
Yes, it has been a little while since the last Sparkplug, but the muse has returned so to speak. My little hiatus was unexpected but apparently much needed and that's all I'll say about that. For now, I'll just ease back into the swing of things... I don't want to pull a mental muscle.
This week's Sparkplug is about Motocross Media, specifically, the recent changes in the game. It looks like this sport may just join the 21st Century yet.
Just tonight I had the pleasure of browsing through my second copy of the new magazine, MOTOCROSS ILLUSTRATED (aka “MXi”), a unique and welcome addition to the pantheon of MX press. What makes MXi unique is the fact that it comes out twice a month, and yet it is as slick and glossy as any of the monthly mags. Led by Editorial Director Steve Cox and Executive Editor Scott Rousseau and published by Access Media, MXi combines the timeliness of Cycle News with the visual excellence of Racer X or TWMX. I'm really glad to see a new publication, and I think they're doing a heckuva job, Brownie.
Also relatively new to the scene is VitalMX.com, which is sort of the MySpace of Motocross. Vital MX is an ambitious, web-only undertaking that boasts just about everything one would want in a motocross enthusiast's website. Ably run by Steve Gibberson (former web honcho for TWMX Online and the generous guru behind Motodrive.com), VitalMX features the very latest MX news, race reports, and videos as well as a full-on membership area (and it's FREE!) with fan forum and all that jazz. Vital is just picking up speed, but it will probably become one of the primary web destinations for motocross fans in the upcoming year.
And speaking of the upcoming year, some really big news dropped this week regarding race coverage for 2007. Live Nation announced the broadcast schedule for the 2007 Amp'd Mobile Supercross series, and the big news is that the Anaheim I race will be broadcast live on the Speed Channel! This is a historical milestone for the sport and hopefully this will lead to my ultimate dream: seeing the entire season broadcast live on a major broadcast network. As for now, the majority of the races will be shown either next day (for the 450 class) or the following weekend (250F, the “redheaded stepchild” of Supercross), with the Las Vegas finale also getting the benefit of a live broadcast.
With the experience gained from this year's live finale broadcast, I certainly hope Live Nation improves their performance. Here's what I thought about the 2006 show.
Live Nation/CBS/Speed also announced earlier that Jeff Emig will be taking over Denny Stephenson's spot in the broadcast booth, alongside the mediocre Ralph Sheheen and woefully inadequate Krista Voda. (Did I just say mediocre and woefully inadequate? Perhaps I exaggerate.) In any case, I find it not so surprising that they chose to replace the best performing person on the team... that seems to be par for the course for some of these old school organizations. I wish Fro the best of luck with his big broadcast debut; I like Jeff Emig a lot and I hope he does well.
But the biggest media news, to me, was the announcement from Mike Kidd that the BooKoo Arenacross series... the ENTIRE series... will be webcast live each week! Here's the announcement. These are full video webcasts, similar to the live webcasts that I enjoyed for both the 2005 and 2006 Motocross des Nations. The BooKoo Arenacross series has truly stepped into the new media millenium, outfoxing the more established race series by going directly to the fans at $5 per viewing. Outstanding!
Too bad what the fans REALLY want to see online is the Amp'd Mobile Supercross series. I'm sure Live Nation's financial analysts looked at the business model for using the internet versus their current scheme of paying for cable and television time and decided that the old model is better. It's all about the dollars, and I don't blame them for maximizing their profits. But I sure do hope that they are able to get the sponsors to cough up more than one commercial for the entire season. Parts Unlimited's Thor commercials are always well done, but there is no excuse for filming just one spot and expecting us to love seeing it all season long. Don't make us hate you, Thor.
October 30, 2006
The strange thing about the schedule is that even though the Anaheim 1 race will be live on SPEED, there will be a re-broadcast of the 450F class on the following day… the 250F class will have to wait a full week. And that seems to be the case for most of the races; the premier class will be shown on the day after the race, but the regional class broadcast is delayed a week. Ah, the wonders of cable TV scheduling…!
In any case, it’s good to see expanded coverage of our great sport. Here’s hoping the production team learned from their many mistakes of last season.
September 26, 2006
And big props go to Stefan Everts for going out with a 1-1 bang in what will most likely be his last MXdN. Sorry your team had to take silver, Stefan, but that's what we American's like to do: win!
But ultimately, this "Bummer" isn't about all that; it's about the fact that it's late September, the announcement for this year's "A Day In The Dirt" spectacular has just hit the internet, and I ... don't have a bike to ride in the race. Again. In fact, even if I DID have a bike, I don't have any boots. That is, my current pair of AXO RC5's are SHOT. I mean, WHIPPED.
What's a moto-loving guy to do?
A couple of years ago, Transworld Motocross editor Donn Maeda graciously lent me their '05 YZ 450F test bike and even paid for my entry fees for the race. I'm still astonished over his generosity with that. But he's been kinda "pissed" at me for sporting Racer X gear, so I don't dare ask him again. Besides... asking someone to lend you a bike so you can trash it in a couple of Grand Prix? How lame is that?
Uh, anybody else out there willing to lend me a ride? Damn, I'm lame! But you know what? The race is SO MUCH FUN, it's worth it. So if you have a bike and can get to Southern California for the Thanksgiving weekend, you owe it to yourself to join in the fun. It's a great time with great people!
September 22, 2006
Rick Carmichael is, without a doubt, America's brightest motocross star and I know he is COMPLETELY bummed out that he'll be riding the pine instead of his Makita Suzuki this weekend. But that soft crying you hear in the background? It's the sobs of thousands of world motocross fans, suffering that sad feeling of dashed expectations. Can you imagine? Waiting all year for the final showdown between the King of Motocross, Stefan Everts and the Greatest American Motocrosser of All Time... and it just ain't in the cards. Man...
September 15, 2006
I finally attended an outdoor National this year, and it was Glen Helen. And I must say, the track was more exciting than I’ve ever seen it. The new section utilizing the REM course was Airtime Central. If anyone has complained about the lack of jumps at Glen Helen in the past, they had no ground for complaints now. That triple step up was plain sick… I made my way to it in time for the first lap of the 450 class moto, and when James hit it just in front of Carmichael, the entire crowd gasped! What a skyshot! It looked just like that old picture of Stewart airing it out over Larocco’s Leap on his 125: front end high, head out over the front fender. Good stuff.
And then it all came to an abrupt end with the unthinkable happening: Carmichael not only down, but OUT. What the…? When has that EVER happened at an outdoor race? And WHY did it have to happen at his LAST outdoor race, just two weeks before the MXdN? Talk about bad timing.
So after scouring the internet for news all week, it appears that the verdict is in, and Rick just may be out. Carmichael himself weighed in during this interview with Racer X’s Davey Coombs, and he says he’s going overseas no matter what; but whether he’ll ride or not is still up in the air. If RC can’t ride, it’ll come down to Ivan Tedesco to pick up the ball and run it into the endzone. I personally think Tabasco can do the job, I just hope his health is up to it.
Any way you slice it, though, American Motocross is looking pretty good. For the MXdN we’ll be sending the World Supercross Champion, the National 250F Motocross Champion and the former National 250F Motocross and Supercross Champion. Even if Rick has to watch from the sidelines, we’re talking about one serious kick-ass team here. Villopoto was CRAZY fast at Glen Helen last Sunday. Everyone talked about how he beat Mike Alessi, but don’t forget he also flat out SMOKED Ben Townley, the guy who almost ran with RC at last year’s des Nations. If we don’t bring home the trophy this year, it will only be due to bad luck, because our boys are definitely bringing the goods.
August 08, 2006
Jim Pomeroy, a great guy, a fast ex-racer and the first American to win a motocross Grand Prix in the modern era, has died. There's more information here at Racer X Online, as well as a retrospective written by Budds Creek Raceway owner Jon Beasley, that originally appeared in Racer X Illustrated in 2002. Motocross Action online also has a very good writeup here, that includes the picture you see above.
Godspeed, Jim. And thanks for racing for us.
July 21, 2006
You gotta give credit to the organizers behind Formula One; even though they already have a solid performer, they're not afraid to make drastic changes to the “formula” to keep the sport relevant and interesting. You may not know this, but they currently have a rule in place that stipulates that a car CANNOT change tires during the race, unless the tire becomes demonstrably unsafe. Basically, they have to run an entire 90 minute, 70 lap race on one set of tires! Can you even imagine NASCAR trying something like that?
Now, the powers-that-be at Formula One ostensibly instituted this rule in an attempt to slow the cars down a bit, “slow” being a relative concept. It has certainly forced the tire manufacturers to up their game in order to deliver tires that can go the distance, while it has also made the drivers and teams develop different strategies to maximize the life of the tires. In my opinion, it has made the racing more interesting; while watching the 2005 season, I was entertained by a few occasions where the race leader had to contend with badly deteriorating rubber while trying to hold on for the win... they didn't always make it!
So what does this have to do with motocross? Well, do you remember the last time the AMA made a major rule change to the sport? Okay, not including the dreaded four-stroke clause. And not the unleaded fuel regulation. And not the permanent number foolishness. Anyway, outside of the forced four-stroke regulation, I don't think there have been any BIG changes to the sport in quite a few years. And while I believe the sport is doing well, I think it can do better, and without further delay, here's the rule change I'm proposing:
Actually, I'm proposing an entire format change. I think we should retire the two-moto format once and for all, and go with a single race that lasts 90 minutes. And I think the onboard fuel capacity of the bikes should be limited to one gallon, in order to force at least one fuel stop. Now, before you go ballistic, let me break it down for ya...
First off, we motocrossers take a lot of pride in the fact that our sport is physically demanding. We've gotten a lot of mileage out of that old chestnut that “motocross is second only to soccer in terms of being physically challenging”, and there's that place in Pennsylvania that tested and compared professional motocross racers to other pro athletes and were simply astounded at our boys' capabilities. But still we “get no respect” from the mainstream sports media. Well, I think one reason is that our races are so much shorter than the other motorsports. NASCAR guys would scoff at a 30 minute stockcar race. And then we split them up into two... for what? Think about it: why are there two motos, anyway? Sure, it's a tradition, and as an out-of-shape racer, I personally appreciate being able to take a break between motos. But at the professional level, endurance is the name of the game... so let's emphasize it.
Think of how race strategy will change. No longer will anyone be able to sprint the entire distance, no matter how hard they train. And with the gas tank size limit forcing at least one pitstop, even more drama is possible. Plus, the riders will have an opportunity to get a drink and fresh goggle and gloves, something that will be sorely appreciated during mud races. Another upside of the gas limit is that the teams will have to pay attention to fuel usage, and the manufacturers will have to place some focus on fuel efficiency... a novel concept in these uncertain times, no?
What's the downside of this format change? Well, certainly there will be an issue with lappers, so I suggest a “lap limit”: if you get lapped three times, you're out. Take a seat, son, you're done for the day. Other problems? Some might say a 90 minute race will be difficult for TV to cover. To them I say, “Um, how long is a NASCAR race again? And isn't Formula One about 90 minutes??” Truth is, TV needs MORE time in order to fit in more commercials. Gotta pay those bills, ya know?
Actually, the single moto format has been tried before, most recently by the European circuit, and they said they did it for “TV purposes”. But they had other issues that, I believe, caused the whole thing to go away. My thinking is to not only go to a long, single moto, but to also play up the endurance aspect in the media as well. Let everyone know that survival is the issue, and come up with ways to demonstrate exactly how grueling it is to compete at this level for this long. WE know these guys are supermen; let's give them a showcase to prove it to the rest of the world.
Plus, we'll get rid of that same old, stupid argument that “it's too difficult to explain two-moto scoring to non-moto fans.” Okay, fine.
So here's how the race weekend would be scheduled: practice on Friday, qualifiers and practice on Saturday, and three races on Sunday. Three? Oh yeah, between the 250F and 450F main events, there will be a 60-minute, 125 two-stroke college race, with entries limited to racers who ride for sanctioned college motocross teams. Of course, that's another story altogether, something that I touched on way back in Sparkplug 20. But until we get a college motocross series going, I suggest that the two-stroke race be for the best of the up-and-coming amateur racers... with an emphasis on AMATEUR, as in “non-salaried.”
So... what do you think?
July 20, 2006
July 14, 2006
Over at Racer X Illustrated, my good friend Davey Coombs pretty much singlehandedly coined the phrase “Because Team USA still matters!” or words to that effect. So maybe I should ask him directly, but instead I'm asking you: why? Why and in what way does it matter if three of the top American racers compete in a race with racers that they intentionally snub the rest of the year. Seriously, while the average American motocross fan loves racing no matter what continent the races are held on, how many U.S. fans really care about the racing series that take place outside our borders? Or maybe the word I'm looking for is respect: how many American MX fans respect, say, the Belgium national motocross championships or Great Britain's national series? I would venture a guess that the percentage is pretty low.
Or maybe it's just my own personal bias? This blog that you're reading claims to be about “All Things Motocross”, but it's really only about American Motocross. I intentionally do not discuss the World Championship or racing in other countries because I am personally not that interested. Don't get me wrong; I have a ton of respect for the riders contesting the MX1, 2 and 3 classes, and I look forward to the day when I can personally visit and ride tracks in other countries. But I just don't follow the current World series like I follow the American championships. I mean, when I was growing up, I recognized, along with most of my motocross-loving peers, that the World Championships... better known as the Grand Prix... as the pinnacle of the sport. That was back in those days before Brad Lackey broke through to become America's first World Champion, and well before the 13-year win streak that Team USA accomplished at the Motocross of Nations. Since that time, though, America has indisputably become the home of the most competitive and lucrative motocross series in the world. No longer do the world's best riders seek their fame and fortune on the World Championship circuit; they seek to land rides in the American Supercross and Outdoor series. That's a fact, Jack (with the noted exception of the incredible Stefan Everts).
So, really, what difference does a one-day, one-off race featuring top riders from all of the motocross-racing countries of the world really make? Yes, it answers the question of who is the absolutely fastest rider on that particular track, on that particular day. So what? A series of races is a better judge of talent than a single race; that's why the championships are series.
Some will say that what “matters” is that sense of national pride that comes from seeing “our team” beat the world. And you know what? I have felt that pride. I felt it last year when Team USA won the event; I felt it in 2000 when we won it, and I felt it every time we won it before that. You hear the American racers talking about what it's like to ride “for their country” and the pride they feel. But all of this makes me ask the question: why don't they “ride for our country” the rest of the year? Why just settle for an American championship, why not go out and win a World Championship? That way we fans can feel that “national pride” all year long as well. I mean, if Team USA really matters, why does it only matter for a single Sunday in the Fall?
Am I sensing a double standard here?
To my mind, it gets even worse. This year, the AMA has allowed, for the first time, the average American motocross fan to nominate and vote for the members of Team USA... the catch is that in order to vote, one must make a $5 donation to the Team. Now, before you go calling me a cheap, unpatriotic bastard, know that I donated to several Teams in the past, by buying the souvenir t-shirts they usually offer. I actually own one of the “Mike Brown” shirts from last year (okay, so I'm still cheap). But the “charity/vote” drive gives me pause; I'm ecstatic that the AMA is involving the fans, but I'm a little miffed that they have to pay for the privilege. It really gets my goat that the fans have to chip in to send the GOAT over to kick ass. If Team USA really “matters”, why is financing the team such a challenge every year? Can you even imagine the AMA asking for donations so they could run the season-opening race at Hangtown?
The Motocross of Nations is an interesting animal from a profit-motive standpoint. The only people who stand to make any money are the promoters and the sanctioning body, along with the on-site vendors and the local hospitality industry. For the teams and riders that participate, it's all about spending money, not making it. But the truth is, that's how every motocross race works. The U.S.-based Japanese OEM teams say that the MXoN does not fit in their yearly race schedules and budgets, because it does not provide the same promotional opportunities and visibility to the American market that SX and MX do. American Honda, for example, is concerned only with promoting motocross within the borders of this country; Honda Europe can spend their budget on that continent. But, Good Lord, isn't it better for the sport WORLDWIDE if the best riders in the world participate in the Motocross of Nations? And since we've already established that the best riders are from America, that means American Honda (or the team backing whoever is selected) needs to step up to the plate. And foot the damn bill.
In all fairness, Honda has indeed shouldered at least part of the cost on many occasions. And, as always, hats off to Roger DeCoster for putting in the extra effort to promote and prepare Team USA.
But in this era of racers owning sprawling ranches, custom Rolex watches and exotic cars, it's kind of hard for me to accept the idea that they need my $5 to fly overseas for a one-day race. I mean, if it matters, REALLY matters, this wouldn't be an issue at all.
National pride is another issue altogether. It's my feeling that our world is in a rather precarious state right now, and the decent citizens of the world need to find ways to share our common experiences and celebrate them. The idea of holding an event in which people from all over the globe can gather to enjoy the sport they all love is fantastic, and to me, the emphasis on winning is misplaced. I still believe that what REALLY matters is not whether we win or lose, but how we play the game. And I believe most motocrossers feel the same way. Think about it: at your average weekend MX race, there are only a couple dozen people who win their races, while the vast majority do not. Yet ALL of them go away still just as much in love with the sport as ever. In motocross, winning is definitely not the only thing. For the Motocross of Nations, what really “matters” about Team USA is not that they win, but that they simply show up and participate. And show the world how we do it over here.
July 10, 2006
Well, now we know. And now it's time for us to step in and help. I am confident that the motocross community will take care of its own.
And while you're making your donation, please be sure to send prayers and/or positive thoughts to David as well. Everything helps.
Get well soon, David Bailey.
July 07, 2006
Now, in some parts of the country, like here in sunny Southern California, you can find motocross races held on days other than Sunday. But the biggest races are always on Sunday, just like in Bruce Brown's famous movie. Even multi-day races usually culminate with the final motos and trophy presentations on Sunday. Sunday is, without question, a special day for motocross racers. And every Sunday always begins with Saturday night.
For most racers, both serious and not so, Saturday night is reserved for final preparations: last minute work on the bike, checking on the gear, packing everything up, making sure to get a good meal and a good night's rest. When my head finally hit the pillow on a Saturday evening before a race, I was usually more than ready to sleep, but not before making sure the alarm clock was set for the early morning call.
I don't know about you, but I never had a problem with oversleeping on a race day. I guess I had so much anticipation for the day ahead that sleeping through it was never going to happen. This is not to say that I never got to the track late, but that was usually due to some unexpected changes in my “pre-flight” schedule.
No matter what time of year I was racing, it seemed I was always getting the holeshot over the Sunrise. Call me strange, but I always enjoy that slightly groggy feeling of pulling on a moto t-shirt and jeans and stumbling around first thing in the morning, looking forward to stepping outside in order to take in that first deep breath of crisp A.M. air.
Out in the driveway, soaking in the solitude of my still-asleep neighborhood, I move as quietly as possible as I hitch up the old three-rail and load my bike and gear. After everything's loaded and checked twice, I settle in the driver's seat and pull off for a day at the track. A lingering glance in the rearview at my immaculately clean bike puts a smile on my face, as I leave the silent street and hit the road. Next stop: heaven on earth.
When I was younger, I used to race with a good friend, Mark. There's a lot to be said about riding and racing with friends; it even adds to the road-trip aspect. Lately, though, I would head to the races by myself and hook up with my friends at the track. That meant driving alone, which I found to be a joy in itself. Even in traffic-congested SoCal, the freeways are pretty empty on Sunday mornings so the drive is always a breeze. And with the clear roads you can relax and just enjoy the scenery. Motoring through majestic hills, winding through wooded lanes, passing by endless prairies... driving to the track holds an allure all its own, no matter how many times I've made the trip. Just me, my truck, my bike and my music.
Before long, I come across other racers heading to the same race. The camaraderie of motocross begins on the highway, miles before the front gate. I wave to everyone with a number on a numberplate, and they all wave back. When I raced with the Over The Hill Gang, one of the cool things about that club was each region had its own designation letter that racers had to run on their numberplates. For the Southern California region, our letter was “G”, so it was easy to see who was headed to a Gang race.
And just when the ride seems to be getting a little too long, I get to the exit for the track. Minutes later, I'm in the queue to get in. And sitting there in the truck, waiting for the young person with the release paperwork to make their way to me, I feel the unmistakable tingle of the first adrenalin rush of the day: I am racing today!
Once through the gate, my truck barely needs my help finding our favorite parking spot. I pull up alongside friends both old and new and tumble out of the cab and enjoy the second long stretch of the morning. Another deep breath, another wonderful lungful of clean air and then it's off to the sign up booth.
Now, I don't know about you, but I ALWAYS enjoy sign up. That's where I get to see just about everyone without having to hike all around the pits; everyone is (usually) clean and fresh-smelling (in stark contrast to what it will be like later in the day), and the sign up ladies' makeup is not-yet-smeared. Everybody is still yawning, many are nursing cups of coffee, some are clearly suffering from hangovers, and yet... EVERYONE is either smiling, or about to. In fact, we are all tickled pink just to be where we are at that exact moment. I cheerfully flirt with the sign up ladies as I fork over my money and then mosey on over to wherever they're posting the practice and race schedules.
It's almost time for the best part of the whole day, and I relish every single step in its direction. This is going to sound silly to some of you, but I even get a kick out of something as plain as unloading my bike. It's all part of the build up... rolling the ultra-clean racebike down the rail, pushing it under the EZ-Up, hoisting it on the stand. Just look at it! We're ready to RACE! Next up, sliding into my cool pants, buckling up my soon-to-be-muddy boots, throwing on a ratty practice jersey. And usually right about now, I hear the first bikes being fired up across the pits. This never fails to elicit another adrenalin response from me, and sends me straight to the gas can. Time to fill up the steed and get this show on the road!
Starting up the bike for the first time of the day is anticlimactic as far as I'm concerned (unless it's a borrowed four-stroke and it's particularly cold-blooded... that's another story!), because at this time there is only one thing I'm really craving, and that's just about to happen. After warming up the bike, I pull on the rest of my gear and head over to the starting area for practice. At the line is usually the first time I run into the other guys and gals in my class, and it's always funny how we subtly check out each other's bikes for new hop-up parts. We make some quick mental notes for later conversations and then turn our attention to the referee, who is just about to give us our fix...
... And finally, the release! The green flag is waved, engines rev all around, the air is filled with flying dirt bombs and practice is officially underway! I toe the gear lever into second, lean forward and drop the clutch, shooting out onto the track, accelerating hard, feeling the rear knobby scramble for traction, feeling the front tire loft and lightly skim over the freshly disced surface, feeling the pressures of the work week subside, feeling at one with my bike, with the track, with the whole world. This is why I came, this is why I am here. This is why I race. This is the magic of Sunday morning.
And Sunday afternoon ain't so bad, either!
July 05, 2006
Let's see. "Manages strategic planning and direction... with the goal of responding to the interests of the .... members."
The AMA listens to its members? That news should be in ANOTHER press release!
Seriously, I cannot imagine the AMA Racing Committee sitting down to discuss "strategic planning and direction" by using input from member surveys and focus groups. Somebody correct me if my imagination is faulty, please. But in any case, I'm glad to see them pick Bevo, because there's no doubt that he has the best interests of the sport at heart.
July 03, 2006
Hey, you probably don’t know this, but that guy Rick Carmichael is the best motocross racer the world has ever seen. What’s that you say? You already knew?
I’m just saying, the 2006 season is just at the halfway point and RC has firmly placed his butt in the driver’s seat. Again. And this year against his greatest competition to date.
I want to compare Carmichael to boxer Mike Tyson. That is, the real Mike Tyson, before he was accused of spousal abuse, before he was jailed for raping a beauty pageant contestant, before he lost to Buster Douglas, before he experimented with cannibalism against Holyfield (twice!), before he decided that face tattoos were a good thing… before he lost his mind, basically. Some of you are too young to remember, but there was a time when Mike Tyson was, without a doubt, the best boxer to ever step into a ring. Check that, he was the best FIGHTER to take up the sport of boxing.
Back in those days, when the bell rang for the first round, Tyson didn’t wait to “see” what type of strategy his opponent had in mind… he already knew that his foe’s only strategy would be “survival”. No dancing, ducking or weaving, “Iron Mike” would charge straight across the ring and just punch the guy out. Tyson’s strategy was “I’m gonna kick that guy’s ass RIGHT NOW”… and worked so well that many boxing commentators openly wondered if Tyson had the “stamina” to go more than a few rounds. Ha. Mike figured out early that if he brought the noise in the early rounds and really pummeled his opponent mercilessly, he would be able to get through all of the remaining rounds well ahead on points, if need be.
That, in essence, is Rick Carmichael’s style.
For the past few outdoor seasons, RC started his championship assault by delivering a technical knockout… a 1-1 finish… at Hangtown. Then he would continue pummeling his opponents in the early rounds, in the process amassing a huge points lead. That relieves pressure and allows him to relax a bit for the remaining races in the series.
Funny thing about the way Carmichael “relaxes”, though… he still wins! Even Roger DeCoster, in a interview during the Red Bud webcast, said that he can’t believe how focused RC continues to be. DeCoster is amazed at Carmichael’s tenacity? That says something.
This year, Carmichael was unable to score the overall win at the season opener. But he came back immediately at the second round to apply ungodly pressure on his upstart rival, the young James Stewart. And Stewart did indeed fold, in a horrific crash that, for all intents and purposes, ended his hopes for taking RC’s title. Of course, the series isn’t over yet, and anything is possible. And that’s probably why Rick Carmichael continues to turn it on.
Just look at the great photo above of RC’s second moto pass on Stewart this weekend at Red Bud (photo courtesy Steve Bruhn/Motonews.com). Check the body language of the two riders. Which one is in complete and dominating control? Which one is riding defensively?
RC has emulated Mike Tyson’s “I’m gonna kick that’s guy’s ass RIGHT NOW” strategy since his first days as a pro; he probably used it during his days as a dominant amateur champion as well. And even though motocross will miss him when he goes into partial retirement in ’07, I am confident that he will take that same desire to win to whatever new venture he chooses. I can’t wait to see the next chapter in his life.
June 30, 2006
If you are any type of motocross fan at all, then I do not have to tell you that our sport is a small, insular community. We are an extended family, for all intents and purposes, brothers and sisters in dirt, sharing a common blood-line that somehow gets generated the very first time we stand at the side of a local MX track and get roosted by the passing pack. It used to be the odor of two-stroke fumes that united us; now it's up to other visceral elements to trigger our enlightenment, but in any case we are transformed by the experience... those that choose to become fans, that is... and we silently sign an unwritten membership agreement that cannot be revoked. And it's all okay.
That's why you feel completely okay with heading to the starting line on your bike, ALL of your tools and gear piled up in the open bed of your pickup truck, both doors unlocked, your cellphone on the passenger seat, your wallet in your gearbag and your keys in your toolbox. We know none of our moto brothers and sisters will steal our belongings. When the uncommon pit theft occasionally occurs at a local race, we automatically assume that it was committed by an outsider... and we are usually correct in that assumption.
It's that same spirit of community that causes us to festoon our cars and trucks with discreet moto-oriented stickers, our way of flying the flag of brotherhood to be recognized by our peers as we travel around in the “outside” world. T-shirts work in the same way; how many of us have struck up conversations with complete strangers simply because they were wearing a One Industries shirt or something like it? We recognize ourselves in each other.
So what of this conscious moto-consumption I mentioned earlier? It's about how we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars in support of our tight-knit community. Because in this current world, we moto-fans have more choices than ever before in the history of our sport; we need to make wise decisions if we want the sport to continue to thrive.
Here's a quiz: is it better to buy your next pair of pants from your local dealer than the discount mail-order juggernaut? Careful, that's a trick question. The correct answer is “it depends.” It depends on which of the two is more supportive of the sport. Your local dealer may be streetbike oriented and not care one thing about motocross, carrying the barest minimum of parts and supplies to support the few dirtbikes he sells. Or he might be the kind of guy that runs a small race team out of his shop, and offers discounts to anyone who races at the local tracks. Even still, it might turn out that the mail-order company is the biggest supporter of motocross, fielding a fulltime 250F team for supercross and the nationals (like Motoworld). My point is simply that as we spend our discretionary dollars on the sport that we love, we need to use discretion in determining the best places to spend that money. Because each dollar counts.
Let's take it a step further. We make other purchases in our daily lives that seemingly have little to nothing to do with motocross. Yet with just a little bit of effort, we might find that there is a way to benefit the sport with these choices as well. Say you like Red Bull and buy it regularly, not only because you like the product, but because you want to patronize them for supporting the sport. The next time you go to purchase some, buy it from one of your favorite smaller, local stores and take the time to talk to the store manager. Tell him that you're glad he carries the product because it supports the sport you love, and that you intend to make his shop the primary source of your Red Bull purchases. Then suggest that he contact Red Bull for some motocross-related promotional material to display in the store. You might be surprised to see a fullsize poster of Travis Pastrana or Rick Carmichael in the store on your next visit, helping to subliminally promote the sport to non-motocross fans. Heck, the store manager might even give you some of the promotional material to take home!
Conscious moto-consumption is about being aware of how your actions affect the sport. Ours is a leisure-time, recreational-dollar-eating endeavor, and business pays close attention to how and where these dollars are spent. The numerous outside-the-industry sponsors that have entered the sport are paying attention. We need to make sure they are compensated for their good deeds. Apple Computer's Ipods are extremely popular with many people, but Apple doesn't support motocross like Napster does. Motocross fans should consider this when making music player purchase decisions... this is just one example. Let's think about motocross before we buy; there may be a way to increase the benefits of our purchases.
June 07, 2006
But sorry to hear you won't be racing in Massachussetts... that title looks like it has slipped away.
June 04, 2006
Here’s the thing: if one were to judge my feelings about the sport by my current level of non-involvement, it might be easy to conclude that I’m not much of a motocross fat at all. After all, I’m not racing right now, I very rarely ride these days… in fact, I don’t even own a motocross bike. To make matters worse, the last race I attended was back in January and I no longer go to local races. I don’t sound like much of a motocross fan, do
In my entire life, I have only owned 4 racebikes… contrast that with some guys who buy 4 bikes a year. Who loves the sport more? I live in the city; I have to drive at least an hour before I get to a place where I can ride. Some people I know can kickstart their bikes in their garage and ride right out the door. Who loves the sport more? My job is about as far removed from racing as any line of work can possibly be; I know more than a few good people who feed their family directly from their involvement in the motocross industry. Again, who loves the sport more?
And what gives me the right to say I’m a motocross fan?
I first stopped racing to attend college. Yet everyday during classes, I would find myself daydreaming about racing. I even stole a line from a philosophy class and decorated my notebook cover with the statement, “I race motocross, therefore I am!” It was my intent to make my way into the world, earn a great deal of money and return to racing with a big buck racing setup: motorhome, multiple bikes, the works. Funny how life doesn’t always work out the way we plan it. Years went by before I decided that if I was going to make my return to racing, it will just have to be in the same low-budget way that I started. And there I was, a racer again… a VET racer, to be sure, but a motocross racer.
After a couple of years I stopped racing again. I have more to accomplish in the world of business, and I just don’t have the time it takes to properly mount a racing campaign… at least, that’s what I have been telling myself. So I sold my bike and decided to be content with going to a few races and reading and writing about motocross for fun.
I’m not content.
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy writing about motocross on this site and engaging in moto-banter with my fellow fools at Motodrive.com. And I still follow the sport religiously (I spend more time listening to races on the internet on Sundays than going to church!), but… that FEELING is still haunting me, that yearning feeling that makes me want to ride. I still catch myself “launching” down stairways, doing imaginary “bermshots” off of parking garage walls… and the main reason I stopped going to see my friends ride at local races is because it hurts too much to watch them ride and not be able to join them. You can see where this is all heading, right? There’s a bike in my near future, no doubt.
But until then, I maintain that I still LOVE this sport, bike or no bike. And here’s how I manifest this love: I CARE about the way the sport is portrayed in the mainstream media, I am CONCERNED about the future of the sport. I want this sport to be RESPECTED as a legitimate sport, and no longer treated like a spectacle, like a sideshow. And that’s why I am so outspoken about the way the sport is promoted, about the way the sport is (mis-)managed, about the way the media covers this sport. Yes, my only outlet is this tiny webpage and a post or two at Motodrive, but it’s a start and it’s my way of giving back.
I was watching NBC’s coverage of the French Open tennis tournament earlier today. I’d like to see motocross treated with the same respect that professional tennis gets. No one questions whether tennis players are “true” athletes. There is a lot of hype and drama surrounding some players, but the journalists covering the sport never blow it up or treat it like “professional” wrestling or “monster” truck “racing”. But as long as our promoters continue to put short-term goals like stadium seat-filling at the top of their agenda, motocross will never outlive this circus mentality. I hate that. (By the way, did you know SFX Sports, a division of LiveNation, manages a number of pro tennis players like Andre Agassi and tennis tournaments?)
I also hate the fact that I have allowed “life” to move me away from this sport that I love. So I am in the process of making some changes… changes in my expectations as to what life is supposed to be like, changes in my living conditions, changes in my environment… and finally changes in my chosen field of employment. It’s time to take back control and to get back to what really matters to me. One of these days, I am going to figure out how to make a living doing what I love: writing and communicating about motocross, using words, photographs and videos. And my love of the sport will be apparent in the quality of my work.
June 01, 2006
May 29, 2006
Those readers familiar with All Things Motocross know that I tend to be very critical of all media coverage of our sport, particularly television coverage. The reason is because I am a former television professional myself, and I am knowledgeable of the challenges and difficulties involved in covering a dynamic motorsport like motocross. I am also aware of the great impact television coverage has on the uneducated public, and I always want to encourage accurate portrayals of MX. So with this in mind, I sat down in front of a friend's TV to watch
Actually, I was very impressed with the job that Chet Burks Productions performed in capturing and cablecasting this race. Let me list some specifics...
- The rider ID graphics were very nice, and included all of the information you would want.
- The fact that they included an interview with Kevin Windham and didn't limit their interviews to the Big Three.
- The bit they did on the
sponsorship, featuring a short interview with the AMA's John Farris. Good pit footage and good level of detail. I'd like to see even more footage from the pits. Toyota
- The Track Facts section was good, informative and brief.
- The fact that they showed all of the early action in moto one BEFORE cutting to commercial. That was very thoughtful.
- The “Toyota Leaderboard” was good.
- The overall camerawork was very good, and the camera placement was well thought out (I do have a small bone to pick about this; see below).
- “Rider Tips from Suzuki”. Nice.
- The announcers were competent. David Pingree's partner (can't recall his name!) had that “broadcast voice”, but it was never overbearing, and he seemed to have more than passing knowledge of the sport. Pingree himself came across as quite the expert on the sport.
- Erin Bates did a great job on the podium. Her questions were smart and her rapport was evident.
- The “Racer X Holeshot Award” replays were cool.
- Erin Bate's mini-interview with Bob Hannah. He looked great!
- The fact that the AMA actually ran its own commercial (even though it was kind of weird).
- Showing the highlights from the WMA races; that was excellent. Even more excellent was the fact that they were sponsored by
flashback from 1980 was fantastic. Carlsbad
- Some of the new commercials: Polaris and Cuervo Black. Nice to see others step up to support the sport.
And what were the areas that could use some improvement?
And what were the areas that could use some improvement?
- Pingree sounded monotone; he should work on voice modulation. Content-wise, though, he's excellent.
- The other guy just needs to stop saying “Jamesbubbastewart”. That was last year.
- Show the lap times. We know the AMA is providing them, figure out a way to get them in the show.
- How is it possible that they never mentioned Antonio Balbi's great first moto ride?
- The camera angles and lens selections tended to flatten out the jumps. They lost all sense of the height and distance that the riders were jumping, which is a huge component of the dynamics of the sport. It's like losing the sensation of the speeds achieved at an autorace... a huge no-no. Rethink the camera placement.
- Why did they use an old photo of James in his ID shot? He doesn't have dreadlocks anymore.
- Speaking of James, the camera completely missed James taking the checkered flag in moto one. That's an unforgivable error. Imagine them missing the winner of the Indy 500...
- When Reed said on the podium it was possible that this is his last season,
Erinshould have followed up on that for clarification. That was bad timing on Reed's part, but he should have been called on it.
- This is not the fault of the production team, but the commercial mix was questionable. Where were the
and Yamaha commercials? What happened to Thor? Kawasaki
And there you have it. Sixteen cool things and 9 areas for improvement. That's a winning score and the folks at Chet Burks Productions should be proud. Yes, it would have been nice to see more race footage, but considering the fact that the second moto was basically a procession it's completely understandable. And squeezing two 30-plus-minute motos in one 60 minute block while making room for commercials and other information mean that cuts have to be made somewhere. I think they did a good job of trimming the racing action in just the right places. I feel confident that our sport is in good hands with this group.
May 26, 2006
The first press release was, er, released on May 19, just two days before the start of the new season. The intent was to announce the total list of sponsors; here it is. Note that there is the Title Sponsor (Toyota), the Presenting Sponsor (FMF), a list of 18 Series Sponsors, and then Presenting Sponsors and in the case of the Honda Hangtown Classic, an Event Sponsor for each of the upcoming Nationals. Very cool, especially compared to last year. So everybody should be just as pleased as punch, right?
Well apparently not everybody. Shortly after the release of the above press release, Honda sent out one of their own dated May 22. While the headline of the release says Honda will participate in the sponsor program, the second sentence of the very first paragraph says that “…American Honda will do so under duress.”
Jeepers! Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines duress as: “1. forcible restraint or restriction, and 2. compulsion by threat; specifically: unlawful constraint” (emphasis theirs).
Now, if there’s one thing we know about American Honda it’s that they are a professional outfit, so there’s no doubt a pro wrote the press release and chose the wording very carefully. What was Honda’s problem with the AMA’s sponsor program? The simple fact that the AMA rules required all competitors to run Toyota logo stickers on their front number plates.
Read the press release, if you haven’t yet. It goes on to make a strong case: “Placing competitor logos on another manufacturer’s machines is offensive to companies with strong brand identities. Such a requirement is misleading and potentially confusing to spectators and customers. It is surprising the AMA would incorporate such a requirement into its series sponsor contract without consideration to the competitive position of the companies involved. This is analogous to NASCAR naming Toyota as series sponsor and requiring, Dodge, Ford and Chevrolet to place Toyota logos prominently on their vehicles, a situation we believe NASCAR would never allow.”
Well, wait a minute. What did Honda do when Mazda sponsored the supercross series a few years back? According to Honda’s press release, THEY DIDN’T RUN MAZDA LOGOS ON THEIR BIKES, choosing instead not to participate in the Mazda rider points fund. And what about when Chevy Trucks sponsored the outdoor nationals? They didn’t address it in the press release, but my guess is that Honda didn’t mind because at the time they were not in direct competition with Chevy in the truck market.
So how did the AMA respond? You know they did, right? They issued a response on the same day, saying that they were “…unaware of Honda’s concerns over this requirement until approximately three weeks ago.” The AMA goes on to say, “While AMA Pro Racing can empathize with the reluctance of some companies to display the logo of competitive entities, this is a traditional practice in motorsports and one that is necessary to maintain commercial viability. In this case, Toyota’s sponsorship adds tremendous value and benefits to riders, fans and promoters of AMA Motocross including contribution to a championship bonus fund paid out to top finishers. Additionally, Toyota’s proactive sponsorship activation plans will generate broad benefits to all involved in the sport. Honda’s reference to NASCAR practices in this matter is completely irrelevant (emphasis mine).”
No matter where you might stand on this issue, that little bitch-slap last sentence was definitely uncalled for. The kicker is when the AMA adds this killer line: “It is AMA Pro Racing’s intention to uphold the rulebook in this regard.”
Nice to know they’re in the rule-enforcing mood these day, no? Maybe they’ll keep those underage kids out of the pits, like it says in their rule book…
Back on track, here are my feelings about this: I am concerned that the AMA has somehow lost touch with the manufacturers that sponsor the most powerful teams on the circuit. They said that they were unaware of Honda’s concerns until 3 weeks before it all blew up… have the lines of communication between the AMA and Honda completely closed ever since Honda pulled out of the AMA Board? And is the AMA completely unaware of the way the Japanese do business? Honda and Toyota are fierce home market competitors; why wouldn’t the AMA be aware of this potential problem and address it ahead of time?
Finally, I must admit that it is interesting that Suzuki, another competitor with Toyota for the automobile market (though obviously not as big as Honda), has silently acquiesced to the sponsor program. Is Honda ultimately making a mountain out of a molehill, or was the “duress” so great that Suzuki was scared to speak up?
May 24, 2006
May 22, 2006
Turns out it was a great race! For details, check out this fantastic race report over at Transworld Motocross Online.
For the Cliff's Notes version, though, you've come to the right place. In a nutshell, James Stewart and Rick Carmichael served notice to the MX world that the battle begun in the 2006 Amp'd Supercross series was in fact NOT over... not by any stretch of the imagination. After a two week lull in violence, combat has fully resumed, and motocross fans across the world have reason to celebrate.
Remember the last round of the supercross season? How all James could do was win the Vegas event and hope something happened to his rivals? Well that role was taken over by Carmichael at Hangtown in the second moto. Finishing third after an astonishing come-from-WAY-friggin'-back in the first moto, Carmichael needed Chad Reed to pass James for second place in the final moto. And just like in Vegas, it simply wasn't gonna happen. Yes, Rick ran the table in moto two, grabbing the holeshot and checking out to a ridiculously huge lead, but Stewart patiently rode him in second, assured of the overall victory (and the championship points lead) because of his last-lap pass on Reed in the first moto for the win. And while Superbad Chad rode extremely well, he had to be feeling a little low after being chased down in the first moto by the dynamic duo from Florida.
The other role reversal was the simultaneous ending and beginning of streaks. By winning the Hangtown National, James Stewart ended his National LOSING streak, which effectively spanned his entire 2005 season. And at the same time, Stewart ended Carmichael's National Overall Win streak, an unbelievable string of 27 wins.
So congratulations to Stewart and Team Kawasaki for their inaugural 450F class wins at the Hangtown Motocross Classic! And here's to another incredibly exciting championship series!
May 18, 2006
“Chump” comment notwithstanding, Makita Suzuki’s Ivan Tedesco showed off his championship form, I think, for finishing fourth overall in his first season in the big boy class. At the beginning of the season I was confident that Ivan would do well and he didn’t disappoint.
Nick Wey certainly deserves special mention. Slick Nick put together a consistent season, scoring three third place finishes and five fifth place scores to finish fifth overall and top non-factory dude. And I’m sure the fact that Wey was only 6 points behind Tedesco was not lost on any of the factory insiders.
I’m not the only one sad to see “Iron” Mike Larocco retire from the sport, and we were all disappointed that it ended in an injury. Larocco was still able to finish the series in 10th overall, despite the fact that he was out after 8 rounds… a testament to his performance early in the series. Good luck with whatever you get into, Mike.
And how exciting was it to have Kevin Windham return to supercross racing?
The “not so big three” of Jason Thomas, Ryan Clark and Kyle Lewis all had good years considering. JT Money got to wear the helmet cam and did himself proud. I’m sure those guys all wanted to finish higher in the points and make more money, but they can still sleep well in the knowledge that they are among the fastest supercross racers on the planet. “Lucky” Kyle Lewis could have used more luck, as he wasn’t able to crack the top ten at any event, but that’s okay as far as I’m concerned.
Michael Byrne held up his end of the Kawasaki team bargain, finishing on the podium at Daytona after James fell. He had some good motos out there as well, but I think Ivan had him covered. Travis Preston, the nearly invisible man, brought his factory Honda home in 7th overall, but I can barely remember seeing him out there. Flashy, he’s not. Certainly, his success was overshadowed by the tragedy that befell his teammate, Ernesto Fonseco (get well soon, Ernie). Let’s hope Preston can make more noise outdoors (um, that’s the rider, not the bike).
But the real action away from the supercross Big Three occurred in the 250F classes. Grant Langston and Davi Milsaps both had amazing seasons, as they seemed to show dominant speed in their respective regions. And they both faced serious challenges from their teammates. “Rocket” Ryan Villopoto is my new favorite young gun to watch, and he had a pretty incredible rookie season, almost putting it to Langston. Of course, Honda’s Andrew Short came very close to taking it from Langston, but as they say, close doesn’t count for shit… or something like that. Ask Pingree.
And how about that Josh Grant kid? Fast fast fast. Only Milsaps won more mains than Josh. These two are gonna be fun to watch at Hangtown, where Grant knows how to fly.
A little further back we find the very fast Tommy Hahn. Martin Davalos surprised me by leading a few races. And how can I forget Lil’ Goose, Chris Gosselaar and his amazing rides for Monster/Pro Circuit?
Others I have to mention: Paul Carpenter has his moments. Billy Laninovich rocked the house a few times with his sick whips and fast laps. Darcy Lange came out to show that Arenacross racers ain’t no punks (I already knew that). And of course, Mike Alessi ended up being the man for KTM, after a bit of a shaky start.
There were a few riders that I have to say disappointed me, and I cannot end this column without mentioning them. This is not about calling them out or anything like that, it’s just that these guys have phenomenal potential and incredible speed and skills, and I hope they do better in the future. I realize that many of them were dealing with injuries, bad luck and other issues, and that’s okay. I’m talking about some of my favorite riders like Greg Schnell, Matt Walker, Tim Ferry and of course, Sean Hamblin. Oh yeah, and David Vuillemin. Here’s hoping the outdoors finds you all at the top of your respective games.
So that’s my loose list of supercross highlights away from the lead pack. It was such a fantastic season, I’m still having trouble letting it go.
But tomorrow night, I’ll be on the way to Hangtown!
May 17, 2006
Racer X now joins Transworld Motocross in the online video market... late to the game, yes, but better late than never, right? Now let's see if RX can step up and compete with TWMX's bikini model videos, too!
May 15, 2006
May 12, 2006
In a word, this year was phenomenal. That “perfect storm” everyone expected for 2005, heralded by the arrival of an opponent finally able to give Rick Carmichael a run for his money? Well now we know it took 11 months for it to build up to Category 5 conditions. It wasn't until December of '05 that we finally got a glimpse of the Great War to come, during those two races in Canada that represented the unique FIM-points-only World Supercross rounds. And unveiling a new bike, a new attitude and a new number was the man who would be king (but not this year, maybe later), James Stewart.
It's not my intention to recap the season with a blow-by-blow, round-by-round summary. If you're reading this, you probably are as crazy about motocross as I am, so you also witnessed the fantastic races that made up this championship run, either on cable, network television or on the web. And that's one of the things that made this season so memorable: EVERY RACE was suspenseful and exciting, and EVERY RACE was made available to a reasonably large television audience. It was all so fantastic it's almost hard to believe.
Yes, there were never more than three riders vying for the win. The same three. The BIG three, Chad Reed, James Stewart and Rick Carmichael. Yes, it's true, not another rider was capable of turning lap times comparable to these stellar racers. Yes, it would have been even more exciting if there were more rivals for the championship, but to paraphrase our possibly senile Secretary of Defense, “you go to the races with the racers you have”, and those three are without a doubt the most talented, dedicated, motivated and galvanizing supercross racers alive today. We were blessed to be able to witness their 18 round battle.
Chad Reed has the heart of a lion. I remember watching RC seemingly tear that very heart right out of his chest in Atlanta in '05, chasing Chad Reed down and beating him mercilessly. But Chad reached down deep the very next race at Daytona... RC's home track!...and proved to Rick and the world that he could still win and win big at that. This year, Superbad Chad was all but dismissed as the perennial third place horse... I even opined, prior to the start of the season, that Reed would be fighting off a challenge for third overall from Ivan Tedesco. Boy, was I wrong about that! Reed hung tough all year, every single lap, and as such put himself in perfect position to capitalize on the mistakes that are usually NEVER made by RC and his team. Chad only won two main events this year, and each one was the result of severe bad luck striking both RC and JS at the same time. However, that was enough to put him in the amazingly unlikely position of being able to win the whole shooting match at the very last round. He made his own luck by believing in himself and never giving up. He deserves an award just for that.
James Stewart is the fastest supercross racer the world has ever seen. And that's not just my opinion; that same sentiment has been voiced by the top names in the sport, including one Rick Carmichael. Stewart overcame broken bones, intestinal illnesses, disastrous results and a lot of flack from fickle fans during the first 11 months of 2005 to triumphantly record stunning victories in December of the same year. He went on to compile an impressive win record in '06, winning 8 more rounds and on the way, winning every heat race he entered, a feat never before achieved, not by Carmichael and not even by the undisputed King of Supercross, Jeremy McGrath. Of course, heat race wins are ignored by the record books, but it still remains a remarkable accomplishment. Yet James still had moments on the track that caused him to finish off of the podium a number of times, losing valuable points in the process. Now James is the World Champion of Supercross, a title that used to mean little, even when it was held by the likes of Carmichael and Reed. To some, it still means little, but I'm sure it means a heckuva lot to Stewart, his team and his family. On top of that, James is the first rider in the history of the sport to wrestle a championship title away from formerly unbeatable RC. Now that's saying something about the both of them.
Rick Carmichael is simply the greatest motocross racer that has ever lived. And my opinion is backed up by fact: his number of championship titles is unprecedented, his records are arguably unbreakable. And if you need more proof, all you need to know is this: not only did he beat the King of Supercross at his own game, when faced with the fastest supercross racer of all time, he rose to the occasion, did what he had to do, and came away retaining his National Supercross Championship. No, it was not easy and he didn't make it look easy. RC suffered an uncharacteristic mechanical DNF at St. Louis and just missed serious injury in a scary getoff at Dallas. But he never stopped working hard and like Reed, never stopped believing. If he did, there was no way for us to tell.
Some say the fact that one series crowns two champions is unnecessarily confusing, and I understand where they're coming from... but at the same time, I feel strongly that having two winners is the best possible outcome for this season. These two guys put on the show that we've been waiting for since RC dethroned MC back in the day. And the truth of the matter is that there are many more winners this season than just two. We've all won something of value as spectators: the experience of watching one of the best years of indoor racing to date.
Now, who's ready for the OUTDOORS??!
May 07, 2006
And big props to James Stewart for winning his first 450F supercross crown, the FIM World Supercross Championship. And congratulations for becoming the first rider in history to actually beat Rick Carmichael in a championship series! That is saying something!
That was part of my reaction after watching last night’s Supercross Finale broadcast live from Las Vegas. I mean, I was looking forward to a FANTASTIC night of racing, and in all honesty, the qualifying races were great. Too bad the 450F main turned into a boring procession. But it wasn’t the race that angered me, it was the coverage.
And let me be clear, I wasn’t pissed about the technical coverage. I thought the technical execution was superb. The great camera angles gave me the feeling that I could see the entire track. The director and technical director seemed to capture the action at just the right time; their timing was nearly flawless. And whoever was able to talk Kevin Windham into wearing the helmet cam deserves a bonus! It was great to see what it’s like riding with one of the fastest riders in the sport. I could have watched even more of that, despite the signal breakup whenever he went down “Thunder Alley”.
And the graphical information offered on screen was nearly perfect. The scrolling position chart that alternated between laptimes and gap times was just great, and the color coding to show who’s in qualifying position… very cool. Laps remaining, point standings, rider number and name titles… the crew did a great job. They were on point and I have no complaints about that aspect of the broadcast. So what was it that made me squirm in my chair for three hours?
One, the show was visually boring. A three-hour live sporting event cannot afford to be boring for 15 seconds, but last night’s show became uninteresting whenever the racers left the track. I COULD NOT BELIEVE that the only cutaway available was a shot of the fans in the stands. A heat race would end, they would show the winner ride off the track, then they would cutaway to people in the stands as the announcers wrapped up the race and transitioned to a commercial. USING THE SAME CUTAWAY FOR THREE HOURS = FRIGGIN’ BORING!
My God, how many other things are there to shoot at a supercross race? How about the pits for one example? Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what happens when a factory rider returns to the pits after just missing a qualifying spot? There was not a single shot of the pits… and the factories spend a ton of money to make them visually appealing to fans. I mean, were the pits closed to the Speed camera crews? I think not.
Or how about a shot in the tunnel as the riders and mechanics make the trek to the starting line? Or how about a shot of the announcers in the booth?? Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a good idea to show the television audience the size of the sellout crowd… once or twice. We get it after that!
Pre-taped packages were another problem. I missed the first 20 minutes of the program, so maybe I missed the killer, kick-ass package, but the ones that followed were basic at best. I mean, another mini-interview with one of the top three, telling us how important the championship is? WE’VE SEEN THAT ALL WEEK, for chrissakes! There was ample downtime to run more 1 and 2 minutes packages. How about one showing the riders preparing for the week? You know, send a crew out to the factory practice tracks; show RC pounding out the miles on his road bicycle; see Stewart pumping iron in the gym. How hard would that have been?
And the commercials. Oh my god, I am SO GLAD the supercross season is over so I don’t have to see those same three commercials again! I was actually grateful that the local cable station was running some bullshit car sales commercials, just to break up the monotony! Would it have killed Amp’d mobile to produce a new commercial for this huge broadcast? I guess it was out of the budget… cheap bastards. Either that or they just didn’t care. Which one is it? And even Thor would have benefited from running something new… even if it was one of their older commercials from years past. Yes, advertising if more effective when repetitive. But there is a point of diminishing returns when the target audience gets sick of the same old message. I believe that point was overtaken months ago…
And the announcers… I still don’t like them, that’s not a surprise. But what really did surprise me was the fact that the announcing team has not “gelled” in the least bit. It’s like they’re still strangers to each other. There was absolutely zero sense of camaraderie. Denny Stephenson has a well-earned reputation for being a bit of a smartass, that’s a large part of his appeal, but his personality never shined through. There was even a moment when Ralph took an uncharacteristic jab at Denny, regarding wearing pink gear, and Denny refused to strike back. And Ralph gave Denny PLENTY of opportunities because Ralph said things that give the impression that he has no idea what he’s talking about. And Denny should have blasted him on it every time. That would have been entertaining as shit.
One example happened right before the start of the 450F main, when Ralph called the siting lap the “warm up lap.” If there were any NASCAR fans watching, they would have scratched their heads in confusion, wondering why those racers were trying to “warm up” something at walking speeds (there was another “cutaway” opportunity: show the riders in the pits, warming up on their stationary bikes). Denny should have corrected Ralph immediately. Yes, they eventually explained that the riders were looking for changes in the track condition, but Denny missed an opportunity to assert his personality. The sad part was I don’t think he even noticed.
The field reporters were no great shakes, either. There was a moment when Greg White talked about the hardpacked dirt in Thunder Alley. He pointed out some “lines” in the dirt, which were obviously ‘dozer track, and he compared them to “cobblestones”. Why he didn’t just identify them as ‘dozer tracks I’ll never know (is it possible he didn’t recognize them?), but then Ralph adlibbed that the mechanics were “working furiously” to address the traction issues. Um, okay. Picture Alan Olson in the pits, “furiously” changing tires. It never happens; the tire company guys do all the tire changing; Alan would change wheels, but “furiously”?? Instead, the producers missed a great opportunity to spend 60 seconds with Dunlop tire rep Broc Glover, letting him explain the fact that they use special, limited-use tires for supercross races. And Dunlop was one of the advertisers! What could have been a win-win turned into yet another missed opportunity, and a better visual alternative to a cutaway shot of a guy picking his nose in the stands.
I’m not even going to say anything about Krista… ah, who am I fooling? First, why a white belt with black shirt and pants? Was she trying to convince the nation that she has absolutely zero fashion sense, or was she trying to shame CBS into hiring a wardrobe person? She seemed lost throughout the entire broadcast, as if she was having trouble finding things to talk about. There was a great shot of racers preparing their starting slots by packing the dirt with their feet. Would it have killed Krista to get a rider or mechanic to explain exactly what they were doing? To a casual fan it must have been confusing.
I think, seriously, that Krista could benefit from sitting in a room and watching all of her “interviews” for a few hours, and then be forced to write better questions for each situation. She appears to “wing it” whenever she’s confronted with interviewing a rider, and she usually gets it wrong. Of course, that’s just my opinion, and who am I but just a guy with a blog, right?
But the last straw that broke my camelbak was the “ceremony” during which the top official of the AMA and the FIM presented their respective number one plates to our exalted champions. Did you see it? I just couldn’t believe it. After hyping up the title chase for three hours, the actual title presentation consisted of a few mumbled, un-microphoned words by Whitelock and Gallagher, while Ralph talked over them, adding absolutely nothing to the process.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the Supercross Champion of the World!! Here, take this piece of plastic, good job, now scoot…” Unfriggin’-believable. If I were a casual fan, I would be perplexed; as a huge fan, I was hugely disappointed and embarrassed.
And what was the deal with the stadium announcers? Why were they on the stage interviewing the racers at the same time? DID NO ONE TELL THEM THE RACE WAS ON LIVE TELEVISION? The fans in the stands seemed to know it was on live TV… why not let the television announcers handle the entire podium presentation… for the television audience AND the stadium audience? Whose idea was it to pretend this was just a regular race being taped for cable? At that point, I turned off the TV…
What it comes down to is this: I feel an unbelievable opportunity was wasted. There was enormous publicity and anticipation heading into this final race. The stage was set, but the production team dropped the ball bigtime. It was as if no thought or preparation went into this special program. I know that isn’t true, but the end result, to me, suggests that the preparations were insufficient. Either that or the people doing the preparations were in over their heads. Of course, this is just my opinion, and again, who am I? Just a guy who loves motocross and is not afraid to tell it like it is.