December 30, 2008

2008 was some kind of great year for all things Motocross, no doubt... the finale.

Okay, had to take a breather there. Back to moments in motocross:

4) Two words: Ashley Fiolek. I admit, I did the dumb thing and didn’t go to see her ride this year, but did she have a year or what? To “warm up” for the Women’s National Championship, she decided to fly overseas to try on a round of the Women’s World Cup… and she finished third! Then she came home and duked it out with Jessica Patterson (while riding with a fractured wrist, no less) to win the title here. Now, I didn’t follow women’s motocross fully this year, so I know I’m leaving out some important parts of this story, so for you WMA fans, please forgive… I don’t mean to slight any of the other great women on the circuit. I admit to losing my mind over Fiolek in 2008!

For 2009, I understand Team Red Bull Honda is bringing Ashley under the big tent at the Nationals where they’ll be running WMA events (I think it should be all twelve rounds). Wow, male and female PRO racers pitting out of the same truck, signing autographs under the same awning at the same race… it’s about time. And it’s no surprise to me that American Honda is the team leading the way.

5) Okay, you know I couldn’t get much further without mentioning “the streak.” You know what’s funny? Going back and listening to some of the SPEED coverage of the races… it seems like at every round, Ralph what’s-his-name would start up with the old “I know it’s too early to talk about a perfect season…” meme. And I will admit that by the time the circuit finished the first two rounds of the series, I was thinking that Stewart was going to pull it off. After James won the third round, I suggested that he think about putting on a different show for the fans… something other than complete annihilation of the competition. And for a moment there, Stewart seemed less concerned with leading every lap of every moto, and a couple of guys got a few laps led in there. But the domination continued relentlessly.

And just as relentlessly, Ralph what’s-his-name continued to wonder aloud if it was too early to talk about another perfect season… the answer, Ralph, is “Apparently not.”

6) Saturday Night Live, under the lights no less! The Thunder Valley Raceway round in Colorado had it all: live webcast coverage for first motos of both men’s classes AND the WMA class, and then SPEED aired the 450 class second moto live on cable. Welcome to the 21st Century, American Motocross! So glad you could join us!

Now, I didn’t see any of this, so I have no opinion on how it all worked out. I’m just glad they put it all together and made it happen.

7) Seven has to go to Number 7 for going “Unde7eated”, a monumental task no matter how you look at it. He rode the entire season with a huge target on his back, and the “Man who broke the Seven Streak” would have been highly celebrated indeed. Alas, no other rider in the world met the challenge, and over the course of a hot summer and brutal conditions, the young James Stewart won 24 National motos in a row. Phenomenal. And then…

8) Team switching and ship-jumping. I believe Chad Reed struck first (or was struck first, depending on whom you ask) when he and L&M/San Manuel/Yamaha parted ways. Reed landed at Makita Suzuki, Stewart went to L&M, Kawasaki put all their chips on “Monster” Villopoto, and…. then the economy collapsed. Good thing those guys signed contracts, huh?

9) Who owns this sport anyway? First, the AMA decided it had enough of the race promotion business, and they put the properties up for bid. Well this caused all manner of wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the moto internet mob as for a while it appeared to be a toss up between the guys currently running the outdoor series (the National Promoters Group) or the guys currently running the World Championship (Youthstream). So everyone (or perhaps just I) was thrown off when AMA sold the whole bundle to the Daytona Motorsports Group. Then we were all gobsmacked when DMG turned around and renamed the new entity “AMA Pro Racing” (wtf?) and licensed it to NPG (which formed a new entity called “MX Sports”). So I think that’s right now: MX Sports is running the nationals for DMG.

And recently, MX Sports signed a deal with NBC/MTV and another group, so rumors are picking up about enhanced television coverage for 2009. CBS Sports, it appears, is outta the National picture (but they’re still in there for Supercross. Oh well. Maybe another season will help Ralph improve.).

10) And the final motocross moment for me for 2009 is the Quick Study. James Stewart’s first official rides on his new Yamaha were the biggest, most-hyped-up arenacrosses on the planet, the U.S. Open and the Paris Supercross. And he won both in grand style, nearly winning the $100k jackpot at Vegas for the Open, and then wowing the French fans both on and off the course for the entire time he was in France, finally reaching out to his large and growing international fan base.

So that’s what turned me on about motocross in 2008, and I am fairly excited about the new season, which starts in just a few days. Surprisingly, I’ve yet to buy my “A1” tix (I guess I’m waiting for them to “mature” or something…), and I don’t plan on making that stop at “Dave and Buster’s” on Friday night, I guess I’m just not feeling it all yet. But by the time I drive in the parking lot gates on Saturday and eventually park my azz in those plastic bleacher seats to watch the fastest supercrosser racers in the world practice for the first race of the year, I will be fully jazzed about it all! It’s already starting to happen!

Happy New Year to all!

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