January 30, 2011

Who's Reporting Things: Oakland Supercross

Transworld Motocross gets the best post-race interviews with their "How Was Your Weekend?" series.  Here's the lastest from Oakland, straight from the riders' mouths.

I prefer these interviews to the ones that Feld Motorsports does with their Supercross Live team, mainly because they give the riders time to finish their racing day before putting them in front of a camera.  Swapmoto at TWMX lets the riders be who they are, so they're much more relaxed and candid during the interviews.  Supercross Live gets them just minutes after the checkered flag, which is okay for the most part, but sometimes these young men could use more time to gather their thoughts (and speak with their teams).  But what I find particularly annoying is the way the Supercross Live reporters still use an old TV style of "wrapping up" or summarizing what the rider just said, as if the audience needs help understanding what they just heard.  

January 29, 2011

Who's Running Things: Oakland Supercross

Kyle Cunningham flying in practice.  Photo by GuyB/Vital MX.

As title sponsor of our national indoor motocross championship series, Monster Energy is large and in charge of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross an FIM World Championship series.  Tonight's round in Oakland, California is just getting started, and the only media available in real time are a bajillion texts and tweets, all focused on deciphering a sporadic timing feed from the AMA. 

Tomorrow will be a different story, media-wise, as the 450 half of the show will first air on the CBS network, and Supercross will get it's time in front of a national broadcast audience.  CBS Sports is using the excitement of stadium motocross (combined no doubt with the sexy Monster and Rockstar girls) to build a strong lead-in audience for the Duke vs. St. John's basketball game that will immediately follow the broadcast. 

The 250 class portion of tonight's race will be shown out-of-sequence to a pay cable limited audience. presumably because it is only a regional championship.  Sure you're right.

January 25, 2011

A slightly different angle on the Los Angeles Supercross

From this viewpoint from the cheap(er) seats, it looks as if Brett Metcalfe (24), Austin Stroupe (74), Kevin Windham (14) and Ryan Dungey (1) all have a shot at crossing the holeshot line first.  But it was Metty's outside momentum that took him over the line first.   

Here's the lead pack jamming into turn two.  This is racing!

Motorcycles naturally attracts photographers, racing motorcycles even more so.   These are the first in a series of cool photos taken by Rodd Lindstrom at the Los Angeles Supercross.  Rodd's a long-time motorcyclist, an accomplished skateboarder and a very talented commercial photographer, as well as a big-time supercross fan.  Thanks for the pics, Rodd!

January 23, 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly: 2011 Los Angeles Supercross

Trey Canard (41) chasing Austin Stroupe (74) and Chad Reed (22) during their 450 heat race.  I'll let you decide who's good and who's bad, but Trey definitely gets the ugly for the horrendous get-off he suffered.  Fortunately, Canard wasn't seriously injured and went on to win the LCQ and finish a strong 4th in the main.  Photo by GuyB.
One word that decribes last night's Monster Energy Supercross Series (MESS) at Dodger stadium in Los Angeles?  Exciting!  Of course, there was much more to it than that, so more words are needed.

What was good about the Dodger stadium supercross? 
  • THE RACING.  It was off the chain in both classes.  These riders are all on it.  They are putting on a heckuva show, giving it their all, blood sweat and tears, the whole nine.  GuyB has the story at Vital MX.
  • THE PEOPLE.  The stadium staff were all pretty cool, despite the fact that they were actually in a bit over their heads (see "the bad"); the fans were cool if a little irreverent; the place was packed major and minor moto-celebrities, and even more hot chicks than A1.  Nice vibe, considering...
  • THE VENUE.  Maybe it's not as nice as some of the newer ballparks, but Dodger stadium has enough charm of its own, if you take the time to look around.  The view of L.A. from the parking lot is downright amazing.
The bad?  Oh man...

  • THE PARKING.  Yes, it's a funky parking lot, but it doesn't have to be as bad as it was on Saturday night.  It took 15 minutes just to get in the lot, and we arrived fairly early between 3:30-4pm.  The parking gate personnel were pleasant enough, but they only took cash (what year is this again?), and were just slow dealing with the traffic.  Getting out was complete bedlam, and I didn't see a single police officer directing traffic.  At Anaheim, the police actively direct departing traffic (and it's still crazy, I must admit).
  • THE PUNKS.  No, not the MX hooligans; at least they showed up.  But the SoCal motocross fans that chose not to go the the L.A. supercross for whatever reason they dreamed up.  Sure, SX is expensive and stadium races are usually a pain in the ass to attend, but c'mon now... THIS season you do NOT want to miss.    Donn Maeda at Transworld Motocross reports that 41,107 people attended the race; with a capacity of 56,000 that means 14,893 supposed California motocross fans punked out and missed an awesome race.
  • THE PRESS.  Because the television coverage was delayed until Sunday morning, the motocross press seemed to follow the lead of the traditional press and "hold" race reports until the race was broadcast on CBS.  The only real-time stream of information permitted to leave Dodger stadium during the race was the AMA lap timer.  The promoters completely shut down the news.  A travesty.

And the ugly...

  • THE MASSIVE LINES.   For EVERYTHING.  To get in, to buy food, to get out, to get back in, to even get in the rest rooms.  Everything had a long line  For such a big stadium, it has a really congested flow, made even worse by closing off sections, locking doors that have signs that say "door must be unlocked", not opening all available snack bars and more.  I give credit to the stadium management conducting what seemed to be an incident-free event, but they really failed on the traffic management aspect.   Some of their decisions on routing fans from the stadium to the "pit party" resulted in a massive jam of people squeezing into a narrow row of escalators.  It was fortunate no one was hurt in the crush.  Some people gave up and never made it to the pits, which is a shame because there is so much to see and do there. 
  • (The way some fans treated) THE POLICE.  Unfortunately, there was some booing when the LAPD motorcyclists made there way onto the stadium floor early in the opening ceremonies, and it's unusual because the Air Force and the LA Sheriffs department both had displays and personnel in the pits and were as well received as they are at other stadiums.  I'm not saying the LAPD is perfect, but doing that to those motorcycle officers was definitely uncalled for.   Of course, it didn't help when a couple of the officers got stuck in the deep dirt on the start straight and struggled to get their motorcycles off the track.
All of that to say... overall, it was AWESOME because the racing was so great.   All of the good far outweighed the bad and the ugly, no question about it.  The MESS went to Dodger stadium and motocross fans all over southern California came out the winner.

Two gets Second, Seven gets second

Ryan Villopoto took his second win of the season at the Los Angeles supercross.  What a race! More to come after "the embargo"...

January 21, 2011

Two and Two-Time

Two races in, too early to tell.  National number 2 versus two-time Supercross Champ.  GuyB has the Big Picture from Phoenix.

January 16, 2011

Down in the Dirt: Phoenix 2011

I am so glad this crash wasn't worse.  James Stewart lost his front end while leading his heat race at the Phoenix round of the MESS, and GuyB was on hand to catch the shot (and more).  If you look close, it seems like James is doing his best to protect his right arm from damage.   And check out the reaction on some of those faces in the crowd!

Fortunately, it was his only miscue on the entire evening.  Stewart recovered to finish second in the heat, and then went on to a strong performance in the main event, grabbing the holeshot and leading all 20 laps.

Made up for lost/last time:  last year in Phoenix, Stewart effectively crashed out of the series.  Winning this year has gotta feel good.

Two Fifty Deuce: Phoenix 2011

Josh "Top Step" Hansen smiles for GuyB's camera after winning the 250cc race in Phoenix.   Hansen got handed a bit of luck when his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team mate Broc Tickle bobbled away the lead, but make no mistake about it, Josh put himself in place to win his second in a row.  That's a big deal, dude.

Speaking of dudes, who's the one in non-green?  It's Ryan Morais, after riding his Rockstar Suzuki to third place.

What happened at Phoenix 2011? Transworld Motocross has the answer

Check out "How was your weekend?" by Brendan Lutes, who interviewed Stewart, Hansen, Villopoto, Tickle, Canard, Reed and many more.   It's the story of Phoenix straight from the racers, no fluff, no filler.

January 10, 2011

Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing, baby: Anaheim 2011

When I rolled into the Anaheim parking lot for the first race of the Monster Energy Supercross Series (MESS), pumping old Led Zeppelin tunes in my old Mustang, I only had two objectives in mind. First, I wanted to meet Geico Honda's supercross rookie Eli Tomac and ask him to sign a jersey acquired at a benefit auction for Ross Maeda. I'm still stoked about Tomac winning his very first pro race at the season motocross opener at Hangtown last year!

Second, I just wanted to have a good time. And it's really hard not to have a good time at any sort of motocross race. In fact, I think you have to sort of work at it - at not having a good time, that is - because the sport is naturally enjoyable. Supercross® has certainly had it's ups and downs over the past 35 years, but the people managing the product have managed to make their brand of indoor motocross consistently entertaining, even in the cases when the actual racing fails to bring the necessary drama. Racing motorcycles on dirt... what's not to like?

So I had two goals, and I knew from years of attending these races that proper preparation would be necessary for success. So my plan was to arrive as early as possible, have a pocket full of disposable entertainment dollars and be willing to stand in as many lines as it was going to take to achieve my aims.

Of course, with Anaheim, the biggest lines are to simply leave and re-enter the stadium, which is required to go the the “party in the pits.” There must be a method to their madness, because it has never changed. At least the autograph line for the Geico team moved well, and Kevin Windham and Eli Tomac were friendly and I accomplished the first goal.

And by that point, I was already having a good time, so it was all looking pretty good. Sure, it was kind of expensive: $20 bucks to park. $50 ticket plus $9.15 for “Trans Conv. Chrg.” and $5 for order processing. $10 for the program and another $10 because I was too stupid to drink Monster and redeem the can for a free pit pass (and stand in that long line). All told, $100 and change to park my butt in a plastic bleacher one aisle away from the industry seating section and in the very last row, mere steps from a beer station and the men's room. Pretty decent seat, actually. I just wanted to sit on the end of a row, and it worked out pretty good.

As you probably know by now, the on-track action didn't disappoint. Kawasaki made it a Monster night, winning both classes while sweeping the 250cc podium. I'm not going to deliver a full-on race report; you can get the professional grade stuff from Transworld MX, Vital MX and of course Racer X Online. But I will tell you what I saw.

In the 250cc class, I saw Josh Hansen has decided to win a championship this year. He ain't playing around; he just might sweep the series. He's going to face some stiff competition from his own team mates, and I fully expect the “youth brigade” (Tomac and German sensation Ken Roczen of the Red Bull KTM team) to give him fits once they find a level of comfort in their rookie seasons, but Hansen is clearly on a mission, and his Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki is more than up to the task of taking him to the title.

In the 450cc class, I saw the return of supercross superiority during the very first qualifying session, when before anyone else was able to break the 1 minute mark, James Stewart clicked off a 58 second lap. The best of the rest would get closer, but no one else got into the 58s, not even in the second session. So when the 450 main finally got underway, and it was apparent that Stewart would have to spend his evening battling through traffic, I felt my face break out into a big smile. I was really enjoying myself, watching these guys ride!

Mission accomplished.

A podium full of champions.  From left to right:  The 2009 Supercross Champion, San Manuel/Red Bull/Yamaha's James Stewart (3rd), 2007 West Region Supercross Champion, Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto (1st) and 2010 Supercross Champion, Rockstar/Makita/Suzuik's Ryan Dungey (2nd).   Photo by GuyB/Vital MX

On Sunday I was able to catch some of the TV coverage of the race, and I have to say I felt kind of sad for those motocross fans who were not able to see this race in person. This sport has become far too complex for our standard broadcast practices to accurately capture; there's just too much going on at one time. Fans in the stadium have the luxury of being able to switch their attention to what interests them most at the moment; maybe it's the guy running off with the lead, maybe it's the guy fighting his way back from a bad start, maybe it's the gorgeous girl that keeps looking over her shoulder... all of that is missed by TV. The internet was supposed to fulfill a promise of multiple streams of sports information, multiple camera angles, diverse coverage, but the Supercross powers-that-be haven't figured that out yet. Trust me when I say this: the ONLY way to truly enjoy a supercross is by actually attending an event. Luckily, there are 16 more to go.

Don't sleep on this supercross season. Even if you have to drive for hours to get to the nearest race, go see at least one... it will be well worth your time!

January 09, 2011

Anaheim Rockstars

They say the camera puts on 5 pounds.  Where?

GuyB back at work.

Anaheim Royalty

Now this won't happen at most supercrosses, and it's one of the reasons why the Anaheim rounds are so special:  I ran into 4-time and current World Motocross Champion Antonio Cairoli just cruising around hooded up in the Anaheim pits.   He doesn't know me from Adam and he was just walking around alone, so I called out "Tony!" and he stopped long enough for this shot.  Cool guy and one fassssst mofo on a bike.

Photo by Paul Willis

Anaheim from behind

Looking back on a good day at the A.  It may not be Formula 1, but it sure is fun!

Former supercross champion Chad Reed sported the funniest "butt patch" in practice, seen above.  Not sure what it means, but it may have something to do with his new status as fastest privateer in the series.

Photos by Paul Willis

Anaheim Won: Heaven '11

Getting to the races early enough to catch practice is a MUST.   At Anaheim, the lower level seating is open during qualifying, so there are some great opportunities for fans to get close enough to get some decent photos of their favorites.   I was lucky enough to catch Josh Hansen here, getting his game face on before his first session.  That's his father, former Supercross champion Donnie, standing on the other side of Casey Hinson.

Hansen, who won the Australian Super X championship late last year, was fast all evening and went on to score an extremely popular win.

Photo by Paul Willis

Anaheim Visionaries

This is one of those totally lucky shots.  I was trying capture a shot of Ken Roczen's factory KTM as the mechanics were pushing the bikes out for the first timed qualifying sessions, and I saw orange, aimed, fired and got this:  Red Bull KTM manager (and living motocross legend) Roger DeCoster walking past Vital MX's head honcho Steve "GuyB" Giberson (appropriately immersed in his iPhone).

Visionaries?  Sure.  No one can argue the significant impact Roger DeCoster has had on modern motocross racing design and development, and GuyB's commitment to digital online technology has led Vital MX to be the most popular online forum in the business.

Photo by Paul Willis

Anaheim Foxes

The first supercross of the season brings 'em out by the thousands.

Both of these cuties are running Fox Racing gear, and if the one on the bottom isn't sponsored by Fox, she should be!

Photos by Paul Willis

January 07, 2011

Don't Believe the Hype

Showtime is less than 24 hours away, and there is a lot of excitement about the sheer entertainment potential of the 2011 Supercross series because EVERYONE IS HEALTHY so by all rights we should see AT LEAST SIX men race for the win EVERY NIGHT of this tour.  Dungey, Stewart, Villopoto, Reed, Canard, Grant, Short, Tedesco, Windham, Millsaps, Hill and even the guy that took the phrase from Public Enemy (and made a mockery of it) Mike Alessi (healthy and backed by the powerhouse Red Bull KTM squad) are all capable of winning mains this year.  Wouldn't it be just magical to have 17 different winners by season's end?

C'mon now.

I'm really looking forward to seeing these guys race tomorrow night in Anaheim!