Steve Matthes' Observations from Atlanta

Georgia … I’ve got Georgia on my mind.

I’m back!! After two weeks off and fully recovered from my stellar Racer X hockey game performance, where I was named fourteenth star, I was ready to watch some Supercross. Luckily for you readers, I wrote my thoughts down this weekend so settle in with that Molson and back bacon because this is a long one….

This week the series was in Atlanta, home of the Falcons, Hawks and most importantly, the Thrashers. I am sure the 40 hockey fans down here really appreciate the back checking of Ilya Kovalchuk.

Did you know the first girl-scout troop ever formed was in Savannah, GA in 1912?

I have been trying to hook Kyle Beaton up with some sponsors and technical help for the upcoming season. Remember my aid when he wins the title next year. If he sucks; I heard Todd Kuli lined it all up.

I ran into Paul Currie in the press box. He is retired from motocross and installing alarms and is still one of the funniest guys around. He doesn’t ride anymore and says that he has no desire to. As he pointed out, “Have you seen how fast these guys are?”

How come Terry Boyd yells “[Insert city here] you want to party like a rock star?!” in the opening ceremonies? Then he usually follows that with the same question again. Uh, no Terry, we don’t want to party like a rock star. All of us came here to watch a motorcycle race. I won’t be surprised if he comes out with a pacifier and a glow stick one of these weeks.

The track was pretty simple; it had two sections of whoops that broke down and didn’t present a problem. They had two triples—which are the easiest thing out there for these riders—and a rhythm section that everybody was doing the exact same way. That is until James “crazy balls” Stewart was going all the way over a tabletop and jumping three times instead of four. I am no Gary Bailey, but it was fast.

Darcy Lange was solid in Atlanta and finished second in the main. That's a Canadian record, folks.

photo: Simon Cudby

Darcy Lange was very, very fast. He smoked his heat race with the best time of the night, got a bad start in the main, moved into third and was charging to the front when he stalled and moved back to seventh. He then picked the same guys off again and finished second. Great ride for him. I didn’t think that a winter racing against plumbers and carpenters in the arenacross circuit would prepare him well, but once again I was wrong.  That sound you hear is Dusty Klatt loading up his bike to go practice.

I was wondering where Ian Woods, Darcy’s long-time mechanic was. Turns out he had some off-season plans for T-shirt modeling and hair gel ads planned and couldn’t come south. That was too bad for him. (I don’t even know him and now he is going to kick my ass!)

Okay, okay, I understand RC is an incredible motorcycle racer and a bajillion time champion, but the opening ceremonies were kind of silly. They did the whole people-who-helped-my-career-thing, and the ride-around-the-track-thing. But then some politician from the state of Georgia came out and gave him some kind of proclamation declaring something about having an RC day. If it means a day off of work, I am all for that, otherwise can we get on with partying like a rock star?

Speaking of RC, again I respect the hell out of the guy, but the cheering in the press box was a little out of hand. I am serious when I say that the lady next to me started pounding the desk with both hands when RC got close to Stewie. It was like a crack addict needing to get another hit. People were standing, yelling, pounding on desks. Hey everybody, this guy has won 100+ races, getting excited for him winning is like giving out a high five for breathing. 

RC was back in action in Atlanta ... not that anyone noticed...

photo: Simon Cudby

Maybe I am a little bitter—he beat all my riders many, many times and Scott Taylor wouldn’t call me back about getting a jersey signed for myself—but people need to remember that they once booed RC heavily and he wasn’t always the most gracious loser. He is the greatest rider to have ever lived but I truly believe that Stewie is on another level and, if he sticks around, will have RC covered one day.

Speaking of arenacross, Robbie Reynard, Brock Sellards and Kevin Johnson also made appearances and all three made the main. In something that can only happen to Reynard, his main lasted forty feet as he cartwheeled with Travis Preston going down the start straight. “Yep, basically exploded his little toe,” said Reynard’s sister Cherie on mototalk after the race. “He broke it so bad that it broke the skin … he had to have it stitched up ... go figure Robbie does everything in style." True Cherie!

Tim Ferry and his mechanic, Mike Williamson, were calling themselves the Magic Man and El Diablo for much of the night. Did you know that El Diablo stands for fighting chicken?

Timmy Ferry had an okay night; he tangled off the start with Reynard and Preston, got hung up with them and went into the turn 19th. He moved through the pack and finished sixth, with the fourth best lap time of the night. He said he was really lucky that he didn’t go down in that crash.

Tyler Medaglia also raced and didn’t do so well. He did make the field, qualifying 39th out of 40. He didn’t look comfy out there in the heat and had some bike problems in the LCQ.

I spoke with Jeff “six-time” Stanton for a while and got a good interview with him that Brett Dailey may share with you guys sometime. Perhaps a letter writing campaign into Dailey demanding these interviews would be in order?

My lovely wife Angie is going to love me for writing this: I think that the thirty second girl grinding and thrusting their hips is a little much. There are tons of little kids at the races and I don’t think it’s appropriate. All this girl needed was a golden pole and the act would’ve been complete. And no, I don’t like dudes—just want to get that out there.

Greg Schnell is back! I am not sure where he went but he showed up on a CRF250 with no sponsors listed and placed 17th in the main. Here is a rider that could do okay in Canada and would probably be willing to come up and race for some Hawkins Cheezies and a case of ketchup chips. You listening John Nelson?

Mike Alessi got the holeshot and was my pick for a podium before the race. It was not to be as he really didn’t look good and was fading back before he crashed. He didn’t look good in practice either but I figured he would get the start and hold on from there. This track didn’t have really big whoops so all the stars were aligned for him and a good finish. Ricky Hammerjackson probably went through a whole box of Kleenex wiping his tears away on Saturday night.

This week’s “Who the hell is this guy?” goes to Kevin Rookstool from Oregon. He finished 20th in the main and I don’t know who he is. He rode a KTM and looked pretty good in his heat.

Tommy Hahn debuted his Honda ride and rode around looking like he was made of cement. It’s a long season and I am sure he was nervous. He can and will do better. It’s kind of funny, everybody says that Team Honda is so much pressure and riders have to step up, etc., etc. Then when they don’t perform it’s attributed to Honda and the pressure, but yet when you walk over there and talk to the guys, they are laughing and joking.  Team manager  Eric “the hog” Kehoe is one of the nicest guys around. I don’t see this supposed pressure anywhere. I think it’s the riders’ own expectations that make it stressful, because, trust me, it isn’t these guys.

Matt Goerke is fast, but he needs to be in better shape. Near the end of the race, his head was swiveling around like Linda Blair’s in the exorcist; he can win a race if he just focuses on racing and looking ahead.

Ben Townley looked good also, but he was the victim of his bike blowing up when he was going down the start straight. It locked up and almost pitched him off, good thing it wasn’t on the face of a jump. He would’ve finished first or second without a doubt had that not happened.

Timmy Ferry, Mike Williamson, myself, Dan Brault and Kurt Rood ended up having a discussion about the Canadian series and Marc Travers and Brian Koster announcing up there. This was after we had to wait for Timmy and Mike to finish quoting Talladega Nights (hey guys, the movie has been out for about a year now, way to catch on). The consensus is that the coverage is great with the battles they show back in the pack. I think the guys are good but they try a little too hard with the catchphrases. Mike loved them, Kurt thought it was entertaining but wondered if they drank before doing it, Danny was a fan and Timmy said they sounded too Canadian for him. What does that mean exactly?

Ryan Dungey was fast in practice, then won his heat and jetted off to the win in the Lites class. It was his first AMA supercross and I hope he doesn’t think they are all going to be this easy. He was very smooth and the Suzuki looked pretty fast. He will probably show up next week in a Benz and a ginormous diamond earring but hey, it was fun while it lasted.

Speaking of these silly kids, it was refreshing to see the east coast guys actually racing the track and passing clean. They all kept it professional and it was quite a change from the gong-show out west.

Davi Millsaps made his comeback from a broken leg in Atlanta. He holeshot both of his heat races (more on that later) and rode okay in the main. I am sure his level of fitness and speed isn’t quite there yet, but it will come. The best thing about him was the cool looking retro gear that No Fear made him, it was red and blue and looked like the stuff Marty Smith used to wear.

There was another red flag this week! This one was probably thrown for good reason as there was a multi-bike wreck in lane two, Ricky Bobby. It looked like a yard sale out there as Nathan Ramsey, Michael Bryne, Josh Summey, Doug Dehaan, Jason Thomas and a few others were all laid out. It all started, according to my source, because “Ramsey decided that he would single every jump in the rhythm section and we all piled into him.” Everybody was okay, but the guy who got it the worst was Josh Summey because his bike was so jacked up, he couldn’t make it for the restart.

Motoleague alert: Bryan Johnson has been riding well this year, although his results don’t always show it. He finally broke through this week with a seventh. Keep him on the roster for a while; the commissioner probably has him pretty cheap because he doesn’t know much about racing. I saw you could pick Mike Harnden for six million dollars last week.

The Hulkster also had a good race; he was running eighth for a while before winding up eleventh. He was a factor for the first time in a while.  He celebrated by body-slamming his mechanic and locking an AMA guy in the Boston-crab.

Michael Bryne was winning the LCQ before crashing and not making the main, but don’t worry, he used his provisional to get into the main. I was talking to six-time about this and he hadn’t heard about this rule. (Maybe there’s no internet in Michigan?) The reaction on his face after I told him was priceless; he just shook his head and mumbled something unprintable. See AMA … it’s not just me.

Danny “danbrogiverdogger” Brault hung out with me in the swanky press box and watched the races. He was on his way to GPF or MTF to “train” and write a story on what goes on down there. The funniest thing of the night was Davey Coombs telling him that if Darcy won, he had better be on the cover of the next RXC or Davey was “going to personally kick your ass.” Keep in mind the issue was already at the printer so Brault might have to do some fancy work after Darcy’s podium. The normally chatty Brault got pretty quiet and pondered this threat from his boss for a while.

I read in an interview that Jeff Spencer is working with Kevin Windham this year. So it wasn’t the aliens that were holding KW back early on … that’s all I’m going to say.  Seriously, I am sure that he is a good trainer, and much smarter then I am about well … really, anything, but he was training Chad Reed and Tim Ferry when I was at Yamaha and I have seen some things that made me want to contact the nearest asylum. Also KW is not exactly known for having the greatest mental strength out there, so this union of weirdness could either push KW to greater heights or end up being a bigger train wreck than Mike Tyson. If KW shows up with his face tattooed, remember that I called it first.

Ryan Clark looked like he picked up a gem in Ricky Renner. He rode good and looks to be the real deal. I had read about him as an amateur but didn’t realize his SX skills were so good. 

Branden Jesseman rode a smart race, finishing fourth. As the only past champion in the Lites field, don’t be surprised to see him on the box a few times. This guy can ride but seems to have a black cloud around him for most of the past four years. I guess his FMF/Motoworld Yamaha worked pretty well for him. Heres a trivia fact for you: five out of the top ten Lites class finishers used FMF systems. Now run down to your local dealer and place your order!

Stewie looked just fast enough to win on Saturday. Even though RC was catching him, I never got a sense the JS was going to lose this race. He rode flawless and RC gave him credit on the podium for jumping that rhythm section and how he “had his dress on for that one.” We tried to track Stewie down for a post race comment but all we could find was his dad, James Sr., who had this to say:

“I'm always happy. This is Big James! This is me. I’m always happy. You guys know that. Everybody knows Big James. I'm always happy.”

There is an internet radio show called Dead Motocrossers society or DMXS for short. If you get a chance, check it out. The guys on there are pretty funny and they are passionate fans of the sport. Well this week they had Ferry on the show and I was told that he bagged on me pretty hard. Upon listening to the archive, I couldn’t believe some of the things he said about his man-friend on there: that I was so tired in the nationals that he had to give me HIS water, about how I was holding back all these years, etc., etc. He failed to mention the multiple podiums that I carried him to as well as the riding tips that I generously passed onto him. Take a look at these photos:

Perfect Lechien-esque form displayed by Matthes.


Questionable form from Tim Ferry.

photo: Steve Bruhn

Here are a couple of photos that I just randomly pulled from the archives. As you can see, my outside elbow is up, I am looking forward and charging. Please note the roost coming from my Tom Matthes-tuned KX80. Also, notice if you look closely, my foot is out by my front tire, thereby helping me carve up that Duncan, BC turn. Take a look at the goggle strap and how it is perfectly aligned as well.

Now look at Ferry. His inside elbow is down and almost in a locked position, thereby limiting movement. His foot is dragging behind him in the dirt—kind of dangerous for a guy that has had prior knee problems, no? He is really not looking forward, more straight down at his front wheel. Also, what is up with his seating position? Maybe he should be sitting on his seat, enabling him to carve through the turn? And also, good job on the goggle strap Red Dog, looks sharp!

I just thought I should pass these on. I was not his mechanic last season when the photo was taken—it was his first without me molding him and look at what happened. His form went right to crap and I will be on the DMXS radio show this week to confirm these facts.