Observations from Hangtown

By Steve Matthes
Photos by James Lissimore  

Welcome to the great outdoors!!  The series moves away from the stadiums and out into the cornfields of America. I didn’t like the outdoors that much when I was a mechanic and I still don’t like them as a fan. Everybody on the teams are too busy to really hang out and talk, the riders are secluded away, getting ready to put their bodies through hell. It’s simply not that good for hanging out. This weekend I was the guy that I always wished would just go away--hanging out, trying to crack jokes and basically doing nothing.

The Hangtown track was pretty good this year; it had good flow and the soil wasn’t too sandy. The Dirk Diggler’s, I mean Dirt Diggers do a good job with the track. When I first started coming here it was a hard pack, slick P.O.S. Then they fell victim to what all the outdoor promoters like to do: let’s throw sawdust and sand on our track to make it rough for the pansy riders! But they have moved away from that and the assinine switchback corners of a few years ago to have a pretty nice track.

Funny story, when the track wasn’t as [ahem] good as it is now, Team Yamaha was out testing there when one of the track workers pulled up and asked Damon Bradshaw what they could do to make it better. He replied, “Put a closed sign at the front gate.” True story. I guess the worker just drove off quickly.

Just something I have noticed this year: when did the mechanics become really useless? More and more teams are employing motor guys now, they already have suspension guys and 95 percent of team mechanics do not change their own tires. What I see now is the mechanic taking the bike off the stand, wheeling it outside the tent and the motor guys rev the bikes up! Are the mechanics not even trusted to see if the bike is jetted and sounding good? Honestly, the job of a mechanic is not very hard these days. I bet that Cledus’s dog Fred from the Smokey and the Bandit movies could do it, or maybe Clyde, the monkey from Every Which Way but Loose if he had thumbs. Don’t get me wrong, I am not bagging on the mechanics, but the teams seem less and less trusting of these guys.



Villopoto got the lesser fine in the J-Law/Villo incident.  


Everybody’s favorite troublemaker Jason Lawrence was at it again. On Saturday he waited for Ryan Villopoto and started jacking around with him in the first practice. In the second practice, Ryan waited until everybody took off and then started his practice. J-Law waited for him to catch up and proceeded to cut Ryan off and take him high in the turns. They were yelling and flicking each other off when, Villo decided to end it right there and pulled a wheelie and ghosted his bike into J-Law. That predictably was followed by a fist fight. Ha ha ... that Jason Lawrence ... what a joker.

Here is where it gets absolutely stupid, the AMA fined RV and DNQ’d Lawrence. Yet, 3 weeks ago in Seattle Kyle Partridge and Martin Davalos got immediately DNQ’d for a fight after the heat race. Why didn’t RV get DNQ’d also? A fight is a fight, in my opinion. You cannot set a precedent for a suspension and then not have it apply to everybody equally. I thought the Partridge/Davalos penalties were harsh, but you have to stick to the rules. But wait, it gets better, Lawrence was reinstated and had to apologize to everybody at riders meeting and given the 40th gate pick both motos. Ahhhhh ... another “new” punishment given out. What does Steve Whitelock do when he dishes these penalties out? Just pull things from a hat? “OK, everybody ... this week Jason Lawrence has to jump over a shark tank behind the gate when the gate drops!” The AMA is really getting to be a joke. If somebody fights, make it a standard penalty, if they ghost ride a bike, make it a standard penalty. The teams just want to be treated fairly; all the rules apply to everybody. Is that too much to ask?

I got to help out RacerX’s webcast on Motocross.com this weekend. It was fun to be part of history but I was kind of bummed when I got pre-empted for some guy whose name can be spelled the same backwards (Bob Hannah). Then Bevo Forte got in on “my” segment. I spent a lot of time preparing some really funny stuff but then, just as I was warming up, I got booted for some off-road guy (Rodney Smith). Oh well, maybe next week.

Being the media whore that I am, I also went up to the tower to watch practice and got roped into an interview with track announcer Rob Buydos. I talked about Rollerball and Timmy (shocker) and then when I mentioned that Cole Siebler had good times, I followed up with “He’s from Idaho, Rob and when you are from there, you get used to getting used to things.” What does that even mean? Good god, I’m an idiot. Don’t look for me to be an announcer anytime soon.



Lamson brought back the sweet sound of the two stroke at Hangtown.  

Well the great Steve Lamson lined up and raced his CR125 this week. It was really cool to see him going around the track in his retro gear and hearing the sweet sound of a 125 for the last time. I savored this because there will never be another moron who decides to race one again. Lammy looked like a big-mouth bass getting reeled in up the hills. He told me that if he hits the corner perfect, he only gets pulled a bit. If he makes a mistake, forget it, the 250Fs are yarding him. Good for him though for going out there.

Yes he may screw around with riders, watch porn on an airplane, throw chewed up food at spectators, roll tractor tires down the hill at kids, try to fight flaggers, and started the Iraq war (okay, I made that up) but Jason Lawrence is fast. After being given the last gate pick for both motos, he was outside the top 20 for both starts and went 5-5 on the day. He is really fast folks. Yes he is a moron but as long as you are fast, everybody will forgive you.

It seems that Monster Energy is everywhere around our sport and I am not a big fan of energy drinks after OD’ing on Red Bull when I worked for KTM. But Monster has a new Java-flavored energy/coffee drink that is how you say ... the bomb? I must have drank about four of these yummy gulps of heaven on Sunday. If anyone from Monster is reading this and wants to send me some cases of it, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.


Thunder in action.  

Thunder and Lightning made their 450 class debut this weekend and I think it went pretty well for one of them. Jeff Alessi ran top ten for a good part of the day and finished just outside of that. Mike Alessi ran 3rd for a while in the first moto before throwing out the anchor and working his way backwards. I think that the top guys are going to have to get used to passing Mike around the 20 minute mark, as he will always be up front off the start.  I saw Jeff walking around the pits and I feel sorry for him. He walks around with a bad limp, he looks like he has a club foot or something. It obviously does not affect him riding but man, I feel bad for the kid.

Josh Hansen managed to make the news even when he is not racing; it seems that Answer Racing and he have parted ways. Probably something to do with the fact that he barely ever races. Do you think he sits at home and is jealous that J-Law is stealing all of his bad-boy glory? Can we get a Hansen comeback at some point with him and J-Law teammates?  Please? I’m predicting this now—Hanny comes back making no salary at Pro Circuit and wins the 2009 Lites title. Write that down ... do it ... do it.

It is absolutely killing me that the Ottawa Senators are going to play for the Stanley Cup. As a Leafs fan, they were our whipping boys for the longest time and thanks to luck and the NHL screwing over the Buffalo Sabres, I might have to see Daniel “Krusty the Clown” Alfredsson hoist the cup. If this happens, I will block it out of my mind forever, it will never have happened to me. Like Rocky V.



With Hangtown out of the way, Klatt will better his 11th place finish next weekend.  


Canada’s favourite islander, Dusty Klatt had a good weekend. Yes he finished way back in the first moto but he was 7th for a bit and with a poopy gate pick, still managed to get 11th in the 2nd moto. He rode pretty steady and picked off a lot of guys just by being in shape, that’s good to see.
In other news, I read that Star Racing is letting Dusty go back to the island for the summer. This is a bad move, if you ask me (which nobody really has, BTW). He is going to have to take three or four flights to get to some of the tracks which will wear him out over time. He is going to have problems with getting parts for his bike through customs, and he is not going to have anybody pushing him to focus on racing. I know that Southern California is not the greatest place to live, but Thursday’s at Glen Helen is like a national and that can do nothing but help our guy out. We will see how this turns out. I hope he proves me wrong but living in California allows a young rider nothing but time to focus on riding and training. If this was a good idea Mitch Payton would let his guys do it also. Don’t tell me about Townley, he has a support group like RC, he’s not going to fall off the wagon. I would call Lissimore to tell DK this, but his phone hasn’t worked for two weeks.

The AMA’s new qualifying procedures went into effect this weekend and I liked it for the most part. But as usual with the AMA, they screwed up big time by not letting the top two in the alternate qualifying race practice with the top 40 guys. So you race a 20 minute moto to get in, and then have to sit there and see if you get in and start the moto having five hours to rest. Even worse, the Lites guys race on Saturday so they are going to the first moto having not even seen the track! When Moto XXX’s Alan Brown and Team Solitaire’s Ryan Clark were questioning Steve Whitelock on the details of this, Steve told them, “Don’t get me mad or I will DQ both of your riders. You guys are lucky that we [AMA] let you be here.” Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to AMA pro racing!!



RC took the overall. Not bad for a temp...  


What can you say about RC? He took two months off and came out and once again, proved me wrong when I said he couldn’t run Stewart's pace. He made a charge in the first moto and almost won the moto. In the second race, when he should’ve been really feeling the layoff, he holeshot and took off for the win.

This week in the “Is Eric Sorby racing in Canada or not” program, DV told me that Eric was upset at me for calling the Simon Homans Racing team owner and telling him not to let Eric race in Canada. Huh? I was trying to get him a helmet deal and I am assuming Simon Homans is the owner of his own team and I wouldn’t know Simon if he ran me over on his 250F. Where does this stuff come from? Stay tuned next week…..




Nick Wey made his return at Hangtown.  


Poor Nick Wey. He was obviously still not 100 percent and rode around at the back of the pack. I know Nick well and he would never quit, it had to be hard for him to be so far off his usual speed. He will get better and may have to sit out some rounds to keep healing. There’s no sense in finishing outside of the points for a guy like him. Kudos to him for never giving up out there.

Before the second 450 moto, internet bandit TFS came up to me and pointed at a berm and said that its all blown out and somebody is going to go over it and into the Honda banners that are right there. He also said that a photographer might get hit if they stood there. So about halfway through, some guy blows through the banners and off the track. TFS is standing right there and gets the shot, avoids getting hit and then him and I have a good laugh. What’s next for him? Predicting the lotto numbers?

I’m not a big collector, or autograph guy but I have one of RC’s AXO jerseys from back in the day and figured it would be cool to get him to sign it for me. I saw him watching the first Lites moto and asked him if he could be so kind. He said sure and told me not to laugh as he signed it “To Canada, It’s been fun hanging and racing with ya!” That was very sweet of him to think that he raced against me, most of the time he was just on the same track as my guy, not really racing with him.

How does a guy like Billy Laninovich feel on Monday morning? He has a factory bike, all the support a guy needs and just goes out and stinks it up. A 17-32 is not what Honda had in mind for a guy like that. Others that need to step it up include: Chris Gosselaar, Kelly Smith and Zach Osborne. C’mon guys, can you at least fake it?

Kevin Rookstool had a unique approach to sponsorship this weekend. He is a privateer from Oregon and went 33-24. He had a pretty much stock looking CRF with a “My Parents” sticker on his shroud.

How about Broc “Dick” Tickle of Star Racing? He went 8-7 for 8th overall and looked real good both motos. This has to bode well for a North Carolina guy heading back to familiar soil on the east coast.

This week I ate at the Moose racing/Moto XXX truck, the driver Brian Swead was very kind to stock my drink of choice Cherry Coke for me (although that drink might be replaced by Monster Java now). I had some grilled chicken that was done well; he just needs to step up the condiments and the size of the chicken breasts. You had to put two or three pieces to fill up a bun, not that easy to hold together. There also was no Nacho Cheese Doritos for me or Josh Summey to snack on. Its okay, he will get better. The old XXX driver had to go and plunder some ships so he is no longer there it seems.

Former Canadian national number 2, Gavin Gracyk showed up and went 20-15 for 18th overall. I thought he retired and it was good to see him out there. Maybe he will come up north for a race or two.

Remember Rusty Holland? Well he was back this weekend. Russ is now a Parts Unlimited rep in central California but figured he would come out and see what he can do. He made the motos on Saturday and then went to his real job at the Parts Unlimited Dealer Showcase later that night. Russ is one of the people that I know that refers to him self in the third person as in “Russ is feeling good today” when you ask him how he is.



A crash in the second moto handed the overall to RC.  


Stewie had a tough time in the second moto. He didn’t get the start and by the time he got into 2nd, RC was pretty much gone. He crashed late in the moto and his front brake was jacked up, his goggles were tossed and he got passed by Davey Millsaps and his teammate Tim Ferry.

In other news, the world’s fastest +30 racer went 3-3 for third.  He told me in an exclusive interview (ha!) that when he was behind Mike Alessi in the first moto he was pushing hard to get by him but kept making mistakes and losing more time. He said that he looked up and the top two guys were in another orbit so he settled down and waited for Mike to get tired.

David Vuillemin had a pretty good second moto, he came from the back a bit to get 7th, beating three factory riders. In the first moto he had to stop and get new goggles after a rock blew apart his lens. And some of these guys ride with no chest protectors?

In other MDK news, Drew Gosselaar made his pro debut at Hangtown. He was a lot like Chris, very fast but couldn’t seem to hold it together. He finished way back after running up front both motos. It’s a long moto and some kids take awhile to realize that you have to pace yourself.




Townley and RV are the guys to beat in the Lites class.  


Ben Townley and RV proved that they are what everybody thought they would be: the top two guys in the Lites class. Very impressive for Ryan Dungey to keep them honest and he proves he’s not just a supercross guy. I also think that Josh Hill will be up there later on in the year. And don’t forget about Brett Metcalfe. Should be a great summer in this class.

As usual if you like what I have to say, or you think I’m an idiot, please feel free to share your thoughts here