Steve Matthes Observations from Freestone, Texas
Report and photos by Steve Matthes


I’m back baby! After a week off for the Parts Unlimited National Sales meeting in Janesville, Wisconsin, I’m back at the races and more excited than Andy Bowyer when he squeezes a NASCAR tie-in into a Rev-up or Number Cruncher column on Racerxill.com.

Last week all of you got to read Observations by The Weege, and I think he did a good job. He might’ve even done a better job than me but alas, he’s not Canadian and therefore cannot write for Racer X Canada. In your face Weege! I do hope that he gets his Blogandt column going on Racerxill.com, as it’s pretty good but I doubt it will happen as he probably doesn’t have 14 minutes to spare every day for his fans.

The AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF was in Texas this week. I’ll say that again: The AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF was in Texas this week. That means a new track! Everyone was excited about that.

Going to switch it up a bit here guys and gals, instead of the usual rider photos, I thought it would be interesting to take a little stroll down vendor’s row and show you folks the happenings. If you want photos from the race just click on the 661 photo report on racerxill.com later in the week. This Observations is a long one but hang in there, we’ll get through this together.

Clayton Miller is a privateer whose dad Tony just happens to own the track, you’d hope that Clayton would do well as he helped build it and probably has a bunch of laps on the layout. But the first practice on Saturday morning I saw him jet out front and about _ lap into practice he blew through a corner and took out some banners. Clearly he hadn’t had that many laps on the track. Clayton qualified 39th and went 32-35 on the day.

Ryan Villopoto is really, really, really fast. He’s looking good to capture his second straight 250F Motocross title next week in Glen Helen after adding 13 points to his lead in Texas. He now goes into the final round with a 19-point lead over his teammate Ben Townley after his dominating 1-1 finishes. He was phenomenal on this day to be sure.

BT 101 fell in the first moto, fell again, and ended up coming back to sixth. A good ride by Townley, and in the second moto when he was behind RV, I said on the webcast that he needed to beat Ryan to make a statement. Well, he tried like crazy to stay with RV and even matched RV’s ridiculously low lap time one time around. But that was it. The next lap he was a second off and the next one two-and-a-half off. He “broke” first, to use a Tour de France term.

The AMA strikes back! Moose Racing/Moto XXX rider Mitch Dougherty discovered while sitting on the line that he had a flat, the parade lap hadn’t even started when “Windshields” (his mechanic) tore back to the truck and got a new tire on and back just as the 30-second board went out. The AMA promptly disqualified him.

Why? I’ll get to that in a bit here. The second 450 moto, Butler Bros. MX cousin Jason Thomas noticed something wrong with his bike and had to go back to his truck to fix it. The AMA would not hold the gate and despite Jason’s team doing jumping jacks on the line to get somebody’s attention, the gate dropped without him and then an AMA guy told him that if he went back on they would black flag and DNQ him.

So what’s the deal? Well, at the Orlando Supercross this year, after that huge Lites’ main crash that required a red flag, the AMA changed the rules to say that if you have to wheel your bike away from the gate to fix something, you are immediately disqualified. The old rule was that if you were back in the pits an AMA official went back with you and made sure there was no bike switching or any other sort of shenanigans and as long as you were making reasonable progress on fixing your problem, they let you keep going, to a point. But something tells me there wasn’t enough communication to the teams about this change. So if you can fix your problem on the gate, you’re all good. Next week at Glen Helen, look for the factory teams to pretty much bring their whole semi trailer and park it behind the gate. Is this what the AMA wants? Because they will get it.

There was rampant track cutting going on this past weekend. In qualifying practice on Saturday there were big berms built up on the inside of the track markers, guys were cutting everywhere you looked. I watched some 250F guys probably shave off a half second in a switchback section. In the sand section before the finish, the riders were just making a straight shot out of what was supposed to be a left-right. During the races on Sunday there wasn’t as much but Josh Hill, RV, Stroupe, Carnard, and Alessi—among many, many others—were all taking little “cheater” lines out there. This has to be fixed for next year.

What are they feeding these kids nowadays? Trey Canard, Austin Stroupe and Nico Izzi were all very fast again. Stroupe got a second in the first moto and was running third when his bike blew up in the second moto. Canard went 5-5 and Izzi was up front before crashing and having bike problems. He was impressive though. There are some guys that have been around for a while in the 250F class that are soon going to be obsolete because of all these fast kids. Arenacross, here they come!

Some more crazy fast kids are Will Hahn, Kyle Keylon and Tyler Wharton, and we already know what Broc Tickle and Jake Weimer can do . For real: everybody get ready for the changing of the guard in 2008.

Not sure what the idea is behind the 2008 KTM/MDK 250F team. As it sits right now, they have the 13th, 22nd, and 23rd place guys in the points. The riders are Matt Georke, Billy Laninovich, Ryan Sipes and the injured Justin Brayton. Maybe the thinking is that they can sneak up on teams next year. I just don’t think Mitch Payton is staying awake at night scheming on how to beat these guys.

I was once again fortunate to get the call to go on the motocross.com/Racer X webcast and myself and Davey Coombs called the motos. It was my first time doing all the races and the intermission show and let me tell you, it ain’t easy! The track wasn’t the best for viewing so we had to fill some air when we could. The early reviews are in from the motocross message board world and they are as follows:

“These guys are the worst, bring back Weege please. More laughing than announcing”
 “I thought they were pretty stupid too”
“One of the best broadcasts ever”
“Are they on pain pills or something?”
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I wouldn’t pay for this crap.”
“I would gladly pay to hear this every weekend.”
“Why does DC keep calling it ‘Motorcross’? I am ashamed.”

So this goes to prove that even though Racer X absorbs the costs for this thing and it’s totally free to the listeners, some people will indeed look a gift horse in the mouth.

Tyler “Killer” Bowers once again showed up and tried to ride. He didn’t make the show and I’m really questioning the wisdom of having him out there with a hurt wrist floundering around at the back of the pack. I spoke to his agent, Jimmy Button about this strategy and it sounds to me like he was against it, maybe he got overruled by Tyler’s GIGANTIC dad? Jimmy said that his ride for 2008 is secured so he doesn’t need to prove anything, the kid is 16 years old, let him heal up and watch some cartoons or something instead of going out there and maybe mentally ruining himself.

You know how the Chinese have the year of the rat, or cow or some other animal (I’m the ox, by the way) well, 2007 is the year of the goggle malfunction. Every brand has had trouble this year, sure some of them are rock induced but I’ve never seen anything like it. This week it was Josh Hill who had to pull into the mechanics area while running in 5th the first moto. Amazingly enough, he had trouble with his goggles again when he reentered the moto and had to pull in for the second time. Mike Alessi, Hill, Hepler, RC and DV are all among the riders that have had problems this year.

Speaking of Josh Hill, he made his 450 class debut and finished 37-4 and rode well in both motos. When I asked a Yamaha guy if they moved him up to screw with my guy Red Dog, the Yamaha guy replied that knowing Josh, he would probably get in the way of Langston! Well, he actually helped GL by catching and passing a hurting Andrew Short in the second moto and gave GL one valuable point in the title hunt.

A few weeks back I asked for some Wal-Mart return stories and I got a bunch. I was going to run them in Racer X Canada’s Frid’eh Update but Danny Brault “forgot” to put them in (kind of like the Moose gear review, which is another story) so I will run them here. I got a real good one from Jarret K. about his days as a Wal-Mart security guy but that fell out of the rules of just return stories. Here are the best ones:

Steve,

My Wal-Mart return story takes place about 5-6 years ago.  My friend bought a paintball gun at K-mart.  Of course it broke, so he got upset and threw it into the woods.  I rescued it and returned it to Wal-Mart.  No receipt, no packaging, it wasn’t even purchased there!  I got some credit and lived happily ever after.
Later,


Charkie H.



Steve,

I'm excited to say that I love Wal-Mart for the same reasons as you do. I raced World Mini's a couple of years ago and went to Wal-Mart to get a small refrigerator after there was a mix up with my hotel room and the staff couldn't provide one for me. After a week of racing, it was time to head home and I realized that I no longer needed this handy appliance. So back in the box it went and I made a return trip back to the store. After an impromptu dinner stop pushed my Wal-Mart ETA back well over an hour, I loaded the now defrosting refrigerator into a cart and headed towards the entrance. There I was greeted by, you guessed it, a greeter. We exchanged pleasantries and she asked me about motocross, but didn't seem curious as to why I was bringing an over sized box that was leaking back into the store. After a brief stint in the customer service line, it was my turn to present my saturated box for return. After placing it on the counter and narrowly avoiding a bottom blowout, I informed the lady that I had misplaced the receipt. She said that it was okay because she recognized the make and model. Cash in hand, I proceeded to get some snacks for the journey home. And as I was walking out, the greeter had to take a brake from telling the janitor where to put the wet floor signs to wave to me good-bye. Talk about customer service.

Phil S.



This one is the best; you have to read it through. 
 
My Wal-Mart return story hails from quite a few years back, which implies that I have long been aware of the "return policy" or lack thereof at Wal-Mart stores. My friend's younger sister had recently been the lucky recipient of a shiny new bike, purchased from the local Wal-Mart, and given to her as a gift.
 
It had rained the night before, squelching our plans to go riding. As almost any moto-oriented guy would, we chose to ride wheelies on the shiny new bike while we thought about what to do next. Taking turns, we handed off the pink and black, girl’s 15-speed mountain bike. On one of my runs, I began to shift gears to maintain the lofted front end. This proved to be fateful, as the highly skilled and well-trained Wal-Mart bicycle prep technician had misadjusted the rear derailleur, allowing it to run clear into the spokes of the rear wheel. All at once I was greeted with a mangled derailleur, broken spokes and a nice trip over the bars and into the curb. We quietly placed the bike back into the garage and went about our day.
 
Here's where things start to get interesting. That next morning, we were awakened by my friend’s father, who happens to be a county sheriff. He demanded that we get the bike fixed, he wasn't happy. After a preliminary examination, I determine that the wheel will need extensive repair and the derailleur is completely destroyed.  At Wal-Mart we had no trouble exchanging the bicycle for a perfectly operational one, without a receipt.
 
Happy with our accomplishment, we head off to another friend’s house to see what's up for the day with our replacement bike in the back of the truck. On our arrival we happen to notice a wooden ramp of about four feet in height at the peak. After a few minutes of hello's and small talk, our attention turns to the wooden ramp precariously placed in the yard.  It now appears to be taking on more of a take off ramp distinction than loading ramp. After some coercing and childish name calling, my friend removes the girl’s mountain bike from the back of our truck. He hesitates with the complete lack of a landing ramp, so a picnic table is placed in front of the ramp, about four feet out to the leading edge. The plan being to jump from the ramp onto the table and then jump from the table to the ground seemed simple enough. The ramps owner retrieves his video camera from the house.
 
After the first attempt and subsequent endo, the picnic table is removed; apparently it adds quite an element of technicality to the jump. With the cardboard disks still in the wheels, several more attempts are made with the last being a one handed superman seat grab ending in an unfortunate meeting of the seat and the family jewels of my friend. At around the fourth attempt, the wheels had become so pretzeled that the brakes needed to be unhooked in order for the wheels to actually roll. The handlebars were slightly bent and the ends were plugged full of fresh sod.
 
We now realized that we left my friend's house with a destroyed bike and we can't possibly return with a destroyed bike. Arriving back at Wal-Mart, a mere 45 minutes from our last visit, my friend rolls the bike back in with the rear wheel rubbing on the frame at more than one point of its rotation and grass stains on his pants and elbows. "Um, yeah, we got this here an hour ago and the wheels won't roll" is his reply to the clerk who was the unlucky one to ask if she could help us. Without hesitation, they give us yet another bike and we are on our way.
 
This time we return home immediately with the bike and place it in the garage straight away. One of the funniest parts of this saga doesn't manifest right away. Several days later we visit the same friend with the ramp and settle in to watch the video footage of our escapades. About half way through, the guys’ girlfriend returns from work, at Wal-Mart, where she's the manager of the toy department, where she just finished returning a heavily damaged bicycle back to Huffy!
 
If you've taken the time to read all of this, I hope you found it amusing.
 
Kevin B.
Locke, NY



Grant Langston is in the driver's seat for the 2007 450 AMA Motocross title. With one round left he is eight points up and going into a track that he always does well at. He really has gotten hot at the right time and captured the win with a 2-1 on the day. GL8 showed a lot of determination and speed coming through the pack in the second moto to grab the win. If he wins this thing, he will prove that he can win any class on any bike in the world.

What has happened to Timmy Ferry? Just like GL has gotten hot, Red Dog has gotten cold at the wrong time for him. He had the fastest time in practice and grabbed what everybody thought would be the best gate for the first time (far inside). He got out equal to Langston but once Grant got a wheel on him he chopped him pretty hard and Timmy and Kevin Windham came out almost last in the first moto. In the second moto he moved over around the middle (as did KW) and he came out around 10th or so. He just isn’t getting the breaks that he got in the middle of the season. The speed is good but since inheriting the points lead in Washougal his starts have been average. Big Red went 4-3 on the day.

As I said, I was in Wisconsin for the Parts Unlimited Sales meeting last week and who did I see there? None other then Maxima’s Ron Lechien! The 1985 AMA 125cc National Champion and one of the all-time most talented riders entertained me with stories upon stories, some of which I can even print! My favorite was the time his new boat came in and he didn’t want to test that day. He purposely forgot his boots thinking that team manager Roy Turner would let him off the hook. When he showed up, Turner sent him and Jeff Mataisevich to the local dealer to get Ron a pair. The Dogger said that when they went to the shop, he convinced Jeff to tell Roy that they didn’t have his size, so he could go get his boat and hit the water. So upon returning to the track, Ronnie gave Turner the bad news and got out of a day of testing. Just to top the story off, as he was driving by the track with the new boat hitched up, he gave a honk and waved to his teammates on his way to the river!

In a ride very reminiscent of Davi Millsaps' at Lakewood, team Honda’s Andrew Short came out and put the smack down in the first moto winning going away. It was a very impressive ride by a guy that nobody has been talking that much about. Just like Davi at Lakewood, Andrew grabbed the lead early in the second moto and it looked like a runaway until he crashed in the back and no doubt hurting pretty bad, hung on to a fifth-place finish. If he had won the second moto and gone 1-1 he would be in the points lead going into the final race, but if my aunt had testicles, she would be my uncle, right?

I think the biggest news of the past week was me getting added to the list of “celebrities” at Motobowl. This is a cool event that helps the WMXF people out. I was a little upset as it appears I was not cool enough to add me the first-time, as no-names like Davey Coombs and Tim Ferry were first and when they realized that they needed some B-listers, my phone rang. That’s okay, my feelings were hurt and I was depressed but probably not as depressed as the guy who bids to bowl with me and realizes that I’m a dork. Click HERE to bid on everyone else.

My partner in the bowling might just save me and entertain the winner. It’s Brock Sellards and there’s no one that can tell a story like Brock. Plus he can tell everyone all about building your own airplane and what years of VW trucks to stay away from.

I wrote a few weeks ago that Jason Lawrence’s season was going off the rails after Millville. Well, now it’s about as off the rails as Ozzy’s crazy train, as he has hurt his ankle and didn’t race this weekend. I think the chances of him showing up at Glen Helen are about as good as somebody actually bidding for the chance to bowl with me.

I finally found out who Michael Byrne is riding for next year! But he asked me not to say because it’s not final yet. He will be on a Suzuki and it’s a pretty good team run by an experienced manager. How’s that? I found out from another source that the Makita Suzuki team will be the Makita/Rockstar Suzuki team next year. Burner went a very quiet 6-10 on the day.

Cody Cooper! The Ben Townley-sponsored Kiwi had an impressive AMA motocross debut going 7-6 for 5th overall. He also made DC remark on the webcast about how DC never thought he would ever say “Cody Cooper is reeling in Kevin Windham.” I had sushi with some Pro Circuit mechanics last week and they were saying that Coop didn’t have any endurance and wouldn’t be used to the long AMA motos. Well, the Coop went from 19th in the first moto to 7th, and he was even faster second time out for sixth. Nice theory guys!

In Kevin Windham news, I wonder how much did it cost him in stamps to just mail it in this weekend? He’s a pretty big guy, his bike weighs 218 or so, that’s a lot of postage. If he signs with KTM next year it will be a little lighter with no linkage on the bike. Oops! Did I just say that out loud?

There’s a rider from Lake Helen Florida named Dale Kump and he’s becoming mine and Parts Unlimited’s Rob Buydos favorite guy on tour. He’s the, ummm, let’s say big-boned guy on the number 423 RMZ 450. He has raced 8 out of the 11 nationals and he makes me envision what Marty Tripes or JoJo Keller would have looked like out there. The Kumpster hasn’t made the 40 man field yet, but he goes really fast for a + size  rider and now maybe someone who reads this can let him know that he has two fans pulling for him every weekend.

I saw a press conference a few weeks ago announcing Van Halen’s reunion tour with original singer David Lee Roth. I’m so bummed out that one of my favorite bands has decided to take the easy way out and get back with this yahoo. Sammy Hagar sold more records, had more number ones, was in the band longer than DLR and can out sing Roth any day of the week, twice on Tuesday. DLR is nothing but a clown and Eddie Van Halen must need some cash to let this goofball back into the booth. He never wrote any music, I doubt he can play an instrument and I’m including the triangle here people. Don’t get me wrong, the tour will make a bajillion dollars, people will go see it and they will see the same things I saw when Sammy and DLR toured a few years back: Roth’s voice is shot, he can’t do it anymore, and I can’t wait when he pulls his groin trying to imitate his leg kicks from the ‘Jump” video.

And to make it even worse, Eddie is so vindictive that he booted founding bass player Michael Anthony out to get his kid in! Eddie was pissed that Michael sided with Sammy last tour when Eddie’s drinking was so out of control he almost derailed the whole thing. So, to recap, Van Halen is back on tour with original singer David Lee Roth but they don’t have their original bassist. They replaced him with Eddie’s 18-year-old kid with Valerie Bertanelli named Wolfgang. The funniest thing to me was DLR going on and on about how this “new” incarnation of VH will be different than anything that rock has seen before, and then promptly announced that they will only play the old songs “that everybody knows and loves.” Don’t feel bad for Sammy and Mike though, Sammy sold his tequila company for $80 million, which Mike had shares in. I would love it if they bought every seat to one of VH’s upcoming shows and then just sat there and threw things at them.

And now for something really cool, have you ever had that special someone that you always help out? Somebody that you really, really care about and want a way to express that sentiment. Well my good friends at Moto XXX have a limited number of these “Manfriend” shirts available for sale. I was sporting it on Saturday to rave reviews and now you can get one for yourself. Nothing says commitment to a rider like laying down some cash and showing your support. Call 1-888-MOTO-XXX and get yours now for the low price of $19.95

 

 

 



As some of my readers can attest to, I spent about six bucks of my own money to send readers their “Matthes” Racer X shield stickers. How’s about that? I don’t think you would see Erv Braun dropping six bucks and the time to mail the stuff off for his fans. If you too want one, send me your address and I’ll make it happen. Send in your sticker requests, questions, complaints and other crazy thoughts to matthes@racerxcanada.com.


 

They were selling cowbells people! What a great idea! I got a fever and the only cure is more cowbell!  Check out the inspirational shirts on the clerks as well.




 

This thing was huge! Where do you get a speaker like this? I just thought that a giant speaker on a crane in the middle of a field was funny that’s all.




 

They had girls dancing on a stage in Texas. This was sweet, what was not so sweet was this guy being the meat in this girl sandwich. He looks like he’s doing the Mr. Roboto dance.


 

Some lucky fans get to take their picture with a Ryan Villopoto replica bike. That’s funny; I never saw those Transworld Motocross stickers on the real RV’s bike. Damn you Donn Maeda!

 
 

 

Drinks to get you wasted; sunscreen for when you take off your shirt and wave Ferry on; cowboy hats for when you can’t figure out where to put your sunscreen; cameras for your buddies to take pictures of your drunk, burnt, cowboy hat wearing ass, souvenirs because you’re too wasted to remember what happened and finally sharpies for your buddies to draw on you when your passed out on the way home.



 

What would Texas be without the ability to buy a cowboy hat within 100 yards of where you’re standing?



 

Here we have Mike “Iconz” Farber manning the RXI trailer. This is where you go to get a subscription and other cool clothing. Mike is also there to remind everyone that he gets up early and hangs banners while you were still sleeping. Thanks Mike!




 

I was on a mission to find the biggest belt buckle at the track but when I saw the first one and went to bend down to take a picture the guy about knocked me out! Something about queers and steers….So anyways, I decided the safer route would be cowboy hats and here’s the winner of the biggest one!


 

 

Ummmmmmm…Sausage on a stick. Sounds delicious. I saw a bunch of things on a stick this weekend.



 

Like for example, shrimp! I wonder what word the orange paper covered, maybe it said raw?




 

Here was some kind of energy drink that claimed increased stamina and endurance. These guys also claimed long lasting effects. Does Tunguska mean “little blue pill” in another language?



 

DUB Magazine was in the house! That’s how I roll bitch!



 

Here in Texas they don’t fool around. There were a ton of dudes with big guns ready to deploy if necessary. There were also some guys dressed in the whole “Walker-Texas Ranger” outfits.



 

Here is some sort of meat getting carved on a real sanitary table. I’m telling you people there was soooo much meat for sale, everywhere you looked there was some animal giving up its life for you. Even the elusive Sausage animal.



 

“Little ditty, ‘bout Jack and Diane, two American kids selling the best barb-q they can….”