Steve Matthes



By Steve Matthes
 Photos by Doug Engstrom and Steve Cox


For the first time in four years the Supercross carnies made their way to Minneapolis. It was good to be back at the (second) home that Jeremy built as I don’t know if I’ve EVER heard a stadium as loud as the early years of Minny SX when MC was always winning. The King won six times in all at the Metrodome. The last few years at the Hanky Dome weren’t very well attended and I figured we’d see a sellout this year, but the attendance, while good, was a little disappointing to me. But I still manned up and stayed all the way to the end this time, which puts my stayed-until-the-end streak over the years at a mind-boggling one race…. I’m never going to live down Daytona, am I?

The track was relatively easy for the riders with almost everyone doing the same thing. The only thing that caused a problem was the second set of deep whoops, or, more specifically, one whoop about three quarters of the way through that was a tiny bit bigger than the rest. This caused some bucking broncos to emerge. It was interesting to watch the strategies of the guys, some jumping through them, others trying desperately to find a line to blitz. Honestly, to me, the guy that looked the best through them all night was Travis Preston.

James Stewart, Michael Bryne, Mike Alessi, Ivan Tedesco, Grant Langston, Tim Ferry…. These are the guys that are hurt and missing some serious time during the Supercross series. I think that except for Stewie, they are all going to be in for a bit of a surprise upon coming back because (cue Star Wars’ Darth Vader music), as The Kids Strike Back might be the movie that will be playing in their heads.

For the first time since, what, 1999? we have five different winners! Let me put that into number form because I’m not sure what will make a bigger impact with you: 5!

You know who joined Davi Millsaps as a first time winner this year? Josh Hill! Can you believe it? He rode a great race and kept it steady all night on his way to a win. This is Josh Hill’s first SX season on a 450 and 11th career 450 Supercross race, and he’s already won.  Wow. That’s all I can say; if you would’ve given me a one dollar bet with billion to one odds that Hill would win a SX this year, I wouldn’t have taken it; that’s a double cheeseburger my friends and I wouldn’t have wanted to lose my dollar.

 

The 450 podium keeps getting younger and more interesting. This week, Josh Hill and Ryan Dungey scored their first ever Supercross podiums, with Hill winning and Dungey taking second. 

photo: Engstrom



It was cool to see Josh so happy after the race—his hug with his grandfather was straight out of a Hallmark TV movie. It was compelling reality for sure. It was also great to see Jim Perry and Keith McCarty so proud of their Yamaha factory rider.

In another youth-gone-wild story, Ryan Dungey got the business done in his third ever 450 race. He even holeshot the main event, for pete’s sake! Double wow for the fact that Team Suzuki looks like sooper geniuses for moving RD up into the class. He, of course, rode great and held his own for all twenty laps.  He got out of control a few times in the whoops but so did everyone else. Why the Minnesota boy wasn’t in the opening ceremonies was beyond me, but I’m sure he’ll trade that snub for his podium ride.

Dungey (and Dragons) also somehow is wearing Oakley gloves with his Answer gear, and they are adorned with his new sponsor, Minneapolis-based Target stores. The gloves are sweet-looking. They are copies of the original Oakley glove back in the day. As an Oakley core athlete myself, I must get a pair and test them, as I’m sure my Moose Racing core athlete contract can be modified for a RXC test. Or maybe McCullough can test them while he’s out hammering away during a cotter-pin endurance test.

These kids are everywhere! Tommy Hahn jumped on a 450 and in his first race on the big bike got a fifth. That’s great for him as he held off Davi Millsaps the entire race. Are you telling me that Millsaps, a previous winner and multi-podium guy, got beat by a guy moonlighting on a bike that’s probably worth about a quarter of his? Yes, and Travis Preston, David Vuillemin, and a flu-riddled Chad Reed also got beat by Hahn. This SX world’s so crazy and upside down right now, I don’t know what to make of it. My tiny brain hurts when I think of all the changes, where’s MC grabbing the holie, checking out for ten laps and winning everything when we need him?

What happened to the stoic veterans of SX? Well, Chad Reed was still the fastest guy on Saturday night. He was making his way to the front in the main when he threw it away in the whoops. He took a long time to get up and get going and then just rode around after that. He was really, really, sick all week. He even needed his buddy Jason Thomas to drive him to the hospital mid-week. After sitting out the second practice, the plan, according to team manager Larry Brooks was to expend the energy to get out front (which he was doing) and then try to cruise after that. The crashing hard in the whoops was probably not in the plan. I saw CR before opening ceremonies and he looked like a ghost (later confirmed when Scott’s John Knowles said that Reedy threw up on his shoes in the semi).

Kevin Windham was a guy that I thought was going to win it when Reed went down on lap nine, but he said on the webcast he was feeling great and about lap seven, he got tight and just tried to hang on. A third is good for him as he made some points up on Reed but I still can’t believe that he and the field got beat by two kids that, combined, are younger than him.

Here is what I wrote last week: ”Attention Roger Larsen, the new Answer gear guy. Two things for you buddy: Why has everyone been calling you ‘Ro-jay’ for 10 years when your name is spelled R-O-G-E-R? And I saw no butt patch on Travis Preston’s gear this weekend; if you do not put a picture of a donkey and ‘Doing it for Bunny,’ you should be lashed with a kidney belt. If it’s a money issue, I will pay for it.”

Here is what TP had on his pants this week:

 

Travis Preston isn't racing the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series for anyone, but his favourite pet donkey, Bunny. 

photo: Cox



That’s pretty sweet, I must say.  I spoke to Ro-jay (I will now call him that out of respect for his dedication and marketing genius) and he said that he never reads my column but couldn’t sleep one night and decided that “Observations” might be his insomnia cure. (Hey, it works for my wife!) Ro-jay then said that he came across my comment and thought it would be fun. TP didn’t care, so there we have it. Now if only Dungey would allow “and Dragons” on his ass, we’d be all set.

“Observations: It’s the column the gear guys read (once in a while)!”

Preston got ninth and was blazing through the whoops but what I really wanted to tell you guys that we almost lost Bunny the Donkey this week. After all the attention she got from OBS last week, she decided to make her way to Hollywood when TP left his gate open by accident. It sounds like he has quite a farm up there in Hesperia as his two horses got out also. He told me that he was trying to wrangle in his horses while they slid all over the street because they had shoes on (horse shoes, not Nikes) and eventually got it handled with the help of his neighbor.

What about Bunny? Well she was easy to catch as the first fresh weed patch she saw, she stopped and munched. I’ll try to get some more Bunny updates for you guys ASAP.

“Rocket” Rob Buydos told me that DV12 was going to be top five, with maybe a top three “if some things go right for him” after practice. But during opening ceremonies Rocket was not happy with DV’s stoppie down the start straight and was hedging on his bet after that. After KW outperformed DV in the unofficial Rob Buydos Stoppie Contest, Rob said he wasn’t sure about his prediction anymore. Sure enough, DV got 8th after running 5th for a while. These are the things us “experts” look at folks.

Speaking of me and being an “expert” I also wrote last week that people were whispering that Ryan Villopoto’s wrist was worse than we all thought. Well, shows you what I know once again as RV put on a fantastic ride to snatch the Lites victory with two turns to go from Josh Grant. I wish I had a blog like Weege has because I swear I would’ve went on and predicted a RV victory after practice, he was flying and looked like he wasn’t going to force the pass like he did at Indianapolis.

 

Ryan Villopoto and Josh Grant looked like themselves in Minneapolis, as they battled for all 15-laps with RV taking the win. 

photo: Engstrom



Still on the remember-what-I-wrote-last-week theme, I said that Josh Grant was very impressive looking (great bike, awesome style, everything going for him) yet he had something in between the ears holding him back. (Remember the whole Death Star analogy?) Well, the X-wing fighters must have missed the tiny hole with their lasers as Grant was on it and almost won his first race of the year. He wasn’t very good in the deep whoops but realized where RV was catching him and he switched his line up to the right to keep equal to RV. That was a great idea until the end when there was a lapper there and he was forced to go to his old line and almost ate poop, allowing RV to close for the final strike.

Again, if I had a blog I would’ve wrote that I told my roommate Allan Brown that my favorite SX obstacle was back this week. Which is that? The section consists of a tabletop in between two jumps, a banked corner where the inside is higher and followed by another same jump/tabletop thing. You either go on/off outside of corner or jump single all the way over table, slow down and tip toe around the inside. It’s a great thing to see the differences in style and speed. This was also in St Louis last year where Reed/Stewie got together and banged bars.

This obstacle was the most exciting thing to watch this past weekend. Reed was almost always going on/off outside and it was very fast; the inside was probably the most used line but riders blew the corner quite frequently, allowing the outside guy to get by. Please Dirt Wurx, for the love of Baby Jesus, use this again!

Chris Gosselaar was the only guy to try the on/off and still try to make the inside during the LCQ. He half-realized that it wasn’t going to work and couldn’t make it stick, crashing violently in the process.

The Speed TV crew needs to film the LCQ as pretty much anything goes in this race as the riders fight for the last spot in the main. First Clark/Balbi now Goose/Polvolny/Hansen this week. You wanna sell tickets? Show people these battles on TV.

Paul Carpenter didn’t make the main. Sure you see his name in 11th but he used the absolutely ridiculous rule of a provisional to get in, therefore it doesn’t count to me. So there!

 A few weeks back on my podcast Larry Brooks and I were talking about the Privateer Rule and how it needs to change. He didn’t know that Josh Hansen and Charles Summey were privateers and asked why his rider Nathan Ramsey wasn’t? I said “Good question, Larry, you should look into it.”

Well, LB did and now Nathan Ramsey is leading the privateer points challenge!  This is a good move as Nathan’s bike is probably not as good as the Gibb’s guys anyways…. I’d like to think I had a little something to do with this and I only want 2 percent from Ol’Nate Dog.

Okay, so now maybe the question is this:  If Ramsey is a privateer, why isn’t Chad Reed a privateer too? Or maybe we just need a new definition of a privateer for 2009.

Canadian Tyler Medaglia made his first main event this week and that was great for him, little baby steps in getting to the top: Night show, main event, top ten, etc.... I think he was a little lucky to make it in as he was the benefactor of a couple pile-ups to end up second for a bit before getting passed like he was a revolving door. He was really losing time in the whoops but ,hey, good to be lucky, lucky to be good, right?

 

 Tyler Medaglia made his first AMA SX main event in Minneapolis.

photo: Engstrom



More Canadian news, Dusty “The Depressed” Klatt made the main this week by winning the LCQ. After that it was all downhill from there as he really didn’t ride well in getting an 18th.  He was 19th after one lap and moved up one spot all night. Not sure what the trouble is but as one press box observer put it, when he saw I was upset at watching my buddy (we’ve been talking a lot and I think I can call him my buddy) “This Supercross thing is a little different then whupping up on JSR…”

Dear Mr Pingree….
In regards to your “Ask Ping” letter to which you replied that Mr. Klatt was one of the least approachable riders in the pits. Now I know you don’t read the moto boards but I do know you read this column. Perhaps you could go here (http://www.mxforum.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=21058) and see the absolute poop-storm you caused in the motherland? I hope you’re happy with the disruption of a country. Yes, I will agree that Klatt-a-puss is not going to win any “Mr. Outgoing” contests and he kinda does mumble a bunch and his hair hanging down in his face makes him look like Captain Caveman, but when and exactly where would you have tried to talk or hang with Klatt? You seem to mostly hang out with the stars of the action sport industries (Palmer, Beaucar, Rhalves, Spiderman) and not the privateers like myself. In fact, some people might even call me a privateer hero for all that I’ve done. Just wondering what happened between you and Dusty (Rhodes) for you to think that?       

Your fan, Steve Matthes

The AMA released a new competition bulletin this week and basically it said there were some new rules. I think they are for the better and I will add my interpretation of them, free of charge….

A.) Stopping on the track during timed practice is now prohibited. If a rider was seen doing this and it was not the cause of a mechanical or a fall, they’re fastest lap would be stricken from the record.  (Look, people, we know that you want to slow down to look at that quad/triple/quad section but too bad, Reed and the real fast guys are trying to see who has the biggest balls in posting the quickest time.)    

B.) Any Lites rider that’s currently racing the 450 class can now go back to Lites in 2009 regardless of how many points he earns. (Supercross needs entries, dammit, and we’re sorry it’s round eleven and the west coast guys got screwed but who knew our advancement system was so tough that soon the LCQ will be a four-man race?)

C.) For the remainder of the 2008 series, any rider that hasn’t previously qualified for a Supercross endorsement and holds a Motocross license can now petition for a Supercross endorsement. (Hey, MX guys, can you ride at all? Can you jump a triple? Good, come on out and race Supercross…….please?)

D.) Effective immediately, due to Matthes’ concerns, we will do away with the provisional rule, give Tim Ferry a 15-second head start to get him his first SX win and also get right up-to-date and test for PEDs, and also card the 30-second card girls—especially those twins from Arizona…. (Ok, I made all that up.)       
                     
As I’m sure many of you know, I’m the monkey boy that hands the riders the mic for the webcast show after the main events. I guess this is why Hill’s agent Jimmy (Maguire) Button called me for the first time ever. He wanted to speak to Josh so I did my part for client relations and gave Hill my phone while he was on the podium. That will be 2 percent Jimmy….

 

 

Yamaha's Josh Hill won't call Matthes for his podcast show, but he will use the monkey's cell phone.

photo: Cox



There were two press boxes in the Metrodome, one for football along the sides and one for baseball in the corner at home plate. The football one was fully catered with hot dogs, cookies, some delicious turkey wraps, candy, soda, popcorn, baked beans, etc. The baseball one had absolutely nothing to eat in it. Guess which one I was in? Thanks to Denny Hartwig, Live Nation’s PR guru for the spread.

What about this Billy Payne guy? Another solid finish with a tenth and is currently ninth in the points. We all know his story by now, retired, working a real job, a small 8 year break and he’s back. Jim Holley’s strange love obsession with him continued this week when, right after the start of the Lites main Holley said “There’s Villopoto, Grant one and two and Billy Payne in about 8th from the outside gate!” Thanks, Jim, for that. Now if only Jim would report on Billy’s seriously smoking hot girlfriend that was in the press box…. At least Dave Derringer said it was his girlfriend.

Can we get an interview with this kid by the way? Can Nerd ask him what’s up with him and Holley? Where’s WordNerd when you need him? Oh, wait.
Jim makes me laugh almost non-stop during the webcast; I’d worry about him getting mad but Weege says that he lives his life like its 1985 and there were no computers then so he doesn’t read the internet. He does a great job and has a TON of passion for the sport so please don’t take my jokes seriously.

So anyway, back to the Holley jokes. He’s correctly predicted the opening round East Coast winner the last two years with Dungey and Canard (not exactly safe picks) and this week said that his “Uncle Bob” said that Grant would win and he almost did. Can’t wait to hear what Aunt Sally said this week.

Lites points leader Trey Canard took a fall in practice and limped off the track. I think it was a bike problem however because he kinda made some hand gestures to his mechanic as he limped by. He wasn’t as dominant as he’s been lately but still rode a good, smart race to get fourth. He’s got a pretty big lead on RV2 but you never know—so did Dungey over Lawrence.

After the big whoops there was a double there and that’s where Jeff Gibson was a little wild and crashed into Manuel Rivas, taking them both out. Jason Thomas was right behind the carnage and also went down. JT was a little upset at Gibby for causing this and these two spent the rest of the main event in a slam fest that Rollerball would’ve been proud of. Then they got into it after the race was over. Good times!

Check out this blog by some guy that emailed it to me: http://eternaltwostroke.blogspot.com/. Good stuff!

Spent some time with the Gibb’s racing guys and had to listen to owner Coy Gibbs tell me that the CFL doesn’t have any good players. I quickly reminded him of Mike Vanderjagt (a West Virginia University graduate), Steve Christie and Doug Flutie but he busted me on Flutie being American. Did you know that Gibbs Racing puts it into the rider’s contracts that they must give 5 percent of their bonuses to the team? Just like NASCAR where I guess the driver only gets 40 percent of the winnings. Cool deal for the guys on the team for sure.

I like to make fun of Tim Ferry when I can and a week or so ago, I challenged him to name 10 East Coast Lites riders. I did this because he doesn’t know all these kids coming up and I think it’s funny to make him think hard. Anyways, when I asked him he did get to 10 guys but for some reason the order they came out was Canard, Villopoto, Izzi (only because he was at his house three days earlier) and then he said the Sewell brothers. He was pumped because they count as two. I didn’t really know who he was talking about as I’d seen their names but this weekend Travis got 13th and he’s 20th in points, running number 927. His brother Shane has made two mains as well. These are guys to cheer for. Did I mention that Travis ran over Shane at Indy?

 

Travis Sewell caught Matthes' eye as he rode to a 13th place finish in the Lites final. 

photo: Engstrom



I think at the next round in Toronto we’ll get some life injected into the 450 class as Arenacross regulars Kelly Smith, Brock Sellards and newly signed Chad Johnson will be racing. Should be very interesting to see how they do. Please remember that I groomed Kelly Smith to be the racer he is today. (Three titles and a national win.) How about Smith and Johnson fighting tooth and nail for the title, then Chad turning around and signing with his competitor’s team? Will we see the return of child prodigy Robbie Reynard as well? I will dust off my Reynard T-shirt that DV bought for me just in case.

Josh Hansen walked by me and asked me if I saw him cutting the track out there. I replied to him that he must mean Daytona and I heard about it. Then he said that no, he meant first practice at Minneapolis. Then he laughed and walked away. The Gibbs guys told me that Sorby is hanging out with Josh in NC. Can you imagine how much of an idiot those two probably think I am…

Who do you want to listen to in a podcast? Send in your vote and we’ll call the winner up and give him/her the honor of a Racer X Canada podcast:
A.) Damon Bradshaw
B.) Ross Pederson
C.) Davey Coombs
D.) Bunny the Donkey
E.) Jason Weigandt
F.) John Nelson
 
If you made it this far down, I’m typing this on a plane going back to Las Vegas and listening to Journey on my iPod. Why hasn’t Journey been recognized enough as being one of the best groups ever? Seriously, I’m 33 and missed their glory years but when “Don’t Stop Believin” or “Only the Young” or ” Separate Ways” comes on, how do you not start bobbing your head and tapping your feet? And on the flip side how do you not burst into tears thinking of lost loves while listening to “Open Arms” and “Lights."

Ok, I’m done with this thing and thanks for reading this entire masterpiece. There’s a week off but I have an idea for an Supercross Classic Observations that’s, well, classic! I hope I can pull it off and don’t forget to vote for your favorite podcast subject at matthes@racerxcanada.com.