Steve Matthes Observations from Irving
By Steve Matthes
Photos by Carl Stone


We were in Dallas this week, home of J.R. Ewing , BBQ’d everything, big belt buckles, and domes with holes in the center. For as long as I’ve been coming to Dallas (since ’96) the dirt has always been hard and slick, resulting in short lap times. This past weekend’s race was probably the most tacky I’ve ever seen the dirt here. In practice, it was horrible—just slick and hard—but the Dirt Wurx crew threw down some water and looked like they really worked on it before the night show. Add in the fact that generally the sun goes down at night and you had some great traction.

Looking at the layout which was designed by Ivan Tedesco and was an exact copy of San Diego 2004, it really didn’t look dangerous but three out of the first four heats had multiple crashes—including a horrific one for Martin Davalos that looked much worse than it was. The track also gave the riders options which is always a good thing, but by the mains, the riders mostly all did the same rhythm except for Kevin Windham (more on that later).

Speaking of Ivan Tedesco, I spoke with him for a little bit and he just got back on the bike and started riding. Look for him to be full speed at the first outdoor national. He told me that he tried to sketch the track out but his artistry skills were so bad he gave up and said to just design the 2004 SD track, which he told me was a great track and he won the Lites main going away that night.


 

Travis Preston (11) holeshot the 450 main and led for a lap, before being passed by Chad Reed (22).  If you listen carefully, you can hear Bunny the Donkey clicking her hooves....



Chad Reed won again. He didn’t grab the holeshot but moved into the lead on lap two and checked out. The pack caught him a bit at the end but he was on cruise control at that point. Again, he just didn’t make any mistakes and if it wasn’t for being sick (Minneapolis) or trying to turn his YZ450F into a jet-ski (Daytona) we’d have a pretty boring title chase right now. He’s the best rider out there everything being equal. I know, that’s quite a shocking statement.

Josh Hill got second and looks strong. Really, really strong. This might be the biggest surprise from the 2008 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season. Some of the stories and things I saw last year from him and his long-haired hippy YoT buddy really made me shake my head. But there’s no way he’s not working hard during the week when he’s podiuming the premier SX class week after week.

Davi Millsaps, KW and Hill were really going at it for second for a few laps; Hill even had some black marks on his shoulder from Davi after the main, most likely from a grip. Yes, they were that close at times. I’m sure most of you saw this on Speed by now and understand just how hard the three battled. KW was using this really fast triple/triple combo to make up time on the other two guys as they were slowing each other down. It was a great race to watch in a season full of great races: Supercross 2008, Catch the Excitement!

I highly doubt it’s going to matter but with the way that Davi was battling KW out there, I had to wonder if Honda Red Bull Racing team manager Eric Kehoe was thinking he should’ve gave Millsaps some orders to let KW pass. That’s two valuable points that KW lost in the title hunt to Reed but maybe Honda knows that it’s not going to matter as well.

Timmy Ferry was there, he raced and got fifth.

His teammate Travis “Doing it for Bunny” Preston had his best race since replacing James Stewart. Travis grabbed the holeshot in the main and led the first lap. It was pretty cool to see the funnyman Preston up on the podium again when he got his holeshot check. Preston eventually crashed and finished 10th but at least Bunny gets some fresh lettuce this week with his $1500 holeshot money.

In my mechanic career I’ve often wanted to strangle other riders out on the track when they were being lapped by my guy, I’ve seen mechanics want to fight other mechanics when their two riders were battling hard and I’ve even written “Take him out” on my board and held it in front of the guy that I wanted my rider to take out. (BTW, this one time experiment worked horribly as Ryan Clark motored away from Kelly Smith and told me after that my sign made him mad enough to pull away.) I always take a deep breath and walk away, preferring to let the riders handle their own business on and off the track, I’ve also had some upset wives and girlfriends that wanted to say something but always tried to ration with them that it’s over and to let the men settle arguments like men. What I’m trying to get at here is it’s funny to me to see somebody’s mechanic or significant other yelling at a rider. Moto XXX’s/Hooter’s Antonio Balbi got an earful from Davi Millsaps’ girlfriend Brittney George after the race for being in the way while he was being lapped. The really funny part is that she was still holding the champagne bottle from the podium and Balbi’s English being not so good, the XXX guys told me that he was wondering "why this pretty girl had champagne for him but was so mad about it?”

Guess who made an appearance at Dallas? No, not Barry Carsten (where’s he been anyways?) but none other than 2000 San Diego Supercross winner Justin Buckelew! That’s right, Bucky came out and raced for the Chaplain Kawasaki team running his familiar #158 and to the surprise of no one, he holeshot his heat. He always could start that little guy. He made the main and finished 17th. He’s just been doing some riding schools and said that he’s going to be doing some more supercrosses in the future.

Ryan Villopoto had his business going on in Dallas. He rode a great race and afterwards I mentioned to him that I don’t think he made one mistake out there and he quickly corrected me and said that he got out of shape in the whoops one lap. Excuse me, Ryan, let me call Gary Bailey over right away! RV2 put on a clinic and his wrist greatly benefitted from that extra week off. Remember when I said that his riding style was off in the beginning of the season? He told me that it was indeed off because he was switching bar bends and mounts trying to make it easier on his wrist. He’s back to his normal setting the last few races and, um, I think it shows.


 

Ryan Villopoto is keeping his championship hopes somewhat alive by winning the last two races.  But with two races to go, and 17-points between him and Canard, Villopoto needs some luck - and a lot of it.



With two races left the lead is 17 points for 17-year-old Trey Canard over RV and this race might’ve just saved the series for the rookie Okie. He came around after the first lap in 20th and charged all the way to fourth and probably would’ve had third if there had been one more lap. He was on it—last to fourth people! He did what champions do: When you have lemons, make lemonade. He limited the damage and looks to be the real deal. In case there was absolutely any doubt.

Trey also had to race the LCQ after a heat race crash. Man, what an LCQ it was as well. Martin Davalos, Ryan Sipes and Canard were all in it. That represented first, third and fifth in the points and also because of bad things happening to them, they were all on the far right side! It was hold-your-breath time for the team managers when the gate dropped. Davalos and Canard gated well, Sipes did not and as a result Ryan Sipes didn’t make the main. What’s weird about the Lites class is that five out of the top ten in points have missed a main event this year.

Davalos took a hard spill in his heat race tripling the KW section and landed right on the concrete. I was very surprised to see him line up for the LCQ, it was a nasty crash.
After kind of sucking the first few rounds, last year’s surprise rider Ryan Morais has been quietly riding better and better the last couple of races, here’s hoping the classy Morais keeps his roll going.


 

 YoT's Ryan Morais hasn't had the Cinderella season he did last year, but is starting to improve with a sixth in Dallas.



I was speaking to Reedy in the tunnel before the night show and he mentioned that I did a pretty good job on my “little Racer X thing.” He said that he reads it so I thanked him and he said to give him some tips so that when he won, I could credit myself for helping him take the checkers. I deferred to my Tim Ferry video of a few weeks ago, if he needed to acquire any skills, and he said he hadn’t watched it but heard it was very funny. I then reminded the two-two that he would only like my “little Racer X thing” until I typed something bad about him and he said that I was right.

Just like Paul Carpenter. The 2007 Canadian champion came up to me and asked me if I had a problem with him. He looked kind of mad and I was thinking he might smash me so I told him no and asked why did he think that. He said that every time he reads my stuff, I’m always talking shit about him. Like the privateer thing and his suspension from last week, where I insinuated that his suspension was not in the spirit of the rules. I told him I didn’t think that KYB suspension on a Showa equipped bike was readily available to any rider; therefore he shouldn’t be classified as a privateer. I think we just agreed to disagree on that one. Then he brought up the Tim Ferry/PC lapper thing from one of the Anaheim’s and I again, explained that he shouldn’t have held Red Dog up, and, to make matters worse, admit he did it. I heard that with my own ears and Timmy’s mechanic also told me he heard that, yet Paul didn’t see it that way- again I think we agreed to disagree. We didn’t discuss when I wrote two weeks ago that the Canadian fans should cheer for him in Toronto, or when I complemented him on his great rides at the two Canadian Nationals that I attended. I swear these riders have selective memory. I don’t understand the process with some of these guys,  do you think Clint Bowyer goes up to some writer who criticized him and chews him out, who cares what some goofball (me) writes on the internet. Don’t read it if you only remember the bad.

For the record, I don’t feel that PC is a privateer but he is doing nothing wrong in the rules and is entitled to the cash that comes with it; I’m just not happy with the system but it’s getting better. Also I stated that PC should’ve just faked ignorance with Ferry back in Anaheim instead of admitting that he held him up. In the interest of being fair, I printed some of the letters from PC fans that thought I was wrong for saying that. I’m open to hear all sides and some of those letters made sense as well. Again, Paul forgets these things. I’m going to call him this week and discuss my side. I’m paid to offer my opinion and that’s all it is—my opinion.

In the interest of getting my facts straight, I called Ross Maeda from Enzo suspension and he confirmed that anyone can indeed, buy KYB kit suspension for a Honda from him. He also went on to explain that there was nothing unobtainable inside the fork or shock, despite what I had been led to believe. So I do owe Paul an apology here, I was wrong and Paul Carpenter is a true privateer.


 

Despite the responsibilities of running his Atomic Racing Team, Canadian MX1 champ Paul Carpenter is putting in one of his best seasons yet. He has three top-10 finishes in the last six races, sits ninth in points, and leads the Privateer Challenge. Now if Matthes would just get off his back!


Speaking of riders that hate me, Eric Sorby has been riding himself into shape and riding better in recent weeks. I forgot to mention this but in Toronto he came from 19th to 6th before getting 8th. Jeremy Albrecht told me that he’s working hard and pushing Josh Summey during the week (and yes, Charles is back to Josh now that Li’l Hanny is back with the Metal Mulisha). Did you know that Eric lost 12 pounds in the last month? I think that might prove some of my claims of him being a bit out of shape, as he lost 12, and I probably gained 12 in the last week alone. Good riding Eric! (I’m referring to him personally because despite me telling him not to read my column, I keep hearing that he is and he’s not been happy.)

The French came out at Dallas and waved the surrender flag. David Vuillemin had a hard crash at the Suzuki test track earlier this week where, apparently, his footpeg broke off and sent him to the ground hard. DV showed up at Dallas and tried to ride but the pain in his hip and knee were too much and he had to go home early. The other Frenchman Ben Coisey of Factory Honda hurt his back during the week and didn’t race at all. Tough week for the French!

So a couple weeks ago I was at Maxima with my buddy, Fireman Ron and we had lunch with the 1985 AMA 125cc National Champion, the legend Ron “The Dogger” Lechien. We had our bikes with us and as we were loading up Fireman Ron’s oil, the Dogger was checking my bike out. We are both Kawasaki 450 men and I have some, how do you say, full-on works parts on my bike courtesy of my friends at Kawi… Wow, maybe I’m not a privateer either?  Anyway, one of the things that Dogger was asking me about was my Pro Circuit System that looked quite different from what people can buy. I kinda didn’t want to give Ronnie any info but c’mon people, it’s the freakin Dogger! So I spilled my guts about how I got it from Red Dog’s house and how it’s absolutely ridiculously faster than my other system and how Mitch Payton has no idea I have it. I stress that last point by the way. Mitch “had” no idea I acquired it.

Until Mitch gave me a look this weekend and informed me that he had a good talk with the Dogger this past week, I asked what about and he said a whole bunch of things, including how Dogger saw my one-off system and was wondering if he can get one just like Matthes’? As Mitch so eloquently put it, I was dogged out by the Dogger! Payton asked me where I got it and I quickly threw Timmy under the biggest bus I could find and insisted that Red wouldn’t let me leave his house without it. (After all, what’s Mitch going to do to Ferry?) Anyways, it seemed okay with Mitch but I better avoid the PC truck for a while. I know Lechien reads this column, too, so Ronnie, thanks buddy!
As mentioned above, Charles Summey wants to be known as Josh again. With the hasty departure of his teammate Josh Hansen, Charles, Josh, somebody wanted to go back to Josh from now on. Good for me because I was calling him Summey because I never know what to say to him. Charles just didn’t fit him, I think he’s the polar opposite of Scott Baio—the only other Charles I know.

I also had a good talk with Gibb’s Yamaha team manager Jeremy Albrecht on Saturday morning and really got into the Hansen situation. Gibb’s official stance is that they wish Hanny the best and it just didn’t work out. When you break down everything that J-bone told me, that pretty much says it all. I would love to interview Josh or have him on the podcast show but he already did the DMXS show and probably thinks I’m an idiot anyways because of past things that I wrote. I have no problem with Hansen, he’s a talented rider that needs to hit (moto-x) bottom before he comes back with a vengeance. Like where I think Sean Hamblin is now and that’s why I’d hire him. I said it before, I predict Hanny will end up on Pro Circuit in a few years riding for no money and he’ll win. Stamp it.

When Arenacross attacks! This week in Dallas we had the masters of disaster’s show up and all enter the 450 class. This was good as it kept the AMA guys happy because there was a full gate for the first time in a while. Let’s catalog the invaders and how they did:

Kevin Johnson: The Team Faith rider quietly got a 12th earlier this season in San Diego and showed up here and again, had some good speed but missed out on the main. He did get the Racer X Gas Card worth $750 for his efforts and gave a good speech on the podium.

Keith Johnson: Kevin’s older brother was also in the house and did make the main. Good for this veteran and F.T.B.M (formally tuned by Matthes) rider. (Did you know that Keith and I teamed up to get a 12th in the 2000 Dallas SX? Now you do.) Maybe Kevin and Keith just combine purse money and split the proceeds 50/50? Actually, with me knowing them a bit, I bet not.

Chad Johnson: No big deal, just another Johnson to add to the mix. The current Arenacross champion switched to a Kawasaki and his rival team for Supercross (?!?) and but didn’t show much. I thought he’d do better, to be honest. How come whenever he shows up at Supercross he almost always gets beat by dudes that he beats in the arenas?

Brock Sellards
: Brock really struggled in Dallas. He just didn’t look up to his usual standards. I’m sure he’ll get better as the season winds up. I went by his truck but didn’t see him. That’s too bad—he’s always good for a story. I wonder what he built for himself out of scrap parts over the winter.  A space shuttle?

Kelly Smith: Another F.T.B.M rider and the 2000 High Point MX winner, Kelly also didn’t make the main event. He started well in his heat but lawn darted himself right after the first turn and got run over by the entire pack. That had to sting a little bit but being the little fighter that he is, Teen Wolf showed up for the LCQ and gamely battled. Did you know that Kelly earned the “notorious” number 69 for his number but didn’t want to run it to save himself from Jason Weigandt’s jokes. He’s number 107 now.

Robbie Reynard: The former wonder child of motocross came over from the arenas and tore his shoulder up when he pushed his hot start button…. Okay, okay, I’m kidding, geez. Anyways he, like Johnson and Sellards, just didn’t show much out there on his way to a DNQ. I hope Robbie keeps trudging along and pulls it all together soon. I have a Reynard T-shirt that I’m just waiting to bust out.

I was really thinking that all three of the Babbit’s Kawi guys would put it in the main no problem, shows you what I know.

Speaking of Reynard and Sellards, I don’t think that guys like them should be allowed to keep their permanent numbers. If you’re not racing SX and MX regularly, then I think they should give them up to the guys that do. The reason for the rule years ago was so that the riders can market themselves with a permanent number, something that I don’t think Brock and especially Robbie really do anymore. How about letting some other guys get a permanent number and maybe they can take advantage of possible sponsorship dollars by having one? Not to mention there’s some riders that miss out on even getting a two-digit number because those two guys have a hold on theirs.  Just my opinion…


 

Robbie Reynard joined the Supercross mix in Dallas. 



The Campbell River Crusher Dusty Klatt has been struggling the last few weeks. Well, actually he’s been doing okay for his first year of 450s but all of Canada is still holding onto the 2006 outdoor season when he beat our GOAT, JSR, in a way that we’d never seen before. Anyways, I have to say that although he got 16th this week, it was a strong 16th if there’s such a thing. What I mean is that he was a factor, dicing back and forth and riding pretty well I think. His starts are En Fuego as he almost got the holeshot in his heat. Let’s hope he can keep this up and build on it, baby steps folks, baby steps.

The 450 LCQ was also stacked. I was looking at it on the line and wondering who was going to miss the main. You had Jeff Gibson, Kevin Johnson, Nick Wey, Kelly Smith, Sellards, Chad Johnson, Reynard, Ryan Clark among others. It was a crazy race with Gibson winning it and a surprising dark horse of Balbi getting the final spot in a duel with KJ. Nick Wey missed the main and even though he’s my buddy, I still think the provisional rule is a dumb one, but it helped NYK get into the main on this night.

Butler Brothers MX team manager Forest Butler was speaking to me before the Lites main and was pumped that the team put four riders into the two main events. This coming on the heels of their Lites podium sweep last week in Toronto, Forest was probably on cloud nine at this point. Well, what a cruel mistress Supercross can be. Bryan Johnson had problems in the 450s and finished 19th. Lites riders were Kyle Keylon and Matt Boni. Keylon pulled into the mechanics area holding his wrist and finished 19th as well; Boni was interesting as I happened to be watching him when for no apparent reason his front end dropped off a tabletop and he went over the bars. He got up and waved his hands in frustration and pulled into the mechanics area after that, where it was ascertained by the BBMX crew that his front disc was bent and caused his brake to lock up and pile drive him. It was ugly for sure. Oh the highs and lows of our sport, (something I don’t miss any more for sure) BBMX’s only good finish came from the usual suspect, Jason “little body, big heart” Thomas.

I’m not sure if this has been on the back of his pants the whole year, but I noticed Matt Georke showed up with “Beef” on his ass. Hee hee hee, Beef Georke….

The Moto-X Extreme Fantasy League (of dorks) is something that I may have to look into joining. When my buddy The Weege was signing himself up for it, he pointed out that one of the riders to choose from was Ross “Rollerball” Pederson. I don’t know who to thank for this very cool little recognition for the Rollerball but whatever league had the Dreaded Ross for a rider pick is one I want to be associated with! Despite Ross being retired for 15 years, I probably would’ve chosen him anyways.

With the NASCAR race at Texas Speedway the day after the Supercross, there was some serious cross pollination going on at the SX. Carl Edwards, Kasey Khane, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya and I’m sure a few others all checked out the race. Most of them hid out in the Mommy suite that Live Nation provides for the riders’ families. Big tough NASCAR dudes in the Mommy suite? That’s kind of funny!

The owner of Merge Racing Technologies’ Michael Holigan has a condo at Texas Speedway and he invited the Racer X guys, some Tucker-Rocky guys, Josh Demuth, Mike Fisher, myself and a bunch of others to check out the cup race on Sunday. It was a super cool viewing area and I’d never seen one of these live. Andy (B.O.C.) Bowyer was kind enough to fill me in on the intricacies of the sport and also let me know that Kyle Petty would never win another race, much to my chagrin. It was cool and all but 30 minutes into the race Weege and I found ourselves deep in a conversation about the Arenacross guys struggles the previous night. What can I say? Dirt bike racing is the coolest thing to me. Thanks to Michael for the great hospitality!

Remember me touting the wonders of super rock group Journey a few Observation columns back? Well, I got a call last week from none other than 2000 125 West vice-champion David Pingree asking me to just be quiet and listen. I then heard the sweet sound of Steve Perry blasting through Ping’s speakers, he told me that after he read my column, he realized just how many good freaking songs Journey has and bought their greatest hits CD. Observations: the column that vice-champions read!

My new “Old ass group that I’m just now realizing is good” is Pink Floyd! I’ve never watched Wizard of Oz while listening to Dark Side of The Moon and never ever smoked any funny stuff, but I’m into these guys. So far on my iPOD, I have “Run like Hell”, “Wish You Were Here”, ‘On the Turning Away” and “Take It Back”. Good group, very interesting music that I never paid any attention to growing up.

Just a fair warning about who else I purchased on Itunes this week—The Loaf! He’s got some good songs; I don’t care what anyone says. I just have to figure out what he wouldn’t do for love.

Another rider that made his return this week was Hart and Huntington’s Josh Demuth. The Sheriff broke his wrist before the season started and made an appearance at his hometown race. The injury is still bothering him and his highlight of the night was holeshotting the LCQ. It was a DNQ for the neck-tattoed Honda rider.

 Hey, where was Tyler Medaglia?

My buddy Fireman Ron went back home to sleepy Victoria this past week, having cleaned out Southern California of almost every YZ450 part that they had. He went into hard-core Rocky, lock-down training mode getting ready for his assault on the Vet Master’s title. He is getting some graphics made and wants to run the Matthes RXC shield sticker that I have. It’s for all the support that I gave him when he was down here. Anyways, if the Label-it guy is reading this, send a digital copy of my sticker to me please.
You know who Ron went riding with on Sunday after Dallas? None other than KD Beets! Ron was the king of his little sawdust pit that he rides in the winter but the crown of the sawdust pit is now Beets’. Little tiny fragile Beets has been pounding out laps getting ready for the Canadian nationals.

What’s the edict for giving up your airline seat? I ask this because yesterday on the way back home I was nestled snugly into my upgraded First Class seat next to the window. It was a late flight and I like resting my head on the window and going to sleep. (During which 95% of the time, I drool all over myself) So a guy comes up and asks me if I can take his girlfriend’s bulkhead aisle seat. Now if I’m switching up for the same seat I do it every time but this was a window for the aisle! It wasn’t the same value; I lose my OGIO backpack storage and my headrest. So I said no and explained my reasoning, he looked really pissed and went to the guy next to his chick and that guy gladly switched. Was I wrong? Was I justified? It would be like trading a Ricky Johnson High-Flyer card for a Steve Herman one—you just don’t do it. Tell me what you think at matthes@racerxcanada.com

What would DC do in this situation? What about Danny Brault? [DC: “I don’t fly First Class in the first place! But if I did, I would only give it up for a soldier in that situation, or someone who looked really desperate for some reason…”] [DB: “I have to agree with Matthes (and DC) on this one. Unless there were some chicken fingers (the good kind) involved, I would stay put.]

It was a long one this week and I had a lot to get off my chest, thanks for reading and I appreciate what we’ve done here with this “little Racer X thing." As usual, email me at matthes@racerxcanada.com and I will not accept any ticking packages from New York and crazed “Paulie” fans.