Steve Matthes Observations from Las Vegas

By Steve Matthes
Photos by Simon Cudby

And that’s a wrap folks! The final round of 2008 Monster Energy AMA Supercross took place in my adopted hometown of Las Vegas and it was a good one. We all know what happened (or I should hope you do by the time this thing actually gets posted after everybody having a weekend of getting crunkedified). Chad Reed clinched the big boys’ title after winning the main. Ryan Dungey put on just a fantastic ride in hunting down the hunter, Ryan Villopoto, and going on to the win the Dave Coombs Sr East/West Shootout. All in all, a great night and a really, really great night if your name was Chad Reed and you were at The Palms on Saturday night.

The Vegas track was a typical Las Vegas track, hard, slick and unforgiving. I walked on the track after the main event and there were huge holes before the jumps that made it even harder to negotiate. If the Supercross gods came down to the pits and told the riders that they had to crash on one track, I guarantee that no one would pick Vegas. It’s very hard, rocky and not good on the skin.

The track in Vegas had the outside start (which I don’t like), Thunder (Monster) Alley (which I do like) and a new obstacle that I really liked which was at the exit to Thunder.., oops… I mean Monster Alley there was just a single jump that launched the guys up to fifty yards down the track. It reminded me of the “H” jump in Excitebike when you’re designing your own track. It wasn’t that exciting after awhile but it was different and as you readers know, I love different stuff on the tracks.

So who went the furthest on the Excitebike jump? Strangely enough it was the Lites guys that went the furthest from what I saw. Trey “The Duck” Canard and Broc Hepler were going very far. In the 450 class, I think it was Davi Millsaps but all the guys were pretty close.

Still, on my strange fascination with this jump, it reminded me of the old “Coca-Cola Catapult” that they used to have in the ‘80s. The rider who jumped furthest off of this jump got the sum of $500, which was probably like a million to the privateers back then. Jim “Hollywood” Holley told me that dudes would swing wide and lose positions just to get a run at the catapult! I don’t need to mention the fact that Ross “Rollerball” Pederson won this jump-off quite a bit, do I?

Here's your 2008 supercross champion! Check out the '09 Thor gear, every year it gets sooner and sooner for the companies to launch their new stuff. Soon, it will debut at Anaheim 1.

Chad Reed didn’t have to win to clinch the title, but he did anyways and put an exclamation point on what was probably the toughest series that an eventual champion ever had to go through. Between a three-turns-to-go, bike breaking in Daytona, a crash that should’ve killed him in Detroit, throwing up in Minneapolis and some bones being broken in his hands in the beginning of the year, no one can’t say that he didn’t earn this one. In Vegas, Reedy looked to be content to stay in third but was the fastest guy in the deep whoops and passed for the lead late in the race.

In honor of Ken Faught, I thought I would run this press release that I just received…

“May 4th, 2008 saw the Monster Energy Supercross champion, team San Manuel Yamaha’s Chad Reed show up at the Hard Rock hotel shortly after clinching the title at the Sam Boyd Stadium and proceed to bet most people’s yearly salary in one hand of blackjack. Although we’re not sure how he fared, we have to think he probably won. After that Chad went to The Palms hotel and showed up at the Monster Energy party that was, by all accounts, a real monster of a party. Chad celebrated the night away and got ready for a summer of well… doing nothing. Stay tuned next week when we release another PR from the local AM/PM and Chad’s purchase of a Yoo-Hoo”

Even though I’m sure Kevin Windham would disagree, I think he also came away a winner this year. He came really close to retiring this past year and lost his factory Honda ride to boot. He showed up with renewed vigor and won four supercrosses this year to almost win the title. He didn’t look the same in the main event in Vegas as the last couple of weeks, probably ‘cause he could see that Reedy was doing what he needed to do to clinch. Anyways, KW got second and it’s a shame he’s not doing the nationals, I think that he’s a better MX rider than SX guy and with his new confidence he could’ve been a real contender. Oh well, at least he’s not retiring!

This week Jason Thomas stayed in Vegas to get ready for the race, there was a cool 10G at stake for the little guy as he had to hold onto his points lead over 4th privateer Eric Sorby. What did JT do when he needed to be at his best? When he had to dig deep and come through with his greatest performance ever? Well, what did Rocky do when the Mick died and Rock needed inspiration? He went back to the past and grabbed his old nemesis, Apollo Creed, to help get him over the top. JT did the same thing, kind of, in recruiting me to train him for the SX finale. We were both bummed to get the brush off from the H&H guys to ride at their SX track, but we ended up at the local Sandy Valley MX facility in Jean, NV and put in hard motos (well, he did anyways--I did some six-lappers.) After that I made him punch my Basset Hounds in the gut over and over to mimic the meat locker scene. (I’m kidding people.)

"Please JT, stop hitting us. We're still alive!" From clockwise, Buddy, Prince, Hank and Fred Matthes.

photo: Angie Matthes

It all paid off when JT secured the final privateer spot and the money. I got kind of choked up at the SX banquet when he personally thanked me for helping him. Any pros out there that want to recreate JT’s ground breaking training program, email matthes@racerxcanada.com and be sure to enclose a $4000 check.

Why would you want to deny this man access to the floor? Does he look like like someone you want to screw with?

There were threats of boycotts, elbows thrown, breaths held and general unruliness in the ranks. I thought there was going to be a scene right out of the “Beat It” video with the two gangs breakdance fighting. Am I talking about Reed and KW? Or J-Law and the local church? Nope, I’m talking about the photographers and Live Nation. Every week there is a track map given out with the places the guys can stand on the track shaded in green and the dangerous places colored red. In Vegas, the whole map was red for some reason—they weren’t allowed anywhere around the track, just in the endzone in front of the podium—and the guys were not happy, wondering how you people and sponsors of the races were going to get images of the race and I think they had a right to be upset. At the risk of being called an ass-kisser, Davey Coombs stepped in and brokered a peace deal and one lane was opened up down the infield for all the shooters. We almost had a war people!

Ryan Dungey (and Dragons) rode a great race; he was very fast and methodically chipped into Ryan Villopoto’s lead and passed RV on the last lap to take his second East/West Shootout win and his second Toyota truck in as many years. It might’ve been his best ride of the year; this was one of those tracks where the harder you push on the dirt, the more mistakes you make and the more time you lose. To ride as fast as Dungeroo’s did and stay as steady as he did was remarkable. Great race.

What happened to our champs? Well, for what seems like 10 years now, neither champion won the season ending race. Trey Canard rode well in getting a third, but he looked like he wasn’t pushing it that hard and was probably at 143% on this night. Jason Lawrence looked disinterested in the whole deal from the first practice on and was working his way backwards in the main when I think his bike broke but I’m not sure. Let’s be honest here, it was Las Vegas, it was J-law and that’s all that needs to be said. I think the Supercross Gods probably weren’t going to let Canard win after he got off his bike and just dragged himself beside it for his “trick” in opening ceremonies.

J-law just pulled into the mechanics area around the middle of the race and went back to the pits, probably to start getting ready early for the banquet….

Dungey (and dragons) rode great this weekend. Check out the new Gaerne SG-12 boots!

I don’t know what to think of Davi Millsaps and his actions the last couple of weeks or lack of action I should say. First in Seattle, he appeared to give zero resistance to riding buddy Chad Reed when getting passed and this week in Vegas he looked pretty aggressive with his sorta-teammate Kevin Windham in the opening laps. I just thought he should’ve given a little more for his red rider and backed off a bit when KW was around. Other people I talked to didn’t agree with me so I guess I’m not sure what the right thing to do is.

Speaking of Davi, my sources tell me that he is talking contract with Joe Gibb’s Racing Yamaha and has even gone as far as riding a factory Yamaha. I’m no rocket scientist but I would guess that he rode his buddy Reed’s YZ450F…. Okay, let’s just get this out of the closet shall we? All the top dudes that ride with each other have all ridden each other’s bikes, so there are not a lot of secrets out there.

As far as the rumors reported on Racer X website about James Stewart to L&M Yamaha, the people that I talked to said that it’s a done-deal also. But it could be the people I spoke to just read RXI’s report and are running with it, believe me when I say that’s a very high possibility. I could call Larry Brooks and ask him what’s up but I have as much of a chance of LB telling me anything as I do modeling the new Calvin Klein underwear for Vogue magazine. I am sure that we will see more Breaking News soon.

I did hear from somebody at Suzuki that Reedy’s “little Jerry Maguires”, er…agents were having big meetings with Roger DeCoster at Suzuki recently. The same source said that it’s close to being done, Reedy to Suzuki. But then Reedy said at the SX banquet on Sunday that he hoped to stay with L&M a few times and was pretty emotional, so I don’t think it was just lip service. Who knows who will end up where, but look for the dominos to start to fall soon… Could there be two L&M rigs?

The Dirt Wurx crew went big this weekend, the triples were extra big, the finish line was extra big and so were the whoops. Reedy was very fast through them as usual. Many people, including myself, have said that the KTMs just don’t look good through the whoops but I watched Nick Wey, Justin Brayton and Matt Georke in them and their bikes looked fine, no different than the other Japanese bikes.

We have a Podcast confirmation from the NYK!!

Nick Wey had another impressive performance in Vegas. He’s turned it on the last few weeks and I couldn’t be happier for the Dewitt, MI native. He was riding hard at the end, hounding Millsaps. He needs a contract for next year and I actually heard that his Team MDK was maybe not going to be KTM mounted next year. In more breaking news, he also agreed to be on a podcast soon!

Tim Ferry has some nagging injuries that he’s fighting, stemming from his St Louis crash and he had a chance at getting fifth in the series if he did well and Josh Hill had some bad luck. It didn’t happen. Actually, Hill rode pretty well and Timmy had the bad luck when he stalled the Kawasaki in the whoops while running fourth. His ninth-place finish was the best he could do after that.

I don't think I've ever ran a picture of Ryan Clark, well after his LCQ ride this past weekend, he deserves it.

You know who rode really good this weekend again? Ryan Clark, that’s who. His ride in the 450 LCQ was strong, he looked like everybody else for the first two laps and then turned on the afterburners and was fast, grabbing the final spot in the main event. Ryan went on to finish 15th; ever since hitting the concrete hard in St Louis he’s been on it.

Guess who else reads “Observations?” No, not Jason Lawrence, none other than 1997 SX Champ Jeff Emig! He told me this weekend that I do a good job on “that thing.” When I figured out it was “Observations,” I told him that most people like him (fast riders) don’t read a lot of things on the internet and he said that he never really does but he stumbled onto last week’s column. “Observations”-the column that ex-champs read!

On Sunday night, the annual SX banquet took place and I have to say that in mine and a lot of other people’s opinion, the banquet has been a mixed bag moving away from the Hard Rock casino. Don’t get me wrong it’s still a good time, but it used to be off the chain as the kids say these days. I think that Live Nation should change up the format a bit. Yes we need to recognize the contributors and charities that help people out but maybe we can cover them all real quick-like? The girls dancing in the shadow boxes was the wrong kind of edgy and when they pulled out a whip and “pretended” to use it on each other, things got creepy. How about introducing some new awards like “Best Crash” or “Best Three Way… battle" and things like that. It’s a lot of the same people giving the same awards out and needs an injection of comedy and variety. Getting Weege to host it was a big step in the right direction—some of his stuff was so funny that people were still laughing when he started the next joke.

What would be some of your guys suggestions for awards to be given out at the banquet? Send them to matthes@racerxcanada.com and I’ll print the best ones for Todd Jendro to see. First guy that writes in and suggests “The Steve Matthes award for best Supercross fan ever presented in honor of Tim Ferry” will get $100 in Loonies direct from Danny Brault.

In what was probably the most non-shocking thing to happen, Jason Lawrence didn’t show up to claim his trophy and thank all of his peeps. In speaking to a major sponsor of the YoT team and another big sponsor, they both thought that it was a major gaffe and should never have happened. If you look here there’s actually a list of awards given out and it seems that J-Law won the “Entertainer of the Year” but this was never actually awarded at the banquet. Maybe somebody pulled it when they realized he wasn’t actually there to entertain?

In what was another shocking move, where the hell was Mike “Icon” Farber this weekend? It was Vegas! Vegas without Fubar is like Seinfield without Jerry Seinfield.

Ok, just like I’ve done for both of the Lites classes, let’s take a look at the final point standings in the 450 class.

1.) Chad Reed, Yamaha, 365 (he deserved this, he was the fastest guy and take away his problems, it would’ve been a rout. Take a sip of that Haterade, all you haters out there!)

2.) Kevin Windham, Honda, 352 (A great season for KW, I’m telling you people--he’s never been better in supercross.)

3.) Andrew Short, Honda, 281 (Won the third place battle, now he just needs to win a race! In 2009, he will.)

4.) Davi Millsaps, Honda, 278 (The future of supercross and just a heads up to the lappers out there, move over or else!)

5.) Josh Hill, Yamaha, 228 (I’ve said it before, un-freakin-believable to me that he did this well. This reminds me to remind you guys to never ask me for preseason predictions. I’m an idiot.)

6.) Tim Ferry, Kawasaki, 218 (Was in third when injury struck. To me it doesn’t matter what he finishes in the points, he has to just win a race before I’m forced to wear his skin to a birthday party.)

7.) Nathan Ramsey, Yamaha, 173 (Great comeback from a bad injury and again, do NOT ask me for predictions.)

This might be the last time we ever see this-DV12.com riding supercross.

8.) David Vuillemin, Suzuki,169 (Injuries hurt him all year. His SX legacy-nine wins and the right to say that at certain points in his career, he was one of the very best supercross riders in the world. He beat the best when they were at their best.)

9.) Nick Wey, KTM, 159 (Came on in the end, still has that beautiful riding style)

10.) Paul Carpenter, Honda 145, (The privateer of the year, rode pretty consistent thoughout. Make sure you order some KYB forks for your Honda at enzoracing.com! Are we buddies, Paul?)

11.) Josh Summey, Yamaha, 144 (Faster than this in pure speed but has to stay off the ground next year.)

12.) Heath Voss, Honda, 130 (You know what? He rode well and got three sevenths but I rarely noticed him for some reason)

13.) Travis Preston, Kawasaki, 109 (Got better as the season went on but I would’ve thought his average finish would’ve been better than a twelfth.)

14.) Jason Thomas, Honda 101, (Scored his most points ever in a supercross series. To borrow my most hated sports cliché, JT is what he is. Which is a top privateer rider who’s tiny but has heart.)

15.) Eric Sorby, Honda, 84 (Tailed off at the end but still grabbed a holeshot and found a home at JGR. In the way that your creepy uncle that smells funny just comes over “for the weekend” and never leaves.)

16.) Troy Adams, Honda, 74 (Every time that I watch him, I think that he could really do something some day in our sport but then he goes out and doesn’t qualify or something like that.)

17.) Mike Alessi, Suzuki, 69 (Tony is looking for a collarbone cadaver as we speak. ///They will rebuild.///;-)

18.) Jacob Marsack, Honda, 66 (Boom or bust for Jake the snake. A podium (!?!) and lots of DNQ’s)

19.) Ivan Tedesco, Honda, 53 (He’s got a lot to prove outdoors and I think he will.)

20.) Jeff Gibson, Kawasaki, 52 (Not as good as last year, but onto the Canadian Nationals he goes.)

I feel like I should make this point again. The top five guys in the 450 SX point standings were the ONLY five guys to finish every main event. If there is any big-time 450 guys reading this (Ferry, Wey, DV, Summey, JT) let this be a lesson to you…to finish first, first you have to finish.

5 = the number of riders upset with me this supercross season. Josh Hansen, Eric Sorby, Paul Carpenter, Nick Wey and David Vuillemin.

Speaking of Hansen, he got a ride this week with Hart & Huntington Honda and adapted pretty well to the ride considering he only had a week of practice. Hey, he made the main event, which he couldn’t seem to do at the end with JGR. The H&H team might be a good fit for him in ’09 but I heard he wants to ride Lites. You heard it here first: he rides for Mitch for zero money and wins the title. And I eat my CN column with some ketchup.

Matt Georke was on the gas until he crashed on the tabletop before the finish. He was on the move to the front before this, however. Watching him ride reminds me of the song “Danger Zone” by Kenny Loggins, he’s always around the zone. “The further on the edge/The hotter the intensity/ I went to the Beef Georke zone…” He finished twenty-first on the night.

TF-"Hey, remember Salt Lake City '03?"

RC-"Yeah, that was funny, I really wanted to beat you and your mechanic Matthes up"

TF-"I wish you would have."

Another guy that should’ve/could’ve done better was Austin Stroupe. Austin was literally the “power” in his heat when he passed Dungey and grabbed the win. He was blazing in the deep whoops, blazing I say. His night was done however when he went down in the first turn in the main event. He went on to finish tenth.

How come announcer Irv Braun has been announcing supercross for like forever and he still doesn’t know how many riders transfer out of the 450 LCQ? He was saying that the top four were the guys going in and that Ryan Clark was on the bubble etc., etc. Only the top two get in the 450, top four in the 250F
class. Everybody makes mistakes but this format has been a staple of supercross for a long time. Hmmmmm…

Robbie Reynard had his best race all supercross season when he qualified for the main. It’s about time for the former child prodigy. I will now bust out my Reynard T-shirt for all to see this week, but it’s been so long for a good ride from RR that moths might’ve ate it.

Remember when I said that Cody Cooper is hauling ass for Moto XXX and to look forward to him being at the front of the pack come the nationals? Well scratch the Moto XXX part as “Chicken” Coop is going to be on a Rockstar/ OSTFF Suzuki and might even get in the factory rig at some point.

But to make up for the loss of Coops, the Moto XXX guys are in deep discussions with one of the Alessi brothers. I won’t tell you guys which one, you’ll have to show up at Glen Helen to see!

Tyler Bright made the main and rode well in his heat to get into the main event.  Check this out, it was a RXI privateer profile from last week and attention team managers, Tyler’s looking for a ride for outdoors.

I’m glad my buddy David “I’m out at 5:30” Pingree got a ride for the upcoming Supermoto season. Ping’s new team is his old team, Troy Lee Designs. The other team, Aztec Racing, folded on the little guy right before the season started and he was left with nothing. TLD rider Jeff “The Flying Freckle” Ward has an illness and had to step aside, but not before he requested Ping take his old ride. Classy that Jeff Ward!

May 22nd is coming up people. That’s the date that I will be at my local movie theater, probably just after midnight, to catch the new “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” I can hardly wait, I might even get mom to send me my old whip, hat and man purse that I used to wear when I was a kid pretending to be Indy. By kid, I mean like seventeen.

That’s it for the SX season and I really appreciate all of you reading this every week. I appreciate the mail even more and enjoy reading it and laughing at all you crazy dudes that write in, especially that guy that hates Chad Reed. He must be swinging from a shower curtain rod right about now. Send me your thoughts to matthes@racerxcanada.com and again, thanks for reading all year!

Las Vegas: the city where you can dress like this and everybody's cool with it.