Matthes Observations from Lakewood

By Steve Matthes

We made history this week in Lakewood, Colorado, and it had nothing to do with the action on the track. For the first time ever there was an AMA Toyota Motocross National held under the lights. That’s right, we lit the damn thing up! The track in Colorado is pretty good. The guys have fallen for the same we-must-have-sand disease that the other track guys have, but all in all, it’s a cool track on the side of a hill that’s great for viewing. By the way, my photos kind of suck from this race so just don't worry about it.

I walked around the pits after practice on Friday night and there were lots of meetings and concerned people. They thought the track was too dark in places and the lights too bright in others. Some extra light towers were brought in and some of the team managers stayed out late on Friday and offered suggestions and ideas as to where to put the lights. It was decided that the track would be groomed heavily before the second 450 moto (which would be the only moto in pure darkness) so the riders didn’t run into any unexpected bumps. I think it was better but still not what some of the guys thought was good enough.

I think the track went a little light (get it?) on the lights at first but I couldn’t help but think of all the riders on the gate that ride at Perris or Starwest in SoCal under the lights. And we’ve all ridden fair races or whatever with worse lighting. So that’s my thought; everybody has to ride the same track and just deal with it. Fortunately, we got out of the race with no lack-of-light injuries and everybody will learn from this and make it better next time. Like I said, in my opinion, it is a GREAT idea.

Mike Alessi was not happy at the press conference, saying “I hope they never do this again." James Stewart was open-minded about it: “It’s a good idea, just need to have more lights.” And Ryan Villopoto was in-between: “It was better than I expected but still could’ve been better.”

Stewie was on it ... again. His goggle strap looks like it's not straight, that's about the only thing he didn't do right on this night.

Guess what? James Stewart won again! To the complete surprise of no one, the number seven on the Kawasaki kicked ass again. He’s won 10 motos in a row and will sweep them all unless he: A.) Crashes very heavily, or B.) His bike breaks. The chances of either are pretty small and I’m running out of things to say about the guy. He didn’t lead every lap at Colorado so maybe he can try to do that at Red Bud, again.

The pass that I didn't see saw on TV but thought was amazing was the first lap in the second moto, when Stewie jumped down a hill right in between Davi Millsaps and Andrew Short and passed them both. It was a balls-out move, for sure. Of course, in the PC afterwards, James said he didn’t remember the move!

RV could've finished second in the second moto and still won the overall, but clearly with the way he was riding, he didn't care. This just in: the Lites class isn't wide open anymore.

Guess what else happened? Ryan Villopoto went 1-1 as well for the win. Man is Kawasaki ever kicking ass this year! If the 2009 KXFs are a ton more money, it’s because they have to cover up for all the bonuses they’re paying out this year. Ryan holeshot and checked out for the win in the first moto. In the second moto he had to work for it as he was right around tenth and had to come up through the pack and battle with Josh Grant for the win. It was the best moto of the season so far. RV had to really work for it. He could’ve laid up and still got the overall but chose to get into it with a guy that he battled with (literally) on Friday night in practice.

In practice on Friday night, I noticed that Grant and RV were side-by-side for more than a few laps; they were pushing each other and getting closer than a lot of guys do during practice. RV wasn’t able to get by Grant and, as you saw on the Racer X Pre-Show, Grant did a heel clicker right in front of RV!

After the practice was over there was a yelling match and probably the typical “I’ll beat you up” threats. Not sure what RV was upset about, just back off or pass the guy if you’re faster, right? Anyways, looks like their friendship is rocky again after the Minneapolis SX love-in where they battled hard and embraced after. Stay tuned!

Josh Grant had a great comeback. He admitted that Red Bud will be harder for him because of the expected heat. Still, he has the "Got to Get a Ride" motivation going on!

As you’ve probably gathered, Josh Grant was fast. Not many people realized that he really took a good header at Vegas SX. I know I didn’t because later on that night in Vegas, Josh was in the pits chilling out. Read the Monday Conversation at Racer X Online  to see for yourself how bad it was. Josh always has a great style on the bike and I know he wanted to be on a 450 outdoors because that’s what he’s shopping for in ’09. He needs to keep this momentum up at the rest of the nationals and the 450 thing will take care of itself.

Mikey's fast. I never noticed his boots matching his gear before, that's sweet. I might actually ask Mike for a jersey sometime because it's rare and cool looking.

Mike Alessi is looking like he’s going to grab that second-fastest-guy-in-the-class ring and not let go of it. I’ve said it before: his opening sprint laps are better than the next guys (Tim Ferry, Short and Millsaps) and he breaks away from the pack. It’s hard to race someone when you can’t see them ahead of you. Mike grabbed both holeshots again and even led a few laps again in the second moto. If he gets second in the points, that will be four years in a row he’s gotten second in the final standings (if you don’t count his getting penalized at Glen Helen a few years back and Shorty moving past him). Mike again made sure to tell me he did it without "Wally the Camelback" but that we’ll see Wally at Red Bud.

I was all prepared to tell you guys that if the lights were so bad then how come Stewie, Ferry and a few others went faster in the darkened second moto? But then I was talking to Ryan Clark in the airport Sunday morning and he told me that the track was ridiculously smooth for the second moto because the guys went to town to make sure no bumps were hidden.

Antonio Balbi won the RC Hard Charger award and even though his results show a 17-11, the Moto XXX rider rode very well. I’m not sure what happened but he came up the start straight in 40th place in moto one, probably four seconds behind the last guy! He ended up being scored 35th on the end of the last lap and passed 18 riders to finish 17th. In the second moto he went from 19th to 11th. Good ride for the Brazilian Bomber!

Cool gear on Canard! Trey was fast but suffered from bad starts again. Look for him to be a top guy for the RC Hard Charger award every week.

Trey Canard was impressive also, after taking the last race off because of concussion symptoms. "Ice" Trey was 19th after the first lap and was runner up for the RC Award when he passed 14 riders to finish 5th. In the second moto, he again rode great and almost got Grant for second at the end. He was charging.

Austin Stroupe deserved better, he was up front in both motos before crashing out of both of them. His bike was landed on by pretty much everybody in the first moto and was ruined. His scores were 39-35 but he was fast. I guess it's part of the learning experience that every rider has to go through.

Jimmy Button pointed something out to me in the overall point standings: only one Pro Circuit bike finished in the top ten (Villopoto) while three GEICO Honda’s finished in the top five (Grant, Canard and Dan Reardon)… Wonder when the last time that happened?

I’ve touched on Stroupe and his problems but Brett Metcalfe was hurting big time from a crash at Milestone MX last week. The usually-top-five Aussie could only go 15-12 on the day. Obviously, Brett wasn’t 100 percent and with the new schedule, there’s no time to get healthy. Brett’s other teammate Branden Jessemen has been out since Texas and there’s no word when he’s coming back.

I thought Andrew Short would be faster. Shorty still rode good but he’s enjoyed some very good motos at his hometown track in the past. Shorty couldn’t catch teammate Millsaps in the second moto and traded scores with him, getting fourth overall. I think that Short and Tim Ferry were holding each other up in the second moto, allowing Davi to make some time. Then again, Davi won a moto here last year, so he obviously likes the track.

Steve Cox thought this photo was good because of "the illusion of speed" and stuff like that. I don't think so but am deferring to a guy that knows a lot more about picture taking than me. Anyways, Ferry was just "ok" this weekend and now he's going to be mad at me for saying that, which will make him go faster at Red Bud. See how I motivate?

Tim Ferry got a bad start in the first moto. He was 22nd after one lap and could only work his way up to 8th. Privateer Kyle Summers on his KTM was giving the one-five everything he could handle for a long time. Kyle usually races the WORCS series and did well at this track last year also. Anyways, Timmy also ate Short’s roost for 35 minutes in the second moto—he just couldn’t get by him. He hasn’t ridden the “Timmy Ferry way” since Hangtown for whatever reason. In the second moto, it looked like he was getting frustrated because his back end would spin out away from him quite a bit, like he couldn’t wait to get going and would apply too much throttle.

Jason Thomas made a return to the nationals again. The Butler Brothers MX team member predicted to me that he would go 15-12 but he actually went 23-20. He was just outside the top ten in the first moto when he had to stop in the pits because his number plate was falling off and getting caught in his footpeg.

Speaking of Ferry and JT$, they were joined in their motos this week by a certain rider from Australia that won this year’s Supercross title. I guess he went out and bought some bike(s) and was motoing down on some stockers. JT told me that he went as fast as Timmy if not a little faster on a stock bike and it was confirmed by Ferry that the man known as Skippy was fast. What kind of bike was he on? Sorry, I’ve been sworn to secrecy.

Sean Hamblin picked up a factory ride! Just like he predicted (but what I honestly thought wouldn’t happen) Yamaha picked him up and gave him Grant Langston’s bike and mechanic for the next three races. Sean told me that he didn’t have a lot of time on the bike but that the brakes and suspension were the surprising part of getting back on a factory bike. I’m going on record right now as saying that this will be a season-long gig for the 105, despite what Yamaha is saying. Sean was once again the top Yamaha rider with a 7-8 finish on the night.

Hamblin is now like the Jefferson's, "Movin on up!" Too bad for TUF but look for Andy Stacy to help another rider at some point. He's a giver.

I’ve been doing some snooping around on when we could expect Kevin Windham to show up like he told us he was going to do, but I think all you KW fans can calm down. I spoke with someone that would know and they said he hasn’t ridden since the Vegas SX. Considering we’re almost halfway through the nationals, and that he would need time to get into riding shape this person didn’t think we would see him at all. Too bad.

Ryan Dungey had a bad day. After getting third in the first moto, RD went down hard in the first lap of the second moto, cart-wheeling down a hill. His Leatt Brace was broken, his helmet was scarred up and it could’ve been a lot worse for sure. By all accounts, he’s okay. In case you haven’t noticed, lately Ryan’s been very angry. I’m expecting him to turn all yellow and into the Incredible Dung or something (but his pants will magically stay on). We all know about the uncharacteristic rant on Jason Lawrence in Mt. Morris but this week he got into it with teammate Nicco Izzi after the first moto. Dungey was on him but couldn’t make the pass and afterwards they had words for some reason. The kid wants to win badly, and sometimes it shows when he loses.

Josh Hill and Ferry got into it after practice also because Red thought that Hill was cutting over on the face of jumps and whipping the bike at him. Hill said that a scrub got out of control one time by accident but didn’t know why Ferry was upset.

In still more angry people news, Metcalfe’s mechanic Kyle Bentley got ejected (?!?) from the mechanics area when he grabbed a hay bale that the AMA had put down and heaved it off the track. The AMA thought that the riders were getting a little close to the edge of the track and wanted to keep the guys in between the stakes so they put the hay bale there. Kyle didn’t like it and threw it down the hill like a little toy. I’ve never seen a mechanic get ejected before and it was cool.

Here's J-Law scrubbin' and dubbin. You'll see a ton of shots from this single because the dudes were getting low on it. Just for the record, I was the first guy to wander over to the jump on Friday narrowly beating out Basher from MXA.

Jason Lawrence didn’t appreciate the words that Dungey had for him in the Mt Morris PC. He was talking to Ryan in staging before the first moto telling him that his bark is worse than his bite, etc., etc…. Good times! I like this kind of stuff, two people hating each other. J-Law lost his mechanic this week over a bunch of stuff but a lot of why Cory quit apparently had to do with the fact J-Law won’t pay for the rental car that he wrecked in Texas. I know that Jason was very generous with bonuses to his mechanic and maybe that’s why Jason doesn’t want to pay for it, kind of like the bonus was for future cost overruns?

J-Law didn’t have a good Colorado National; he got a bad start in the first moto and just didn’t move up like he normally does. In the second moto he pulled out with a fuel-on-the-nuts issue. Ouch!

I couldn't figure out what I did in this shot until Carl Stone told me that our flashes came together to produce this spooky pic of Tedesco. I like it!

I was down on the starting line before the first 450 moto and trying to get a word in with a rider for the webcast. I asked Ivan Tedesco but he laughed and said he had his “race face” on. So not knowing him that well, I then talked to Ferry (surprised?) Anyways, about five minutes after that, Erin Bates comes by and asks him for an interview for Speed TV and he says yes! This just adds to my theory about why hot chicks are pit reporters.

Speaking of Ivan, his ankle is still bothering him from one of the earlier rounds and, after crashing hard in the second moto in Texas and DNF’ing, he pulled out of the second moto at Mt. Morris because of his ankle. This week the rain continued to pour on Hot Sauce as he was up front in the second moto and landed right on his bad ankle and pulled out of both motos. Look for him to try to get it fixed soon; it’s not going to get better racing every week.

The “Sean Hamblin of 2009” (Not to be confused with Sean Hamblin actually being the “Sean Hamblin” of ’09) Cody Cooper had a bad night. His bike broke in the first moto and he crashed out of the second moto. He dropped from 8th to 11th in the points as well. Better days will come for the Kiwi Warrior.

The Muddy Creek Assassin rode okay, better than I thought he would. It just goes to show you that experience is something you can't get unless you're experienced, my little grasshopper.

Mike Brown is back. Again. The Muddy Creek Assassin joined the Troy team for the fourth time and did pretty well, all things considered. He told his manager that he wasn’t used to the pace of the class (which surprised the hell out of me because he’s been racing Lites for how long? But then again, the pace is different in Europe) and pumped up in the first moto. He went 12-6 and will soon lead the rest of the class in “Things Changed on the Motorcycle Weekly” category.

Why did he leave Europe—again? I heard that CAS Honda hasn’t paid him all year which seems strange but what do I know? Some people had told me that Honda was snooping around wondering if they should get Mike to ride Ben Townley’s Honda but when I asked a couple of people that would know about these things at Honda, they laughed at me like I was Chris Rock.

Speaking of Honda, Shane Drew can go and take his bad attitude about the night race and screw off back to Thunder Bay, Ontario. It was cool, just needs a bit of refining. Told you I was going to write about it Shane!

I'm going to keep running Byrner photos until someone else comes up to me and agrees with me that Byrne is riding well this year. His agent is shopping him around right now.

Billy Laninovich finally came back to racing at Colorado. He was on a 450SX and, as usual, looked very good on the bike, he just wasn’t going that fast. Billy’s 32-30 needs to get better and I’m sure it will. He’ll be on a MDK/KTM 450 next year also.

Tru Technologies Sean Collier showed up again and, just like in Hangtown, he rode great. Sean was up front in both motos and finished 6-9 for 8th OA on the day. Man, this kid just shows up and rides at the front, then disappears for a while. I spoke to his mechanic Rich and they were hoping to make Washougal next. I remember that Sean also ran at the front on a Honda CRF450 a few years ago at Colorado. Did you know that Sean uses Merge Racing products on his Kawasaki 450? Now you do.

Other timbits..

--Matt Lemoine rode strong all day and had his best ever moto finish with a fifth in the second moto. Good to see, he’s got some teams looking at him for next year as well.

--I’ve said it before but nobody seems to care or maybe nobody's read this crap but Michael Byrne is having a good season. He’s establishing himself as the next fastest guy after the top 5 (JS, MA,TF, DM, AS)

--Another guy that didn’t move up the pack as fast as I would’ve thought was Nick Wey. He had a horrible start first moto and could only get to 15th.

--My guy Josh Coppins went 1-1 at the last GP and is getting closer to where he belongs,which is in the points lead. Cue the “Jaws” music.

--Josh Summey finished out of the points in both motos and that’s a shame because A: Josh is a top ten guy that struggled and B: I had him in my Moto XXX fantasy league (of dorks.)

--I did a podcast with Jake Weimer and he’s a pretty cool, interesting kid for sure. You’ll have to listen to the Damon Bradshaw story he has. It’s a real classic. Jake couldn’t follow up his second from Mt. Morris and suffered bad starts and finished  9-8.

That’s it from Colorado and now onto an American classic race—Red Buuuuuuuuuudddddddd! If you have any problems with what’s written here or just want to throw an opinion in there (Lord knows I do that enough) email me at matthes@racerxcanada.com. Thanks for reading!

Josh Grant rounding the first turn, second moto. He and J-Law are tied for the "Robbie Reynard" award, given to the rider that always looks great on a bike.

 

Here's the pack coming into the first turn, start of moto 2. Look at that Blose brother start! Guess who holeshot this moto? That's right, the human holeshot machine.

 

Just another photo of the world's fastest vet rider. I like those white Kawi's, might have to try to get a sticker kit and plastic for my bike.

 

The Kiwi Warrior had a bad weekend but I'm betting because he's a Kiwi and they're all the happiest people in the world, Coops was still smiling at the end of the day. Cody was wearing some 2009 Moose gear that looked sweet also.

 

Make sure you listen to Jake's podcast with me, it's a good one. I saw him go into Ryan Villopoto's motorhome on Saturday, therefore Weimer to PC is a done deal.

 

Photo by Ray Archer

I'm running this photo to inspire "Observations" reader and all around good guy Josh Coppins to keep the roll going over there. Get'em Lizard!