2019 Easter Weekend | Kickstart
2019 Easter Weekend | Kickstart
Presented by Thor MX
By Michael Antonovich and Donn Maeda
Photos by Maeda, Antonovich, and Matt Dowsey
This past weekend gave the racers of the Monster Energy Supercross Series a much-needed break after 15 consecutive weekends on the road. While some gathered with family and friends to celebrate Easter, others jumped on the opportunity to take a quick vacation and reset before the final two rounds of the series New Jersey and Las Vegas, and then, before the MX Nationals kickoff at Hangtown on May 18.
We, too, enjoyed the break in travel last weekend, but that didn’t mean we stayed home and at chocolate Eater bunnies all weekend! (Well, maybe Dommer did…) There was lots to do in SoCal between the Cal Classic Amateur National and the Wiseco Pistons Two-Stroke World Championships hosted by Fasthouse. Though the allure of watching the fastest up-and-comers in racing was certainly appealing, the sounds and smells of the Two-Stroke World Championships were just too much to resist and that’s where we headed on Saturday!
All in all, the event was a massive success as the turnout was the largest its ever been…535 entries were recorded and a whopping 42 pros showed up for the premier Open Pro class. The track layout at Glen Helen was fun even though the infield layout was tight and lacked flow, but thanks to overcast skies the conditions remained epic through most of the day. By 2:00 p.m., the first set of 17 motos had yet to be run, so the parade laps for the two pro classes were eliminated, multiple gate motos were combined into a single start, and races for amateurs were cut to three laps. Kind of a bummer, but none of that could wipe the smiles off of our faces!
The Swapmoto Live crew was out in force, as swap competed on a very special Suzuki RM125 (that we will post much more on later). Senior Test Rider Pat Foster drive down from Bishop, California, to join in on the fun, and HEP Suzuki’s Alex Ray shared the Suzuki with Maeda and finished fourth in the 125 Pro division. Ryan Surratt also piloted our KTM 250 SX to fourth in the second Open Pro moto, good enough for sixth overall when paired with his 12th in moto one on a damaged bike.
A special thanks to Brian and Jessica Pappalardo at Piston Bones Printing for whipping out three sets of graphics for our test/race bikes at the last minute. All three of our bikes looked the business, thanks to them and Visual 41 Design.
In the stacked Open Pro class, Robbie Wageman took down all comers and earned the win with 1-2 moto scores, topping his BWR/L-Tec/SSI Decals Racing teammate Carlen Gardner’s 3-1 scores. Third on the day was Delaware’s Coty Schock, aboard a Swapmoto Live Yamaha YZ250 test bike that was prepared by Inside Line Connect with help from FMF Racing and Boyesen Engineering.
It’s always a treat to see 2001 125 National Motocross Champion Mike Brown when he’s in town. Unlike other retired racers, Brownie says that he loves to travel and jumps at every chance to fly somewhere that comes up. Last week, Brown was on hand in SoCal to shoot the 2020 FXR Racing Catalog, as well as to help do some R&D testing with Boyesen Engineering. And while he was at it, he also threw his hat into the ring at the Wiseco Two-Stroke World Championships aboard a Yamaha YZ250 that was built for him by Dirt Bike Magazine. Brownie was fourth overall in the Open Pro class…not bad at all for a 48-year-old racer!
In the 125 class, Justin Hoeft swept both motos aboard a Husqvarna TC 125 to earn his first Two-Stroke World Championship over Chris Plouffe and Colton Aeck. Alex Ray was a respectable fourth aboard the special RM12
As mentioned above, Fox Raceway was the site for last weekend’s Cal Classic Amateur event and a number of young riders rolled out to the track for their chance at an AMA title. The Cal Classic was the final event that will take place at the track until the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship comes through, as the track will be shut down and renovated for the long-awaited return of professional racing to the venue (work has already begun on the hillside section and we watched a number of dozers move soil on the only elevated area of the facility). This is a big setback for riders and teams because Fox Raceway is one of the favored facilities for outdoor testing, but we went to the track on Tuesday to see if anyone took advantage of a final prepped practice. Among the amateur pit areas were the rigs for Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM, and Team Honda HRC, so the drive was instantly made worthwhile.
If you cruised by the site last week, you probably saw our interview with TLD KTM team manager Tyler Keefe on the issues that his four-rider squad has encountered this Supercross season. It’s been a tough year for KTM’s factory 250 effort and their championship chances with Shane McElrath and Jordon Smith were dashed by bulging discs in McElrath’s back and a deep bruise with ligament damage to Smith’s wrist. Since issues have kept the two off the bike for the races and outdoor testing, the team has hired Broc Tickle to do motos and establish a base setting for Smith and McElrath to go off of. This is a great deal for Tickle and the team because it helps him stay sharp while awaiting a final word from WADA on his ongoing anti-doping violation and gets the team much-needed information for the KTM 250 SX-F. Tickle is about the same build and speed as both TLD KTM riders and he told us that it only took a little time for him to adapt back to the small-bore bike. We’ll have a deeper interview with him on this later in the week.
While we’re on the topic of TLD KTM, Keefe confirmed that their line-up will grow to five riders come Hangtown, thanks to the advancement of current amateur racer Derek Drake. After a stellar showing at Loretta Lynn’s in 2018 (three moto wins, three-second places finishes for the 250 A and Open Pro Sport titles and Nicky Hayden Horizon award), Drake is ready for his professional debut and will be one to watch through the summer months.
Tuesday marked Jordon Smith’s first day back in the saddle of the bike and yeah, he’s still doing what he has to while dealing with the wrist injury. We caught him sticking a thick strip of kinesiology tape to his forearm before the Mobius wrist brace and gloves went on. The initial motos were more to get Smith into the flow of riding after a considerable time off, but it didn’t take long for him to find the speed. McElrath, meanwhile, is still sidelined and should be cleared to ride in the next few days.
The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team was also out in full force, as all of their pro riders plus a few of their amateur prodigies clicked off laps under the eye of team managers Brad Hoffman and Wil Hahn. After an experiment with the East Coast a few years back, Star Racing has decided that all of their guys will stay in California for the full duration of the summer and make their rounds at the local tracks while off the bike work will be done with Gareth Swanepoel at The W Training Facility. Justin Cooper, Colt Nichols, and Mitchell Oldenburg seemed to stick together for most of their motos, no doubt a part of their day-to-day program with Swanepoel, while Dylan Ferrandis stayed on his own and debriefed with coach David Vuillemin. On our way out, we had a quick chat with Ferrandis and he made it very clear that his current goal is to come as close as he can to win the 250 West Coast region championship and if that doesn’t happen, his full efforts will be focused on the summer. There’s a sense of determination that he will not be satisfied with anything other than a title this year.
Tuesday was Team Honda HRC’s second day of riding at Fox Raceway and in order to make the most of the opportunity, their full staff was on hand to help Ken Roczen and Cole Seely. You might have heard that Trey Canard has taken on a testing role with Team Honda HRC and on Tuesday, he and Roczen shared time on a bike to sort out a setting while Seely did motos (Seely and Canard had worked together the day before). It’s interesting to see Canard back on the track after some time away, especially because he has retained just as much skill as ever and is reportedly on pace with the two current racers at times. One thing worth noting is that while Roczen and Seely use different suspension components (Roczen – Showa, Seely – KYB), Canard’s task is to ride with both and share his findings with the team.
This was also our first look at the new Fox Racing helmet in a public setting. We’ve known that something new was in the works for a while, but it’s always exciting to see something in the wild. Roczen did his best to keep the lid hidden in his truck between sessions on the track, but once in the open, we aimed our lens at him for a better look. Here’s what little we can share right now: the helmet’s appearance is very similar to the Rampage Pro mountain bike helmet (we’d have to assume that some of the same safety features like the “Fluid Inside® technology” inner liner) and is slated for a full roll-out around the Las Vegas Supercross.
After we left, we learned that MX Sports is going to hold a pro-only practice day at Fox Raceway on Wednesday, May 8th, so we’re sure that a number of riders will be on hand for that.
Random News & Notes
Christian Craig and Justin Brayton have decided that they need to close out the Supercross season with some results and both are slated for a return to action this weekend in New Jersey. Brayton recently got back on the bike following necessary rest for a torn MCL and strained ACL from his Seattle Supercross crash, so if he can put in solid results at the last two rounds, the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider should finish within the top-ten overall in the championship standings (the two riders ahead of him, Justin Barcia and Chad Reed, are sidelined and while it’s confirmed that Barcia is out for the final SX rounds, Reed remains adamant he will race Las Vegas). Knowing that the pay and bonus structure for MCR rewards respectable finishes, it’s safe to say that Brayton could add a good amount to his bank account with a top-ten overall ranking.
Craig, meanwhile, is eager to put some sort of positive point to his Supercross season. The GEICO Honda rider’s thumb injury from December never healed correctly and it was made worse by his only race so far this season in Minneapolis, so a second corrective surgery was necessary. Now healed and with a month of riding to his credit, Craig sees the last normal 250 East Coast region Main Event as an opportunity to put in a solid result and Las Vegas as a chance to race the full 250 field before the summer ahead.
If Fox News is your preferred source of political news, then you might have seen the mention that the Monster Energy Supercross Series got over the weekend on “Fox & Friends.” The Feld Entertainment crew was able to get the hosts in FLY Racing jerseys and on the demo bikes that work with the virtual reality goggles, so they were able to see what it’s like in a Supercross race. This is a very big push for motocross into the mainstream, so good job to all involved on this one.
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The Juice WRLD x Suzuki Collection. Available at the @juicewrld999 Death Race For Love Experience at the Palm Springs Air Museum. Visit the pop-up this weekend. Open Fri, 4.12 – Sun, 4.14 from 12PM – 8PM. The online drop starts 4.16 6PM PT. Only On NTWRK. – – – #Repost @ntwrk #Suzuki #SuzukiCycles
Coachella took place in California over two weeks and there were some motocross elements to the massive music and art festival through rapper Juice WRLD. The Chicago native recently inked a deal with Suzuki that put the iconic Suzuki S on merch like shirts, hats, and even jerseys. Why is this noteworthy? Because the artist and label sourced the jerseys from a real motocross company, Canvas MX, and the very limited edition run received massive public support. Hate on motocross in fashion all you want but do a search of your favorite OEM brands on a clothing resale site like Grailed.com and see what all is out there. You might have a goldmine in your closet…
On the constant product testing front, we’ve been logging more and more time on our Emig Pro V2 Grips by ODI, and man, they have easily become our favorite grips for riding motos on. The lock-on design, obviously, is quick, easy and foolproof, and the shape and texture of the new Emig V2 Pro grip is perfectly sized. We’ve also recently discovered that they are plenty durable, too, as the metal ends hold up well in tip-overs. Visit odigrips.com
We just got a shipment of new Arai VX-Pro4 helmets from Japan and the legendary helmet maker has added several new graphic schemes to its catalog that look pretty darn cool, especially to stuff that they have offered in the past. We happen to really like this Combat graphic, as it looks great in action. The VX-Pro4 carries a price tag of $749.95, but as anyone who has worn an Arai in the past will tell you, the fit, comfort, quality, and protection is premium. Visit araiamericas.com
A couple weeks ago, we were contacted on Instagram by a company called Gladiator Sweat Shields. We’ve long seen the pros adding a feminine pad to the top of their goggles to help absorb sweat…well the guys at Gladiator Sweat Shields have taken that one step further with a pad shaped to fit inside more than just women’s underwear.
The Sweat Shields are designed to go inside anything that you sweat in, and we’ve tested them out on everything from goggles (you need to trim the ends off) to MTB helmets to baseball caps. And you know what? They work! To be honest, we like them best in hats that we wear at the track. You know how you can sweat out the brow of your favorite hat and it gets that nasty sweat stain between the bill and brim? One of these bad boys can prevent that all together! The only hitch is that you need to remove them after a day of use as the adhesive can get gnarly if you really sweat in it. One of our hats has adhesive left inside the brim permanently, but perhaps that’s because we left it in for two days. On goggles, you need to remove them right after use or they could damage the face foam. A pack of 20 costs $13.99. Visit waragainstsweat.com
Well, friends, that’s it for this week’s edition of Monday Kickstart. We’re headed to East Rutherford, New Jersey, this weekend for the penultimate round of Monster Energy Supercross. See you there!