By Jody Weisel
It was a long time between wins and Stewie could have cried, but he didn't.
(1) No more tears: For the first time this season no one burst into tears. In a year that had become embarrassing to the manly men of the sport and endearing to mothers everywhere, both James Stewart and Josh Hill stood on the podium and accepted the accolades with dry eyes. Unlike yawning, crying is not contagious, but you could have fooled TV watchers over the past six weeks. The habit has become so pervasive that Justin Hill apologized for not crying.
(2) Phil is here: Joe Gibbs Racing made some news early in the year when they signed Phil Nicoletti has a full-time fill-in rider. Under the terms of the contract, Nicoletti would get to race a handful of Supercross races as part of the JGR Yamaha team, but the rest of the time he would stay back at the shop and wait. Wait for what? Disaster to strike either Justin Brayton or Josh Grant. Well, he didn’t have too wait long, as Josh Grant went out with an injury and Phil got the call. Even more impressive, although only for 12 seconds, Phil holeshot his heat and then promptly fell off in turn two—taking out Broc Tickle in the process and slowing down the rest of the field. Phil eventually made the main via the Last Chance, where he finished 20th. Jake Weimer and Wil Hahn could have use fill-ins riders at San Diego as neither of them was able to race after suffering wrist and hand injuries.
FAST LAP IS JUST FOR BRAGGING RIGHTS AND WHILE IT GETS YOU FIRST GATE PICK IN YOUR HEAT RACE, SECOND FASTEST GETS FIRST GATE PICK IN THE OTHER HEAT RACE.
Ryan Dungey (5) and Chad Reed caught Ken Roczen going into the whoops on the last lap, but it all came undone in an instant.
(3) Dungey’s no-go policy: Ryan Dungey surprised everyone in timed qualifying by not putting in the fastest lap. Instead, he rode a load of laps and looked the track over carefully. Dungey said, “I just tried to do laps and not worry about the fastest lap time in practice. If you try for that you rush it. I just wanted to do a lot of laps.” It didn’t seem to hurt him as Dungey was still third fastest behind Stewart and Roczen. Fast lap is just for bragging rights and while it gets you first gate pick in your heat race, second fastest gets first gate pick in the other heat race and so on down the field, so the difference between being third or fifth isn’t more than one gate pick on either side of the fastest man.
(4) The battle to be last. With the reintroduction of the semis and the 22-man gate, the Last Chance has become a real battleground this year. At San Diego, Weston Peick, Phil Nicoletti, Chris Blose and Kyle Chisholm dueled for the top four spots—but they had to knock Aussie Lawson bopping out of the fourth spot to do it...and that is exactly what they did. Bopping found himself in the Tuff Blocks and 13th place with a lap to go. In the main event, Blose finished 21st, Nicoletti 20th and Chisholm 18th. Meanwhile, Weston Peick finished 5th, but the TV cameras never showed him.
(5) Weston’s income. A fifth place finish is worth $3010 dollars. Without knowing the details of Weston's bonus program, in the first six races of the 2014 season Weston has earned $13,710 and it could have been more, but he suffered two mechanical issues that pushed him out of the top 20. For comparison, points leader Ryan Villopoto has earned $41,750 in purse money (about $7000 a week).
WHEN ANNOUNCER JENNIE TAFT SAID TO MALCOLM STEWART THAT IT COULD BE A “BIG NIGHT FOR THE BROTHERS,” TAFT WAS OBVIOUSLY OBLIVIOUS TO THE STREET SLANG IMPLICATIONS OF WHAT SHE SAID.
Slick track six.
(6) The Stewart brothers. With Malcolm Stewart getting third in the 250 class and James Stewart winning the 450 class, the brothers Stewart became the first siblings to score podium finishes in the two divisions on the same night. But, the coolest part of the feat was when announcer Jennie Taft said to Malcolm Stewart on the 250 podium that it could be a “big night for the brothers.” Taft was obviously oblivious to the street slang implications of what she said, but the gathered crowd giggled and guffawed at her malapropism. And, in the end, it “was” a big night for the brothers.
(7) Where for are thou. This week only 46 riders
showed up in San Diego to try to make the 40-man field for the 250 West
class. And, eight of those 46 were more than 10 seconds a lap slower
than the fastest qualifier. That is 10 seconds slower on a 48-second
track. The 450 class was better this week as they got 51 entrants and
all but one of them stayed within 10 seconds of the fastest qualifier.
Everyone is waiting to see if they can find more riders when the series
AS GREAT AS JEREMY MCGRATH, RICKY CARMICHAEL AND RYAN VILLOPOTO HAVE BEEN—NOBODY REALLY WANTS TO SEE A RUNAWAY SEASON. EVEN A PERFECT SEASON, FOR ALL ITS RECORD BOOK CHARM, IS A DRAG TO WATCH.
Justin Hill celebrates.
(8) We love winners. The simple fact that James Stewart and Justin Hill won in San Diego is room for rejoicing. As great as Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Villopoto have been—nobody really wants to see a runaway season. Even a perfect season, for all its record book charm, is a drag to watch—and points to the weakness of the field more than the greatness of the undefeated rider. So, this year there have been four 450 winners in six races—and Dungey, Barcia and Brayton are waiting in the wings. In the 250 class Jason Anderson has won three times (but in high drama-style) and has now been joined on the win roster by Cole Seely, Dean Wilson and Justin Hill. For the fans, who you beat is more important than a mind numbing win streak. Doesn’t anybody remember how the fans would get up leave the stadiums or AMA National tracks if Ricky Carmichael got the holeshot. They already knew the outcome and wanted to beat the traffic—that’s not good entertainment. This season is!
(9) Deja vu all over again. The last time Chad Reed had fire in his belly was 2012. That was a year, much like this year, when Chad couldn’t find a deal. He put together a package with Pro Circuit to build him 2012 Honda CRF450s and went on a tear through the Supercross series—only to crash hard in Dallas and end his season. Flash forward to 2014, again Chad couldn’t get a deal and again Pro Circuit came to his rescue. And, just like in 2012, Chad went on a tear again. Let’s hope that his San Diego crash is not a repeat of 2012 and that he bounces back—sore but angry. Chad tweeted that he plans to try to race on Saturday night—“So, not the news I wanted. Three broken bones: (1) scapula; (2) collarbone; (3) T1; explains the pain I guess. Sometimes things don't make sense, it's that love/hate relationship you have with racing. But every Saturday night they drop the gate. In 6 days I plan to be there!”
NO OFFENSE TO DIANNA, BUT PERHAPS HER JOB COULD BE TO GO IN THE PITS AND TALK TO WESTON PEICK OR, EVEN BETTER, LAWSON BOPPING.
(10) Why for? Let’s be serious. Dianna Dalhgren’s
social media and twitter spots on TV are a waste of time. Does a TV show
really want you to stop watching the show and go on your phone, pad or
computer and send them a childish tweet that the viewing audience finds
stupid. Even worse, once you've seen an Instagram photo of a little kid
wearing a helmet while watching TV you’ve seen one too many (even if
that kid is spawn of Ricky). No offense to Dianna because she’s just
trying to do her job, but perhaps her job could be to go in the pits and
talk to Weston Peick or, even better, Lawson Bopping. Although she'd have to put some decent clothes on because her dominatrix costume violates the AMA pit dress code.
Ken Roczen is a powerhouse for 15 laps—then he loses his edge, but once he gets his focus tuned in for 20 laps, he's going to start winning a lot.
CURRENT AMA 450 SUPERCROSS POINTS STANDINGS
(After 6 of 17 rounds)
1. Ryan Villopoto.........126
2. Ken Roczen.............117
3. Chad Reed..............111
4. James Stewart........105
5. Justin Brayton..........98
6. Ryan Dungey...........94
7. Justin Barcia............89
8. Andrew Short...........72
9. Weston Peick...........53
10. Wil Hahn................52
Other notables: 11. Jake Weimer (50); 12. Broc Tickle (49); 13. Ivan Tedesco (46); 15. Mike Alessi (32); 16. Nick Wey (32).
CURRENT AMA 250 WEST SUPERCROSS POINTS STANDINGS
(After 6 of 9 rounds)
1. Jason Anderson.......131
2. Cole Seely................127
3. Justin Hill..................107
4. Dean Wilson.............98
5. Cooper Webb...........92
6. Malcolm Stewart.......89
7. Jessy Nelson............76
8. Shane McElrath........71
9. Zach Osborne...........69
10. Dean Ferris.............63
Other notables: 12. Dakota Tedder (50); 13. Jake Canada (46); 15. Valentin Teillet (28); 17. Darry Durham (21); 20. Austin Politelli (11).
Photos KTM/Cudby, Supercross online/Cudby, Travis Fant/MXA
Honda Motorcycle tests