Mar 29, 2009

It snowed in Chicago and we have 4 Supercross races to go

Today March 29th, the Chicagoland woke up with a thick blanket of snow, so thick one of the large bushes in our backyard just collapsed under the weight. Unbelievable, at a time when I was getting exciting that Spring was settling in enough for the mountain-bike trails to dry a bit. An tomorrow the forecast is calling for 49F.... more mud.

Well, talk about being a non-consistent blogger, my production follows Davi Millsaps' Supercross results this season. After traveling to New-Orleans and St Louis for AGV and Dainese business events and witnessing the SX races in the Superdome and the Edward Jones Dome, I stayed home this weekend and followed Jason Lawrence's Canadian misadventures on the webcast (Holley and Weege's excitement level during the SX LCQ had never risen that high before) and through the live blog of one of the best citizen-journalists of the moment, Steve Matthes' Pulp MX.

New Orleans SX (March 14th)

It was my first trip down to Louisiana and, apart from a Friday the 13th flight down to a land of black magic and voodoo, I really enjoyed the trip and town. New-Orleans is full of history and character, has great restaurants, lounges and boutique hotels but still keeps an eerie feeling at time, with testimonies from Katrina's disaster. We were treated with good heavy rains during the weekend which was a bit of a bummer in the pits, although the privateers and some non-factory teams were pitted inside the stadium. The Superdome is a pretty big place but looked empty due to the smallish turn-out of 36,000+ souls. It isn't bad though considering the area, the economy and the fact that many didn't make the trip from TX, AL, FL, KY or Mississippi due to the cost of gas and travel.
Of course the shocker in the 250F was the non-qualification of Martin Davalos and Nico Izzi who didn't make the Main. Martin ended up being hurt when Lemoine landed/rode on his legs in their Heat and Izzi who faced some bad luck and bad starts, even in the LCQ.
Christophe Pourcel had 2 very bad starts but saved it with a good 4th place in the Main while Austin Stroupe did what he had to do and took the 25 points as he is trying to come back on his PC team mate. Jesseman (after a good manly pass on Wharton in the last corner) got a well deserved 2nd and Blake "Purple Rain" Wharton took his 1st podium of the year in 3rd.

In the 450 Main things settled very quickly with Bubba gapping Chad Reed and going for his 8th win of the season. The only exciting things during that Main Event: Broc Hepler's 1st podium of the year and Kevin Windham coming back from 8th to 4th, passing a few good guns on the way and melting the gap with Hepler. of course this is K-Dub's home and the crowd was cheering all the way for him, even when he was passing lappers, LOL! Maybe, with 2 more laps, he could have got by Hepler and make it a race. Not sure.
The Transportation Revolution, the Triumph,Ducati and Vespa dealer in New-Orleans, run by Zach and Max Materne and their parents did an amazing job with the AGV Open House party they organized on the Friday before the race. I was very surprised and happy by the good turn-out and results. If you're traveling to New Orleans, go visit that shop.

St Louis SX (March, 21st)

A Friday evening Parts Unlimited dealer showcase motivated my trip South to St Louis, home of the Cardinals and Budweiser (me likey). I drove down the mostly boring highway to Missouri, stopping on the way at Hall's Cycle, the Ducati and Husqvarna dealer in Springfield, the Illinois State Capital. Hall's is mostly an "off-road" dealer and probably the biggest Husqvarna representation in the Midwest. They told me they had sold about 22 Huskies in the last month which was pretty positive and motivating news in regards to the actually state of the economy.
Friday morning I visited Donelson Cycles, the oldest dealership in St Louis and one that I really suggest because they have a small Dirt Track and MX bikes museum in their St Ann' store. Very cool with some Penton, BSA, Triumph scramblers and more; definitely worth the visit.
I don't think that the Dealer Showcase was very good with a small number of dealers coming, despite the free dinner, the complementary VIP passes for the SX and the presence of motorcycle superman Travis Pastrana. But I would think that it is a correct representation of the St Louis region which looks pretty touched by the economical crisis and poorer than most places where I travel through.

Well, that was the big USP (upper selling point) at the St Louis Supercross, apart from the ongoing very tight race between San Manuel Yamaha James "Bubba" Stewart and Rockstar Makita Suzuki Chad Reed: the guest-star of the night was the guru of the Nitro Circus tribe, the #199, the Master of all Backflips, the fast, charismatic, crazy, ADD, super nice, entertaining, great-for-the-sport and the designer of the very goodly alternatively exciting St louis SX track, Travis "TP199" Pastrana

TP raced St Louis because he had a debt to Feld Motorsports after crashing his 199 Monster truck during a backflip attempt for the Nitro Circus TV show. The debt included TP's participation to 1 SX and to the finals of Feld's Monster Jam series.
Pastrana offered us 2 (two!) backflips during the opeing ceremonies and raced his heart out. It was awesome to see him again on a track and to see that he still has speed, despite his drastic lack of "race training". Travis had the speed need to make the Main but got unlucky, kind of crashed, couldn't restart the bike and ended up destroying his left radiator in the LCQ. His presence was very good for the crowd and the Edward Jones Dome was quasi-full. Rumor has it that TP is frustrated with his STL results and is planning to try again this season, probably in Salt Lke City, home of Ogio and Nitro Circus member Andy Bell.

Back to racing. One week after New Orleans, St Louis gave us another shocker and a good surprise to Factory Connection Honda when Blake Wharton won his first Main event (it is also the first Lites Main event win by a Texan - thanks DC for that info). Austin Stroupe did what he had to do again, trying to eat points away from his French team mate, coming back to second despite a bad start. CP had bad first laps but managed to finish 5th overall, controlling his lead in the series.
Nico Izzi was a very disappointing 3rd of the night. Why disappointing? Because I believe that he has the speed to win a Main but does not have the level of fitness necessary for that. In the first half of this race he wasn't able to charge on Wharton, never really threathening him for 1st and in the second half he just faded, giving Stroupe the opportunity to come back on him like an Exocet missile locked on his target and ended up throwing away the 2nd spot when AS past him with half a lap to go. At this level, you don't fade half a lap from the end of a Main: you crash trying, you resist until the end, you block your opponent, you ghost ride your bike of the finish line, you go find that last rush of adrenaline deep inside you for an extra 30 seconds.
Noticeable riders in this Lite main were Matt Goerke, Steven Clarke, Matt Lemoine.

We had a very exciting night in the 450 class (you can check my other log for some of the live comments during the race) but I know that you have already watched the race on TV, read the various race reports on Racer X and others.
Travis definitely designed a challenging track but I didn't think that Stewart would be the main victim of that very cool track layout. James went down twice in his heat, just making it into the main. He then went to pass Chad Reed for the lead in the Main and had established a nice 5 or 6 seconds gap when he missed a shift and crashed. Shocker! Chad got by and controlled the remaining laps taking a deserved win in Missouri and taking his lead back to 11 points with 5 races to go. Wow, is that a tight series or what!?
5 races to go, 25 pts for a win, 22 pts for a 2nd... Skippy needs to win 2 more races to seal the title; James Stewart needs to win them all. Anything can happen.

Jason Lawrence raced in St Louis (after missing Indy and New Orleans) and rode well and smart. he moved away for Reed and Stewart, not wanting to interfere with their race and rode behind Short in 5th for most of the Main, not trying anything stupid but after having parked Mike Alessi in the first laps. Lawrence has the speed to be a major factor in the 450 class and has proven that he knows how to race with his head too, when needed. I hope this gave him a boost of motivation for the last 2 rounds of the West Lites series when they roll into Seattle and Salt Lake City. Could he be a factor in the race between Weimer and Dungey? Maybe...

Toronto SX (March 9th)

Well, I didn't travel across the border in Canada but I wish I had because it is one of my favorite town in Northern America (with New York, San Francisco, Quebec, New Orleans) and I have good memories from time spent there with my bud Lorne White.
So I listened on the webcast and will be watching the CBS broadcast after I'm done blogging :-)
#377 Christophe Pourcel wins the Lites Main event and wins his first US title with the East Coast Lites 2009 Championship.
"Felicitations" to the Frenchy who is coming back from hell after being paralyzed for 8 months due to his dramatic crash in 2007. An example of determination, of work and believing in it. I have tremendous respect for Mitch Payton who believed in the kid and stood by him during the last year and a half, when Christophe was in recovery, trying to walk and ride again.
Stroupe finished second, first podium for Tickle in third and Izzi, once again had an inconsistent night.

James Stewart win in Toronto, Chad goes 2ndand Josh Hill rides awesome to 3rd overall! Great work for the #75.
So James eats 3 points back and we've got Skippy with an 8 pts lead with 4 to go. Gnarly!