MOTOCROSS ACTION’S MID-WEEK REPORT
By John Basher
PHOTO(S) OF THE WEEK: PART 1
250 West privateer Damon Smith found himself in a precarious position during one of the daytime qualifying sessions in Phoenix. Smith, from Folsom, California, managed to get unhooked from his bike and walked away. It was a scary moment and it took orchestrating between Monster Energy Supercross officials to untangle him. To continue with our crash photo trend, it’s only fair to show a photo of Smith in glory, as well.
OFFICIAL HONDA WORD ON JOSH GRANT’S INJURY
Torrance, CA: American Honda announced today that American Honda Racing rider Josh Grant will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee tomorrow as a result of an injury sustained while racing round two of the 2011 AMA Supercross Championship in Phoenix over the weekend. With the full support of American Honda and his American Honda Racing teammates, Josh is expected make a full recovery and preliminary estimates indicate a return to racing in a few weeks. “Obviously I’m bummed about getting hurt early in the season but I’m also pretty excited because early test results indicate that the injury appears to only be minor at this stage,” said Grant. “I’ve received tons of support from everyone at Honda and I should to back racing in no time.”
DeCOSTER RATES HIS RIDERS: ROCZEN, SHORT & ALESSI
When “The Man” speaks, you listen.
MXA: How is Ken Roczen doing after his multiple crashes in Phoenix?
Roger: He’s hurting right now. He hurt his foot pretty badly. He’s hurting physically, and his pride is hurt a little bit, too. He made some rookie mistakes in the heat race. He should have never jumped that triple between two riders while he was in qualifying position. If he had been patient then he would have easily finished in third place. He decided to jump between the fourth and fifth place guys and wasn’t even close to clearing the triple. It was tough for a 250 rider to even jump that triple with a clear track.
Ken certainly isn’t lacking speed, though.
He has the speed, but he has to calm down and have more patience.
Ken Roczen has mad skills on a Supercross track, but his lack of patience has put him on the ground several times.
Do you tell him to calm down?
I told Ken before the race, but he didn’t seem to listen. Maybe next time my words will sink in a little bit more, because he’s feeling the crashes from Phoenix.
“Ken is going to continue on and at least ride through San Diego. At that point we’ll see.”
Is Roczen going to continue on and race the rest of the 250 West, or are you going to pull him away from Supercross?
He’s going to continue on and at least ride through San Diego. At that point we’ll see. He might focus on the GP series after the West goes on break after San Diego.
How is development of the 350 coming along?
The bike is getting pretty good. Andrew Short rode better at Phoenix, and in the heat race he got second place. He got seventh in the race with a fair start. There was a lot of bumping going on in the first couple of turns. He came from about 12th place to seventh. It wasn’t too bad of a result.
Mike Alessi can ride Supercross, but DeCoster thinks that Mike doesn’t believe in himself indoors.
Has the team put any thought into switching to the KTM 450SXF and foregoing the 350?
The 350 was the preference of our team riders. It’s our first year for that bike in Supercross. We basically have two months of development, and the 450 has six years of development. We’re doing pretty good considering the amount of time that we’ve had with the bike.
Mike Alessi had a horrible weekend in Phoenix and failed to qualify for the main event. What’s your take on him?
Mike doesn’t ride with belief in Supercross. He keeps telling himself that he’s not a Supercross rider, and it’s hard to get results when you think that way.
“In the U.S. it’s very difficult to be at your best outdoors without riding Supercross. Supercross brings you technique and speed. Even if you’re not the best Supercross rider it still helps you outdoors.”
Does Mike even want to ride Supercross?
It’s hard to say with him. He says that he does when I ask him. His best season of his career was in 2009 when he rode Supercross and we were working together at Suzuki. He rode the whole Supercross season. In the U.S. it’s very difficult to be at your best outdoors without riding Supercross. Supercross brings you technique and speed. Even if you’re not the best Supercross rider it still helps you outdoors. For the manufacturers Supercross is more important than the outdoors because of the people and the number of races. That series is more important to the manufacturers.
How is it working with Andrew Short?
He’s a nice kid. He’s very nice to work with. He has been good with our young riders, Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen. He makes them feel more at home here in the U.S. Andrew is a good guy.
I heard that the night before the Anaheim opener you were putting together a brand new dyno machine at the KTM race shop. It sounds like you’re burning the candle at both ends.
The whole team has been working around the clock. We are putting in many many hours. I’m really happy with our crew, and everyone is working towards the same goal. That’s what it’s going to take to get there. I feel confident that we are going to become a top team.
Andrew Short improved by three spots in the matter of two weeks. The team will continue to improve the 350SXF.
What do you expect out of your team riders?
I expect a full effort. This is the first year that KTM is attacking Supercross, and it’s not going to be easy. Ken [Roczen] has the potential to win races, but he needs to calm down. He’s only 16 and he just finished his second Supercross race. He qualified fastest an Anaheim and then second fastest in Phoenix. He just needs to work on being more patient.
What about Mike Alessi?
He needs to start believing that he can ride Supercross, instead of talking himself out of it.
And Andrew Short?
Andrew is a good rider. He’s not at the very top of Supercross, but he’s a good rider. I feel that if everything goes right he could get on the podium. The 350 needs a little bit different riding style. You need to ride it more like a 250 and take advantage of the 350’s strong points, which are changing directions quickly and cornering. At Anaheim Andrew rode the bike more like a 450, and at Phoenix he rode it differently and improved. Hopefully he keeps progressing and we keep working on the bike to make it better. The bike is pretty good right now, but it can get better. We need to understand more how Andrew rides so that we can make it the best possible bike for him.
LOS ANGELES SUPERCROSS: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Weather – Sunny, with a high of 70 degrees and a low of 48. Zero chance of precipitation.
Address – 1000 Elysian Park Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90090
Tickets – www.ticketmaster.com or call (800) 745-3000. Tickets also available at Yamaha dealers
Ticket prices – $75 (club level), $60 (price level 2), $50 (price level 3), $35 (price level 4), $20 (super value seats). All tickets are $5 more on Saturday
Schedule – Practice begins at 12:30 p.m. and lasts until 5:10. The evening program starts at 7:00. The best time to get rider autographs is from 3:00 until 3:45.
Pit passes – Recycle an empty Monster Energy can at the pit entrance for free admission to the pits, from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. with a valid ticket.
TV schedule – January 23rd (next day coverage): CBS Sports, 12:00 p.m. EST (9:00 a.m. PST).
COLE SEELY: “I NEED A START”
Cole is a member of the Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda/Red Bull/PPG team and has finished fifth and fourth. He’s in the middle, between teammates Christian Craig (left) and Travis Baker (right).
MXA: Cole, talk about your night in Phoenix. You seemed to do well, despite a dismal start.
Cole: I was the seventh pick after finishing fourth in the heat race. I lined up next to Martin [Davalos], and we locked arms coming out of the gate. It wasn’t anything intentional. We weren’t trying to get into each other, but in order for us to keep from crashing I had to let off the throttle. I came out of the second turn in 17th. By the end of the first lap I made my way up to 13th and rode my butt off to get to the front of the pack. On the last lap I was in fourth and almost got by Ryan Morais for third.
Was it a hard track to pass on?
It was hard to find places to pass, but once I figured out where to pass it was kind of easy. I got into a flow and I was able to weave in and out of guys. The track was slippery, but I liked that characteristic of the track. During the whole preseason I worked on throttle control, and it really paid off in Phoenix. I also worked on not rushing into my turns, and that was a huge benefit.
As you can see, Seely and Davalos (23) locked elbows in Phoenix. Seely still clawed his way back to fourth from a horrible start.
In the past you struggled with conditioning and would fall off the pace as the main event wore on. That no longer seems to be the case. What do you attribute that to?
Last year I could go for about eight or ten laps, but this year I can pretty much go the whole distance. At Anaheim I rode hard for five laps in the main, then sat into a good pace for five laps, and then rode hard for the last five laps. Tonight I rode as hard as I could for the whole 15 laps and I didn’t really get tired until lap 13. Once I got the two lap sign I knew that I could put the hammer down for two more laps. It’s a good feeling to be in shape and race the whole main at my top capability.
“I want to get a good start and show these guys what’s up. My weakest point in racing right now is my starting ability. It’s something that I’m going to work on. It’s a whole lot easier to work on my starts than try to pick up corner speed.”
It looks like you would benefit from having the main events be longer than 15 laps. At Anaheim you were breathing down Martin Davalos’s neck, and in Phoenix you were right on Ryan Morais’s tail.
It’s racing. I want to get a good start and show these guys what’s up. My weakest point in racing right now is my starting ability. It’s something that I’m going to work on. It’s a whole lot easier to work on my starts than try to pick up corner speed. I already got a call from my roommate, Michael Lapaglia. He’s a little ticked off at me about my starts, so we’re going to practice those this week. Hopefully at Dodger Stadium I’ll pull a ten bike length holeshot!
Speaking of Dodger Stadium, it’s an all-new Supercross venue, and for you it’s your hometown race. That must carry some importance.
I’m excited for it, but it doesn’t put any added pressure on me. Each race is a race. I don’t look at Dodger Stadium any different. It will be cool to see so many of my family and friends, as they plan on coming to watch me. The team is going to run some sweet Silly Bandz-colored helmets, which are black with neon. It will be a good time.
MILLION DOLLAR MACHINES: BIKES OF THE STARS
Ryan Villopoto’s Monster Energy/Kawasaki KX450F.
Davi Millsaps’ Joe Gibbs Racing/Yamaha YZ450F.
James Stewart’s San Manuel/L&M/Yamaha YZ450F.
Trey Canard’s Factory Honda CRF450.
NIck Paluzzi’s DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing/Yamaha YZ250F.
Ken Roczen’s Red Bull/KTM 250SXF.
Christian Craig’s Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Red Bull/Honda CRF250.
Josh Hansen’s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki KX250F.
Ivan Tedesco’s Dodge/Hart & Huntington/Kawasaki KX450F.
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DISPLEASED WITH THIRD: TREY CANARD
In his first two races this season Canard has finished fourth and third.
MXA: Trey, you didn’t seem very happy on the podium in Phoenix.
Trey: I was happy and thankful to finish on the podium, but I was really disappointed with the way that I rode. I thought I did really well in getting around Ryan [Dungey] and Kevin [Windham], but once I got into third I kind of froze up. I made so many mistakes and the track was kind of a death trap. Once I got to the point where I was comfortable with finishing third I backed the speed down. I was headed down the path to destruction.
What will make you happy?
I need to get more comfortable with the guys I’m racing around and realize that I’m capable of consistently finishing on the podium. Hopefully I get more comfortable up front.
Trey did a stand-up wheelie during the opening ceremonies in Phoenix in memory of his father.
You mentioned that the track was a bit hazardous. At times it looked like riders were using their dirt track skills to broad slide around the corners.
Yeah, it’s kind of the same Phoenix track that I’ve become accustomed to dealing with. It was very slick and the track broke down quickly. Up until this weekend I hadn’t made it out of Phoenix alive! In the last two years I had big trouble. In 2009 I had a horrendous crash, and then last year I had a big get-off in the whoops. I’m just happy to come out of this race without any crashes and stay healthy.
How is the CRF450 development coming along?
I’m so happy with the bike! We really didn’t touch anything on the bike all day. That’s very impressive to me. I feel very comfortable with this bike, and it’s a bike that I can continue to grow on.
“I want to bring some personality to my racing. I think it’s awesome to be a part of the opening ceremonies, and doing nac-nacs adds another element.”
It was very cool to see you do a nac-nac during the opening ceremonies. No one has done a nac-nac in quite some time.
[Smiles] I want to bring some personality to my racing. I think it’s awesome to be a part of the opening ceremonies, and doing nac-nacs adds another element. Every change I get to do the opening ceremonies I’ll do nac-nacs and get the crowd excited for racing.
You have the “King of Supercross,” Jeremy McGrath, teaching you how to pull off his trick. What does he think about you carrying on his trick?
He has been great. He even coached me. My nac-nacs have been getting better. He gave me a big thumbs down the first time I did one. Hopefully I get a thumbs up from him on my nac-nac that I did in Phoenix!
PHOTO(S) OF THE WEEK: PART 2
Much respect to two 250 West fill-in riders, Nick Paluzzi (DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing/Yamaha) and Jimmy Decotis (Geico/Honda). Both riders got the call at the last minute to race. Paluzzi is racing in place of Gareth Swanepoel, and Decotis for Wil Hahn.
PRESS RELEASE: MEET HANNAH, SMITH AND HANSEN THIS WEEKEND!
MATRIX CONCEPTS Offers an Autograph Session with MX Legends Hannah, Smith and Hansen
Matrix Concepts is pleased to announce that they have MX/SX legends Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, Marty Smith and Donnie “Hole Shot” Hansen all together to sign a free limited edition poster at Dodger Stadium this Saturday.
Come by the Matrix Concepts display (at Smith goggle truck) area this Saturday January 22nd from 2pm to 3:30pm. The MX/SX legends will be on hand in the Super-cross pits for photos and autographs, all in one place at one time. 1,000 special limited edition posters will be available FREE to everyone that stops by. Bring your Hannah, Smith, and Hansen memorabilia by as well for signing.
THE ONCE CANCELED ADELANTO GRAND PRIX IS BACK ON: MARK FEB. 12-13 ON YOUR CALENDAR
THIS WEEK AT GLEN HELEN RACEWAY