By John Basher
PHOTO OF THE WEEK
Did you see the transfer that Kevin Windham did during the opening ceremonies? In the dark? It was huge! While every other rider pumps their fist down the start line K-Dub basically jumps from the finish line berm over a rhythm lane and whoop section. Whaaaaat! He deserves a medal.
MINI-VIEW: JEFF EMIG
MXA: Is there pressure working in the broadcast booth?
Jeff: It’s a performance that you have to prepare for. Now I’m in my sixth season of broadcasting. I feel way better than what I did in 2006 when I did a couple of the World Championship rounds. I was a complete basket case. Through hard work and studying I was able to overcome any nervousness or weakness. I’m much more comfortable now than what I was.
You’ve come a long way since your early days as a professional in terms of public speaking.
A lot of people don’t realize how my speech impediment affected my life. When I was little I stuttered and stammered so badly that I couldn’t even talk. When I rode my first Supercross in Anaheim in 1989 I won my heat race. I went wire-to-wire for the win, and when I got on the podium Larry Myers asked me a question. I couldn’t even talk. I remember fearing the press conferences so much in my early years. They used to have a microphone, and they would walk down the line in the 250 class. You would have to say your name, where you’re from, and what team you ride for. That was the most nervous part of the night for me. It took my confidence and shot it. This, of course, was only seconds before I needed my confidence super high.
You were picked on quite a bit for stuttering. How did you overcome it?
Over the past couple of months I’ve watched a lot of old races on Youtube. I watched my heroes from the 1970s and ?80s, and then I started watching my races. It was interesting to see how my confidence as a speaker changed in the sense that the better I did racing the better I was as a speaker. David Bailey used to be so hard on me, and for a while I resented him. Now I love the guy to death. I look back on his comments and realize that he was right.
It seems like you have a really cool job.
I pinch myself. How did I get here? I think it has to do with facing a challenge in life. I got out of my comfort zone. I also really love the sport, and I’m passionate about it. There is a time after doing 17 rounds of Supercross that I feel like I need a break. I get sick of traveling, and I want to see my kids and ride my dirt bike, and it gets difficult. Then I get fired up to do it all over again in no time at all.
How will the 17 rounds of Supercross go?
It wasn’t until the end of last year that there were injuries by the top guys. It will be interesting to see if the next group of guys will be able to get in and mix it up with the top four riders [Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey and James Stewart]. Those four guys are incredible right now. It’s a very difficult year to predict who will be the champion. It’s like rolling the dice, and that’s the good thing about it. I’m going out on a limb and saying that Ryan Villopoto will win the title. Am I going to be wrong? Maybe. But that’s what makes it fun.
I THINK, I THINK, I THINK…
I think it’s fairly obvious who the front-runner for the 450 Supercross title is. At Anaheim 1 Ryan Villopoto stormed away with the victory. Winning was child’s play for the defending champion. At Phoenix Villopoto again looked to roll, but a crash with Davi Millsaps left RV sitting in a sandbox. No matter, he still sliced through the field, going from 18th place on the opening lap to third by the checkered flag. In the process he passed Chad Reed and a fallen James Stewart. Aside from the opening lap crash, Villopoto posted the fastest lap time of the main, at 52.030 (Ryan Dungey was second fastest at 52.058) and quickest average time. It’s true that Villopoto and Dungey are sharing the points lead heading into Los Angeles this weekend, but I just can’t stop wondering what would have happened in Phoenix if Villopoto hadn’t taken a tumble.
I think you might want to bring an umbrella or rain coat if you’re attending the Los Angeles Supercross on Saturday. Meteorologists are predicting a 30 percent chance of rain. Since Dodger Stadium is an open air field, it could get a bit ugly.
I think it’s crazy that after only two rounds James Stewart is already trailing Dungey and Villopoto by 17 points. I bet that Stewart, as well as JGR, didn’t expect such a dismal start to the season. It’s obvious that James hasn’t found a bike setup to his liking just yet. However, the talented and hard working crew at JGR will get everything hammered out for Bubba. I just hope it’s not too late.
I suppose that if you pay $50 for a ticket to a Supercross race then it’s your right to cheer or boo anyone you want. But why boo?
I think it’s ridiculous that certain fans choose to boo James Stewart. What did the guy ever do to them?
Austin Stroupe has had a tough 2012 so far.
I think it’s more difficult now than ever for someone to qualify for a 450 Supercross race. Of the 23 riders that have earned points so far, five of those riders (Broc Tickle, Ryan Morais, Kyle Partridge, Nick Wey and Josh Grant) failed to qualify for one main event. Other riders, such as Austin Stroupe, Jeff Alessi, Justin Sipes, Jason Thomas and Weston Peick haven’t made a main yet. The class is stacked with talent this year.
I think the nicest surprise of the young season has been Jake Weimer. The Monster Kawasaki rider finished fifth at Anaheim and second at Phoenix. The friendly rider is tied for second in the point standings with Chad Reed. If it rains this weekend I’m picking Weimer as a top contender for the win.
I think it was pretty cool to see Randy Johnson, former Major League Baseball pitching superstar, shooting photos on the floor in Phoenix. Johnson, at 6’10”, was easy to spot. I spoke with him a little bit, and he seems like a pretty nice guy. It was his first time shooting a Supercross, although he joked, “I’ve been inside this stadium a time or two.” Randy pitched for the Arizona Diamondbacks for six years and won the 2001 World Series. The ?Big Unit’ wasn’t shooting photos because he needs to make money (reports say that he has earned over $170 million in his 21-year career). Randy is an avid photographer and wanted to try his hand at something different. It’s crazy standing next to Johnson. At 6’1″, I felt short next to him.
I think that I’m torn on Bret Michaels‘ participation in the sport of Supercross. It’s a great idea to have the “Bret Michaels Rock Hard-Ride Hard Award,” but that awful song he came up with for the Speed TV opening makes my ears bleed.
I think – actually I know – that a lot of people are happy for KTM after Ryan Dungey won this past weekend. I honestly didn’t expect Dungey to win so soon in 2012, because I didn’t figure that they had all of the bugs worked out. However, Ryan rode a flawless race and brought the Austrians their first 450 Supercross win. Bravo!
MEET “THE HURRICANE” THIS WEEKEND
Supercross / Motocross legend Bob “Hurricane” Hannah will be signing a FREE limited edition Matrix Concepts poster at the Dodger Stadium Supercross pits. Bring your Bob Hannah memorabilia also and Bob will be happy to sign that as well. To find Bob “Hurricane” Hannah, go to the Parts Unlimited hospitality booth at the Dodger Stadium Supercross pit area on January 21st at 2pm PST.
Get the latest SX news from Matrix Concepts at http://www.facebook.com/matrixconcepts and if our riders sweep the podium a lucky fan will receive FREE product.
MINI-VIEW: MICHAEL LEIB
Michael Leib has had a very intriguing professional career thus far. Now in his third year of racing, Leib spent the first two seasons overseas on the GP circuit. Things didn’t quite pan out, so he made the voyage back to try his hand at Supercross. Michael just missed the main event at Anaheim 1, but finished a promising 11th place in Phoenix. I caught up with ?#Belieb’ in between Supercross practice sessions.
MXA: Why did you decide to come back from Europe and race Supercross?
Michael: Europe came up as an opportunity to race and get my name out there. I wanted to try something a little different. From a career standpoint it was a bit of a mistake racing overseas, because my results weren’t quite there. However, it was a really humbling experience. I wouldn’t trade those two years in Europe for anything. The experiences helped me mature, as I was forced to grow up a bit. But after struggling for my time in Europe I decided to come back home and race here in the U.S. I’m using the money that I made racing in Europe to fund my own program. I want to give it a shot racing here.
Where did you stay when you were in Europe?
In 2010 I rode for a Kawasaki team in France. It was pretty difficult living there. I had a trainer, Jacky Vimond, that really helped me. Unfortunately it was a struggle all year long. We had mechanical issues, and I had trouble adapting to the different way of life. Then this past year I rode for Husqvarna. I lived in Italy, and I loved it there. It’s a very cool country. I also learned to speak the language. But then again I struggled with mechanical issues.
Now you’re back, and you’re starting to make waves in Supercross. At Anaheim 1 you barely missed the main event, but then you finished 11th at Phoenix. You seem to pick up the Supercross game quickly.
Anaheim 1 was a bummer. I didn’t know what to expect. I had a lot of nerves that I needed to get out of the way. I went into Anaheim and I didn’t really have any goals. I struggled all night, but I took what I learned from that race and went into Phoenix more comfortable. I know at the test tracks that I have the speed to run towards the front of the pack. I was happy to come out of Phoenix with an 11th place finish. It’s a good start, but it’s not anywhere where I want to or think I could finish.
The LCQ races have been wild so far this year.
Going into the Anaheim LCQ I had to race against Eli Tomac and Ryan Sipes. Looking at last year’s standing, Tomac just missed out on winning the 250 West title, and Sipes won main events. It’s super high pressure making it through the heat race, because if I don’t then I know I’m going to have to battle with some high profile names.
What are your plans for the rest of the season?
Right now I plan on doing all of the West coast rounds of Supercross. Financially I cannot do the outdoors by myself. Hopefully something pops up and I can get something going for the Nationals. I think that as long as I put in really good results then maybe things will work out. There’s a chance that Eleven 10 Mods might do something outdoors. That would be cool.
Who is helping you with your program?
Eleven 10 Mods is doing my engine. There are a bunch of people helping out this year, such as Rocket Exhaust, JT Racing, Renegade Fuel, Race SoCal, Milestone MX, On Track, Gaerne boots, EKS Brand goggles, Factory Connection, Twin Air, Hinson, Split Image, Motion Pro, R&D Racing, Dunlop, and anyone else I might have missed.