Friday, February 17, 2017

The Others...Arlington

They say that everything is bigger in Texas and it may have been the big full moon over the weekend that put an ora over AT&T Stadium. As Round 6 of the Monster Energy Supercross series took over Arlington, Texas the sun gleamed through the stadium pores and a late day race of chaos began.

If it could go wrong, it seemed to. We saw big crashes in qualifying and heat races but that was just the start of it. Small mistakes had riders like Jason Anderson and Jake Weimer picking themselves off the dirt. Kyle Chisholm escaped disaster after rear ending the 240 of Bryce Stewart without crashing. RCH backed Jake Wiemer would take a trip to the LCQ after a collision with Brady Kiesel and pit stops became a normal thing as Chad Reed and Blake Baggett suffered unknown issues, Eli Tomac had problems with the front of his Kawasaki and Cooper Webb struggled with a flat tire. The 450 main would be restarted after Justin Brayton was knocked out in a first turn crash. The scariest crash came during a 450 heat race involving Kyle White, Colton Aeck and Cody Gilmore. Aeck received the worst of the percussion with injuries to his back and shoulder. Our prayers are with Colton during his recovery. Maybe the low moment of the night was watching Shane Mcelrath's 250 championship hopes slip away with bike issues.

The sun setting through the stadium windows was an added obstacle
We normally don't talk much of the factory guys, but I sit back a laugh at the comments you see on Ryan Dungey. The guy is a Champion. I'm not sure what is up with the number 1 right now, although he doesn't seem himself. Thing is, his worst finish on the season was this weeks 4th. That's why this guy wins championships. Ricky Carmichael said it best. People have called Dungey Lucky, but being in the right place at the right time year after year takes skill.

Top qualifying times in both the 250 and 450 classes were in the 47 second range. Justin Hill would set the fast lap in the 250 class while fellow Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac clicked off the time to beat among the 450 field. It's a pretty rare occurrence that the entire 250 class makes the night show but with only 40 entries if you attempted to qualify, you made the show. The entire class was separated by less than 9 seconds.

Heat racing gets the night going and sets the first spots in the main events. The 250 class heats were won by Troy Lee Designs/RedBull/KTM backed Shane Mcelrath and top qualifier Justin Hill. In the 450 class Ryan Dungey took the W in heat one while RCH Suzuki rider, Justin Bogle claimed his first heat win of the season. Only the 450s get semi qualifiers while the 250 class only gets an LCQ to make the main. It'd be Chas Reed and Eli Tomac winning their semis. Last Chance Qualifiers mean top 4 transfer to the main and all else go home early. Chris Alldredge, Scott Champion, Broc Shoemaker and Chris Howell transferred in the 250 class. Jake Weimer,Jimmy Albertson, Austin Politelli and Cade Clason were the last 4 in of the 450 field.

Come main events the craziness was just setting in. 250 points leader Shane Mcelrath had his Troy Lee Designs KTM out front early and looking to regain the red plate from Justin Hill. As the laps clicked off and the championship seemed to be a fight, the wheels would fall off for Mcelrath and bike issues would cause him to pull off the track and hand the win to hard charging Hill. Austin Forkner fought through small bobbles to finish a career best second and Aaron Plessinger would once again come from outside the top 5 to a podium finish. Marvin Musquin would make good of a restarted 450 main by grabbing the start on his RedBull KTM and never looking back. Marvin would claim his first career 450 win. Cole Seely charged the entire 26 laps and would finish 2nd. Husqvarna's Jason Anderson had a season best with his 3rd place finish. As mentioned earlier Cooper Webb, Eli Tomac, Blake Baggett and Chad Reed all suffered blows to their championship runs with mechanical issues.

This week we focus on the number 902 of Killian Auberson. The KTM rider from Switzerland has made the main at all 6 rounds of the 250 west championship. In Arlington he'd qualify 15th and make the main via a 6th in his heat race. After finishing 16th on the night, he now sits the same in series points.

Rider: Killian Auberson | Photo: Kyle Pesci

And now...The Others

5. 149 Tallon Lafountaine
6. 805 Carlen Gardner
7. 138 Blake Lilly
8. 283 Kai Mukai
9. 715 Kele Russell
10. 253 Aaron Smith
11. 962 Dimitri Rolando
12. 271 Kyle Fry
13. 948 Johan Nystrom
14. 976 Josh Greco
15. 277 Kordel Carl
16. 523 Miles Daniele
17. 648 Paton Knight
18. 154 Brandon Scharer
19. 240 Bryce Stewart
20. 321 Bradley Lionnet
21. 179 Jon Ames
22. 383 Casey Brennan

5. 374 Cody Gilmore
6. 556 Brady Kiesel
7. 291 Kyle White
8. 722 Adam Enticknap
9. 181 Dustin Pipes
10. 713 Chad Cook
11. 509 Alex Nagy
12. 645 Cheyenne Harmon
13. 606 Ronnie Stewart
14. 918 Michael Akaydin
15. 723 Tyler Enticknap
16. 88 John Short
17. 247 Teddy Parks
18. 75 Nick Schmidt
19. 313 Kyle Swanson
20. 708 Joe Perron
21. 526 Colton Aeck
22. 792 Bracken Hall

The series will now take its east coast swing. Next up is round 7 on the schedule but Minnesota will also serve as the first round of the 250 East Championship. Who do you have? Which privateers will standout?

-Kyle Pesci

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

Getting Off The Island

What do Heath Harrison, Noah McConahy and Dean Wilson have in common? They all started this season on privateer island. They each had the passion and drive to get off the island.

We hear many in the industry relate to the privateer community as privateer island. A tight knit group of guys who are very able to race a motorcycle. Many on the brink of night shows, main events and the consistency that may get them off the island. Some eager to get off for the first time and willing to do what it takes to line up behind the gate, it's a crowded place; deep with talent.

Heath Harrison had a successful 2016 season, especially shining in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 Championship. He'd make the switch from Kawasaki to a KTM 450 SX-F and find himself getting great starts and running toward the top 10. Come 2017 Harrison would line up in the tight confines of Amsoil Arenacross. He'd come out strong and win the first two rounds. The results would earn Heath a chance at putting the number 68 under the Cycle Trader Yamaha tent in replace of the injured Bradley Taft. Phoenix would be his first race on the blue bike and his speed looked to be there. Heath admitted the timing was a little off from his Arenacross to Supercross transfer but was feeling more comfortable every time he threw a leg over the bike. That would show to be true come Oakland as Heath transferred from his heat and rode to an impressive 10th in the 250 main. Look for Harrison to be a 250 Main Event threat for the remainder of the 250 West Championship.

Rider: Heath Harrison | Photo: Kyle Pesci
Noah McConahy has been steadily making a  name for himself. Heading in to the 2016 supercross season he was dealing with a wrist injury and contemplated walking away from the sport to help his brother run a landscape company. In the final hour JMC Motorsports from Noah's home state of Washington put together a small team for Noah and fellow 250 Racer, Chris Howell. McConahy's 2016 proved successful. He'd make 250 mains in Supercross and run towards the front of the 450 class during the nationals. Often being the top Husqvarna, Noah's name was thrown around when the factory team was without a 450 rider. The phone never rang. A new attitude and look on racing brought Noah to A1 on the same team but knowing he belonged in the mix. When Tyler Bowers went down with a fractured femur at Phoenix, Noah's phone would ring from the 51 Fifty Yamaha team. Making his debut under a semi at Oakland, nerves looked to get to Noah during qualifying and he'd crash...a lot. He must have got it all out of his system because when the lights turned on for the night show, the number 59 found his groove. After transferring from his heat, Noah rode to a career best 9th place in the 250 main event. 

Rider: Noah McConahy | Photo: Connor Moore
Dean Wilson belongs on a factory team. Seeing past champions struggle to obtain a ride is always a little mind boggling. This year teams would pass on a few as they filled their 2017 team rosters. Determined, Dean would start his season off on a privateer Yamaha. Like his amateur days he'd turn to his father to turn the wrenches on the number 15. The Wilson's would be found not under a factory tent but buried with "The Others" pitting out of an all white Sprinter Van. With the pressure on nobody but himself, Dean would qualify 18th and finish the night 13th in a stacked field. Through the first 5 rounds he'd make progression every week.  As weather and brutal tracks began to claim riders, names begin to be thrown around as fill in riders. Christophe Pourcel has been battling injuries and with  Husqvarna wanting to race the Canadian series an opportunity became available for all parties. Pourcel will take time to heal, then head to Canada to contest the Rockstar MXNationals. Dean Wilson has taken the reigns of the 450 left sitting next to Jason Anderson under the Rockstar Husqvarna rig. The transfer was relatively easy after Dean spent the past seasons with parent company KTM. At Oakland he'd qualify 6th overall and finish the night 10th, marking his first top 10 of the season. His trip to the island was short and we expect weekly improvements as the season progresses.

Rider: Dean Wilson | Photo: Connor Moore
As the season continues will we see the island get smaller? Who is next to find a way off and who may just find themselves drifting towards the island? 

-Kyle Pesci

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

The Others...Raider Nation

Damn you Mother Nature. Although we have been lucky enough to have the skies part come race time, the rain clouds have been a real pain up to that point so far this season. Round 5 of the Monster Energy Supercross Championship would again challenge the Dirt Wurx crew in Oakland, California.

The Oakland battlefield | Photo: Tyler Bailey
The last stop in California will hopefully be the last of the rain. For the fourth of five rounds the track would remain under tarps  until timed qualifying sessions. The track would be very soft and turn down right brutal by nights end. Qualifying challenged riders in treacherous whoops and sand section. In the 450 class Yamaha rookie Cooper Webb threw down a time over a second faster than anyone else in the field. Pro Circuit's Justin Hill would do nearly the same thing in the 250 class; although it'd be the second overall qualifier that was turning heads. The number 95 of AJ Catanzaro would put down a controversial fast lap that was number two on the time sheet and good enough for first gate pick in his heat race. Catanzaro rode the 250 "B" segment during round 1 of qualifying but then rode the "C" segment for his final qualifier, which produced his fast lap. Controversial but either way we were pumped to see a privateer at the top of the sheet!

Racing, it's what we buy a seat for and it was good in Oakland. The top nine transfer from two separate 250 heat races. Husqvarna backed Martin Davalos and the Rockstar Yamaha of Aaron Plessinger took the wins. In the 450 class it'd be the same brands on the top step with Husqvarna's Jason Anderson and Cooper Webb on his Factory Yamaha taking the W's. Semi qualifiers in the 450 class would be won by two guys who surprisingly didn't transfer from their heats. RedBull KTM rider Ryan Dungey and Kawasaki's Eli Tomac would both make the main via semi wins. Another unlikely sight is seeing factory guys in the Last Chance Qualifiers. 250 class points leader Shane Mcelrath would get in the main with his LCQ win and bring with him Justin Starling, Chase Marquier and Justin Hoeft, who made his first main. Dean Wilson would make his debut on the Rockstar Husqvarna team and make the 450 main with an LCQ win. rider, Alex Ray would make his 2nd main and transfer with Cade Clason and Adam Enticknap.

Main events were good! The track played part and the timed races just made the strong survive. Justin Hill would start out in front of the 250 field and look strong. His will would be challenged when a piece of debris on the track caused a tip over that'd close the gap. Hill showed his true colors and held on to make it 3 in a row. The podium was rounded off by Martin Davalos and Shane Mcelrath. Hill now takes over the points lead by 1 point. In the 450 class it'd be Ryan Dungey finding his groove at the front of the pack. When Dungey's KTM is out front, he normally has the race in the bag. For the second time in as many weeks, Eli Tomac was out to prove a point. The Kawasaki rider is on a mission and right now is the guy to beat. He'd come from 8th to hunt down the leader and take the win in convincing fashion. Dungey has a 17 point lead but Tomac has not ruled out a championship. Cooper Webb would have a career best finish on his Yamaha with the final podium spot.

This week we have to shout out Justin Starling. The number 71 made a switch from a KTM to a Husqvarna  by joining the JMC Motorsports team. He'd go out and get a career best 8th place. Decked out in Alias gear and a risky Denver Broncos helmet in Raider Nation, he made good on the new ride and should be a name towards that top 10 during the remaining west coast rounds. Hell of a day J-Star!

We'd also like to give a big shout out to riders Alex Ray, Noah McConahy and Heath Harrison who all scored career best finishes in Oakland. 

Rider: Justin Starling | Photo: Connor Moore

And now...The Others

5. 321 Bradley Lionnet
6. 138 Blake Lilly
7. 58 Chris Alldredge
8. 154 Brandon Scharer
9. 715 Kele Russell
10. 240 Bryce Stewart
11. 149 Tallon Lafountaine
12. 388 Brandan Leith
13. 271 Kyle Frye
14. 976 Josh Greco
15. 797 Robin Kappel
16. 523 Miles Daniele
17. 948 Johan Nystrom
18. 283 Kai Mukai
19. 383 Casey Brennan
20. 448 Broc Shoemaker
21. 805 Carlen Gardner
22. 962 Dimitri Rolando

5. 374 Cody Gilmore
6. 606 Ronnie Stewart
7. 181 Dustin Pipes
8. 282 Bubba Pauli
9. 740 Lane Staley
10. 291 Kyle White
11. 918 Michael Akaydin
12. 509 Alex Nagy
13. 792 Bracken Hall
15. 90 Dylan Epstein
16. 713 Chad Cook
17. 723 Tyler Enticknap
18. 251 Kyle Gills
19. 542 Johnnie Buller
20. 526 Colton Aeck
21. 96 Vann Martin
22. 801 Jeff Alessi
24. 85 Tommy Hahn

Everything is bigger in Texas and next week Round 6 should offer intense racing as Tomac sees his championship in sight and the 250 west has become a battle in the late stages.

-Kyle Pesci

This week "The Others" is brought to you by FXR Racing. Just clicmk the picture to check out the hottest gear on the market and the leader in privateer support.