Feb 4, 2012

Just the Tip

Round 4 of a 17 round race series is about to get started. This is the beginning of a massive title bout, that is longed for by so many determined racers. To hold a #1 plate makes you the king over all other competitors. It is just a small piece of plastic that weighs less than a pound, but when acquired, it can make you feel like you are giving Roseanne Barr a constant piggyback ride. People watch you like hawks, they will wonder why you are not dominating and winning every race, why you are not in the points lead. Whenever defending champions are asked these nonsense questions, they usually reply..."talk to me in Vegas." Las Vegas is the last round and one that is far away from where we are today. At the time of this photo the riders are only 17.65% of the way through this series. I believe it is safe to say...anything can happen, this is just the tip. 

 For mechanics a supercross day is roughly 14 hours long and starts before 9 am.

Lars rolls the 22 bike out, ready to be the first one to tech inspection. 

 With tech done, he now does not have to worry about sitting in a long line later with the procrastinators.

In the early hours, team managers get a chance to talk, aka "argue" about industry politics.

If you ever travel to the far rear of the pit area, you will find the unsung heroes of this sport, known as privateers.

The race promoters cram these heroes in a crappy parking area to make room up front for big semi-trucks and "carnival like" games to keep spectators enthused.

They have more important chores to do, like set up WiFi for big race teams so they can watch the racing and results (or football) from the comfort of their lounge in the semi-truck.

As you walk from the back to the front of the pits, the privateer's vehicles slowly become more valuable, as if they park people according to their pocket book persona.  

 Personally if I was this guy, I'd spend a bit more money on my dirt bike and a lot less on my pickup. A 1996 Toyota would  work just as well, but then again, he would have to park another four rows back in the pits if he was rolling in a Yota.  

With some of my leftover cash after the 96 Yota purchase, I would buy some of these fancy billet titanium foot peg mounts...FOR SURE.

And then I would get me some of these forks. Oh and how I would just adore to have a caliper like that too. Eeeeeeeek, Man shopping is so exciting!

In the next rows up are the motor-homes. Fathers usually live on the road with their sons in these haulers, trying to fulfill one or both of their dreams.

In most cases, the dads are the mechanics for these heroes.

Some privateers (if they are making money) do hire friends to wrench on their bikes for them.

The next few rows of vehicles are made up of various  sponsors who supply a pit area for their riders. I admire how they gracefully give these heroes a spot to place their stands.

Most of the real estate of the pits goes towards big teams who set up entertainment centers to attract fans.

Like I said, entertainment centers to attract fans.

A lot of teams only have two riders in the 2500 square foot spaces that are allotted to them. Does it make sense? No.

Many times a guy with a huge truck...is trying to cover up the fact that he has a very small BBQ.

Honda Racing has been starting to help out more non-factory teams with some of their very expensive and unobtainable equipment. They send a recorder over to keep track of serial numbers stamped into such said equipment. I would too, if one of these engines ever got "misplaced" someone's ass would be chewed off. 

These engines are so rare and secret, very few people ever get to see inside one.

The side case looks like it is probably sand cast magnesium with an aerospace coating. If you notice, the water pump cover is held on with strong and light titanium bolts, but the clutch cover is held with lighter aluminum bolts that are not nearly as strong.

Honda also provides these teams with technical support, along with the fancy parts.

Honda has only 1 of their 2 factory riders healthy at the moment. Canard #41 has broken bones along with a handful of other top 5 capable riders who have been injured before the start of, or in the first 3 races of this long 17 race series. Pre and beginning season injuries happen every year, and every year the media talks about it, as if it's new and astonishing to them.  Meanwhile the wounded soldier's bikes sit on display, reminding spectators to pray for their safe healing. 

Some teams either want, or for sponsor obligations, need a replacement rider to fill an injured rider's bike. Since Grant #33 is injured his team hired replacement rider Mackie #333 and only had to throw one more 3 on the number plate. 

Berluti has his morning coffee as he waits for the return of his injured rider Tedesco #9. This waiting has been known to make grown men go mad. Seasoned vets like Berlute live for the intense vigor of this special job that they hold. A mechanic without a rider is like a man without a country. Hang in there Berlute, only about 34 more coffees to go bud.

The Ti Lube team mounted Sipes #82 on the bike of Blose #47 while he is out with injuries. I love seeing teams giving kids some good equipment when they know it would otherwise just sit and go to waste.

The bike of Morais #65 calmly sits and waits for his broken bones to heal.

This is the first year in 21 years of having a race team that Pro Circuit has ever had a full time premier class rider. I will not get in depth about it but it has to do with circumstances, contracts, and AMA rules.

Speaking of contracts, hot prospect Wilson #15 is shopping for a new one. Next year he will have to move up to the premier class according to the rule book. 

NorCal just isn't NorCal, without running into NorCal. 

The Reed family makes the best of dad's work schedule and finds some family time.

Then it's back to the office.

And always a gentleman for his lady.

Reed #22 has a stack of paper work to complete before tending to serious business. 

Chisholm #11 explains to his mechanic how his bike handles, or how he would like it to handle.

His bike has some nice parts, but you can tell the team is on a tight budget, from all the stock steel bolts they use, rather than the very expensive, machined titanium hardware of the factory teams.

As the riders go to walk the track, the volunteer flag crew gets a crash course on what their obligations are.

This is Shane, he's a great guy. It was in the year of our lord nineteen hundred and ninety six, in a truck stop McDonald's, on a humid and lonely New Jersey turnpike, he taught me the incredible outcome of dipping an apple pie in a hot fudge sundae. Thank you, Shane, It was fabulous until Mickey D's started baking their pies instead of deep frying them, it was downhill from there.

This is another legend of our sport, known as JT$, top racers follow him around in hopes of hearing any words of advice. And not only about the track but about anything in life, he is probably the most educated out of all Supercross racers.

Exhibit A

Dungey #5 keeps to himself and his mechanic.

While other riders such as Millsaps #18 and Tickle #25 chat it up about this week's track.

Lars is impressed with how veteran racer Windham #14 can simply close his eyes, and ride this track in his mind. 

Hansen #100 makes comments about the track to his team.
He then calls his team owner to complain about how he thinks somebody peed in his water bottle.

Villopoto #1 asks Weimer #21 if he had come directly to the track from the ski slopes.

These guys are either going to try and sell these fans tickets, drugs, or watches, or they might just rob them, It's Oakland, any of the above are very possible.

I love seeing a father tell his daughter how important it is that she stays in school.

If any of you have ever wondered what it's like in the tunnel below the stadium...It's crowded,


and dirty.

250cc Practice Photos

After watching Tomac #17 do a few hot laps, and even get a little bit squirrelly a few times,

I knew he would be on top of the board.

He glances over mid-air to make sure he is still the fastest.

This track had soft dirt and had to be constantly maintained by crew members throughout the day.

The face of the Triple had to be reshaped after almost killing a handful of riders from the kicker bump that had developed in the takeoff line.

450cc Practice Photos

Short #29 does his best butt whip. This should make novice racers around the world feel comfortable about their riding style.

Bel-Ray jumped the gun and brought out the ad plane a few hours early. I wonder how many of those 2 people up in the stands buy lubricants?

After getting lost inside the stadium walls after practice and hearing about a secret way out, I came across a gym and decided to stop and workout for a bit. I was in no hurry to get back to the pits.

This is why.

There is so much commotion going on that it's hard for a guy to think in here. It is close to an hour wait just to get an autograph from your favorite rider or celebrity. 

Everyone is giving someone advice.

Teams are trying to make final decisions about bike setup.

Bikes are being tuned.

Parts are getting replaced.

More autographs.

Pictures being taken.

Riders being tortured.

Spectators becoming Supercross Champions.

Mechanics carrying bombs around.

This stuff will melt the hairs straight out of your nose with one little whiff. 

Riders wished their buddies were here, instead of sitting home injured.

Supercross six packs stroll around.

RIders look unsure.

And content.

And confident.

When I notice war veteran truck drivers hit the ground for cover it tells me that opening ceremonies have commenced.

This is followed by a Hanny #100 whip.

A Kdub #14 nose wheelie down the start straight backwards.

All the way to the podium.

Some Reedy #22 fist pumps.

And for the finale it was Weimer #21 almost breaking his ankle when he tried to wave to the crowd while walking up 2 steps as the announcer grabs his wiener...Man, what a great show they put on.

Reed #22 tries to be patient through these shenanigans, as he is ready to battle.

Next comes the parachuters into the stadium from a helicopter with video cameras on their heads so the fans can watch their entry on the jumbo-tron.

The live view was better.

250cc Qualifier #1

The first start of the night is the one to watch, it tells you where the best gates are located.

The middle to inside gates would be where the best starts came from all night.

Davalos #31 would be the first leader of the night.

Wilson #15 soon became the second leader of the night.

Osborne #338 was chasing both of these front runners.

Rattray #28 would be the first wounded soldier of the night.

Wilson #15 held his lead for the remainder of this race.

Osborne #338 made a last corner "Hail Mary" pass on Davalos #31 for 2nd place...well played #338.

250ccc Qualifier #2

First turns can get rather cozy. Notice Tomac #17 hitting the rear wheel of Laninovich #232

 Laninovich #232 to the lead!

And roosting the hell out of Seely #34.

Tomac #17 had to pass a few riders before he could join the boys up front.

 He was laying down some fast lap times.

Very fast.

He blew by Laninovich #232.

He then headed for the leader.

He gave it his all.

But Seely #34 held on for the win, which by the way, the wins only values consist of starting gate position and a boost of confidence for the main event...still to come.

450cc Qualifier #1

Dungey #5 squeaked to the inside in turn 1.

He did not realize the change in the takeoff of the triple jump and had to pick his bike up mid-air to prevent some broken legs.

Windham #14 in 2nd.

Weimer #21 in 3rd.

Reed #22 in 4th.

Reed #22 made the pass for 3rd place on Weimer #21

He then started heading for the leaders.

Trying to make up ground.

But it was too late, Dungey #5 would win this qualifier.

Kdub #14 held on for 2nd.

Reed took 3rd.

He is the current points leader for a reason...

450cc Qualifier #2

This is what most of the people are here to see.

It looks like #7 Stewart is going to be in the lead after this start.

But he forgot to hit the brakes in the first turn.

This lets Brayton #10, Tickle #25, and Short #29 squeak by him on the inside.

It was soon Short #29 leading with Brayton #10 right behind him.

Tickle #25 was feeling the roost from these two Honda powerhouses.

Stewart #7 quickly got around the #25 and headed for Brayton #10.

He got up close and passed him for a second.

In the next bowl turn, Brayton #10 shut him down.

It took one more lap for #7 to make the pass stick.

He then headed for Short #29

He set him up, just as he had done with Brayton #10.

This time he went for the inside line.

And with a bit of contact, he made the pass.

#7 was now your new leader.

Villipoto #1 was coming on hard.

He also got by Short #29, but with a less aggressive move than #7 had used.

He started to catch the leader #7, in a hurry.

He went for a last corner pass attempt, but came up an inch short.

Anderson #44 won the 250cc Last chance qualifier.

Alessi #800 won the 450cc qualifier. 


It was Davalos #31 with the best launch off of the start pad.

Wilson #15 and Tomac #17 were right behind him.

By the third lap Wilson #15 had crashed and Tomac #17 past the #31 and was your new leader.

Osborne #338 was charging hard in third place.

 When Davalos #31 bobbled.

And Osborne #338 made the pass for second place.

Tomac #17 started inching away from the pack.

Wilson #15 was in the back of the pack and struggling after his crash.

Musquin #38 who started this race in 9th place, was now in 3rd and pressing Osborne #338 for 2nd.

With 3 laps to go #38 makes the pass and secures his 2nd place finish.

But the glory of this race belonged to Tomac #17.

He looked happy and confident.

Musquin #38 got to try out his English...while the trophy girl looks like she would like to try out some French.

 Osborne #338 gets congratulated by the T.V. host.

 Davalos #31 ponders his podium remorse. He went from 1st to 9th place in 15 laps...this never gets any good attention.


One thing, I love to do, is look at the racers' eyes while they are on the starting line. Many times I am able to determine the race outcome solely from their expressions.
Stewart #7 looked humble.

Dungey #5 looked nervous.

 Villipoto #1 looked confident.

 Partridge #83 looked happy as Dungey #5...still looked nervous.

 Reed #22 had to take a leak.

 The Michigan Mafia looked tough.

 Short #29 looked focused.

 Reed #22 looks relieved.

 The board girl #01 looked bubbly.

It was Reed #22 with a picture perfect launch from the gate. Just like the horse or dog races...I always bet on the one who does his business right before the race.

 His experience was apparent in the first turn, when I saw him brake properly to hold the inside line.

 He adjusted his helmet to get comfortable, for he knew he would be fending off attackers during the next 20 laps.

 He checks his pit board for data on his performance, or some encouraging words.

 Stewart #7 was in 3rd place and getting ready for a sprint.

 Villipoto #1 had just made his second pass of the race, and looked as if he had already started his first sprint.

 He was now in 4th and on the heels of #7 and #29.

 #7 made the first move around the #29.

 With the #1 following suit, and making his pass on the #29 in the exact same spot he had done so in the qualifier earlier.

 #7 was the first to tell the leader that he wanted his spot.

 Suddenly #1 was there to foil his plan.

 Soon they had pushed back onto Reed #22.

This is what we've been waiting for. 

It was Stewart #7 who started sticking his wheel in for the lead.

 In every turn.

This gave #1 an opportunity to make up some time.

He was looking for his shot to cut a corner.

In every turn.

This pushed the #7 right back to stabbing at the #22.

The #7 finally gained some ground.

The #7 moves into the lead right before the half way point of this race.

#1 tries to follow the #7.

Looking for a place to pass.

 getting very close many times.

But this would be the closest he got to second place.

He suddenly started slowing ever so slightly.

#22 had his 2nd place cushion.
 In years past, you would see #7 showboating on the last lap, if he was in the lead...this year, he cautiously looks to see if anyone is coming for him.

At 10:01pm Pacific Standard Time on January 28, 2012 , James Stewart wins his first Supercross main event since April 16, 2011. His trick at the checkered flag was a simple "thumbs up" to his manager in the tower.

 His manager is the first to grab the hand belonging to the "man of the evening."

The young mans father is the second person to congratulate his son with a handful of emotion that seemed to lift some weight off of his chest.

His mechanic is the third person allowed to congratulate his rider.

Reed #22 was not happy with his 2nd place performance. In his words "I rode like a guuuurrrrrrl." In my thoughts...He is now tied for the points lead and we are still 5 laps away from being exactly one quarter of the way through this championship series...he's sitting good and is way better off than if he had pushed a little too hard and ended up on the ground. I believe his unhappiness on the podium was a result of the fact that this race was his to lose for 9 laps...and he lost it...then it was his to take for 11 laps...and he could not take it. 

 All day Villopoto #2 was the fastest rider on this track. His slowing at the end of the race made me curious so I moseyed on over to see if there was a problem, at my arrival I overheard a team member ask him, "What happened?" I could not hear his reply clearly, it was either..."The mire was going away." or "The totor was going away." Like I said, I could not hear clearly...maybe one of the many media reporters that were on hand found out what was "going away?"

On the podium, he reminds everyone to drink their Monster Energy.

#7 looks happy, #22 looks pissed, and #1 looks like something kept him from winning.

Stewart gives his victory longing money man a champagne shower with a "how do ya like them apples" look on his face.

He shares the shower with his manager.

Reed's team watches as he pours their champagne on the ground...there will be no celebrating 2nd places in this camp.
I can only hope that they left the track on this night remembering, that there is still three quarters of this very long and hard series to go...all that we have received so far is "just the tip."