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August 19, 2014

His name is Mud

By Clifton Kump

I woke up Saturday morning to an Instagram post from Josh Grant that showed the absolute downpour at the Ironman motocross national in Indiana. An unusual parity can appear at a motocross national when rain and mud are involved, and given the close 450cc title fight between Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen -- Dungey had made up 19 points to series leader Roczen in the three races prior to Indiana -- this development was all the more interesting.

In any form of racing, the start offers the single best opportunity to put yourself in a position to win. While I have only won a few races in my time, my wins only happened because I had a great start to go with the great pace I had that day.
 
With the way the weather and track were shaping up in Indiana, the start would be the biggest key to the race. Getting a good start in these conditions gives you a clear track, free of roost and other racers. It keeps the mud off your bike and your goggles, and keeping your vision clear is one of the biggest challenges at a race like this.

The start gate fell on the first moto and from my vantage point (the parts counter at Reno KTM, the best place to watch the races!) I saw that Roczen had a great start from his quality gate pick in the center of the line. Dungey, with an equally good gate pick, also had a great start, but the start straight curved to the right (a change from the normal left turn) so the guys had only their front brakes to slow them down.
 
This came into play as Roczen's gate got him more to the inside while Dungey had to drift wide. As Roczen entered the first turn out front, Dungey's drift led him into the heavy slop that had to be bulldozed off the track in order to get to a dryer base. Dungey slowed and almost went over the bars as the mud dragged his KTM 450 down and off the course.
 
As Dungey struggled to get back on the track, Roczen began turning his holeshot into a big lead. Dungey had a battle ahead of him, but by the end of the first moto, he managed to get into second place. Yet with Roczen winning, that meant Dungey had lost three more points to Roczen in the championship chase with only three motos to go.

Dungey could afford to lose no more points to Roczen in moto two. Because his first-moto ride was marred by the lack of vision caused by his horrible start, he had to get off the gate well. Unfortunately, the moto two start did not favor Dungey.

The gate dropped and Roczen had a similar start as the first moto, while Dungey was buried mid-pack. That was all she wrote for Dungey. He only managed a ninth-place finish as Roczen rocketed off to a second place behind Trey Canard. Roczen won the overall for the day with 1-2 scores and extended his points lead to 20 with two motos to go, getting back all the points he lost to Dungey -- plus one more -- in the previous three races.

Dungey has a big hurdle ahead of him at the Utah national this weekend. If anyone can do it, he can, and as we know from this weekend, anything can happen at these races. At this point though, it looks like the mud did Dungey in and Roczen played in it like his old GP days, effectively winning the title with a week left.

Still, Dungey and Roczen have put up a title fight for the ages this year. Indiana showed that Roczen put it to Dungey when he needed to, but Dungey may make things interesting again before it's all over. I can't wait for Utah!

August 13, 2014

Some kind of dedication

It's hard to imagine anyone having a better attitude than Trey Canard. After numerous serious setbacks and injuries -- including losing his father in a tragic accident near the end of his amateur career and breaking his femur twice in 2011 -- Canard still appears nothing but happy and thankful to be racing his dirt bike for a living.

I broke my femur once six years ago, and most days I find a way to complain about it somehow. But Canard hasn't just moved on from his injuries. He's also found the strength to contend for wins every week on the world's most competitive circuit. 

It was great to see that he took a moto win last week, and I predict that an overall win probably won't be far behind. Congrats, Trey.

August 06, 2014

The tracks of yesterday

Champion SpeedwayI was flipping through an old copy of Racer X today and came across a column by Davey Coombs that focused on forgotten motocross tracks. In it Coombs wrote about some of the long-gone tracks of his youth and also mentioned a site that catalogs what's happened to defunct racetracks across the U.S.

Thinking about old racetracks has always given me chills. It's eerie to think that a place can for years hold motocross races -- some of the most raucous and vibrant events imaginable -- and then fall dormant and mostly forgotten in less than a generation.

Sometimes these places become victims of development and get paved over; other times they simply get reclaimed by nature. But whatever their fate, I feel a profound sadness whenever I consider areas that once echoed with the sounds of motocross ... but now sit silent.

The photo above is of the remains of Champion Speedway in Carson City in 2005, a few months after the track closed. The closure of Champion (which was prompted by operators who no longer wished to battle with contentious nearby property owners) was one of the sadder closures I've ever experienced, and it remains heartbreaking today given that the track was, last I checked, never really developed after the closure. Though the obstacles and infrastructure of the facility are long gone, the essential landscape remains as it was shortly after the last race ran there nine years ago.

Still, it's far from the only forgotten track I have a soft spot for. Also on my list:

  • DeAnza Cycle Park. This Sunnymead, California circuit is special to me because it was the first place I ever won a race. Years later, it closed after it was reportedly discovered to be the habitat of a rare bird. 
  • The original Winnemucca track (Jungo Road). Though I enjoy its replacement in Winnemucca, this course had fantastic elevation changes and a unique mix of sand and loam. The layouts were always fun too. I have to admit I have no idea why this facility no longer hosts races.
  • Lake Huron. Though I only raced here once as a 60cc rider, that track seemed like a very big deal at the time, so its closure a few years after I raced there struck me as odd. Also, it meant I'd never get a chance at redemption there. (I didn't exactly light the place on fire during my first visit.)
  • Indian Dunes. OK, so I never raced at this historic Southern California circuit. It closed in 1985 when I was just 4. But I did ride my first three-wheeler there (with help from my dad), and I watched my older brother race there numerous times -- experiences that deserve much of the credit for sparking my interest in motocross.
  • The Alamotocross.  So maybe this wasn't a great track in the strictest sense. Its dirt was average and the layout was as flat as a pancake. Yet I still have plenty of great memories from the short time it ran, and it was pretty cool to have a track not too far from downtown Sparks.

In the end, it's natural that motocross tracks come and go. There are numerous reasons why tracks fail and thereby recede into our memories. But as long as new tracks appear, giving us places to make new memories, there's no real reason to lament their passing.

July 30, 2014

Bullet (to the heart)

Story by Clifton Kump

Last weekend in Washougal, Washington, Marvin Musquin laid the hammer down on his competition and put together a dominant performance. The picturesque track must've played to Marvin's strengths, because he put together the ride of his season so far. He showed poise, speed, form and most of all, the killer instinct.
 
Marvin is a two-time MXGP 250cc class champion (2009-2010), and if you've been following the 250cc class over in Europe, you know that Marvin comes from a long line of notable champions.
 
If you know that, surely you've also heard of "The Bullet," Jeffrey Herlings.

Jeffrey was scheduled to make the trek across the pond to compete at the Unadilla national in New York in a little over a week. The hype surrounding the Dutch superstar was huge and the prospect of his presence was looming over the rest of the field.
 
When you consider some of the most formidable foreign riders to come to the U.S. in recent years, such as Ken Roczen (current 450cc points leader in this year's nationals), the aforementioned Marvin Musquin, Tyla Rattray and Christophe Pourcel, you have a who's-who of former 250cc GPcc champions. These guys competed or are currently competing in the 250cc class stateside. All of these men have enjoyed great success in the U.S. and won races, and Pourcel and Roczen have each won a 250cc regional supercross championship.

What does all this mean? Well, one of the big stories of the summer was Jeffrey heading to the U.S. to take a bite out of our American boys' rear ends. He had been hyping himself up, talking enough smack to make the target on his back an even bigger one than it already is, given that he was 250cc MXGP champion two years straight. The Bullet was in line for his third straight championship and ready to take on the best in the world just a few short weeks ago. Then, disaster struck ...

While racing at an 85cc charity race for his boss, Stefan Everts, Jeffrey over-corrected on a jump. He crashed and broke his femur. The Millville, Minnesota national was the week before the charity race, but he did not attend due to worries that an injury sustained there could affect his championship hopes. But Jeffrey was asked by Stefan to race the charity event like he did in 2013, as it looked to be a safe event for him to attend. It wasn't.
 
The entire world of motocross let out a collective gasp as the news spread that Jeffrey would have to postpone his trip to the U.S. and possibly miss out on his third-in-a-row championship. His teammate, Jordi Tixier, was second in the point standings at the time of Jeffrey's crash, and all he has to do in Jeffrey's absence is to score a fourth-place finish in all of the remaining motos and the championship is his. This is a disaster for Jeffrey on many levels.

Given the history of past champions in the U.S. and Jeffrey's raw talent and speed, he could've given our best a run for the money at Unadilla. He could've been up front and shown the world what he is made of.
 
Unfortunately though, we will have to wait another year for this, as his injury has put a bullet through the heart of race fans everywhere. Get well, Jeffrey!
 

July 23, 2014

Pay it forward

This essay is by Clifton Kump, who has worked for years at northern Nevada motorcycle shops and today can be found behind the counter at Reno KTM.

"Cliffy, I'm getting everyone a new set of Shift gear,” Layne said after calling me into his office at the shop. “We are a huge dealer and they are giving us a few free sets and you do a good job, so pick one out!"

When he called me from my post at the parts counter, I figured he was going to bust my chops for putting Richie's (who today is the owner of Moto Source, your MOTO source!) Troy Lee Designs mountain bike gear out on the shop floor, but this time it turned out well. I picked the gold stuff and man, the fit was perfect ... if I could just lose about 20 pounds. Always wishful thinking. Layne made sure we never went without. Good dude!

In the motorcycle industry, there is a culture of "paying it forward." What that means is that when someone does a good deed for you, you repay the favor to someone else in the future. Never have I encountered this pattern more than in my years being involved with dirt bikes. You really do meet the nicest people riding motorcycles. Well, except Harleys – but we will leave that one alone. I don't need any trouble, haha.

****

I told Ray Sbriglia to meet me at my place so we could get my CR500AF off the godforsaken hill that Russ Pereira had decided I must climb. Russ is a hardcore dude who puts everyone who goes riding with him through Hades. It is all for the betterment of the people he rides with, as he cares about all of them, even though he has a crazy way of showing it. I am a better rider for having ridden with him.

Anyway, Ray was off early that day and told me that he would help me out and tow my bike off the mountain and down to his truck. I had never been a part of any motorcycle "towing," so what did I know? Apparently not enough, because simply Ray towed me off the hill and circled back to retrieve my chain and chain guide. After that, I simply coasted that pig down to his truck, save for the times he towed me up the hills.

Ray is a good man for doing that for me and I still owe him dinner for it. Ray paid it forward that day, as I'm sure someone had done for him in the past. Let me know when you're ready for that dinner, Ray.

****

"Hey Cliff, is Chester in? I need him to weld my radiator and get me outta here. We are going to Hangtown tomorrow. Think he can do it?" asked one of our customers.

"If anyone can, the mad scientist can,” I replied. “Lemme get the phone to him and you can ask him yourself."

Chester chatted on the phone for close to 15 minutes about the job. He then told the guy to bring it down to the shop (Reno KTM, your local KTM dealer!) and he would get it done. Chester busted out the welder and welding material, pressure-tested the radiator, worked his straightening magic and voila! -- that Chester-fied radiator was as good as new. Chester called the gentleman to notify him and charged him about a third of the price of a new radiator. We had another satisfied customer.

Chester does quality work for less than average. That's his way of paying it forward to everyone that comes to call at his shop.

****

Brandon, my nephew, came to me and says his Tao Tao (or whatever Chinese garbage bike he has) won't run. It's a pile, but it's his pile and he loves it just as much as I do my 350. He couldn’t care less that it's rigged together with duct tape and Bondo, with a mish-mash of stolen parts from various bikes in his garage. It's his and I could tell he was distraught about its inability to start.

I scoped it out, figured out he needed a new throttle cable and ran to the shop to find him one that would fit. Big Valley Honda (your local Honda Powerhouse dealership) happens to have quite an extensive inventory and some buying power to match. I found a cable in stock that would work (it was originally meant for an old two-stroke) and drove back to my brother’s house. I pulled off the tank and installed his new throttle cable. Brandon was happy as the bike roared to life. He ran inside to tell his pops that his old roach was fixed and that he was going riding.

In helping him out, I paid forward just one of the good deeds someone has done for me while motorcycling. I couldn't have been happier to do it. It was the least I could do.

****

The cramping between my shoulder blades felt like my spine was in a vice and the pressure was getting seriously unbearable. I had been told by Russ to chill out and not get too crazy on that day’s ride. Did I listen? No way. The day had brought a bizarre chain of events. Russ had just fixed the stator cover on my CR250 about an hour and a half before, after I had rode it into a rock. He JB Welded it and carved a frowning face into the damn thing. He is a smart aleck that way.

Fast forward to him loading my bike into my truck and hauling me to the ER – about an 80 mile drive from Nixon. Russ was on the phone with my girlfriend, telling her that I am an idiot, but he was hauling me back anyway and she should meet us there. I had broken my neck, but Russ was there to get me to the hospital safely.

****

Most motorcycle shops will go the extra mile to help a fellow rider, and so will the individuals you meet in motorcycling. Pete, the service manager at Reno KTM, repeatedly helps 50cc parents with their bikes out at the track. He knows how it is, as his son Chase is a local racer as well.

Brody at NMS/Reno KTM, Jerry at Moto Source and even the beautiful and talented Tina Bodden at Reno Motorsports will go to great lengths to get you what you need. Go to your local OTHG or Club MX775 meeting and you will meet and mingle with people who have had favors paid forward to them and done the same for others. 

There are examples like the ones above happening all over our sport, industry, hobby, passion – whatever you want to call it. There are always people willing to help out. That goes for your local shop, club member or dealer rep, be it Calvin from Western Power Sports, Tony Partsalone from Parts Unlimited or the aforementioned Layne, who today works for Tucker Rocky.

Many of us experience hardships in the pursuit of our passions, but when those moments strike in motorcycling, you can bet there will be someone around to pay it forward.

July 16, 2014

Jim's Photo of the Week: July 16, 2014

You know summer has arrived in northern Nevada when every berm at the track looks like it's getting drier by the minute. Fortunately in this case, Justin Lydick (rider) and Jim Huebner (photographer) were able to take advantage of the situation, with the result being this excellent photo from last week's Exit 28 practice.

To see more of Jim's documentation of berms being unceremoniously destroyed, click on the photo below.

 

July 07, 2014

Thor MX riders at Mammoth

If you didn't make it to The Mountain this year, this clip from Thor offers a nice slice of the action.

July 02, 2014

Progression

Sometime in the winter of 1994, I opened a copy of Cycle News and had my mind blown. The black-and-white picture on the page was of reigning supercross champion Jeremy McGrath, and he was hanging off his bike in midair over a triple. The caption explained that this was intentional (answering my first question) and that it was called a nac nac, a move MC had adapted from the BMX world to celebrate his supercross wins.

My 12-year-old brain couldn't quite handle how cool this was.

It's hard to believe that that happened 20 years ago. Or, it would be hard to believe if we weren't witnessing midair moves like this today:

Freestyle MX slips beneath my radar a lot nowadays, but when I see how far these guys are pushing things, I sure hope they're bringing home commensurate paychecks.

By the way, if the time machine concept ever comes to fruition, I need to somehow ensure that footage like this never appears before the 12-year-old version of me. I'm pretty sure I would have had a stroke if I saw this.

June 25, 2014

Leonard "Butch" Stillmock Memorial Ride Day

Scott Stillmock

Story and photo by Cliff Kump

Fernley International Raceway, as it's affectionately called with a hint of sarcasm by some veteran racers of the track, this weekend hosted a memorial ride day for Leonard "Butch" Stillmock, father of two of the greatest sandmaster shredders of the Fernley track, Scott Stillmock (shown right) and Sven "Butch" Stillmock, and former WMX national winner, Sedanna Stillmock.

"It's been a great day. This is how my dad would've wanted us to celebrate his life," Scott Stillmock said. I couldn't agree more. The mood was positive and an estimated 75 people attended. People told stories, mingled, caught up with old friends and enjoyed a buffet-style pot luck.

The track was watered and prepped, and at one point, most of the Stillmock family was out on the track, showing the sand skills that mark their racing-bred bloodline.

Motocross and great results run deep in the Stillmock family. Scott earned national number 10 while racing the four-stroke nationals in the late 1990's. He also earned a top-six finish aboard his XR600 at the Glen Helen round while racing against the likes of Shaun Kalos, Ty Davis, Spud Walters and Mike Healey. Daughter Sedanna Stillmock finished first overall at the 1997 Glen Helen WMX national and fourth overall at the series' next round. Sven Stillmock finished in the top 40 at the 1990 Hangtown motocross national in the 250cc class.

Legacy is important and at this get-together, you could tell that Butch was revered and loved by many, many people. Local 775 motocross is a giant family, and this memorial reinforced that, even in the face of adversity, the family can come together to put on a great event.

"I love this," said Cassi Bussick, honorary member of the Stillmock family. "It's great to see everyone out here and the legacy that the Stillmock family has built over the years."

In a way, we are all part of the Stillmock family, as they represent all that is great about motocross in the 775.

June 13, 2014

Race report: Fernley, June 8, 2014

Story by Cliff Kump

Widely well-received track changes and warm temperatures marked the last round of the SMRA Spring Series and third round of the Club MX775 Battle Born 150 Series last weekend at Fernley. The race offered riders two opportunities to earn points, as it counted toward the series tallies for both sanctioning bodies.

This was a three-day event, with 16 motos total, and it garnered more than 250 entries for Sunday's race and great turnouts for the practices on Friday and Saturday. On Saturday evening, the desert winds in Fernley blew down the scoring tower for the transponder system, but the moto scores still came through without much of a hitch thanks to the back-up hand-scoring system. The Club MX775 team of Ty Erquiaga and Jeramiah Brown battled through a few issues besides the scoring tower, including an accident involving 85cc pilot Colton English. We wish Colton well!

In the first moto of the day, the 250cc Beginner class, Jacob Likes and Mason McCombs battled it out, with Likes coming out on top. Likes backed up his first-moto performance by the taking the win and the overall in the second moto. Brandon Jacober, a Reno KTM/Nevada Motorcycle Specialties rider, took a sixth in the first moto and a 13th in the second moto for eighth overall.

"I crashed and ended up last during my second moto, but got back up and charged as hard as I could until the end of the moto and finished OK," Jacober said. Jacober has been riding about six months and looks to be ready to move up the ranks very soon.

Jeff Simas took the victory in all three classes he competed in, channeling his inner Chris Fillmore on the fast, sweeping Fernley track. In the 30+ Expert class, Simas battled with 30+ Intermediate Kile Fye and 450cc Intermediate Collin McHaney before eventually getting past Fye and winning his class.

Take a ride with Simas around Fernley in the clip below.

"I thought the track was good," Simas said. "The layout is awesome. I really like it today."

Dean Wilcox, showing his signature smooth riding style on his Big Valley Honda-backed CRF450R, finished 1-1 to take the win in the 450cc Pro class. Dean said he liked the track and that its conditions stayed nice -- unusually nice.

"I like the layout," Wilcox said. "It has a few more jumps and it helps you stay busy. It was fast, as usual, and you can go to the outside, just rail it. I think it’s a blast. Awesome."

Colin McHaney was clearly on a different level compared to the rest of the field in his race, winning handily in the first 250cc Pro moto. But McHaney encountered some problems late in moto two and just barely made it across the line before Jeff Simas on his Tech One Designs/Troy Lee/Focus Apparel/Virus International/Mika Metals/X-brand/DT-1-backed KTM 450SX-F.

"I know he's a lot faster than all of us," Simas said. "I was catching him, so I didn't know if he had a bike problem at first, but it didn't look like it. During the last lap, he was checking up, looking over his shoulder at me, then barely crossed the finish line in front of me."

In the mini and pee-wee classes, Chase Cannizzaro showed why he is the talk of the town in the 50cc Junior and 65cc Beginner classes, taking a hard-fought overall win in the 50cc Junior class over Sam McCord and getting the job done with another win in the 65cc Beginner class. In doing so, Chase also clinched both the SMRA 50cc Junior class and 65cc Beginner Spring Series championships in his first year racing both classes concurrently. Chase is already a two-time SMRA 50cc champion, making this his third-in-a-row 50cc title.

Gage Wilcox, nephew of 30+ winner Dean Wilcox, showed that some of that family speed has rubbed off on him, winning the 65cc Intermediate contest, but not before him and Demetre Proutsos threw down with some intense battling. Proutsos showed him that the local boys can still stand tough, winning moto one before finishing second in moto two for second overall.

Nakana Domingo did the deed in the 65cc Open class, taking the win with 1-1 scores in a smooth and consistent performance. Ryder Tomaselli, Zade White, Rogen Hill and Nathan Riipi all mixed it up for the 50cc Beginner class win, with Tomaselli coming out on top via 2-1 moto scores.

Saer White battled with Kile Fye in the first 30+ Intermediate race, taking second. But White knew he had to get the moto win in race two to get the overall and achieve an even more important goal.

"I have to win the second moto in order for me to win the series," White said between motos. And he did just that, attacking the sandbox with urgency and claiming a series title in the process.

Patrick Griffith, 30+ Junior third-place finisher, said that the track was very good and that he enjoyed the layout, but he wasn't too happy with his riding. Griffith, a new dad, had to make sure he was home to do his fatherly duties later that evening, so he rode smart, had fun and made it home to take care of baby.

Overall, it was a good day of racing that continued the storied tradition of Fernley motocross, with a large turnout and lots of smiles. Racer Layne Kolbet summed up the spirit of the race in asking, “Have I told you how much I like to ride my dirt cycle lately?”