Man I am feelin' it, aren't you? X Games, Lorettas, Surfercross and 4 races left for the MX title, it's complete moto madness this time of year! While others are chillin' at the lake or the beach, we are sweating our butts off at the MX track. Why? Because we all suffer from some sort of crazy addiction where we just can't stand it when there is a race going on and WE'RE NOT IN IT!!! I tell ya, I love this stuff. Maybe its because its all I know, maybe it's because I have been fortunate enough to have lived the MX life since I was 4 years old. Either way, I can tell you this, traveling sucks, being away from my family 40 weekends a year sucks, but the flip side is, I have a wonderful career in one of the greatest sports in the world. And that balances it out. I have my family at home and one on the road, and we all are weaving our way through life trying to be the best we can be and have the most fun we can have.
We just finished the 30th Annual Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship last week at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN. The one race each year that acts as graduation day for the young stars of American Motocross. The class of 2012 did not disappoint either, but only time will tell if riders like Justin Bogle and Kyle Peters will have what it takes to make the transition from amateur championships to become The Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Champion.
That got me to thinking about the top 3 riders in 250 and 450 classes. What type of amateur careers did they have? Is there ever a "sure thing?" Not in my experience. I mean, I know what my career was like, and not once as I was progressing through my career did I think to myself, "I got this!" It was a series of obstacles to overcome and small goals that I would work towards to eventually reach the ultimate goal, the Championship. Much like Bogle and Peters will do this week, I too decided to jump into the deep end and race some nationals right after Lorettas. Not only is the pool deep, but man it can be cold too! Washougal 1988 was my first AMA pro race, got the holeshot in moto 1 and led for 21 minutes, faded to 7th if my memory serves me right. I was so tired I could barely get dressed for moto 2. Training, what's that? Dad got me on the bike for the start of moto 2 but I had nothing left, I crashed off the start and then again on the first lap. I hurt my shoulder and had to make the long drive from Portland, OR to Kansas City, KS in the cab of our box van. Luckily I was still an amateur for 1989, that would give me a little more time to get in shape. Still, it wasn't until 1992 when i would really start training at a high level. That level of intensity and hard work would prove to be worth it when I grabbed my first AMA title in the 125 class (now the 250) at Budds Creek, the final race of the season.
Lets start with the 250...
Blake Baggett is a perfect example of what the American MX system can produce. i remember him as this little dude flying around the local tracks in SoCal, taking home trophies bigger than he was! Blake has been exceptional at every age level, but not a stand out like Carmichael and Stewart were. I believe it's because our system is developing a deep and talented field of racers. Still, the Southern California star sits 3rd in the championship with 8 moto wins and 5 overalls. Speed hasn't been an issue this year, consistency has. With 4 races to go history would tell us to bet on him for 2 overalls, but the question is what about the other 2? -17 in the title chase.
Tyla Rattray came from South Africa, and to be honest I have no idea what the amateur scene is there. which makes his journey around the world in pursuit of motocross championships even more amazing. Tyla has to have the ultimate desire and fire burning inside him to go from Africa to Europe, win the World Championship, then not settle with that, but come to America to challenge the world's best. This sense of self motivation is very inspiring to me. With 4 races to go his next goal is right in front of him, but so are the obstacles. -13 in the title chase.
Dean Wilson is from Scotland, via Canada, now lives in California, which is why we can't understand a word he says in his TV interviews! I'm just messin' around. I love this guy, he says whats on his mind and he doesn't hold nothin' back. You can tell in his TV interviews that he is so passionate about motocross and that he really loves it. Look, he is leading the points, but I know, and he knows, it's about winning. Dean has been so close to an overall this season but it just keeps narrowly escaping him. I look for him to be on fire at the 'dilla this weekend. if he can notch an O/A it will do wonders for his confidence. +13 in the title chase.
Now the big boys, the 450's....
Ryan Villopoto was a really good amateur mx star, but was often overshadowed by Mike Alessi. Since turning pro, Ryan has pretty much dominated every championship he has entered. not without overcoming some incredible obstacles though. In the 2007 250 title chase, he battled his Pro Circuit teammate Ben Townley tooth and nail down to the final checkered flag. It still goes down as one of the most intense title chases that I have ever witnessed. What Ryan has going for him this summer is that type of experience, just as he gained in the quest for this year's Monster Energy Supercross title. Ryan knows what it feels like to have this type of pressure every morning when you open your eyes and every time he lines up for the start of a race. 4 races, 8 motos, close to 5 hours of racing left in his quest to be the AMA 450 Motocross Champion. If he can do this, he will join me in a very elite club of racers who have won the Supercross and Motocross titles in the premier class, in the same year. No doubt that is great motivation. +1 in the title chase.
Ryan Dungey signed a deal with Team Suzuki a few years back to ride on the professional team and the crazy thing is I had never heard of him! Even though he won a title at Lorettas that year, he was off my radar. I'm sure since then there have been riders that were supposed to win, but haven't. Ryan is great example of how important determination is. As a young pro, he took a few beatings from his competition, on and off the track, and some by his own mistakes. Ryan has always been self-motivated and this is his greatest asset. Since those tough lessons he learned a few years back he has been virtually unstoppable. We all know he suffered a mechanical in Supercross that cost him 20 points, and maybe the title. Earlier this summer in the heat of Texas he once again had a misfortune where the bike cost him 25 points and the overall. Still through it all, Ryan has never given up, only using these disappointments to fuel his fire. 4 moto wins and 3 overalls so far this summer, but more importantly, he has the momentum. And I will say it again just like I did last year in the 250 chase, I would rather have the momentum than the points at this time of year. -1 in the title chase.
Chad Reed, the man who thought he could fly.... I could go on for days about how impressed I have been with this veteran over that past 3 seasons. Before that I though Chad was a bit arrogant and over confident, even if he did have 1 SX Lites title and a pair of SX titles. But over the last 3 years I have seen him mature into a man that I believe is our sports greatest ambassador. I am proud to be his friend. It's a great pleasure to work with him at SHIFT MX and Chad has had a tremendous positive effect on our business so far this year. But, thats not what its all about. Its about winning races. Its about winning overalls. Its about winning the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Chad started this summer with an incredible amount of success and luck. But lady luck took a turn at Millville when he went flying off the bike through the air with the lead in moto 2. Chad remounted with an incredible ride to finish the moto and gain valuable points towards the title. The 2 weeks off should have allowed him to clear his head, let the body heal, and get focused on the final 8 motos of the year. Chad needs to find the speed he has had most of the summer and ride with the confidence of a Champion if he wants to win the title. -9 in the title chase
I am really looking forward to Unadilla. Legendary racetrack. Legendary riders. Legendary title chases in the making. See all the racing action this weekend on FUEL TV, SPEED, and NBC. 1st motos live right here on www.allisports.com.
P.S. I taught my 7 and a half year old daughter to ride yesterday for the first time. I couldn't believe how happy it made her. I was even more proud to pass on the sport that I love to her....