The only way to make any money as a freelance moto journalist is to go to the races, and I went to quite a few of them this year – 39 weekend’s worth to be exact! And believe me, I saw plenty of cool racing over that 39 weekends; everything from Supercross to Trials and everything in between. If I thought there was a chance to sell photos then I found a way to get there. This chance to go to the races every weekend gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of really cool people and to visit some fantastic places.The fact is I think I was actually on the road more than I was at home, and being on the road that much it’s hard to eat properly… at least that’s my excuse. I think I ate more airport food than anything else, and I can attest to this: the airport with the best food in the world is Memphis International. There’s a barbeque place there called Corky’s BBQ that’s better than any stand-along BBQ place I’ve ever been to.I kicked off my 2010 tour by covering a “biggie”: Anaheim 1. With my carry-on bulging with camera gear and candy bars, I headed off to California for the first Supercross of the year. There’s nothing more exciting than the first race of the year… all the shiny new bikes, riders with new teams and new gear, and another group of rookies hoping to make their mark in the big leagues. And for the techies: loads of exotic parts and aftermarket goodies. There’s lots of interesting stadium food (like meat on a stick) to be found, as well (Bonus!).
That first race is also when you find out who did their homework over the off-season. James Stewart, the pre-season favorite, took the win at A1, but only after a big time battle with Ryan Dungey. It was an awesome race and it was on that night that Dungey established himself as a legitimate title threat. For sure, Dungey came into the year fit and ready to go, and with Roger DeCoster and a talented crew of technicians behind them, Team Suzuki would turn out to be a dominate force in the premiere division.The following weekend in Phoenix was the race where Stewart and Chad Reed took each other out while trying to run down Dungey. Earlier in the night, Stewart went down hard in his heat race when he moved over into Kyle Partridge’s line over a triple and Partridge landed on him. The L&M Yamaha rider was carted off the track on a stretcher, but miraculously came back to win the LCQ. In the final, both Stewart and Reed got bad starts and collided in a turn while moving through the pack. The end result was that Stewart suffered a season-ending injury to his wrist while Reed ended up getting a $5000 fine and a one-race suspension from the AMA. Meanwhile, Dungey took a flag-to-flag win – the first of many to come.For me, the big surprise of the Supercross season was Kevin Windham. The “aged one” came on strong during the second half of the year, winning two races and finishing second overall. Man, K-Dub STILL has what it takes to get things done on the track and I might add there’s not a cooler dude in the pits. But after 17 rounds, there was no doubt who the top dog was, and that was Ryan Dungey. Over the course of the season # 5 elevated his game to a whole new level, winning six rounds and taking the title by 70 points.
In the Lites (or 250) division, Christophe Pourcel beat out Justin Barica to win the east title, while Jake Weimer topped Wil Hahn for the west championship.Before moving on to the outdoor motocross series, I hit the first two rounds of the National Enduro series in South Carolina and Georgia, followed by round one of the GNCC series in Florida. Charlie Mullins and Cory Buttrick, two riders new to the Enduro series, surprised the series regulars by taking the opening two wins – Mullins with the win in South Carolina, and Buttrick with the win in Georgia. It’s unusual for a rider to come into the super tight, single-track trail found in eastern Enduros and do well right off the bat, but that’s exactly what happened. Perhaps this was a function of the new rules put in place three years ago by the NEPG, which totally eliminated the need for time keeping and turned the format into an all-out check-to-check race (BTW, David Knight rode the Alligator Enduro in Florida and he told me he liked the format batter that World Enduro!). Knighter dropped out when he drowned out in a deep water hole.A highlight of the Enduro series was a rare trip to Maine for a rather rocky event that was won by defending champ Russell Bobbitt – his only win of the year. This was Mullins’s worst performance of the season with a fifth. By the way, the clam chowder out there was to die for.
Wrapping things up with the Enduro series, Mullins ended up taking the title by virtue of six wins in 10 rounds while competing on a 2009 privateer Yamaha. I say privateer because Mullins got his bikes from a dealer – Obermeyer Yamaha – and didn’t get a salary all year and that pretty much qualifies you as a privateer. He stuck with the ’09 all year because it was a proven bike, they had a good stock of parts, and Mullins’ mindset was, “why change a good thing?”As for the GNCC series, both Mullins and Buttrick were players in that, as well. But it was Suzuki rider Josh Strang (from Australia) who eventually came out on top of a seesaw battle for the championship, coming on strong in the end to clinch the title over Mullins with one race left on the schedule.The race that sticks out most in my mind was the John Penton GNCC in Ohio, a super muddy affair that was won by Buttrick. That event is almost always a mudfest and this year it was down right nasty, but a wicked race to watch!
BTW, most off-road races are held way out in the sticks, so you end up eating a lot of convenience store food. Really not that bad though… I did have the pleasure of eating a home cooked (motorhome cooked) meal a few times, courtesy of Valerie Buttrick, Cory’s mom, and that made up for all the microwave burritos from the Quick Stop.Next week: the outdoor motocross series and beyond.Have a Merry Christmas and save me some chocolates.