Features 31 May 2012

The Matthes Report: 21

Pulpmx's Steve Matthes checks in from the U.S. every single Thursday, presented by Fox.

And we thought round one of the 2012 AMA nationals was something special. With the series heading into Texas for round two, we really saw what a great race truly was.

Suzuki’s James Stewart and KTM’s Ryan Dungey went at it tooth and nail for both motos with Stewart seeking out two moto wins to remain perfect on the year.

Dungey himself did everything he could to get by Stewart but the track didn’t lend itself to Ryan making it stick. The two riders pushed each so hard that they set their fastest time with two laps to go in the first moto.

In the heat, in the humidity of Texas, it was incredible to see. Dungey was faster on the back section of the track while Stewart was quicker on the front half. There was nothing for Ryan to do short of pulling out a bazooka and knocking JS off his bike.

The most frustrating thing for Dungey has got to be the fact that three motos in a row, Stewart’s made a pass on Dungey in the opening lap. Going into Colorado this weekend, this HAS to be a priority for Dungey. If he gets in front of Stewart off the start, he cannot let the 7 get by him so easily.

Dungey shadowed Stewart throughout the motos at Freestone Raceway. Image: Simon Cudby.

Some other thoughts:

– We knew that Dungey and Stewart would be the top two in the 450 class but it’s a little ridiculous by the margins that they have in front of third place. A minute-twenty lead over Mike Alessi on a track where the lap times were just over two minutes is just insane.

And Alessi himself had a nice lead over fourth place. And to think we were this close to not having James Stewart in the nationals. It would be a complete snoozer if just Ryan was out front and killing it. Stewart and Dungey are taking it to another level and the other guys can’t even come close.

– As good as Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett rode at Hangtown coming from the back in moto one to grab the win with a half-lap left and then destroy them in the second moto, Honda’s Eli Tomac rode just about as well in Texas.

Tomac was on another level as he sliced through the pack for a 1-1 ride that was as dominant as Baggett’s a week earlier. It’s a shame that Baggett, who went 2-2, didn’t get to start with Tomac or we could’ve seen a race as good as the 450’s. Can you believe that Tomac set a faster lap time than Stewart and Dungey in the first moto?

Tomac has had trouble with the heat before and Texas was going to be a turning point for him. But the question is, turning up or down? Well it turns out it was up and going into his home state of Colorado, Tomac’s got to keep the momentum going.

– There’s nothing wrong with KTM’s Ken Roczen. I keep hearing from people in the pits that Roczen not winning so far has been a disappointment but that’s pretty amazing to me. Two races, two third places and Roczen’s been pretty good.

He’s lost touch of Baggett and Tomac at each of the first two races but he’s never been to either of the races racing against racers that have more experience than him and he’s been on the box both times.

Sheesh, what more do people want? He’s going into Colorado this weekend, a track that he’s at least raced on (and did well on) at the 2010 MXDN.

Eli Tomac's pace was blistering in the Texas heat. Image: Simon Cudby.

– TLD Honda called up Jesse Nelson to replace injured Cole Seely right before the outdoors started and Nelson, who was planning to remain amateur for this year, got thrown into the wolves at Hangtown and did pretty well.

I heard from a few people that Hangtown was his hometown track and that would be his best performance of the year. Well, scratch that as the kid holeshot both motos and led for a while in the first one.

He ended the day seventh overall and by far was the biggest surprise in the 250 class at Texas. Man, just everywhere you turn there are fast amateur racers that can run with the pros.

– Jake Weimer was very good, coming from outside the top five to get a podium in the 450 class. Second moto he crashed in the first turn and had to come through the pack the hard way. A fourth overall on the day had to make him and Kawasaki happy.

After the race, Weimer was telling me that the track wasn’t as rough as it has been in the past (something that was done on purpose to try and combat the heat) and therefore made passing pretty tough (ask Ryan Dungey about that) although you’d never know it by watching Weimer in the second moto.

– I see that the 2013 Honda CRF450 was released and as usual for the red guys, the bikes definitely pretty trick. A Kayaba air fork out front, all new chassis design, twin-muffler design and new bodywork highlight the bike. It’s a gorgeous bike as well although I suppose beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

I have to wonder if the bikes are getting to be too much going on for the average consumer. Did we really need an air fork? I understand at the pro racing level that you do but at a level where some of my buddies don’t even check their sag?

Anyways, I really thought we’d see the hydraulic clutch on the production bike as the ones that the race teams use is such a production looking item but oh well. Anyways, technology is happening and get onboard!