Pulpmx's Steve Matthes checks in from the U.S. every single Thursday, presented by Fox.
We’re four outdoor rounds down here in America and have eight to go. After this weekend the racers and teams get a nice two-week break in the series, which is actually four weeks off from the series and it allows everyone to reset and get hunkered down for the remaining seven races.
The series is heading to Budds Creek this weekend, which is a good track or a horrible track depending on how they prep it and which direction it runs.
I thought I’d give you guys an idea of what I see happening this weekend at Budds, so think of it like you rubbed a lamp a tubby genie named Steve popped out.
Pay close attention to the practice times at Budds and the direction the track is going. A couple of reasons why, if they’re running it counter-clockwise then the practice times become very important. When the MXDN came to Budds back in 2007 the GP guys made them fix the starting area in accordance with the other GP tracks.
What this means is that the first qualifier takes the first gate pick, second guy takes the second gate and so on down the line. The first turn (if run counter-clockwise) is a 180-degree turn where the inside gate controls the turn. If you’re a fast qualifier, you’re in luck. If you’re the dude in 40th, you may as well wait for the gate to drop and duck in behind the pack.
There are usually 10 to 15 good gates at every national where a holeshot can be pulled from anywhere. Not so at Budds Creek, where the Euros got their way and that means huge advantage to the fast qualifiers.
At least the AMA series switched up gate position as going off your first moto position unlike a couple of years ago so if you don’t get a good qualifying time, you can earn the gate position for second moto the old fashioned way – by racing.
And if the track is clock-wise, it’s a 90-degree turn that helps everyone else out but not by much. Since I’ve been going to Budds in 1996, I’ve seen four different starts and this one is by far the dumbest.
Don’t look for James Stewart this weekend. His hand/wrist injury prevented him from lining up in the second moto and the prescription for healing involves rest. I texted back and forth with Stewart this weekend and he puts his chances of lining up this weekend as 49 percent, so that means we have better odds of him staying home right now.
And don’t forget, as I mentioned, there are four weeks off after this race. So with the title almost out of reach, Stewart doesn’t have much to prove except to be healthy and win races. If Ryan Dungey wins the title with four race wins and Stewart wins eight but not the title, well I suppose that’s something to hang your hat on.
If Ryan Dungey is going to lose a race this year to anyone not named James Stewart it just might be this weekend. Dungey’s never gone that good at Budds Creek and it’s definitely not one of his favorites. Has he won there before? Yes, of course – he’s Ryan Dungey!
But more times than not, the hilly, off-cambered track has tested him. Do I expect Ryan to do anything but go 1-1 this weekend? No, but maybe, just maybe, someone can get in there.
The 250 Class, well it’s just too hard to decide what’s going to happen there. Each guy has had their moment to shine and each guy has faltered a bit. The four horsemen (Baggett, Roczen, Barcia and Tomac) have been the story so far in the nationals and far and away are the top guys in the class.
The fourth place rider (Roczen) has an entire one race lead on the fifth place guy (Musquin)! It’s been great to see and this weekend Tomac took his turn at the top winning his second race of the year. I thought that Ken Roczen would triumph at Lakewood, a place he’d been to before but it didn’t happen and actually late in the race he gave a position up.
And this weekend he was passed with half-lap to go for the lead in the second moto. Clearly, Kenny is struggling to close the deal. He needs a big race this weekend on the somewhat Euro-like track because really, he’s the only guy who has yet to win a race.
Good to see JDR KTM’s Matt Moss comeback this weekend after being out for a while with an injury. Matt finished closer to 20th than he did to 10th, but you got to start somewhere. He’ll be better this weekend as he gets more into it and really, that whole JDR KTM team needs to catch a break.
Matt has provided them with their best finish with a podium at San Diego, but other than that, PJ Larsen has been hurt more than healthy and Malcolm Stewart, while showing flashes of brilliance here and there, hasn’t been the same guy he was last year and what the JDR guys had hoped for.
We talked about him last week and the Aussie vet Michael Byrne put in another strong ride this past weekend and he’s going to a track that he really likes. Can he put two strong top-10 motos together for the BTOSPorts.com BBMX team? I say he does it this weekend. Right now, Byrner’s trending up with his riding and showing that there’s some fight left in the old guy.
Silly season stuff will be going on in the pits this weekend as we’re getting closer and closer to things getting sorted out. Looks like Jake Weimer and Trey Canard are going back to Kawasaki and Honda respectively so they’re out. Ryan Villopoto still doesn’t have a deal, but I’d bet on him going back to Kawasaki despite some interest from Honda.
Dean Wilson wants to go to the 450s and I heard he rode a JGR Yamaha, but in my mind, with Weimer signing, that leaves a spot open for Dean to go back to Pro Circuit next year and finally get that supercross title he hasn’t been able to get. That’s just a few of the bigger names out there and some of the rumors that are swirling.
We’re going to see Brett Metcalfe step up this weekend. He’s almost won on this track before on a 250 and I think he can do something this weekend. Metty hasn’t been able to string two strong motos together since the opener and I’ve got to think this weekend he’ll turn it on.
There was a local racer from around Budds Creek named Kevin Crine who was a top privateer for years and usually put in his best races at Budds whenever the national would visit. Tragically he was killed in a car accident a few years back and for people who didn’t know him, Crine was a great guy and I knew him pretty well.
There’s not a time that I don’t go back to Budds and not think of Kevin and the fans leaning over the fences cheering him on. The guys at Budds have established a cash award to the top privateer each year at Budds and it’s named in honor of the ultimate privateer, Kevin Crine. Nice to see and I’ll be thinking about Kevin this weekend.