Thursday, April 25, 2013

RACERX - 30 GREATEST AMA MOTOCROSSERS: #28 KEVIN WINDHAM


It's been quite a year for our 28th Greatest AMA Motocross racer, as Kevin Windham called time on his career back in January, surprising many with his decision to bow out while still carrying podium potential in supercross. But it's been twenty years since Windham first burst onto the scene as the 1994 Rookie of the Year, and over the course of the last two decades racking up more points in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross than all but three other men: Mike LaRocco, Ricky Carmichael and Jeff Ward. He also amassed a total of 17 outdoor national wins, including some legendary wins over Carmichael in the summer of 2003 after coming back from a long injury.

Windham was known for his speed, his textbook riding style, and his popularity amongst the fans. But he was also the eternal bridesmaid outdoors, finishing second in the final 125 National rankings in 1996, then second in the 250/450 class in '99, '01, '03, '05 and '06. All told, Windham finished in the top five in nine different outdoor championships, and his 55 career podiums in the 450 class are second only to his nemesis, Carmichael.
Kevin Windham (14) has 17 career outdoor wins on his resume.
Simon Cudby photo

Windham decided in 2008 to trim back his racing efforts in order to focus on supercross and extend his time as one of the sport's superstars. Yet he did come back in 2010 as a replacement rider for the Honda factory team and won the Steel City 450 National. It was the last victory of his epic career.

While Windham never won an outdoor championship—an impossible task for any 450 class rider from 2000 to 2006, when Windham was in the prime of his career, but so was Carmichael—he must rate as one of the sport's all-time greats. K-Dub's total numbers show a combination of speed and longevity rare in a rough-and-tumble sport like professional motocross. That's why Kevin Windham is on our list at #28, ahead of several men that actually did claim a championship.

#29 - Grant Langston
#30 - Johnny O'Mara



Wednesday, April 24, 2013

RACERX - 30 GREATEST AMA MOTOCROSSERS: #29 GRANT LANGSTON


When Grant Langston landed in America in 2001, he was already a 125cc world champion. KTM had shipped the charismatic South African across the Atlantic Ocean in hopes that he would help them claim their first major motocross title in America. He nearly did it in his first year, overcoming an early separated shoulder, only to have his back wheel collapse on him two laps from the finish at the final round.
Two years later, GL's karma was much better. He became the recipient of some good luck when defending 125cc National Champion James Stewart was forced to miss the first four rounds with his own shoulder injury. That left Langston battling with his Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Hughes all the way to the last round, only to see the race at Kenworthys canceled due to flooding. At the time of the flood, Langston held a seven-point lead over Hughes, even though he had yet to win a race. He was crowned the 2003 125cc National Champion.
 Grant Langston came to America in 2001 and almost won a title in his rookie year.

                                                                 Simon Cudby photo

Langston would eventually leave KTM for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, for whom he would win four 250 Nationals in 2005, although injuries and inconsistency prevented him from getting the title. He then went to Team Yamaha, where he once again found himself in the right place at the right time for a championship.
Ricky Carmichael had chosen 2007 as the year he would transition out of being a full-time racer. He won all six rounds he entered, then took his leave at the Spring Creek National. That left James Stewart in the driver's seat for the title, but then he suffered a season-ending knee injury at Washougal. The championship was thrown wide open to the likes of Mike Alessi, Tim Ferry, Andrew Short, and Langston. Grant put in a fantastic sprint to the finish, sweeping the last three rounds of the series to claim the 2007 AMA 450cc Motocross Championship. He always seemed at his best in high-pressure moments.
Unfortunately, Langston would never get to run that #1 plate due the development of a cancerous tumor in his eye that robbed him of enough vision and focus to bring about the premature end to his racing career. Surely, he had many more great races in him, but that 2007 season ended up being is only full year in the 450 class. 

                 Langston won his only 450 title in 2007.  Andrew Fredrickson photo


But when you add up his twelve national wins and two motocross titles between 2001 and 2007, Grant Langston ranks as our 29th greatest rider in the history of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.
Tracker:
#30 - Johnny O'Mara




Tuesday, April 23, 2013

MOTOGP LEGEND VALENTINO ROSSI CARJACKS KYLE BUSCH`S NASCAR

Early on Monday morning, April 22nd, Kyle Busch – winner of the last three NASCAR Nationwide races – met with - Valentino Rossi, walking around the car and explaining just how the beast was to be tamed. From there, Valentino was given a headset and listened in while Busch put in numerous high-speed laps on the fabled oval. Upon pulling into the pit area, the two racers conferred with one another, Busch downloading information to help get Rossi up to speed as quickly as possible. When the moment of truth came - and like putting his head into the mouth of a lion - `The Doctor` climbed into the steel tube framed car, flipped the switch and the 358 cubic inch, 650-horsepower engine fired to life in a deep V8 growl. Rossi then dumped the clutch, fired through the gear pattern and motored out onto the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway. A superspeedway with four 24-degree banked turns, Charlotte is one of the fastest and most respected tracks on the NASCAR circuit, so this test was no joke. Once he got the car up to speed – around 185 miles per hour – Rossi became more and more comfortable, and in doing so, his lap times dropped dramatically. When it was over, Rossi removed his helmet and climbed out of the car with a big smile on his face.


“It was so cool to understand the feeling!” beamed VR. “I have a lot of friends from Europe and Italy who follow NASCAR. It looks like it’s a completely different type of racing than what we do in Europe and I expected something more like this –exciting, high speed and a great feeling in the corner. In the bank you have a lot of grip, so you are glued on the racetrack. It was great, I enjoyed it a lot. I love driving the race car, and I always have, so it was exciting to drive a NASCAR.”


Valentino added:  “At the beginning it was a bit strange because it’s difficult to go straight. But after some laps, I had a lot of confidence and I was able to go faster and faster and faster. I must say I got along very well with Kyle. He’s a good guy. I like him and he gave me a lot of important advice.”


Kyle Busch, the winningest NASCAR Nationwide driver in history (he has 55 career Nationwide wins), not only got a big kick out of hanging out with the world’s most celebrated motorcycle racer, he was quite impressed with Rossi’s NASCAR driving skills, as well.


“I thought it was a really cool experience and it also helps when you have two guys who are enthusiastic about their sport and have a good mantra about it,” smiled ‘Rowdy’ Busch. “I think Rossi is a really cool dude. We were just having fun, hanging out together. To me, I thought the experience was awesome. It’s cool Monster Energy brought us together, it was a lot of fun. Just getting the feeling of asking him about his sport and him asking me about NASCAR a little bit. Just having the dialogue there was good.” 


“And as far as driving the car, I thought he did pretty good. He started out a little slow, which is fine, but every lap he picked it up a lot. He got to where he was running some competitive lap speeds – times that would put him in the top-15 in Nationwide Series practice. That’s pretty good for a guy in his first start, who is just coming over and getting used to things and someone that is used to driving on two wheels.”


Coach Joe Gibbs, the owner/operator behind JGR found the entire day to be quite entertaining. “Well it’s exciting, you’ve got Kyle and Valentino – someone that is great on four wheels and someone that is great on two wheels. I think you can even see that everyone here gets hyped up about it too. I think it was a fun deal and it was a lot of fun to be a part of it. I thought Valentino did really well, as a matter of fact I’m thinking about offering him a contract.”


Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha, had his own unique perspective on the collision of two radically different forms of motor racing. “For me it’s really fascinating to come here to Charlotte, to the home of NASCAR – this is my first contact with NASCAR, ever – so it’s something I really wanted to do at least one time. To be here with Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch, that’s as good as it gets. To have Valentino mix it up here, experience the car, is a fascinating experience for him as well. I just saw Valentino when he came in off the track and even through that helmet, you could see that huge smile on his face. He’s enjoying it and I think this is really great. Thanks to Monster Energy for making this possible.”


Friday, April 19, 2013

A great weekend of racing is ahead


This weekend will be filled with great races and should offer something for everyone.  Off the top of my head I can think of 4 great races that I will be watching.

For me out here in Southern California there is the 39th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.  The action starts today April 19-21 and features the Indy Car Series, with such stars as Scott Dixon, Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal battling wheel-to-wheel on the historic 1.97-mile, 11-turn seaside street circuit.  Personally I would like to see Marco Andretti take the checkers.

NASCAR runs at the Kansas Speedway for the STP400.    The Roush Fenway Racing team looks fast and seems to be running well but you cannot count out Hendrick Motorsports or Jimmie Johnson for that matter.  A lot of the drivers have questioned the new repaved track but time will tell if this was a good more or not.  Personally I have to think a Hendrick driver will come away with the win but you just never know.  Who are you pulling for?

If you are a MotoGP™ fan you will enjoy the race at The Circuit of the Americas.  This is the first ever MotoGP™ at this facility and there as been a lot of debate over who is responsible for it.  I know one thing that is not up for debate, Kevin Schwantz will not be in attendance and that is a shame as the former 500 World Champ is a big part of Texas motorcycle racing.  Jorge Lorenzo took the win at the opener followed by Valentino Rossi and Marc Marquez and as of now Marquez looks to be putting in some fast laps.  Personally I am pulling for Rossi and I think a lot of others are as well so C’MON Val!

Supercross Fans - Round 15 of the Monster Energy Supercross takes place at CenturyLink Field in Seattle this weekend.  This is about as hometown as a race gets for the defending champ and current points leader Ryan Villopoto; ironically last year in Seattle, Villopoto injured his knee -- an injury which kept him out of the outdoor motocross series for the entire summer.  Do you think Villopoto will have this on his mind, if so he might want to think again?  Coming off arguably the best race for the win this season, Ryan Dungey is looking to keep his momentum going and looks to keep the pressure on.  With 3 rounds to go and and 22 points down Dungey is still very much in the title hunt.  Personally I am rooting for Dungey.


Enjoy the weekend of racing!