Back to Red BudFriday, July 14, 2006 | 6:53 AM
In this article…
- James Stewart
- Mike LaRocco
- Broc Hepler
- Ricky Carmichael
- Jason Lawrence
- Ryan Villopoto
- Chad Reed
- Mike Alessi
- Tim Ferry
- Martin Davalos
Donald Nederman hails from Katy, Texas, but he is originally from Michigan. He made a homecoming trek back to Red Bud for the Toyota AMA Motocross National and wanted to share his thoughts and observations with his fellow race fans here at Racer X Online.
My Red Bud experience goes way back to the fall Trans-AMA series in 1977. I was there in the snow; yeah I said it, snow. Bob Hannah, my childhood hero, won in the mud over the likes of Roger DeCoster, Pierre Karsmakers, and Brad Lackey. I’ve pretty much been to every professional race since then.
My first race was at Red Bud. The weather conditions weren’t much different than my first Trans-AMA race. I made one complete lap around the track that probably took 20 minutes and we decided to call it quits for the day. I would return many times after that from 1979 through ‘84. I still remember Gene Ritchie yelling at the riders meeting about pit racing. He would say, “Mark Barnett never raced in the pits and neither should you.” During my racing years I have witnessed the dawning of some amazing racing careers, most notably Jeff Stanton and Mike LaRocco. My congratulations to both of them for their success.
Early the next morning, Joe picked me up and we met with three other friends for breakfast—T.J. Webb, Brad Wilson from Texas, and Stosh Klevickas—then we drove about 50 minutes to Red Bud. The morning weather looked gloomy and the forecast for Buchanan was “heavy showers.” It didn’t matter to us. We were going to be at the “Bud” no matter what!
Anyway, we arrived to pick up our pit-pass credentials, and we were stoked. I felt like royalty walking around the pits, checking out the rigs and motor homes. We saw the riders as they were lining up for practice and I kept thinking about what I would write about. I knew this wasn’t going to be a Pulitzer Prize-winner but I wanted you to know what Red Bud is like. Television can never give a sporting event the justice it deserves. I remember when Mike LaRocco won the 2004 Indy Supercross. I was there. The wave of fans cheering him on lap after lap was a sight to behold. I, like the many around me, was in tears when he took the checkered flag. I felt like I was a part of it. But when I watched the telecast, I couldn’t really hear the crowds or feel the excitement. It didn’t have the same effect. You really have to be there.
For anybody who has ever raced, you know that practice is practice. You can go fast and race with somebody, but it doesn’t mean anything. However, I did want to make our way over to LaRocco’s Leap before the Motocross class took to the track. This was my friend Brad’s first visit to Red Bud and I couldn’t wait to see his expression after a top guy did the leap. The first time I saw someone leap it was Jeff Matasievich way back in the ‘90s. Ronnie Tichenor was on the sidelines at the time and I asked him if he was going to jump it. He said, “No way.” To his defense, he was riding a 125 that day!
After practice they started the qualifiers for the remaining 30 positions left on the gate. We got a chance to see Ben Townley, who looked good in the first Lites qualifier, and Broc Hepler. The Motocross qualifiers featured Tim Ferry and Kyle Lewis in their respective heats. As the qualifying rounds were finishing, we made our way back to the pits to get a chance to see some of the riders prepare for the afternoon program. I thought maybe I should approach some of the riders, but I knew by following the sport that they are inundated with interviews, and I did not want to be a pest. I observed from a distance.
Before the start of the first Lites moto, Joe got us into the Parts Unlimited tent for lunch. He had raced as a professional some time ago, and his old sponsor, Michigan Engineering, was still on the sponsor list. Another reason I like Red Bud so much is because the Parts Unlimited tent is right in the start area of the track. It has a perfect view of the start and is so close to the action that you can easily catch roost from the pack. We were there for every start that day, and were even there when Carmichael made his second-moto pass on James Stewart.
As the moto started winding down Villopoto had checked out. Andrew McFarlane held his own in second and Jason Lawrence looked like he was going to make his first podium appearance. He made a mistake and Mike Alessi took over.
The second Lites moto had Alessi out front and gone. Within the second or third lap, Villopoto settled into second but never gained any ground on Alessi. I was somewhat surprised, but Red Bud sometimes does that in the Lites class. I remember James Dobb in maybe ‘96 winning a first moto (over Chad Pederson) by a large margin only to find him absent in the second moto because he pretty much wore himself out in the first one. In ‘92 Mike LaRocco won the first moto only to crash on the first lap of the second moto to end his day. In 2003, James Stewart won the first moto easily and then crashed in the second moto and DNF’d. So I guess I shouldn’t have been too surprised after all.
Anyway, the riders seemed to space themselves apart both motos which made the racing uneventful. Sometimes the pros make things look so easy and smooth that they can actually make the action appear boring. Remember folks, those guys are flying. It should be noted that on the last lap of the second moto Ricky gave Stewart a nod when they passed each other on different parts of the track. God only knows what that meant.
The highlight of my day took place before the second moto of the Lites class. We were walking through the pits towards the first turn when we walked past the Dunlop Tire rig. We saw Broc Glover standing with the other reps and I couldn’t resist the urge to talk to him. You see, back in 1985 T.J Webb and I were at the national that year. In the section leading up to the finish line there was a long double jump. The jumps were so far apart that jumping them together didn’t really present much of an advantage. But the top guys were doing it. We saw Glover jumping it in practice so we wanted to get a good view of him coming through the air by being at the next corner. Glover pulled the holeshot, and when he made the turn before the jump, we could hear him roaring up with his big Yamaha 490. Unfortunately for him, he had the front end too high, and although he made the landing safely, he couldn’t brake in time to make the corner and went headlong right into the snow fence. T.J. and I were on the other side of that fence and had to scramble for cover. It was one of the most dramatic crashes I'd ever witnessed. T. J. ran to help Glover but I told him to wait, knowing that outside assistance could mean disqualification. Broc got up slowly and checked his bike, and after we held down the fence, he re-entered the race. Two laps later he was back up front.
When I approached Broc, I asked him what was the worst crash that he ever suffered at Red Bud and it only took a moment to recall what I just shared with you. He went on to tell us that he actually suffered a broken bone in his wrist that nagged him the rest of his career. He spent a lot of his time with us, telling us all about it, and made us all feel like we were his friends. I couldn’t stop myself from asking him if he ever talks to Danny LaPorte or Bob Hannah. He laughed and said that he is good friends with Danny and talks to him from time to time. As for Hannah, no, he doesn’t talk to Bob. One thing he did add was that Bob does still order a lot of tires. Is Hannah making a comeback soon? Anyway, thanks for your time, Broc. If you are in St. Louis next year, Mike Shannon’s is on me.