Sometimes the worst thing to change is nothing.
Sometimes the worst thing to change is nothing.
Matthes- Blazier, I’ve been just stewing lately thinking about the ridiculousness that supercross has become. Between these crappy, easy, hard to pass, shit soil tracks where a start is where you’re going to finish and the fact that we’re all just sticking our heads in the sand in this sport, it’s been a rough few nights for my wife who is forced to listen to me ranting and raving because after all, the bassets have all tuned me out.
Think about any stick and ball sport you want (or hockey) or, closer to home, any motorsports you want (NASCAR, IndyCar, F1, Moto GP) and there’s a very good chance that they’ve adjusted SOMETHING in their sport in the last thirty years. But us? Nope, we’ve just altered the strokes and cc’s of the machines (and not because it was a positive move, more just because we were forced to after the OEM’s discontinued two-strokes from the poor sales) and that’s about it. Heck, the tracks haven’t even really changed to make up for the bikes being so much better nowadays.
Eight lap heat races, twenty lap main events, 25 points for first, 22 for second and so on, heat races to get into the main events- yep, it’s all there. Nothing has changed and the sport is poorer for it. I loved the Joker Lane at the MEC, the three main events, heck I was just a kid in 1985 but the two 12-lappers they did that one season (when the AMA was fighting with everyone- you think that Jeff Ward won the AMA SX title in ’85? Nope, he actually didn’t. The AMA championship was two races and I think Johnny O’Mara won the title. It’s in the record books like that even though no one takes it seriously because the other promoter’s championship was the one all the big guys raced and Wardy won that one) but I’ll take that.
And the sad part is, I’m not sure we’ll ever fix or try anything radically different because there doesn’t seem to be anyone who cares enough to try and fix things. It’s sad really.
Blaze- Dude, I am right there with you. I have been yelling about bringing back the semi races for years and nobody listens. I am glad that Feld has been willing to try new things at the MEC, but they need bring some of that innovation to the regular series. I loved the Joker lane concept and it really added a bit of welcome strategy to the race. That is the kind of stuff we need, and they should implement it into at least a race or two next year. Stuff like that adds variety to the program, while fostering better racing.
With all the red flag staggered restarts we have had this year; it got me thinking of the old halfway restart they used to do at Perris Raceway. You go halfway, and then bring everybody in to tighten things up for a restart. I think that would really help keep the racing tighter and help prevent boring run aways. The problem is, no one will go along with it. Plus, who would you appeal to implement the changes? The AMA, Feld, the FIM, Steve Cox?
That is the root of the problem. Unlike the stick and ball sports you mentioned (although I’m really not sure hockey qualifies), our sport is run like a bunch of fiefdoms that mutually coexist, but don’t always work together for the same goal. In other sports, the team owners are also the promoters and have a vested interest in the growth of the sport. In our sport, the promoters, teams and sanctioning bodies all have separate agendas. The promoters only care about selling tickets, the OEM’s only care about selling bikes, and the race teams only care about keeping the lights on. If you’re lucky, somewhere in the middle of all those desperate interests, a race breaks out.
As much as I hate some of the stuff Luongo has done in the GP’s I think we could use a motocross Czar here in the US (Bevo doesn’t count). We need a Rodger Goodell or David Stern to take all these separate forces and get them to work together for the good of the sport (I mean really, how can anybody take us seriously when we are still making the athlete’s pay to participate? Can you imagine if Tom Brady had to write a check to the NFL to play on Sunday’s? What kind of Bush League BS is that anyway?) Now, I know putting one guy in charge is no guarantee of success (see Steve Whitlock), but if you can get someone who is open to new ideas and is not a megalomaniac, you might actually be able to get something done.
Matthes- Sweet Jesus, if our Czar is Bevo, look for me bagging groceries at my local Albertsons. Anyways, you’re right about the sport. It lacks direction from anyone. The guys at Feld tell me that whenever they suggest changes, all the OEM’s and teams shut them down. They’ve told me it’s a “god-dammed” (their words) miracle that the Las Vegas 250SX class was made into three main events. There are so many trust issues within the inner circle of supercross. The OEM’s think the Feld guys just want a show and don’t care about the integrity of one of the toughest sports in the world, the guys at Feld think that the OEM’s don’t know anything about selling tickets and making a profit, everyone thinks the AMA has no balls or no sense to do anything. There’s barley an AMA anymore in case you haven’t been paying attention and no one wants the FIM to regulate anything at all.
Here’s the thing, Feld just has to do it. They’ve got the series, they have the balls and I know that the Joker Lane insertion into the MEC is something being considered for future use. Why can’t these people that are all supposed to be smart realize that change is needed. The bikes are too fast for the tracks, the lap times are dangerously low, the racing has been boring for the most part. We’ve got to look at the overall product and TRY something different. Please, change anything! I beg you guys.
What if you pay $50 bucks for a ticket and you get to see the very best riders for 22 minutes in a three + hour show? Because that’s what it is now with the heats and the main events. Why not have another race in there to showcase the top riders? What about an elimination race where the winner gets five points? You could have five two lap races with the top ten in points? What about five points for a holeshot? A point for most laps led? A point for heat race wins? These are VERY simple changes that can be made easily- what about changing the point structure to give the LCQ guys some points?
I know that the MEC and the Arenacross changes are with an eye towards making them happen in supercross and I know you have to be careful to not take away the soul of the sport. I’m not for making it into a show but can we try something different please?
Tony, wave you magic wand and give me the five changes you’d make to supercross?
Blaze- OK, five magic wishes for Supercross, huh? I like it, here goes.
1- Bring back the semi races- This is done, not to provide a better spectating experience (although it will accomplish this), but to help make the sport viable to the very teams that are its backbone. Currently, the two heat and an LCQ format gives the 2nd tier teams very little time to shine. Unless one of your famous triples steals a holeshot in a heat (even then, they are more likely to talk about a star who got a bad start), he is not likely to get any significant exposure on TV. Let’s face it, the top guys are always going to win the heat and get all the love.
The Semi’s were where guys like Nick Wey and Kyle Lewis got to shine. They had the opportunity to take a win for their team and showcase their sponsors on the podium. What do you think is more helpful to a Motoconsepts team- for Mike Alessi to get a 5th in the heat or take a glorious win in a semi race? To a casual fan, they are both victories and give equal exposure to the people who are footing the bill. It is vital that we keep the race teams healthy (witness all the failures this year alone), because without them, there is NO show.
A side benefit of all this, is of course, better racing. With 4 to the main instead of 9, the intensity will be upped for everyone (you could even cut a lap or two and really make it a mad sprint if you are still worried about time constraints), plus there is a lot less chance of a fluke incident preventing a top guy from missing the main. To me, this is a no brainer and if the power that be are really interested in the health of the sport they will make this change sooner rather than later.
2- Rider designed tracks- If there is one thing that everyone can agree on, its that no one is happy with the current state of our race tracks. The dirt is crap, the layout is crap, and there is no place to pass. Now some of this is not easy to fix without incurring huge additional expenses. Believe it or not, dirt costs a small fortune and getting new soil shipped out to California from Tennessee is just not going to happen, but some things can certainly be done to improve things.
One of those things, would be to actually use a little of the incredible rider resource we have at our disposal to improve the racing. We have a vast amount of racing experience available to help in designing better racetracks and we should use it. I think Feld should offer to have at least five tracks a year be designed but current and former racers. They did it a few years ago and I think it was a welcome change.
I don’t care if you pick last years top-five, or go with legends like RC and Mcgrath, either way would be an improvement. We need some new blood in there, and as much as Dirt Works has things down to a science, I think new thinking would result in better racetracks.
3- 20 minute mains- With the current combination of absurdly powerful bikes and fast tracks, main events are often 15 minute affairs. When you add in the lack of a semi race, there is not a lot of real racing going on at times. I think we should make the change to a timed main event just as we have outdoors. This would free up the designers to come up with a good track instead of fixating on overall lap times. When you have Dirt Works throwing in walls and stuff just to try and squeak out another second or two a lap, instead of fixating on what will actually improve the racing, we have a problem.
4- Joker Lane- I think this concept is a great idea and should be put in right away. It really makes the rider think about race strategy and not just about going balls-to-the-wall for 20 laps. It would add new tension to the race and lead to more passing if designed well. I don’t know if we need it at ever race, but it should be used at a few to mix things up and build excitement.
5- Make the 250 class a “stock” class – With cost of racing being so exorbitant, I really think the time has come to institute some stricter regulations in the 250 class. Currently, the cost of building a full race 250F is absolutely out of control. Worst of all, the teams can’t help themselves from spending these incredible sums in an attempt to squeak out that extra 1/10 of a horsepower. It is actually much more costly to field a support team than a premier bike team (rider salaries aside) and that is just wrong.
We need to put a cap on this out of control spending and make sure a small team has a legitimate shot at having success. That was the idea behind the production rule in the first place, and while I think it should probably be dropped for the premier class, it needs to be more strictly implemented in support division.
Mods should be limited to the bare minimum needed to survive Supercross. Re-valves and springs, re-mapped injection and maybe a pipe-that is it. No crazy unobtanium valves or $5000 heads. No custom gear sets or exotic cranks, just a well prepped and set up bike.
As a side benefit, this could also lead to more interesting racing, as the slower bikes would make it much harder for the 250 guys to clear everything the 450 guys can do (Remember when clearing stuff required more than just squaring up the inside and grabbing a handful on the face?). Now I know this change would upset teams with deep pockets like Pro Circuit and Geico, but I think it is important to do to make the sport as accessible as possible to the widest range of riders and teams.
Matthes- Not bad ideas, I’d toss out the 20-minute main events. Most races are pretty much over by the end and adding more time isn’t going to make it more exciting, it’s just going to make it longer. And the stock class, while nice in a fairy tale world where doorknobs are made out of chocolate and clouds are actually cotton candy, just isn’t going to work. The AMA guys can’t police the sport the way it is now, never mind going after the teams that will no doubt cheat their balls off with those rules. I’m all for slowing the bikes down (I once suggested the AMA give out the ECU’s to the teams which would have tame curves, limits on RPM’s to keep the speeds down and then they return them at the end of the night. One team manager who I won’t name but he’s in a wheelchair told me that what happens if a box gets damaged in transit, cuts out on a guy and causes a massive crash? The liability would probably cause any of the AMA’s lawyers to poop their pants) but I can’t see where that’s going to happen. Love the semi races idea, I was in favor of them going away when they did it but we need them back for all the reasons you gave. Joker Lane? Yes, please. Not every week but once in a while? Sure. It was awesome at the MEC and promoted passing which is always, I repeat- ALWAYS a good thing. Here are a few more ideas
1-I would radically change the points structure. 50 points for a win, 40 for second, 35 for third- reward the winners of the races and as well, give the guys in the LCQ some points as well. Give a point for a holeshot, a couple of points for leading the most laps, you want to give away points for heat race wins? Sure! Whatever it takes, change the points and see what it does. The dudes in the top ten in the LCQ will appreciate those points, their team owners will appreciate the points given out and you can keep the interest higher for the guys in the LCQ who need to get into the top twenty to qualify for season ending bonus money from Feld.
2- The “Chase” style of championship is interesting, I’m not totally sold on it but I also wouldn’t mind seeing what it did to the series. Maybe ten races then reset the order for the final seven with some handicaps for the guys that have done well over the first ten? Ok. What I would like to see ASAP is some sort of two main event format at, say, five races. A couple of ten or twelve lappers and we’d see who were the sprint guys, who was a good starter and benefitted from the two mains, who didn’t, etc. It would liven up the series, add intrigue and why the hell not? Change it up and see what happens. Heck, if you didn’t want to get too crazy, have the second main event start with the flag start to bunch the guys back up.
3- I would institute some sort of head to head races in the middle of the show. Tell the teams who want to complain about risk of injury and how it’s a “nothing” race to shut it. Promise TV time and five points for the winner to calm them down. Give the fans another shot at seeing the top guys. Bracket elimination races would add like six laps to a racers total on the night. These athletes will be fine. And again, tell the team managers to shut it.
4-Get some different track designers and buy some more dirt to make the obstacles bigger. This just in, we have 55 horsepower four-strokes that can jump out of a stadium if held pinned. Add some dirt everywhere (why are triples the same length as they were on two-strokes?) to make the obstacles taller, bigger and slow the track down a bit. Oh yeah, and add in whoops. And Dirt Wurx needs to have some fresh minds brought in to challenge them and see what else is out there. Don’t kick them to the curb, just TRY someone different here or there. There are shit tons of track builders out there now- don’t be scared, give them a call.
5- JUST CHANGE SOMETHING. Again, maybe my ideas suck balls (but I don’t think so as Feld as implemented some of them into the arenacross series which tells me they’re thinking of doing something in SX at some time) but c’mon man, we’ve got to switch things up and try some new things to keep evolving and keep going forward. And guess what? If something doesn’t work, go back to what we’re doing now. Shocking huh?