Herlings caught and passed Cooper Webb in the first moto,
which seemed to deflate the American crowd. In speaking
with a French photographer between motos, he said something to the effect of, “Now that Jeffrey Herlings has the
250 title wrapped up, he’s not going to ride conservatively.”
I thought to myself, “Oh boy, it’s going to crush Cooper
Webb’s dream of winning his last-ever 250 race in front of
his home crowd.” And then? Cooper Webb came out swinging like a prize fighter right before the end of a round. He
mowed down the field. When Webb passed Herlings with
about six laps to go, I thought the grandstands were going
to buckle under the weight of the impassioned crowd
jumping for joy at the potential for victory.
I’ve never worked for a newspaper, and I’m not very
good at generating witty headlines, but I came up with
something that effectively summarized what happened at
Charlotte: “Herlings Caught in Charlotte’s Webb.” That very
well may be the best headline I ever come up with.
WOULD THE RACING COMMUNITY HAVE
COLLAPSED IF U.S. RIDERS DIDN’T WIN THE
No, not at all. Jeffrey Herlings was gracious in victory
as well as in defeat. The American fans seemed to understand that it wouldn’t have been a total loss had Herlings
won the overall in Charlotte. The kid was all smiles on
the podium and was kind enough to shake the hands of
Cooper Webb and Austin Forkner. Jeffrey was jovial at the
post-race press conference. He stated that European riders
joke on the starting line and talk to one another before the
motos, while American riders look like they want to kill
each other. He then commended Cooper and Austin for
pushing him to ride harder than he had done all season
What of Eli Tomac? The best way to describe Tomac
at Charlotte is to say that he was like a bounty hunter.
He was there to do a job—whether he liked it or not—and
earn his paycheck. He did just that, smoking the 450 field
on his way to earning bragging rights and a bonus from
Monster Kawasaki. How big was the bonus? It’s hard to
say, but know this about the “Bounty Hunter”: he shares
his spoils. Not many Pro riders give a percentage of their
bonus winnings to their mechanics, but Eli is different.
He helps those who help him, which is why his wrench,
Brian Kranz, was a bit more chipper than usual after the
checkered flag waved.
THE CHARLOTTE MOTO CRISIS: YOUTHSTREAM
VS. MX SPORTS—WHO BLINKED FIRST?
MX Sports owns the rights to running the AMA National
series here in the U.S., while Youthstream controls the
FIM MXGP series in Europe and abroad. It’s no secret that
there’s no love lost between the two sanctioning bodies,
particularly after Giuseppe Luongo tried buying the rights
to the AMA Nationals some years ago. With Youthstream
holding two Grand Prix rounds in the U.S.—one almost in
MX Sports’ backyard and another at Glen Helen, where
MX Sports holds Nationals (but has a love/hate relationship with the track)—it could be construed that Luongo
is trying to take a piece of the pie. Without getting too
deep into it, suffice it to say that the relationship between
MX Sports and Youthstream is about as good as the one
between Kayne West and Taylor Swift (or Paul McCartney
and Yoko Ono for you older readers).
One thing we do know is that MX Sports isn’t allowed to
hold AMA Nationals at tracks that have Supercross seating
numbers (by mutual agreement). That loophole opens the
250 rookie Austin Forkner was having a good summer before Charlotte, but the USGP was icing on
the cake. Forkner led the most laps at Charlotte,
battled with the two fastest 250 racers on the planet and even held off Jeffrey Herlings in the final
moto. It was trial by fire for young Austin.