Saturday, August 4, 2007 Updated: August 5, 4:53 AM ET
Moto X Racing: It's About Freaking Time
By Tim Mutrie EXPN.com
"Hey boys," barked Chad Reed from atop a 25-foot dirt berm, minutes before the inaugural X Games Moto X Racing event, "we're on live TV."
Ricky Carmichael leads the pack
Reed's enthusiasm was promptly and prophetically drowned out by the piercing howls of
of 450cc engines firing up.
If it feels like the moment for Moto X to arrive at the X Games was long overdue, you're not alone. The long absence of motocross racing at the X has seemed to many downright heretical-like throwing a biker bash in the mid-60s and failing to send word to the Hells Angels. But unlike skateboarding and freestyle motocross, for example, motocross racing never lacked broad fan and commercial support. It never needed the X Games the way other small, niche sports did.
After winning the final in his usual style, superstar Rickey Carmichael said, "I always felt like an outsider because they never had our event here. But I'll tell you what, now to be a part of X Games and the ESPN crew-and to win it-feels amazing. Now, I feel like I'm in with everybody. This is the future of the sport."
Moto X Racing and Rally Car Racing competitor Travis Pastrana knows something about marketing, cross-over appeal, and penetrating the popular consciousness. "Most of the other sports-skateboarding, BMX, moto freestyle-they definitely needed the X Games," he said. "Whereas motocross has been around forever. But this is gonna help 'em both. It helps the X Games because it brings a whole new demographic. And it helps motocross. I don't think they realized how big the X Games are. There were some factories that were like, 'Ah, I don't know if we're even gonna send our guys.' But, of course, they did, and in the end they're gonna be saying, 'Holy cow, everyone's grandma saw that, mine included, and it was awesome!'"
Additionally, Pastrana noted, "It makes the rest of the X Games legit to the motocross world."
Adoring Fans with Signs
14-year-old superfan, Kyle Houge of Palisade, California, came out to the event's debut with a homemade sign reading, "Travis! Throw Me Your Goggles!" and a T-shirt with Pastrana's No. 199 splashed on it in yellow and black. "I spent like an hour-and-a-half making this thing," he shrugged. "Travis gave me a little sign-like, 'Yo, kid. I see you.' So hopefully it'll work out."
Then there was 11-year-old Steven Galvez of Hacienda Heights, California. He was wearing a motocross jersey too (store bought). "I think it's just gonna get bigger and bigger every year from now on," he said, "right?"
With skateboard in tow, Ryan Sheckler was also in attendance. "I came to see Carmichael. The Goat's the best there ever will be, the best there is, and it's just great to see him race," he said. "And I'd say it's about freaking time, too."
Reed, who finished fourth, echoed Carmichael's comments about the dawn of a new era.
"We can obviously survive without X Games, but time's a'changing. I fully support and am looking forward to the future with X Games," he said, adding, "I personally think that supercross is a lot more extreme than SuperMoto is and, not being biased here, I think this is by far the most exciting sport out there. The more people who know that, the better."
So who needs who more? The answer, it seems, is that they both need each other.
"I think they go hand in hand," said Reed. "X is going to a new level and I think supercross can help. We've got a lot fans in the stands right now, but I think X can help us a lot as well."
After the final, Houge was spotted with a set of goggles around his neck. As Pastrana was exiting the stadium, Houge peeled off his homemade shirt and handed it down to his hero. Happy to oblige, Pastrana signed the shirt for the beaming young fan.
"I hit the jackpot," Houge exclaimed. "This is like the Holy Grail!"
X Games officials and motocross insiders, it seems, may just be saying the very same thing.