the States the coming of October means the racing season is all but over. Each year though we get one more chance to see the guys go bar-to-bar at the U.S. Open of Supercross in Las Vegas, Nevada. HERE IN the States the coming of October means the racing season is all but over. Each year though we get one more chance to see the guys go bar-to-bar at the U.S. Open of Supercross in Las Vegas, Nevada. And whether you’re looking to see old battles resolved, catch a sneak peek at the next season, or just party yourself deaf, dumb and blind at the Hard Rock it’s one event you really shouldn’t miss. (Not that I was there, of course. Still making payments on the party debt I incurred in Amsterdam during last year’s Arnhem SX, I was back at the Racer X office answering phones. Still, it was worth it.)
Offering up a total purse of $300,000 (about £180,000), the U.S. Open is a one-off event in the spirit of the Bercy SX minus the chainsaws and sadly the pom-pom girls. What it lacks in cheerleading though it makes up for in cold, hard cash – the overall winner in the 250cc division alone picks up $100,000 making this by far the most lucrative race of the season.
Historically the underdog does well at the Open. In 1998 the event’s debut year, Damon Huffman took the win. That was followed by a popular victory by Jeff Emig coming close on the heels of his drug-related arrest. Fro showed up in Vegas with a near-stock machine and stormed the floor of the MGM Grand Garden Arena giving his fans one last moment to cheer.
Not surprisingly Ricky Carmichael won the overalls in 2000 and 2001 flexing his growing 250 supercross muscle and adding to his already jammed trophy room. In 2002 though, dark-horse (and perennial crowd favorite) "Iron" Mike LaRocco swept in with 1-3 moto scores to stop the Carmichael three-peat.
Now, Carmichael is normally the automatic favorite for just about any event he enters indoors or out but LaRocco’s win proved that RC could be beaten in Sin City. What’s more, the end of the 2003 Supercross season turned into a clinic by Chad Reed who utterly dominated the latter half of the series, winning the last six rounds on the trot. Still, it was hard not to think Carmichael had the edge going in.
Las Vegas didn’t quite see it that way. As the only race each year where fans are permitted – nay, encouraged – to wager on the outcome, the Open comes complete with its own set of official odds. The MGM Grand line had Reed as the 2003 favorite, handing out even odds for the Aussie pilot. Carmichael was a close by, running 6/5, with the rest of the field clicking down to 27/1 – for ’98 winner Huffman. Vegas has a short memory, if it has one at all.
Vegas can also surprise the hell out of you as it did on the first night of the Open. Reed’s Team Yamaha team-mate David Vuillemin so often crowned King of Bercy caught fire on Friday night and won the main event with relative ease. ‘Le Cobra’ pulled the holeshot, a necessity at the Open which features a much smaller, tighter track than a normal U.S. supercross and he never looked back. Vuillemin led all 20 laps holding off Reed and Carmichael who finished second and third.
A major upset was in the works heading into the Saturday finale. Yet another surprise came when the gate dropped on the 250 main as Team Honda’s Ernesto Fonseca pulled away from the pack with the holeshot followed closely by Vuillemin. Problem is Vegas casinos don’t make money by hiring shoddy odds-makers. On the first lap Carmichael passed Vuillemin for second place, then Fonseca hit the dirt. Ricky’s lead would not last however as Reed – looking more like Jeremy McGrath as the months go by – passed him cleanly for the lead which he held until the end.
And so it was that Chad Reed went home with a whopping hundred grand to spend on lots of new diamond jewelry, maybe a new car and a down payment on that mansion he’s been eyeballing. Or maybe not.
Jamie Brockman was a successful racer on the Australian scene in the late ’90s and drew support from the likes of Aussie legend Jeff Leisk. In 2000 Brockman made the jump to the States where he earned a solid reputation as a fast privateer and an all-around good guy.
Recently Brockman was earning money and getting from race to race by driving his friend Reed’s motor home. In August everything went wrong for Jamie when he crashed at the Millville National in Minnesota. Brockman who was without any sort of health insurance suffered a broken neck. He’ll spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
Immediately following this year’s U.S. Open, Reed announced that the majority of his winnings would go directly to Brockman in an effort to offset his mounting medical bills. With that money Jamie was able to return to his native Australia to continue his medical care and begin what is sure to be a long rehabilitation.
Reed’s generosity was a huge lift for Brockman and the good news didn’t stop there. A charity dinner and auction for the racer yielded $160,000 and tens of thousands more were raised via an auction on eBay for which nearly every racer on the U.S. circuit donated autographed gear.
Jamie still faces a long struggle but with some help from his friends his terrible situation has been made a bit easier. Check in at www.JamieTheJet.com for updates.
The U.S. Open normally ends the old season or gives a glimpse into the new one. This year it did neither. It simply restored a little bit of my faith in humanity. Not bad for a weekend’s work.
Jeff Kocan, courtesy RacerX