2012 450cc AMA MX Silly Season Update
Here's a breakdown, as accurate as possible right now, of the 2012 450cc silly season. Chips are falling every day now. Check it out.
While some teams are complete, and some were actually never on the market for riders at all for the 2012 season, there are still a lot of holes to fill for the upcoming AMA 450 Motocross and Supercross season.
So, we’ll break it down to the best of our abilities right now, alphabetically by bike brand, but keep in mind there are still holes, so some of this is speculation; albeit educated speculation:
Team Honda/Muscle Milk
#41 Trey Canard
#10 Justin Brayton
Muscle Milk has followed Brayton from team to team since he was at KTM a few years ago. They followed him from KTM to JGR Yamaha, and now to Honda. I’m not sure yet if Muscle Milk can be considered a true “title sponsor” because title sponsors normally get first billing, such as “Monster Energy Kawasaki” and not even Red Bull got that with Honda, but the team seems complete for 2012 with Brayton and Canard. However, it’s not impossible for Honda to shore up its team with a third rider, since they’ve been having to deal with replacement racers on their team for much of the past few years.
#14 Kevin Windham
The old guy is returning for 2012 and 2013, at least. Windham will be racing Supercross-only, but as with the last couple of years, may show up outdoors if needed. He’s almost 34 now, after all, which is like 112 in MX years. But Windham is still very good, very fast, very competitive, and maybe most importantly, very popular. People just love him. As far as most fans and media types are concerned, Windham should have a spot on the GEICO team until such a point that he just doesn’t want to race anymore.
#22 Chad Reed
Chad Reed will be returning with his own team in 2012. He had eyes on adding a second racer to his team, but the longer it goes without an announcement, the less likely it seems. He was also reportedly considering a switch to Suzuki for 2012, as he always got along with the Suzuki 450 and Suzuki – after losing Ryan Dungey – wants a top racer on their machines, but again, the more time goes by, the less likely this seems. It seems likely at this point that the team will be Reed alone again on Hondas. However, he did hire Dungey’s old mechanic Mike Gosselaar (also Reed’s mechanic at Suzuki a couple years ago), so we could still see a surprise addition to his team for 2012, because Reed indicates that his own mechanic will remain Lars Lindstrom.
San Manuel Honda
#29 Andrew Short
#18 Davi Millsaps (possibly)
#36 Kyle Regal (possibly)
This new team with an old sponsor and old owner will be on Hondas in 2012. Why? Jeremy McGrath has a lot to do with it. McGrath is still a big-time name for Honda and one of the manufacturer’s primary test riders, and he’s the co-owner of this team along with old friend Larry Brooks. They have definitely signed Andrew Short for 2012, and Short will be returning to race the full-on Factory Hondas that he raced prior to 2011. And Davi Millsaps is just a guess at this point. Why? Because Millsaps was with Honda for a long time, and Honda likes him. Plus, Millsaps seems like a good fit with MC and Brooks, since he has tons of speed and tons of talent but could use direction, and who better to give direction than Jeremy McGrath and Larry Brooks? And Regal, he was Brooks’ pet project in 2011, and he could remain so in 2012.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
#1 Ryan Villopoto
#21 Jake Weimer
This team has both riders returning for 2012. Weimer had a multi-year deal coming into 2011, and Villopoto was a no-brainer to be re-signed for 2012 having won both titles this year. They will have a new team manager, though, as Mike Fisher was let go a few weeks ago, and other team sponsors – such as exhaust, possibly – are still up in the air. It’s also not impossible for the team to add a third rider if necessary.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki
#25 Broc Tickle
Winning the 2011 Lites West title was a blessing and a curse for Broc Tickle. Winning a title is always good, but according to the AMA rules, he’s ineligible to race a 250F indoors in 2012 as a result. But it looks like Mitch Payton and his Pro Circuit team are trying to put together a 450 effort for 2012. Rumor has it the team is only waiting on approval from Kawasaki to do it, and the 450 side of the team will either see Tickle on a 450 indoors and outdoors by himself, see Tickle on a 450 indoors and a 250F outdoors while Tyla Rattray races a 250F indoors and then a 450 outdoors, or see Tickle race a 450 indoors and outdoors and have Rattray join him on a 450 outdoors. This is still awaiting Kawasaki approval, though.
Hart & Huntington Kawasaki
#9 Ivan Tedesco
#75 Josh Hill
#83 Kyle Partridge
#100 Josh Hansen
Title Sponsors are still coming in for Hart & Huntington, but one of them is likely to be Sycuan Casino. The casino came on as a personal sponsor for Kyle Partridge this year during Supercross after we did a touching interview with Partridge here at GrindTV.com/Motocross.com, and as part of Sycuan’s deal with H&H, they wanted to make sure Partridge had a place on the team, which originally was only going to consist of Tedesco, Hill and Hansen. Hill is going to be fast if he’s healthy, Tedesco will be solid, Partridge is going to have a real shot at doing something on a good bike, and Hansen is the question mark as his speed isn’t a question, nor his talent, but off-the-track distractions continue to be a possible issue for him. There’s no question that he can do well, the question is whether or not he actually will.
L&M/Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki
#33 Josh Grant
Second big-name racer
Mike Kranyak – the M (for Mike) in L&M (Larry & Mike) – is returning with his team in 2012 and beyond. He has teamed up with Jeff Ward to put together a team, and rumors have them landing Josh Grant. This makes sense because Kranyak was a sponsor/supporter of Josh Grant back when he was racing amateurs, and Grant is a guy with a big upside. The team will race indoors and outdoors, and the second rider is anyone’s guess at this point, but it should be a known, big-name guy. It’s also possible that one of Grant’s personal sponsors could come along to sponsor the team, but the team is going forward regardless, as Kranyak was essentially the money guy behind the L&M team in its past incarnation. Also, most of the team at L&M looks like it’s staying together, with longtime mechanic Paul Delaurier taking over managerial duties. Delaurier is a perfect fit for the job, as he’s smart, nice, and very level-headed. Kawasaki wants to keep its defending Lites West champ, so if the deal with PC doesn’t work out, this is a good spot for Tickle to end up in for 2012.
Nick Wey’s Kawasaki Team
#27 Nick Wey
Wey was at the Monster Energy Cup on a KX450F that was essentially self-sponsored, but in 2012 the rumor has it that he may be hooking back up with the Ti-Lube guys to race a Kawasaki like he did in 2010, when he ended up being a replacement rider at the Monster Energy Kawasaki team for a big chunk of the year. This is all still to be finished off, though, so things could change. Depending on how things go, he may be a good fit at the L&M team, too, and with both Grant and Wey wearing MSR gear (at least in 2011), it could work out. For Kawasaki, though, it looks like up to half of the 450 main could be on Kawasakis…
Red Bull KTM
#5 Ryan Dungey
KTM is looking for a second racer for 2012, but not just anybody. It has to be someone who really fits their program. KTM wanted to hang on to Andrew Short to race alongside Dungey, but Shorty had other plans. What about Davi Millsaps? Could happen…
#24 Brett Metcalfe
Second Racer Needed
Title sponsors may change for 2012. The team was officially cut out of Suzuki’s budget at the end of 2011, but it was picked up by Yoshimura. The staff should stay mostly intact, with the exception of Mike Gosselaar going to TwoTwo Motorsports. Makita or Rockstar, or both, may be out as title sponsors at this point. We have to wait and see what they come up with. Brett Metcalfe has a two-year deal with Suzuki, so no matter what Suzuki had to make sure he could race in 2012, regardless of the team officially folding inside Suzuki corporate. He will likely need a teammate, though, so we’ll have to wait and see who – if anyone – ends up there. Spaces are filling up all over, and Suzuki doesn’t have a lot of budget right now. But their bikes, by all accounts, are outstanding.
#26 Michael Byrne
#66 Jason Thomas
It looks like Byrne is returning for 2012 alongside Jason Thomas for the Butler Brothers. Thomas spent much of 2011 dealing with a knee injury that resulted from James Stewart landing on his back in Houston, but he was out on the track at the Monster Energy Cup. Byrne is solid, although he’s getting up there in years. Both of them are, actually. But the BBMX guys are loyal and they want guys that can put their bikes in main events, and both Byrne and Thomas should be capable of that.
#7 James Stewart
#11 Kyle Chisholm (probably)
#18 Davi Millsaps (maybe)
#800 Mike Alessi (maybe)
For this one, Stewart is a done deal, but his teammate won’t be known for sure until tomorrow, at the earliest. There is a press conference at noon PST, and we’ll let you know what the announcement is as soon as we know. They will announce James Stewart signing with JGR (a deal that nearly happened years ago, actually) for sure. Chisholm, Millsaps and Alessi all got opportunities to ride and meet with the team last week, and all have something going for them to get the spot. Chisholm is good friends with Stewart and would be a perfect training partner and teammate for the superstar – and he’s fast, indoors and out, and wouldn’t cost a lot. Millsaps rode for JGR in 2011 and was putting in some pretty great rides outdoors before he got hurt, but he may be too much money or may not get along as well with Stewart. And Alessi has a lot of baggage that we’ll get into in the next team lineup, which may or may not be easy to overcome for JGR. Bet on Chisholm, but we should know tomorrow.
#57 Jake Canada
#11 Kyle Chisholm (maybe)
#800 Mike Alessi (probably)
We put this team inside the “Yamaha” area because the actual bike for 2012 is not yet known, and in 2011 it was a Yamaha team. Originally, the team was going to be on Hondas in 2012, because the team buys all its own bikes and whatnot anyway, but then the team reportedly agreed to terms with Mike Alessi, and Alessi was insisting on Suzukis. David Vuillemin left the team as team manager over the Alessi thing because Vuillemin used to be a trainer/riding coach for Alessi and never felt like he could be effective because Tony – Mike’s dad – always had a say in what DV was helping Mike with. It was a situation of “too many cooks in the kitchen can spoil the soup”. So, Vuillemin foresaw that he wouldn’t be as effective as team manager with Team Alessi involved and left. A PR ran last week announcing Alessi to Motoconcepts, but Alessi still went and rode the JGR Yamahas, and reports have it that JGR is exploring the idea of signing Alessi. But it sounds like they may have to overcome some legal issues prior to that happening. Bet on Alessi still ending up here, and on Suzukis, although it’s all still up in the air.
#56 Austin Stroupe
#50 Nico Izzi
Stroupe looks like a done deal at Valli, but Izzi isn’t yet, and it could fall through. Austin Stroupe is tremendously talented and very fast. During the early rounds of 2011, he came off the couch to give James Stewart fits in heat races and the like. Not many guys can do that at all. He’s got the speed and talent, he just needs to be healthy and focused. From the outside looking in, Stroupe and Izzi is a combination that would be awesome for after-parties, but not so much for the actual racing. To help Stroupe reach his potential, he probably needs a more mature teammate, but we’ll see what they come up with. Millsaps again comes into mind. As does Jimmy Albertson.
Rock River Powersports Yamaha
#59 Vince Friese
#72 Jarred Browne
#801 Jeff Alessi
We’re not entirely sure how Vince Friese keeps landing rides when he tends to just piss off fellow racers and doesn’t have a whole lot in the way of solid results, but he didn’t get national number 59 by accident, so maybe there’s hope for him yet. Jarred Browne has a big upside and is a solid racer, although consistency is an issue for him. And probably the biggest upside of all of the racers for Rock River is Jeff Alessi. Alessi excels in Supercross, unlike his older brother Mike, and he seems to be refocused for 2012. He could surprise some people.
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