mxdn_1It’s time for the Motocross des Nations, the largest international motocross race in the world. I just signed up for the MediaZone coverage so I can watch the event live on Sunday morning.

I attended the Budds Creek event last year and had a blast. I wish I could go every year. My goal is to attend an international MXdN before too much more time passes. There’s lots of great info available at RacerX and the MXNationals web sites, including Ryan Villopotto’s photo blog. He’s got some great photos.

So get your favorite beverage ready for an early drop of the gate (7:00am EDT Sunday) and let’s watch Team USA bring home the Chamberlain Cup for the fourth consecutive time!

No surprise here as Live Nation has sold off its entire motorsports division to Feld Entertainment in a deal valued at $205 million. The sale is the latest step in Live Nation’s current corporate gin rummy hand — the predictable, cyclical business of first acquiring unrelated businesses to “leverage synergy for increased profits and growth” and then, a few years later, selling them off to “release pent up value for increased profits and growth.” Funny, that.

We have stated here before our position that Live Nation had very little, if any, corporate commitment to Supercross and that believing otherwise was naive. At best there is only marginal synergy between motor sports events and music concerts. Live Nation have known this since their inception as a spin-off from media conglomerate Clear Channel at the end of 2005. In 2006 they began selling off everything that was not “core” to the music concert business — including theatrical shows, sports representation, and real estate. The company has now sold off more than $460 million in non-core businesses.

With Live Nation completely out of the Supercross business, who is in charge? Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey circus, Disney on Ice, Disney Live, and other live attractions.

What is most interesting about Feld is their description of themselves:

Feld Entertainment is the worldwide leader in producing and presenting live entertainment experiences that lift the human spirit and create indelible memories, with 30 million people in attendance at its shows each year.

This is clearly not Live Nation — the company that promotes Fergie, Rob Zombie, and Madonna among dozens of others. I haven’t seen a self-promo that corny in years. But maybe it’s time we had someone in charge of Supercross that at least has a clue what the term “family entertainment” means.

The entire Clear Channel/Live Nation episode of Supercross history has been a gut-wrenching experience for true motocross fans, who watched as their beloved sport turned into a cartoon-like caricature, a frenzy of near-naked girls and violent crashes feverishly pitched at hormone-addled 18-year-old boys and pro wrestling fans.

Yes, the sport grew. Yes, it brought in more money. Yes, a handful of riders can now make contracts well into the 7-figure range and a good number more can make nice 6-figures. But yes, it also become “sports entertainment”, just like monster truck racing and the WWE. I don’t know that Feld intends anything differently, but I feel no loss for Live Nation.

For now, Feld says they will keep everything intact at the Aurora, IL HQ of the former Live Nation Motor Sports, including all management, schedules, partnerships, and structure. Changes will likely begin late 2009, as Feld gets a feel for what they do and do not like about the new business.

There are many, many possibilities for the future. Far too many to cover here, and at least as many bad as good. But one thing we can be sure of, nothing stays the same in these scenarios.

Late last week NASCAR announced it is acquiring the Grand-Am sports car racing series. This matters to professional motorcycle racing because Grand-Am is the racing series owned by Roger Edmondson and Jim France, the President and Chairman respectively of Daytona Motorsports Group which now owns AMA Pro Racing.

Last night Dave Despain had Edmondson on Wind Tunnel. The interview was via telephone and fairly short, as it was the last call of the program. Despain asked Edmondson two questions, the first about the NASCAR purchase, the second was (paraphrased), “Am I wrong to think the situation in professional motorcycle road racing is a disaster?”

Edmondson’s response was a rather terse, “Yes, you are.” He then went on to explain, without specifics, that AMA Pro Racing is continuing to work behind the scenes to get the factories on board for 2009 and beyond, and that AMA Pro Racing is doing everything it can to let the factories know they are welcomed, wanted, and an important part of the future of professional road racing.

Edmondson’s response was less than convincing. Despain asked specifically about Honda and Edmondson was noncommittal. He did say that two of the factories are on board, but he would not go any further. Despain did not appear convinced, either. Here’s my amateur analysis of the situation.

I’ve said before that Edmondson is likely under pressure because of the goat rodeo road racing has become. While it’s probably not unprecedented, it’s certainly rare to see a reasonably successful business fall apart this badly, this fast.

Edmondson went on record in some of the early press conferences saying that this is his last hurrah, his last attempt at establishing a legacy. He wants this to work. At this point it clearly is not. His demeanor on the call was not friendly — not quite combative, but certainly not the jovial nature of someone who is feeling good about a program. It’s clear that he is feeling pressure about the situation.

There are several possible meanings we can read into the NASCAR/Grand-Am deal. Some, all, or none of them may be true.

From the Grand-Am perspective, this move serves to divorce the series from the chaos and bad PR that has hounded DMG since the AMA Pro Racing purchase. Grand-Am is a reasonably successful series. Though they do not have major manufacturer teams involved like their competitor ALMS (e.g. Audi), they have attracted some major teams like Ganassi and Penske. The series is on a very slow-growth path. At nine years old, the series is at a critical juncture. Having the management bogged down with the AMA debacle can only harm them.

NASCAR has a heavy investment in Grand-Am, and likely does not want anything to muck that up. So taking the series directly into the NASCAR fold stops potential sponsors and participants from getting sidetracked on issues of bad management.

Edmondson stated that Grand-Am and NASCAR had discussed the sale for some time. I think there’s a reason the sale happened now — to insulate Grand-Am from fallout.

Second, I suspect Edmondson is under pressure from the France family to get this train back on track, and relieving him of Grand-Am is the fastest way to clear his plate and make sure he is totally focused on the AMA Pro Racing problem. The France family is a significant investor in DMG, and no one wants to see their investment thrown away. The great thing about business is that it has a clear failure indicator. Losing money is failure. Losing it as fast and furiously as Edmondson seems to be doing is like shooting up a dozen rescue flairs and signaling SOS through the tornado sirens.

The last scenario is more ominous. Getting rid of Grand-Am makes AMA Pro racing a standalone entity, which makes it much easier to sell. If Edmondson can’t get this right, quickly, we may see the whole company put on the block. Potentially at a fire-sale price.

I would be surprised if this happens, but it could. There’s the alternate possibility that Edmondson could be replaced, but I don’t know if anyone in NASCAR has an interest in that. I don’t know that anyone else in the whole organization feels they could successfully run a motorcycle racing series. Especially given the magnitude of Edmondson’s (apparent) failure.

My guess is that Edmondson has been given an ultimatum — get this right or get out. Fast. I don’t think there will be a lot of patience for middling attempts at reconciliation or half-baked solutions. I think NASCAR has cleared his plate for a reason. They have insulated their other investments as best they can. They have isolated AMA Pro Racing as a standalone business unit.

We can expect to hear very little from AMA Pro Racing one way or the other. But if the 2009 season starts without at least three of the four major factories on the grid I predict we will see some sort of major ownership shakeup next year. This could screw up everything else that is going well in motorcycle racing, and cut the heart out of the positive changes happening in pro motocross. Whatever happens, 2009 will be an interesting year.

Australian newspaper The Age reports in “Broken leg bones healed in stem cell first” that a trial for new stem cell therapy has produced some remarkable results in healing the most serious kinds of fractures. The trial included nine patients with severe leg fractures, many unable to walk and spending up to 41 months waiting for bones to heal.

The therapy involves taking bone marrow stem cells from the patients pelvis and culturing them in a test tube. The stem cells are then applied to fracture sites, where they spur rapid growth of new bone. The average result in the trial was a four-month recovery time. The therapy is expected to halve healing time for less severe breaks.

The therapy is owned by regenerative medicine company Mesoblast. Earlier trials were performed in the UK and the therapy is expected to be generally available in 3-5 years.

I have raised this issue before and there may be people who disagree, largely because of the girl’s looks. But Erin Bates is an awful pit reporter. She continues to mangle the English language. Honestly. I was watching the “lites” race from Southwick on SPEED, Bates was interviewing Villopoto, and once again she starts throwing out big words but she doesn’t know what they mean. She sounds like some big, dumb football player or a blinged-out rapper with a third-grade education. It’s just insulting.

It’s far more than just this one instance. Bates routinely spews gibberish. She’s the George W. Bush of motorsports and sounds like she learned grammar from a bad video game. There are plenty of female sportscasters, several of them in motorsports, who make Bates sound like an uneducated hick. Those girls look good, too.

This is a matter of laziness. It’s not a matter of smarts. It’s an issue of a girl trading on her looks and refusing to put in the work needed to get the job done. Bates needs to get with the program. She needs to get her on-mic performance up to the same level as the other guys and girls in motorsports or go back to selling insurance. Frankly, she’s an insult to people like Krista Voda and Jamie Little, and even RacerX Show pit reporter Erin Normoyle.

I can’t believe she’s gotten a pass on this for so long just because of her looks. Hell, even Jillian Barberie had to get her on-mic banter up to pro level and she was way hotter than Bates in her heyday. I don’t know why Bates gets a pass on this. I just know it makes the sport look a little stupider and needs to end.