Footage of Scott Murray's stomped double backflip at the Gladiator Games in Prague over the weekend prompted us to catch up with the rider, who is an anomaly in the world of FMX in almost every way. Murray lives in Perronville, Mich. -- far from the core of the FMX scene in Southern California -- and has never had a financial sponsorship paying his way. He almost never enters traditional freestyle competitions, and doesn't spend much time keeping up with the latest tricks in the sport. Instead, he says, he's been perfectly content to make a living doing demos around the world and cashing in on his one main claim to fame: six years after Travis Pastrana first landed the double backflip in the Moto X Best Trick competition at X Games, Murray is still one of just four riders in the world who can land the trick.
"Travis is still the only one out of all of us who is 100 percent -- I think he's six-for-six now -- and I'm more like 50 percent, so it's not something I'm ever confident with," Murray says. Cam Sinclair has also landed the trick, and has been working on variations like the double nac backflip he won silver with at X Games 17 this summer, and Josh Sheehan double flipped his way to a bronze medal with his first-ever double, but you can still count them on one hand and Murray says it's always a big gamble. "I go to a double backflip show and I look at my numbers and know it's literally a 50-50 chance for me. I'm thinking, 'Am I going to stomp this thing or crash?' It's always very nerve wracking."
Last Saturday, he landed what he says is his cleanest double yet, on a brand new Honda CRF 450 he built in Czech rider Libor Podmol's shop just one week before the event.
"The people all stood up and the place went silent," Murray says. "It was the first time I'd done the trick without a song in my headphones, and it was almost creepy because it got very, very quiet. I heard my bike roaring because I was wrapping it out, as I do on the 450, and as soon as I left the ramp I knew it was good and that I'd be able to stomp the landing. The crowd just erupted, and it was a lot of fun."
Am I going to stomp this thing or crash?' It's always very nerve wracking.
Murray says he's dreamed of flipping and flying through the air since as far back as he can remember, and still recalls the moment when those dreams first shifted from fighter jets to motorcycles.
"I've had this infatuation with flying through the air for some reason ever since I was a little, little guy, and it's awesome to be able to chase your dream and live your dream," Murray says. "I just love riding my bike. I don't want to sound corny but & it completes me, in a way, and it makes me happy, and I can't believe I'm so blessed to be able to do this."
Although Murray has competed in Best Trick at X Games three times -- in 2007, 2008, and 2009, with five gnarly crashes on double backflip attempts to show for it -- he says he's not big on the freestyle contest scene and prefers to just ride and put on a good show. Still, he was miffed at not getting an invite to compete at X Games this year because he'd been landing his doubles consistently on the the X Pilots World Freestyle Motocross tour; Josh Sheehan got a Best Trick invite despite never having landed the trick before. "No disrespect to Josh, because he's an amazing athlete and I wish I could do half of what he does on a bike, I'm still stumped at that and I'm coming to learn that it can be a little more political these days, especially for someone like me who really isn't sponsored by anybody who has my back and is pushing me in there. But I've made my peace with it: I'm perfectly content with what I'm doing now, being able to travel the world and ride with many of the world's top riders."
And while he says it can be stressful to rely on demos (and the double backflip) for his paychecks, he knows he could have it even harder.
"There are times when it's very difficult, very stressful and nerve wracking, and you start asking yourself, 'Why am I doing this?' But then I go back and I think about my life before all the freestyle opportunities came about for me, driving pulp trucks and running a chainsaw for a living, and cutting brush. I don't think anybody really dreams of cutting brush or cutting pulp wood in the woods with a chainsaw! That's a lot of hard, backbreaking work, and my family has done that kind of work for generations. To be able to go out and make a living doing what I love to do, riding my bike, it's like I never work a day in my life. I love what I do, and if you're blessed to have that then you've got it made. I wouldn't trade this for the world."
This week he's headed for the X Pilots event in Mexico City, where the higher elevation could mean problems getting enough power to his bike to complete the double.
"Lord willing I'll be able to stomp this thing and go home in one piece," Murray says. "I've crashed so many of these doubles that I'm almost as comfortable crashing as I am landing them. I do wear a lot of padding on my body, because I know I'm going to hit the ground, and I try to prepare myself and train my body as much as possible."
Murray says he's also working on some double variations, and admits he's holding out hope for another turn at X Games.
"Don't get me wrong, if I got the invite I would love to get that monkey off my back, but now Cam is doing nac double flips and you know Josh is going to come out with a double variation. Do I see myself getting back there? Maybe, but I'm not holding my breath. I'm a firm believer that the good Lord's going to put me where he wants me. If he wants me at the X Games, well, maybe I'll be there, and if wants me at demos all over the world being a good ambassador for the sport -- and for Him -- then that's what I'll do."
The end of the line came quickly and unexpectedly this week for an sIndianapolis racing industry landmark when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced it was closing the Brickyard Crossing Inn immediately. Around 15 jobs were eliminated.
Informally known as the Speedway Motel, the 96-room structure was built in 1963 and was rechristened Brickyard Crossing in 1993 when an upgraded Pete Dye-designed golf course of the same name was opened on the IMS property. Over the years, a variety of celebrities ranging from the Beatles to James Garner stayed at the facility -- not to mention dozens of famous racers.
The Speedway Motel was also featured in several scenes of the Indianapolis 500-based movie "Winning," which starred the late Paul Newman and Robert Wagner.
In May 2008, during his last visit to the Speedway, Newman paid tribute to the humble on-site accommodations at IMS.
"My favorite tradition was that it took a whole month," Newman said. "Indy started at the first of May, and you had your reservation at the Speedway Motel. If you wanted a room for two days, you took it for the whole month or you wouldn't get it."
IMS president and chief operating officer Joie Chitwood said the hotel buildings will be razed immediately. The lobby, which houses a restaurant, bar and pro shop for the Brickyard Crossing golf course, will remain operational.
"To bring the motel up to the standards and quality of what guests expect at the Speedway would require significant capital expenditures," Chitwood stated. "After reviewing the alternatives, we have decided to discontinue its operation."
Speedway officials are considering several options, including the construction of a high-end hotel in line with the quality of the other offerings at IMS.
Dallara offers up savings: Dallara Automobili, the sole chassis supplier for the IndyCar Series, has projected an 11 percent savings for teams resulting from restructured spare-parts pricing.
Dallara says it is dropping its prices by 8 to 20 percent; it equips the full IndyCar Series field at every race except the Indianapolis 500, where a few Panoz chassis occasionally qualify.
"If we can help the teams go through this difficult economic time, it is in the best interest of the manufacturers, the series and the teams," said Andrea Toso, Dallara's IndyCar Series program leader. "If we don't do anything now, maybe one year from now it's too late. We hope that all suppliers and partners will understand this initiative and follow suit."
IndyCar Series officials welcomed the news. "In light of the current global economic crisis, to see the effort Dallara has made to help all of our teams with an across-the-board cost reduction is truly the definition of a partner," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League.
In truth, there was probably plenty of margin for Dallara to work with. The current IndyCar chassis has been in production since 2003 without major changes. Some new bodywork components will be introduced this year to accommodate a mechanical silencer system that is expected to quiet the Honda V-8 engines by up to 9 decibels.
Viso back with HVM: HVM Motorsport confirmed that E.J. Viso will return to the team for his second season of IndyCar Series competition. Team principal Keith Wiggins also all but confirmed that the Indianapolis-based organization will field a second car, likely for former Champ Car race winner Robert Doornbos.
"This is a natural progression and a sensible move for both team and driver," Wiggins said. "It will actually be the first time since 2004 that we have the continuity of retaining the same driver for a second season. That in itself shows a positive picture for our team and the single open-wheel series.
"We are delighted to continue with E.J. going into our second IRL season and believe that together we can make big strides in 2009," Wiggins added. "The addition of a second entry will further strengthen our program."
Viso, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, scored seven top-10 finishes during his rookie IndyCar campaign. It was a bumpy ride at times as Viso riled veterans with a lack of oval track etiquette, but by the end of the season he emerged as a regular top-10 runner.
"We had a good season in 2008 given that it was our learning year, and having continuity is a good thing to pursue our progression towards the top," Viso said. "The team is working on upping our game, and our plans to enter a second car are very close to being completed. This obviously will be a big plus."
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.
Significant track changes should become mandatory or the speed of the cars must be reduced.
AP Photo/Matt SlocumIt's not the Snake River Canyon, but jumping 21 Hummers at Texas Motor Speedway is no easy task, either.