Matt Huggett ‘On the Road’ | 2024 Detroit Supercross
By Matt Hugget / Two Twenty Six Media
Matt Huggett from Two Twenty Six Media is back with the story of what it’s like behind the scenes on the floor for the first time at the 2024 Detroit Supercross.
Guess who’s back, back again? Unfortunately, it’s not Eminem. We missed his appearance at Ford Field by a couple of weeks. However, another Supermotocross World Championship season is upon us, and I dusted off the camera to try and tell the story of what it’s like behind the scenes.
Hailing from Sarnia, ON, the round in Detroit has been a staple for the majority of my life. From attending the Pontiac Silverdome with my dad to the annual trip to Ford Field, it’s an event always circled on my calendar. Having been inside the fences for a handful of AMA Pro Motocross nationals, I was ready for the challenge that the bright lights and tight confines of a stadium bring as a photographer.
Thankfully, when I reached out to Billy, he was on board to allow me to take photos and create content for DMX. Thanks to Sean Brennan of FELD for not only approving my credential but putting me in the big leagues right away. At Supercross events, there are two levels of access given to photographers: safety hold access – essentially row 1 of the stadium where the banners are that you see on TV – and track access. The access I was granted was track access, which allowed me to shoot from the stadium floor and the safety hold.
This round is one hour door-to-door from my home, so I decided it made the most sense to commute on both Friday for Press Day and Saturday for the Race. This would give me my home office to edit photos, along with the comfort of my own bed. This, however, means the road trip side of this story is missing the usual flair.
Press day is on Friday afternoon and it typically features a handful of factory stars, along with some local privateers. Detroit’s press day was amped up to another level because it was the debut of the 250 East class, so what felt like the entire 250 main event line-up rode press day. That alone was enough to make the day exciting, however, the 250 East class also featured Factory Triumph and the official debut of the English machines on an American racetrack.
Press day is fairly laid back and all the riders are happy to talk and exude an abundance of style on the racetrack. We had a chat with Evan Ferry about the Triumph, a bike he has been riding for a long time at this point, and he noted that he finds it hard to compare to other motorcycles he has raced and finds the feel and sound of the machine to be rather unique.
While there are no trophies given out for press day, here at DMX, we have the power to give out our own awards, so without a doubt, the “DMXie” for the best style on press day goes to #38 Haiden Deegan. As Haiden made his way around the shortened circuit, you could clearly tell he was feeling it as he heads into his sophomore season as a Pro; the #38 Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha was sideways everywhere. Comfort on the circuit likely also played into the favour of the Star Yamaha riders, as they have an exact replica of the Detroit layout back at the Goat Farm.
After the riding had concluded, I packed up and made my way back to Sarnia for the evening, finding time to not only edit and post my photos but also take my wife out for dinner. Chalk that up as a first on one of my motocross road trips! Friday was an early night as Saturday’s daytime race meant I needed to cross the border at 5:15 AM to make it to Ford Field in time for the 6:30 AM track walk.
When I arrived at Ford Field, the stadium was already abuzz with the sound of race bikes warming up echoing off the buildings surrounding the stadium. Track walk was a bit more muted than what it typically is as a number of riders chose to skip it and catch a few more Z’s. Entry numbers are still strong in the US with A, B, and C groups in both the 250 and 450 classes. The morning is fairly busy with 18 sessions between Free Practice, First and Second Qualifiers for each group, so naturally, the track took a beating, giving Dirt Wurx 2.5 hours to refresh the course before the “night” show. From a photographer’s perspective, the morning is a great time to get content which you can have ready to go on your phone to tell the story of the night. During the break in the action, it’s a great time to get photos of the paddock and the machines and get ready for the night show.
No matter how old I am, opening ceremonies are always cool. I was lucky enough to experience half of it from the press box, which provides a unique perspective, and the other half from the safety hold, which was bonkers. Haiden Deegan made his way into the stands beside me with a Detroit Lions jersey on, and the fans went NUTS.
When the night show started, you could feel a different vibe down on track level. The racers were dialed in, NBC was live on-air, and with 50K people in the stands, there was a buzz about the building. No pressure but it’s GO-TIME for everyone, myself included.
The race track was simple by Supercross standards, however, the soft soil that was brought in from the Michigan winter added its own flair, with plenty of ruts developing. There was some great racing in all of the heat races. During the LCQ, a lot of the media head back to the Photo Den (a workroom under the stadium for the NFL or MLB photographers) to recharge themselves and the gear before the main. Watching the LCQ’s on the TV in the Photo Den provided a lot of colourful discussion as the carnage ensued.
In what felt like a blur, it was back to the stadium floor for the Main Events. I debated on where I should stand for a unique angle of the start of the 250 main and skipped the first corner in favour of the end of the first rhythm, hoping to catch a number of motorcycles all in various stages of flight. Unfortunately, half of the 250 class went right instead of left.
The consequences of this were huge:
- Evan Ferry hit the brick wall very hard.
- Haiden Deegan had his Pro Tapers turned into Harley Davidson spec bends, ending his chances at a good result.
- Cameron McAdoo raced the entire 250 main “hanging it all out.”
Hats off to #64 Austin Forkner on getting the red plate and a win; he rode great, and a number of people were stoked to see him find success again.
The final race of the night was the 450 Main. Despite #18 Jett Lawrence leading the race wire to wire, the racing was really good. It sounds cliché at this point, but the 450 field is very deep, and factory stars were battling everywhere on the track making for an entertaining Main.
Post-race interviews are actually rather difficult to come by, so hats off to Billy and the other pros who manage to get great post-race content for the fans. FELD has two options: a Media Scrum for non-podium finishers and the Post-Race Press Conference for the top 3 in each class. Given how far the paddock is from the Press Conference rooms, it’s easy to see why the Scrum is not always well attended, so hats off to the racers who made the trek. Personally, I think it would be nice for the AMA to make the scrum mandatory for finishers 4-10 so more of the story can be told, however, that decision is beyond my scope.
Given that the night show was from 3-6 pm, it was nice to pack up after a race and be home by 8 pm, and have the majority of my content done by 10 pm. Personally, I give the day races a big thumbs up!
Some observations from the event:
- It’s hard even as a lifelong amateur motocross racer to understand how gnarly supercross is until you have been on the floor. The obstacles are massive, the mellow whoops are still knee-deep, the precision required lap after lap is mind-blowing.
- The speed carried indoors is gnarly. Maybe some of those calls about the bikes being “too fast” have some logic to them.
- The grind that the media does to create content for fans is unbelievable. Stadiums are huge on foot, and the speed at which they turn around content is crazy.
- #69 Coty Shock – Coty is back and looks very comfortable aboard the ClubMX Yamaha. Look for him to continue to be around the top 5.
- #37 Max Anstie – Max is one of the veterans in the class and has really found his stride the past couple of seasons. He is a weekly top 5 guy.
- Haiden Deegan – Despite what the message board warriors have to say, Haiden has elite speed, style for days, and the crowd loves him. Look for Haiden to bounce back and be a major factor in the title fight.
- Austin Forkner – After what seems like injury after injury, Austin is back and showed he still has the speed to be a title favourite in this class. At this stage, the championship is his to lose.
- Cameron McAdoo – I know we are only a month deep into 2024, but I’m going to go out on a limb and reward the DMXie for “Hanging it all out” to Cam.
- #3 Eli Tomac – The revenge season for Eli has been all over the place. Eli struggled in Detroit, fading hard in the main. Never count him out, so look for him to rebound this weekend.
- #94 Ken Roczen – Kenny was consistent all day long and found his way onto the box. If the 94 can start up front, look for him to mix it up in the top 5 weekly.
- Jett Lawrence – After an up-and-down west coast swing, the #18 looked like the rider we saw all summer long in 2023. This could make for a long season for the rest of the field.
- #1 Chase Sexton – Chase has had a consistent season and was the only guy that could run Jett’s pace all night. As the #1 settles into his KTM, look for him to win more races and be in the title defense fight until the final round.
- #96 Hunter Lawrence – The #96 seems to be struggling to find his groove in the 450 class and has been hanging around the tail end of the top 10. Working with his team and his brother daily will certainly help. Look for a breakout ride by Hunter in the next couple of races.
Overall, being on the floor was an incredible experience, and it felt great to be back at the races. Thank you, Billy, for this opportunity. The ambassadorship you show the Canadian motocross community and Canadian motocross media is world-class.
Thanks for reading, and see you all when the gate drops outdoors this summer!