A1-2018: Monster Energy Supercross
For two-wheel dirt freaks A1 is it, the Creme de la Crème, the Taj Mahal, or the seventh wonder of Southern California when it comes to racing. The lead up and crap talking started over six months ago and goes full force until the final dude emerges the triumphant winner. Yet, depending on who wins, especially an underdog, it can still be called a fluke or just luck. This year the winner had a little luck and lots of speed.
But prior to the gate drop, all eyes were on Ken Roczen, the rider that lawn darted himself into a horrific compound fracture of his arm nearly a year ago and at the time, it appeared to be a possible career-ending injury. But through sheer determination, and good surgeons, he made a remarkable recovery and was back on the bike and ready to race again. During the off-season, the 2017 SX Champ Ryan Dungey tossed in the towel and retired, leaving the field with no returning champion. Another former champion and mysterious man James Stewart hinted at a possible return but it was again, rumors. The only other remaining former champion, Chad Reed, laced together his own deal to ride a private Husqvarna, but a busted ankle a the Red Bull Straight Rhythm nearly thwarted him making A1 but he was there, maybe a little out of shape and only on the bike three times, but Reed muscled his way into the main event.
KTM’s Marvin Musquin was an active racer during the off-season and now the number-one rider for the orange brigade. Marvelous Marvin nabbed the million at Monster Cup and collected a slew of wins overseas and was the odds-on favorite to be the rider to beat or be right there from the drop of the gate at A1.
The one rider that was not talked about in great detail but was the favorite in some circles was Kawasaki’s Monster Energy rider Eli Tomac. Tomac did not ride Des Nations, or any of the off-season races in Europe or Straight Rhythm. T-Mac’s season crumbled as he lost the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross title, despite being the rider with the most wins. It was close, if the series would have adopted the new point system that just kicked into effect for 2018 last year, Tomac would have been tied in points with Dungey and won the title since he had more wins for the year. As a racer that is a hard pill to swallow.
The point system changes were only one of the big changes to the series. Now there is a championship inside a championship with the Triple Crown. Essentially a three-city showdown hosted at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on January 20, Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on March 3, and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on April 14 where both the 250SX and 450SX Classes will compete in three Main Events.
When it came down the actual race, there were no real surprises. There was some solid racing in the 450 class but the chips fell where many had predicted. Bummer Dean Wilson had a bad crash in the heat and had to retire for the night. There were no Stewart brothers at Anaheim and, no, Jason J-Law Lawrence did not make a comeback.
Ken Roczen was fast, and some predicted he would return where he left Anaheim 1 in 2017, by winning. Yet most figured he would be up front but it might take a few rounds for him to get back into full race speed and start to challenge for wins. K-Roc finished a solid fourth. JGR’s Weston Peick had a solid night and was right there in the main for a possible podium, a slight mistake let Roczen by and he finished a solid fifth for the night. If not for a slight bobble K-Roc he may have been able to challenge for the final podium finish. Roczen did finish the race as a bullet head, losing his magnet-attached visor during the race. We guess it did its job and broke loose but Roczen said it might of happened when he ducked to avoid some roost and got smacked with a clod.
Justin Barcia is back and looked to be liking the new Yamaha YZ450F more than the older chassis. Barcia is a title contender in our book and rode that way all night. He didn’t look like he was riding over his head and, despite being passed early in the race, picked up speed toward the end and almost challenged for the runner-up spot that Jason Anderson earned. And speaking of Anderson, last year’s A1 winner, this kid is another rider who will probably win a few mains this year. Husky has the new Rock Star Edition 450 and those who have ridden the production version have been raving about the new steed. Anderson powered his way into the second rung on the podium and was the fastest rider on the track at times.
We want to talk nice things about Eli Tomac. Yes things happened and bad luck is part of racing, but being one of, if not the fastest rider most of the time, this cloud has been lurking over this kid when it comes to supercross. I hate to make references but at times it reminds me of James Stewart. Both riders could lead a race to have some unfortunate mistake happen and the next thing we know they are on the ground. For Tomac, unlike Stewart, he never really looks like he is riding over his head and looks to be in total control but there is a demon that keeps striking him down. Not sure if he lost traction, mental block or what, yet a bobble ripped his A1 victory for his grasps in a split second. He tried to re-mount, yet his pants had come undone during the crash and then he ended up pulling off to what might have been a shoulder pain.
In the 250 ranks it was kind of a runaway by TLD Red Bull KTM rider Shane Mcelrath. After getting out front he pulled some distance and kind of just went for a Sunday ride on Saturday night. The other usual suspects were right there battling for the other two podium positions, Aaron Plessinger, Adam Cianciarulo, and Joey Savatgy. Christian Craig was up front early on but faded back to fifth. We did expect a little more speed out of the reigning champ and red plate A1 holder Justin Hill. Hill was there but never saw any real speed that would put him up into the top three. Hill finished a respectable seventh. The 250 West title could still go to a handful of riders but podium finish at A1 says a lot and is a good prediction.
All in all Anaheim 1 to kickoff the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross season was a solid race but nothing special, no real upsets, no real underdogs won, and the usual suspects were right there where most expected them to be. Eli Tomac, Dean Wilson, and Phil Nicoletti did not have good nights if we are talking about the regular names in the sport. It is kind of a bummer Ryan Dungey is no longer out there and the Stewarts fell off a cliff who knows where but like the Circus always says, the show must go on. The spectator turnout at A1 was solid and now that the hoopla of A1 is over, let the racing and the fastest win. Next week, the show heads to Houston, Texas.