Mother nature hurled in some nasty curve balls, but she couldn't strike out a good race of intense action for Monster Energy Supercross fans.
Anaheim, CA - With the recent plague of rainy skies in California, the Feld Entertainment and Dirt Wurx crews took no chances this week. The track for the much-anticipated round 3 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross race at Angel Stadium was kept under wraps. The crew kept a close eye on the skies and the track, and their tedious work was rewarded. On race day, the track was in prime condition for a night of racing.
Saturday morning, the gloomy skies opened up around the halo of the Big A, revealing bright sunshine and getting fans excited for the day ahead. As always, thousands of fans flooded the paddock at Angel Stadium to kick off the pit party. Fans got a chance to see firsthand the work that goes into making the night show.
A Predator Returns
The biggest news of the week was that 250 East Coast Champion Malcolm Stewart would be returning to the track this season. After months of silence and speculation, the “Predator” broke the silence with big news. With the joint help of RIDE365.com and Seven, Stewart made his 450 debut on a Suzuki at A2. As expected, fans went insane. Other important updates coming into A2 included Trey Canard’s continued absence due to injury, and the TPJ Fly Racing team welcoming privateer 250 rider, Broc Shoemaker to the team.
The untouched track got rutted quickly as the riders began cranking out laps to qualify for the night show. The technical portions of the track slowed many of the riders down, while a select few were able to take advantage.
In practice and qualifying, Malcolm Stewart was quick to make his mark in the 450 class. He struck some of the fastest lap times within the first laps but fell back into the top five and ten as time went on. Although he may have moved back, tension rose in the pits as everyone wondered what Stewart could bring to the table in the night show. Aside from Stewart, Marvin Musquin would step it up this week and turn out the fastest qualifying time. Ken Roczen’s lap times were a smidge slower than usual. In the 250 class, fans were already projecting another win from TLD KTM rider, Shane Mcelrath – a double whammy to follow up his stunning win at A1.
250 WEST CLASS
The 250 class was anticipated to be another slam dunk for Shane Mcelrath, who has been the one to beat in the first two rounds of Monster Energy Supercross this season. Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider and 250 SX rookie, Austin Forkner pushed the veterans around in the second heat race and he took his first ever Supercross heat win. While he showed serious speed, it wasn’t clear if he would go toe-to-toe with Mcelrath in the Main. Even with Forkner and Mcelrath posing a serious threat to the win, Aaron Plessinger, Tyler Bowers, and Justin Hill were still within striking range of both riders; Plessinger took his first heat win of the season by edging out Mcelrath. The 250 class still has no clear dominant force, making for good races every week.
The 250 class Main Event started off with a bang (literally) as riders piled into the first turn. Jeremy Martin, Phillip Nicoletti, and Hayden Mellross tangled in the first turn. Austin Forkner had a wheel up on the rest of the competition as he broke away, but not long into the first lap, a near encounter with a tuff block sacrificed his lead. Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Justin Hill took control of the race. With each lap, he extended his lead over the other riders and was nearly untouchable. He rode his lead all the way to the finish line as Shane Mcelrath, and Martin Davalos battled with Aaron Plessinger, Austin Forkner, and Jimmy Decotis.
While Aaron Plessinger hasn’t been racking up wins so far this season, his consistent speed and aggression have paid off – he has nabbed crucial championship points at every round. A2 was no different, a smooth ride for Plessinger caught him the second place spot. It’s likely that Plessinger would kill to be on the top of the box, but if his recent performance shows anything, it’s that he is more than capable of doing so. Plessinger earned second, edging out Mcelrath who took third. Mcelrath held off Austin Forkner and Rockstar Husqvarna rider Martin Davalos until the end. Any of the riders in the top ten could potentially take the win next weekend in Phoenix.
The 450 class was anything but its usual tune this weekend. Fans anticipated a podium similar to last weekend – Dungey strong and consistent, Roczen with the domination. Things were already off to an odd start when an on-track mash up between Vince Friese, Jason Anderson, and Marvin Musquin resulted in a tunnel tussle and a disqualification for the Rockstar Husqvarna rider, Jason Anderson. Anderson is usually one of the strongest riders at Angel Stadium, and now he was out of the equation.
450 Heat 1
Many fans missed the original altercation because they were too busy watching Malcolm Stewart in second place, chasing down Ken Roczen. His 450 SX debut was off to an incredible start as he came out of the pack chasing down the projected winner of A2. He continued to battle with the Honda HRC rider until his paced slowed some, but not enough to lose his second place spot. Both Roczen and Stewart qualified for the Main as well as Chad Reed and Cole Seeley who were not far behind.
450 Heat 2
Things got even weirder when the always strong and steady, Ryan Dungey got a DNF in his heat and found himself in the semis with his teammate, Marvin Musquin. Davi Millsaps would go on to take the win on his KTM with teammate Blake Baggett hot on his heels. Despite Davi’s big win, fans were reeling over Cooper Webb who has shown massive improvements week after week and spent his heat battling with Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac for third place.
Semis - LCQ
In Semi 1, Ryan Dungey was able to qualify third after his DNF in his heat. Musquin took the win followed by Broc Tickle.
In Semi 2, Jimmy Albertson was on his way to the main until he cross-rutted and crashed out, letting JGRMX Factory Suzuki rider Weston Peick take the win and the ticket.
The LCQ was an intense battle as a stacked gate of riders fought tooth and nail for the final spots in the main event. After his falling out with Anderson, Friese had to make up for lost ground in the LCQ, which he went on to win. However, the fans were much more interested in the battles behind him. A crowd favorite, TPJ Racing rider Adam Enticknap “The Seven Deuce Deuce” trudged his way through a handful of riders to lock in a second-place finish and a spot in the main event – his first one of the year. Microbilt rider, Ronnie Stewart looked like he was going into the main from third place until a slick pass by TPJ Racing rider, Nick Schmidt caught him on the last lap. Ronnie didn’t need to stress – he had earned his spot in the main event with a fourth place.
450 Main Event
After hours of high-intensity racing and a splash of drama, the riders were locked and loaded in the gate for the 450 Main Event. All eyes were on Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey, whose battles are always a highlight of Supercross racing. As the gate dropped and the riders charged for the first turn, the bottleneck caught Roczen in its clutches and gave Dungey the space he needed to break away. As Dungey blasted off, the riders found their paces. Marvin Musquin found himself battling with Honda HRC rider, Cole Seeley for second. Ken Roczen clawed back from sixth, and Factory Yamaha rider Cooper Webb hung in the top five.
With Roczen so far behind, fans were on the edge of the seat and buzzing, wondering if the twenty minutes would be enough to get back to Dungey. It seemed to happen so fast; Roczen began picking off riders and moving his way up. Grant, Reed, Peick and Webb each fell victim to the fire burning under Ken Roczen after the bad start. As Roczen’s sight set on Seeley, his riding became faster, wilder and more unpredictable. His speed was incredible, and his focus was unparalleled. He was bent on getting back into first place, and would not settle for anything less. As he drew nearer and nearer to the top three, the crowds began cheering. Then suddenly, the cheers turned to one collective gasp. Roczen lost it. In a blink of an eye, Roczen danced too close to the edge and lost control. A miscalculation in the most technical portion of the track launched him off his bike and straight into the ground – hard. He appeared to be completely motionless, and the medical flag waved for several laps. As the Asterisk medical crew hauled Roczen off the track, his arm was in a cast, and the disbelief in his face was purely visible. While Dungey continued to press on to the finish line, the crowds murmured in worry for the young German rider. Behind Dungey, Cole Seeley still fought to catch Musquin. As the race went on, the shock wore off. Riders snapped back into the action and continued to cheer for their favorites. As the finish line flag flew and the hot fire hit the cold sky, Dungey was back on top, and Roczen’s future was unclear. This weekend’s podium shook things up. Ryan Dungey celebrated his first win of the year and gained valuable championship points. Cole Seeley got his first podium of the year. Cooper Webb celebrated a top five finish. Ken Roczen got an ambulance ride.
While there were may certainties about the night at A2, there were several uncertainties brought to light that buzzed amongst the crowd. After tonight, it is certain that Ken Roczen will not be able to win the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Championship due to his compound fracture in his forearm. Who will win, is yet to be decided. Who may replace him on the HRC Honda team as a stand in, is also yet to be decided. One thing we do know is that Ken Roczen is not a quitter. He has proved to fans and haters, alike that he is a force that will not be stopped. Bad luck and injury, Ken Roczen will rise time and time again to earn what he wants the most. There’s no question.
In light of Roczen’s terrible crash, the racing was superb under the halo at Angel Stadium, and it is likely that fans can continue to expect the same caliber of competition throughout the season of Monster Energy Supercross. The stacked classes are packed with talent, experience and will power. While some things may seem clear, anything can happen – that’s racing.