This week 500 truckloads of dirt were poured on to one of the country's most famous football field. Thousands of fans swarmed AT&T Stadium for the Arlington round of Monster Energy Supercross.
This week's pit party was nearly as massive as the stadium itself. Fans packed the paddock and perused the pits to visit with their favorite riders. The 80-degree weather made this one of the best pit parties so far this season - riders hung out in between qualifying to chat with fans and sign autographs.
Like Oakland, Arlington was also a day race. Open ceremonies started at 3:30 and the first gate drop clocked in at 4 pm.
The 250 class lined up for its first two heats to kick off the evening.
The first heat was relatively uneventful -- Shane Mcelrath took a substantial lead and ran away with it. He went on to lead all eight laps of the heat. Behind him, Jeremy Martin fought to keep Aaron Plessinger at bay.
The crowd (especially mama Forkner) jumped to their feet as the 250 rookie Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Austin Forkner took the holeshot in heat 2. He looked a little unsteady at first but quickly gained complete control and stretched out his lead from the pack. Somewhere in the mix behind him was his Pro Circuit teammate and current points leader, Justin Hill. Hill advanced into second place and slowly crept up on Forkner. Near the end of the race, Hill made a clean pass, but Forkner latched on and stalked Hill to the final lap. As the checkered flag flew, Hill took the win, but Forkner was only a tire's length behind him. Dan Rheardon finished third, and Martin Davalos hauled it in for fourth.
In the 250 LCQ, TPJ Fly Racing rider Broc Shoemaker grabbed the holeshot and led the race until Tallon Lafountaine overtook the lead. Chris Alldredge passed Lafountaine and led the remaining laps to take the win. Scott Champion snatched second, Broc Shoemaker finished third, and Chris Howell grabbed the last qualifying spot. Broc Shoemaker celebrated his first career main event in Arlington.
As the riders rounded the first turn in the main, it was looking like a repeat of previous rounds. Shane Mcelrath shot out ahead of the pack and began working on stretching out a lead. Justin Hill, Austin Forkner, Aaron Plessinger and Jimmy Decotis bumped their way through the rhythm section in Mcelrath's trail. As we neared the halfway point, Hill had moved his way into second place and fought to catch up to Mcelrath. Suddenly, Mcelrath began moving backward through the ranks. Hill took over the race and went on to extend his lead all the way to this finish line. Mcelrath continued to fall through the pack due to mechanical issues all the way to 22nd place. Justin Hill captured another victory; Austin Forkner celebrated a second place career-best finish, and Aaron Plessinger squeezed onto the podium in third.
Despite his massive set back in Arlington, Mcelrath still maintains a top three position in the points championship, 25 behind the leader, Hill. Aaron Plessinger moves into second place in the standings.
The 450 class started off with two heats. In the first heat, we witnessed the same old tune. Ryan Dungey pulled ahead of the pack while his teammate Marvin Musquin trailed behind him. Blake Baggett and Cole Seely followed suit. Dungey led the entire race from start to finish and earned his main event ticket.
In the second heat, there was an unusual shake-up. Mike Alessi took the lead of the race and held on to it for four laps until Justin Bogle ran him down and passed him for the position. Bogle went on to take the win. Davi Millsaps and Cooper Webb nabbed the other qualifying positions.
In the first semi, the crowd erupted for Chad Reed as he took the holeshot and led the entirety of the race. Broc Tickle chased after him as the two Rockstar Husqvarna riders Dean Wilson and Jason Anderson qualified directly behind him.
The second semi race was in the bag for Eli Tomac, who crashed into the back of Cooper Webb's bike on the first lap of the heat race. He was able to take the holeshot and the win, while Trey Canard qualified in second (after returning to the series from injury). And Justin Brayton and Malcolm Stewart qualified in third and fourth.
In the LCQ, the crowd cheered for privateer favorite, TPJ racing rider Adam Enticknap "The Seven Deuce Deuce" as he got off to a great start alongside RCH rider Jake Weimer. Weimer commanded the race and was untouchable, despite second place rider Jimmy Albertson's best efforts. Albertson, Austin Politelli and Cade Clason managed to get the final spots into the main event.
While the night had seemed typical so far, things were about to get crazy.
As the fire heated up AT&T Stadium and the gate fell into the dirt, Cooper Webb got the jump on everyone. He was off to a first lap lead; however, Justin Brayton went down and got trampled on in the first turn chaos. The medical unit was called, and the officials red flagged the race and sent everyone back to the gate for a restart, much to the disappointment of Webb.
The gate dropped again and this time factory KTM Redbull rider Marvin Musquin got the jump. Cooper Webb was able to make it out of the first turn unscathed and was not far behind the leader. Cole Seely trailed behind the two, and Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac were lost in the crowd behind them.
There seemed to be two separate races going on - the race for Webb to catch up to Musquin, and the race for Dungey and Tomac to get out of the mid-pack.
Webb had begun to inch closer and closer to the leader when suddenly he began to drop back as if he physically ran out of steam, but he pulled into the pit area (the first of many odd pit stops for racers). We discovered he had a flat tire. His mechanics frantically swapped out his entire wheel and Webb was back on the track, but the damage was done, and Webb lost a lot of positions. As Webb made it back on the track, Tomac began his advance toward the podium. The crowd was cheering for him, and then suddenly, he crashed in a corner. He remounted his bike but pulled off the track and into the pit area with his hands up. His team cut the front brake lines to get him back on the track. At this point, neither Webb nor Tomac could make up the distance. Musquin was too far gone. Cole Seely kept up a steady charge but just could not haul in the leader. Jason Anderson worked on catching Seely, and Dean Wilson was not far behind. To everyone's surprise, points leader Ryan Dungey seemed to be stuck behind Dean Wilson by spending several laps trailing the Rockstar Husqvarna rider. It wasn't until nearly the end of the race that Dungey was able to get around Wilson and take over fourth place.
Tonight was the first night in a long time that we did not see Ryan Dungey make it to the podium, but it is unlikely that KTM was too upset. The crowd erupted as Marvin Musquin celebrated his first main event victory in the 450 class with style and an incredible lead. It was an emotional victory for the French rider, who FaceTimed his brother as soon as the race was over, and teared up as he embraced his excited wife. On the podium, even the competitors congratulated the winner and doused him in champagne in his first 450 Pro victory.
While it may have been a rough night for riders like Ryan Dungey, Eli Tomac, and Cooper Webb, these are the riders that don't back down and don't let off. Whatever problems they may have had tonight, they will come back next weekend stronger and faster, with a searing amount of willpower. You just can't count them out.
For now, Musquin's victory brought him closer to teammate Ryan Dungey's points lead; 18 points separates the leaders. Eli Tomac lost some traction due to his 15th place finish, but he is 29 points down and remains a championship contender from 4th place. Cole Seely quietly hangs tight to third place in the points championship, and Ryan Dungey continues to loom over everyone.