Are the East Coast 125cc riders faster than those in the West? That question alone knocks the Internet into the next gear. As a West Coast “f” rider, it makes me chuckle just thinking about it. Sport shows have debated for years about whether the NFC is stronger than the AFC, or if the American League is better than the National league. In Supercross, one of the big debates is East vs. West. It’s a fun topic to B.S. about plain and simple, but it’s even more fun when you are part of the competition. So instead of being the nice, humble, “good guy,” I’m going to throw on my race face, toss the politically correct approach in the trash can, and tell you what I really think.
The majority of the motocross industry is based on the West Coast, primarily in Southern California. So when the West Coast riders line up in the gate at Anaheim 1, everyone who’s anyone is there. Along with the excitement of a new season comes the added buzz of getting to race in front of your bosses, their Japanese bosses, all of the media, plus the entire aftermarket industry. The East Coast racers, on the other hand, begin their championship in Indy. At that point in the season, the buzz has worn down in the 250cc class, and instead of battling SoCal traffic to get to the races, the industry has to fly across the country to the frozen tundra if they want to attend the race. The East Coast guys do have a few things to pound their chest about, though, including soil that doesn’t resemble cement by the time the main event rolls around, and of course, who can forget about Daytona? It’s a privilege to take part in such a prestigious event. So what’s the verdict? Each series is different and exciting for its own reasons, but when it comes down to it, few can argue that the West just has a more exciting allure, including the players…
This year the West has seen more contenders on the box than ever before. Ivan Tedesco all but dominated in his championship run last year. In fact, Nathan Ramsey’s San Francisco win was the only thing keeping him from a perfect series. Nate Dawg started this season off with a win in the mud at A1, and later claimed win number two in San Diego. Nate may be old, but he’s proved that with the heart of a young lion, he can still win. The best thing Nate has going for him is his experience. He’s been there and done that, and as a past champion, who said being “old” is a bad thing? The next person to claim a “W” was Broc Hepler. The kid is flat out fast, but is he as fast as Tedesco in Supercross? Not yet! It’s funny; Broc looks like he should be a scientist or a chemist. When you look at him you would never guess he was so fast on a dirt bike, but looks are obviously deceiving. The next guy to scoop up a win was Billy Laninovich. Anyone who has ever seen this guy whip a bike must scratch their head and wonder why he doesn’t go even faster than he does. If he could race as good as he whips it, Bubba wouldn’t be such a freak of nature anymore. Lastly is the reigning champ, Tedesco. Right now he is the complete package. In Supercross, none of the East Coast guys would have had a chance against him. I’ll just leave it at that.
So who’s going to give the West a run for its money in Vegas? The harsh reality is that there were only three riders with the speed to ride up front on the East-Millsaps, Hansen and Langston. Daytona was the only exception, but two thirds of the “top dogs” had problems. It was memorable to see the rise in confidence of Hansen and the exceptional performance out of Josh Grant, but Langston was definitely the man and deserved that championship. What Langston doesn’t have compared to his teammate on the West, though, is raw speed. Millsaps is the only other rider on the East who has the speed to win on the West. He was way faster than everybody else, even Langston, but just hasn’t figured out how to put it all together week after week. He doesn’t get good starts, and he panics too much when he’s behind. Hanseen is the exact opposite of Millsaps in my mind. He’s smooth, confident and puts himself in the right position at the right time. His switch to KTM has been good for him. He did well this year, and is starting to race like his dad once did.
I joined the 250cc class guys when the series went east, and definitely learned a thing or two from the big boys. Week after week, though, I watched the East Coast 125cc series pick up the pace, but I often wondered if they had the speed to compete on the West. My humble, honest opinion is “no.” The Dave Coombs Sr. East vs. West shootout is around the corner, and when the East Coast guys line up, they will be outmatched. Of course, that’s just my opinion, but one thing’s for sure. After Vegas, there won’t be anymore questioning or B.S.ing. It’s our Superbowl, and winner takes all.