Photos by Antonovich & Swanberg
After a small break in the schedule, the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross Series picked up with round twelve of racing at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California. The time away was much-needed and it allowed riders came back rested and ready for the final five races of the season. It was the first time in more than a month that the 250 West Coast SX class faced each other on the track and with only one points-paying moto left in their season, this championship will be a battle until the last lap in Las Vegas.
Wish we could say the same for the 450 class, because another win in Santa Clara extended Ryan Dungey’s lead in the championship to forty-two points over Ken Roczen. Unless things go completely off the rails, the Red Bull KTM rider should be able to wrap up his third premier title a few races before Las Vegas.
- For being a big stadium, we were surprised to see such a short track. About one-third of the available floor was used just one time in each race (the start) and lap times were in the mid to high 40s. The duration of both main events were less than fifteen minutes. We spoke with riders about how short the tracks have been and their reactions were mixed. Check back later for the Pit Pass Video about the subject.
- Attendance at Levi’s Stadium was just as mediocre as the track layout, as it appeared only about half of the 68,000 seats in the venue were filled. What are the reasons for low turnouts? It could be the ticket prices, the live television package, the practically decided 450 championship, or a combination of all these things.
- Josh Hansen, Justin Barcia, and James Stewart all lined up for the 450 main event and raced to varied results. This was Hansen’s first race of the year and despite a lack of training, the 100/57 looked smooth on the track and nearly made it to the main event straight from the heat race. Hansen battled to a fourteenth place in the main event. Hansen said that he’d like to race a few more rounds this year, but admitted that his body and bike preparation are lacking compared to the competition.
- Justin Barcia’s return wasn’t quite so smooth, as the AutoTrader/Monster Energy/Toyota/Yamaha rider had two rough incidents in the last practice (racked himself in the whoops, then crashed in the endzone rhythm section) and numerous run-ins with other riders during the main event. Barcia ended the night with a sixteenth place finish.
- Santa Clara was the best that James Stewart has looked all season and he ran as high as sixth place in the early laps of the main event. Unfortunately an electrical problem seemed to occur with his Yoshimura Suzuki and forced him to pull out just five laps into the race.
- Don’t let the SFF stickers fool you. James Stewart and Blake Baggett’s Yoshimura Suzuki bikes were outfitted with conventional Showa spring forks in Santa Clara and both riders praised the parts after the race. The two have run numerous fork setups this season, including the updated Showa SFF fork that a few factory riders have used in the early part of the year.
- A few key points of Cooper Webb’s contract to race a 450 for Yamaha in 2017: mechanic Eric Gass and trainer Gareth Swanepoel both get to come with him to the factory team.
- Speaking of Swanepoel, he added Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha’s Alex Martin to his list of riders during the recent downtime of the West Coast swing. Martin told us that he felt benefits from switching to Swanepoel’s program almost immediately and it showed in the early laps of main event, when Martin ran in the top-five until a tip-over in a tight corner. His brother Jeremy will continue to work with Johnny O’Mara.
- A couple of 250 riders and teams re-upped their contracts over the break. Jessy Nelson signed a three-year extension with Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM team and Jordon Smith inked a new deal with GEICO Honda. Both of these contracts will carry both riders through the rest of their time in the 250 class.
- Hayden Mellross is supposed to race the 450 class at the next two Supercross races. As long as he’s up to it, that is. The 51Fifty Yamaha rider was deemed okay after his wild ride in the 250 main event, and that’s the only way we can watch footage of the crash…
- Instead of driving the tractor-trailer from Detroit to Santa Clara and then back to Indianapolis, SmarTop/MotoConcepts Racing decided to keep their rig on the East Coast and brought up the essentials for riders Mike Alessi and Vince Friese in a box van. Wise financial move for the independent team.
- Tough weekend for the YP/Slaton Racing/KTM team. Cole Thompson sat out the race due to a mid-week practice crash and Zac Commans took a hard hit to his shoulder in his heat race, which forced him to sit out the rest of the night. Their “fill-in” rider for the weekend, Blake Lilly, wadded a set of triple clamps and the stem of his KTM in a practice crash, then finished twentieth in the main event.