Race Report: U.S. Open Day One

It has begun. The 2007 Rockstar Energy Drink U.S. Open is underway, pyrotechnics and all. The stage was set early this week when the G.O.A.T. Ricky Carmichael announced that he would not run the U.S. Open, and James Stewart directly followed that announcement with one of his own—he, indeed, would be racing for that big cash purse. It was to be a sneak peek into the 2008 Supercross season. Chad Reed, James Stewart, Timmy Ferry, Grant Langston, and Andrew Short would all be there to prep for the upcoming season.Unfortunately, James Stewart decided that his knee was not quite ready for racing and he pulled out after practice. So how did the first night of the Open pan out?

After the familiar spectacle of opening ceremonies that only Vegas can truly offer, the racing got underway. For those who aren’t privy to the U.S. Open structure, it consists of 3 heats with top 3 advancing to the main, 3 semis with winner advancing, and a short LCQ with top 2 advancing. Also, for the first time 250s and 450s race together in a true open format. And since it is Vegas, money is up for graps at almost all times. Just before the first heat, the 10 fastest riders from practice participated in the Toyota Superpole. Each rider took a solo fast lap, the fastest taking home $10K in cash. Chad Reed, who is no stranger to U.S. Open wins, edged out Andrew Short for the fastest time and added a little gambling money to his wallet.With cash already be handed out, 12 riders lined up for the first heat.

Heat 1
Josh Demuth of Hart and Huntington/Rockstar snatched up the holeshot and led for a couple laps before Grant Langston reeled him in, taking over the lead. Michael Byrne followed suit, as did Andrew Short. Byrne, Short and Demuth diced for a few laps before with Short eventually taking the second place position and did not give it up. By the end of heat, it was Langston, followed by Short and Byrne. It became apparent that flawless riding and taking the rhythm sections correctly would be the keys to victory. If a rider didn’t triple at least one part of the center rhythm section, he was getting passed.

1. Grant Langston
2. Andrew Short
3. Josh Demuth
4. Michael Byrne
5. Eric Sorby
6. Branden Jesseman
7. Heath Voss
8. Kyle Cunningham
9. Thomas Hofmaster
10. Jeff Gibson

Heat 2
Mike Alessi twisted the throttle of his new RMZ450 taking the holeshot, and he used the rest of the laps to build his lead. A little shaky at first, Mike settled into the supercross rhythm and pulled out the win. Timmy Ferry ran consistent laps (no surprise there) and took second. Justin Brayton, on his new KTM, ran an impressive race and held on for third, just edging out his new teammate, Billy Laninovich for a spot in the main.

1. Mike Alessi
2. Timmy Ferry
3. Justin Brayton
4. Billy Laninovich
5. Cole Siebler
6. Tyler Bowers
7. Bryan Johnson
8. Leighton Lillie
9. Kevin Johnson
10. Joe Oehlhof

Heat 3
Heat 3 found Chad Reed lined up at the gate next to his countryman, Dan Reardon. Reardon signed with Sobe/No Fear/Samsung/Honda earlier this year after wining the Australian Supercross. Early into the race Reed didn’t like how Jake Weimer was racing and let him know about it with a stare-down. After he scolded Weimer he checked out for the easy win. Fellow Australian, Reardon held onto second, with Weimer behind him in third.

1. Chad Reed
2. Dan Reardon
3. Jake Weimer
4. Jason Thomas
5. Ryan Clark
6. Jacob Marsack
7. Brock Sellards
8. Chris Blose
9. Jim Neese
10. Jeff Alessi

The Semis gave the racers one more opportunity before the LCQ to snatch a position in the main event. With just 6 laps to get out in front and dash for the checkered flag, the holeshot and first turn into the rhythm section were crucial. In the first semi, Michael Byrne took the victory and assured himself a spot in the main event. He edged out Eric Sorby, who finished just two seconds behind him. In the second semi, Heath Voss rode his CRF250 to victory, beating an almost solid 450cc field. Ryan Clark and Jason Thomas gave the fans some great racing and finished just a second apart. Unfortunately for them, it wasn’t enough to make the main event. Billy Laninovich took the third semi and it was to the LCQ for the rest.

Semi 1 (top 5)
1. Michael Byrne
2. Eric Sorby
3. Bryan Johnson
4. Leighton Lillie
5. Kevin Johnson

Semi 2 (top 5)
1. Heath Voss
2. Ryan Clark
3. Jason Thomas
4. Jacob Marsack
5. Joe Oehlhof

Semi 3 (top 5)
1. Billy Laninovich
2. Cole Siebler
3. Tyler Bowers
4. Jeff Gibson
5. Brock Sellards

DNA Energy Drink/BTO Sports teammates Jason Thomas and Bryan Johnson nabbed the final 2 available gate spots in the main event.

Main Event
The main event consisted of 20 laps around the MGM Grand arena and held out the Progressive Direct Holeshot Award as well. Yet again, Chad Reed blasted out of the gate and crossed the Progressive markers first, adding to his Superpole prize money. Grant Langston, Tim Ferry, Andrew Short, and Mike Alessi rounded out the top five after the first lap. With 2 turns left in the second lap, Andrew Short passed Ferry to take over third position while GL continued to chase Reed. By lap 8, a fair amount of separation had grown between each of the top 5 riders, with Reed still out front. Josh Demuth put out a strong effort aboard the H&H/Rockstar Honda CRF450 holding a respectable sixth position. By the time Reed and Langston were finishing up their 14th lap, they were well into lapper traffic. The rest could only hope the lappers might slow Chad Reed down, but they didn’t. He held on for the Main event victory with Grant Langston and Andrew Short rounding out the podium. Not a bad showing for the Aussie, who took most of his summer off.

RESULTS (top 5)
1. Chad Reed
2. Grant Langston
3. Andrew Short
4. Tim Ferry
5. Mike Alessi