PHOTOS | Antonovich & Octopi Media
We wrote a lot about the 2018 Anaheim Two Supercross round of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series, enough so that we don’t really think you need to go through a big intro. So start scrolling…
TRIPLE CROWN COMPLIMENTS & CONCERNS
The Anaheim round was the debut of the all-new Triple Crown race format for the Monster Energy Supercross Series, which seeded the field with the top twenty-two qualifiers and four transfers from the LCQ races and put them all in three Main Events of various durations (there were no Heat Races). From a viewer's perspective, the format increased the intensity of every lap and forced racers to go all-out to benefit their final overall score. The racing this produced was great and the best riders were on the track at all times, two things that we enjoyed.
But riders of all levels did not seem as excited. Nearly every racer in the night show seemed concerned about the increased risk of three chaotic starts, rapid race lengths, and a general sense of being on the edge of every lap. When asked in the press conference if they'd like to see the entire series go this way, Tomac replied, "I think the field would struggle to make it throughout the whole season. I think you'd probably see more injuries. When you add two extra starts and that much pressure and everyone on the line, there's quite a bit more risk involved. I think that in a whole season wouldn’t be a good thing."
Privateers, in particular, were not pleased with the format, because it virtually eliminated any chance of them getting time on television through the normal nighttime LCQ. An entire weekend hinged on how they performed in the Timed Qualifying sessions or the afternoon LCQ.
While this is a huge change for our sport, we have to remember that it's common for only the top names and the well-supported racers to make the final roster in some forms of motorsports, ala MotoGP and Formula1.
We know that fans at home were not thrilled with the downtime between races, as it turned into a feed of commercials and sponsored segments, but Jason Weigandt of Racer X Online said that the total commercial time was the exact same as a normal race (forty-five minutes) and there was only a small reduction in actual racing (six-minutes less to be exact. Regardless of the love or hate that you feel for this format, it sounds like it's something we should all get used to because it's likely that Feld Motorsports will use it or another system more often in the future.
ROCZEN'S RETURN TO A2
Hopefully, this is one of the last times that we have to bring up Ken Roczen's recovery (until he wins a Main Even that is). There was plenty of talk about the Team Honda HRC rider's return to the round that nearly ended his career a year ago and he did his best to quiet the conversations by not bringing it up on his own. His decision to race in the same gear style that he crashed in (despite some early reports, it was not the actual gear, but a new set) was bold (more on that in the images) and one of the cooler things we've seen in a while.
Although he downplayed the impact of last year in pre-race reports, at the end of the night Roczen did tell us that he was hesitant on the track and it impacted his riding, which is very understandable. "For some reason, it lingered somewhere and I definitely didn't feel like myself out there. I was riding like a vagina, but I couldn't do anything about it. I went into the first main and got a crappy start and felt terrible on the track. Right there and then after the main, I knew that was not necessarily planned and the worst part was I had two more to go. It was great just to finish it. I had crappy starts, I didn't feel good, wasn't riding very fast. It was good to just get this one off of the checklist."
A set of 11-12-4 finishes put Roczen ninth overall for the night and he's now fourth in the championship standings.
250 CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE
There's very little to separate the top riders in the 250 championship, especially the top two. Joey Savatgy and Shane McElrath are tied at the top of the chart with sixty-eight points each, Aaron Plessinger is ranked third at sixty-six points, Christian Craig is fourth at fifty-seven points, and Adam Cianciarulo is fifth at fifty-six points. All five riders in this hunt are past race winners and one wild Main Event could shuffle the entire order. We cannot wait to see how these guys push for the next three weeks because there's little time to act before the region takes a break.
Adam Cianciarulo's crash in the last Timed Qualifying session was brutal. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider hit a false neutral at the start of the rhythm lane and lost all momentum up the face of one jump, which sent him straight into the ground. When the Alpinestars Mobile Medical staff got him off the track, we figured his day was done, so there was some surprise when the team told us he was in. Cianciarulo said that his knee braces locked out in the crash and that caused massive bruises to his thighs, while the upper body impact left him with a strained neck and a destroyed Bell Helmets Moto9 Flex lid. After some work from Dr. Navarro, AC went 4-5-2 in the Main Events(he was within a quarter of a second from stealing the last moto win from Savatgy) and was ranked fourth overall.
Mitchell Harrison's crash in Timed Qualifying was another get-off that had us writing the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna rider off for the night. It took the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Staff a long time to get Harrison up and out of harm’s way, long enough that we figured a red flag was going to fly on the session, but he pulled himself together for the night show and went 18-12-12 for thirteenth overall.
REBUILDING CHAD REED
It doesn't seem like anything can keep Chad Reed off of the starting line. CR22 was further down the Timed Qualifying results than he probably hoped and had to race the afternoon LCQ, which he won by 1.5 seconds on Dakota Tedder. Small run-ins with other riders and a general lack of prep had an impact on Reed's night, like two close calls with Justin Barcia (more on that below), yet 12-17-16 scores but him fourteenth overall on the night. The week between Houston and Anaheim Two was the first time that Reed was able to put in an actual practice/test session outside of the weekend, which was aided by continued therapy with the staff of Red Bull's training center.
While watching opening ceremonies, we were reminded again of Reed's status in the sport. Sure, the guy is sixteenth in the championship (opening ceremonies is usually limited to the top-ten with exceptions for key riders, like Reed) but his short video with his family and the spotlight finish line launch drew massive applause from a crowd that has loved and hated him at various times. The last active member of the old guard (RC, Reed, Stewart, Windham, Vuillemin), things will be very odd when Reed does eventually call it a career, which will no doubt come one day after he's claimed the "most career starts" honor.
MALCOLM STEWART & JGRMX
Anaheim Two marked the second race of Malcolm Stewart's guaranteed two-race deal at AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing. His day had its share of issues, like when his bike had a mechanical issue in practice and then the massive pile-up he was collected in during the opening lap of 450 Main Event One, but there was still some flashes of speed through it all. Stewart went 16-8-14 for eleventh overall.
On Saturday morning we heard that Stewart's time at the team was up, as Justin Bogle is eager to get back on the track as soon as possible, which meant that Stewart would be back to his privateer Kawasaki for Glendale. There was also talk that the team and Stewart were looking for a way to stay together for a while longer, but we couldn't get confirmation of anything on race day.
Monday's press release was vague yet there were signs that Stewart will, in fact, remain with the team, like this quote: "With more time on the Suzuki RM-Z450, Stewart will be able to do serious damage." We reached out to Stewart's camp and it sounds like he'll be back on the yellow bike at Glendale, which comes as no real surprise. The fan interaction that Stewart draws is huge and would be valuable for any team, especially one with as many non-endemic sponsors as JGRMX. We'll keep an eye on this.
JUSTIN BARCIA & YAMAHA
Still no confirmation if Justin Barcia will remain with Monster Energy/Knich/Yamaha Factory Racing after the original terms of the six-race agreement, but damn, that's really a no-brainer for all involved. From all that we've seen and heard, Barcia meshes well with the factory team and enjoyed the development of the YZ450F, a bike he's openly said is better than the previous generation YZF. Sure, there was a little tension post-race on Saturday after a run-in between Barcia and teammate Cooper Webb (lots of middle fingers) but the two sorted out the issue in the rig and sounds like all is well now.
How about Barcia's near collision with Reed over the triple in race two? Reed had the inside line and drifted a bit left towards Barcia up the face of the jump, which forced Barcia to fly off of the track and down the edge of the track before he pulled back on at the end of the lane. That he didn't wipe out on the plywood at speed is remarkable. Barcia showed a little extra aggression towards Reed when he passed him in a bowl turn soon after, but compared to past BamBam moves, it was very tame.
TOMAC & MUSQUIN UPDATES
The biggest questions at Anaheim Two were on Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin, the two preseason title favorites that sat out Houston with shoulder injuries. Monster Energy Kawasaki and Red Bull KTM kept the status of both riders as quiet as possible during the week, so we had to hit up other sources for information.
The pain in Tomac's shoulder was the main reason he did not race Houston, but with a little extra time to recover, he managed to ride multiple times during the week and was confirmed to race on Thursday afternoon. ET3 looked comfortable on the track from the moment his tires hit the dirt, evident in his qualifying times and competitiveness with others on the track. With 5-1-2 finishes, Tomac took a very surprising overall win and leaped to thirteenth in the championship standings (he trails Anderson by forty-three points).
In the post-race press conference, we asked Tomac what his plan for the next thirteen rounds will be, as he's clearly competitive but now an unlikely championship contender. "Yeah, it's so early to talk about. I'm just glad that I was able to race tonight, really. That's really early. We did the best we could. We grabbed 26 points, but it's way too early to talk about that. Yeah, we're going to try to do everything we can, but we're in a big hole."
Musqsuin, meanwhile, was not quite as recovered from his week-old injury. We've learned that there is no structural damage to Musquin's shoulder, like a tear or separation, so dealing with the pain is the biggest issue the at Red Bull KTM rider faced on the track. A week of therapy led to a single practice day on Friday and it was at this point that Musquin and the team decided they would attempt to race Saturday and take things session by session. After being a bit tense in the free session, Musquin seemed much more comfortable in Timed Qualifying and was on pace with the front-runners in the final results. Poor starts and tough battles with other riders to the middle of the pack, which then led to him pulling out of the final race early. With 9-11-21 scores, Musquin finished the night thirteenth overall and is now eleventh in the championship standings (he trails Anderson by thirty-four points).
With all of this said, expect to see both riders on the track in Glendale and improving even more as the series continues.
ALEX MARTIN INJURY UPDATE
Alex Martin sat out the Anaheim round as the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM rider opted for continued recovery to his fractured clavicle. When Martin will get back on the bike is uncertain, but the general idea we got from the team is that he'll resume riding soon and should be back at the races soon after. There are three races left in the 250 West Coast series until it goes on break.
LITPRO LIVE INFORMATION
LitPro's data collection was streamed live in the stadium and on the television broadcast, another indication of how quickly their technology has adapted to the sport at the highest levels. While speed and jump distance are always interesting, the live heart rate numbers that were shared with the public have become a big topic of discussion. Weston Peick and Broc Tickle's heart rates stayed somewhere in the high 100s (usually between 180-190), while Christian Craig surprised many by staying around 200 for the full race and peaking at 208. In the post-race press conference Craig said that this is actually a normal number for him when riding at a high pace, so he had to explain to a few people that nothing was wrong when they first recorded his numbers.