As the 2017 Supercross season got ready to kick off last night in Anaheim, CA, the 450 class was full of the usual hype. After coming off of a year where only four riders (Roczen, Dungey, Tomac, Anderson) claimed victories during the 2016 Motocross and Supercross campaigns, the hype was trying to establish some parody in the class that this year might produce more winners.
Despite Ryan Dungey coming in as the two-time defending Supercross champion, he seemed to oddly not be the favorite at A1. After a vertebrae injury caused him to miss nearly the entire Motocross championship, it was instead Ken Roczen who looked to have everything going his way. A switch to factory Honda for the young German saw him nearly dominate the Monster Energy Cup in the offseason albeit a mistimed jump ultimately cost him a chance at the win and the million dollars.
But the Roczen – Honda combo appeared to be a match made in heaven that many pundits thought was going to be unbeatable. And after Roczen walked away from Dungey in the qualifying Heat race to start the night, it appeared that it might just be a new unbeatable Ken Roczen.
The only rider to appear on Roczen’s level all night heading into the Main Event was Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac who dominated the other qualifying Heat. Often his kryptonite in 2016, Tomac appeared to have his starts much more dialed in at the opener and if he was going to beat Roczen, he might just have to do it into Turn 1.
The wildcard all day and eventually the wildcard in the Main Event would be Ryan Dungey’s KTM teammate Marvin Musquin. The French rider was fastest in qualifying and was looking to breakout as a true championship contender in his second full season in the 450 class. It would be Musquin who beat Roczen off the gate in the Main Event but the Honda rider quickly pounced to take the lead.
Tomac spent a couple laps fighting with Musquin for 2nd which allowed Roczen to establish a little bit of a cushion out front before Tomac was finally into P2. While Tomac tried to set sail after Roczen, Dungey went to work on Musquin for 3rd and got the position a few laps later.
Roczen was inching away and then was suddenly pulling chunks of time as Tomac faded into the clutches of Dungey. Admitting later to struggling with arm-pump, or fatigued and inflammation of the forearms, Tomac would not only lose out to Dungey for 2nd, but Tomac and Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson would also get by shuffling Tomac back to 5th by the end of the race.
Dungey has absolutely nothing for Roczen, who had already established an insurmountable gap out front by the time Dungey got Tomac for 2nd. Just as predicted, Roczen cruised home to his first Main Event win with the new red machine in dominating fashion. Dungey and Musquin rounded out the podium behind him making it a KTM 2-3.
Full 450 Main Event results can be found here: http://results.amasupercross.com/xml/SX/events/S1705/S1F1PRESS.pdf
In the 250 West Supercross class, the season began with none of the top three riders from the previous season competing in the class. Last year’s champ Cooper Webb had moved up to the 450 class while Joey Savatgy and Christian Craig, whom were 2nd and 3rd respectively, elected to race the East championship this year. So who would be the favorite?
Past winners in the class included Aaron Plessinger, Martin Davalos, and Jeremy Martin, but a lot of the hype surrounded highly touted rookie Austin Forkner. Forkner was a two-time champion of the Monster Energy Cup’s Amateur All-Stars class and started his professional career with a great season in the 2016 250 Motocross championship.
With so much attention put on other riders, Troy Lee Designs KTM rider Shane McElrath flew under the radar but showed up at A1 ready to play. After hunting down Jeremy Martin in their qualifying Heat, McElrath cleanly passed and gapped the former two-time Motocross champion to win the Heat race. The other qualifying Heat was won by 250 class veteran Martin Davalos setting up quite the interesting Main Event.
Seemingly always getting good starts, it was McElrath who shot out of the gate in the Main Event to take the early lead. Davalos was trying to follow him early on but all eyes were on a hard charging Aaron Plessinger who started in 5th but was quickly trying to run down Davalos for 2nd.
Things were not going so smoothly for rookie Forkner as he went over the bars in the whoops while running inside of the Top 10. Fortunately, he landing right on top of a tuff block and was able to remount quickly but an 8th place finish was likely not what the rookie wanted to start his Supercross career with.
Back to the battle out front, Plessinger was able to make the move on Davalos for 2nd roughly halfway through the Main. Sitting five second adrift of race leader McElrath, Plessinger would need to ride hard to catch him before the end. To his credit, McElrath was rock solid and never made a mistake while Plessinger began taking time out of his lead.
It was getting close as the white flag waved, but some mistakes by Plessinger on the last lap trying to get as close as he could to McElrath would be the end as his quest to take the lead away. Shane McElrath led from start to finish to claim his first career Main Event victory and also will lead the points for the first time in his career heading into Round 2. Davalos would finish a lonely third after losing touch with the front two late in the race.
Full 250 Main Event results can be found here: http://results.amasupercross.com/xml/SX/events/S1705/S2F1PRESS.pdf
Next week, the series will head just a couple hours south on I-5 to Petco Park in San Diego for Round 2 of the championship. The red plates for championship leaders Roczen and McElrath will be strapped on and the rest of the field will look to change that in their favor next Saturday night. We’ll see you there!