At long last, the 2010 Monster Energy Supercross Series has landed at our feet. We're one week into the new year, inside a fresh decade, and a new era of supercross is ready to let loose its battle roar. The onset of the supercross season carries more raw adrenaline than any motorsport in the world. The sight of the new plastic fenders shimmering under the lights, coupled with the smell of gunpowder in the air, makes everyone anyone in the house do a shiver dance. The preseason scouting reports, the overseas races, and even the practice time sheets matter not. Game time at Anaheim 1 means that anything and every damn thing can happen.
The Alpha Male must survive and carry the fire through all sixteen rounds.
It doesn't get any gnarlier than AMA Supercross. Every single rider who singed up for the ultimate test will crash hard between A1 and Vegas. Whether in practice, a heat race, or going for the win on the last lap, the purest danger in the world chases him. That's why, no matter what circumstances find the champion holding the #1 plate at season's end, he is the man.
Let's talk a little brass tacks here, shall we?
This year's group of West riders is salty as usual. There is a wide variety of contenders with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Josh Hansen and Jake Weimer touching gloves against the GEICO Powersports Honda duo of Blake Wharton and "Ice" Trey Canard. Some sleepers to keep an eye on are TLD's Wil Hahn, the unproven but vastly talented KTM rider Tommy Searle, and the always-fast Ryan Morais. I'm going to go ahead and give a special nod to the DNA Shred Sticks/Star Racing Yamaha guys too. Broc Tickle has been quietly establishing himself among the upper echelon of 250 riders. Newbies Max Anstie and Gautier Paulin have been raising eyebrows at the test track too. And for some reason, those Star YZs are nasty fast.
The talent is so evenly matched at the top of this group that the holeshot will be key. I don't see any of the top-five guys having the speed to rally from outside the top ten, so a spill or a bad start from any of them will make the championship exciting.
Nonetheless, my pick for the win goes to Jake Weimer. Jake's coming into this title chase loaded for bear, and while Trey is already a proven champion, he hasn't raced since High Point. Both of those guys are leading candidates for commissioner of Gnarlboro County.
There will be a lot going on in the premier division when the gate drops. The parity level with the big boys is broken up quite a bit. Stewart, Reed, and RV Park are the heavy hitters, and they will all win races in 2010. Behind them it gets interesting. I'm looking to see some incredible battles between guys like Kevin Windham, Ivan Tedesco, and Andrew Short.
The biggest question marks on the track will be Josh Hill and Davi Millsaps. Both have race-winning talent and speed but lack that killer instinct. Those two have more to prove than anyone, and I have a feeling they'll be taking a little extra steam around. I'm pretty bummed that my two favorite guys are banged up, though. JGR's Josh Grant is hurt (again) and Tommy Hahn just can't stop crashing. Both will soldier up the gate, but it'll be a few rounds before they get into their wheelhouse.
All bench racing and statistical analysis aside, you’d just better prepare yourself to see some Jedi shit. A new bike, fresh legs, and simple boredom are going to fuel James Stewart in a way we've never seen. Watch how quickly he’s able to get in and out of the corners on that new bike. He's going to be fast. Hate if you want to, but Stewart is going to be riding like he sees The Matrix on Saturday night.
The road to the supercross championship is one of survival. It doesn't matter how fast Stewart is, or how consistent Reed has been in years past, or how hungry Villopoto and Dungey are. They have to sustain as well as conquer.
I spent twenty years lining up behind the staring gate. I've pulled spoons at Loretta Lynn's, heard the horn at an outdoor national, and pushed through the tunnel at a supercross. All the preparation before a big race helps, but when it's time to go to work, nothing can really prepare you for it. You've trained, tested, and run laps in your head, but when you pull your bike off the stand, you're so jacked up it feels like a Tonka toy. You almost rip your dad’s or mechanic's hand off as you slap him five. You can hear the announcer inside the stadium whipping the crowd into a frenzy, and you do your breathing. "In the nose, out the mouth." If you could bottle that feeling up and sell it, there would be no more drug war. That juice right there is dynamite TNT. The Guns of Navarone.
Its here, guys. No more talk. Who's mean? How long ’til we see the first rider of 2010 get knocked over the bales? How loud will the Anaheim crazies be when they hit the lights for opening ceremonies? What's it going to look like when they all line up on the gate with that new gear and those new numbers?
Who’s going to carry the fire with them and survive the ultimate test? Let's all prepare ourselves for the first Supercross Saturday night of the decade!