It could be the orange mohawk (see picture), his hometown crowd or more experience on the bike, but one thing is for sure, something clicked for Red Bull/KTM’s Andrew Short at the sixth round of the series in Houston, TX.
In practice, Short put together his best showing all season. He qualified sixth fastest just a second off the pace of James Stewart who turned the fastest lap. Ken Roczen, in his first-ever SX class race, turned the 9th fastest time and Mike Alessi rounded out the group in 13th.
Short was up first in heat number one. The start of this race was quite tricky as it was a very short straightaway followed by a tight left hand turn. Short picked the very inside gate for his heat. He actually didn’t get a great jump but as everyone pushed to the outside around the first corner he snuck his KTM right up the inside and came out 4th around the turn. Short turned up the heat within the first few corners quickly moving into 2nd position behind early leader Ryan Dungey. Short held his pace and chased Dungey the entire 8 lap heat to qualify 2nd overall.
Roczen and Alessi were up next in heat number two. Roczen picked the same gate Short had while Alessi was lined up about five more in toward the box. When the gate dropped Alessi came out swinging in 4th place with Roczen a few spots back in 7th. On the first lap Roczen collided with Ivan Tedesco but managed to stay on two wheels. “When I hit Tedesco I jammed my foot hard and it hurt the same heel I had injured earlier in the season. It was hard to ride but I knew I needed to keep going to qualify to the main,” remarked Roczen. Alessi stayed in 4th position for the first two laps before dropping briefly to 5th. Meanwhile Roczen picked up the pace and moved forward. He was able to overtake Alessi with two laps to go to qualify into his first-ever SX main event with a 6th place finish. Alessi finished right behind him in 7th place.
All three Red Bull/KTM riders lucked out at the start of the SX main event by avoiding the first turn pile up. Short came around the first turn in 6th, Roczen was running about 9th and Alessi managed to work his way up to 10th at the end of the first lap after being pushed off the track in turn one.
From lap one to the finish all three KTM riders remained inside the top ten. Short held 6th throughout the majority of the race. On the final lap he began to close in on the 5th place ride of Brett Metcalfe. After the first rhythm section past the finish, Short was able to make the pass on Metcalfe and move into the top five. He went on to finish 5th overall. “I was so excited to get 5th today. It was my goal to break into the top five at this race and I am so happy to have achieved that in front of my hometown crowd. We made huge progress with the bike this week and everything feels like it is coming together right now. I was also able to move up in points today,” mentioned Short after the race. Short now sits 6th in overall points.
His teammate, Roczen also turned some heads aboard the bigger bike. Roczen started in 9th position and moved up to 8th on the third lap. He held that position throughout the remainder of the race and was able to capitalize on Metcalfe’s crash at the end to finish 7th.
“I was not thinking very positive before the main event because my heel was still hurting me from the heat. But it was not bad in the main and I forgot about the pain when I was riding. I am so excited to finish inside the top ten. I was more nervous than I had ever been going into this race. The guys in the SX class have been my heroes for a long time and it was pretty cool to get to race with them. I am very happy to have raced this event and hope to do a few more,” stated the happy 16 year-old after his impressive 7th place finish.
Helping the team make history by being the third KTM 350 SX-F in the top ten was Mike Alessi. He came around the first lap in 10th position and rode a strong consistent race maintaining his position through the end of the race to mark his first top ten of the season.
“The last two weeks I have made some changes to my program and am slowly gaining back some confidence. My goal was to get inside the top ten and now I just want to remain consistent and hopefully back it up in San Diego. I am really pumped for the team tonight. To have all riders finish inside the top ten is great for the Red Bull/KTM team and especially the 350 SX-F,” stated Alessi after the main event.
All three riders will pack their bags and head back to California for the 7th round of the series to be held at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, CA next weekend. Short and Alessi will return to action in the SX class while Roczen will step back onto his Lites bike to race the fifth round of the West SX Lites Series.
Overall Results SX Class –