Rapid ReaXtion:  New SX Qualifying Format

Rapid Reaxtion New SX Qualifying Format

December 6, 2013 3:30pm
Today, Feld Motorsports announced changes to the qualifying format for Monster Energy Supercross, highlighted by the re-addition of Semifinal qualifiers between the 450SX Heats and Last Chance Qualifier. 450SX Heats will take the top four riders into the main, beyond that riders finishing in even positions in the heats will go to Semi 1, and riders with odd finishing positions will go to Semi 2. Each Semi will take the top five to the main event. The Last Chance Qualifier will take four riders, resulting in a 22-rider main event (instead of the 20-man mains that have been a part of supercross forever).

Two laps are cut from the existing heats and LCQ length to make time for the Semis, (now six-lap heats and a four-lap LCQ). Is this a good move or bad? Here’s our take, what’s yours?

Jason Thomas (King of the LCQs)

More racing! That’s the coolest aspect of this change in format. In many ways this is just reverting to how we used to do it a few years ago, but the addition of two more spots to the main event is definitely a relief to a lot of privateers. Adding the semi races back into the program adds somewhat of an insurance policy for making the main event. Previously, a first turn crash or small mechanical issue in the heat race would send an elite level rider to the LCQ with a very poor gate position and greatly increase the chances of said rider not advancing to the main event. Now with the semi, there is another round of qualifying to take some of that risk out of the equation. A top rider not qualifying for the main event (see Ryan Villopoto in Jacksonville 2010) is a catastrophe for the promoters and fans as that’s who they are paying to see. This semi gives the fans more racing action (positive change) and also lessens the chances of a top rider not qualifying (also positive).

I assume that these Semi races were eliminated in an effort to shorten the program for live television. It’s great to see that Feld was able to shift a few things around and modify the schedule a bit to bring back these great qualifying races. That’s why people come, to watch racing!

Jason Weigandt (Has ADD)

When the semifinals first went away for the 2007 season, I remember veteran Nathan Ramsey lamenting their loss. Nate Dawg, a teammate of Chad Reed on San Manuel Yamaha, was getting on in years and probably wasn't going to outduel the likes of Reed, James Stewart or Ricky Carmichael for a heat race win. But Nate could win a Semi and thank his sponsors on the podium. Without them, be probably wasn’t going to get a single podium interview all year.

I saw Nate's point, yes, but initially I was still all for dropping the semis. I was hosting the Supercross Live! webcasts back then, and you could feel the night drag on a bit during the middle of the show. You'd get the superstars early, then have a massive break before the race everyone wanted to see (the main event). What other sport hides the stars away from significant portions of the show? By dropping the semis, the main events came around more quickly.

Years later, we're seeing the impact, though. We've lost a lot (a LOT) of teams from the supercross pits over the last year, and that results in fewer rides and paychecks for the riders. The ultimate privateer fund isn't an actual privateer fund, but a format that helps more teams get more exposure, bring in more sponsors, and hire more riders. Whatever it takes to keep the satellite teams going (like Chaparral Honda, Jeff Ward Racing, JDR KTM and others who are gone) the better. Yeah, the Ryans are going to get their love by winning heats and mains, but now plenty of other riders are going to get a quick moment in the stadium and TV spotlight. Sounds good to me.

Steve Matthes (Lover of all things spicy)

When the semi races went away I have to admit, I was in favor of it. It just seemed to have lost its effect and there was too much racing (or so it seemed). Well here we sit years later and bringing them back seems like a great idea. As Weege says, the smaller teams and lesser-known riders have lost out on some great exposure. Also, there were times where the whole program zoomed by and I wondered if I was a fan buying a ticket, would I feel like I got my money’s worth?

I’m not that happy about the laps getting cut down, but I’ll take it—sacrifices had to be made to squeeze in the semis, I suppose. This is a good thing for the riders and the sport—more riders will get more exposure. And Weege may scoff at this (he thinks it will have zero impact) but the plan to put the even-numbered place heat race riders into one semi and the odds in another is a great idea. It mixes it up. In the past, some semis were easier than others, but now we won’t know until the race starts! THEY’RE SPICING IT UP BABY!!!

Twenty-two man main events? Love it. Why did those two lonely gates go unused each race? More riders in the main is just more love for everyone out there. Anyone who’s read or listened to my stuff knows I’d go with more changes than this, but I’ll take these for now. Good job Feld—now let’s get racing.