By Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo
If you were a casual fan flipping through the channels on Saturday night during the 250SX main event, you might have thought you were watching a rerun of A1. Cole Seely once again led nearly the entire race before Jason Anderson passed him on the final lap. With Seely only six points down and seven Western Regional 250SX rounds left on the schedule, he’s hardly in trouble, but it had to be all kinds of frustrating to lose the lead on the last lap again. Will we see more final-lap heroics for a third straight time? – Aaron Hansel
You could easily argue that JGR/Toyota Yamaha’s Justin Brayton had a career night in Phoenix. Sure, he’s grabbed second place twice before, but both finishes occurred in 2012 against a depleted field ravaged by injury. Not to take away from those performances, they were impressive, but his ride last Saturday night was especially inspiring; nearly everyone was healthy and Brayton went wheel-to-wheel with the champ for several laps, even coming back on him on the final lap. Brayton says he’s happy with his team and the 2014 Yamaha, and it’s showing. Will his fantastic finish in Phoenix be followed with more podiums, or even a win? - Hansel
Was Justin Brayton's second in Phoenix a sign of things to come?
Simon Cudby photo
Up and Down
Before last weekend, the last time Josh Hill raced in Phoenix was in 2010, and things went extraordinarily well for him. He took third place that night, and would go on to take the runner-up spot at the next four rounds. Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that way this time around, as Hill had some issues and wasn’t able to qualify for the main event. His Anaheim 1 was a struggle, too. Will Hill put the confidence-shattering heartbreak of a DNQ behind him and rebound with a good finish at A2? – Hansel
Usually the tracks start out relatively mild in an effort to fend off injury, but this year it seems a different plan is in play. While A1 wasn’t anything too crazy, it did feature a seriously big set of whoops, and Phoenix was the same, with the addition of a few very technical sections that many riders weren’t able to navigate consistently. With the championship returning to Anaheim this weekend, where the dirt will be harder after being compacted by Monster Jam trucks, what kind of difficulty level will the riders be faced with? – Hansel
Phoenix wasn’t the first time we’ve seen a rider go down after getting together with Justin Barcia, and it won’t be the last. This time it was Ken Roczen who found himself sprawled on the dirt after Barcia appeared to check up a bit in a flat sweeper, taking out Roczen’s front wheel in the process. After the race Roczen was fired up, letting our own Jason Weigandt know how he felt in a post-race interview: “I think it was a sick race with everyone, super fun. Then freaking [Justin] Barcia took me out. He’s going to get that back. I was so mad.” Did the week between Phoenix and A2 allow enough time for Roczen to cool down, or will he stick to his words and return Barcia's favor? – Hansel
Will Anaheim mark a return to the podium for Chad Reed?
Simon Cudby photo
Under the Weather
From constant travel, to extraordinary training efforts heading into the season, a multitude of factors contribute to the overwhelming number of riders facing some sort of illness this time of year. Already, we’ve seen Ryan Villopoto dealing with a sore throat at Anaheim, and both Ken Roczen and James Stewart feeling ill at Phoenix. Will sickness continue to play a factor early in the season? – Chase Stallo
Closing the Deal
Justified or not, Ryan Dungey has faced his share of critics for “failing to pull the trigger.” Phoenix did little to help the cause. “Couple mistakes kind of set us back there a little bit and then at the end we lost some ground on the two leaders. Just was unable to make a pass,” he told Racer X Online following Phoenix. If you bypass the critiques for a second and look at the facts you will see that Dungey has two podiums through two rounds and is just one point back of Ryan Villopoto for the points lead. There’s no denying that a Dungey win would silence the doubters. Will it happen at Anaheim? – Stallo
Can RV start a streak at Anaheim?
Simon Cudby photo
Where Does Reed Fit?
Chad Reed’s performances through two rounds (third at Anaheim 1, ninth at Phoenix) have given little direction as to where the veteran fits in the championship chase. With many variables at play, Reed is far from out of the picture at just 11 points back of Villopoto, but he can ill-afford another finish outside the top five. Will Anaheim play to Reed’s liking for the second time in three weeks? – Stallo
Anaheim 2 marked the first win of Ryan Villopoto’s championship campaign a season ago. He then went on to win the next eight of eleven cementing his third consecutive 450SX title. As we’ve seen in the past, RV just needs a spark to catch fire and roll off a number of wins. Was Phoenix that spark? – Stallo
The 250SX West Region has been fairly predictable, with the top four positions filled by Anderson, Seely, Osborne and Wilson (in that order) through two rounds. Cooper Webb threw his name in the hat with a fast start in Phoenix, before a collision with fellow SX rookie Shane McElrath. Can Malcolm Stewart, Justin Hill, Darryn Durham or the aforementioned Webb spoil the party at the top? – Stallo