One week after hitting the ground in Anaheim after a collision with Lucas Oil/Mav TV/Troy Lee Designs’ Malcolm Stewart, Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson once again found himself laying in the dirt after another incident with another rider from that team. This time the action took place during practice in San Diego, when Anderson’s fast lap attempt was cut short when Jessy Nelson got in his way. Nelson says it was an accident, but Anderson, who claims Nelson had done the same thing to him in Oakland practice, was angry. He pulled up next to Nelson and a screaming match ensued while the two banged into each other as they slowly rolled the track. The confrontation ended with Anderson picking up his bike as Nelson rode away.
It’s easy to jump to the juicy conclusion that the TLD riders are trying to make life rough for Anderson. After all, he’s locked into a battle for the Western Regional 250SX championship with another TLD rider, Cole Seely. However, a less entertaining side of the issue has to be considered.
The TLD team has four riders in the West, more than any other team. The law of averages alone states that more riders are going to encounter more members of TLD team throughout the race. So do these latest incidents stem from the TLD team playing dirty, or are the circumstances just a mathematical inevitability? According to TLD team manager Tyler Keefe, team tactics are not something that exist on his team.
“Malcolm [Stewart] got third and Cole [Seely] got fourth,” he told us after San Diego. “If we were really concerned about team tactics there would have been a situation that ended up with Malcolm getting fourth and Cole getting third. We’re racing as best as we can and we’re just going to let the best man win.
“Anderson is an aggressive rider, and at the beginning of the year all of our guys were kind of getting pushed around,” he continued. “I think they’re sick of it, and they’re going to be aggressive back. I wouldn’t call it dirty; I’d just call it being aggressive back. Anderson is a fighter, and when you put two aggressive people together who are fighting for position that’s what happens. Obviously these guys are heated out there, they’re in the moment.”
“I don't believe for a minute that Jessy would do anything like that, nor do I believe Tyler would instruct his riders to play that game. Tyler is a racer and I think that he too would want to win as straight up as I do.”
TLD rider Shane McElrath echoed Keefe’s sentiments.
“We don’t have any orders to do anything detrimental to anyone or anything like that,” McElrath states. “Our orders are to go out and race and do our job to the best of our abilities. So if it’s racing Anderson, or anybody else, we race as hard as we can to the checkered flag.”
We also spoke to Rockstar Energy Racing team manager Dave Gowland, who adds: “I don't think that the TLD guys intentionally were looking to park Jason [at A3]. I think that Malcolm [Stewart] was frustrated at getting passed and run in on, so I believe he felt it necessary to give Jason an aggressive move back as a warning. I think he took it a little too far—a little rub would have done the same thing—but to slam him as hard as he did and push him into the next lane of oncoming traffic was very dangerous for both riders.”
As far as the incident that occurred in San Diego during practice is concerned, Keefe assigns blame to both Nelson and Anderson.
“I actually didn’t see it happen, but I saw the video from several angles. It looked like Jessy was on a slow lap and was in the middle line while Jason was on a hot lap. It happens. All of our guys have had it happen to them multiple times too. Both were in the wrong. If someone screws up your lap you just shake it off and move forward. They were both just heated and they didn’t have any issues after that.”
“The incident with Jessy Nelson I think was just a fluke,” says Gowland. “I don't believe for a minute that Jessy would do anything like that, nor do I believe Tyler would instruct his riders to play that game. Tyler is a racer and I think that he too would want to win as straight up as I do.”