By Jason Weigandt and Chase Stallo
BTOSports.com KTM rider Andrew Short tried third-gear starts in San Diego, which seems nearly impossible, yet, also effective. Our Steve Matthes asked him about it. “I ran completely different gearing than a lot of the other guys, than Dungey and Kenny and even Goerke,” says Short. “So I was shifting basically right when I was going over the gate. I’m a really good starter in terms of shifting. I learned from the Honda days from data and all that, how quick to shift and clutch and all that. But tonight there was that hole. Everyone else got over that then shifted, and that’s where I didn’t have to shift and that’s where the start came from. I don’t even mind saying it, I started in third gear because you can’t do that on any other bike. It’s the weirdest thing ever. For some reason this bike with my gearing works. The reason I tried that, I tried start mode, you can do all kinds of mapping and whatever, but I wanted to keep my wheel position in the same place, I wanted the suspension to react the same way. I didn’t have to make any big changes except for doing that start. That’s something the KTM guys, [factory Red Bull KTM mechanics] Carlos, Frankie, even [Michael] Byrner this weekend really helped me with and it made a huge difference.”
Last year’s San Diego winner, Davi Millsaps, was on hand hanging out at the Rockstar Energy Racing KTM truck. A few weeks ago DM18 said he might be back from a torn ACL in time for Atlanta, but he’s decided to push the recovery back and is now aiming for Houston in early April.
Justin Barcia is struggling big time with starts this year. At San Diego, we noted all manner of ignition/ECU mapping switches on the bars of his Muscle Milk Honda, two buttons on the left side and a rocker switch on the right side. Usually, that’s a trick used to build a “start-setting” into the map that the riders can use off the line, then switch back into regular mode once they reach the first turn. Unfortunately for Barcia, he once again got sub-par starts in San Diego.
On to the lap times!
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
There are not many titans in the sport that can pull a crowd to their feet when they lock horns for twenty laps like James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto. The sure-fire future Hall of Famers brought back memories of their epic duel at the Monster Energy Cup in San Diego. Let’s take a look at see how the lap charts played out.
|Lap||James Stewart||Ryan Villopoto|
Jason “Mr. Comeback” Anderson has been relentless in charges down the stretch in 2014—seemingly popping out of every nook and cranny to capture a late win. Justin Hill, in only his second appearance in the lead, would hold serve in San Diego, pumping the brakes on Anderson’s late heroics. Check out that last lap time. "It’s something [backing it down on the last lap] I haven’t been doing but I’m cool with it,” Anderson told us after the race. “Going into the break I didn’t want to push it and end up falling. So four points [lead], a second, a podium, points lead going into the break, I’m cool with it.”
|Lap||Justin Hill||Jason Anderson|
Chad Reed’s late push for Ken Roczen ended badly, but you can’t fault the effort. Through laps 12-19, the veteran made a charge for the podium that nearly ended with a last-lap pass in the whoops. Instead, he went down. Check out the lap times down the stretch and you’ll see that Reed averaged about two tenths of a second quicker than Roczen through their final eight laps before the crash.
|Lap||Ken Roczen||Chad Reed|
After his season main event debut at Anaheim 3, GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac felt he needed his bike to turn better, so he softened the suspension. After the race, he told our Steve Matthes that they went too soft for the steep jumps of San Diego, evidenced by netting twenty-first fastest—or, last place—in the first timed qualifying session. He went back to something closer to the Anaheim 3 setup in the main, where he finished seventh. Along the way, both Barcia (after he got up from a crash) and Tomac were passed by Weston Peick. Supercross 2014: Not what you expected!
"Not bad for just my second race back," said Tomac in a team statement. "I'm feeling better and better and my shoulder (injured in a heat race at the season opener) is stronger. It's still not 100 percent but it's very close. I know that as it gets better, I'll get better overall. I struggled early. I just had no flow in practice. We were looking for a setup and tried something that worked in practice this week but it didn't translate to this track. We finally went back to a tried and true setup for P3 and it worked. I got better each time out after that.”
Tomac’s teammate Wil Hahn was unable to race due to a lingering hand injury suffered last week in Anaheim. "I really tried to ride but as soon as I crashed (in practice) I realized right away that it happened because my hand isn't healed all the way,” Hahn said in a team PR. “If I was able to grip the handlebars like normal, I wouldn't have gone down. I decided to take the night off to make absolutely sure I can race up front next weekend in Dallas."
San Diego was titled the Military Appreciation Race, and many riders and bikes sported military-themed looks. Tomac was extra close to the situation, though, as his brother Greg is a captain in the U.S. Air Force.
A ninth was the worst finish of the year for JGR Toyota Yamaha’s Justin Brayton, but he wasn’t disappointed with his riding. Brayton tried some chassis changes for Anaheim 3 and felt off, so he went back to his previous setup in San Diego and felt better. Unfortunately, Brayton went down on the second lap of the main and got up last. His charge back to ninth was impressive.
As for Brayton’s new teammate Phil Nicoletti (who is filling in for the injured Josh Grant), his night included three-straight holeshots in his heat, semi and the LCQ. He didn’t holeshot the main, though, and didn’t feel like he rode well, either. “I was just riding around,” he said. “If I had a heart rate monitor it wouldn’t have read over 140. I don’t know why.” No word yet on if Grant will return for this weekend’s Dallas race or if Nicoletti will get the call again.
After a few weeks fighting injuries, Soaring Eagle Casino RCH Suzuki rider Broc Tickle was back to his usual consistent self in San Diego, taking eighth. "Tonight was great," said Tickle in a team statement. "It felt really good to get that momentum rolling again. In the main event I pushed and felt like I rode to my potential."
When the season started, veteran racer Michael Byrne was working with SmarTop MotoConcept’s Mike Alessi during the week and at the races. Byrner is still working with Mike, but now only during the week, and had a new weekend trial gig with his old BTOSports.com KTM team working with riders Andrew Short and Matt Goerke.
A crash in practice sent Crossland Racing Motosport.com’s Jimmy Albertson into the wall and out for the night with a bad wrist and knee. Yes, he literally launched off the track and hit the wall in front of the stands. The team says Albertson will give it a shot this weekend in Dallas.
Strikt Slaton Yamaha’s Scott Champion is in the midst of a career year. Since turning pro in 2009, Champion has competed in just three full seasons of Monster Energy Supercross, garnering just one top ten (Salt Lake City 2012). Following a 2013 season in which his best finish was a fifteenth, Champion already has finishes of eleventh and twelfth (twice), including a career high eighth in San Diego. Furthermore, after making just five main events a season ago, Champion has already made all six mains in 2014.
Champion’s Strikt Slaton Yamaha teammate Zach Freeburg was back in action for the first time since Anaheim 1 after missing the last four rounds with injury. The Florida native finished thirteenth in his return.
Privateers Jean Marrone and Brandon Scharer continue to carry the Suzuki flag in 250SX. Scharer, a second-year pro from California, has made three consecutive mains. Meanwhile, Marrone, a native of France, made his second consecutive main.
Michael Leib’s Jekyll and Hyde 2014 continued in San Diego. Through six races Leib’s stat line has read: 11-DNQ-9-6-DNQ-7. If Leib can limit mistakes when the Western Regional 250SX Championship returns, he has a chance to catch Dean Ferris for tenth in points (currently twelve back).
Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Red Bull Honda’s banner season continued trucking in San Diego. Through six rounds, the team has had all four riders finish inside the top ten three times, and three of four riders finish inside the top ten three times. The upward trend continued in San Diego, with all four riders finishing inside the top six!
Vince Friese’s run in the 450SX Class will take a brief hiatus beginning this weekend in Dallas. The Factory Metal Works/Club MX backed privateer will turn his attention to the Eastern Regional 250SX Championship on Saturday. Although never without controversy, Friese was excellent in the class for a second straight season, making all six mains with a season high of fourteenth.
Jimmy Decotis will also be turning his attention away from the 450SX Class to concentrate on the 250SX championship in the East. Decotis has made two of the last three mains, including San Diego.