Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev Up. The 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Championship is up to full song and this is where the story picks up the pace. The opening rounds of the West Coast chapter are in the history books and as the series makes the East Coast swing, we can begin to enter the word “championship” into the 450 class conversation. Meanwhile, a new journey begins with the onset of the 250 East Coast title chase providing a fresh spark to an already electrifying series. As one of the most exciting races of the year, a visit to AT&T Stadium (Cowboys Stadium) in Arlington, Texas, is an experience in itself. The awe-inspiring billion-dollar facility and its decadent LED scoreboards set a unique supercross stage and I can’t imagine a better way to watch a race.
The major headline heading into Saturday night is the plight of Chad Reed. The wily veteran had captured the hearts of fans around the world with his inspiring return to championship form, but suffered a hard crash on the last lap of the main event in San Diego. He posted pictures of his broken bones in his social media outlets, but has also stated he plans to race this weekend. I can’t imagine how he will be able to hold on, but there are some very motivating factors for him this weekend. First and foremost, he’s just 15 points behind in the series so he still has a shot at the supercross championship. Just as he suffered a major crash, anything can happen in this sport, and in the past we’ve seen other contenders suffer mechanical breakdowns, missed main events, and injuries of their own. In addition, Chad’s victory at Anaheim 3 placed him in the driver’s seat in the Toyota Triple Challenge that awards $250,000 to the rider who can win A3, Dallas, and the East Rutherford, New Jersey, rounds of the series. If nobody wins all three, there is a free Toyota Tundra that will be given to the rider that accumulates the most points in those three races. Reed has stated many times that he isn’t racing for the money, but a quarter of a million dollars is what it is. Does he have a chance to win this weekend? I don’t think so, but then again I didn’t think he had much of a chance of winning two races in the first six events of 2014. Never, ever, bet against Chad Reed. That said, everyone will have their eyes on #22 when he rolls out for the first practice session.
Meanwhile, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is beginning to creep away in the standings. He won this event a year ago, and began a reign of terror that saw him clinch the championship a round early. It’s hard to say if he is on a similar pace this season as Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen continues to apply pressure. The German opened the year with a victory and he has been a podium stalwart ever since. The rookie is only nine points back and it will be interesting to see if he can keep pace with the three-time defending champion through the middle portion of the series.
James Stewart is a racer on the move and last week’s winner charges into Dallas looking for redemption after his freak mechanical failure at the venue in 2013. A year ago the Yoshimura Suzuki veteran had to watch the main event from the sidelines when his bike broke on the starting line. This year, throw out his crash at the opener, and it has been a solid season for Stewart and he can inch closer in the points chase with another victory.
Scanning through the pack, the Honda racers have had a rough go of it in 2014. This event will mark GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac’s third race after returning from injury at the opener, and he hasn’t set the world on fire the way many expected. Packed with potential, great days could be on the horizon, and the rookie needs a good start to get a feel for the front of the pack. Fellow red rider Justin Barcia’s season has been one of mediocrity, and the Muscle Milk Honda factory pilot will be trying to turn it around and earn his first podium of the series.
In my opinion the surprise of the year is Motosport.com Suzuki racer Weston Peick. Back-to-back top five finishes have thrust him into the limelight and it’s tough to say if he has reached the ceiling of his potential. He came through the pack to earn those finishes and a podium isn’t out of the question in the event WP40 is able to pull a holeshot. As the series carries on, the eyes of a lot of team managers will be on the Buddy Antunez-coached privateer.
A large portion of the hype around Dallas is the arrival of the East Coast divisional series. These racers have a lot of pent up aggression after having to wait six weeks to begin their championship quest. This group has a lot of variety, chalk full of veteran and rookie talent, but some of the prime contenders in my opinion sit in the middle. GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle is fresh off the injured reserve list and has race winning potential. This is as close to home as supercross gets for the Oklahoma native and he has the potential to surprise. Yamalube Star Racing’s Jeremy Martin also has a lot of promise as he begins his sophomore season. I penned this interview with him yesterday.
My sleeper pick for the 250 class win is a local boy, Kyle Cunningham. After four up and down years under the Star Racing Yamaha canopy, the Texan made the switch to a Honda for the SmarTop MotoConcepts racing team. I was able to speak with Kyle about his new ride and his hopes for the 250 East championship.
“Everything has been going great preparing for the season,” he said. “After injuring my foot in Elsinore I had some time to think about things and the fresh start with a new bike and a new team has been good. I felt right at home on the bike, and the Ohlins suspension works awesome and the motor is as strong as any bike I have been on. I hadn’t ridden for weeks when I went testing with the team, but I was able to bust out 12, 13 and 15 lap motos right off the bat. They asked me how many weeks I had been riding and I kind of laughed and said, ‘This is the first time, guys.’ Mike Genova and all of the guys have given me a lot of personal attention and I couldn’t be happier. I have been able to train at home here in Texas with my dad and I’m ready. I just need to get some good starts and be solid at every round.
Don’t be shocked if #30 is sitting high on the speed charts in timed qualifying this weekend, and contends for the win in the main event.
It’s time to do it again, folks. The middle portion of the series is upon us! In a way it’s like starting fresh all over again with the onset of the 250 East Region and the 450 championship still up in the air. This will be a race to remember as Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo will make his pro supercross debut. He’s been training with Villopoto and Roczen and is one of the most highly-touted rookies the sport has seen in a great while. I can’t wait to take it all in as I will be making the trip to Arlington, so send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to get up for some bench racing.
Thanks for reading, see you next week.