What a difference a start can make! That’s something us moto writers have been talking about since the first time they ever lined men up behind a starting gate. It comes up after every race—sometimes much to the chagrin of the ones who don’t get very good starts. On Saturday night at Angel Stadium, the 250SX Class had two chances to make a strong start, the first one being wiped out by a gate malfunction. It was on that gate drop that GEICO Honda rider Matt Bisceglia grabbed the holeshot, and after some smart riding in early traffic, Bisceglia’s teammate Malcolm Stewart, last week’s big winner, was also up towards the front and riding strong.
Meanwhile, Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne was literally dead last since it was his gate that didn’t drop. And the rookie Aaron Plessinger started out almost as far back after once again failing to get a good drive off the gate on his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha YZ250F. He would only be up to eighth (and Osborne sixteenth) when the red flag came out. And Anaheim 1 winner Jessy Nelson of the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM team wasn’t in the top ten either.
The fortunes of everyone—Bisceglia, Stewart, Osborne, Plessinger, and Nelson—would change dramatically with the restart. This time Nelson and Osborne got the jump, and Plessinger got off the gate in the top five. Stewart’s race was ruined when he ran it in too hard on Red Bull KTM’s Justin Hill, putting them both in the back.
Bisceglia couldn’t match his holeshot and was outside the top five; he would later inherit fifth when Tyler Bowers crashed out spectacularly. Plessinger would have his best race as a pro, earning a podium in his fifth main-event start (well, sixth if you count the one twenty minutes earlier). He got there with a pass on second-place starter Osborne, whose gate worked, then slipped back to fourth. The holeshot went to Jessy Nelson, who would earn himself second-place, a result he would not have gotten without the do-over.
The one man who got a solid start both times on Saturday night was the red-hot Cooper Webb, who worked his way into the lead both times from up-front starts. The Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider from North Carolina looked angry when the red flag came out, but he quickly put it behind him and just went back and made a good start all over again. In fact, Webb has been pretty solid all year long, his worst finish being his first finish (seventh at A1). He minimizes mistakes with his form, and he makes passes with intensity—give him an opening and he will take a stab.
The point is that Cooper Webb was the one guy who made good on both 250SX starts on Saturday night. As a result, he still has the red plate—and 18 points to spare—as Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, heads to San Diego.