By Chase Stallo and Jason Weigandt
The Las Vegas track used to be notoriously hard and slick, but significant work by the Feld Motor Sports and Durt Wurx crew has changed things a bit. As always, the track was watered heavily throughout the weekend, including a good soaking on press day, more water on Saturday morning, and more again before the Saturday night show. Of course things still dried out quite a bit, but race winner Ryan Dungey told us the track was still tackier and softer than it used to be. But the water led to ruts early in practice, and then those ruts hardened up as the track dried. Between the slick spots and hard ruts, the track actually turned into one of the more technical layouts of the season. Maybe you noticed how many riders messed up the three-two rhythm section after the finish? That’s because the corner before it was slick and rutted, and the jumps were a little closer to the exit of the corner than usual.
Eli Tomac’s bid for a second straight 450SX main event win ended when he lost the front end in a corner. Before that, he and Ryan Dungey looked set for twenty laps of bar banging. "That was a blast, for sure," Tomac said in a GEICO Honda statement. "It was set up perfectly for a great battle between Ryan and I, but I lost my front end there, unfortunately. At that point I had to settle into second because Ryan was setting such a quick pace."
AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha’s Weston Peick was third early, then fell, and came under attack from Discount Tire/TwoTwo Motorsport’s Chad Reed. Reed, who didn’t race last week due to a shoulder injury, was all over Peick at first. Then Peick edged away, and then Reed ran into some sort of bike problem and dropped all the way back to seventh. The team says Reed’s shoulder was not an issue.
Reed’s teammate Josh Grant was still sick in Vegas, dealing with the same trouble he had last weekend. Once again, he skipped the final practice to save energy. Once again, he put together a strong ride in the main, taking fifth, his second-best finish of the season. He was seventh last week.
Both Grant and Peick jumped the idle Ken Roczen in the final standings, but Peick edged into the top ten with tenth for the year. He bested Grant for the spot by a single point.
For a while it looked like Cole Seely was headed toward another podium, as he charged through the pack, passed Reed, and closed on Peick. Moments later he bobbled in a rhythm lane and Reed shot past. Seely re-passed Reed when Reed ran into bike troubles, but never could run Peick down. “The track here in Vegas was pretty challenging with a mix of hard pack, ruts, and very high speeds,” said Seely in a Team Honda HRC PR. “It would have been great to end the season on the box, but I couldn’t be happier with how the season went overall. I’m really looking forward to heading outdoors and getting that series started in just a couple of short weeks.”
Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson was a late scratch for the night program, which was a shame because he actually stood on top of the qualifying board for much of the afternoon. “I was having a good practice,” said Anderson in a team statement. “I felt really good on the track but came into a corner, slid out, and hit the ground pretty hard, and decided to call it a night. I’m focusing on outdoors, and have been riding that really well, so I didn’t want to take a risk tonight.”
Anderson was in a close points fight with his rival Blake Baggett, but Baggett distanced himself with a solid race for fifth. “I had a few sections that were good and a few sections that were bad,” he said in a Yoshimura Suzuki PR. “I got out of here in one piece and finished up fifth on the season. Now I’ve got one weekend off and we head to the outdoors.” After a mid-season slump, Baggett ended the year on a good note with 4-6 finishes in the last two races.
The mixed reviews continue for AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha’s Justin Barcia, who didn’t have anything close to the season he had hoped. He started pretty far back again in Vegas, clawed forward to Baggett’s rear fender, but then made a mistake and lost ground. He ended up a distant eighth. Barcia missed a lot of time and lost of a lot of fitness due to a huge practice crash right before San Diego. We’ll see if he gets back to his old self by Hangtown.
Small signs of improvement from BTOSports.com KTM’s Justin Brayton, who was fifth in both practice sessions. He also nailed a good start in the main, but once again started falling through the pack quickly. He ended up ninth.
Both Justin Barcia and Justin Brayton are looking to hit the reset button for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross and Monster Energy Supercross in 2016.
Team Chizz’s Kyle Chisholm really, really wanted another top-ten before the season ended -- he finished eighth in East Rutherford -- but he just missed it in Las Vegas, taking eleventh in the main for the fourth time in the final six races. Chisholm will bring his privateer effort to the full Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in 2015, the first time he’s raced the full series in several years.
Congrats to privateers Travis Bannister and Mike Akaydin, who made their first 450SX main events of the season. Also, a shout-out to Frenchman Thomas Rammette, who logged a solid fifteenth in the 450SX main.
The series’ points fund generally pays back to the top twenty in the final standings, and there was a bit of a battle for that spot between Munn Racing Husqvarna’s Ben LaMay and Rocky Mountain ATV/MC’s Kyle Partridge. Both riders jumped the idle Mike Alessi to fight for the top twenty. LaMay bested Partridge 13-18 in the main event, and ended up snagging the twentieth spot by four points.
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
Next level? Note that Dungey and Tomac ran laps nearly two seconds faster than anyone else. Dungey also bested third-place finisher Weston Peick in the main by thirty-eight seconds, although Peick did have a brief crash.
Also note when Blake Baggett logged his fastest time: well, well after everyone else did. Is El Chupacabra waking up just in time for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross?
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
No real surprises in the 250 lap times.
More News and Notes:
History was made Saturday night, as HRT Racing’s Vicki Golden became the first female competitor to qualify for a Monster Energy Supercross night program. While other females have tried to qualify, none have made it as far as Golden.
In reality, Golden was lucky just to be racing in Vegas. The shootout typically takes the top twenty from each region (West and East) to Vegas. Due to injuries and riders pulling out, the field was expanded and included Golden. She qualified thirty-fifth out of forty-one to make the night show. "This is all so surreal right now," exclaimed Golden in a press release. "Last week after East Rutherford I thought it was over. I didn't expect to come here to Vegas and we learned a few days ago that we had the opportunity, so I figured let's go out there and give it one last shot. It's been a rough season and about everything that could go wrong has.”
Even more impressive, Golden recently found out she has been battling mononucleosis, a common illness that can leave you feeling tired and weak for weeks or months, since November. “I've felt so tired and I haven't been doing any riding during the week,” she said. “I've just showed up and raced, but this week I put in a little riding once we learned we'd be coming to Vegas and everything worked out. I've accomplished the goal I set out to achieve this season, so now I want to just put in a couple solid laps tonight and finish the year healthy." You can say what you want about Golden making the night show against a depleted field, but she still outpaced six other riders to snag that thirty-fifth-fastest time.
You could literally feel the air being sucked out of stadium when Cooper Webb, the reigning 250SX West Region Champion, went down in practice. The anticipated battle between Webb and Marvin Musquin will now be pushed back two weeks, when they square off at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross opener at Hangtown.
Webb sustained an ankle injury and decided to sit out the main event. “The team, Drs, and fam suggested not to race tonight and focus on getting healthy for outdoors and to go for a championship in that series,” he said on Instagram. “Gutted to not be able to go and show what I can do...” Webb watched the race from the press box a few hours later. He said the ankle injury will put a damper on some of his outdoor prep, but he should be ready to race come Hangtown.
Earlier in the day, Webb’s teammate, Aaron Plessinger, received the 2015 AMA Supercross Rookie of the Year award, joining Webb as the second straight Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team member to get the award. Plessinger edged out GEICO Honda rookie RJ Hampshire for the award by just three points, 103 to 100. The AMA Rookie of the Year honors are awarded to the eligible rookie rider with the most points accumulated in each class. In the East/West Shootout, Plessinger garnered his fifth top-five of the season with a fourth in the main.
Red Bull KTM’s Justin Hill was a late scratch for the main following a crash in his heat race. Hill went down hard in the first turn during his heat, but was able to come back to finish ninth to qualify for the main. After the heat, Hill decided to sit out for the main event—sitting out was a common theme for the 250SX Class.
If you weren’t watching Marvin Musquin alone by himself out front, you’d have thought GEICO Honda was sweeping the podium for a while. Malcolm Stewart rode to second behind Musquin, capping his best season in Monster Energy Supercross with his fourth podium of the season. (Side note: What a steal by GEICO to pick him up just before the season started.)
“We're out here having fun and enjoying ourselves,” he said in a team statement. “We won the heat race and that was cool, but in the main event, I'm not going to lie, I got a little bit tired before the halfway point. Props to Marvin, though. He rode a great race and did what he had to do to keep me behind him."
Matt Bisceglia, who has struggled in supercross to live up to his Horizon Award billing from the amateur ranks, claimed his second career podium in an aggressive come-from-behind ride. Bisceglia also found the podium in Las Vegas in 2014. "I just fought and never gave up this year," he said in a team press release. "I had to do that in the main tonight, too. I was leading the heat race, but my front end washed out, so I had to get through the LCQ. I had a good start in the main but got shuffled back in the second corner. I almost went down, but I said to myself, 'I've got a lot of work to do to get on the podium.'”
A third GEICO Honda man, RJ Hampshire, was up front for most of the main event but was slowed when Bisceglia put a hard pass on him. Hampshire dropped from third to seventh.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki was without a single rider in the 250SX main event after Chris Alldredge (West Region) crashed in practice and Joey Savatgy (East Region) followed, leaving the race after a crash in his heat.
Savatgy was fourth after timed qualifying. “Rough weekend, really hate letting the team down and letting those around me down... Glad to be out of Vegas healthy and in one piece, the great outdoors are almost here!,” he said on Instagram. As for Alldredge, he’s lucky to escape with just a few bruises:
Shane McElrath was also collected in a heat race crash, but was able to make it through the main and finish ninth. “It was a tough night, but I’m happy to not be injured in that crash in the heat,” said McElrath in a team press release. “We wanted to get out of here healthy, and while disappointed with ninth, happy with the season as a whole.”
Zach Bell returned from a collapsed lung, dislocated elbow, and torn ligaments sustained in a practice crash before Houston. Bell ran upfront briefly before crashing in the whoops. “I was third in the heat and fourth in the main before I went down in the whoops and was dead last,” he said in a team statement. “I fought back to twelfth, so I’m happy with myself and I wish I could have stayed off the ground. I’m healthy, though, so that’s good. I’m excited for outdoors—that’s more my style. I’m a little guy and supercross is kind of hard for me, so I’m definitely excited for outdoors to come.”
Cole Martinez cracked the top ten for just the second time in 2015 in the shootout. In just his second full-time season in Monster Energy Supercross and first year with Strikt Slaton Yamaha, Martinez has been a revelation. Martinez was a steady presence just outside the top ten for much of the West Region, finishing the year fourteenth in points.
Helped by a top-ten start in Vegas, Martinez lingered around ninth much of the race before sneaking into eighth—his best career finish. He will head to Canada this summer to contest the Canadian Nationals with the powerhouse Monster Energy Thor Kawasaki team.
Florida privateer Justin Starling got a one-off ride with the MotoSport.com/GPI Honda Racing team in Vegas. Starling, who rode Yamahas during the East Region, made the quick transition to the Honda, finishing seventeenth in the main. “This past weekend was something I've dreamed about since I was a kid,” he wrote on Instagram. “Except for wadding in the whoops last practice, I didn't dream of that haha.”