By Jason Weigandt and Kyle Scott
Another week of mud rumors, another track that isn't muddy. Monster Energy Supercross has rolled back into Angel Stadium for round three, and while California has been pounded by rain lately, Saturday has dawned sunny and breezy. The track was built Wednesday and covered before the rain came in, now the tarps are pulled, some "drying agent" has been added, and things look good.
The track looks tight, and here's the magic number: Six. Six 180 degree turns. This includes a 180 on the home plate section of the stadium, which, by our scientific analysis, has been a flat 90-degree corner for the last 25 years (or so). 180s are the best turns for passing. Now, not all of the 180s have big berms, so it might not be block pass time in every one, but even four would be enough.
But you don't care about the track as much as you care about the news: Malcolm Stewart is racing! The 250SX Eastern Regional Champion is here on a Suzuki RM-450. He's only ridden with his race motor and suspension three times. Malcolm tells us he was motoing down on a stock bike at home prior to this, trying to do the usual 3-4 days a week schedule, but he didn't have as many parts as his disposal and had to be a little more conservative with the riding time. Plus, he says riding with his race motor and the stocker he was on is way, way different. So he's kind of winging it here. His pit setup, which is last year's Ride365.com/Crossland Racing rig with a new wrap, looks good, and in fact makes it look like this whole program has been in the works for a long time. "It wasn't!" joked Malcolm's dad, James Sr. Supposedly the rig only got wrapped on Thursday night before coming to the stadium on Friday.
The rest of the racing is as you already know it: Ken Roczen and Shane McElrath are two-for-two in the 450 and 250 classes, respectively. We'll see if anyone can break through against them tonight. Practice has begun, we'll be here all day and night with reports from Anaheim 2
Qualifying - Session one
Due to the moisture this week, the first untimed practice was canceled just like the last time we were in Anaheim this year. Some deeper ruts than were used to seeing at Angel Stadium are forming, especially on the face of the over/under jump. There’s a really interesting 270 degree left turn after the over/under that should be a good place for passing. The over/under jump requires some real finesse due to the face and landing being so steep and the corner being directly after the landing. The landing on the lone triple is pretty small and in every session everyone was over jumping it and landing to flat. Disclaimer: stiff suspension required. There is also a step-on-step-off before the finish that looks very 1997 with it being the only section in the lane. Thanks to four-strokes, 2017 step-on-step-offs a little different in the fact that the middle section is much shorter so they have less real estate to gain speed and there is no lip to help you clear the landing of the step off. With the lack of lip on the step off, many riders are clipping the landing with their back wheel and nearly nose-wheeling into the corner, but luckily there’s enough space to the corner that they can get the rear back down in to go left and not up and over.
Justin Hill was fastest 250 class and Marvin Musquin in the 450. Cooper Webb and Austin Forkner, who haven’t quite reached their expectations so far this season, are looking much more solid today in the first sessions.
Qualifying - Session Two
Session two was similar to the first with Justin Hill at the top of the board the majority of the session. Jeremy Martin snaked the top spot from him at the very end though. Austin Forkner was the only 250 rider I saw to double the finish from the inside.
Roczen, Anderson, and Dungey didn’t find themselves near the top of the board until the end of the session. The last three laps or so there seemed to be a mad scramble all around the track to get a heater in. Going back to Cooper Webb again, he is much better this week. He was the fastest for a bit, and ended the session in third. He looks more like last year's 250SX West Coast champion. Tomac took the top spot, but did so quietly. On the last lap Roczen hung back from the field and secretly tried a rhythm before the second set of whoops. The typical line is step-on-step-off, triple, double. Roczen’s new line is to double (going over the table top), triple, triple. He is the only one I’ve seen do it so far today, let’s see if/when he pulls it out in the race.
250SX Heat one
Aaron Plessinger finally got a holeshot followed by Shane McElrath and Justin Hill. This is how it stayed for the rest of the race. On lap two Plessinger wheelied into the first set of whoops and dropped the front end, but he used his height to his advantage and was able to save it. It wasn’t until the second to last lap that McElrath really put on a charge for the lead, but Plessinger had about a one second lead the whole race and McElrath ran out of time.
250SX Heat two
Similar to the first heat, not many passes were made near the front. Forkner took the lead and Martin Davalos was right on him from the first turn. Davalos was on Forkner’s rear wheel and was trying hard to get around him. Davlos tried to make a move on the 1997 step-on-step-on and both he and Forkner nearly went down on the table top in the middle. Forkner stayed aggressive, took the inside in the next corner and jumped the finish from the inside as I described in practice. When I talked to him about his inside line before the heat race he said it was easy and that he felt like he could do it consistently in the main as long as he sets it up right and doesn’t dive to hard inside. Now I’m a believer. Davalos looks like he lost his steam after that and settled into second. Meanwhile Jeremy Martin started in second and made a nice pass on Dan Reardon on the outside of a turn, and then laid down a nice scrub on the over/under. That kind of scrub is what we don’t normally see from J. Mart. Forkner took his first heat race win.
450SX Heat one
Justin Bogle got his first holeshot of the year and then grenaded in the rhythm lane moments later. Roczen took the lead crossing finish on lap one and then checked out. Malcolm Stewart was on fire and the fans were pumped. He came through the pack on the opening laps. Going through the whoops it was Vince Freise, Marvin Musquin, and then Malcolm. Malcolm was on the outside going into the next corner, squared them both up and passed Musquin. After the triple Friese cross-jumped Malcolm to protect the inside. Malcolm hit the brakes and block passed Freise. The fans went nuts. Four or five riders were held up by the block pass and it was a scramble to the next corner. Jason Anderson tried to cut to the inside in the next corner only to get stuffed by Friese, and Anderson ricocheted off his training partner, Marvin Musquin. Both went down, and Friese got away...well, for a little while. After the race Anderson smacked Freise in the helmet expressing his frustration only to wash his front end in the tunnel and end up on the ground again. That makes Freise 2/2 tonight.
450SX Heat two
We’re not sure what happened, but Ryan Dungey was down in turn one. While everyone crossed the finish on lap one Ryan Dungey who had only completed half the lap was pulling off to get his mechanic. All three Baker’s Factory riders are going to the semi, after Anderson and Musquin got Friesed in their heat. Tomac started in fifth and consistently made his way to the front passing Weston Peick and Cooper Webb. Webb put up a bigger fight that he has the past two weeks, but Tomac pulled away. The Rocky Mountain MC KTM boys took the top two spots with Davey Millsaps taking the win and Blake Baggett in second.
In typical 250 LCQ fashion, there was carnage everywhere. Bryce Stewart lead start to finish. Martin Castelo made some passes for the final spot. When Bryce crossed the finish line on the first lap, Tristan Charboneau was all alone, about a half lap down. Charboneau has been having some bad luck this year and hasn’t made a main yet. Despite having no chance at a transfer spot, Charboneau rode like he was going for the win and you could see his frustration riding around as he over revved the bike in each corner and over every jump. Better luck next week Charboneau.
450SX Semi One
Anderson was disqualified for the night due to his retaliation to Freise after the heat so he didn’t line up for the semi. After re-watching the video, you can see Freise's mechanic push Anderson, which caused him to fall. This seems to be a real trend with Freise. Dungey really struggled at the beginning of this race. He did not look like himself at all until the last lap where seemingly out of nowhere, he turned it on and made a pass on Brayton for third.
450SX Semi Two
Jimmy Albertson who had a bad practice crash last week that kept him out of the night show got the holeshot before making a mistake and crashing. Weston Peick took the free gift and cruised to the win. Dean Wilson took the final transfer spot.
Vince Freise got the holeshot and ran away with it. Adam Enticknap aka 7deucedeuce who we talked to yesterday at press day yesterday, took second and tonight will be his first main event of the season. Congrats Adam.
"The best interview ever" with Adam and Tyler Enticknap
250SX Main Event
Shane McElrath’s win streak came to an end tonight with Justin Hill leading every lap to take his first win of the season. Hill has had to come through the pack the past two weeks, but not tonight. He started in third behind Plessinger and Forkner and passed both of them in one corner before checking out on the first lap. Much like Ken Roczen’s opening ceremonies song, Justin Hill was on a “new level” tonight. Although Hill did pull away and rode his own race, when it was all said and done Plessinger was only five seconds back, which is less than it seemed. Plessinger said he was actually surprised to finally get a start, and will need to work on his intensity in the early laps when he's up there. Once he settled in he could match Hill, but Hill was already gone.
McElrath finished third to round out the podium and will keep the red plate going to Phoenix next week. Forkner was solid all day and started the main with a holeshot. He had flashes of brilliance, but small mistakes cost him a few spots and he finished in fourth. The rookie rode better a few laps into the race after getting passed by Hill, Plessinger and McElrath, and kept McElrath in his sights most of the way. Martin Davalos rounded out the top five.
450SX Main Event
Dungey who seemed to struggle all day brought it when it counted, the main. He got a good start and started to stretch it out over Seely and Musquin. Roczen started in seventh and it took him a few laps to get to the front. With 15 minutes to go, Roczen had moved to third, caught Seely and followed him for a couple laps. Being Seely and Roczen are teammates, it seemed like Roczen backed it down a little and tucked in behind Seely, looking for a clean spot to pass him. Dungey, Seely, and Roczen stayed pretty even for several laps before Roczen got a little impatient and tried to make a move around Seely in the rhythm before the second set of whoops. That's when disaster struck for the points leader.
It looked like Roczen cross rutted on the face of the triple of the rhythm before the bike was ripped out from under him. Similar to his crash at Monster Cup, he ejected from the bike. The difference between his Monster Cup crash and tonight's crash was this time he went into head first instead of feet first and slammed into the face of the next jump with a halt, instead of smoothly sliding down the landing like he did in October. The crash was so violent the visor on his helmet exploded off. The entire stadium went nuts and Roczen laid there for several laps not moving. The Alpinestars medical unit eventually got Roczen to his feet and moved him slowly, one step at a time, with support to the cart. He left the track sitting up in the cart, with his helmet still on, and a splint on his left arm. He has been taken to a local hospital for further evaluation. Honda later released a report saying Roczen has broken his left forearm.
It appeared as if Seely lost all the wind in his sails, so to speak, after Roczen crashed and was passed by Musquin. Dungey cruised to the win with Musquin still on the charge to the checkers.
Webb completed a night with a dramatic turnaround from last week, finishing in a solid fourth with Weston Peick in a close fifth. Josh Grant started just ahead of them, but made a few mistakes and lost spots to both, finishing up sixth.
Behind Grant, Tomac and Chad Reed swapped positions throughout the race. Tomac got Reed, but at about the 15 minute mark, Reed came back, repassed Tomac, and eventually pulled away. Tomac finished 13 seconds behind Reed in tenth place. Malcolm Stewart was running in the top ten the majority of the race, but went down and ended up 18th. This put the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC teammates Davi Millsaps and Blake Baggett in ninth and tenth.