Welcome to Phoenix Glendale, Arizona for round four of Monster Energy Supercross. Ryan Dungey is once again doing Ryan Dungey things and Ken Roczen’s big crash from last week has taken some of the air from the series, but it’s early and there’s plenty of racing left, so let’s not go cashing championship checks before the bank is even open.
Besides losing Roczen, Justin Bogle crashed out in a heat last week and is missing this week. Trey Canard is still nursing his shoulder injury and Mike Alessi is tentative to race after a hard hit to the stomach at Anaheim 1.
We’ve heard that Eli Tomac, who is struggling to start the series, made a few changes this week. He came out to Arizona early to ride some local SX tracks that are a little more beat up, and made some bike changes to match those conditions. The hope is that this might make his bike work better later in the races, where he has run into problems so far this year. Eli told us himself this morning that it was good to just change things up in general and ride some different tracks. We’ll see if he can get up on the podium for the first time this year.
Also, Weston Peick crashed hard in the untimed practice, and we hear he hurt his wrist and back and is headed to the hospital.
As far as the track, each week leading up to the race this year there has been rain, but the track has been perfect come Saturday morning. This weekend we’re in a dome so rain isn’t a factor, but somehow it was the muddiest track walk of the year!
The over/under is back again this weekend as well as a guest appearance by the sand section. The rhythm after the over/under is interesting. It’s a six pack, but it doesn’t look like there will be any tripling through the section. The there isn’t any pop or size to the first lip and the height and size of the remaining vary so double-double-double is most likely through here, with high potential for a triple in the middle.
The whoops have some size again this week and the setup before is going to be key. Tripling out of the corner before the whoops will probably be tough on a 250 so I expect those guys to be wheel tapping through there. The size of the whoops also vary—they start tall and taper down. Almost the entire B practice skipped the whoops in the first session...and then after that first session, a jump before the whoops was cut down to give the riders a better run into the section.
The University of Phoenix Stadium has a massive floor space and lap times in the first practices were over a minute. With that long of a track, we may see our first mains going below 15 and 20 laps tonight. Last year the track went outside the building, this year it’s all under the dome, but laps are still long. Plus, this has to be the longest start straight we’ll see this year, so we will be seeing some high speeds into turn one. Don’t worry, our man Jason Thomas belives the longer starts are actually safer.
Qualifying - Session 1
The end of the rhythm after the finish has claimed several riders this morning. Weston Peick in the first session and Jeremy Martin and Austin Forkner in the second. I spoke with the JGR team and Peick is on the way to the hospital with complaints of his wrist and back. Peick is a bulldog so if he’s headed to the hospital, it must be serious. Word also just came in that Martin will also be out tonight. Despite crashing, he set the third fastest time in practice. Upon returning he was dizzy and did not know where he was so a concussion is likely. Justin Hill came out swinging again with the first fast lap of the day and that’s where he stayed, on top.
According to team Yamaha, Chad Reed had a good week in Florida and is feeling good. Reed was gapping Ryan Dungey at the beginning of practice. Riding in California the last few weeks has been garbage with all the rain so he headed home get some motos in and it looks like it paid off. Let’s see if it can carry over into the night show. Tomac was fastest again in the session,
Tomac was the fastest in first two sessions today which is great considering his results have not been what we expect of him this year. He was fastest in practice last week and also finished 10th in the main. Blake Baggett also reportedly had a good week and came out of the session in second, which is great because Baggett normally does not qualify very well.
We've got a bit of a break until the next session. If you haven't already, check out our press day video from yesterday in Phoenix.
Qualifying - Session 2
Justin Hill is looking smooth again with Austin Forkner in a close second, team manager Mitch Payton must be happy with that.
Davi Millsaps has a nice double wheel tap that he is doing after the second triple to set himself up for a clean triple out before the corner. Malcolm Stewart has a similar line, but instead of wheel tapping he’s jumping the whole set of rollers and tripling out as well. Most are just charging throught the rollers, and then slamming into the face of the second to clear the third. Malcolm is riding well today, but couldn’t get a clean lap in for a good qualifying spot. Blake Baggett is looking fast today! He was following Tomac (the leader of the session again) for several laps before finishing on top. Tomac and Baggett were the only ones to break the one minute mark on lap times.
250SX Heat 1
Austin Forkner came out with the holeshot and pulled a small lead at the beginning. It was Forkner, Martin Davalos, Jimmy Decotis in the top three out of the gate. Davalos caught Forkner by the mechanic’s area on lap one and went for the pass in the rhythm after the finish. Davalos tried this on each lap and also made a mistake here on each lap. Davalos almost crashed in the corner after the second triple and then was all over Forkner going back down the start straight. On the last lap in the same second after the finish, Davalos went for the move and made it stick after Forkner made a mistake on the first roller out of the corner. Forkner went hard inside of Davalos on the corner before the first big triple, and still went for the triple, but came up way short. You could tell it hurt, and he doubled the next triple. Forkner hit the reset by the end of the section, but by that time Decotis had caught up. Decotis pressured Forkner for the rest of the race, but ran out of time.
250SX Heat 2
Filthy Phil Nicoletti, my new neighbor, came out with holeshot. He led for a bit before Justin Hill caught up, made the move and did what he’s been doing all season, riding really fast. Hill nearly had an 11 second lead by the end of the 5 min + 1 lap race. On lap one Shane McElrath came up short on a triple the rhythm section that’s been claiming people all day. He came in nose heavy into the next and crashed into the jump following that. It was a pretty easy get off. His bike was hidden on the backside of one of the jumps in the rhythm and was dodging guys left and right as guys were jumping through. They were a couple of pretty sketchy moments for the points leader. Aaron Plessinger came through the pack and caught Nicoletti on the last lap, but lost some time trying to make a move in the first rhythm. Plessinger used his long legs through the whoops to catch back up to Nicoletti, but couldn’t get it done. McElrath 15th
450SX Heat 1
Eli Tomac looked like 2015 Tomac in this heat. He was flowing and attacking and ran away with it. Josh Grant had a good start and it was Monster Energy Kawasaki in one two from the start, but Grant faded back to sixth. Malcolm Stewart had a good race too, but with a bad start, Tomac was gone. In the sandy final on the final lap of the heat Jason Anderson went for the pass on Cooper Webb for the final transfer spot, but ran them off the track which allowed Grant to from sixth or fourth sending both Anderson and Webb to the semi. You can watch the Anderson Webb pass here.
450sx Heat 2
Justin Brayton with the holeshot and lead early on. Millsaps was a close second and made the move. Chad Reed is on fire tonight! He made a move on Blake Baggett at the over/under. Baggett Baggett got on the inside of Reed after the finish and was still able to jump everything. Reed was going after Dungey after the finish, but something happened with Reed and he had to go around some tough blocks after the corner and Cole Seely got by.
Dungey crept through the pack the whole race and caught Baggett with two to go. Dungey pressured him and made moves on outside the whoops. Baggett squared him up and got him back which nearly opened the door for Seely to get them both. Dungey struggled in both rhythm sections all day and after making mistakes in both, Baggett got away. Seely went for the quad on the last lap as Dungey made a mistake, but couldn’t make the move and will be going to the semi.
McElrath took the lead by half way through the first lap and ran off with it. It was 3 min + 1 lap which came out to 3 laps. I repeat, we may do less than 15 laps in the main tonight.
450SX Semi 1
Cooper Webb wheelied down the start and still pulled gears and came out with the holey. Reed with a bad start and had to come through the pack. These whoops are Reeds friend tonight and that’s where he made up a lot of time on everyone. Jimmy Albertson was again riding great in second and went down in the corner after the whoops battling with Jake Weimer. Jimmy will head to the LCQ for another weekend. By the last lap it was Reed in third and Broc Tickle in third. Reed caught Broc Tickle through the whoops on the last lap and the crowd came to life as they came down the straight. Reed made the move in the corner before the mechanics and then Tickle came back inside under the over/under and almost made the mover in the sand section, but had to take third.
450SX Semi 2
At press day and in practice, the triple-quad-triple-double was a pretty popular line. In the heats, not so much. In the semis Webb, Reed, and Anderson all hit it consistently and it looks like the fastest line. Brayton said the corner was pretty chewed up and hard to do every lap. Let’s see if this line helps anyone out in the main. Anderson, Seely, Alessi, Wilson.
Two riders tangled on start and both went down really hard. So hard that they red flagged the race with one of them needing assistance from the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Crew off the track. After the restart the LCQ was actually pretty exciting. Jimmy Albertson and Nick Schmidt battled, but after a couple of mistakes by Albertson he had to settle for the last spot into the main. Cody Gilmore was leading the race when on the last lap, seemingly out of nowhere, in classic Vince Freise style, he dove inside before the first triple and snaked the spot forcing Gilmore to double which also allowed Schmidt to get by.
We got what we’ve been hoping for, a good start for both Hill and McElrath. Out of the gate it was Forkner, Decotis, McElrath, Hill. Forkner really has been nailing starts lately. McElrath and Hill were battling on lap two after getting around Decotis. McElrath and Hill were teammates on Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM so these guys like each other off the track and have a lot of respect for one another on the track. McElrath got by Forkner with about 10:40 to go. It took a few laps before Hill could catch Forkner and make the move.
Similar to Roczen following Seely last week, Hill kind of got stuck behind Forkner. They go back to the same truck after the race, so they’re extra careful not to knock each other down. As soon as Hill did get by, Forkner seemed to back it down and settled into third.
Nicoletti, who rode well all day, caught up to Decotis in the sand section and then Nicoletti didn’t come out. Not sure what happened there. Davalos stalled in corner after finish and then lost a bunch of time and three spots pushing his electric start button. It took about the same amount of time for his electric start to work as if he would have kicked it. Interesting. With three to go. Hill really started catching McElrath. McElrath struggled a bit after the second triple as well as the whoops compared to Hill. Hill had some serious flow today and had the track dialed from start to finish. Hill latched on McElrath’s rear wheel and they battled!
The corner after the whoops made for great racing. It was a 180 degree left with a large bank for going wide, railing the outside, or pushing guys wide. Many times tonight if someone had to protect the inside here or took someone wide whoever was on the outside was able to square them up and they’d drag race down the start straight. Shane had the inside when Hill made a move on the outside through the whoops. Hill squared up McElrath and McElrath had to go around a lapper allowing Hill to cut inside and take the lead. McElrath had the inside going into the corner before the mechanic’s area and Hill checked up. They battled again for lap until Hill made the pass stick with a block pass on McElrath in the corner after the whoops. After a perfect last lap with McElrath breathing down his neck, McElrath made a charge in the sand section before the finish, but Hill held onto it and made it two in a row. McElrath will keep the red plate with a one-point lead over Hill heading into Oakland.
How much can you change a week? That’s the big question with Eli Tomac this weekend. He was the fastest qualifier, holeshotted and ran away with the heat race and then pulled another holeshot in the main. He was almost unrecognizable last weekend compared to this week Dungey was up to fourth by the end of the first lap whereas Tomac had already pulled a couple second gap over second. At this point Seely had moved into second and around the five-minute mark Dungey got around Brayton.
Malcolm Stewart was making some moves early in the race as well, but after connecting with Millsaps Stewart had to pull his bike off the tough blocks. Reed’s good week in Florida seemed to pay off because he was riding with something extra tonight. He moved through the pack and caught and pressured Dungey. The stadium loved it. Seely, Dungey, and Reed were so close at this point that Dungey’s line was messed up by Seely’s and had to check up in the sand sections. This allowed Reed to get by but Dungey got him again in the rhythm after the finish. I didn’t see Dungey do the quad in the follow rhythm section and that is one of the places Reed was really catching him as Reed was doing the quad nearly every lap. Reed was also doing what Reed does in the whoops, charge!
Dungey took Seely wide after finish going for a block pass, but this allowed Reed to catch up and he took the inside on both of them in the next corner. Reed pulled a small gap only to be re-passed by Dungey in the same spot Dungey made the move the lap before. It was on! With about 6 min to go Tomac had around an 18 second lead. Talk about turning things around.
Dungey started making some uncharacteristic mistakes and got hung up by lappers pretty bad. Chad was consistently hitting the triple-quad-triple-double rhythm and after Dungey bobbled doing the step-on-step-off, Reed ran away and cruised to second. Great to see Reed back on the podium. That’s five podiums in a row for Dungey.