10 Things to Watch: Oakland

10 Things To Watch: Oakland

By Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo

Podium Percentage

Who’s in the mood for an obscure Chad Reed stat? Since Reed started racing in the premiere class full-time, he’s only missed the podium at a round five event three times, and his average finish at the fifth round is 2.85. No matter how good or bad the season starts for Reed, he seams to be able to find his way onto the podium just a few rounds in. The numbers aren’t the only thing that suggest he’ll be on the podium this weekend either—Reed is coming off a fantastic weekend in Glendale where he caught and passed defending champ and current points leader Ryan Dungey to take second. Keep a close eye on the veteran in Oakland, he might just uncork more of that patented Reed magic. –Aaron Hansel

Deflated and Dangerous

After pumping up and failing to finish strong at the first three races of 2017, Eli Tomac was back in a big way in Glendale. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider took the holeshot and rode to an unchallenged win, elevating himself to third in the points (20 back of Dungey and five back of Marvin Musquin). Of course, when you’re chasing a guy like Dungey, who holds the all-time record for consecutive podiums (31), winning races frequently is mandatory if you want to be in the hunt for the title. We’ll see if Tomac’s championship charge continues in Oakland. –Hansel

Heating Up

The battle for the 250SX West Region Championship couldn’t get much tighter, both on the track and in the points. Last week Justin Hill caught and passed Shane McElrath late in the race, only to have McElrath respond and nearly take the lead back on the final lap, finishing just 0.446 seconds behind Hill. There’s no elbow room in the points either—McElrath leads Hill by just four points and they each have two wins apiece! With the way these two are riding there’s a good chance they’ll both be battling for the win, and control of the championship, yet again this Saturday night. -Hansel

Just four points separate Hill (pictured) from McElrath in the championship.
Just four points separate Hill (pictured) from McElrath in the championship. Jeff Kardas

Rookie Rising

While McElrath and Hill have been dominating so far, there are plenty of other riders who could get in the mix, and Austin Forkner could be one of them if his results continue on their upward trend. In the first four supercross races of his career the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider has gone 8-5-4-3. That’s a pretty steady progression, and if it persists it’s going to make things even more interesting in Oakland. He could battle up front, he could affect the points by getting between McElrath and Hill, or he could even win the race! –Hansel

Good News and Bad

If you’re Marvin Musquin, the good news from Glendale is that despite having a bit of an off-night, you’re still second in points. The bad news is, after going 3-3-2 at the first three rounds, you took ninth in last Saturday night and watched your points deficit to Dungey increase from seven to 15 points. The bottom line is, Musquin is a podium guy this year and is certainly better than ninth. Expect him to bounce back and show it in Oakland. –Hansel

Weather

Since the start of the New Year, California has received almost a year’s worth of snow and rain in a single month, per NBC Los Angeles. It’s been great for helping the Golden State recover from a drought, but not Monster Energy Supercross. Dirt Wurx has done a great job in saving the tracks at the first three rounds, but there’s no denying weather has been a factor to begin the year. Per weather.com, there’s a 60-percent chance of rain in Oakland today, and 50 percent on Saturday. Hopefully the weather will cooperate this weekend. –Chase Stallo  

Starts, Starts, Starts

One of the main stumbling blocks for Aaron Plessinger this year has been starts. Through the first four rounds, Plessinger’s average running position on the first lap is sixth place. “Yeah, and I’m getting better at my starts. I’ve just got to get used to being up there earlier in the race. I kind of froze up and rode a little tight, but we’re working on it,” said Plessinger after San Diego, where he rounded the first lap in second. But then AP’s starts went bad again Glendale. Writing for Pulpmx, multi-time SX race winner David Vuillemin noticed a few things with Plessinger’s starts last weekend. “The kid is always fast in the mains but can’t get a start to save his life. They showed a slo-mo of the start and his body position is like he’s starting on concrete 10 years ago in the Nationals. Here’s some advice dude, chest down, chin on bar pad, twist it wide open (it’s a 250), and dump the freaking clutch.” Currently 10 points out of the points lead, Plessinger can get right back in the title hunt if he can get a start and a win this weekend. –Stallo

Wins and Podiums

For as good as he’s been this year, Cole Seely has just one podium to show for it (third at Anaheim 2). In a Honda press release following round four, Seely, who battled with Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey for the podium, said, “Mentally I feel like I'm stronger than I've ever been. The bottom line is that I want to win and we’ll see what happens in Oakland.” Can Seely grab his second podium of 2017 this weekend? –Stallo

Seely isn't satisfied with a podium finish, he wants to win.
Seely isn't satisfied with a podium finish, he wants to win. Jeff Kardas

Finding His Rhythm

While he’s only been active for two rounds, you can tell speed won’t be a problem for Malcolm Stewart in the 450 Class. The 2016 250SX East Region Champion has finished second in both heat races (Anaheim 2 and Phoenix) and qualified top-10 at both rounds. Following a crash in the whoops in the main at A2, Stewart collided with Davi Millsaps early in Glendale and had to work back from 20th to 14th. “Overall, way better ride than Anaheim,” he said about the race on episode one of Mookie Fever. “The only thing that we need to do … keeping the bike on two-wheels, number one and get a little bit more fitness.” We’ll see if Malcolm can improve upon his main event results this weekend. –Stallo 

Wilson’s Debut

Knee injuries limited Dean Wilson during his two years with Red Bull KTM, but the former 250MX Champion is certainly acquainted with the bike. His familiarity with KTM, which is similar to the Husqvarna, should help this weekend, as Wilson steps into his role with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna after riding the first four rounds under a privateer Yamaha effort. Wilson, a few dedicated sponsors, and his parents, worked as hard as they could at the first four races, but he was still at a big disadvantage compared to the full factory teams. Now back under a full factory effort, we’ll see how he does. –Stallo