What happened to points leader Ryan Dungey off the start last Saturday night at Ford Field in Detroit? His start, like a number of top riders, was impeded by a huge pileup in the first corner. As you can see in the video below, Dungey had to slow when a group of riders, which included Chad Reed, Justin Bogle, and Cole Seely, went down. The crash also affected Dean Wilson, Justin Barcia, Trey Canard, and Blake Baggett.
Dungey would come back to third for his 10th podium of the season. Despite a strong comeback, Dungey saw his points lead shrink to seven as Eli Tomac won for the seventh time in the last nine races.
Seely, one of the riders down in the first corner, charged back to 10th. He issued this statement in a Honda team press release. “Tonight is such a bummer, mainly because I felt so good all day. I had a good practice and was only fourth-tenths off first, then got off to a great start in the heat race and won that pretty easy. I felt like I was in control of the heat race, didn’t make many mistakes and was just able to put down some solid laps. Unfortunately, in the main event I got hit from behind in the first turn and ran into [Dean] Wilson pretty hard on my way to the ground. It was completely out of my control. When you get off to a bad start and pick up the bike in 20th it’s hard to push forward. Once I got into 10th I was in no-man’s land with nobody close in front of me so it was hard to try and make up more ground. I’m just disappointed; I really felt like a good night was coming my way tonight.”
Reed got the worst of the crash, as he landed back-first on Bogle's bike, which looked painful, plus he was dead last after remounting. Reed’s front brake was damaged and a few laps later, he went straight in the corner prior to the finish line and went over the Tuff Blocks. His night was done after that. He finished 22nd.
Bogle struggled to get going following the crash and finished 18th. “We had a pretty good night going but it’s hard to capitalize when you get cleaned out going into the first corner,” said Bogle in a team statement. “Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do when it plays out like that but pick up the bike and try and finish out the night as best you can. That’s pretty much how our season has gone but like the old saying goes, it’s not how many times you fall, it’s about how many times you get up. We’ll keep working and stay positive. We’ll go to St. Louis this weekend and try and get it done there.”
Wilson finished the night in ninth. He spoke about his night in a team press release. “I got hit really hard and I barely stayed on two wheels. I made some quick passes then just stayed there and rode a steady and consistent race. This is my third year in the class, but it’s almost like a rookie year since I’ve never done a full season. It’s good for me to just keep racing the mains and get top 10 finishes. I’m just trying to be better every weekend."
Although he’s from North Carolina, RCH/Yoshimura Suzuki’s Broc Tickle considers Detroit a home race. Tickle’s wife is from Michigan, and Tickle even lists Holly, Michigan, as his hometown on the AMA scoring sheet. In qualifying on Saturday, Tickle shot to the top of the board on the final lap of the first session with a 52.009. The time would stand up during the second session as well, with Tickle claiming pole position for night. Tickle would go onto finish seventh in the main event, his best finish since a third in Toronto. “Detroit was obviously a race I was looking forward to,” said Tickle in a team statement. “I had a lot of family and friends at the event. It’s just fun to be at what I call a home race. I ended up with the fastest lap in practice, which was awesome. I knew I needed a good start in the main event and I came out sixth. I got passed in the whoop section on the first lap and ended up coming around sixth or seventh. I rode there for a long time. All in all, it was a good weekend.”
Tickle and Wilson were good, but they did succumb to the charges of Dungey, Blake Baggett, and Jason Anderson. Baggett and Dungey were way back due to that first-turn crash (although, a quick study of the video shows Baggett actually got out of it ahead of Dungey, but then Dungey passed him halfway through the first lap). Anderson, meanwhile, finally got the good start he was looking for and was running in fourth until he slid out on the super-slick dirt after the finish line. He went all the way back to 11th, but charged back to finish sixth.
After missing the last month due to a shoulder injury, Monster Energy Factory Yamaha’s Cooper Webb returned to racing in Detroit. Webb had a rather quiet night as he readjusted to racing, qualifying 12th, and finishing 13th in the main event. On his Instagram page, Webb said he experienced a bike problem off the start, and also went down twice in the sand. “Well bit of a kick in the ass tonight. Bike problem on the start left me close to last and fell twice in the sand. Ended up 13th, but learned a lot tonight and I'm back racing. Onward to some ruts.”
GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig was in the eye of the storm on Saturday after he bumped Alex Martin in practice and Martin went flying over a berm. Martin was knocked out of Detroit and will also miss St. Louis this weekend. Craig was fined $3000 and assigned the last gate pick for the main event. That penalty hurt because Craig ended up winning his heat race, but squandering the good gate pick that would have come with it. However, he ended up riding better than he has all year, possibly breaking out of the funk that kept him away from his expected results.
“Well, yesterday went from terrible to great to pretty good,” said Craig in a GEICO Honda statement. “As everyone knows, I had a practice incident with Alex Martin. I let my frustrations get the best of me in the heat of the moment. I could sit here and explain my side of the story, but I’ll still end up in the wrong so I won't. Anyway, I got penalized and fined by the AMA. No matter what I got in my heat I would have last gate pick for the main. I ended up winning my heat which was such a good confidence booster for me. I've been mentally broken this season and I've been trying to get myself to where I was last year. I feel like I'm back as my normal self again. I rode like I knew how and I didn't give up. I got the holeshot and led every lap. I know it was only a heat race win but that one felt really good. Going into the main I obviously knew I was going to be last pick so I took the outside gate and was just gonna go for it. I actually got a really good start but was caught in a first turn pile up. I would have for sure gotten a top five start if that [crash] hadn't happened. I started in 18th and made my way to seventh. With one more lap I could have gotten the two guys in front of me but I was just happy to see myself fight again. This season has been rough and it sucks it's taken me this many rounds to find myself again but I'm thankful I'm healthy and ready for St. Louis next weekend.”
The big first-turn crash was mostly caused by Jordon Smith trying to come from the outside after qualifying through the LCQ. Zach Osborne and Dakota Alix got collected, and Osborne also bumped Craig, who ended up in the Tuff Blocks. Osborne’s scenario was well publicized—he lost his 250SX East Region points lead due to broken spokes, caused in the collision with Smith. Alix was left in pain, though, with a high-ankle sprain. Alix’s Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-WPS-KTM team says he is hoping to race this weekend but the decision will come on Friday.
Kyle Cunningham didn’t race the Toronto supercross after choosing to part ways with the Blue Buffalo/Slater Skins Yamaha team, but on Sunday morning, he got a phone call from the Autotrader.com/Monster Energy/JGR Suzuki team asking him to drive to North Carolina to test a bike. Matt Bisceglia was out with injury (again) and Kyle Peters was heading to Australia, so Cunningham got the fill-in spot. He’s delivered 7-10-5 finishes since, and his Detroit performance was exceptionally impressive since he started the race stuck in the first-turn pileup—amongst other problems. “I felt good all day, but I we had a crash in practice and got ten stiches in my chin,” said Cunningham. “I started the heat in third but kind of tightened up, and then I got the bad end of the stick in that turn with Smith, we both ended up going down. But going to the LCQ was good, felt like I had a good flow going there, and I was able to carry that into the main event. We got into that first turn crash and I had to back my bike out of a Yamaha and take back off. When I saw Lee [McColumn, mechanic] had ninth on the board I couldn’t believe it! I think I was 16th but I made some passes—the rhythm near the finish was pretty tough, but I was able to clear it in traffic and make some passes. Overall, it was a good night, we ended up fifth and I feel like I rode a lot better. Huge thanks to the team, it’s truly been an awesome opportunity to work with these guys.”
Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Mitchell Harrison has taken some lumps learning supercross, but his sixth in Detroit marked a career-best finish. “It was good, had a decent start, kept charging and made some good passes at the beginning,” said Harrison, who is a Michigan native. “I held onto the lead group for a bit and made a mistake in the sand, Cunningham got on me and passed me, but I’m still happy, this is my best supercross finish, and I’m still learning more and more every week.”
What has Harrison been working on? “Really, it’s just trying to stay aggressive. In practice, I try to ride every lap as hard as I can,” he explained. “Last year, I treated it like qualifying. Do one hard lap and just kind of ride around. You can’t do that, you have to go out there and ride the track hard every lap so you can race it, and that’s the thing. You get better at the rhythms the more you hit them. It’s really like when you’re at home, you hit the stuff so many times it gets easier. It just gets you in the mentality that it’s a race and you have to keep pushing on every lap.”
After a career-year in the 250SX East Region last year, Gannon Audette has struggled through 2017. In Indianpolis, the spot of his first career podium in 2016, he missed the main event entirely. But he bounced back with his best finish of the season in Detroit, finishing eighth in the main event.
TiLube/Storm Lake Honda’s Fredrik Noren was a late scratch as he decided to sit the race out due to injuries sustained the week prior. He hopes to return this weekend in St. Louis.
If you missed our profile last week on Anthony Rodriguez, the former Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider who is making a go of it on his own this year, it’s worth checking out. A-Rod was good again in Detroit, finishing ninth for his fourth top 10 in five rounds.