Observations: Seattle

Observations Seattle

April 12, 2017 11:20am

Oh boy, this 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season is really getting exciting now isn’t it? Supercross history isn’t really filled with many thrilling finishes, but every once in a while we get one to remember and I’d say having two riders tied in points with three races left counts as memorable. Let’s dive into what went on in the Emerald City.

Nice to see the series back in Seattle for the first time since 2014. Without Seattle on the calendar the Pacific Northwest is really underserved, and it’s a very strong local riding area. Plenty of fans and enthusiasts in the Pac NW and they deserve a supercross race. The weather wasn’t great, the dirt wasn’t great, but indoor pits were a welcome sight and they were packed. Attendance at the race seemed pretty strong as well.

But … maybe get some new dirt? Not sure what was up with the new dirt but it wasn’t good. I get that the old dirt, that had been sifted for rocks and wasn’t that bad (if memory serves me correctly) wasn’t going to work anymore (maybe it’s gone?) but what they did get was not good. Massive rocks everywhere and grey moon-dirt that blows apart isn’t a great combo. The practices were cut by two and the mains were cut as well and it wasn’t for weather, according to some riders that spoke with the track crew. Practice was shortened because the dirt couldn’t hold up for that many bikes on the track! I mean, really? I get it, but wow. So get some real dirt and keep Seattle for 2018!

With it's grey color, many likened the dirt used in Seattle to moon dirt.
With it's grey color, many likened the dirt used in Seattle to moon dirt. Jeff Kardas

You want the definition of “balls out” then watch Eli Tomac’s opening laps in the main event in Seattle. He got a poor start and thought that Ryan Dungey was ahead of him so he needed to get to the front ASAP. It was an amazing ride and a risky one at that. Tripling onto the tabletop, wheeling the whoops, tripling through a rhythm section and just making room for himself out there, Tomac was on a mission.

And he even went over the bars! He was lucky that A.) He wasn’t hurt and B.) The bike wasn’t jacked up and C.) The bike fired up right away. He got up, took about two laps to get himself calmed down and then immediately started leaping things like a hopped up bunny rabbit.

Meanwhile, Ryan Dungey was down in the first turn (partly due to an insane placement of a Tuff Block on the inside of said turn) and now it was his turn to put on a show. He didn’t take the risks that Tomac did, but Ryan still used his speed and fitness to cut through the pack. He didn’t jump any crazy combos, but he made more passes than Tomac did to salvage a fourth. It was a lot like his Daytona ride and maybe not quite as impressive as Tomac’s ride, but it was damn close.

Dungey only had the eighth best lap time in the main event, but he was in traffic the entire time. It was a gritty ride for Ryan and one that allowed him to hold onto a tie for the red plate with three races left. Still, the first turn fall was another indication that things have been trending down for Dungey for a long time now. Just two wins on the year and he’s missed the podium three times this year (the most since 2014)—it’s been a bit of a mystery as to why he can’t seem to match his old levels. In my experience, outside of a few elite starters in the sport, as the confidence wanes, so do the starts. And that’s what’s been going on with him for a while now. I’m not sure I like Dungey’s odds to keep the red plate unless Tomac throws it away. Dungey outriding Tomac straight up? Don’t think that’s going to happen but then again, those number one plates on Dungey’s mantle didn’t just appear there.

Amazing rides by both Dungey and Tomac in Seattle and an exciting night for the sport. It seemed that everywhere you looked one of these guys were amazing you or someone else was doing something to catch your eye.

Meanwhile, out front it was Marvin Musquin taking his second career victory. Marv’s so good on technical tracks where you need to think and be smart with lines. Musquin was never challenged in the main (although it would’ve been very interesting had Tomac not crashed) and truthfully I had to watch him on TV to see more of his race. C’mon, everyone in the stadium was tracking Dungey and Tomac! There was so much going on everywhere else and Musquin never looked like he was going to give up the lead. Well, he did look sketchy after the race when he hit neutral or something while celebrating and went over the bars!

When "Claiming It" goes wrong @marvinmusquin25 #SupercrossLIVE

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The prevailing sentiment in the pits is that Dungey’s going to retire at the end of the year, so Marvin will end up being KTM’s number one rider. Can he realistically fill Dungey’s shoes? Sure, I mean, why not? Two wins this year, multiple outdoor titles in Europe, a 250SX title, a near-250MX title here—if you think about it, Musquin’s the total package as a rider. Would you like him to have a bit more of a chip on his shoulder? Sure, but Marv can win races and championships in 2018.

As far as the 250SX class is concerned, this thing was over before it began. We’ve seen Aaron Plessinger in the ruts and soft stuff—whether it’s Indiana MX or Indianapolis SX— and he’s amazing in those conditions (Here’s the part where Weege says “GNCC, baby!”). All day long he was on a mission and was able to catch and pass pretty much anyone he wanted.

Plessinger is second in the points and now has a win so his season hasn’t been terrible, but it hasn’t been what we all thought it would be. But yet, he’s second in the points. Being the hard-hitting journalist that I am, I asked Aaron about this after the race and thankfully he agreed with me that it hasn’t been his year.

Me: This might be a bit of a d*** question, but you’re second in the points and you got a win tonight. But it hasn’t been a great season for you. A lot of us are like this kid is going to win the title or multiple race wins. But then you’re second and you just won, so maybe this is a d*** question, but it hasn’t been ideal for you.
Aaron: Yeah, definitely.

It’s not a d*** question?
No, it’s pretty reasonable. My starts have had everything to do with that. The one time I did get a good start in Oakland I got taken out. But it happens. I’ve been pumped with my riding, but the starts just haven’t been there.

Is it the more you practice starts the worse you do because you overthink it or whatever? At some point does Wil Hahn [assistant team manager] tell you just stop practicing starts and stop thinking about it?
Yeah, for sure. I just think I was overthinking it on the gate. I was just getting too hyped and too pumped up and when a gate would drop I would just forget everything I was supposed to do. This time I just focused on what I was supposed to do and I didn’t focus on what I had to do out of the gate, just focused on what I was doing at the exact moment. It definitely worked better than what I have been doing, so it was good

Remember, kids, don’t be scared to ask “d*** questions”!

Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?

250SX Results

1 23 Aaron Plessinger Hamilton, OH Yamaha YZ250F- Aaron’s growing this ridiculous mustache and after every question he’s asked he seems to giggle. He’s the Spicoli of SX.

2 46 Justin Hill Yoncalla, OR Kawasaki KX 250F- Hill did what he could against the unstoppable force named Aaron Plessinger and took the three point loss to his big points lead. I know the rule is if you’ve raced three years in the class and you win the title, you’re out (which looks like what will happen to Hill) but I hear that rule is going to be looked at closely for 2018, so Hill’s options may remain open.

3 28 Mitchell Oldenburg Alvord, TX KTM 250SX-F- Oldenburg’s second race this year (he got fourth at A1 then broke his collarbone) and he gets his first ever podium. Great work coming from seventh to third in the race. One thing about Mitchell is that he’s not scared to twist the throttle. He’s been fast, but that style has also left him on the ground a few times. Then, on a sketchy track, he rides smooth, calm, and efficient to grab a third.  

Oldenburg and Jimmy Decotis were both pushing hard to get their first podium finish.
Oldenburg and Jimmy Decotis were both pushing hard to get their first podium finish. Rich Shepherd

4 30 Martin Davalos Clermont, FL Husqvarna FC250- The “Will Marty Point Out of the 250SX Class” watch is underway and he now needs just 11 points with two races left and he’s out. I’ll take the under, Alex.

5 38 Shane McElrath Canton, NC KTM 250SX-F- McElrath’s hip was jacked up from a bad practice crash and he was maybe not going to race. He made it happen and rode pretty well at that but things have turned south since his bike experienced a mechanical while leading in Arlington.  

6 57 James Decotis Peabody, MA Honda CRF 250- Poor Jimmy D. He was on fire all day, whether it was the heat or the first main event that was red flagged. He had a third on lock down until late in the main event when he made some mistakes and credit to Oldenburg for picking it up. Right after he got passed, Decotis had a weird crash where he looked like he tried to scrub the take off to the finish. He was so close to a first ever podium!  

7 64 Hayden Mellross Australia Yamaha YZ250F- Career best finish for the Aussie, who just slowly worked up in the main event. Nice work by him.  

8 11 Kyle Chisholm Valrico, FL Honda CRF 250- Chiz did what Chiz does. He wasn’t flashy, he didn’t do anything nuts, but at the end of the race you look up and go “Huh, Chiz did pretty good.”

9 53 Cole Martinez Rimrock, AZ Yamaha YZ250F

10 244 Justin Hoeft Castaic, CA Yamaha YZ250F- This is an interesting story and a kid to keep an eye on.  

11 122 Dan Reardon Menifee, CA Yamaha YZ250F- All day long Reardon looked a bit lost. Supercross and ruts is a scary combination and not all riders can adapt to it.  

12 179 Jon Ames Riverside, CA Yamaha YZ250F- Ames was almost the JGR Suzuki fill-in guy but they went with Cade Autenright instead who didn’t qualify but really, one 10 minute practice at your first supercross ever? And three-foot deep ruts? Ol’Cade never stood much of a chance.  

Jon Ames got a spot on the Barn Pros/Home Depot Yamaha team by filling in for Chris Alldredge earlier this year. 
Jon Ames got a spot on the Barn Pros/Home Depot Yamaha team by filling in for Chris Alldredge earlier this year.  Jeff Kardas

13 71 Justin Starling Deland, FL Husqvarna FC250

14 100 Joshua Hansen Elbert, CO Husqvarna FC250- Hanny is incognito at the races this year. You rarely see him, he’s not up there much and I don’t see him hanging out when I’ve gone by. He’s like a bat.

15 217 Ryan Breece Athol, ID Kawasaki KX 250F

16 338 Ryan Surratt Corona, CA Kawasaki KX 250F- I’ve seen enough from the first-year pro Surratt that I can definitely see him getting on a B level team next year. We’ll see if he can keep getting better. Kid’s got skills.

17 87 Chris Howell Spokane Valley, WA Husqvarna FC250- Hometown kid!  

18 203 Zachary Commans Seal Beach, CA Kawasaki KX 250F

19 95 Aj Catanzaro Reston, VA Yamaha YZ250F- I thought the Cat, being a Northeast dude and racing 450s on the other coast, would do a bit better in Seattle.  

20 68 Heath Harrison Silverhill, AL Yamaha YZ250F- Harrison got the shot at a fill-in ride with CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha back in Arlington, showed speed and crashed out. In Seattle he was back again, showed speed and crashed out. My fantasy SX team wept with him. By the way, Harrison will ride 450MX for this team outdoors.

21 99 Chase Marquier Newcastle, OK Honda CRF 250- Marquier crashed pretty hard along with McConahy and hopefully both guys heal up soon.

Marquier suffered a broken scapula and dislocated shoulder in his crash with McConahy.
Marquier suffered a broken scapula and dislocated shoulder in his crash with McConahy. Jeff Kardas

22 59 Noah McConahy Spokane, WA Yamaha YZ250F- Noah got the 51FIFTY Yamaha deal and showed some speed but as I said, he crashed pretty hard. Hometown race for Noah also, which sucks. Chris Alldredge, another rider in front of his hometown fans, went down, got ran over and got hurt bad. This is the shitty part of the sport.

450SX Results

1 25 Marvin Musquin CLERMONT, FL KTM 450 SX-F- Want proof that Marv is maybe the nicest guy in the sport? He thanked the TRUCK DRIVERS on the podium! Yup, that about sealed it for me.  

2 3 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Kawasaki KX 450F- Tomac re-signed with Monster Kawasaki and while the PR didn’t mention how long the deal was, Tomac mentioned that he was happy to be there for a “couple of years” so there’s that. Amazing how fast the tide turned with regards to Kawasaki and Tomac’s relationship.  

3 21 Jason Anderson Rio Rancho, NM Husqvarna FC450- After weeks of crappy starts, Anderson’s got three good ones in a row and unlike Detroit, he didn’t tip over. Yes, he had about 745 sketchy moments in the main event but he held on for his third podium of the year, which is awesome and much better than his six fourth-place finishes this season.  

This was Anderson's third podium this year.
This was Anderson's third podium this year. Rich Shepherd

4 1 Ryan Dungey Clermont, FL KTM 450 SX-F- It was interesting to see the different styles between Dungey and Tomac, who both faced opening lap adversities. Tomac was, as stated, going balls out, jumping insane stuff and doing everything and anything to get to the front. Dungey had no panic, no sudden moves, just a methodical move up through the pack.  

5 18 David Millsaps Lake Havasu City, AZ KTM 450 SX-F- Millsaps looked to take a weird line and kind of come to a stop when Dungey came up on him late in the main event. And you know what? That’s okay, that’s what KTM gets for supporting so many riders and teams. Still, a good ride for the #18.

6 20 Broc Tickle Holly, MI Suzuki RM-Z450- You knew Tickle, who won his first career 250SX race in Seattle years ago, would be good on this track. He’s good in ruts and can lay down consistent laps. Tickle’s starting to ride better and perhaps is a sleeper for the outdoors?  

7 4 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA KTM 450 SX-F- Baggett didn’t have as good of a night as he probably wished he would have or that I would’ve thought. Just because he’s so good outdoors, he’s been so good in supercross this year that you think he can really excel at a track like this.

8 2 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ450F- Yeah, he got eighth but it was a great night for Webb. He qualified fastest, won the heat and was in a podium spot for most of the main before a crash. He was going for it, no doubt. Afterwards Webb spoke to me about learning to set up a 450.

“I’ve been learning all year is setup and how to ride a 450 and just adapting to everything. On a night like tonight it definitely brings out your bike and your fitness and your mental side of things and everything. So it was a difficult racetrack but I think that’s what I enjoy. I do enjoy when it’s difficult like this and picking the lines and being consistent, being fast and smooth. Definitely a lot to take out of it. Three races left. I think it’s nice to be back. I felt like this is where I was right at Minneapolis before I got hurt. But it’s nice to be in the fight again.”

9 22 Chad Reed Dade City, FL Yamaha YZ450F- Reed’s appealing his penalty from last week and was almost not allowed to ride because he was appealing and didn’t pay the fine. Well, the appeal didn’t happen for a variety of reasons and the FIM/AMA went to Yamaha to get the cash (which leads me to ask, who has got a Yamaha checkbook there to pay $5,000? Or is there a giant wad of cash in the truck or what?) which is not really allowed but somehow it was this time? I don’t know, man, this whole thing is getting weird and turning into somewhat of an amateur hour on everyone’s end.

10 15 Dean Wilson Clermont, FL Husqvarna FC450- Wilson’s starts absolutely suck. Week after week he struggles with getting out of the gate consistently in the mix. And that’s weird because his bike is very fast and Dungey and Marv and now even Anderson all gate pretty well most of the time.

11 12 Jacob Weimer Huntington Beach, CA Suzuki RM-Z450- Good ride for Weimer who seems to have gotten his starts better the last couple of weeks.  

Weimer has been doing a lot of motocross testing for the JGR Suzuki team during the week.
Weimer has been doing a lot of motocross testing for the JGR Suzuki team during the week. Rich Shepherd

12 19 Justin Bogle Cushing, OK Suzuki RM-Z450- Bogle’s team got a new sponsor in Microsoft for the rest of supercross and I imagine the big execs from MS that were there were probably wondering what kind of sport they’re involved in that leaves a Tuff Block hanging out inside of the first turn? I guess Bogle was also probably wondering as he hit it in the main.

13 51 Justin Barcia Greenville, FL Suzuki RM-Z450

14 47 Malcolm Stewart Haines City, FL Suzuki RM-Z450- Heat Race Mookie was out there in the main event and it was cool. Remember he had a sixth locked up last week until the last lap? This week he was top five for a bit, then top 10 and was probably going to hold onto that when he ate poop near the end of the race. Still, Heat Race Mookie has been showing up more and more lately.  

15 10 Justin Brayton Mint Hill, NC Honda CRF 450- Seattle was the anti-Justin Brayton track and his results reflected that.  

16 61 Vince Friese Cape Girardeau, MO Honda CRF 450- Friese has a contingency program with MCR that pays good money for a top-15 finish, so this position had to hurt.  

17 80 Cade Clason Chesterfield, SC Honda CRF 450- Clason did his best to try and give away a spot in the main with a crash in the LCQ. He got back up fast enough and got it into the main event.

18 282 Theodore Pauli Edwardsville, IL Kawasaki KX 450F- First ever main for Pauli and he was stoked to make it. That’s awesome and cool to see.

19 75 Nick Schmidt Lake Elsinore, Ca Suzuki RM-Z450- I heard he broke his wrist—guess not!  

20 918 Michael Akaydin Louisville, KY KTM 450 SX-F- Remember Akaydin’s bike got stolen from the tunnel in Anaheim over a year ago? Well, he got it back but needed a set of wheels that we at the Pulpmx Show got him through Dubya USA and guess what, he’s still running them! So I’d like to think that Pulpmx had a little something to do with this finish.

21 314 Alex Ray Milan, TN Yamaha YZ450F- We had Tomac on the Pulpmx Show and he said that he heard some dude in practice just clutching the shit out of his bike and it was A-Ray. Alex, man, the Yamaha’s a fast bike, use the motor!  

22 981 Austin Politelli Murrieta, CA Yamaha YZ450F- Politelli’s still good enough to show up and put it into the main event. I remember he rode a rutty Seattle track very well in the 250SX days. Came from the back to a fifth or sixth or something.

Post Race

Some people may not like this take in this era of “don’t trust the media” and “fake news”, etc. but I find it amazing that the KTM team and/or Feld doesn’t get Ryan Dungey to the post-race press conferences even if he finishes off the podium. Yeah, he didn’t make the podium so he’s not obligated to speak but Dungey’s the only rider that hasn’t stuck around after the press conferences to talk to the media more in-depth. He’s also about the only big name that hasn’t shown up when he’s been off the podium for some interviews (even Tomac came to the stage after a disappointing Anaheim 1 ride). His rides in Daytona and now this past weekend were great, we’d like to know what his plans are for next year, what he thinks of having Musquin there during the week, heck we’d like to know a lot of his opinions on the tracks, formats, whatever that the allotted 10 minutes press conference for three riders format doesn’t allow us to ask. But he refuses to talk to any media, I get that he’s not a fan of mine necessarily (although he’s done some Pulpmx Shows and one-on-ones with me in the past and always been good) but he hasn’t talked to anyone. As the defending champion, one of the legends and a rider that said a while ago that he wants to be the face of the sport and take it to another level, I find this all strange.

He doesn’t owe us media jackals anything. I get that. But his team, sponsors, personal brand, and the series promoters would probably like to get more than some canned one and a half minute long look back at his race. Weird deal for sure but hey, it’s his deal I guess, he can do what he wants. I just hope he’s not sitting there with his wife/parents/siblings all telling him what all of us are writing/saying about him and his season and getting mad. For example, there’s all this retirement talk, but we’re just guessing because Ryan doesn’t stick around to answer any questions about it. We’d love for him to give us his thoughts on things but he just doesn’t, so we’re forced to talk about him without really knowing what he’s thinking.

Thanks for reading, appreciate all the comments at matthes@racerxonline.com and we’ll see you soon. Thanks! #KeepSeattleonSchedule