By Chase Stallo and Jason Weigandt
Seven months removed from double shoulder surgery, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac has begun the year with consecutive fourth place finishes. Currently eleven points back of Ryan Dungey, Tomac’s consistency is keeping him in the title chase, unlike a year ago when he trailed Ken Roczen by twenty-one points through two rounds, even after winning Round 2.
It’s a slow and steady process, but Tomac said he doesn’t feel he and the team are far off. “Overall I feel that the team and I improved, even though we had the same end result as last week,” he said in a team statement. “My weak point tonight was the starts, which are crucial on a track like this where everyone is very close and passing is difficult. I rode strong for all 20 laps, which showed as I made my way through the field. We’re not far off and we’ll be on the podium soon enough.”
Speaking of Roczen, last year’s points leader through two rounds currently trails Dungey by sixteen points after consecutive finishes off the podium. If anyone knows how a series can turn on a dime, it’s Roczen, whose season flipped at Round 4 last year.
“I’ve been working really hard on my starts but we need to work on the consistency,” said Roczen post race. “We have a couple ideas to help me get better. I was running third in the main and felt great. I feel like I’m riding good. I’m fast. I’m super strong but I made a mistake, ran off the track and went down. So, once again, I had to come from deep in the field and unfortunately could only finish sixth.”
Last year Roczen’s season started off blazing but ended just as quickly. This time he seems set up better for the long game. “Obviously I’m bummed that I didn’t finish up front but I guess I’d rather start off slow and pick it up than the other way around.”
HRC Honda’s Cole Seely has begun his sophomore 450SX campaign with back-to-back podium performances, but his second one didn’t come without controversy. On lap 17, Anaheim 1 winner Jason Anderson caught Seely and made an aggressive pass for the final podium spot. But after the race, the AMA and FIM penalized Anderson two spots for jumping on a red cross flag. Below is the video of the incident.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for Anderson, who lost a valuable four points to his training partner, Ryan Dungey. After coming through the pack for a second straight week, Anderson said he’s happy with the finish, despite the penalty. “I didn’t have the best gate pick in the main,” he said in a statement, “but I worked with what I had. It actually wasn’t that bad. I just had to push through. I came out ninth or so and ended up third before getting docked so I’m happy. The track was pretty simple, but it was hard to pass on. I had a little double before the finish that I was hitting pretty good so I made up some time there. I made a little contact with Seely. The corners were pretty flat so there wasn’t much grip to go anywhere, which made it hard to make a pass.”
A week after setting the fastest time in qualifying and winning his heat race, Trey Canard had a frustrating night at Round 2. Canard qualified tenth and couldn’t get things going in the main en route to a second-straight seventh. “I’m really frustrated with how things went today,” Canard said in a Honda team statement. “Definitely not what I wanted, but I’m happy with the bike and think the team is in a great place. I’m glad to be leaving healthy and to have salvaged another seventh since I got such a bad start. I just need to continue to work on things heading into next weekend.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Christophe Pourcel continues to impress with his qualifying speed, taking second in the first timed session in just his second supercross race since 2010. Of course, qualifying speed didn’t transfer over into a race result at Anaheim, where he finished eighteenth after a terrible start. His starts were better in San Diego, but he still only nabbed thirteenth. Christophe told us he feels the most supercross rust when racing and battling with other riders, and it will take a few rounds to get comfortable with that. "I had a good start tonight and I think I learned a lot from that, riding with the top guys,” he said in a team statement. “I'm almost at the right speed but I just need to get more aggressive. For these first few races I'm here to learn. After five races we will have 12 rounds to go. The speed is there, it's just been five years since I've raced supercross. With motocross it wasn't as bad because I had still been racing it. I think after five years off it's good to still have the speed in supercross and we will put it all together soon."
JGRMX’s decision to have a permanent fill-in rider continues to pay dividends. With Weston Peick suspended for the race for punching Vince Friese multiple times at the opener, Phil Nicoletti stepped in. Nicoletti made the main event and finished twenty-first. “Getting in the main is one thing, but I want to get good results,” he told Steve Matthes after the race. Nicoletti will remain with the team as Justin Barcia announced on Sunday he was undergoing surgery on his thumb and will be out indefinitely. The only difference? Nicoletti now switches from Peick’s mechanic, Glen Hobson, to Barcia’s mechanic, Ben Schiermeyer.
Now, let's check out the lap times.
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
As we mentioned last week, the AMA breaks the track down into four segments and provides times for each. A look at these individual segment times can be shocking. Ryan Dungey didn’t have the fastest time in any segment, and the fastest rider through segment 1 was Jake Weimer! Reed was fastest in segment 2, Davi Millsaps in segment 3, and Jason Anderson in segment 4. The key is consistency in each section.
Dungey’s best times left him with 5-3-3-3 ranks in each segment. Weimer was 1-18-7-19; Millsaps 17-15-1-8. Every once in awhile you’ll hear a rider leak something like, “That one section was killing me.” These segment times are often proof. Also, there could be a line selection that builds speed in one section but hurts it in another. If we were to guess where Weimer was fast, we’d say the big berm after the finish that led back to the start straight—it was a key area to make up ground in segment 1.
After the race, Cole Seely told us, “My speed is there for sure, but I am a little bit on the weak side, and a little on the unfit side as far as cardio goes. I literally couldn’t do anything with my upper body for three months and had to take three months off cycling, riding, all that stuff. I think November 14 was my first day on a supercross track. Every day at the track has been fun and I feel like I’m progressing every day.” For the second straight race, the lap times prove this. Seely ran in the 49s from lap 4 through 13, but in the final seven laps, he only recorded one more 49. In the final seven, Chad Reed had four laps in the 49s, Ryan Dungey had 5, and Jason Anderson two.
On that subject, you know who charged hardest down the stretch? Ken Roczen. Kenny stayed in the 49s for six out of the final seven laps, and he only missed with a 50.004 on lap 19. Kenny was the only rider with a 49 on lap 20.
If you watched the race you saw how close Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed stayed for the full twenty laps. Here they are, lap by lap, below. This one came down to tenths of a second per lap.
||Lap Time||Chad Reed||Lap Time|
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
No one ever accuses Zach Osborne of not trying hard enough. Cooper Webb is a monster, but Osborne rode his tail off to try to hold the defending 250SX West Region champion at bay. Check out Webb versus Osborne for 15 laps:
|Cooper Webb||Lap Times||Zach Osborne||Lap Times|
Cooper was on the move by lap five, so Osborne dug deep for his best lap of the race on lap 6, and also exceeded Webb on lap 7, while Webb was working past Jordon Smith to get into second. Once Webb had a clear path, he really put the hammer down, logging that huge 49.3 on lap 10. Two laps later, he had the lead, but you can see Osborne tried to hold the gap for as long as he could. Then on lap 14 he went down, pushing him all the way back to sixth. “Yeah, it’s a little bummer that I went down but at the same time I was going for the win,” Osborne told us. “Second would have been definitely nicer than sixth, but I went down trying so I’m not that bummed about it.”
More News and Notes
A start outside the top fifteen led to Broc Tickle’s second consecutive finish outside the top ten. Tickle only finished outside the top ten three times last year. Although he didn’t like his finishing position, he feels he’s close. “It was a tough night,” he said. “The track wasn’t overly technical so everyone was doing the same thing. That made it really tough to pass. I started out sixteenth and finished fourteenth, but honestly, it’s going to be a good year. I hate that I only finished fourteenth but it’s going to be fun getting to where I want to be. Everyone is so close and we’re all battling. Everyone is in good shape and we all work really hard. It’s just a solid group of guys racing every week.”
Justin Bogle, who entered the season behind the ball after breaking his foot this off-season, completed just twelve laps in his second 450SX race after a crash ended his night. “The day went okay and I was feeling good,” he said. “Was able to get the semi win again which I was pretty pumped on. In the main I got a bad start and was feeling pretty good riding wise before a crash ended my night. That’s about all I have to say about the main!”
GEICO Honda’s Jordon Smith is beginning to figure things out in year two. Smith led five laps in San Diego before dropping back to third, capturing his first career podium. A year after just one top five finish, Smith already has two through two rounds. “Last week I got to experience racing toward the front, and I got to do that again here and learn how to lead,” Smith said in a team statement. “I tried to ride my own laps, but I got a little tight in the middle of the moto. Just learning. I went back to third, but I’m happy I was able to pull it back together and got a strong podium!”
Christian Craig may feel like a rookie again after taking three years off from supercross. After a crash filled first race back, Craig was consistent in San Diego, finishing fourth, one spot behind Smith. “In the main, I got a terrible start, but I tucked to the inside in the first turn. I don’t know where I came out, but it was toward the front,” he said. “Rode around, got tight around lap five and started making a lot of mistakes. I wasn’t happy with that, but I held on, got fourth. It’s a career-best for me, but I want to get on the podium, and I’m not going to be happy until I get there. Other than that, though, it was a good night.”
- The third member of GEICO Honda, Jimmy Decotis, crashed and finished eighth. “I made a bobble and washed the front, came back through the pack. Overall, I felt like I rode really good all day, and I had strong points,” he said.
- Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Chris Alldredge found the top ten for the first time this year, despite stalling his bike in the main event. “From that point on I just tried to ride clean and not make any more mistakes, and ended up tenth. It's not where I want to be when I have the team and bike to finish strong," he said.
- Dating back to last year, CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha’s Colt Nichols has four top tens in his last five races. We’ll have more on Nichols later in the week.
- RIDE365.com/Honda Racing’s (Crossland) Kyle Peters is off to a solid start to the season. The former Star Racing rider has consecutive top tens to begin the year following a seventh at San Diego 1.
- 51Fifty Energy Yamaha’s Zach Bell pulled out of San Diego after catching a knuckle on a tricky dragon back section during practice, per the team. He said on Instagram he expects to be ready to race this weekend.
- MAD Racing Suzuki’s Daniel Baker went down in practice and did not line up for the heat race. We’ll have an update later this week on his status for Anaheim 2. The AMA pre-entry list for A2 shows Australian Luke Clout listed as a rider for the Dirt Candy Graphics/Yoshimura Suzuki team. MotoOnline.com.au reported earlier today that Clout has confirmed he is racing the remainder of the supercross season but could not specify with which team. Looks like this is an answer.
- Kyle Chisholm crashed before the triple in Saturday’s main event, and was knocked out of the race with a shoulder injury. His status for this weekend has not been determined.