Atlanta's round of Monster Energy Supercross was exciting for a few different reasons. One is that it marked the start of the 250SX East Region, which is awesome. Two is you know the Georgia Dome is going to be packed and feeling it because this race is always special. Three, NASCAR was racing on Sunday in Atlanta so there would be a lot of drivers at the supercross SHOWING INTEREST IN OUR SERIES!!! Well, that last one had a lot of people excited but not me. Sorry, not sorry.
Atlanta used to have really soft and rutty dirt. Then, like a lot of stadiums, it grew harder packed and more slick. The folks that build the tracks have figured out ways to dry the dirt out over the years, and sometimes there will be a Monster Jam event held before a supercross, and that really dries out the dirt. So the old school mega-rutted Atlanta and Indianapolis-style races don’t really happen anymore. But it did this year! Soft, chewy, moist cookies dirt was back in the A-T-L and I liked it. The track was pretty basic but there were some guys that jumped some things that others couldn’t and you know I’m always a fan of that.
There was also a dragons back into a sand pit that claimed approximately 743 dudes throughout the day. It was gnarly to start with and then the jump into the sand just topped it. There’s no obstacle in supercross that would scare me more than a dragons back. The precision it takes lap after lap as it gets more and more chewed up is something out of this world. I imagine that a successful jump up and off a dragons back is something like being with a supermodel. Don’t go too fast, don’t go too slow…find your rhythm. Don’t press the issue or it will be disaster.
Last week Marvin Musquin killed it coming from last to sixth. It was a great ride and had to give Marv lots of confidence going forward in his rookie 450SX season. He’s now racing the best SX riders in the world and last week in Texas he topped them all in one qualifying session and ripped through a lot of them in the main. This week he grabbed the lead from Justin Brayton and took off. The Frenchman was hopping through one set of whoops like a bunny, ripping the turns like a lion, and going 3-3 in the rhythm with the precision of one of those birds diving into the water to grab a fish. This was it; Marvin was going to win his first 450SX race! He was that good!
But then “it” happened. We all saw it. JT wrote about it. Marv snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. He came around to lap James Stewart, hesitated a bit, couldn’t jump the triple/triple cleanly and narrowly escaped a serious crash. Plus, Ryan Dungey could have landed on him. It could’ve been so, so, so bad. And in a way for Marv, it was so, so, so bad as he lost out on probably 50K, a win and all the glory.
My take on it is similar to JT’s. Stew probably should have made more of an attempt to get out of the way earlier on the last lap. By the time that error was made, Stew was hauling butt through the race line in the whoops so he couldn’t hug the very inside of the turn, but to his credit he did stay pretty low, and did go to the left in the rhythm. I watched Marvin and Ryan lap plenty of dudes who went 2-3 in that rhythm like James did so I’m not sure on the part about how James needed to go 2-2 there because he was on the left.
In my opinion, Marvin has to own some of this as well. If he had gone 2-3 there, Dungey was not going to get by. He panicked a bit with the champ right behind him. He had the 700-pound gorilla of the 450SX Class right on his ass and he made a poor decision while getting around a lapped rider on the last lap.
If you’re on “Team Stewart” you could say maybe he didn’t know Marvin was the leader, you could say that maybe he didn’t want to be lapped (like Eli Tomac last year in Indy), you could say that he thought he had enough time until that rhythm before he HAD to get out of the way. If you’re not on “Team Stewart” you say he’s the devil, deserves to be suspended and possibly lit on fire.
If there’s a Blamepie™ percentage to go here I’d say it’s 60 percent James Stewart and 40 percent Marvin. Lappers have, in the history of supercross, played a role in a race. But because it’s James Stewart this thing is out of control online and in social media. James should’ve moved over sooner but somewhere out there Kyle Lewis is saying that JS7’s move was fine. Poor Marvin, poor Frankie (Marv’s mechanic), poor James Stewart and YAY for Ryan Dungey as he wins again!
As far as Stew is concerned, hey, it’s better than it’s been! Stewart needed a finish, any finish, to start the rebuilding process. It’s going to take some time but he’s the most talented rider in the history of the sport (yeah, I said it) and he’ll get better. Hopefully he feels better, gets his mojo back, gets into shape and we see him back where he used to be.
Oh and back to Marvin. He was great and should’ve won but I see his last two races as proof that some wins are coming. I don’t think he can get a poor start and pass all the top dudes but if he gets a start, watch out. Don’t jump off a bridge, Marvin. A win is coming.
By the way, speaking of starts, the KTMs and Husqvarnas have been far superior to the other brands getting to the first turn. The Atlanta results show six out of the top ten on KTMs (or KTMs in white plastic) and the blast of orange took over about five feet out of the gate.
It’s possible that Tim Ferry could be some sort of rider whisperer. Now, obviously I’m biased towards Ferry, a good friend of mine and someone who I spent five years wrenching for, but hear me out. He’s coaching riders nowadays and Martin Davalos is a new student. Davalos has eleven years in the 250SX Class and two wins. And yes, he's been on great bikes and teams most of those eleven years.
In Marty’s first race on a 250, he raced against Davi Millsaps and Josh Grant. Yes, those two are now closer to the end of their 450SX careers than the beginning! And yes, Marty’s still in the 250’s. Anyways, that’s not the point. The point is that for whatever reason Davalos can’t stay healthy and only won races in 2014, when he should’ve won that 250SX Eastern title until his bike broke while practicing and he was injured.
Marty just could never get it done. By all accounts, Ferry has been working with Davalos in the upstairs department and not on how to ride the bike. Anyone who has seen Davalos’ practice times and heat race wins already knows he knows how to ride.
Step one for Ferry was getting Davalos to do less. Yeah, you heard that right. Marty’s a hard worker and was perhaps doing too much off the bike in terms of bicycling and even motos. Ferry’s got him feeling better and fresher. Instead of a defeat sending Davalos to work harder, he’s doing less. Before the race, Ferry told me that Marty would lead every lap and win the main event. And I’m not even sure he was joking!
That’s exactly what happened! Marty’s always been a great starter and he grabbed the lead right away and was gone. Malcolm Stewart was catching him a bit before crashing, but this was Davalos’ race from start to finish. And did I mention that he won the heat? Marty strikes first with a great win. Congrats to Marty and Timmy, they’re a great couple.
I don’t want to be a Negative Nancy here (a bunch of you are saying “yes you do Matthes”) but I’m going to need to see three or four races of Marty holding it together before I’ll write off the other 71 races of evidence—but for now, things look great.
Malcolm took second in a nice ride and if not for a bit of poor choice by him and some poor flagging on right side of jump when rider was down on left (Blamepie™: 50 percent flaggers, 50 percent Mookie) he might have won. Malcolm’s crash into Shane McElrath could’ve been really ugly but he got up fast and held onto second. We all know Stewart’s got the speed needed to win races and the title. He’s just got to avoid the big mistake and in Atlanta, he kind of did and kind of didn’t, you know?
Let’s take a look at the results shall we?
1 49 Martin Davalos CLERMONT, FL Husqvarna FC250- I’ve always been there for Marty. Always supported him. Everyone knows this, right?
2 50 Malcolm Stewart Haines City, FL Honda CRF 250- When do we start talking about how Kibby at GEICO Honda has found some horsepower that he didn’t have last year? The bikes are fast and Malcolm even confirmed that they’re better than they were last year. Out on the West they’ve grabbed almost all of the holeshots.
3 23 Aaron Plessinger Hamilton, OH Yamaha YZ250F- I know Marty will get the love and rightfully so, and I know Mookie looked great and probably would’ve won if he hadn’t crashed, but oh my God did anyone see Plessinger’s nasty raw speed? We’ve been hearing good things about this guy but, wow, he and Hill are both tied in the “Best Balls Out Speed Bro” category.
4 6 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ250F- J-Mart was good but in the heat and the main his starts were so bad it was ridiculous. Wins are not going to happen and dare I say perhaps he might not qualify if he can’t get out of the gate better.
5 36 Justin Hill Yoncalla, OR KTM 250SX-F- From basically last to fifth for Hill, who was impressive all day long. Great main event for him and I’m sure you’re looking at a main event winner right there before long. Then again I thought that last year and it didn’t work out. Hill’s got stupid speed and skills…he’s just got to figure it out.
6 31 Rj Hampshire Brooksville, FL Honda CRF 250- A decent night for Hampshire who crashed hard last week off a dragons back and hurt his wrist. Rough off-season for the Floridian but hopefully he’ll build from here and keep it on two wheels. He’s not an elite rider in this class yet in my opinion, but it’s his second supercross season, and he’s close.
7 159 Darryn Durham Menifee, CA Yamaha YZ250F- Hey look at this! DD’s first SX finish in two years and it was a good one. Even more impressive after a hard practice crash. I have to admit I saw Darryn’s posts about bringing the “fun” back into his program and combined those posts with the fact that he’s missed so many races with injury I didn’t think he could get back to his old level but he showed me what was up. Great ride for a really nice guy who has real talent on motorcycle. This could be the start of a really cool story.
8 53 Tyler Bowers Corona, CA Kawasaki KX 250F- Well this didn’t go very well did it? Bowers, a title favorite for many, was up front early and looking good before arm pump struck and he went backwards in a hurry. It was very unlike Bowers to struggle this much but we know he’s had issues with his back and then getting sick. It’s been a long time off the bike for The Bear and he’s now left trying to catch up to his rivals.
9 128 Alexander Frye Huntingtown, MD KTM 250SX-F
10 84 Jimmy Albertson Shawnee, OK Suzuki RM-Z250- I talked to Top Jimmy before the night show and he scared the crap out of me with talk of being hurt, not much time on bike, etc, etc. I immediately took him out of my top twelve in Racer X MotoDynasty. Then he crashes in heat and basically eats a Tuff Block. He was so far outside in the LCQ that I wrote him off. The Jim Lewis built RMZ pulled him to a good start and then he got this finish in the main! Damn you Jimmy! Damn you all to hell! But in all seriousness, good for him. He’s had some bad luck lately and there’s a lot on his shoulders with this team so I’m pumped for him in Georgia. Wait, that didn’t sound right…
11 32 Matthew Bisceglia Weatherford, TX Suzuki RM-Z250- There isn’t anyone in the 250SX main who had a rougher time getting to the first race than Matt. And his practice times were terrible—not sure what was up with that. But this finish is respectable and I’m sure he’ll take it and build from here.
12 64 Dakota Alix Jay, VT KTM 250 SX-F- Alix is a full privateer this year and showed some great starts all night long. I also would suggest he fix his suspension for this weekend because he about died every single time he went through the whoops.
13 167 Benny Bloss Oak Grove, MO Yamaha YZ250F- Bloss bolted from Blue Buffalo last week in a strange move to go as a full privateer, but hey man, whatever works for you, I guess. Benny showed pretty good speed for his first SX and when we get to a track that has some big whoops, it could be over for everyone. [Ed. Note: Bloss will fill-in for the injured Luke Renzland at CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha.]
14 61 Gannon Audette Tallahassee, FL Kawasaki KX 250F- All Audette does is show up, put in good laps, have NO ONE talk about him and then put in a nice main event finish.
15 89 Marshal Weltin Ubly, MI Yamaha YZ250F- Justin Barcia’s number one rider did pretty well in his rookie SX. Maybe not as far up as Dan Truman thought but still pretty good. I’m serious about the Barcia thing. Justin is full on helping out Weltin and he’s even got an Alpinestars gear deal. His graphics even say “Justin Barcia.” What do you think the chances are Marshal gets that exclusive gear brand to help him out if he weren’t associated with JB51?
16 62 Justin Starling Deland, FL Kawasaki KX 250F- Starling is a bit like Audette, consistent main event guy that probably doesn’t get the attention he should. Like Anthony Rodriguez is on his team and don’t you feel all of us will be going “OH MY GOD A ROD IS SO FAST! IF HE COULD ONLY PULL IT TOGETHER!” and then Starling beats Rodriguez in the points at end of year?
17 48 Anthony Rodriguez Cairo, GA Kawasaki KX 250F- I feel like A Rod, on the Traders Kawasaki team and working with Skip Norfolk, didn’t show any of his old massive speed but yet still showed he can crash.
18 175 Paul Coates Zephyrhills, FL Kawasaki KX 250F- Coates is from England. Did you know that?
19 66 Arnaud Tonus Lake Elsinore, CA Kawasaki KX 250F- As bad as Bowers was for the Payton crew, this was even worse. I’d make a joke about the guy from Switzerland being stuck in neutral but that’s too easy. And besides, being in neutral wasn’t Arnaud’s problem, it was hitting the ground.
20 63 Jesse Wentland Elk River, MN Honda CRF 250- I like Jesse, he’s a good dude and just another fast District 23 kid. He crashed in the main and called it a night.
21 46 Luke Renzland Hewitt, NJ Yamaha YZ250F- Luke didn’t have the force this weekend as he worked into the top ten then went over the bars hard and suffered a stinger. Bummer, he was moving up and looked pretty good. [Ed. Note: He sustained a broken collarbone.]
22 30 Shane McElrath Canton, NC KTM 250SX-F- Hey, you got the holeshot Shane!
1 Ryan Dungey Clermont, FL KTM 450 SX-F- Dungey told me that “Marvin is the real winner tonight” after the race but I call BS on that. Ryan Dungey will forever be written as the winner of 2016 Atlanta Supercross. Just like Tim Ferry will forever be the defending champion of Summercross.
2 25 Marvin Musquin Corona, CA KTM 450 SX-F- It’s possible that Marvin Musquin might be the friendliest human being alive. Always fun to talk to, always trying to stay as positive as he can (look at him after Indiana last year when he bike broke) and a pleasure to have around.
3 22 Chad Reed Dade City, FL Yamaha YZ450F- Hey, look who’s on the box again? Reed rode great and after the initial five laps pretty much stayed even with the top two guys the rest of the way. Chad said that he made some bike changes but he also made some personal changes. Hey, man, whatever it takes. And after a month of so-so races, Reed will take a third and move on to a place he loves, Daytona.
4 18 David Millsaps Murrieta, CA KTM 450 SX-F- Great race for The Duke in what is sort of his hometown race. Former winner in the Georgia Dome also. Like I said to Davi after the race, “Congrats, man, you’re good again!”
5 10 Justin Brayton Mint Hill, NC KTM 450 SX-F- Brayton pulled the holeshot and then ran fourth most of the main before Davi got him. Justin told me he developed some side cramps for some reason that slowed him down. I can relate, I just went to the mailbox and also developed side cramps. The #18 and #10 are three points apart in the points and it should be interesting to see who beats who in the points by the end of the year. I’m not sure if these guys get along now or not but around the Monster Cup, Davi and Justin weren’t stoked on each other.
6 94 Ken Roczen Clermont, FL Suzuki RM-Z450- Bad start for Roczen who got hung up with Seely (who got pushed outside by Dungey) in the first turn and he came out almost last. From there it was a lot of work for the German.
7 21 Jason Anderson Rio Rancho, NM Husqvarna FC450- I don’t know, man. Jason’s too good to be jerking around with riders out there. I’ve defended some of his passes to people because in these PC-times we sometimes forget that there’s not a lot of room out there in supercross. And yeah, I get he was upset with Seely taking him wide in the sand on the last lap and brake checking him but then he has to blow Cole off the track? As he himself admitted after the race to Weege, “Yeah, [I’m learning] about the emotion part. You’ve got to get rid of that.” I agree. Maybe he needs a rider whisperer?
8 19 Justin Bogle Cushing, OK Honda CRF 450- Bogle was a strong sixth for most of the main event before a couple of bad laps dropped him to ninth and he got one spot back when Anderson and Seely went HAM on each other.
9 377 Christophe Pourcel San Antonio, FL Husqvarna FC450- Fastest qualifier of the day right here! Pourcel got a so-so start and worked up from there. #roundseven
10 14 Cole Seely Sherman Oaks, CA Honda CRF 450- Seely was steaming mad after the race and I get it. He should be mad (to be clear, I never saw the move Anderson put on him but heard it described from two people in the pits I trust) and when Honda went to the FIM after the race they were told that the riders have to settle it themselves. Oooook then. This should get fun! We’re going to pull out black flags on Reed and talk to Canard over a practice incident but when two riders are ready to kill each other we’re going to let boys be boys? Weird deal, but buckle up because Seely will be delivering some revenge at some point.
11 3 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Kawasaki KX 450F- Eli crashed early on and was pretty much last three laps in. From there he got up and this was the best he could do. I have so much respect for Tomac that it’s ridiculous but just think where Dungey or Roczen would have finished if they had the same happen to them? I’m sorry if this makes you mad but he’s not riding as well as he can/did last year just yet.
12 28 Weston Peick Menifee, CA Yamaha YZ450F- Peick was running tenth for a bit before getting passed by Pourcel (I’m sure this made him happy) and Tomac. He’s in a tough spot right now as he’s beat up and probably could use some time off but the team also needs him out there. So he deals with the affects of the Oakland crash and tries to get back to his old speed.
13 800 Mike Alessi Hilliard, FL Honda CRF 450- We’ve all noticed that Mike’s starts are back, right? He was powerless against the KTM/Husky bikes this weekend but he did well in his heat.
14 7 James Stewart Haines City, FL Suzuki RM-Z450- “We’re moving on to Daytona.”
15 55 Vince Friese Cape Girardeau, MO Honda CRF 450- Quiet night for Friese. I had to laugh when someone sent me a Blamepie™ of the Musquin/Stewart incident and in it, Friese had 10 percent blame because, hey it’s Vince Friese!
16 41 Trey Canard Edmond, OK Honda CRF 450- Oh man, this season is just going off the rails for ice Trey. Nothing encapsulates his season more than riding great in the heat, passing Ryan Dungey and then get cleaned out when he hits Stewart’s bike in the sand section. Not his fault, just out there riding and BOOM, on the ground. Trey’s mechanic Brent summed this up perfectly to me after the race: “I think if there was a runaway elephant roaming the streets of Atlanta, it would’ve hit us and us only today.”
17 12 Jacob Weimer Wildomar, CA Suzuki RM-Z450- I never talked to Jake all day so not sure what was up but he was off all day long. Didn’t qualify well, had to go to the LCQ and then there was this result in the main event.
18 45 Kyle Cunningham Willow Park, TX Suzuki RM-Z450- A nice result for Cunningham who had exactly one ride on his RM-Z450 before the race. The plan is to do 450’s for one or two more weeks and go from there. But if he keeps putting it into main events, then why not keep the KC train going, right?
19 47 Thomas Hahn Decatur, TX Yamaha YZ450F
20 79 Nicholas Schmidt Lake Elsinore, CA Suzuki RM-Z450- Schmidt told me after the race how tough it is to focus on your own race once the blue flags come out. He’s a main event guy now week in and week out so the next step for him to get into the Alessi/Friese level of speed.
21 86 Aj Catanzaro Savannah, GA Kawasaki KX 450F- Who had The Cat making his the 450SX main event at his first try? Put your hands down Mr. and Mrs. Catanzaro, we got your vote. Yeah, he was helped by three high profile riders all crashing together and not racing but hey, still a nice ride for The Cat.
22 99 Heath Harrison Silverhill, AL Kawasaki KX 450F- Nice work by Heath and I’d love to know if “Heath” is short for “Heathcliff” because I don’t know any Heathcliff’s at all. Besides Heathcliff the Cat, that is.
Some more news and notes from the pits:
- Every time I see the KJSC race in the intermission I wonder what kind of drugs the parents took when it came to naming their children. You see it all the time. In fifty years there won’t be any more “John’s” or “Gary’s” and we’ll have first names like Lachen, Pearce, Stratton, Gunner, Cruz and Adyn (no not Adian like a normal person but a spelling that you’ll have to spell out YOUR WHOLE LIFE to a confused person) which are not made up names but some of the real kids names in the KJSC this past weekend. Can’t wait for our president to one day be named “Ryder”. Sigh…
- Oh man, there was a crash in the 450 heat where Andrew Short went sideways and took out “Filthy” Phil Nicoletti and then bounced back on the track and took out Wil Hahn. It was ugly and the injury toll was high as Short knocked himself silly and probably won’t be back anytime soon, Hahn will be out six months and Filthy’s knee has issues. Phil’s also probably madder than ever before so there’s that to consider also. Bummer for all three guys and the series is worse off than it was before with these guys hurt.
- I’ve written that I can’t believe Yamaha signed Cooper Webb kind of right underneath the noses of their good partner for years, JGR Yamaha. JGR was there when Yamaha didn’t have a factory effort and also wasn’t kicking up championship-level 250 talent into the 450 class for JGR to sign—plus Webb’s a local North Carolina guy and even rode for JGR as an amateur. Now that he’s on the open market and looking to go 450, Yamaha, in a way, “took” him away from JGR. I spoke to someone close to the situation this week and they told me that Yamaha’s offer was “way more” than anything JGR could do. JGR’s paying Justin Barcia a lot of money and they have a budget like most everyone else, so they couldn’t go that high and Webb himself had no real choice. So Team Yamaha is back in a big way and with JGR’s OEM contract up for 2017, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them explore other options. If Yamaha is putting up this kind of effort for Cooper, one would think Yamaha wouldn’t be able to offer up what they have for JGR in the past, right? Stay tuned…
- And along these same lines, if Roczen goes to Honda like we think is going to happen, it’s an interesting look at how the OEM’s really still control this sport. They have the equipment, they have the money, the people and if you’re a private owner in this sport you don’t really have a chance against the dudes THAT MAKE THE BIKES. It’s as backwards from Indy Car, NASCAR as you can get. That’s another column for another day, though.
- There was a NASCAR driver holeshot competition that could’ve went horribly wrong but instead just went to stage four laughter. I predict it will be the last NASCAR holeshot competition also, if any NASCAR team owners were watching. I think the SX promoters should tell all these multi-millionaire drivers to beat it from the SX floor unless Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac and the rest can also get some TV time on the round de round tracks, but that’s just me. Why are we so desperate as a sport to show that these guys like us? We have an awesome sport with some of the best athletes in the world (NOT an exaggeration) and sometimes the pandering we do as an industry makes me laugh.
Ok, I’m done. Thanks for reading and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this column, Atlanta, NASCAR or anything else.