By Chase Stallo and Jason Weigandt
In the post-race press conference following his breakout performance in Glendale, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac was very forthcoming about his slow start to the season, where he finished 5-6-8. The team made some major bike changes before the race, and it seemed to help. “These past three weekends have been pretty embarrassing for myself and as a racer, so I feel like at least I’m back to some fighting form.
“It was embarrassing and I just felt terrible,” he continued. “All I can do is just try to get better. I didn’t believe I was that guy getting eighth place. It probably looks really weird that I went from eighth to first place in one weekend with how bad I was riding, but I just found a better balance for myself and made it happen.”
The win was Tomac’s fifth career 450SX victory, and his first since Daytona of 2016. He previously won in Phoenix, at Chase Field, in 2015 for the first win of his career.
Chad Reed turned back the clock on Saturday night, as the 34-year-old captured his first podium since he finished third in Atlanta last year. Reed said bike changes (which he wanted to see happen well before the season) were a big factor in his performance. “In all honesty you’re happy to be here but I’m frustrated. In May I knew what needed changing and we sat on our hands all off-season. Finally, when you suck at the first race they allow you to do the things that you feel like you need to do. Now I can ride the dirt bike the way I feel like I need to. We’re within the window now.”
Ryan Dungey has four consecutive podiums to start the season. Dating back to the Phoenix Supercross in 2015, he now has 36 podium finishes in the last 37 races—his only blemish a fourth coming at East Rutherford in 2016. With Marvin Musquin finishing off the podium for the first time in 2017 (ninth), Dungey extend his points lead to double-digits. He holds a 15-point lead heading into round five this weekend.
Musquin’s 3-3-2 finishes to start the season hit a stall in Phoenix, as the Red Bull KTM rider got a terrible start and struggled a bit in the whoops. He made a few quick moves, then found himself battling Cooper Webb the entire way—literally, every single lap—and Webb won that fight.
It wasn’t any better for Musquin’s training partner Jason Anderson. Anderson told us his arm was hurting badly after his crash last week with Vince Friese (Anderson says he hurt the arm in the on-track crash, not his second crash in the tunnel when he was shoving Friese). Anderson tried to ride Thursday but couldn’t; he was glad he was able to do his laps on Saturday. “I’m lucky to be able to be riding today,” he said in a team statement. “I wasn’t able to ride once this week, and I wasn’t able to work out. I’m just going to work at it and try and be better for the next round."
As for last-week’s run in with Friese in the tunnel, Anderson’s mechanic showed us a photo (presumably taken by a fan in the stands) of the incident. When Anderson took his hand off the bar to hit Friese in the helmet, Friese grabbed Anderson’s front brake, his mechanic shoved Anderson, and Anderson went down. It was a pretty well-orchestrated move on the part of Friese and his mechanic!
After last week's fracas (and DQ), Anderson really, really didn't need to be involved in another rough riding incident, but there it was, Anderson plowing into Cooper Webb in the sand and taking them both down while battling for the last transfer spot in their heat race. "Kind of a bonehead move I felt like," Webb told us. Webb also complained to FIM official John Gallagher and showed him Anderson's line through the sand. Anderson was not penalized this time. When we saw Anderson after the race, he said this one wasn’t meant to be a take out, but he made a mistake going for the pass. "I got whiskey throttle when I was coming in there at like Mach 10," he said. "I wasn't trying to hit him." It appears Anderson is going to be a magnet for attention—and other bikes and riders—this season (again).
A ton of riders improved this week, including Tomac and Reed, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-WPS-KTM’s Davi Millsaps, as well as Smartop/MotoConcept’s Justin Brayton, who all had season-best finishes. Blake Baggett showed some signs as well, logging the fastest qualifying lap in the class, and taking a season-best seventh.
“Tonight was solid,” said Baggett in a team press release. “The track was my style, and I had fun out there. We are going in the right direction with the bike, and I am riding where I should be. We will make a few changes and come out even stronger in Oakland.”
Davi Millsaps was on the Pulpmx Show last night to talk about his weekend and much more. We streamed his interview live on the Racer X Facebook page but you can watch and listen to the archive of his segment below.
Weston Peick’s strong start to the season is now just a memory. The AutoTrader.com/Monster Energy/ JGR Suzuki rider crashed early in practice in the same section that claimed a ton of riders, the rhythm lane after the start. Peick spun on the face of a jump and came up way short. Peick dislocated his wrist, which required surgery, and also lacerated his kidney. He had wrist surgery performed locally on Sunday night and will be evaluated this week back home in California. His timetable to return isn’t yet known. The JGR team gives thanks to Alpinestars Mobile Medical Center’s Dr. John Bodnar for helping Peick find a good hand surgeon in the area, as Peick was unable to fly back to California for surgery due to the kidney problem. The JGR team will likely stick with just Jake Weimer in the 450 class until Justin Barcia or Peick return from their wrist injuries.
Josh Grant’s weekend got off to a rough start, as the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider went down hard on press day Friday. Grant was uninjured in the crash and was able to ride on Saturday. Although he finished a season worst 12th, he wasn’t entirely disappointed. "There are a lot of positives to take out of last night," said Grant in a team statement. "My KX450F got me great starts all night again, putting me in a great position early in the race. I'm getting stronger and building off every weekend. It's a long season and I'm looking forward to every time I get on the bike."
RCH/Yoshimura Suzuki expects to have Justin Bogle back this weekend in Oakland after he missed Glendale due to bruised lungs sustained in a crash at Anaheim 2. Broc Tickle was the lone rider under the tent on Saturday. He finished 13th. “My practice mechanic and I drove out early and had a couple really good days of practice,” he said. “I hadn’t raced in the new stadium so I was really stoked about the weekend. I was 10th in the first practice but I had some issues in the second. I came up short on a jump in the rhythm section and took a little tumble. It was frustrating because I had such a good week leading up to the race.”
As we reported earlier today, 51FIFTY Yamaha’s Tyler Bowers sustained a fractured right femur in a qualifying crash on Saturday in Glendale. The crash occurred in a difficult rhythm section, where Bowers cased a triple and was thrown over the front of the bars. His bike proceeded to hit Jeremy Martin, who was following Bowers through the section. Martin didn’t race that night as a precaution, as the team said he “banged his head.”
Martin will be reevaluated this week, but might also be held out this weekend in Oakland. The 51FIFTY team is expected to announce one, or possibly two, fill-in riders for Oakland, as Hayden Mellross also missed Glendale with a hand injury.
Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger is still very much in the 250SX title hunt, but his starts have been his achilles heel to begin the year. In Glendale, he rounded the first lap in ninth, and despite setting the fastest time of the night, could only work back to fourth—the first time he’s been off the podium this season. Plessinger trails points leader Shane McElrath by 10 points.
Martin Davalos had a chance at his first podium since the opener, but he stalled it in a corner while running fourth. It took some time for the bike to re-start, dropping him back to seventh. He rebounded to finish fifth. “Today was good,” he said in a team statement. “It was the best I’ve felt all year. I had a good heat race, but lost my momentum a little bit in the main and the guys up front were just too far gone so I ended up fifth. I’m going to work harder on getting a better start in the main and just going to stay positive and keep doing what I’m doing."
GEICO Honda’s Jimmy Decotis said he was struggling to execute the “roll-triple-triple” in the main event, which lead to him dropping out of the top-five to eighth. He also got an assist from Phil Nicoletti, who put a hard pass on him after the whoops. “Started the night out with a solid third place in the heat race,” Decotis said in statement. “Grabbed another great start in the main event starting second. My first five laps were really bad. I struggled with the section after the second triple. I couldn't execute the roll-triple-triple and it cost me huge. Really struggled in the main event. I take full responsibility for my results with some bad racing decisions. Good thing we go racing again in six days and everyone will forget about this race. Going to make some adjustments this week and come back next weekend with an open mind and leave this weekend in the past.”
There were a few eyebrows raised across the industry when Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha decided to bring Dan Reardon over from Australia to fill-in for the injured Colt Nichols. It wasn’t long ago (2012) that Reardon had announced his retirement from racing. But the now 31-year-old, in his first full-time season in the U.S. since 2011, has been a bright spot for the team this year, garnering three top-10s in the first-four rounds, including a sixth in Glendale. MotoOnline.com.au recently asked Reardon to rate is performances through the first four rounds. “To be honest, they were kind of average. It’s good, but it’s not good enough, and that’s just me—I’m not getting pressure from anyone else. I’m not executing a couple of things as well as I would like to and when you have the depth and talent that is here—this is the best of the best—you need to make sure that you’re on your game all the time. It starts in the first practice and continues all the way through the night show.” Read the full interview with Reardon on MotoOnline.com.au.
After surprisingly missing the 250SX main event at the season-opener, Josh Hansen has recorded three straight top-10s, capped of by a season-high seventh on Saturday. The veteran is now 10th in points, one point behind Phil Nicoletti.
As for Nicoletti, he was looking good early and battling for a top-five, but he cased a jump and dislocated his knuckle on the landing—his finger was over the clutch lever and he bent the finger back, dislocating it. Nicoletti soldiered on through the final few laps and finished ninth. His mechanic Isiah Murph helped get the knuckle back in after the race. Ouch!