Howdy! Round two of Monster Energy Supercross takes us back to Houston, Texas. We haven’t been to Houston since 2015, so it will be a nice return to NRG Stadium. After a wild weekend in Anaheim, look for a bit more calmness from the riders in Texas. It will feel a little more like a normal race, as all of the riders will fly away from the SoCal circus atmosphere and get into their routine.
The dirt in Houston is usually some of the best of the season. It being January, it should be nice and tacky versus some of the harder versions I have witnessed later in the season. It will have some ruts form, but they won’t be the sticky, rutty mess that we could see at Toronto or Minneapolis in January.
The start this year cuts across the stadium into a flat left-hand turn. This is one of my least favorite start variations for two reasons. First, the short length doesn’t give riders a chance to separate, causing a lot of pile-ups. It can be argued that shorter starts keep the speeds down, but I feel the longer starts create more room for everyone to maneuver. Riders are less likely to lock handlebars and lose control. Also, the flat first corner creates an inside-out slide from the riders trying to turn. The inside group will push each other deep into the corner, and those on the outside are left with nowhere to go. That ends up in a mess on the outside of the turn and people on the ground. Even those riders trying to stay to the inside will inevitably push wide due to their momentum.
The next section is a bit tricky to describe because on a normal lap riders will come into it with a lot of speed. The normal line will depend on how big the first jump is (also the holeshot line). If riders are able to wheelie over the first jump, they will then be able to triple-triple out of the section. That will be the most efficient way to get in and get out. If the jump is too big to wheelie, that will change everything. They would then have to assess whether or not they can triple into the section and then possibly triple-single into the turn or… wait for it… quad into the turn.
The next left bowl berm leads into a rhythm section that will be the first of many sections that will cross over the start straight. The fast line will be to step-on, step-on and then step-off before tripling out of the section. Riders will then race into a bowl berm before slingshotting back into a fast whoops section. Whoever is ready and willing to lift their front wheel and accelerate into these whoops will make serious time gains. After exiting the whoops, there is a step-up double into another bowl berm.
The next section is interesting in that the first step-up has a very steep downside, which will force riders to slow down to clear smoothly. The other option to consider will be if riders can triple onto the next single, which would allow speed to be maintained. If riders are forced to double, will they be able to triple-triple-double? If they can triple in, will they be able to triple-quad or quad-triple? These are all questions that riders will be asking themselves during track walk. After that mess, riders will race into another bowl berm and slingshot toward the finish line.
There is a funky whoops section and a single that riders will have to clear before accelerating over the finish. That leads riders into yet another bowl berm and a standard supercross triple. Upon landing, riders will accelerate hard over three small bumps and cross the mechanics area before a 90-degree left turn puts them into the first sand section of 2018. This whole section should prove to be high-speed, but I think we will see a one-lined trend that won’t allow much in the way of passing. After the sand, riders jump back into the first section of the track for lap 2.
Questions I Need Answered
Is Justin Barcia “back?”
How bad are the injuries for Eli and Deano?
Can Justin Hill figure out the starts?
How much progress will we see weekly from Chad Reed?
Can riders like Blake Baggett and Cooper Webb bounce back after a rough opener?
Will Phil Nicoletti survive Houston?
Marvin Musquin kept the ball rolling and racked up his first Anaheim win.
Jason Anderson flew under the radar mostly leading up to Anaheim, but was on his game Saturday.
Shane McElrath, just like last year, came out swinging.
Justin Barcia turned, well, everything around last weekend.
Eli Tomac threw away a win and put himself in another early season hole.
Justin Hill qualified fastest, but a seventh at the opening round wasn’t an ideal plan.
Alex Martin went into Anaheim with high hopes but left battered and bruised.
Blake Baggett looked good in his heat race, but wasn’t able to find any rhythm in the main event and dropped back to 12th at the checkers.
Phil Nicoletti sucker-punches me, Steve Matthes, and Jason Weigandt for laughing at his expense, but breaks his hand in the process.
Ken Roczen holeshots the main event.
Adam Cianciarulo sets the fastest lap time in qualifying.
Aaron Plessinger does some ridiculous things in the fast whoops after crossing the start.
Jason Anderson and Marvin Musquin ratchet up the animosity.
Feld delivers a truckload of flowers to the Houston Texans training facility for doing poorly and ensuring an available stadium for supercross during the NFL playoffs.
Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb have some sort of issue. That situation is going to be fun for a while.