1. What did you think of the Triple Crown?
Jason Thomas: It was awesome! Okay, so there are some time gaps that need to be addressed, but I know those are being worked on. The real plus was how much meaningful racing we actually got to see. Every start counted and every lap was simply more intense than qualifiers. I am all-in on this format.
David Pingree: I thought it was an interesting change. The downtime between races was brutal, particularly for the folks watching on TV. If they can find a way to fill those gaps, this could be an interesting change-up from the standard format. For me, I like it the way it’s always been. In these sprint races, the best riders don’t have time to get to the front and challenge for the lead. Some of the best races I’ve ever seen came down to the last few laps, where fatigue and determination played a part. I don’t think we’ll see that much in the Triple Crown format because all the riders can sprint for ten minutes.
Ryan Sipes: I thought it was progressive. Sure, it was different, but sometimes it takes trying something different to ultimately make a better product. Remember the first aluminum frame on the ’97 Honda? Absolute garbage. Everyone said it was a mistake and wouldn’t work, and now 20 years later, almost all bikes are aluminum. The first four-stroke race bike wasn’t without its hiccups either, and now you can’t compete without one. I like the format as I think it will bring more close racing and intense battles, but I think the simplicity of the track made it tough for those things to happen at Anaheim. Too many 90-degree corners and tiny whoops makes it hard to even clean someone out, let alone pass them straight-up. Hopefully next time the track and format will match up a little better.
2. Do supercross riders hold back, slightly, to manage energy during a long main event? Can everyone go faster in an eight-minute main event?
JT: In main events, riders don't necessarily hold back, but they do find a pace they can maintain. In shorter races, all of that "pace yourself" is out the window in lieu of pure sprint speed. A main event pace can go up and down due to pressure or possibilities of gaining positions ahead, but it's not possible to be at maximum intensity for 21 minutes. The pace would be just a touch less, maybe not even that noticeable on the stopwatch, but certainly noticeable in a rider's heart rate and breathing.
Ping: As I just mentioned, most riders have to manage 20 laps because they can’t sprint for that long. The very best riders find a way to run close to their sprint speed for the entire main event. When the race is only eight minutes long, almost any rider can go fast for the whole race. This might sound great, but it leads to boring racing because you can’t make passes when all the riders are going the same speed.
Sipes: For sure. In a perfect world, you pull the holeshot, sprint the first few laps to pull a gap, and then ride at about 98 percent to maintain your lead. You’re still going really fast, but you hold back just enough to hit all your lines perfect and not make a mistake. Even if you don’t get the start, sometimes you’ll hang back a few laps to find the perfect spot to make the pass because you know you have 15 more laps to do it. When it’s eight laps, you don’t have that luxury. You have to make it happen right away. Some guys have that extra burst of speed that they can sustain for an eight-minute main, but some guys don’t get going until eight minutes in. I think the new format can help some guys and it can hurt others. I thought we would see a little bit more parity, but again, the track was the main culprit.
3. How different is a supercross track from the start of the night—which is now a main event with this format—and the final main events several hours later?
JT: That depends on other factors such as the weather, race surface composition, amount of track maintenance, etc. I thought that Dirt Wurx did a good job of keeping the track safe for each main event, even if some of the turns were getting really rutted. The track took a lot of abuse, especially with that many 450's doing their business. If it had been Houston, though, we might have had a different story.
Ping: The changes to the racing surface were significant. Ruts formed in the turns, forcing riders to alter their lines and choose lines that changed as the night went on. The chewed-up track also forced mistakes, which allowed time to be made or lost and passes to be made. One of the main things I disliked about the Triple Crown format was the first main event being on such a smooth track. Every rider was flying and it made it very difficult to pass.
Sipes: The track can be vastly different from even the last practice to the first heat race. Sometimes what starts as huge, nasty whoops can turn into easy rollers by the night show. If it gets rutted early, the track crew can’t very well rebuild everything, so they back-drag the loose dirt into the ruts. Every time they do, the jump or whoop gets a little smaller and flatter, making it easier and less demanding. I didn’t get to watch practice at Anaheim so I’m not sure how that long set of whoops was then, but by the first main my grandma could’ve skimmed them. And because they were so easy and high-speed, they didn’t get any tougher as the night went on. The only thing I saw breaking down bad was the triple onto the table before the finish, and even then only a few guys made a mistake there. Hopefully they make the next Triple Crown track tougher so I can talk Granny out of signing up.