Yeah, Oakland! For at least a few more years, home of the Raiders, the three-time Super Bowl champions, and my favorite football team. So it’s awesome to soak in the excellence that is the Raiders home stadium, but at the same time, try to avoid any dead rats in the press box.
Yeah, the Commitment to Excellence (Raiders motto). The stadium’s a (black) hole, but as far as the racing is concerned, it’s been pretty good the last few years. Do I wish we were back in beautiful AT&T Park across the bay in San Fran? Yes, but the floor space there is pretty small. The last time we were there, lap times were just over 40 seconds, so I’ll take the glorious Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum as far as racing is concerned.
Yet again, it was an unbelievable race in Oak Town. The soft dirt rutted up, got square-edged, and broke down, making the world’s best riders look like novices at times. It was complete carnage out there as riders and bikes flew through the air. It made it very exciting, but at the same time, I was hoping no one would get seriously hurt. The key to doing well on this type of track is to take your time, pick a rut, focus on clearing the jumps, and not worry about raw speed. (Clearly this rule does not apply to Jason Anderson.) Don’t rush the decisions, because when you do that, sooner or later the track will bite you.
We’ll talk about winners below and how great they were, but two things happened in Oakland that got everyone talking. First up was a Justin Barcia pass on Eli Tomac that left the #3 Monster Energy Kawasaki rider on the ground and probably out of this title hunt (although I feel like Eli’s a bit like Jason Voorhies, where he can’t ever be counted out). The second incident was Anderson cutting across a bowl berm and leaving training buddy Marvin Musquin laying out on the track.
Barcia made three podiums in four races, nearly tracked down Tomac last week in Glendale, and was seven points out of the lead coming into Oakland. Then he qualified fastest and won his heat race. In short, I’m 100 percent sure that he had a ton of confidence and that Saturday night was going to be night.
And then the gate dropped.
Barcia blew the start, came around eleventh after lap one, and for all intents and purposes, his chance at the win was over. But I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about that. He blitzed his way up to eighth with Tomac in seventh. Eli went two-one over a triple before the finish while Barcia went wheel-tap and over the third one into a tight right-hander. Barcia, by virtue of carrying more speed and getting over the obstacle quicker, gained time on Eli and met him at the bottom of the corner where, unfortunately for Tomac, he was just starting to turn down to exit.
It looked like Tomac was startled by the suddenly-there shark-like blue bike of Barcia. There was contact between the riders, and Tomac went down. Had Tomac’s line gone higher and followed the berm, I don’t think he would have crashed. Although Barcia has the reputation of “Bam-Bam”-ing guys (he’s currently trying to live that down), in my opinion, he didn’t do much wrong this time. This was just a normal supercross pass that happens from time to time. Barcia did an obstacle that Tomac didn’t and therefore gained time. Barcia didn’t come at him in a “T;” he followed the turn in its natural direction just at the moment Tomac looked to be turning down. Bingo bango, welcome to supercross.
I’m sure my opinion of the situation isn’t going to help soothe Tomac’s feelings, and I have no doubt he’s pissed at the pass that left him on the ground. Tomac’s now worse off in the points than he was after Houston, and now we need to get some popcorn becaue he’s probably going to blow Barcia off the track the next chance he gets.
Anderson’s pass on Marvin was, in my opinion, not as clean cut as Barcia’s. Anderson was gaining on Musquin in the whoops and then cut across the track straight to the exit of the turn. His front wheel was aiming straight for the stands, not in the direction of the track. Musquin hit him and went down, and Anderson took off.
I didn’t like this pass as much because Anderson didn’t follow the natural direction of the turn. He cut to a line that I didn’t see anyone else use all day long and his plan was to make contact with Musquin. There’s often contact in supercross, but you shouldn’t try to make it happen as a way to pass. What was Jason’s grand plan? It’s not like he went into the turn side-by-side with Musquin. Marv should be pissed, and Anderson should think about how Musquin is his friend, training partner, etc. Hey, like our man Jason Thomas had said, maybe Anderson doesn’t care about any of that and that’s okay also. It’s his right to be NFG, but outside of Chad Reed and James Stewart, who were just so much better than anyone else that they could get away with a lot of extra drama, we haven’t seen 450SX supercross champions who make enemies out on the track. Anderson should’ve waited to get by in another spot—yeah, it might have cost him the win, but what Musquin might do down the road could cost a whole lot more than that.
Then again, as Anderson told many people last year, KTM was telling him what to do in last year’s title chase to help Ryan Dungey, so I suppose the two OEMs will work things out to best benefit them.
I came into the season thinking—and saying—that Anderson would cause some issues with Musquin because, hey, he wants this vacated title. Then I watched Jason at the opening rounds, listened to his very mature comments in the press conferences, and then talked to Baker about him. I really don’t think he’s the same guy as we’ve seen in previous years. Well, this is a pass that he’s probably going to regret down the line. In short, it’s like the great Chris Rock says: it’s like owning a Bengal Tiger for years and years and you think it’s cool and then one day he bites your face off. The Tiger went tiger! Jason Anderson went Jason Anderson!
I’m currently on Anderson’s shit list. He doesn’t talk to me, but this is how I feel, no bias, and I write and say what I think. It doesn’t make it right; it’s an opinion. I wrote a lot about Justin Barcia the last couple of years and some of his dumb moves, which caused Barcia to not talk to me. But now Barcia admits that he did do some dumb things, which is all I was saying all along, so this is why I stick to my opinions.
Let’s see how all of this plays out in the coming weeks.
Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?
1st | #23, Aaron Plessinger | Hamilton, OH| Yamaha YZ250F
As good as Anderson rode, Plessinger was almost as good. Fighting an illness, Plessinger ripped through the pack to pass Savatgy and Craig (who went flying off the track) to take the win. It was the kind of win, like Anderson’s, that signified to everyone that he’s the guy to beat. I’ve been saying for a couple of years now that this guy could be a double champ (250 indoors and out) in a season if the switch ever flips. Maybe that time is now. With a 450 deal to look for in 2019, couldn’t be a better time for him.
2nd | #17, Joey Savatgy | Thomasville, GA | Kawasaki KX 250F
Well, with McElrath and Cianciarulo having issues, Savatgy just broke away from them in the points and appears to be Plessinger’s main worry in this title hunt. We’ve seen Joey make odd mistakes here and there, but on a track that forces errors, he rode great. Zapped Hill late in the race (great battle between those two) and he’s set up for a title fight. Again.
3rd | #1, Justin Hill | Yoncalla, OR | Suzuki RM-Z250
Nice work by Justin to grab his first podium of the year. And he almost had second! I’m happy for him and the JGR guys; it’s got to be a frustrating year so far. I watched Phil Nicoletti get out of the gate with an amazing jump in the heat and then absolutely get yarded by a KTM next to him, so I still think the Suzuki’s lacking a bit in upper HP. By the way, Hill ran a “W” on his number plate and no one could figure out why. I asked J Bone (JGR manager) and he said they just did it to change up the luck. Well, it worked! I’d look for the “W” to be there this week also.
4th | #32, Christian Craig | Orange, CA | Honda CRF 250
Craig’s probably heard me go on and on about how I hate the inside gate 95 percent of the time. It’s such a boom-or-bust deal and the riders I’ve worked with over the years have been screwed by it over and over. My relationship with the inside gate is “complicated.” Anyway, Craig went there and pulled it, so it worked perfectly for him. And, of course, he wanted to let me know that. Craig led early and I thought he had these race won because of the technical nature of the track and tough whoops out there, but like his buddy Cole Seely, mistakes led to his downfall.
5th | #26, Alex Martin | Millville, MN | KTM 250 SX-F
Troll Nation unite! A-Mart came back this week, was the number one pick in PulpMX Fantasy, and led some laps! That’s got to be pretty thrilling for Alex. His SX season is down the tubes, but some podiums are possible. He’s also racing against his buddy Phil Nicoletti and had this to tell me about that after the race: “If you think about it, this is the first time since the Eleven10 days in 2012 that we’ve actually raced and been on the starting line together. But I’m happy to say that I smoked him off the gate. His fat ass couldn’t pull it.” #PoorPhil
6th | #40, Chase Sexton | Clermont, FL | Honda CRF 250
Sexton had a quiet night as he worked his way up for a so-so start. It was interesting to talk to Craig on Monday night and him talk about how he and Chase are friends, but now with Sexton being a peer, there’s not quite as much interaction between them.
7th | #92, Adam Cianciarulo | New Smyrna Beach, FL | Kawasaki KX 250F
AC tried to pull a “Jason Lawrence Daytona 2009” move and just cut inside of the first turn while some carnage was starting to build. He was then punished by the moto gods by getting hung up on a Tuff Block and crashing. After that, he hauled ass from last place to this spot and was going faster than Plessinger at times, but that’s not worth much in the grand scheme of things.
8th | #11, Kyle Chisholm | Valrico, FL | Yamaha YZ250F
Chiz’s starts are amazeballs right now. He’s said he has a secret technique for the metal start grate. Must work.
9th | #30, Mitchell Harrison | Tallahassee, FL | Husqvarna FC250
Harrison had to go to the LCQ to get into the main and came through with a win. From there, anything he got was a bonus right? Ninth is a good finish for that starting position and on this track.
10th | #63, Hayden Mellross | Clermont, FL | Yamaha YZ250F
Tim Ferry was there (he works with Hayden during the week) and, well, that was awesome. Ferry claimed that, with him there to help out, things would go much smoother for Hayden. And they did, because last week it was rough. Yes, I can somehow work Tim Ferry into a column if need be.
11th | #67, Justin Hoeft | Castaic, CA | Yamaha YZ250F
Heoft’s been crashing a lot this year, so when it came to this track, I didn’t like Justin’s chances of staying upright (but I was wrong, so there).
12th | #992, Jean Ramos | Corona, CA | Yamaha YZ250F
Dude, Jean Carlos Ramos is, like, legit. Seriously, he’s so much better than he was a few years ago. I’d love to go with him to one of those Brazilian steakhouses and see if he would just laugh at the dumb Americans. Jean Carlos Ramos is currently starring in LEGIT, out this summer.
13th | #68, Justin Starling | Deland, FL | Husqvarna FC250
Starling had a bit of a ride like LaMay in the 450s, where he was in the LCQ and not looking like he was going to make it but rode himself right into that spot. And in the main, he was steady throughout to this good finish.
14th | #137, Martin Castelo | Murrieta, CA | Yamaha YZ250F
15th | #28, Shane McElrath | Canton, NC | KTM 250 SX-F
Well, this wasn’t very good was it? McElrath went down in the first turn (he won his heat, and I think that’s a win every week in the heat for Shane) and then pulled into the mechanics’ area for repairs. After getting out of there, he crashed hard later on. If Shane wins this title, the 15th-place points he got in Oakland when things were going so bad will be the reason why.
16th | #59, Cole Martinez | Rimrock, AZ | Husqvarna FC250
We’ve gotta figure out a way for Martinez to race for Canada at the MXDN.
17th | #217, Ryan Breece | Athol, ID | Kawasaki KX 250F
Breece is maybe the most underrated rider out there. He, like, never gets talked about much, but he’s got good skills.
18th | #117, Julio Zambrano | San Jacinto, CA | Husqvarna FC250
Very good race for Julio in the LCQ, as he grabbed a start and forced some good riders to not be able to make the main.
19th | #81, Chase Marquier | Newcastle, OK | Husqvarna FC250
Marquier looked to be in an easy qualifying position in his heat, but fell apart late in the race to miss it by one. I gotta be honest, I didn’t like his chances in the LCQ, but he proved me wrong by making it happen.
20th | #42, Dakota Alix | Jay, VT | KTM 250SX-F
I was surprised to see Alix out there, as he looked to have a thumb or arm injury after Anaheim 2 and missed last week. I don’t know what happened, but he pulled out of the main pretty early on.
21st | #902, Killian Auberson | Corona, CA | KTM 250 SX-F
22nd | #54, Phillip Nicoletti | Bethel, NY | Suzuki RM-Z250
Nicoletti’s tough as nails. He can take a beating and come right back like that watch commercial in the eighties. He’s so beat up right now from these crashes the last few weeks that lots of riders in his position wouldn’t keep racing. I talked to Phil after the race and he was more depressed than usual.
1st | #21, Jason Anderson | Rio Rancho, NM | Husqvarna FC450
We covered “the pass,” so let’s focus on his race. Jason said that was one of the best races in his life, and I’d agree. It was amazing—bottle that up and sell it, Feld! Anyway, the ride in Oakland is what I was talking about a couple of weeks ago where a good rider becomes “the guy” at the top and just figures stuff out. He had a bad practice crash, road rash on his back from his tire, not a good heat (although he had fast lap times), and a so-so start in the main on a gnarly track. Yet there he was, hanging it out, NFG riding style, and it paid off with a win. Incredible ride!
2nd | #94, Ken Roczen | Clermont, FL | Honda CRF 450
Where’s your head at if you’re Roczen? Giving up the lead on the last lap to Anderson and taking another podium, but not yet having a win on the year? I mean, I think we all KNOW a win is coming real soon, right? He struggled all day long in practice. Not sure if the team made a bike change or he remembered that he was Ken Roczen.
3rd | #4, Blake Baggett | Grand Terrace, CA | KTM 450 SX-F
Blake rode great to grab a podium. I was talking to him at the beginning of the day and he was saying he just can’t get a start in the main (outside of the Triple Crown). He’s stoked with the bike changes and sounded hopeful, and he grabbed that elusive start in the main and held it strong to grab third. Baggett’s got three career 450SX podiums: one in Daytona, one in Atlanta, and now one here. Have to think his MX skills came in handy in the ruts. Baggett was closing in on the top two when he couldn’t get by Friese (whom he was lapping), and that made a lot of people in orange upset.
4th | #25, Marvin Musquin | Clermont, FL | KTM 450 SX-F
Marv’s shoulder injury looks to be healed up because he’s pretty fast again, and in Oakland, he needed all the strength he could muster to, you know, pick up his bike after his training partner parked him. Okay, I’ll stop now. Also, I don’t want to talk about Marv’s cats or Marv’s gear that had cats on it. The less said about that, the better.
5th | #51, Justin Barcia | Greenville, FL | Yamaha YZ450F
We talked about “the pass” already, so I’ll just say that I thought either Barcia or Seely was winning this thing after practice. They were both that good. Barcia was one of the first to figure out the triple before the finish and then he did a three-three-two in the rhythm lane before the last triple. It wasn’t any faster, really, but it kept him out of the ruts and looked great. I love to see riders do things that others can’t/don’t think of. You want to see a guy with confidence leaking out of his Arai? Watch Justin Barcia right now. As for his race: well, a bad start did him.
6th | #14, Cole Seely | Newbury Park, CA | Honda CRF 450
Seely’s gonna be thinking about this one for a while. He was fastest in one of the practices, won the heat, holeshot the main, and had a clear track. Mistakes hurt him and eventually he went down about halfway through the main. After that, he made a few other mistakes to drop back here. Man, what could have been!
7th | #2, Cooper Webb | Newport, NC | Yamaha YZ450F
Webb was good here last year and there was a similar track design and similar dirt, so you figured he would be good here. And he was. Not amazeballs like the podium he scored last year, but like last week, he was lurking just outside the big battle.
8th | #20, Broc Tickle | Holly, MI | KTM 450 SX-F
9th | #10, Justin Brayton | Mint Hill, NC | Honda CRF 450
JB was alone in seventh when, with just over a lap left, his teammate Friese cross-rutted, shot from one side of the track to the other, and took Brayton down. It was ugly and Brayton was not stoked after the race. Not that Vince did it intentionally, but I think JB was wondering why Vince didn’t slow up a bit.
10th | #33, Joshua Grant | Wildomar, CA | Kawasaki KX 450F
Grant had a lap and a half of absolute glory. It was like he was in that old Ivan Stewart truck video game and someone was hitting the nitro button over and over. He passed Tomac, probably a few others, was scrubbing like crazy and then went Mach 4 into the whoops. He then promptly lost traction and went down. It was a very impressive minute of riding!
11th | #15, Dean Wilson | Clermont, FL | Husqvarna FC450
Wilson’s whole season went sideways with that crash and shoulder injury at A1. Now he’s trying to make it work by pushing harder and harder. Sometimes, that makes it worse. By the way, Dean’s KIT was LIT in Oakland.
12th | #34, Weston Peick | Menifee, CA | Suzuki RM-Z450
Oh wow. Peick about died five to ten times in the opening laps. He was GOING FOR IT. He’s so strong that he can clip stuff and save it. He does not care, he just pins it. It’s exciting to watch and you have to admire it. And you know what? It worked: Peick was free and clear in seventh until three laps to go when he, like so many others, ate poop.
13th | #3, Eli Tomac | Cortez, CO | Kawasaki KX 450F
He was facing long odds to win this title, and Oakland might’ve just put a nail in the coffin for Tomac. He didn’t ride that well in practice, but I had faith he could grab a podium or maybe a win at that. But Barcia made sure that wasn’t going to happen. Tomac’s only goal from here on out is to win the most races and have the fans want an asterisk next to the guy who does win. He’s probably going to spend the next few weeks trying to ram the shit out Barcia, which should provide great entertainment.
14th | #22, Chad Reed | Dade City, FL | Husqvarna FC450
Reed logged his best finish of the year in Oakland and to no surprise, really. Speeds were slower and his wily vet-type skills kept him upright and doing laps over and over. I spoke with him after the race and he indicated he’s not in shape, so these LCQs are hurting his fitness in the main.
15th | #55, Vince Friese | Cape Girardeau, MO | Honda CRF 450
Friese went Friese in Oakland, where he got a talking-to by the FIM after the race for holding up Baggett when he was being lapped and probably something else. Vince has been very good to start the year, but man, did he struggle in the main with a bunch of crashes and near-misses. I don’t know how he got 15th; seriously, he looked to be down a bunch of times.
16th | #91, Alex Ray | Milan, TN | Yamaha YZ450F
Barcia gets “most improved” rider this year, but Ray wouldn’t be far behind. He’s only gone to one LCQ all year and totally looks like he belongs out there on the track and not happy to just be in the main. He’s got another step to go which is closer to the top ten, but he’s been good—although there are still moments of Catywhompus here and there.
17th | #19, Justin Bogle | Cushing, OK | Suzuki RM-Z450
Bogle’s been back for two races and is probably wondering what in the heck is going on as Alex Ray beats him in two heat races.
18th | #39, Kyle Cunningham | Willow Park, TX | Suzuki RM-Z450
Cunningham has had so many horrendous crashes in his career that, hey, what was one more? He went down hard in the main (I counted only seven guys out of the 22 in the race that stayed upright the whole night) and I was sure he was KO’d. Then about a minute later, KC is up and riding along. He’s the Gumby of motocross.
19th | #907, Ben LaMay | Wasilla, AK | Honda CRF 450
LaMay looked to be out of it in the LCQ and he rode great to get himself in. It was a nice job by him.
20th | #60, Benny Bloss | Oak Grove, MO | KTM 450 SX-F
Bloss had a great heat race; the best we’ve seen him since Anaheim 1, when he crashed and hurt himself. After that, though, there are a lot of crashes in practice and the races. Once you miss some time, you lose the edge you had and now must try to catch up.
21st | #69, Tyler Bowers | Lake Elsinore, CA | Kawasaki KX 450F
Oh man, heartbreak of the night. The Bear was very good all day long, an improvement he credited to some suspension testing during the week and getting some new parts. And he was doing it! He was tenth until one minute and one lap to go, when he set sail and proved that Bears can’t fly. His face looked like he went a round with Mike Tyson afterward, and I hope it doesn’t affect him this weekend. He was very good, so you want to see that continue this week, but then again, maybe his face is busted in too much to keep riding. Bowers told us on the PulpMX Show that he would be heading East with the series.
22nd | #27, Malcolm Stewart | Haines City, FL | Suzuki RM-Z450
Rough night for Mookie when he crashed in the heat and hurt his thigh. He toughed it out, but I think he either hurt it in the main again or it was too sore to go on. Mookie’s on a week-to-week basis with JGR while the two sides try to work out a deal for him to ride yearlong. Suzuki wants Mookie, JGR wants Mookie, but they don’t have the cash to front the ride. Stewart got some Kawasakis from a dealer through Kawi before the year, but I asked that if Mookie does get the boot from JGR, would he now ride Suzuki (I know I would) as a privateer, and I got some hemming and hawing. LET MOOKIE RIDE!!!!
Thanks for reading, I appreciate it. These are my Observations, and if you don’t like ’em, too bad! But for reals, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this race or anything else. Basset Hound photos are welcome.