Tampa Supercross this weekend and a non-Daytona Florida Supercross was back! We’ve taken swings and misses at Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Tampa (back in the day), but the series came back to the Sunshine State for another try. It’s weird; obviously Florida is a huge dirt bike community, but the supercrosses, outside of Daytona, which is based around the spectacle of Bike Week, never really gained any traction. Strange for sure. Jason Thomas, a born-and-raised Floridian, thinks it’s because people are always doing something in Florida in the winter and don’t have any desire to go watch other people do something. I don’t know, it’s one of mysteries of supercross.
So how did it go? I don’t know for sure, but it seemed pretty good to me. There was mass confusion with many of the people that worked parking and security at the stadium, but other than that, I think it ran smoothly. The lower bowl was pretty packed, with some people in the upper deck. The last time the race was here in 1999, it seemed pretty packed, also, and the race still went away. With Feld Motor Sports being HQ’d in Tampa, I’d look for this race to keep coming back on the schedule. I mean, the Feld folks even bought potted plants for the track! Now THAT’S commitment!
I have a love-hate relationship with sand on a supercross track. Sand on a supercross track is like Tabasco sauce in that you have use it in the right spots and it can’t be too much. Douse your burrito in it and you’ve ruined everything. Just sprinkle it here and there and it can really add to the flavor. Too many times sand just gets plopped down in a turn, one inside line forms and it does nothing. In Tampa, though, sand was laid down on a straightaway with some rollers built into it and it was glorious.
Although the original track map showed two lanes of sand, the actual track had just this one and it gave the riders fits. Like some sort of sea creature, it seemed to change and morph throughout the day. Some guys double-doubled through it, some guys tripled in until that line went awry, there was a double at the end of it at on point. Riders made a ton of mistakes there, which allowed passing throughout the night. And then Jason Anderson did something way cool in the main in it. In short, it was a success! More sand lanes (like this one), please.
Let’s dive into what was up and down with the Tampa Supercross.
UP —THE COW
Eli “Crash or Win” Tomac grabbed another win, although this one was harder than last week’s in Arlington. Eli actually got passed by Marvin Musquin and Justin Hill at one point, which was weird. In fact, it was strange to Eli as well. “It was just weird,” he told me. “I just got passed there in those first few laps. Normally if I get the holie…” and then, because he wanted to stay humble, he didn’t complete was the part where he says, “Normally if I get the holie, I can crush these fools because I’m that good.” Tomac rode an impressive race and this was definitely the sketchiest he’s been in a win that I can remember. He cased the long rhythm lane a bunch, he got passed, he got kicked, but he made it all work. I asked last week if he’d be satisfied with a bunch of wins in the series and no title. Like, would a lot of wins somewhat ease the pain? His answer: “If I do go on and do that (bunch of wins and lost the title), it’s just disgusting. The way I lost it last year by five points, that was bad enough. It’s going to be tough.” So, there you have it.
UP — HILL
Autotrader/Yoshimura Suzuki’s Justin Hill has been living life on a rollercoaster lately. He started the 250SX West Region like there was an actual Hillbilly riding his bike and capped off the last two races with a third and a win. Then he said he wanted to race the 450 and we laughed. Well, maybe not laughed, but didn’t expect much. After all this is the man’s class and the number of 250SX riders who said they’d be better on the 450 but then weren’t is a mile long. Well, Justin showed everyone what was up in Tampa with a fourth-place qualifying time, a heat race win, and a going-for-the-lead-tip-over in the main event. That was AFTER he passed Tomac, by the way. He looked great and was the story of the main event.
DOWN — INJURIES (AGAIN)
Incredibly, we’re putting that word in this column again. And maybe more incredibly, the rider who was second in the points got severely injured for the third week in a row. What the hell? First it was Ken Roczen, then Justin Barcia, and in Tampa, it was Cole Seely. Seely crashed in the long rhythm section in the heat race and suffered serious injuries to his pelvis, among other things. He’ll be out for a long time, and that’s terrible for him, Honda, and the sport. Lots of cries out there about what Feld can do to make the sport safer. I’m all ears, but to me, supercross is dangerous. It’s not just four-strokes, either. In 1998 there were 14 factory-supported riders at the opening round. By the last round in Vegas, there were seven left. Half the factory riders were wiped out and they were on two strokes back then. So far in 2018, eight factory riders have missed one race or more due to injury. Outside of massive changes and cooperation between the sanctioning bodies, the promoters, and the OEMs, the type of cooperation that we’ve NEVER seen before (and would be needed to slow the bikes down), nothing can be done to help this. It’s a dangerous sport, bro. 2018 is just one of those years that seems to happen every now and then.
UP — SKIPPY
Chad Reed was there, and although he had to go through the LCQ to make the main, he set the all-time supercross main event starts record with 228. His bike developed some issues and he was forced out of the main, which kinda sucked, but hey, that’s a remarkable record and not one that will be broken anytime soon. Reed had to start his own team twice to set it! Mike LaRocco, who held the old record, started his own team when no factories wanted him to get the record. Larry Ward, third all-time, rode for 700 teams, including three factory ones but a bunch of privateer squads, as well. Nick Wey is also up there and he had to start his own team to keep racing. In short, it’s tough to do. Reed was on the PulpMX Show on Monday and said in no way is this his last year, which is good to hear. He also danced around a question about a possible fill-in ride with Honda, which I’ve heard some rumblings about. Anyway, an in-shape, healthy Chad Reed would be, in my opinion, inside the top ten and fighting for top-fives every week. Yes, even at 36 years old in 2019.
UP — QUAD GODS
As I’ve stated time and time and time again, I love it when there’s a section on the track that only an elite few can do. You can juxtapose this statement along with my statement about wanting the sport to be safer, but whatever bro, I’m a contrarian (Try this explanation, Matthes: if the bikes are slower and everyone only jumps 40 feet, and another guy jumps 50 and makes passes, that’s still cool. But right now busting out something big is the difference between 70 foot jumps and 90 foot jumps. –Weege.) Anyhow, there was a long-ass rhythm lane where the guys were going three in and either onto the tabletop and off or all the way over the tabletop. Either way was about the same. Blake Baggett started doing 3-4-4 (he saved the last four for his last lap of practice) and then Hill was doing it even better in his race. Both Tomac and Musquin said they wanted no part of jumping that, which makes it even more impressive. Baggett told us on the PulpmMX Show that the last four were 92 feet and he was in second gear. (See what I’m saying? – Weege.) Wow! Oh, speaking of Baggett and that quad…
UP — NETS!
The safety nets that Feld has introduced this year worked like a charm again in Tampa when Baggett flew into them after casing the quad. He scaled down the net right back onto his bike and even still qualified! It was amazing! The net basically worked exactly as it was intended to. It was like watching Eddie Van Halen shred the guitar. Just perfection. So, Baggett gets saved by these nets (he stated on the PulpMX Show that he didn’t think about those nets when he was getting ready to fly off the berm, just that he better gas it so the bike doesn’t nosedive off the backside of the berm) and on the VERY next lap, jumps this quad again! That’s so ballsy, bro.
UP — WEBB AND WILSON
Yeah, we’ve got a bit of a thinned-out field, but has anyone noticed that Cooper Webb and Dean Wilson are getting better? Weston Peick told me last week that he really feels that the speed rises each week of the season, so when Webb and Wilson start off behind the eight ball with injuries, I guess that doesn’t help things, eh? Webb had a good heat, he grabbed the holeshot, led his first lap on the year, and just missed the podium. He was fastest in second practice last week, and won a heat in San Diego. Wilson’s shoulder is clearly starting to feel better and he’s scored a season-best three races in a row. A few years ago when he filled in on Reed’s team, Dean had all sorts of speed and flash, but now he’s more subdued out there but still fast. Both Webb and Wilson deserve some good finishes and it’s good to see it coming together.
UP — FORKNER
Austin Forkner won his first career 250SX in grand fashion with passes on Zach Osborne (I thought he’d take a bit more revenge out on Wacko, but he kept it 80 percent clean) and then fought off a charge from Dylan Ferrandis to take the win and all of a sudden, he’s five points out of the lead. All day long, he and Ferrandis were two of the best guys and they showed it in the main. Last year was a write-off for Forkner due to crashes and injuries, but his rookie year (in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross in 2016) was amazing. Let’s not forget that, yeah?
DOWN — J-MART
It’s only two races, but Jeremy hasn’t been that good. I really thought racing 450SX at the opening rounds would help, but through two races, it’s just been crashes for him. Granted, his two crashes in Arlington weren’t his fault, and you could argue that they weren’t this weekend, either. He looked frisky early in practice. I thought it was going to be a good weekend, but instead it was more frustration for the #6.
UP — (S)ANDERSON
Points leader Jason Anderson once again didn’t get the start he needed in the main to run with Tomac and Musquin. As good as he is, he can’t give those dudes a head-start and expect to reel them in. Sometimes he can, but most times he can’t. And hey, he’s got a nice lead. Keep racking up at least a podium and this title will be his real soon. Anyway, the reason I give him an UP here is because, when most dudes were hitting a big roller in the sand and tripling in the middle, Anderson used a totally different approach. He was pulling a wheelie at the first one, bouncing off that to clear the second whoop, getting right back down on the ground, and accelerating out. It was awesome. It was beautiful. And it was fast. He would do this lap after lap and gain a bunch of time. Another reason why the sand was so good, the line changed throughout the day and Anderson discovered the best way in the main. It looked cool.
DOWN — HONDA
Poor Honda. With Seely joining Roczen on the injury list, they have no riders left, not to mention Tim Gajser and Brian Bogers are out for this weekend’s MXGP opener. What’s Honda going to do? Well, I was thinking they could grab Justin Brayton from the MotoConcepts team, but in talking to those guys, that’s not an option as they have a title sponsor now (Bullfrog Spas) and need to keep Justin under their tent. So, I would guess it’ll be Christian Craig until he has to race a 250SX race and then they’ll sit out that one. Wouldn’t it be so cool if Honda reached out to privateer heroes Ben LaMay and Adam Enticknap and said, “Here you go boys” for a few weeks?
UP — THE BEAR
A few weeks ago, before the series headed to Dallas, Tyler Bowers told me that he didn’t know his plans for when the series headed East, but that he’d “probably have a fill-in ride by then.” Well, he missed it by one week. After racing Dallas on his own, he was picked up by Monster Energy Kawasaki after Josh Grant broke his leg. Bowers was already getting suspension help from Showa and some motor parts from Kawasaki, so it wasn’t a huge difference for him to jump on the #33’s bike. He told me that the longer third gear was the biggest change for him. He’s still fighting his crash in Oakland and didn’t have a great main event, but he’s still a winner because he has a factory ride for the next little while!
DOWN — MARV
Don’t get me wrong, Marvin Musquin rode great in Tampa. He’s been better in the whoops since a bike change made in San Diego after the heat. He was even aggressive with Jason Anderson in practice! Marv’s not going to get pushed around. That’s all good and an “UP”. The reason why Marv gets a “DOWN” is because he’s now second in the points, and as chronicled, we’ve had three straight races where the number two rider in the points got hurt. No, Marv, no!
UP — STARLING
Yes, his ride in the heat really hurt my fantasy team when he bumped Cedric Soubeyras out of a qualifying spot, but nevertheless, I’ll give Starling props here for making the 450SX main event on a 250F. Yes, you read that right. Starling joins Fredrik Noren and probably a couple of other dudes to have done that. Great job by him. Cole Martinez has done well in the mains as well and is listed as being on a 250, but he’s not; he’s on the 450. #AMAProblems
DOWN — STEW FILLING IN ON A HONDA
Yeah, if you’re one of those people who texted me or tweeted at me about this, then down with you. While I think James Stewart shows up and races a Monster Energy Cup or Straight Rhythm before it’s all said and done, he ain’t getting the call to ride for factory Honda. You people need to really think this through.
UP — MOOKIE
I like Malcolm Stewart. Yeah, I wish he’d ride outdoors or at least try them, and I wish he’d show up for the opening round of supercross, but regardless, he’s a good dude. His brother James is also a good dude, but he’s pretty much the polar opposite of Malcolm. James is shy and Malcolm is not. Maybe the fact James has been a star in a spotlight since he was nine and Malcolm didn’t even race all the time has an impact on how they act? Mookie is so much more outgoing with media and fans. He’s engaging to talk about racing with, and last week in Arlington when I was chiding him about not jumping this section, he didn’t have a problem with me saying that James would’ve jumped it. He’s basically having fun 90 percent of the time. I asked him about the sand section at Tampa and he told me didn’t like it because he has to wash his dreadlocked hair for “two hours,” then added this: “Anybody who’s listening to this, just say Mookie’s not a fan because of his hair. He cares about his hair more than he cares about the dirt bike track.”
UP — NINETIES MOTO
There’s a great story of Denny Stephenson and Jeff Matiasevich being down in Tampa for a week after the race when they were supposed to be “testing” and absolutely running amok through a Hooters restaurant. You see, right around the stadium in Tampa there are quite a few “Gentlemen’s Clubs,” and if their walls could talk, they’d tell you quite a bit about the nineties SX tour. I may or may not also have been there year after year and witnessed some of this. Anyway, this year Weege and I ran into Buddy Antunez, who’s managing the 250 effort for JGR, and we made a joke about hitting up one of these clubs. Budman’s eyes got big, he got excited, and we made a joke about calling Denny up so he could parachute in later that night. Then Buddy made a joke about not having any sweats on him and we realized we had to go before the stories got someone arrested. Ahhhh, Tampa.
Thanks for reading, we’ll be back next week to review the A-T-L SX Triple Crown, discuss all that went down, and much more. Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this or anything else.