After a much-needed weekend off, it’s time to head West! Seattle’s April weather made for one of my tougher rounds when I was racing, but now that I find myself in the comfy press box, I absolutely love it! The Pacific Northwest is one of my favorite places on Earth and is a welcome home for supercross. This year might bring another rainy Saturday, but fans will turn out in droves either way. Adverse weather is nothing new for this part of the world.
For the riders, however, it may shake things up. Aaron Plessinger and Jason Anderson are looking for calm, predictable weekends, but rain and ruts have a way of being anything but predictable. If the skies do indeed open up on Saturday night, this might be the opportunity that riders like Marvin Musquin, Joey Savatgy, and Adam Cianciarulo need.
The track in Seattle always has to be approached with weather and soil composition in mind. What would normally be possible at a track like Anaheim just won’t work in Seattle’s soft ruts. Triples become doubles and whoops become a rutted straightaway. The simplest way around the track will become the main line in most cases.
The start this year bends into a double left, which will give opportunity to both the inside and outside lines. The outside will require a deep push into the first bend, then a skilled flat track turn into the next left. The inside riders will brake early and hug the inside in both lefts, hoping to cover the shorter distance and put themselves on the inside down the first rhythm section. I always preferred the inside in this scenario, as the chance of catastrophe seemed lower. On the outside, if a rider gets a bad jump from the gate, he is basically hung out to dry. On the inside, a bad jump can still be salvaged by sneaking around the inside behind the lead riders. A bad jump on the inside can often result in being several spots ahead of a bad jump on the outside.
The variable here is that the inside line can be vulnerable to Tuff Blox being snagged by footpegs, a la Adam Cianciarulo in Indy. The outside has its own share of danger, though. As all of that speed comes barreling into the first turn, the outside riders always fear the inside riders pushing deeper than intended and leaving them with nowhere to go. They will end up off the track more times than not and dead last. It’s give-and-take for things going wrong on both sides. Best bet? Get a good jump and stay ahead of the fray.
The first rhythm section looks very basic and mirrors the track overall. It looks as though the track builders anticipated the soft dirt and built the track accordingly. There aren’t a ton of big options or difficult sections to string together. Riders will come out of the first turn and hit a step-up double, an on-off tabletop, and then attempt to triple through the ruts into the turn. A bowl berm leads into another rhythm section, and had this been harder dirt, riders would put a triple combo together. I think riders will be forced to double through here, though, making it very basic. If it’s possible, either tripling out of the turn or tripling onto the tabletop would be ideal. I just don’t think the ruts will allow that, especially with the long main events.
A basic double out of the turn leads into a standard supercross triple, which might get tricky in those main events. Dragging footpegs through supercross triples is not on anyone’s wish list, but it might be the situation here. Upon landing, there are a few short straightaways that seem to be Seattle-specific. With the dirt being often one of the toughest obstacles, switchbacks are an easy way to add to the track without more jumps to maintain. After crisscrossing the start, the finish line jump awaits. Coming out of a 90-degree left turn, this jump could get interesting for the 250 riders if it’s rutted. Four small jumps lead to a 90-degree left turn and another supercross triple. The 250 riders will swing wide here and gain momentum while the 450s and possibly the elite 250s will cut across the inside of the 90.
The next left-hand bowl berm could be a good block passing opportunity, as it leads into the only whoops section on Seattle’s layout. The whoops will be an absolute mess by main event time, and if it’s as soft as I expect, there will be nothing left but nasty ruts to navigate. Another bowl berm greets riders at the end of the whoops, and with it, another block pass opportunity. These bowl berms often have ruts all the way through them, so look for riders to cut across these ruts and make contact. This passing strategy isn’t that fun for the lead rider, as he can’t really see it coming, but it’s effective when used correctly. The track will be slow and blind aggression will give way to a more methodical approach. The track will change several times during the main event and a good line can become a bad one in just a few laps. Watch for the smart riders to adapt mid-race.
Questions I Want Answered
How will Josh Hill look in his first race back from such a long layoff of 450 supercross?
Can Dean Wilson back up his second-place in Indy?
Marvin needs 35 points over five rounds. Will a rainy Seattle open the door?
Aaron Plessinger loves adverse conditions, but it also opens the door for chaos. How will he feel about Seattle on Sunday?
How many times can Steve Matthes visit Starbucks in a 24-hour period on Saturday?
Can Shane McElrath climb back into this title fight?
Marvin Musquin dominated Indy after Eli went down. He knows Jason Anderson is playing defense, and he needs to win out for any chance.
Dean-O scored his first podium of his career after a run-in with Broc Tickle. It was a big improvement and a chance to kick-start his final few rounds.
Justin Brayton continued his strong season with another podium last time out. Seattle might not be a traditionally strong Brayton track, but Daytona wasn’t, either.
Shane McElrath was looking to put himself into the mix at the Indy Showdown, but that didn’t happen. He needs to win—and win now—if he wants back into the fight.
Blake Baggett’s injury from Atlanta has held him back ever since. Riding injured is never fun, and his intensity we saw a month ago requires 100 percent strength.
Christian Craig fired into the 450SX class with holeshots and top-five finishes. The last two rounds haven’t gone as smoothly, with 9-16 finishes.
Eli Tomac either crashes or wins.
Aaron Plessinger wins and does some form of ill-advised rodeo square dancing on the start straightaway.
The rain on Saturday forces an abbreviated afternoon schedule with one timed practice before racing ensues.
There’s a crash at the front among the leaders. I think. It’s never seen by anyone, so maybe it never happened?
Josh Hill spends most of his practice time putting jump combos together by crossing different rhythm section lanes. He is penalized repeatedly by John Gallagher and then finally beaten by his black flag.
Christian Craig holeshots the main event.
Seattle’s weather makes every Monster girl a Makeup2Mud contestant.