This Saturday marks the final Triple Crown event in Houston, Texas. The great Texas dirt, controlled dome environment, and action-packed format make this one a highlight for me. With the 450SX points chase heating up, the top four riders of Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin, Eli Tomac, and Ken Roczen will all be looking to take advantage of the three races. Musquin seems to have the edge but after last week’s points penalty, he will need to capitalize on every opportunity more than ever.
With three gate drops in each class, results don’t typically have too much variance. The three results give a much more expected outcome throughout the field. Conversely, three gate drops up the ante for first turn crashes or mechanical issues. Regardless of how the results pan out, I still love the Triple Crown format and hope it’s here to stay.
Dirty Little Secrets
This weekend’s start spans the width of the stadium but doesn’t affect it diagonally as in past races. It will only be used once and otherwise be a non-factor to the track, which is usually a good thing.
The first rhythm will be very straight forward. The main race line will most likely be 2-3-3 but with the jumps fairly small, riders may try a few options. Finding a way to triple twice will be the ideal route in any case. A left-hand bowl berm sends riders into the first of two whoops sections. There is a small double at the end of the section but shouldn’t have any bearing on the whoops. Houston whoops can vary in size, shape, and approach. Remember in 2018, Musquin injured his shoulder in this exact dome, struggling to manage the rebuilt whoops in the heat race. By main event time, these should be manageable whether jumping or blitzing but in the early laps of the night, blitzing will be the fastest line.
After a bowl berm to the right, an interesting rhythm section awaits. The size and angle of these jumps will have a heavy impact on what is possible but if built favorably, there could be big possibilities. On paper, the absolute fastest line would be to seat bounce triple out of the corner, triple onto the tabletop, lift/bunny hop to step to the next tabletop, step off and over the next single, and then single into the corner. I will preface that approach by saying it’s highly unlikely, but a girl can dream, right? The most likely line will be 2-2, step onto a tabletop, skip off to another tabletop, step off over the next single, and single out. The other variation could be 2-3, tabletop to tabletop, and double out. The trouble with that last option is that riders would jump higher than preferred from the tabletop face. It will be a section to watch in practice as riders sort it out.
A left-hand bowl berm (look for a net here) leads to another rhythm section. I expect riders to double out of the corner, then triple, then quad (single over table to single) into the next corner. Another possibility could be tripling out of the corner, tripling, then table to single. Again, these big options will be subject to the bulldozer blade. Anything is possible if built with options in mind.
A right hand 90 sends riders into a small tabletop (over/under bridge) and immediately into another 90 degree right. The second whoop section awaits but has three small jumps at the entrance. I expect riders to triple these and then blitz through this whoop section at a high speed. That triple in will be critical to attain max speed into the whoops instead of attempting to build speed after entry.
A 180 right sets up a triple finish line jump but this type of triple design has been modified in years past so watch for that. A fast ski-jump sends riders under the tunnel, but I expect that single to be very small as a safety precaution entering the tunnel. Riders cut across the start and past the mechanics’ area and into a 90-degree left. A small wall/tabletop slows riders down before entering a short sand section and into lap two.
Questions I Need Answered
Dylan Ferrandis won his first ever main event last weekend and cut his deficit to 12 points. Was it a sign of things to come or is this Adam Cianciarulo’s year?
Cooper Webb looks great, but he also looks to be a touch off of Musquin’s pace lately. This weekend (and every weekend moving forward) is huge for swinging momentum. Will this be a two man fight or can Eli and Kenny climb back in?
Is everything bigger in Texas?
Will Josh Grant make progress with a week of testing?
Can Jimmy Decotis back up that third place?
Musquin is setting the pace and might be peaking at just the right time.
With Justin Brayton injured, Ben LaMay picked up a fill-in spot with Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda, giving him a boost for the remaining rounds.
Ferrandis needs to make up points and quickly, but he had a great night in Seattle.
Joey Savatgy put in another top five finish. He has impressed me all season.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing had a tough night with Justin Barcia having main event issues and Josh Grant missing the main event.
Chad Reed and Justin Brayton suffered various injuries in a horrific first lap crash. Both are hoping to return by the end of the series.
Colt Nichols crashed big, effectively ending his title chances.
Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM is having a rough 2019 SX series.
Reed is seen mainlining CBD oil in hopes of returning for the finale at Las Vegas.
Josh Grant bounces back with a top 10 finish in Houston but is later disqualified after going around the whoops for 28 consecutive laps.
Cianciarulo qualifies fastest.
Shane McElrath races the 250 class in 2020. No further comment.
Dean Wilson pulls out some crazy combos in qualifying to put him at the top of the time sheets at least once.