“Haha can you imagine?” read the text sent to us from Adam Cianciarulo. The year was 2017, and the text was in response to an article we’d posted outlining the chances, and what it would take, for every rider left in 250SX title contention to rise to the top of the points and secure the championship. Cianciarulo, at 14 points back, and fourth in points, was barely part of the conversation. We included him more as a joke than anything else, outlining how ludicrously crazy of a race it’d have to be for AC to pull it off. Adam took a screen grab of the math and sent it to us with a laugh.
Thing is, it almost happened!
Zach Osborne, Joey Savatgy, and Jordon Smith held the spotlight coming into the night, and rightly so. Smith led, but only by a single point over Osborne and Savatgy, who were tied for second. When the gate dropped Osborne went down in the first turn. At that point it seemed Savatgy had the win on lock, until he crashed, all but handing the title to Smith. But then Smith inexplicably crashed out of the race all on his own! The reins were back in Savatgy’s hand, but he was struggling hard and losing spots fast. Cianciarulo, meanwhile, was leading and all of a sudden it looked like what was originally the biggest outside chance of all was about to grab a handful and smash through the front door. For a few moments, he was going to make up all 14 points and leap frog three riders to win the title.
Osborne had other ideas though, and lit the burners in the last few laps. In a charge that’s still talked about today, he covered a mystifying amount of ground in an equally bewildering amount of time, smashed through the whoops, and sent his Husqvarna into Savatgy’s Kawasaki in a bowl turn on the last lap. Savatgy went down, Osborne kept it together, and the latter became champion a mere few seconds later. You can listen to Savatgy’s thoughts on the race in the two most recent Exhaust podcasts.
So what’s the takeaway here? Well, there are several, which we’re sure you’ll list in the comments section, but the point we’re making is that anything can happen in racing. Just ask Austin Forkner, who commanded the 250SX East Region all year before being forced out with a knee injury. Yes, saying anything can happen sounds clichéd, but it’s true, and when it does, it can be exciting as hell, especially when there’s a title on the line. And, newsflash, there are two of them on the line in the same race this weekend in Vegas. Ever since they started making East/West combined races count for points in each division with titles on the line, well, the action has been crazy. With that in mind, here’s the state of the 250SX union as we head into the final Monster Energy AMA Supercross race of the year.
Adam Cianciarulo is in contention yet again, but this year he’s looking much, much better than he was two years ago. Instead of trailing by 14, he’s up by eight over Dylan Ferrandis, the only other 250SX West rider who hasn’t been mathematically eliminated. That’s a nice cushion, but far from insurmountable. So if Ferrandis wins, how far back can Cianciarulo finish and still win? Fifth. That’d put them in a tie, but since Cianciarulo has won more races he’d get the nod for the championship. If Ferrandis is second, eighth or better will get the champagne corks flying in the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rig. Do you really think Cianciarulo will finish worse than eighth, even with the double-stacked East/West race? Well, the stats say he hasn’t finished worse than fifth this year, making his title chances great, but he’s actually had worse finishes in individual legs of Triple Crown races (but was able to salvage fifth overall at the end of the night).
But, like we said, things can get crazy at this race, so here are the numbers if Ferrandis takes third. Tenth or better for Cianciarulo and the title goes green. We’re not going to run any more numbers on this situation because there’s just no way Cianciarulo finishes that far back. The worst he’s finished in his career in a supercross race is seventh, not counting an injury-related DNF in 2014, and we doubt he’s going to pick a night like this weekend to start bombing. Also, he’s won the Las Vegas race two years in a row, as the Floridian for some reason says he rides better on hard-packed tracks out West.
So, it’s all pointing toward an AC title. But right now, Ferrandis is probably looking at his long odds saying “Haha, can you imagine?”
Out East we’re looking at a duel between Chase Sexton and Justin Cooper. Yes, we know Forkner is technically still in this, but unless he hires someone to wear his gear and compete in his place, it doesn’t matter. He’s out. Moving on. Sexton leads Cooper by nine points, which means a sixth or better from Sexton wins him the title no matter what. Even if Cooper wins (which would tie him and Sexton with one win each), and ties Sexton in the points, Sexton would still get the win because he’s logged more second-place rides than Cooper—which is the go-to once riders tie the overall wins tiebreaker. If Cooper takes second, which is well within his reach, Sexton would have to finish ninth or better. You wouldn’t think that’d be a problem for Sexton, whose worst finish of the year is fifth, and it probably won’t, but like we said, crazy stuff happens when the title is on the line. You simply can’t forget about the double-stacked talent in this race. First turn crash to ninth against the full field? Not so simple. Further, Osborne’s move on Savatgy in 2017 established a precedent that takeout moves are acceptable if the title is on the line (nobody cares about fines), so you just never know what kind of thoughts riders will act on when the adrenaline is pumping. Especially when the output of those adrenal glands is boosted exponentially by title pressure of JATO Rocket proportions. And finally, just for fun, if Cooper finishes third, an 11th for Sexton would be enough for another GEICO Honda championship. Hey, one year Wil Hahn, now managing the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team that is battling against Sexton this year, won a title for GEICO Honda… while riding with a broken hand that he suffered in practice.
Yup, anything can happen when it all comes down to one day of racing!