I love using the word penultimate, so of course I’m going to use it this week as the PENULTAMATE round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross took place in New Jersey this past weekend. The series has been alternating between Boston and New York (or to more geographically specific but WAY less cool, Foxborough/East Rutherford) and this year we were back in New York with kind of a day race.
Rain early in the week meant that the track was covered, press day was canceled, and the dirt was soft. In fact, all day and night the riders told me that they didn’t like the track and I don’t think it was layout related or obstacle related, it was just the quality of the dirt. Soft in spots, hard packed and shiny in others, and all of it breaking down quicker than Albert Pujols. It was a weird track due to the soil and had many riders questioning their abilities to ride a motorcycle.
There was one thing that was pretty strange, though. On track walk after the finish there was an awkward left-hand turn which then led into a double that was sweeping to the right. You were supposed to jump over the start straight, which was cool, but coming out of an oddly-shaped left into a jump that bent to the right… well, I don’t know what in the heck the riders were supposed to do with it. Seriously, it was one of the strangest things I’ve seen on a SX track and everyone was like “Huh?” when they walked it. I’d guess that 50-75 percent of the 250s wouldn’t have been able to jump it, and probably 90 percent of the riders weren’t going to be able to angle their bike properly to jump and land it smoothly. The way the jump swept to the right was bizarre. Seriously, I just think the track builders screwed up. They had to have. It made zero sense but thankfully before any bikes hit the track they jumps were mowed down a bit to become just a single and a roller. If it had been left as a huge double, it would’ve been complete chaos.
Which now that I think about it, might’ve been pretty cool.
The one rhythm section where the guys were going three in and then four out (soaring over a tabletop) was cool. I love stuff that very few guys do, that’s what’s gnarly and awesome about supercross, you know? It wasn’t a ton faster, but it gave a small advantage and to see the guys that had the balls to hit it and who didn’t, well that part of racing is something I’ll never get tired of.
“Definitely got two gifts there, but it was tough to try to… You want to stay consistent and put in your laps but I felt that they were faster in catching me, so I knew somewhere on the track they were doing something better but you don’t know what. So it was definitely a tough race, but it’s crazy how it all played out.” That was Cooper Webb at the press conference after the race and I think he knew that he grabbed another win and almost clinched himself a 450SX title due to other riders throwing it away. It wasn’t a dominating performance from Webb but he took the “gifts” he got from Eli Tomac and Zach Osborne to grab his seventh win in a remarkable season.
Webb got his usual good start and just let Tomac and Osborne go and make their own mistakes. I mean seriously, he rode very well but as we talked about in the Fly Racing Racer X podcast, it was the race that no one wanted to win. It was also a microcosm of the entire season. And Cooper Webb was there to reap the benefits. I’m not trying to slag Webb here, he’s been amazing all year long and he was inspiring to watch early on as he took some VERY unexpected wins. It’s just that Tomac pulled a Tomac, Osborne and Baggett made their own mistakes, Musquin was taken down on the first lap, and Roczen, well, he’s not the same dude as before.
If you’re Osborne do you lay there and think about what could have been your first career win, or do you relish in the fact that you got your first career 450SX podium? It was the best Zach we’ve seen since he entered the series coming off injury. He admits that his abbreviated rookie 450SX season has been up and down. We’ve seen him lay down some great laps in qualifying, he’s gotten a holeshot in a main, and now he’s led a lap. All small pieces of the puzzle that he’s got to go through. Next step for him is a win. I think he could even do it this weekend if Tomac pulls a Tomac.
By the way, Aldon Baker watched the race sitting next to me in the press box, and it was hilarious. He was not loving the close racing between Webb and Osborne. Both his guys, one of them needing to just stay steady and wrap up a title and the other having nothing really to lose trying to get his first win. Baker was a bundle of nerves up there and it was interesting to get his thoughts on what was happening out on the track.
Okay, back to Tomac. I mean, why not? We’ve spent SO many words on Eli Tomac and his amazing rides and then SO many words on why things can’t seem to always go in his favor. This weekend he was on his way to the win (IMO) when he had two small crashes in the whoops (almost in the same spot) trying to jump through them. JT had this theory that these guys should practice jumping through whoops and ET probably doesn’t so that’s why he’s not good at it. I mean, maybe, but jumping through whoops is, like, really easy for these dudes so not sure why Eli couldn’t master it. He rode great except for those two small bobbles. Then again, “He rode great except for…” could the title of Eli Tomac’s 2019 450SX book. Also 2017 and 2018?
Blake Baggett wasn’t too happy with Osborne after the main event for… something. Not sure what it was, I saw Osborne get close to him but seemed pretty okay to me. Anyway, I was thinking BB4 was getting ready to pull his usual second half surge because he was right there at one point. I couldn’t rule him out as a race winner, he’s got the capability to get hot and rip through the pack. But he washed out and that was all she wrote on his night.
I went to talk to Baggett after the race because I want to drive a wedge between him and Weege, but he was, yet again, in the longest post race meeting I’ve ever seen. The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS team doesn’t even take down their tent or anything, I don’t know what’s going on in there but there are some SERIOUS meetings after the races. On teams I’ve been on there has always been some sort of debriefing but holy crap I’ve never seen ones this long. What the hell is Michael Byrne doing in there? Breaking down quantum physics with Blake?
Chase Sexton knew that he had to win this race. At least I would think he did because with the East/West Showdown this weekend in Vegas the odds he was just going to win that thing with all the title pressure on him weren’t high. So to avoid being another “Tim Ferry” (aka a rider that managed a championship just perfectly) he had to win in East Rutherford. And he did just that in an almost perfect ride. It was his first career win and he took the points lead as well. Sexton’s win was a long time coming because he’s been fast most of the year, but either Austin Forkner out rode him or Sexton made a costly mistake. In Nashville he was looking good but then Justin Cooper took them both out. In New Jersey, it all came together for Sexton and he rode perfectly.
I was talking to someone who knows Chase well and he told me that Sexton is a 50-year-old trapped in a kid’s body. He’s well behaved, he speaks well, he’s mature, and knows the right things to do and say. So if he clinches it this weekend, there’s no worry about a J-Law type of championship party I would guess. I love watching Sexton ride a bike, he’s got a great style with little movement, and it seems like he’s in the perfect body position all the time. A little bit of Robbie Reynard in him, I suppose.
Justin Cooper didn’t have the race he wanted to have in front of his family and friends. I mean, the kid’s got nine career SX races under his belt and has hit the box in six of them so I’ll cut him some slack. It was also a bit strange to see his teammate Mitchell Oldenburg catch and pass him in the main to take two points away. Clearly there are no team orders over there at Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha. I spoke to Wil Hahn after the race and he said that Justin mentioned that he was so bad that Wil “could’ve beat him out there” which is a pretty big stretch I think.
I don’t know if Oldenburg will get another chance with Star Yamaha next year or not, but he certainly helped his case with his second place (third career 250SX podium) and heat race win (second of his career) in New Jersey. Mitchell’s a bit underrated, we really don’t talk about him much but that’s partly because he’s been hurt a lot. Make no mistake about it, he’s got speed but it’s hard to show it all the time when you’re always coming back from injury, you know? He’s a good dude, I hope he gets another shot at Star and we’ll see what he can do in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
We all thought Austin Forkner would have a tough time racing, never mind beating Sexton and Cooper, and early on it seemed like the kid was going to really beat the odds. He was fast in the first practice. Then the second one came and he wasn’t as impressive. In the heat he dropped back almost to a point where I thought he wasn’t going to make it. He did but in the main we all saw what happened, bummer for him and the team. He was so impressive but surgery awaits and I immediately will put Forkner as a title contender indoors and out for 2020. Man, this sport is cruel sometimes.
Alex Martin got the holeshot and this was good for my Marty Davalos/Alex Martin bet I have going on with Mitch Payton. “We” were looking good. But then Martin made a mistake in the turn before the whoops and a bunch of dudes got by. Then he crashed going into a turn later that lap and it was all over. Davalos was leading and would go on to get a fourth and I started packing up my cleaning supplies for the PC shop. I felt like an actual, real Troll that lives under a bridge and eats dead rats for dinner and not one of the fancy spruced up Trolls like Troll visited on Friday night. FML.
Speaking of Marty, he’s one point short of pointing out of the 250SX class for 2020. Yes, you read that right. There’s ACTUALLY going to be a guy that points out of the 250SX class. It’s taken 14 years but it does happen! Who knew? Anyway, I think Marty could be a good 450 guy but I don’t think he’ll land a factory spot for next year and therefore he probably hangs it up. Maybe Marty doesn’t race Vegas so he gets to stay down? He’s not acting like it, but you never know I suppose.
Justin Bogle won another heat! And then he was running fourth in the main for a bit before crashing and then pulling out with a bike issue. On paper it wasn’t good but Bogle’s really coming around here lately and is riding great. It’s taken longer than many of us thought it would but hey, better late than never, right? When he’s on, it’s fun to watch him ride as you can almost see him smiling under his helmet.
And then we did this in the morning when we walked in, just two dudes, one of the edge of fashion and then Bogle, not so much.
A FEW OTHER RANDOM THOUGHTS ON RANDOM THINGS:
- Gotta feel for Mitchell Falk about now. A bad injury early in his first SX season and now the last few races haven’t been good for him. One would think the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM team probably won’t be keeping him for next year and then what for him? You don’t get many shots to impress in this sport sometimes and he’s in that gray area.
- Basically the most amazing thing I heard all day was that Jordan Bailey plays golf with James Stewart every now and then. WHAT??? WHY???? I have so many questions. Bailey was playing it cool to me about hanging with Stew but my mind was blown.
- Brandon Hartranft finished an impressive fifth (his second fifth in a row) and is heating up right as the series comes to an end. Early on in the series he had some bike issues, some other stuff and wasn’t able to capitalize on his “flying at the test track” talk we had heard. Now, he is. And in front of his home crowd he was good (although he rode kind of a lonely race).
- Justin Brayton came back from injury and although he looked good, he faded late in the main event. It’s probably to be expected after missing so much time (team manager Tony Alessi put his current health at 85 percent, by the way) and he told me that he just got some arm pump. Hey, Brayton, I went riding last week and yeah, it happens.
- Marvin Musquin rode well and used some unforced errors by other riders to go from dead last to fifth by the end. Unfortunately the riders he were chasing all finished in front of him but it was a good ride for the #25, it’s just no one will really notice.
- Henry Miller moved up to 450SX despite this being a 250SX East Region round and he’ll stay in 450SX for Vegas this weekend as well. Miller rode well, got into the main event, and then probably collected about three times as much money for his 16th in 450SX as he did in his previous four 250SX races. Kids, go to 450s if you can’t get a factory ride in 250s.
- Zombie Chris Blose was there on his 450 out of a rental car and put it into the main event yet again. He told me after the race that before he turned into Zombie Chris Blose that he wasn’t knocked out in Denver, that he was just taking an inventory of his body parts and then when he got up, he was “pissed” that he had crashed. Proof that he’s now a zombie because zombie’s do seem to have a hair trigger temper, right?
Thanks for reading OBS, good times in NJ and we’ll wrap this thing up with one more this weekend in Vegas. I mean, why not? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this race or anything else. If you’re in Vegas this weekend, make sure to come to the PulpMX/Racer X Live Show on Friday at The Space. We’ll have Ryan Villopoto and Chad Reed as guests, so you know it’s going to be a good time. You can get tickets here.