Ken Roczen edged Brandon Hartraft to win the 250 class, Joey Crown beat Michael Leib in the 125s, and Tyler Bowers defeated Travis Pastrana in the Maxxis 500cc Showdown at the 2019 rendition of Red Bull Straight Rhythm, held Saturday night at the Fairplex in Pomona.
The following press release from Red Bull provides a quick summary of the action.
What was once anchored solely by its unique format, where riders race dirt bikes head-to-head on an ½ mile “unwound” track with no turns, has expanded off that premise and transformed into much more. It may be innovative, but it’s also a look back to the past and a “love letter” to 1990s and early 2000s, the “golden era” of motocross. It’s the only place you can see top riders racing 20-year old two-stroke dirt bikes and looking sharp in vintage-inspired gear while doing it. And as it takes place at the end of the supercross/motocross calendar with no race series points at stake, the event is all about having a light-hearted, fun time – for riders and spectators alike.
The event followed suit from last year, with only two-stroke bikes racing, and it drew one of the strongest rider fields yet. Travis Pastrana was back racing for the first time since the inaugural 2014 event, Ken Roczen, Ryan Villopoto, Ronnie Mac and Tyler Bowers also returned, and new faces included Cooper Webb and Jason Anderson (who was ultimately unable to race due to a bike issue). And other legends of the sport seemed to make an appearance as well, as several competitors donned the gear of notable riders of the past: AJ Catanzaro ran Travis Pastrana 199 gear (complete with roost guard), Brandon Hartranft sported an Evel Knievel inspired look, and Ken Roczen wore a 2006 Jeremy McGrath kit.
The racing proved unpredictable from the get-go, with renowned rider Ryan Villopoto getting edged out by Parker Mashburn in the 250cc round of 16, the second of their two races being decided by only two hundredths of a second. Crowd favorite Ronnie Mac also fell victim in the round, with Pierce Brown proving the victor of their matchup. The 250cc quarterfinals saw newly minted Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM rider Brandon Hartranft best Parker Mashburn and Pierce Brown upset reigning supercross champion Cooper Webb. Ken Roczen knocked out Sipes and after Cole Seely had bike issues in the first run, he conceded to Josh Hansen.
Probably the most anticipated and exciting race of the night was the Maxxis 500cc Showdown between Travis Pastrana on his 2006 500cc RmZilla and Tyler Bowers on his1992 Kawasaki KX500. Pastrana, true to form, couldn’t help himself from throwing backflips on every run of the race, claiming they were the fastest way over a particularly technical section of the track. Bowers pulled ahead in the first race, with Pastrana finally staging a come-from-behind-win, complete with a mad dash in the whoops and photo finish at the line to the sound of thunderous applause. But he wasn’t as lucky on the next two races, as Bowers was able to beat him in both and ultimately take the overall win.
Semifinals in the 125cc class got pretty wild, starting when AJ Catanzaro lined up against Joey Crown, and hit the eject button halfway down the course. But amazingly he was able to hold onto the bucking bronco KTM, and land it unscathed. He regained his composure to race again, but not enough to best Crown, who advanced to the finals. In his run, Max Vohland lost control while thundering down in the whoops, crashing the in the final stretch, and as he was unable to continue, he sent Leib to the finals. In the 125cc finals, Crown came back from an early mistake to win first race, and drafting off that momentum, he also won the second race and lived up to his name, taking the 125cc crown.
In the 250cc class, Roczen got his first serious challenge in the semifinals against Josh Hansen, but was ultimate able to beat him in both races, including one with yet another photo finish. Brandon Hartranft similarly beat Pierce Brown in both races, setting the stage for the finals. And although Hartranft had posted some of the fasted times of the event, he simply couldn’t overtake Roczen, who stayed perfect on the day by winning every race, beating Hartranft and becoming the 250cc Champion.
“I had a blast, it’s nothing but good vibes,” said Ken Roczen. “I raced Jeremy McGrath’s bike from 2006, and he is the King, so it feels really amazing for me to get the bike out of retirement and get a win!”
“Red Bull Straight Rhythm is so awesome because you’re bringing back two strokes and you’re bringing back so much nostalgia,” said Travis Pastrana. “The ‘90s, the early 2000s, those were the times that I shined, but really I just love every day that I can wake up, get on a motorcycle and ride something like this that’s so much fun.”