Sooner or later we’re bound to have a boring night of racing in the 2020 season of Monster Energy Supercross. After all, with all of the great racing and excitement we’ve been having this season you’d think a change would be just around the corner. Well, plenty of things did change in Oakland, but none of them led to anything short of a fantastic night of competition. Let’s get into this week’s Saturday Night Live and break down exactly what created such a thrilling night of racing in Northern California.
Ken Roczen’s been much better this year than he’s been in a long time, and when he won all three main events last week in Glendale, despite immense pressure from Eli Tomac at times, he was beginning to look even stronger. That continued in Oakland in the main event when he nabbed the holeshot and held the lead for close to half of the race. Things changed however when Eli Tomac got around Adam Cianciarulo for second and upped the pace. Tomac stalked Roczen, waiting for an opportunity to pass before finally blasting down the inside of the whoops and finishing the pass in the ensuing bowl turn. After that it looked like lights out, as Tomac tried to start stretching it out. Roczen wouldn’t let him go that easily though and Tomac ended up making a mistake and going over a berm all by himself, which handed the lead right back to Roczen.
“I felt like I was being pretty patient,” Tomac said afterward. “Once I got into second it was the same thing, and I got into the lead and was feeling really good and had a good flow. I was picking my front end up over that little knuckle in the sand and I guess I picked it up too much and my rear end kicked or I missed my rear brake or something. Anyway, just went over the berm. It was like, ‘You gotta be kidding me right now!’ Luckily I was able to sneak back on there and get going again.”
Get going again he did, and he was able to run Roczen down yet again and pass him in the exact same place as before as the crowd roared. Roczen wasn’t able to fight back this time, and even fell victim to a hard-charging Cooper Webb in the last turn of the last lap. The two bumped when Webb made the pass and Roczen was seen clutching his foot and ankle immediately afterward. He looked to be in pain, although he quickly dismissed it as anything serious in the post-race press conference.
“I don’t think it’s anything crazy,” Roczen said. “I don’t know if my foot got stuck or if it was just from the hit or whatever, but it was a bit of a stinger. Nothing too crazy or anything I’m worried about.”
Roczen went on to explain that even though he led thirteen of the race’s twenty-one laps, he didn’t feel like he was on his game in Oakland, which is a big change from just one week ago.
“This weekend I felt a little slow and wasn’t riding too well on the track,” Roczen said. “It took me a while to get everything down so I’m actually happy we’re just on the podium. Obviously I gave up a few valuable points there at the end, but I just wasn’t the fastest tonight and I made a couple of big mistakes with about three laps to go. They were costly and it let Cooper [Webb] sneak in there. On the last lap if you’re behind somebody you can kind of pick your lines and try to make something happen, which he did. I’m not too happy about that, but that’s racing. Looking at the big picture, we’ve been on the podium a lot and overall I’m still pretty happy to be on the podium here.”
In a change for the better, defending champ Webb looked like the Webb of 2019 who won this race last year, and even though he was tonight’s runner-up, the fire he’s famous for looked like it was back.
“I finally just raced ahead tonight. I’ve been conservative I guess and haven’t been laying it all out there like these guys have,” Webb explained. “Tonight it was a much better direction. I fought hard the whole main event. I still need a little bit there at the beginning, but overall I’m happy and I think we’re in a good spot moving forward.”
When asked about his second-half heroics, Webb explained he’d simply messed up the first half of the race by being impatient.
“In the beginning I got a little too excited too quick. I tried to make a pass on Eli a little too soon. This was the kind of track where you could kind of latch on and put in some good laps behind one another. I just jumped the gun too soon, made a mistake, and lost that tow. At the end I just tried to figure it out and keep doing my laps. I found some good lines, started hitting the whoops really good, and at the end I felt really strong.”
As far as the points go, Roczen still leads, but by a much slimmer margin than if he’d have been able to hang on for the win, which Tomac pointed out in the post-race press conference.
“The win is huge tonight. Just look at the points swing,” Tomac said. “We went into the night eight points down now we’re three down. If it goes to eleven, it just gets harder and harder to make up. Points-wise, it’s [the win] huge.”
No matter who you want to win this thing, you have to admit, any change in the points that tightens things up makes for a more exciting season, and Oakland delivered that tonight in a big way. And in addition to narrowing the gap between Roczen and Tomac to a mere three points, Tomac’s win also tied the two up in the wins column with two each. This thing’s getting more interesting every weekend, folks!
Things changed in Oakland for Justin Hill too, who put in one of the best rides of his entire 450SX career, winning a heat race and ultimately earning eighth.
“The heat win was cool,” acknowledged Hill. “I got to give a shout out to Mike [Genova] and the crew and it got us some TV time and a good gate pick. In the main I made a few mistakes that put me two or three places behind where I really thought I could be tonight, but either way it’s an upswing from where we were. The top ten is a rough racket right now! It was a rough racket last year too, but it’s even rougher this year. Last year I didn’t feel half as good as I do this year, and if I was riding this well last year I think my finishes would have been boom, boom, boom, boom, right away. This year it’s even more stacked, which is a double-edged sword. You’ve got the most interesting series in years but you’ve also got nine of the most frustrated human beings! But tonight was good, a little light at the end of the tunnel.”
Adam Cianciarulo continued his streak of being fastest qualifier, but after running second for a good portion of the race ended up slipping back to fourth and even narrowly avoided going down hard. He wasn’t upset in the least afterward when our own Steve Matthes caught up to him, and he shouldn’t be. After all, he only rode for ten minutes all week thanks to being sore from a big crash last weekend in Glendale.
Jason Anderson and Justin Barcia both rode somewhat under the radar to fifth and sixth, respectively, but had the race been a lap or two longer, we might have seen a great battle unfold between the two of them, as Barcia was catching Anderson at the end. Hopefully next week we’ll see these guys get better starts and mixing it up with the boys up front. And speaking of things we hope change next week, here’s to hoping Chad Reed’s ribs feel better in San Diego. Reed ended up sitting tonight out due to injured ribs suffered last week in Glendale.
|1||Eli Tomac||21 Laps||58.241||Cortez, CO||Kawasaki KX450|
|2||Cooper Webb||+03.557||58.857||Newport, NC||KTM 450 SX-F|
|3||Ken Roczen||+04.726||58.731||Mattstedt||Honda CRF450R|
|4||Adam Cianciarulo||+14.812||58.750||Port Orange, FL||Kawasaki KX450|
|5||Jason Anderson||+16.800||59.107||Edgewood, NM||Husqvarna FC 450|
In the 250 ranks things weren’t any less intriguing. Not only did we reach the halfway point of the 250SX West season tonight, we saw a big change in the points. Dylan Ferrandis didn’t get the holeshot, but he did get a decent start, something he hasn’t been able to do lately, and after shadowing Austin Forkner for what seemed like an eternity, blitzed down the inside of the whoops, pulled up alongside Forkner in the next turn, and left him no room to retaliate. The two even looked like they bumped slightly, and Forkner went off the track. He got back on quickly but was unable to regain ground on Ferrandis.
“I kind of got held up just a little bit [by lappers] and that was all it took,” Forkner said afterward. “I was going single triple into the whoops, and I clipped it just a little bit. I think he was still blitzing and I knew he was a little faster there, but I felt consistent with what I was doing and I knew I could make it work if I could do it clean. But I clipped it and then I heard him there. I tried to just scoot around the top but he was there and basically left me no room and I just had to go off the track. It wasn’t like a bad pass or anything. I would have done the same thing. It was racing. After I went off the track, getting back on and all that stuff, I lost track of him. I wasn’t close enough to show him a wheel anymore.”
The story was almost identical from Ferrandis.
“I was waiting for a good time to pass him, and maybe with the lapper he lost a little bit of time,” Ferrandis said. “I went to the inside and passed him. I don’t think it was a bad move but unfortunately he went off the track.”
After the race the crowd voiced their disapproval by raining down boos while Ferrandis was being interviewed. At the risk of editorializing this, those boos are probably coming more from A2, where Ferrandis blasted Christian Craig off his bike. There were plenty of other passes tonight that were much more physical than the one Ferrandis put on Forkner and nobody even seemed to notice. Even Forkner didn’t seem upset about it! And let’s face it, when you’re racing against someone as skilled as Forkner, you can’t afford to wait around, which Ferrandis confirmed in the post-race press conference. He also said getting a negative reaction from the fans weighs on him during the race.
“Yeah, for sure I’m thinking about it a little bit,” Ferrandis said when asked about it afterward. “At the same time it’s Austin Forkner. He has more wins than me in supercross and if you want to pass him you have to jump on the first opportunity and make it work. I know I have to be aggressive, but I also don’t want anything to happen like what happened at A2. Everybody in the industry has been pretty supportive the last two weeks and even the AMA told me I can be aggressive if I need to be, and that just because I’m on probation it doesn’t mean I have to be too nice. But for sure I’m thinking a little bit about it. If I want to make a clean pass I have to be faster and I think I was tonight.”
Boos or no boos, Ferrandis did what was most important to him, and that’s take the points lead. He now leads his teammate, Justin Cooper, by two points. Cooper wasn’t wild about his night, understandably, but he also didn’t appear rattled, and said he doesn’t think the last few races change anything.
“I don’t think anything has changed,” Cooper said. “Stuff is just getting thrown at me that I don’t want to go through [chuckles]. It’s part of racing. Every time you’re out there you have to do your best, and no matter what happens you have to keep fighting. It’s what we did tonight. I put myself in a good position in the main by getting a good start but I tangled with some riders in the first couple sections and that put me back a little bit. I’m just happy to be on the box tonight, it wasn’t looking too pretty after the heat race.”
Michael Mosiman came into Oakland fourth in the points but had a disastrous night in front of his hometown fans, going down early in the main and pulling out of the race. We talked to him afterward and he said his bike was twisted and that he hit his head pretty hard. He said he felt fine though, so we’ll see if he’s back in action next week.
|1||Dylan Ferrandis||16 Laps||59.980||Avignon||Yamaha YZ250F|
|+02.336||59.750||Richards, MO||Kawasaki KX250|
|3||Justin Cooper||+12.919||1:00.945||Cold Spring Harbor, NY||Yamaha YZ250F|
|4||Alex Martin||+15.287||1:00.598||Millville, MN||Suzuki RM-Z250|
|5||Luke Clout||+27.819||1:01.438||Sydney||Honda CRF250R|