East Coasttttt. It’s time! After a long six weeks of West Coast racing (insert St. Louis joke), it’s time to get back to the Eastern time zone. While most will immediately associate the East Coast with soft dirt and ruts, I think we are still a couple of weeks away from that. Tampa and Arlington are up first and will both be fairly hard-packed. Tampa, specifically, should be somewhat hard and slippery by main event time. We may not see the whoops break down and the three rut bowl berms shape up. I think the Tampa track will more resemble Anaheim than Atlanta.
Dirty Little Secrets
The start rockets out of the end zone of the Raymond James Stadium and barrels into a long 180-degree left. This looks to be a wide, safe start so kudos to the track builders. The first rhythm section has a couple of options but for the best of the best, I think one line is apparent. Exiting the first turn, riders will step onto a tabletop and step off, then launching from the takeoff of the next tabletop over the following two singles. This is a rhythm that we don’t often see at races but riders pull this rhythm at practice tracks repeatedly. It will look big but for riders of this caliber, it won’t be too much of an ask.
After a bowl berm, there is a pretty fun section up next. If so inclined, riders will be able to go 3-3-3 down the entire length of the stadium floor. Sections like this are always fun for riders. They add a bit of flow and also allow riders to catch their breath while in the air. I always liked to take a deep breath over the easier jumps, hoping to lower my heart rate in the process.
A 90-degree right follows with seven similarly built jumps. Most times, this section will see riders flow through the flat inside of the corner, double across to the right side of the track, and then triple-double into the next 90-degree right. That allows riders to stay inside in both corners, protecting their position. It will be a bit one lined here with two 90-degree corners back-to-back but life is hard sometimes.
The next rhythm section spans the length of the stadium but similarly to the opposite side, will be fairly straight forward. On paper, it looks very unorthodox but as I really analyze it, I think I have it figured out. Riders will roll/scrub across that first single, then step on-step off before doubling. That will set them up to hit the second of two standard supercross triples. This rhythm could change with slightly a different build or the possibility that I am a complete moron.
The next bowl berm will serve riders into the only whoops section on the Tampa layout. It will be interesting to see how these develop throughout practice and the night’s racing. Cooper Webb’s jump line will be fresh in the minds of the contenders so I expect everyone to be extra vigilant. The parade lap before the main event is a critical time for plan-making. Watch for who stops to examine and who just blasts on through.
The finish line jump leads to a bowl berm and riders firing backwards down the start straight. The Tampa sand section returns and thankfully, the sand is in a straight line again. The 2018 section was brutally tough but very entertaining. With random jumps and bumps and two possible lines, look for utter chaos in the heat races as riders land in soft spots and jockey for position. The final sand corner sends riders back out of the first turn and onto another lap.
Last weekend in San Diego, as always, some riders paid off big while other riders once again crushed their team owners’ dreams. In the 250SX Class, Michael Mosiman came through, scoring 38 points along the way. Mosiman’s season had been a bit rocky thus far, crashing out of 40 percent of his main events going into San Diego. He was able to put it together, though, grabbing the holeshot and falling into a fourth-place finish by the checkers.
Conversely, Cameron Mcadoo was also a popular choice. His recent injury and subsequent struggle at Oakland had McAdoo with a +3 handicap for San Diego, prime picking for a top-five talent. He had it all working, too, chasing Mosiman, while running in fifth place. That run would come to a screeching halt, though, as his Kawasaki KX250 was unable to continue. With a 31.8 percent pick trend, the nationwide screams of agony were led by yours truly. Whether picked at Oakland or at San Diego, the majority of fantasy teams were burnt my McAdoo in February.
Other riders of note in the 250SX Class: Chris Howell finally paid off, qualifying for his second main event of the season. I was unwilling to gamble on Howell, his inability to qualify in recent years had me more than hesitant. Cheyenne Harmon continued to impress, putting 38 points on the board. Newcomer Bryson Gardner (younger brother of Carlen Gardner) qualified for his first main event and racked up a class high 42 points, too. Finally, Ludovic Macler put up a 36-point day with a much better effort than when I picked him at Glendale. Of course he did.
As we move to the 250SX East Region, the whole dynamic changes. This is one of the deepest 250 line-up’s I have ever seen from top to bottom. Teams will be all over the map, some gambling and some going for a safer first round. There are plenty to choose from, with 19 national numbers signed up, 29 riders who have qualified for 250 main events, and several elite level rookies entering the class (thanks Paul Perebijnos for the stats). It will be a much different look and feel than the 250SX West Region where many of the same riders were qualifying week in and week out. I think we will see huge swings each weekend as many riders will be on the bubble for their main event bid.
A few riders to keep an eye on: Josh Hill is a former 450SX main event winner and has decided to drop down to the 250 class for his return. With a +3 handicap, look for Hill to be a top ten contender. Jace Owen and Kyle Peters are coming in hot, battling for wins in their arenacross title fight. The rookies of Jo Shimoda, Jalek Swoll, and Brian Moreau are all in the middling six-seven handicap range. They are all capable of a top-ten but who knows how their first foray into SX will go? They are a gamble but only because we have no real evidence to draw from yet. They will be a wait-and-see for me throughout the day’s qualifying sessions. The longer shots come in the form of riders like Joey Crown (+14), Kevin Moranz (+13), Zane Merrett (+16), Isaac Teasdale (+13), Brock Papi (+16), Lance Kobusch (+16), and Carter Halpain (+14). They may not be household names but they are very likely to arrive onto your television screen Saturday night.
For the 450SX Class, many of the big pick trends paid off. Blake Baggett, Benny Bloss, and Martin Davalos were among the highest trends and also made up three of the top four scorers. That’s fairly unusual as fate usually loves to destroy solid looking fantasy teams. Aaron Plessinger paid off, giving his faithful owners a 30-point tally. Justin Hill continued his solid season, also throwing up a 30 burger. The real struggles were for the top two in championship points, Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen. With 21 and 19 points respectively, they certainly left their owners disappointed. They have been a shoo-in to score the maximum of 26 in recent weeks, not having any setbacks since the A1 opener.
For Tampa, I am going for the solid factory rider approach. My team consists of Zach Osborne, Justin Brayton, Dean Wilson, with Jason Anderson as my all-star pick. I am hoping all four finish inside the top ten and give me somewhere in the 120+ point range. With the 250SX East being a huge gamble opportunity, I am playing the 450 guys a little safer.
Expecting tension from the Barcia/Davalos, Barcia/Tomac, and Anderson/Brayton incidents, John Gallagher comes in loose and ready. He is equipped with four black flags and a tranquilizer-tipped dart gun.
Cooper Webb holds a Webb-inar at the downtown Tampa Hilton on Friday night. Topics include: jumping whoops, getting good starts in the main event, and verbal jabs.
Justin Hill completely erases several Tuff Blox from existence with flying reverse elbows, a particularly nasty roundhouse kick, and an atomic knee drop. No word on how this translates to his race result.
Dylan Ferrandis has a lovely dinner at the Temecula YardHouse on Saturday night and upon paying the bill, is showered with boos on his way out.
Everyone is happy to see Broc Tickle return after way, way, way too long away from the sport. #TickleTime