Going over the finish line in Tampa, six riders were separated by less than five seconds. After 21 minutes of racing!
Sure, Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, and Cooper Webb have combined for the last six wins in the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, and they’re 1-2-3, respectively, in points. Most championship battles break down to two or three riders, and these particular three probably topped most pre-season contender lists. This seems normal, this seems predictable, this seems regular.
Except right behind them, it feels different. This crew is still fighting! For a season seven races deep, the field remains exceptionally, well, deep. Moreover, most riders in that group still feel like every week could be “the week.” They’re far from beaten down and resigned to weekends off the podium.
First, you’ve got Adam Cianciarulo’s continuing quest to find the 450 promised land. For him, it’s become a frustrating process to keep coming close and keep seeing it come undone—but such frustration is really a compliment. He’s still away ahead of schedule compared to most rookies, and being this close to winning already makes this a successful season.
“It’s frustrating because I look back at the race, and Eli gets by me, right? I’m not thinking ‘My race is coming unraveled’ or anything,” said Cianciarulo to Steve Matthes. “I felt great in the whoops all night long. I’d have bet the house I’d have been fine, and then I just went to the left of the line I had been using because of a lapped rider was in the main line, and I basically washed the front end in the whoops. Just frustrating when I was riding so good today. Eli had me for sure, but I felt pretty good behind him. My mindset is there. I want to beat him. I know I haven’t beaten him straight up yet, but I feel like I can. It’s just frustrating when you let a good position slip like that. It sucks.”
You can cue the drama when Cianciarulo says he wants to beat his teammate, but he’s really just saying he wants to beat the guy who won the race, regardless of who that rider is. He feels like he can, and those are legitimate feelings. Adam’s rookie year has been worlds better than Aaron Plessinger, Zach Osborne, and Justin Hill in ‘19 or Cooper Webb in ’17. Joey Savatgy was solid as a rookie last year, but Adam’s seven-straight fastest qualifying awards and multiple laps led take things to another level. He’s right there.
But when he crashed in Tampa, it put him right there. As in, right in the middle of a super battle between, let’s see: Justin Barcia, Justin Hill, Dean Wilson, Malcolm Stewart, Justin Brayton, and Jason Anderson. Whew. That’s six guys going fast, and it didn’t even include Blake Baggett, who podiumed just a week ago, or Aaron Plessinger, who looked so promising last weekend, or Osborne, who ran up front earlier in the year. Still so much depth in this class, and Broc Tickle just jumped in this weekend and showed he’s not far from his old self, either.
Let’s just look at the fourth and fifth place riders from over the weekend. Justin Barcia rode his heart out to come from way back to fourth. Normally, it’s a confidence drainer to finish fourth behind a group of proven race winners. Not so with Barcia, who truly believes (with good reason) he could run with that lead trio if he can just start with them. Then you have Hill, who finally put up the needed building blocks early this season. If he combines that with his old flash, he can do damage. He believes he can do it. If you’re Barcia or Hill, you want a do-over right now. You want to go racing on Sunday. You have to feel like you can do this if you get another chance!
What we have is a rare season where the chase pack grows in confidence each week instead of weakening. I’m not sure if anyone outside of the top three in points can take this championship, but they’re far from done playing spoilers and contenders. That will make these next few races so much more fun to watch. Triple Crown in Arlington, anyone?