What a week! Things are happening fast in every facet of the sport and of course the world around it. For many, SX/MX is their escape from the realities of life. With coronavirus news inescapable, I am going to just focus on the race and leave the news to the reporters. So, for Indy, let’s hope for a good, safe race and if even for one night, let our worries subside.
Indy has always been near the top of my favorites list. It’s the site of my first ever supercross race, dating myself back to 1997. Since then, the city has undergone a complete rejuvenation. The downtown area has gone from a very industrial feel to a fun, night-life vibe. It has some of America’s great restaurants (St. Elmo’s), and hosts great events like the NFL Combine. It’s done a total 180 from my first visit back 20+ years ago. I am often asked to list my favorite races of the year, mostly to help steer those interested in the Rocky Mountain KTM/WPS VIP Program that I host. The overall experience between the stadium, city, and atmosphere is what defines an event for me. Indy delivers on all fronts.
Dirty Little Secrets
This year’s track begins with a long start straight into a right-hand 180. I am always wary of right hand first turns as riders will have difficulty using their rear brake. The right-hand corner asks riders to extend their right left for balance and positioning, compromising their ability to slow down. That inevitably pushes riders deep into the corner and can increase the likelihood of collision. It’s not always going to lead to first turn crashes but they seem more likely just due to the lack of braking.
The first rhythm has a few possibilities. My main question is how big the first jump will be. If riders are forced to use it as a jump, that will change the rhythm options. If they are forced to double in, they could choose a big option here. A 2-3-4 combo could be in play but it should be mentioned that Indy’s softer dirt can make bigger options less likely. If the track gets rutty, look for the easiest option to become the one chosen. I have often watched riders plan huge options on track walk, only to double through come main event time.
The next rhythm section again has a few different ways to approach. The biggest decision will be if riders can and will triple out of the bowl berm. They will triple as the rhythm section continues but that first leap will determine the combination. For the elite 450’s, look for a 3-3-3 line to be in play but I am leaning towards 2-3-step on-step off. The latter option will allow riders to race through the corner quickly without worry of setting up to seat bounce triple. The next three will be low and fast, followed by a quick on-off into the corner.
The next left bowl berm leads to a small pop-up double before the only whoops section. Indy whoops are usually soft. That continuous deterioration will eventually lead to many riders hoping, skipping, and jumping through. Whoops like this are a God-send to Cooper Webb who desperately needs a win to get back into this title fight. Watch for Webb to jump deep into these whoops and attempt to jump all the way out in one leap. That would require a 4-4 combo but it’s definitely doable in the right scenario.
Riders fire length-wise across the stadium and past the mechanics’ area, with 90-degree, right-hand corners before and after. Riders will likely stick to the inside line for both corners, protecting against any inside line aggressors. If that inside line is chosen, riders will either go 2-1 or 1-2, setting themselves up for the only supercross triple on the Indy circuit. A small double leads into a right-hand bowl berm and then the finish line double.
Overall, the Indy track is pretty short. I look for lap times to be in the mid-40s which will then lead to a 25+ lap main event for the 450s. That puts a heavy strain on the track, adding laps for each timed race. If the dirt is indeed soft, the end of the main events could be treacherous. Lines will change, rhythm sections will get dicey, and that could all affect the racing. Watch for the second half of the main event as the entire approach to the track could change.
Fantasy is a roller coaster of emotion. The ebb and flow of riders doing well and poorly is impossible to predict but determines the outcome of every team. There are a few riders who are defining this dynamic lately. John Short, Pierce Brown, and Blake Baggett immediately come to mind.
For Short and Baggett, they have had a tough run as of late. They look incredibly valuable on paper, their handicaps giving them huge upside. If they qualify and finish reasonably well, they would both pay off with high scores. Trouble is, they haven’t been doing that. John Short hasn’t qualified for the main event in weeks and Baggett has ended up on the ground more times than not. Now, entering Indy, it looks as if Baggett may not line up at all. John Short, however, might be the best pick on the board.
As for Pierce Brown, there was huge debate on whether to pick him at his debut race of Atlanta. Many wondered if he was truly ready or if the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM needs outweighed his preparation. Timed qualifying and his heat race indicated he was up to the task, giving myself and others who picked him a smile. That smile was turned upside down with an early crash, though. His poor finish in Atlanta lined him up perfectly for his rebound ride in Daytona. He paid off for those lying in wait, maximizing his score of 52 points. It was the nastiest of twists, driving the knife deeper into those who picked him in Atlanta. The ultimate of swings, the most difficult iteration of fantasy to watch. Now, as we enter Indy, his handicap is down to a +3. That still leaves value but certainly not as much as Daytona. Is he still a good pick? I think so. I believe his talent puts him inside the top ten, putting his score into the 30s if things go well. I will watch him closely on Saturday afternoon but if he has a bad night and I do indeed pick him, I might have some sort of psychological break. Pray for me.
The remainder of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is held at the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Alex Ray puts in a formal request to disinfect all Tuff Blox on the Indy course, citing the likelihood of several encounters.
Jason Weigandt severs his pinky finger and offers it to Justin Brayton to use for the rest of the season.
Saturday’s Fan Fest pivots away from empty Monster cans, now giving free access to anyone with a bottle of hand sanitizer or roll of toilet paper.
Vince Friese is flagged as high risk for coronavirus because the dude simply can’t avoid physical contact with his fellow racers.
Much to the delight of everyone, WADA flies in for Indy. They decide to randomly test for COVID-19, SARS, MERS, Mad Cow Disease, Smallpox, Bath Salts, Scurvy, Typhoid Fever, male pattern baldness, Erectile Dysfunction, Osteoarthritis, gonorrhea, diarrhea, and whatever Joaquin Phoenix was suffering from in the Joker.
Rumors overheard on the weekend for Coronavirus: It’s Trump’s fault, it’s China’s fault, bats are to blame, Milli Vanilli blames it on the rain, blame Canada, this is the beginning of the apocalypse, it’s all a conspiracy for the election, the San Diego lime is somehow involved, and wearing your jersey backwards will keep you safe.