“It’s a fluid situation,” has become the hallmark term of 2020. As of now, that latest plan is for Monster Energy AMA Supercross is to resume May 31 and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship to begin July 4. At one point motocross was to begin in June and end in September, with supercross resuming after that, but then supercross found a window around May 15…which then changed to May 31.
Remember, fluid situation. Supercross in September is difficult to pull off, as it could be competing with every other sport/concert/event, all in comeback mode, putting stadiums, TV crews, and equipment at a premium. It just might not be possible to make it happen, so May and June could be more realistic options.
We don’t know for sure if May 31 will happen, but this is a firm as plans get at the moment. So let’s start with the analysis. If supercross gets back in business on May 31 and motocross is back on July 4, how do those dates impact the riders? Let’s take some guesses.
Eli Tomac: Despite winning nearly half of the races held over the last four seasons, the 450SX Championship has eluded Eli Tomac. For his own legacy and psyche, he must prove he can get this done, and getting handed the championship halfway through a cancelled season doesn’t really accomplish that. He knows this.
“All I hope is we can finish the thing. It would be horrible if the thing just ended and that was it and over, for everyone’s sake,” he told us when the shutdown began. “Hopefully we get those last couple rounds in, whether it’s two rounds or one round or all seven. I just hope we get a legitimate finish to the season. Whether we win or lose, at least have a real finish and not have this unknown.”
So, resuming racing certainly helps put destiny back in his own hands. More racing is a win for Eli, even with the major risk of losing the points lead before it’s all over. Proving he can do this down the stretch is the whole point!
For Eli, no supercross is worst deal, supercross is September (with motocross in between) is risky, and supercross in May is ideal.
Ken Roczen: The 450SX title has also eluded Kenny, and if this thing doesn’t get back online, he’ll have lost it due to a late-race bobble and a gnarly Tomac charge at Daytona. Yes, Tomac won’t feel like his championship is full, either, but if the season ends after 10 rounds, and they really hand out a trophy, would you rather be the points leader or three points down?
There’s another situation here. Kenny was one of the first riders to get on board with social distancing, actually a few days before it was even a term. He knows his immune system has been compromised by all of these arm surgeries, so he would be perhaps the rider least interested in rushing things back together in a COVID-19 environment. Will be interesting to see how all the riders and teams react if racing gets the green light.
Cooper Webb: Been a rough go in defending his 450SX title. A slow start was followed by a surge, but then a big crash in Arlington. Webb hung tough for podiums, but he was in must-win mode and winning wasn’t possible while dealing with his Arlington bumps and bruises. Time has let Cooper heal up. He’s still 29 points down, but with time to heal, he’s improved his chances of winning races and pulling off a miracle.
Chase Sexton: So, so weird to think that 250SX East, which was just getting started, could already be over. For Sexton, being handed the title would actually not be a terrible thing—he already won the title last year so this 2020 250SX crown isn’t a career-defining moment like it would be for Roczen or Tomac in the big-bike class. Also, he’s proven to be the best guy in the East, so far, winning races straight up. I don’t think anyone would question the validity of this title. For Sexton, the 450s beckon—he will go to the big bike outdoors for factory Honda HRC. Supercross in May would certainly be better than the supercross-in-September plan, which would have asked Sexton to race a 450 outdoors then jump back into supercross on a 250 to finish his title defense. If you’re Sexton, not racing at all or racing in May is okay. Racing supercross in September would be worst-case scenario.
Dylan Ferrandis: Like Sexton, Ferrandis is already the defending champ of his 250SX division, so he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m sure it would be fine to collect the title and cash the check. Dylan seems like a racer’s racer, though, so if they do have to line up, he’ll be ready.
Garrett Marchbanks: Lost in so much of this: Marchbanks got hosed big-time by the shutdown. He wins Daytona, a massive career breakthrough, and all of that momentum goes down the drain. Racing again would be nice, but it’s all a compromise at this point.
Shane McElrath: Shane dominated the Tampa Supercross 250SX East Region opener, but Sexton has gotten the better of him since. More races would provide a chance to cut the points lead, but there could be a silver lining to 2020, anyway. We hear the AMA might relax all 250 pointing out rules this year because the entire season is in such flux. That might earn Shane yet another year of 250 eligibility, so for his career prospects, this isn’t all bad.
RJ Hampshire: Nobody gets screwed in this deal as badly as RJ. Operating under the idea supercross would return in September, he opted to for an operation. ACL surgery means he won’t be back on a bike for a while, so if supercross comes back for May and June, he’s going to miss those races.
Marvin Musquin: Supercross in September offered up a brief hope that Marvin, out all year with knee troubles, could actually race some supercross. The May/June scenario likely ends that. He can’t fret too much, because supercross was never expected, anyway. At the very least, the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship getting pushed to July offers him more outdoor prep time.
Justin Brayton: JB wins huge if supercross races soon. He broke his hand in Daytona on the last lap, but limped across the line in 10th. Now, instead of missing any races, he got all the healing time he needed. Plus this schedule doesn’t interfere with his lucrative off-season stuff, like racing in Australia.
Adam Cianciarulo: Different timeline than Brayton but similar circumstances for Adam, who was going to miss a few more races after Daytona with a collarbone injury. Now he’s ready to go.
Privateers: It’s win/lose for some guys. Many privateers live off of purse and contingency money, so they need to race. On the other end, it’s likely harder for some of these guys to get parts, bikes, and places to ride. The hope is that this all times out, as tracks begin to come back online in time for a few weeks of supercross practice.
The Scramble: So much focus here on Feld Entertainment figuring out a way to do races, and if the governments in any potential city will allow it. There’s another story, though. Factory teams often function as arms of big, international companies. These are real corporations with human resource and legal departments, real budgets, and more. While it’s likely that many teams need to go racing to prove their worth, all it takes is one team to say they won’t or can’t race, and this whole thing hits a snag no matter what Feld does. Can every team get clearance to throw employees (like mechanics) into an environment like this? That could be a huge obstacle here.