With the announcement of the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule recently, our guys Steve Matthes and Jason Thomas fired off questions for one another via email as we start to look ahead to what is to come in the new season.
steve Matthes: JT, the 2021 supercross schedule dropped last week and it’s got some surprises in it and some races that have yet to be announced. We’ve had some time to digest this and work through the ins and outs. I’ll start with I’m not surprised by much on here, the “hunker down in one city for multiple races” is something we heard a long time ago and it worked in Salt Lake City, Utah, for the 2020 season. But count me as shocked that there are no races (outside of the traditional Daytona) in Florida which we’ve seen politically, is DGAF about the COVID-19 virus. I would’ve bet a basset hound that we’d be going to Tampa or Orlando. We still might, but as of now, it’s just Daytona. So a couple of things for you: 1) tell me what you thought about that no Florida decision, 2) what you thought was behind that and also, 3) what about the three races in a week and how that’s going to affect the riders/teams?
Jason Thomas: I'm also very surprised that we are not seeing multiple Florida rounds on the schedule. Logically, it just made too much sense given the political climate and it also didn't hurt that Feld Entertainment is based in Florida. With California likely being the reason behind the TBA rounds, I still wouldn't be shocked to see Florida make a late entrance. I can't see California trending differently than what we have seen thus far and for a series that requires butts-in-seats, don't hold your breath for Anaheim.
As for the three round spree that we will see (poetry, folks), I think the riders have learned to love it. It reduces travel, reduces training days, and generally just makes things more efficient. I think there were many who questioned this approach when it loomed back in May but that doubt has been replaced by unquestionable acceptance.
Matthes: Yeah, you’ve been on the record as you don’t think there will be any races in California and I hate to say this but I agree with you. So that leaves four rounds up for grabs and yup, Florida you would think would be one or more of those. I think having multiple rounds in one week will be cool, it will be like a little mini-SLC. But I wonder if we’ll see the swings in performance at these races like we saw in SLC: IE: Barcia not great, Rockstar Energy Husky guys really being incredible there. Some of that, I think, was because of the type of dirt, elevation, etc. never changed for seven races so the results didn’t budge much race to race. [Editor’s note: while the type of dirt will not change for these “mini” rounds, Feld does plan to make “aggressive” altercations to the track from one race to the next, according to Dave Prater, Senior Director of Operations, Two-Wheel, Feld Entertainment, Inc.]. What do you think? Will anyone’s performance swing one way or another at multiple races per week?
When I think about Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, and Glendale I do think to myself, maybe outside of Dallas (although it’s a lot better now) “Good dirt & good crowds” for the most part so I’m happy about the cities that the series is visiting as of now. I think the guys will find places to ride during the week at the warmer climates also so that won’t be a problem.
Another thing is, JT, you work at Fly Racing/WPS and just so people know, these races will have fans at them at whatever capacity the local authorities allow right?
JT: SLC was a unique situation with the altitude and dirt texture that can cause issues for some. With these rounds being in cities with good dirt, as you mentioned, hopefully it won't effectively remove anyone from contention, a la Barcia last season. The caveat could be visiting Indy in late January/early February as the dirt will be soft and rutty. It could be the closest thing to a mid ‘90s throwback of rutty take-offs and landings. One other wrinkle could be at Glendale where we have seen a rider like Eli Tomac excel. In any case, I don't expect a drastic change in results because of the overall neutrality of dirt, altitude, etc. in the cities chosen.
As for the fans, it sounds like there will be a fan fest and decent sized crowds at every event. I do expect strict rules and regulations in how this is all pulled off but I think we all knew that was coming. After weathering 2020, people will probably work through whatever kinks stand in the way in hopes of returning to some variation of normalcy.
Matthes: Yeah going to be good to race in front of fans again because that whole aspect in SLC was so weird. I guess the tracks will be changed during the week for each round and I thought the guys did a good job with that in SLC. Wonder if that dirt ends up being drastically different from race to race because it’s sitting in a building for a week. Also, I’m shocked there won’t be SX futures right?
JT: I can’t wait for that “normal” feel after watching many of these empty stadium college and NFL games. It’s undeniable that there is a piece missing, as there was at SLC. The opening ceremonies videos and promotional activities before and during the event had become ho-hum up until that SLC run. Now, I am very much looking forward to them.
As for the dirt, I think there will be subtle differences but nothing drastic. The tracks are inside domes, removing the sun’s radiation and dirt drying factor. Also, we won’t have Monster Jam in between rounds to further harden the dirt like we have in year’s past for Anaheim trios. With cool winter temps and the above factors, I expect repeatable conditions for each round.
The SX Futures omission was maybe the most shocking change of all. With the assumed revenue difficulties due to lower available seating, I wrongly guessed that SX Futures would be an easy way to ease some of that pain. I have not heard the exact reasons for why SX Futures were left off the 2021 schedule but I am betting that was a tough decision to swallow. As popular as those were, it feels like everyone lost on that one.
Matthes: Yeah, let’s go racing! Props to everyone for getting this done in difficult situations and I’m excited to see what the outcomes are this series. Yup, 2021: Strap in and get ready for some more weirdness!