It’s finally here! The long awaited 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is no longer a far-off thought that everyone has in the back of their minds. That time has officially arrived and I could not be more ready! Two thousand twenty was a doozy of a year in every way imaginable and had so many firsts that it would take days to list them all. I think we can all agree that the new chapter of 2021 is a welcome sight, so let’s get it on!
Dirty Little Secrets
Houston is not where we would typically start the season but the upside is that most riders enjoy this particular venue. Anaheim has the aura that only Anaheim can bring but you won’t find many riders that love the slippery dirt that Anaheim can offer. Houston’s tacky dirt and beautiful stadium are a welcome landing spot anytime during the season, even more so for the opener.
The track for the opening round of the series is always one I am curious about. The track design team has used different approaches through the years, ranging from very easy tracks in hopes of a smooth and safe transition to racing, to more technical tracks that can provide a rude awakening to those lacking experience.
This week’s track has a bit of both. It has open spaces that will allow riders to loosen up and get aggressive but it also offers a few technical rhythm sections to test rider skill. The real question will be how difficult do they make the whoops at the opening round? My guess is that they will defer to the easier end of the spectrum.
The start this week is fairly long but has a very nice arc that will provide room to turn. Riders on the outside will have to really push the edge and carry speed through the outer edge of the corner while those on the inside will want to tip toe through the trickier inside line. Both lines can work and that’s what I like most. Starts where the far extremes have little chance of success don’t seem to be good for racing overall.
The first section will provide an opportunity to put a few triples together. The first triple looks to have a tabletop-ish landing so there may not be an opportunity to go 3-3 there. If that is the case, then the ideal 3-3-3 option is gone, too. Riders would then opt for a 3-2-3-1 option. That leads to another decision in the upcoming 90-degree, left-hand corner. Cutting across the inside of these is usually the play but this particular setup could reward an outside line. The inside line will force riders to go 1-2 or 2-1 but the outside could allow for a triple. Riders will likely try both options in qualifying practices and a consensus will likely form on which is the ideal line. My guess is that riders will cut across the inside line, stand up as they manual over the first single and then double onto the next straightaway. That is the shortest route and also the least airtime. Less airtime equals more opportunity to drive forward.
After charging across the mechanics’ area, another 90 degree left, there is a small tabletop that leads into the finish line double. A small double-double leads into the first bowl berm of 2021 and immediately into the first standard supercross triple. A flat 180 back onto the start straight is next and will create a fight for traction. Patience and technique will be on full display exiting this flat corner.
A single into a bowl berm sets riders up for a big double across the first corner. As if the big double wasn’t enough to get the heart rate up, the only set of whoops immediately follows the landing. Look for riders to push the pace as they enter these whoops. The deftest of whoops masters could make passes here on a regular basis if they decide to accelerate with reckless abandon. They could also end up in the Alpinestars Medical Truck, too.
Another bowl berm leads to a tricky rhythm section. Riders will either go 3-2 or 2-3 but both options lead to landing on top of or the downside of a tabletop. If riders can make it to the downside, that’s the ideal line, allowing them to double out and onto the flat area (also first corner). Another bowl berm brings riders back into the first rhythm straight away for lap two.
PulpMX Fantasy is back! Round one is so much fun. There are no real trends yet and everyone is guessing. That also provides big opportunity if you can guess right. As the series rolls forward, the handicap team (I am a member of that) can narrow the range as we accumulate data. That limits the volatility and also makes the picks tougher. For now, though, it’s bombs away.
The 250 class will boil down to who qualifies and who doesn’t. Typically, the big value comes from higher handicaps that find their way into the main event. It also helps if they perform well in said main event but simply qualifying is enough to pay dividends. This weekend may be a little tougher as the attractive plays are the mid-field picks.
A few of the 250 names I am eyeballing are Josh Osby, Jess Pettis, Max Vohland, Joshua Varize, and Thomas Do (French rider). Their handicaps are not exceedingly high but they are solid main event level riders that should earn in the upper range of point scorers. There are not any names that jump off the page as “auto-pick” but as always, watching qualifying times is a huge tool for finding a sneaky pick.
In the 450SX class, I always go for main event mainstays that have upside value. The 450 main events are very difficult to qualify for and this is arguably the deepest field ever. I will likely avoid the long shot in favor of a rider I can depend on. That will limit the point ceiling at times but it also lessens the chance of a huge letdown. A few of my likely picks are Vince Friese, Broc Tickle, Joey Savatgy, Dean Wilson, Justin Brayton, Dylan Ferrandis, and Martin Davalos. Sure, any and all of those could DNF the main event and ruin your team’s chances of glory but they are all very likely to make the main event and get you some sort of value. There is a case to be made for swinging for the proverbial fences with riders like Adam Enticknap, Alex Ray, Freddie Noren, Justin Rodbell, Justin Starling, or Carlen Gardner, but the risk of a DNQ is simply too high with this depth. As the series moves on and injuries take a toll on the field, those picks will be a much safer play.
For more insight into picking a team for this weekend, listen to the PulpMX Fantasy Houston 1 Supercross preview podcast.
Chad Reed helicopters in just minutes before qualifying practice to make his 19,457th consecutive start.
Jett Lawrence announces a global partnership with Krispy Kreme donuts.
Cooper Webb yells obscenities at the entire main starting grid and then proceeds to win said main event.
Justin Barcia gets into a wild fracas with the AMA as he refuses to remove the red plate he claims to have earned at last week’s Red Bull A1.
Dean Wilson broadcasts the entire main event on his YouTube channel.
Twitter bans my account for saluting the flag during opening ceremonies.
Austin Forkner gets into some sort of altercation with someone or something.