There are highs and lows to all racing, and round five of Monster Energy AMA Supercross hosted a bit of it all. The 450SX class hosted a masterclass and virtuoso performance by Ken Roczen, who is showing more signs of a 2021 dream campaign. On the other end, the 250SX East Region continued to lose contenders in a season derailed by injury, and added a few questionable calls by the race officials to the mix. On the good side of the 250s, Colt Nichols has logged Roczen-like rides at the front. In all, the rare Tuesday supercross tilt put the full menu on display.
In the 450SX Class, Roczen began the season speaking of a new outlook on life, trying to enjoy the process of racing and not get too hung up on what actually happens in the results column. The outlook is paying off. He has now put back-to-back bummer races (a points penalty for jumping through a red cross flag, getting held up by a lapped RIDER and losing the lead on the last lap) well into the rear view mirror, now scoring back-to-back race wins. On Saturday, he proved his strength late by passing Eli Tomac to get the win. In this Tuesday race, he started near the front, blasted past Justin Barcia and checked out. While everyone, including Roczen, spoke of a tricky, rutted racetrack, it didn’t seem to slow the Honda HRC man at all. He was gone, now hoisting two-straight wins and stretching his points lead to 13 points over Cooper Webb.
Roczen hasn’t won back-to-back races since the opening rounds of the 2017 season (that win streak ended with his vicious crash at round three of that campaign).
“I don’t know what to say, honestly,” said Roczen to NBCSN. “I haven’t gone back to back in a really long time. I had a blast out there. Luckily I could just ride my own race. That was really key with this kind of track, I had some really creative lines. I want to give it up to my wife and my son, we’ve really been having a blast, changing diapers between races. And my trainer, my brother-in-law Blake [Savage]. He’s done a phenomenal job getting me back to where I need to be. We’re working really hard to keep striving and thriving. I love my team, too. What an awesome night.”
Barcia, of Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GasGas Factory Racing, wasn’t as good as Roczen on this night, but his strong start and second-place finish probably felt like a win. After winning the season opener, Barcia has gone 9-4-13. He desperately needed a podium to reset his season.
“The last round was really tough but tonight we put ourselves in a much better position,” Barcia said. “I got a good start and Kenny rode an amazing race, I tried to give him a little battle in the beginning but that’s all I had tonight. I’m glad to be back up here on the podium, we’ve been searching a little bit with setup but we’re getting there and feeling good, ready to get back to winning.”
Eli Tomac holeshot Saturday’s race and gave Roczen a run to the end, he also split fast lap times with Roczen all Tuesday in practice. But he fell while leading his heat race, which led to a bad gate pick in the main event, which might have ruined his start. From just inside the top ten, the defending Monster Energy Supercross Champion had to grind to the podium. He even caught Barcia in the latter laps, but couldn’t find a place to pass.
“I was a little bit buried early there,” said Tomac on the podium after the race. “I got to Justin and I was kinda’ stuck. We were riding the same pace, and I swear every time he made a mistake, I would make a mistake next to him and that would blow my chance of making a pass. Glad I was able to make it to the podium, just need to start a little further up next time.”
Like Tomac, Cooper Webb was also done in by a bad start in the main. He also fell while leading his heat race, hindering his gate pick. Webb had to use his trademark late-race moves to salvage points, this time passing Aaron Plessinger on the last lap to get to fourth. When Webb went to the starting gate for the race, he picked a gate next to Roczen, and we spotted the words “Red Plate” written on the pit board, positioned on the ground for Roczen to see. Webb had his game face on, but a bad start ruined any chance of wrestling Roczen for points.
“It was an up and down day once again,” said Webb in a Red Bull KTM press release. “We did a lot of bike changes that actually seemed to help and the heat race was going really good, I pulled a great start and led a few laps but unfortunately a hay bale that wasn’t there the first time, was there the second time, and I ended up going down. I didn’t have a great gate pick for the main event, which really messed up my start and I struggled to get going. I made a lot of passes at the beginning and then I charged hard to make some really late passes, which I think was great, but I’m going to need to get some better starts. I’m excited for next Saturday, I think with a good start I’m right there in the mix. We’re still in the fight for this title and that’s the goal.”
While Plessinger did get passed on the last lap—he didn’t put up much of a fight once Webb got inside of him—it was still a great race for him, arguably the best of his 450SX career. It’s a tie for a career best. Plessinger started up front and had a race-long duel with Adam Cianciarulo. He finally got AC and then Adam bobbled big time and nearly crashed in the whoops. Cianciarulo hung on sixth, aided by a late crash from Malcolm Stewart. Stewart was following his Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing teammate Plessinger forward but he ejected in the exact same spot in the whoops that caught Cianciarulo. Stewart recovered for tenth.
Musquin had won his heat race and again showed his usual Indianapolis speed, but still didn’t have the main event result to show for it. He bumped into the back of Plessinger early and went toward the back. Late in the race, Justin Brayton (Muc-Off Honda) tipped over on a Tuff Block that had been trapping riders all night (it caught Webb while he was leading a heat race). Musquin had nowhere to go and bumped into Brayton. Brayton failed to finish the race, saying his knee and hand were sore after getting hit by Musquin, but he should be okay to race again on Saturday.
“I had a good day going and my speed was decent but I just had some costly mistakes, same as Saturday," said Musquin. "The heat was awesome, I got up front and won the heat so I got a good gate position for the Main Event. I had an okay start and I was in good position but going into the tunnel I came in a little too fast and I hit Aaron Plessinger’s wheel and went down. I’m just trying to work on minimizing the mistakes and stay on two wheels next time and we will be fine.”
One other bright spot: Joey Savatgy continues to find his old form. On his Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS 450 SX-F, Joey netted eighth for the second-straight race. Joey started the year with 11-21-14 finishes. Dylan Ferrandis finished behind him in ninth.
|1||Ken Roczen||26 Laps||0:46.637||Mattstedt||Honda CRF450R|
|2||Justin Barcia||+07.909||0:47.342||Monroe, NY||GasGas MC 450F|
|3||Eli Tomac||+10.798||0:47.029||Cortez, CO||Kawasaki KX450|
|4||Cooper Webb||+19.362||0:47.858||Newport, NC||KTM 450 SX-F|
|5||Aaron Plessinger||+21.554||0:47.337||Hamilton, OH||Yamaha YZ450F|
Onto Nichols’ continued run through 250SX East Region. On paper, he has three-straight wins, but this one was a little odd because Michael Mosiman grabbed the holeshot and logged the laps of his life out front, actually putting three seconds on Nichols early. On the eighth lap of an eventual 19-lap race, Max Miller went down hard in a rhythm lane, and Mosiman, who was about to lap him, had to take evasive action. He swerved but still tagged Miller—it was bad but could have been worse—and ended up losing the lead to Nichols. By then, Colt was on his game and pulled away again.
Watch the highlights below at the 1:35 mark to see Mosiman attempting to avoid Miller.
“You can never complain about a win, but I need to clean it up,” Nichols said about his night. “The start of that race wasn’t very good and I felt like I was fumbling around. So; if there is something I need to work on, it is cleaning it up. I got lucky with Michael [Mosiman] running into a lapper. I’m looking forward to closing it out here in Indy this weekend.”
Mosiman could have been heartbroken to lose the lead that way, but he was at least happy to have run so well. Plus, a three-second lead with 11 laps to go is no guarantee of a win against Nichols. Mosiman later gave up second to Christian Craig and then finished third.
“That was an awesome start, I was ripping clean laps and I busted out the triple-quad, I hadn’t done that all day, and I felt good in the whoops,” said Mosiman. “A guy went down in front of me in the rhythm section and that was hectic, it spooked me a little bit. I hit him pretty good, lost a spot to Colt and lost my mojo a little bit mid-way. I had such good lines out of the gate and as the track was breaking down, I think I needed to move with it a little bit quicker but all-in-all, it was a good day and a step in the right direction. I just have to thank my team, they’ve been behind me so much and this opportunity to race in front of a crowd is awesome, I love it!”
Craig took second, a needed bounce-back after a wild Saturday night race where he finished off the podium due to a last-lap tangle and battle with Jett Lawrence. Still, Craig knows he needs to beat his teammate Nichols for race wins.
“Colt is on it and I’m going to have to execute a little better from the start of the race if I’m going to have a chance to break his streak,” said Craig, who took second. “He’s on a roll and I need to focus on getting in front of him at the start and giving it everything I have to stay ahead of him. I had a tough round last weekend, so it’s nice to get back up on the podium where I feel like I belong. We’ll see what I can do to make the fix for Saturday.”
The 250SX East depth chart took another hit when Jett Lawrence went down hard in his heat race. From what we’ve heard, the track was changed to open up some more passing in a corner (at the request of the teams), but officials were afraid riders might jump too close to the mechanics’ area. So, officials put a Tuff Block on the outside to protect the mechanics. Lawrence ended up landing on that Tuff Block and hit the ground hard, hurting his shoulder. He raced the LCQ, won it, and made the main, but elected not to race due to the pain. This moves Mosiman to third in points, and Jo Shimoda, who came from way back to finish fourth in the race, is now fourth in points.
With so much of the 250SX East field decimated by injury, a privateer was bound to have an amazing result, and Texas’ Grant Harlan finished fifth. He was also lapped. But a top five is a top five! Jeremy Hand was sixth, Josh Varize seventh, Josh Osby eighth, Logan Karnow, and Kevin Moranz rounded out the top ten.
|1||Colt Nichols||19 Laps||0:47.389||Muskogee, OK||Yamaha YZ250F|
|2||Christian Craig||+05.798||0:47.545||Hemet, CA||Yamaha YZ250F|
|+10.646||0:46.948||Sebastopol, CA||GasGas MC 250F|
|4||Jo Shimoda||+40.771||0:49.364||Suzuka||Kawasaki KX250|
|18 Laps||0:50.158||Justin, TX||Honda CRF250R|