Here we go again. Two thousand twenty-two is coming in hot and going back to Anaheim, California, just feels right. Southern California is the epicenter of racing and rightful home to Monster EnergyAMA Supercross. There are endless storylines as we enter a new season. Can the new protagonists establish themselves or will the old guard retain control? Will the numerous team and trainer changes have an impact? All of these questions and more will begin to answer themselves in a few short days. Let’s take a look at what the riders will face on the track, shall we?
Dirty Little Secrets
First, let's talk about the track. The start for the series opener is incredibly short. Long time Staging Area readers will remember that I prefer longer starts to allow for rider spacing and separation. These shorter starts typically end up in contact and handlebar entanglement. I know the riders aren’t going as fast, but I prefer less contact at a higher speed then a lot of contact as you’re hitting turn one. As riders traverse the long, sweeping 180, those on the inside should have a nice advantage as they will have the shortest distance not only around the initial first turn but also over the first few obstacles, and even the second and third corners as well. Getting pushed outside initially could spiral into a very long race of pass attempts.
The first obstacle from the start is an interesting “turning double.” As riders are still bunched up, watch for an incident forced by tight confines. A slow tabletop is up next and will set riders up for a stadium length rhythm section down the third base line of Angels Stadium. The inside line through the 90-degree corner is a no brainer, leading into a double-triple. The triple is a standard issue supercross triple, followed by five singles into a 180. These five jumps could get interesting as I think a 4-1 is possible. It will depend on the angle of the initial take-off and also how froggy one might be feeling. If executed, though, it would be a significant time-saver.
The next 180 sets up for a shorter rhythm with two viable options. Riders will either choose a 3-3-2 or a 2-3-3 option here. That choice will likely be split between 250s and 450s as the smaller bores will have a tough time getting three directly from the berm.
Up next is a run through the first corner, albeit in the other direction. This could be tricky if there is a first turn pileup as the pack will be coming back through this same section in short order. A hard left exits that first corner section and into the first whoops section of 2022. With the short entry, watch for riders to find a rhythm to get in and out of these. It will be challenging to find enough entry speed to make blitz properly.
A 90-degree left sets up for the most critical rhythm section of this track. The fastest option here will be to triple out of the berm, then quad the on-off, finished by a triple into the corner. I expect it to be a line used only by the elite. A full second could be gained here so watch for this to be a high emphasis area throughout the day and night.
Another bowl berm (and net) is up next and another opportunity to go big. If riders opt for a triple out of the corner, they would have a chance to go 3, 4, or even 5 into the next corner. Many will choose to simply double from the corner and then go on-off-double into the corner but for the brave, there is a bigger line looming.
Up next, there is an interesting triple before the finish line. The 250s may have a tough time here which would catalyze a very difficult finish line experience. Watch for block passing here as riders are forced to go outside and commit to the triple. The lead rider is put into a no-win situation in that scenario. Go inside and it will be hard to do the triple, so you will get passed. Go outside and the door is wide open for contact.
After navigating that finish line gauntlet, a 90 degree left careens riders into the second set of whoops and back onto lap two.
Justin Barcia has been nearly unstoppable at the season opener. His ability to block out the noise and focus on the job at hand has been very impressive. Look for him to come in hot yet again.
Cooper Webb switched training compounds and trainers, got a brand new KTM model, and will be sporting that shiny #1 as we enter Anaheim. I don’t really expect a win at the opener for Webb but I think he is ready for the challenge.
This could be the breakout year for Chase Sexton. If his final rounds of the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship were any indication, he could be right in this title fight. His consistency is the question. To beat the likes of Webb, Roczen, and Tomac for a title, you have to be there week in and week out.
Jason Anderson has been a bit under the radar this off-season but I think that’s about to change. If you pressed me for one dark horse entering Saturday night, #21 is it.
Marvin Musquin might be an unlikely candidate to land in this category but if we look at his last few rounds of 2021 SX, coupled with his performance in Paris, I think we have a nice uptrend. Will he win A1? Probably not. But I think he looks much better than he did a year ago at this time, and even he scored a podium at least year’s opener in Houston.
Adam Cianciarulo suffered an AC separation (ironic) a few weeks ago. I think he will be in the main event and score decent points, but I think it will be a painful night. Having suffered that injury myself, it does get better quickly after a few weeks so look for him to progressively improve if Saturday is difficult.
Justin Brayton also had a crash in December and was forced to take time off. The question becomes, does the forced break show up in a bit of rust? Or can it be something that keeps him fresher into the latter stages of the season?
Justin Cooper was slated to race 250SX East anyway, so it’s debatable for his relevance in this article, but a broken foot now has his entire 2022 SX season in jeopardy.
Jett Lawrence cracked a rib recently and will now be pushed to the 250SX East series. I still have him as my title favorite but that’s a big blow to his West Coast plans.
Justin Hill races the main event in his Class A police uniform.
Jett Lawrence’s PR team announces a $12 million licensing deal with Krispy Kreme. Jett’s agent, Lucas Mirtl, is disappointed with such a low valuation but understands the upside from here.
Eli Tomac gets a bad start which sparks a firestorm of “is it the Yamaha?” questions before everyone realizes he almost always gets a bad start.
Chad Reed tweets news about a possible return just before the main event gate drops.