Round two [three] of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship took place in San Diego, California, the home of the Padres, but this time, NOT in the Padres’ stadium. We were at something called Snapdragon Stadium, which was new for the city and is where the soccer and college football team play. It’s also on the same hallowed ground as the great Jack Murphy Stadium, so there’s that. The ghost of Chad Reed’s San Diego wins probably lingered in the air.
The Petco Stadium, that has been used for supercross for the last decade or so, was so much nicer than the old Jack Murphy (later Qualcomm Stadium) but the pit layout was not so good. Now we’re at Snapdragon, which is a football layout (smaller than the baseball layout at Petco) [Editor’s note: It's debatable to say football stadium or baseball stadium layouts are smaller or bigger, but there's really no way to change Matthes' opinion on anything. -Aaron Hansel] but the stadium itself wasn’t as nice as Petco. Pits at Snapdragon were back to the way it was at the old Jack Murphy, which I think Feld Motor Sports and the teams would prefer. At Petco, the pits were far from the stadium and riders had to ride through traffic lights to get down to the track. Snapdragon's pits were right next to the stadium. Petco had great food options and a great press box, Snapdragon press box wasn’t that good, and I didn’t try the food, but my friend Tommy Tenders wasn’t a fan of the tenders.
All in all I think the move to SnapDragon was a neutral one, better in some ways, worse in others. I like the imagination that baseball stadium tracks can bring you but most times, football stadium tracks offer better racing (longer lanes) [Editor's note: Did Matthes just contradict himself?]. Let’s not sleep on the food options at Petco people!
Look, I don’t know what to say about Eli Tomac right now that isn’t obvious to everyone. He’s two-for-two, he’s led 30 laps (next highest guy is five), his average qualifying is 1.0, his average start is 2.5, and he usually gets better after January. If you’re not named Cooper Webb, you’ve got to be a bit worried about this situation. Tomac’s had none of the bike setup issues I thought he would have from the late start on the all-new 2023 YZ450F bike and yeah, he’s amazing right now.
I say everyone but Cooper Webb, because Coop got another second place this weekend and closed in on Tomac at one point (thanks most likely to lappers, it looked to me), but they were way ahead of third and looked to be the two best riders for a second week in a row. Insiders close to Webb tell me he’s back, they tell me to not worry about any whoops, the team has the bike working well, Webb’s in a great spot back with Aldon Baker, and all is well. I’m not quuuittttte there yet, but through two races, Cooper Webb seems to be back to 2019-2021 Cooper Webb.
THE JETT won again. THE JETT looked to be on cruise control and could’ve, if he wanted to, gone faster. He also probably should be in the 450SX class, as I’ve said a few times. He’s the total package and his 450SX debut in 2023 should be close to Stew-like hype, I think. The only downside to Jett’s day was he went over a berm in practice, although he avoided what could have been a good crash. Add in that crash to the A1 falls, and Lawrence has hit the dirt four or five times in two races, and that’s never good. If he wins this weekend, a Triple Crown race, then I’m on the bandwagon that he’s probably 50/50 to have a perfect season.
Another week, another second place for RJ Hampshire and yeah, Jett won again so he lost points to the lead, but we had RJ on Monday’s PulpMX show and he made some good points. No, he’s not upset, he complimented Jett many times and he made mention that he, himself, has never started a series this good. He really looks much calmer and more in control. He’s so in control that he told us he’s looking up at the time remaining in the race while he’s out there. That’s something he says he’s never done before! So he’s calm, and relaxed enough to check out the time left in the race, and he’s gone 2-2 to start the year. Not too shabby for Rick.
He also made mention that his bike is better this year. He did get yelled at last year by his bosses for our postrace interview at Millville where he was not stoked on the team’s issues and bike setup. He also said he's in the middle of doing another contract with them right now, and he’d like to do 450MX next season.
We had Aldon Baker on couple weeks ago and he was telling us about the different group dynamics with his guys and made mention that RJ just never complains. He does the work, shows up on time and fits in nicely with whomever is there. RJ said sometimes the other guys (Cooper Webb, Christian Craig, Aaron Plessinger, Malcolm Stewart) go to him to suggest to Aldon stuff they want to do.
Justin Barcia did Justin Barcia things in San Diego, knocking Chase Sexton down, as well as being taken down by Jason Anderson in the same turn. I’m fine with all of these things happening. I’m sure Sexton’s pissed and maybe he can take out some frontier justice out on the #51 at some point, but to me, SX is sometimes a contact sport and short of T-bones or dudes aiming for the front wheel coming out of a turn, I’m good with some aggressive riding. The AMA didn’t even bat an eye at Justin’s move (nor Jason’s move) and again, if I’m Sexton I may want to mark that one down to get even later, but then again, maybe not because Barcia is DGAF, he will never not stop trying to get even with Sexton, and Sexton has a title to win.
Speaking of Barcia, are we sleeping on him a bit? I’ll admit he’s not on my list of race winners and he’s not someone who I think will be in the title fight. I was interested to see what he thought of the new (for him) KTM chassis, but that seems to be working ok. With the conditions of the track at A1, one would think that if he didn’t crash while leading, maybe he gets a podium there? Then he got one this weekend in a great ride. Maybe we’ve got something here? I know most of the top guys hope I’m wrong because dealing with Justin is like trying to put a honey badger into a cat carrier.
Jason Anderson crashed again while third and that’s bad. He’s 20 points down on Eli after two races. He’s been fast for sure but mistakes on his own end are hurting him.
Speaking of fast, Malcolm Stewart is the fastest rider in SX history to be 15th in points after two rounds. We saw him lead at A1 and crash while in third, this weekend he qualified fastest, absolutely ripped through the pack to win the heat, and then looked set to at least podium, if not win, his first ever 450SX main event. Unfortunately, that’s where the great day and night ended for Malcolm as he didn’t get the start and then went down twice. HEAT RACE MOOKIE was back folks! So far, Stewart looks great to start the year. Just ignore the points.
Ken Roczen briefly got by Barcia for third but the #51 had the inside line to get him back. I don’t envy trying to get by Bam-Bam late in the race, that’s for sure. Kickstart Kenny isn’t quite where he needs to be yet, and after Anaheim he switched from HEP/Showa suspension to Factory Connection. Roczen told me he feels as good as he’s ever felt as a rider, but he just isn’t quite where he needs to be on the yellow bike quite yet and that’s understandable with the late start. He’s gone 5-4 at the first two races and I think that’s good. Roczen says he’s good so we’ll go with that. He could pull off a win this weekend at the Triple Crown, there’s no doubt about that.
Racer X’s own Phil Nicoletti got another top ten this weekend. He got another great start, was again fast in the whoops, and yet again failed to string together even the most basic rhythms. Yet he got an eighth! Through two races, the veteran Phil has been good but could’ve maybe had a couple of top fives if he did decide to actually triple something out there. Phil's buddy Seth Rarick was on the PulpMX Show just ruining Phil for his lack of “jumping the jumps." Phil then called in and said he was gonna headbutt Seth and make him ugly.
You’d think someone like Adam Cianciarulo, he of the blazing speed, he of the dozens of laps led in his 450SX career, he of the 250MX national championship, wouldn’t sweat whether he can still be really fast on a dirt bike, but we had AC on the PulpMX Show on Monday and he said this weekend, leading some laps in the main, was a relief to him that yes, he can still be fast. Adam’s trying to build himself up after basically losing a whole year (shout out 3EB) to injury. He’s also gone through a bunch of surgeries trying to fix his hand going numb on him (he said that’s not an issue now) and this weekend in San Diego, he took another step. Cianciarulo mentioned it’s hard to keep calm when riders are zooming by him, when he can’t hold the leader’s pace. We had Ryan Sipes in-studio and Sipes said he was the type of rider who was just going to risk it to stay up front. Adam’s trying to NOT do that after a couple of years of TRYING to do that.
As always, Adam’s a great interview and you can watch it below:
At Anaheim 1 Christian Craig was second quickest in the first practice of the year behind Chase Sexton and things were great. Then he had a good crash when he was jumping the first set of whoops, had an off night and we all chalked it up to that crash. This week though, 14 days later he was also just so-so in the main event with an 11th and honestly, didn’t stick out at all during the day or in the main. I’ve heard he’s been faster than Cooper Webb during the week consistently coming into the season but through two races, we haven’t seen it yet. I think it’s coming, I just don’t know when. Oh, were it not for that crash at Anaheim…
Some other Observations from San Diego:
Max Vohland didn’t make the main in a shocking turn of events. He crashed on the restart in the heat while in qualifying position, he crashed while in the lead in the 250SX LCQ, and he’s now one for three in qualifying for his last 250SX main events. The two he missed last year (Atlanta and St Louis) had a bit of an asterisk on it as he was coming back from injuries, but still, he missed them. This week was inexcusable after a good opener at Anaheim 1. Roger’s going to probably stop talking to him soon.
Two things come to mind when it comes to Chase Sexton’s San Diego. One is that I’m glad his knee is okay after his heat race crash, that looked ugly. Two, I hope he’s not at the point already where he was last year where he’s questioning his bike in whoops.
Joey Savatgy’s gone a quiet 10-10 in two races and beating factory riders in both races. This is cool and I know the plan was to do the first eight races, but he told me that maybe they’ll do some more now. Rick Ware is stoked! He’s got a new mechanic and he’s pretty good racer as his mechanic also in Ben LaMay
Enzo Lopes was great, he led laps in the heat and was second for a while in the main event before dropping back to fourth. He’s a real surprise to start the year for the ClubMX team has to be pumped. We had Lopes on the Pulp Show and he said that he can’t believe how hard Phil raced him early in the race and that Phil needed to be better “everywhere inside SnapDragon Stadium.” I hope Phil doesn't headbutt him.
The Chef’s kitchen has been closed so far to start his SX career. Levi Kitchen was bounced around off the start and his teammate finished him off. When he got up, his arm was numb, which caused a DNF, and Kitchen is now two for four, in terms of finishing supercross races. Rough start but he’s got speed. At this point he’s got to be wondering if he carried a black cat under a ladder.
Thanks for reading OBS, we’re on to a Triple Crown this weekend back at the Big A. Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this or anything else.