The second Triple Crown race of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season took place this past weekend at the Arlington Supercross. Always a fan favorite, the Triple Crown format spells excitement and action that isn’t always seen during a normal night of racing. Throw in a difficult track and the championship favorites starting to emerge and there are a lot of talking points from the weekend. As such we threw some question at long time pro turned pit reporter Jason Thomas for this week’s Breakdown.
Cooper Webb's sneaky ability to collect wins was on display again in Arlington. Is there anyone who's better at taking advantage of these situations than Webb? What makes him so good late in the race?
He has to be considered the master of late race strategy. It seems to be a combination of fitness, mental foresight, and riding deteriorated race tracks very well. He’s been doing it for several years now and to several different riders. Ken Roczen was on the losing end of this dynamic many times in 2021 and now it seems Chase Sexton is getting the bulk of the ire. I don’t think it’s a teachable skill as much as it is inherent in his DNA. It’s almost an inevitability that if he is close to you in the final laps, you’re toast.
Taking that one step further, Webb won but he said this ride did not necessarily give him a big confidence boost. Despite that, does getting a win still help him mentally moving forward? Knowing he can get a win or be in the mix even on a night when he doesn't "have it"?
I think he’s still a bit frustrated with his lack of top end sprint speed. When the track is groomed and everyone is at full go, he doesn’t seem to be able to go with them. We saw that in the early laps at Oakland and again a few times in Arlington. He is finding ways to overcome that liability but I think it irks him to be off the pace early in each main.
Jason Anderson was blazing fast. Without going down in the first race of the night, is it fair to say he most likely could/should take the overall win on the night?
The top few are too tight for me to say he should have won. Could he have won? Absolutely. But, the same could be said for Sexton if he didn’t get hung up on the downed Anderson in the first race or the Kyle Chisholm/Grant Harlan debacle in the third race. I could also make the same argument for Eli Tomac if he didn’t slide out in the third race. All of these guys have silver linings to their night and conversely, things they need to eliminate from their game if they want to be champion.
Going back to qualifying, you never competed in the current Triple Crown format, but how much do the Triple Crown formats change the mindset of say a bubble main event guy (think Moranz, Cartwright, Harlan, Starling, Clason, Short)? Being in A group qualifying and thinking your into the night show but then a B group rider bumps you to the LCQ. That is something you have to considering entering the day in order to not have a last-minute fire drill before the LCQ, right?
It definitely adds stress to the afternoon, but it removes it from the night’s qualifying. So, in that sense, it’s a bit of a wash. I think it more depends on what your strengths are. If you are better at one “hero lap”, the Triple Crowns are for you. If you are a better racer and always found the one lap stuff tougher, a normal format probably feels more comfortable.
I don’t think it can be overstated how far over the edge that most push to in these qualifying sessions. The level is not sustainable and most are absolutely gassed when they land from the checkered flag in each sprint lap.
As for how the main event bubble riders go about their Triple Crown day, it certainly adds a wrinkle to have to be staring at the live timing to know if you’re headed to that dreaded LCQ. Think about the riders that perennially live life on the night show bubble, though. This is their life every week of the year!
Nate Thrasher's win was not perfect, but he got it done. He had a rough opener in Houston, he came up just short of the win in Tampa but got the overall win in Arlington. Do you expect more podiums or even another win(s) from him throughout the rest of the season? Is he becoming a championship threat moving forward?
He should be a podium guy each week. His speed is undeniable, and he looks like he belongs near the front. The one question he will continue to be asked is if he can stay on two wheels. His teammate Jordon Smith is in the same boat. They are fast enough to podium every race, but their mistakes are also ever-present. Hunter has been given a points gap from their prior mistakes, putting the pressure on them to be perfect moving forward.
Also, news came out about Thrasher riding with a torn ACL he suffered before Tampa. How difficult is it to ride through an injury such as that (from adjusting how you physically train during the week to mentally knowing you have something limiting you before the race starts)?
I’ve done this twice in my career (2004 and 2011) and it’s not fun. It affects everything you do on and off the motorcycle. Every knee injury is different so he may or may not be dealing with meniscus pain and/or chronic dislocation from the missing ACL. Training has to be adjusted, i.e., no more running or high impact exercise. More rest is needed, constant icing and therapy to remove inflammation, and relentless pain every time you dab that leg. In short, it sucks. It’s physically limiting and mentally draining. Everyone else is thinking, “How can I go faster?” and you’re forced to think, “I really can’t make this injury worse or my season is over.”
Lots of guys (such as Chase Sexton and Eli Tomac even) had little mistakes throughout the night show. The track was not easy to begin with and was taking a beating. How did you see the breakdown of the track impact all riders, especially in the final race of 250SX and 450SX?
It was much more slippery than it looked. The orange dirt looks ultra-tacky but the base is hard and creates a false sense of security. There were multiple crashes from riders over-trusting the front tire and it giving way. Riders are torn between keeping it safe and being a tad off the pace or pushing the edge of traction and upping the chance of a tip over.
Hunter Lawrence going down in the third race and coming back to finish sixth and get on the overall podium. Yes, it's a Triple Crown so had he gotten 10th that overall result would not have been horrible and he would not have lost as many points as a typical main event. But how big of a comeback ride was that? If Hunter hangs on to win this title do you expect that to be the "championship defining" type of moments? Does this ride standout more than his last-second win in Tampa?
This is the rub on Triple Crowns. Suffer a bit of inconsistency on the night? Thank the lord for Triple Crowns. Have the picture perfect night across three races? Triple Crowns suck! Overall, Triple Crowns smooth out rough edges. I think they are the most beneficial to those prone to small mistakes that can derail a main event. One small mistake isn’t as costly over the course of three races that result in one average finish. See: Anderson’s first turn crash, Hunter’s first turn crash, Deegan’s first race crash, etc., etc.
Jordon Smith has appeared to be back to his old ways showing speed and taking a checkered flag in the Triple Crown second race. What does he have to do in order to complete the last piece of the puzzle and start standing in the center of the podium?
I think he will win a race or two in this series, but his problem is the same problem he’s always had. He can’t sustain that razor’s edge without it biting him. His career has been filled with both blinding speed and unfulfilled potential. He’s going to be one of, if not the fastest guy each weekend. The question is and will remain about his ability to finish at the front, though.
Again, it’s a Triple Crown race win, but how big could that be for a guy like Jeremy Martin, who has not raced a full supercross season in a handful of years?
I’m sure it felt great! J-Mart has been a podium capable guy in this class for a decade. This is not new territory. I think he is a touch off the top end speed of guys like Hunter, Nate, and Jordon, but if he can land a few podiums and remain healthy as we transition to summer, I think that’s a success. A healthy J-Mart will be a force come late May.
What is going on with Michael Mosiman?
You tell me, sir! I have absolutely no idea why he’s not better. Last year felt like a breakout season but there has been zero continuation of that form in 2023. I’m at a loss on that one.
Which rider had you fist pumping for a strong result on your PulpMX Fantasy team?
I’ll go Benny Bloss here. Benny is stupid fast. He can turn in laps that have you questioning why he’s not on a factory team. The problem has been consistency, injuries, and time off the track. This weekend was one of his better looks, though, moving forward each race and qualifying eighth in the afternoon. I’m a Benny fan and that was a solid night (12th overall).