Roll on, San Diego! After torrential rains ruined an otherwise beautiful Oracle Park, we head south for our second visit to Snapdragon Stadium. After a handful of years in Petco Park, the move back to the former location of Qualcomm Stadium has been a popular one. Better parking, easier freeway access, and the ability to tailgate for the race are a few of the Snapdragon upsides. Some enjoyed the downtown location and walking access to Gas Lamp District hotels but I will say that this feels like the right place for Monster Energy AMA Supercross. We will still need to monitor the weather. With rain lurking on Saturday’s forecast, the possibility of back-to-back mud races has everyone shuddering. Let’s hope for the best, eh?
The start in San Diego cuts diagonally across the length of the stadium. A long start doesn’t necessarily mean more dangerous, even if the speeds are higher. Giving riders room to separate can help avoid contact and the chaos created by locking handlebars. I actually always preferred the longer, faster starts compared to the shorter ones.
The first rhythm section’s approach will be determined by the first jump. If riders go outside, they can roll over it without disruption but if they decide to stick inside, the option to double over the next tabletop exists. I like the inside because riders can protect their line and seat bounce out of the corner, then go 3-3 and out of the section. It’s efficiency defined. The outside line can still end up with the 3-3 but they will have to scrub the little tabletop variation and get back down to get the “pop” needed for the coming triple. That inside-seat-bounce option automatically creates the “pop” because of the fork compression upon landing the initial double. It’s a small thing but can make step-up-triples much easier to clear.
A netted bowl berm greets riders after the first rhythm and sends riders down the stadium sideline. There are four jumps leading to the only set of whoops on this layout. Riders will either triple or go 2-2 here but the difference will be minimal in both scenarios. The key to this section will be entering these whoops with speed. Those that are willing to accelerate from the jumps and hit the whoops aggressively will benefit. Those lacking the confidence to really charge into these will lose a lot of time here. Anytime there is an opportunity to enter whoops with lots of momentum, riders like Malcolm Stewart, Chase Sexton, Jett Lawrence (or insert the best whoops rider you can think of) will take advantage.
A 90 degree left sends riders along the far stadium wall and a rhythm section. There are a couple of ways to execute here but I think the most likely is doubling from the inside of the corner and then doing the obvious tabletop to single and then tripling into the corner (or 2-1 and sticking to the inside).
Another 90 left brings riders back down the sideline and immediately into a standard supercross triple. A very basic double follows that (although bigger than usual) and brings riders diagonally across the start straight and Mechanics’ Area. A bowl berm slingshots riders back the way they came and headed towards a 3’-5’-3’ triple and the finish line. This triple could be tricky as it will force riders to “set up” a bit before it. Some riders will charge directly at it and opt for the 2-1 option. I don’t think either choice will determine the race outcome but it’s something to watch.
A bowl berm meets the landing of the finish line and sets up for a triple on the exit. The 250’s may have a hard time clearing this triple and have to opt for a double and then jump to flat-land as the track yet again cross the start straight.
The final bowl berm of the lap is next and leads to a basic small step up jump (feels like a “what do we do here?” type obstacle needed to extend the layout).
Riders then funnel into the first corner (same as the start) and onto lap two.
Chase Sexton won his first main event aboard his Red Bull/KTM and regained the red plate to boot. He needs to prove himself in dry conditions but getting the points lead was a great development in any scenario.
Eli Tomac bounced back with a podium and rocketed back into third place in overall points.
Aaron Plessinger has gone 4-5 in two races and sits tied with Tomac for that third spot in points. He was also the fastest qualifier in San Fran, a first for him.
Ken Roczen shoulda woulda coulda had a great night at A1 but made good on that promise in San Fran. He looks like the Kenny of old and I’m here for it.
Jorge Prado won his heat race and gave everyone a smile along the way. It’s not often we see true joy from this level of rider but it was evident after that qualifier.
Jordon Smith’s 2-1 finishes thus far have given him the points lead and could signal a return to the days where he was considered one of the sport’s brightest young stars.
Garrett Marchbanks went full berserk mode on the final few laps of San Fran and secured a podium for his trouble. It was bittersweet to see him pass his teammate, Phil Nicoletti, for the honors but his effort was unmistakable.
Justin Cooper missed out on the main event with a crash in the LCQ as he was fighting for the transfer spot.
Jo Shimoda’s factory Honda HRC CRF250R signaled “no mas” on the first lap of the 250 main event.
Max Vohland suffered a similar fate to Shimoda early in the main event as his KX250 went kaput just past the sand section.
In celebration of 50 years of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, RJ Hampshire speaks during opening ceremonies about his performance in the 250 class that inaugural night half a century ago.
Lucas Mirtl finalizes negotiations to fully enclose all open air stadiums across the USA.
After an AMA penalty in San Francisco left him out of the main event, Vince Friese and his inner circle convene to conjure up a way to keep the controversy going in San Diego.
With Frenchman Anthony Bourdon running a strong sixth in points, I begin cooking up all sorts of Anthony Bourdain references (rest in peace).