Six rounds down and we saw another winner in the 450SX Class of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, with Ken Roczen becoming the fifth different winner so far in 2024. The 250SX West Region also provided some wild action on the night. We fired off questions to former pro Jason Thomas, who was trackside reporting for NBC.
The soil in Glendale is traditionally a little marbly and loose. What was it like that this year, and how did that affect the racing?
It was great for most of the day this year but got hard and slippery in the main events. They did a great job of getting moisture into the dirt (rain leading up to the race helped) but inevitably the dry, desert dynamic set in. Those close calls that Jett Lawrence had in the main event (casing the triple) were due to wheelspin exiting the prior corner. It took all day and night to get there but the usual dirt finally arrived.
The rhythm lanes were very long in Glendale. Were the guys able to get creative with their lines as a result or did one main combo develop?
The rhythm section after the start had two main options but both involved tripling through. The optimal line kept riders a little lower which allowed for a higher overall speed. The difference was fairly marginal, though. The only real challenge was that seat bounce triple that caught Nate Thrasher in the heat race. Other than that, it was not as difficult as it appeared.
The rhythm section that Jordon Smith and Levi Kitchen had their altercation in was a little more technical, but simply because the jumps were very steep. The sharpness and steepness of the jumps forced riders to be very precise and upped the ante on mistakes.
Early in the 250SX main the battle for the lead between Jordon Smith, RJ Hampshire, and Levi Kitchen was tremendous. When there are three guys going for the lead like that is it easy to get too hyped up and get tight or is it business as usual for these guys?
As I was watching, I was wondering who would be able to keep their composure and avoid overriding the situation. There is so much adrenaline involved that oftentimes caution is the better part of valor. The energy and intensity feeds off itself and riders can push each other way past the limit. That leads to mistakes, and we saw that with both Jordon Smith and Aaron Plessinger in the main events.
Take us through Smith’s second crash, when he got into the back of Kitchen. How does that chain of events get triggered?
The catalyst was the rider down in the rhythm section that brought out the yellow flag and medic light. Jordon apparently didn’t see it and never checked up as they approached that triple-on. Levi backed it down as he was forced to by the rules and that left Jordon with nowhere to go. It’s hard to know exactly what Jordon could or couldn’t see from his point of view but I would bet he just had tunnel vision in the moment. The lights were on both sides of the track so I would guess he had line of sight and simply missed it. He expected Levi to triple and accelerated accordingly. By the time he realized Levi didn’t, it was too late.
Jo Shimoda finally bagged the podium finish that’s been evading him all season. Is that a welcome achievement or is he gunning solely for wins after at this point after a rocky start to the season?
I think he will take any sort of success at this point. Sure, wins are the ultimate goal but taking home a trophy is a far better feeling than not. He was hired to be a championship contender in this series, plain and simple. That may be lost now but a string of podiums with a win or two sprinkled in would ease the suffering, anyway.
In the 450SX LCQ, Cade Clason was clearly faster than Justin Starling but pushed the issue around the outside with time still remaining and crashed. Was he right in being aggressive there or should he have waited to make a move?
I think the aggression was fine, but the rest of the race was so perplexing. On one hand, I feel if Justin knew he had nothing left, don’t clean out Clason just because. If he thought he could hang in there, though, I understand the move. Passing anyone on the outside in the LCQ is asking for risk. With how quickly Starling was moving backward, Clason could have likely checked up there and made a move in any other section without opening the door.
What’d you think of the move Cooper Webb put on Jett Lawrence early in the 450SX main?
I didn’t think there was much to it. Jett went to the outside and that line gets squeezed by the main line as they exit the sand. Webb didn’t really do anything out of line, there. All he had to do was lean left a little to force Jett to check up. Jett tried to force a pass as they were both buried in the pack and desperate to make moves early. Jett will learn where moves are possible and where they aren’t when dealing with 450 contenders. If that was a 250 mid-pack rider, he likely gets by. Passing Cooper Webb there is a different dynamic. Webb knew he had the leverage and preferred line. It was a losing proposition to try to force it.
Webb later bumped Vince Friese off the track on his way by. Was that an attempt to make sure Friese, who has a reputation for being dirty, didn’t come back and punt Webb in the next turn?
Webb was likely just frustrated that Friese was in the way. Friese is such a great starter that he consistently finds himself in front of riders trying to win the race. They don’t have time for his charade and given the chance, will push him out of the way. There is always the risk of retaliation with Friese, but Webb is as skilled as they come in that game. I don’t believe most of the 450 riders care for Friese’s tactics and won’t waste time in dismissing him.
Ken Roczen was phenomenal in Glendale. What was it about this track that complimented his skillset?
Kenny is so good when he is “on.” If he believes in himself and he’s feeling fit, he can beat anyone. If he’s feeling sick or a bit worn down, he isn’t the same rider. He’s one of the most talented riders to ever swing a leg over a motorcycle. When things are clicking and he gets out front, godspeed to anyone trying to derail that. He has the experience to manage a lead and has won over 20 main events so not much will surprise him. After the heat race, I knew that a holeshot would make him a win very likely.
Same question as above, just with Hunter Lawrence, who recorded his best finish on a 450 by far in Glendale.
Hunter has needed to gain some confidence. He’s been shuffled back in the 450 class and when looking at the field, I can understand why. It’s a who’s who of former 250 champs, as is Hunter. Many assumed he would just rocket to the front of the field but when you look at the names, why would that be assumed? I think he’s capable of racing with many of the elite, but I also think he will need to earn his stripes amongst that field.
Break down Jett’s pass on Eli Tomac. Was Jett waiting for a specific spot to make a move, or did the opportunity simply present itself? Tomac didn’t seem like he resisted too much.
I believe Tomac knew he didn’t have the pace to do anything with Jett, so he did the prudent thing. I tried to make this argument with Jason Anderson at San Diego but that wasn’t received well. As a racer, if you’re sure that you can’t keep someone behind you, there’s not much point in battling to the death to avoid the inevitable. Your overall pace just slows and makes you more vulnerable to the riders behind you. Also, you may learn the lines of the rider passing you which will help you lower your lap times and make a fight back forward. I understand the “fighting for position” thing but if it’s a net negative of blocking and defensive riding, what’s the point?