Monday 17th December: Tracks Closed.

Observations from Steve Matthes

USA Supercross 2015

maddix park mx

www.racerxonline.com By Steve Matthes

Round six of the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship took place in San Diego and represented the final round of the series for Southern California, which I think is a good thing. With three Anaheims and a San Diego, the baseball-stadium-style tracks (you also have to include Phoenix in here) and soil composition have mostly been the same. Time to switch it up and start heading east.

The change in the location will bring about the following changes: 

  1. The atmosphere in the pits will be more laid-back for the teams and riders.
  2. There won’t be as many “bros” in the pits, meaning I spend less time looking at someone wondering who pays them and how I could get paid to basically just sit and chill.
  3. The food lines at the trucks will be much shorter, so the Jimmy John’s at RCH won’t be gone as fast. This is good news for hungry “journalists.”

The big news in San Diego was the switch from Qualcomm Stadium (or Jack Murphy for you old-timers), now a football-only stadium, to Petco Park, a baseball field. My wife and I rescue Bassett hounds (“rescue” sounds pretty silly; we're not pulling them out of the Pacific Ocean or something like that), so going to a place called “Petco Park” is a good thing. I’m sure Weege hated it (Weege doesn’t like pets), but I immediately had a good vibe going in. [Editor’s note: I was thinking of protesting the name of this stadium – Weege.] 

The change reminded me of San Francisco’s SX years ago: a downtown baseball field, pits a little ways away, nice views, and a smaller field. I feared seeing a forty-two second lap time, so I was pleasantly surprised with a longer track that was very busy and kept riders on their toes. The track had only one triple (great to me) and a rhythm section that many riders couldn’t do (which allowed me to check off the “I want to see elite riders do elite things” box on my checklist). However, I didn’t like the long whoop section with a reprieve halfway through it. Long whoop sections are awesome, but long whoop sections with flat sections halfway through are not. They let the rider’s get too comfortable in the middle of the whoops. All in all, though, the track used the field’s space efficiently.

New venue for an iconic city. Photo: Simon Cudby
New venue for an iconic city. Photo: Simon Cudby

San Diego held its first supercross at Jack Murphy Stadium (later named Qualcomm) in 1980 and its last in 2014. The series skipped it in 1983 (although there was a CMC SX there with all the big names and16-year old Ron Lechien won), ‘84, and ’85, but it has basically been sort of an iconic stadium for the series. Let’s take our Jofas off and have a moment of silence for thirty-one years of supercross racing at “The Murph.”

Okay, we’re back. The verdict on the move is, I feel, still up in the air. The building itself is much better than Qualcomm Stadium, but the pit layout was a bit weird with the confined spaces the promoters had to use. The semi trucks were broken up and a bit scattered. Some people I spoke to never made it over to one part of the pits, and many people weren’t happy with the parking. (There was a lack of parking, and all spaces were pricey. I paid thirty dollars for a spot until 9 p.m. and then prayed my car would not be towed. And, even though a homeless man was using it for shelter, it was still there after the race.) For as many positives as the change had, there were definitely some negatives.

I found the switch a bit weird. Even though the old stadium was a bit run-down, people were still coming out, with last year’s attendance being 56,828. This year the count was 42, 017. I’m no expert in SX promotion, but having less fans there isn’t a good thing. So, why the switch? 

Maybe the Feld folks have had the same issues the San Diego Chargers have. The Chargers are desperate to get a new stadium, but they have stated a few times that working with Qualcomm management and the city have hampered efforts to get a new stadium.

Trey Canard won his second race in three weeks and is now tied with Ken Roczen for the most wins in the series (two). Canard caught and passed Roczen early in the main event and then stretched it out. Roczen caught Canard after the halfway point and stayed on him for most of the race (lappers hurt him a bit, but I’m sure they also affected Trey at some point, although I didn’t see it directly). When catching a rider, it’s easier to ride behind them, see their lines, let them deal with the lappers, and pick a spot to pass. Canard knew Roczen had caught him and had to get through lappers, ride a bit defensively (you could see him tighten up his turns), and still try to haul ass. In my opinion, it was way better to be Roczen in this situation.

But you know what? Canard never cracked. He held on for the win in a solid ride. Sometimes I watch Trey with one eye closed because he isn’t scared to pin it and worry about the consequences later. It’s one of the reasons he’s a great rider. It has bitten him before, but he has no fear. Compared to Roczen or Dungey’s robot-like style, Canard’s a throwback to another time when the Bob Hannahs ruled motocross. 

Every win is special. Photo: Simon Cudby
Every win is special. Photo: Simon Cudby

I don’t know if Kenny Roczen and Ryan Dungey were upset at each other or not, but it kind of looked like it in practice. Kenny came in pretty hot into Ryan after the finish. Although I don’t think there was any contact, there’s certain etiquette out there in practice among the riders and one of them is to not try to break legs in corners. Dungey and Roczen looked to be on fast laps at the same time. Roczen followed just mere feet behind Dungey, and both riders picked up the intensity. You just rarely see two of the fastest riders log hard qualifying laps together. Roczen made a mistake before the end of the lap and let Dungey get away a bit, but as soon as Ryan crossed the finish line he looked right back at Kenny. I’m not saying it was anything, but I’m saying it was something. 

There’s a lot going on behind the scenes with these two guys in a title fight. Roczen was on a KTM last year and racing with Dungey, and Ryan joined Ken with trainer Aldon Baker earlier this year. Then Roczen broke away from Baker a few weeks ago to while Dungey’s been getting closer and closer with Baker’s help. In the meantime, Dungey rents out Ricky Carmichael’s property for practice, and RC is co-owner of the team Roczen riders for. The web is woven thick with sub-plots here, people.

Cooper Webb is the man in the 250SX Class. (But the person working the social media at Feld Motosports may not think so. They put up a photo of Tyler Bowers and asked if he was the future of the 250 class, which was weird considering that Bowers has zero wins and is a little old to be the “future.”) Webb absolutely ate poop in practice (and of course his flipping bike hit just-sitting-there-minding-his-own-business Chris Alldredge, and he went flying. Alldredge had to be laying there thinking “Why me?”). Webb skipped the third session altogether. He was going for a jump that most 450 guys weren’t even doing yet, so that should give you an idea of his confidence. 

In his heat race, Webb rode a bit conservatively, but he got on it in the main. He collected his fourth win and widened his point lead to 30 with two races left. It could have been a total disaster, but instead it was nothing but sunshine and rainbows. I’m sure Webb woke up Sunday morning feeling terrible, though.

Cooper Webb has a clear hold on the series. Photo: Simon Cudby
Cooper Webb has a clear hold on the series. Photo: Simon Cudby

I spoke to people that think Webb might have done something to his arm, and that the reason he rode so much better in the main was because he was shot up with something to mask the pain (this is commonly done in supercross with the approval of the Asterisk Mobile Medical Unit). 

Let’s take a look at the results, shall we? 

250SX

1. 17 Cooper Webb; Newport, NC; Yamaha YZ250F – Now that this title is Webb’s, who thinks that his teammate Jeremy Martin can do the same thing in the East Region? Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha can’t be stopped! 

2. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 250 SX-F –The TLD guys picked McElrath up in the amateur ranks after he came out of nowhere to put in some good results. His pro career has seen good results, but there have also been injuries, stops, and starts. But this is why the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs team rules: They don’t toss the riders aside like other teams. They liked what they saw in McElrath and worked with him. It’s paying off with heat race wins and his first podium. He might’ve been able to win, but he told me after the race he was thinking about not blowing the good result he had in pursuit of a win.  

3. 911 Tyler Bowers; Corona, CA; Kawasaki KX 250F – I would have taken a $100,000 bet for Bowers to take the win after he took the lead. I don’t have that much money lying around, but it was easy money—of course Tyler was going to win! With a wounded Webb and Bowers’ speed, this thing was over. But then a funny thing happened: Both Webb and McElrath chewed Bowers up. It was so unlike Bowers that I still don’t know what happened. Glad I didn’t make that bet, though, because I would have ended up sleeping with the fishes.

4. 100 Joshua Hansen; Elbert, CO; Kawasaki KX 250F – All day long Hansen was great. Whatever he was doing, he needs to do that again when the series returns. He was much better than we’ve seen.

5. 31 Alex Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F – Seriously, Martin’s been a much improved rider this year. He used to struggle with whoop sections, but now he catches people there. Two years ago he was going nowhere fast on a team that was struggling to get to the races; now he’s back, on a solid team, and coming on strong.

6. 16 Zach Osborne; Chesterfield, SC; Husqvarna FC250 – Osborne holeshot (his starts have been on point all year) and then faded back to this spot. I’m sure his injured thumb had something to do with it because after the race he was happier than I would’ve thought he would be. 

7. 44 Zachary Bell; Cairo, GA; Husqvarna FC250 – At one point Bell was battling with A-Mart and Osborne in what has to be the best three-way battle where all the riders’ combined heights don’t equal the that of the tallest rider in the class (Bowers).   

8. 28 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; KTM 250 SX-F – Not a great night for Nelson. He started poorly and didn’t move up through the pack like he could have. 

9. 130 Thomas Hahn; Decatur, TX; Honda CRF250R

10. 66 Chris Alldredge; Powell Butte, OR; Kawasaki KX 250F – Like that Poison song, this is truly “Something to build on,” or is that “Something to believe in”? Either way, nice that Chris can go into the long break and not just have terrible results to stew on.

11. 71 Cole Martinez; Rimrock, AZ; Yamaha YZ250F – Another solid finish for Martinez. Did you know he lives with Cooper Webb? Now you do.   

12. 57 Jackson Richardson; Wildomar, CA; Honda CRF250R- Richardson sits right below Martinez in guys who are doing the most with the least. 

13. 86 Zackery Freeberg; Riverview, FL; Yamaha YZ250F – I wonder how “strikt” Feeberg’s landlord Adam Cianciarulo is with his ground rules? Get it?

14. 157 Aaron Plessinger; Hamilton, OH; Yamaha YZ250F – Plessinger was way back on the first lap and never made a comeback.

15. 38 Matthew Bisceglia; Weatherford, TX; Honda CRF250R – After being involved in a first-turn crash, Bisceglia ended up in the LCQ and won it. The number of times that sentence above has been typed is about thirty-four.  

16. 981 Austin Politelli; Menifee, CA; Yamaha YZ250F – Politelli was sick coming into the race. There aren’t many riders who need a break more than him.  

17. 148 Trevor Reis; Alpine, CA; Yamaha YZ250F – Trevor really stood out in the unseeded practice and was a shoo-in for the main.

18. 397 Brandon Scharer; Gardena, CA; Suzuki RM-Z250 – Brandon is the lone Suzuki 250F rider out there usually (this week there was one other guy out of the forty fastest qualifiers), and for that he deserves a medal. Suzuki’s 250F is a great bike, but with no pro team racing them and no real support for any privateers, it’s Scharer versus the world!

19. 143 Michael Horban; Grants Pass, OR; Kawasaki KX 250F

20. 217 Ryan Breece; Athol, ID; Yamaha YZ250F

21. 34 Malcolm Stewart; Haines City, FL; Honda CRF250R- Mookie’s gonna do what Mookie does. He can win, but he can also make mistakes that make you realize why he’ll probably never win a title. Still, he’s got that raw speed and “Stewie” talent that you can’t purchase or acquire anywhere.  

22. 32 Justin Hill; Yoncalla, OR; KTM 250 SX-F – Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Hill was blazing fast, won a heat, and couldn’t get a good finish. But, this week might have been the worst, as he got his foot ran over down the start straight and was on crutches after the race. This has not been a good start to the season for Hill despite the heat race wins.

Hansen put in his best performance of the season in San Diego. Photo: Simon Cudby
Hansen put in his best performance of the season in San Diego. Photo: Simon Cudby

450SX

1. 41 Trey Canard; Edmond, OK; Honda CRF450R- Canard rocked some sweet Fly Racing gear that may or may not have been made for his possible selection to last year’s Motocross des Nations team.  

2. 94 Ken Roczen; Clermont, FL; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Kenny Rocz was back on the box after two weeks off. He was pragmatic about his second place and knows that it’s the championship (and 2-point gain on Dungey) that matters.

3. 5 Ryan Dungey; Tallahassee, FL; KTM 450 SX-F – I wasn’t able to talk to Dungey about a possible “thing” with Roczen. Something tells me that even if there were a “thing” Ryan would’ve downplayed it. By the way, The Thing is one of my favorite movies ever.

4. 22 Chad Reed; Dade City, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F – Reed was stuck in a bit of no-man’s land after losing Dungey’s draft, and rode around by himself. It’s been an eventful year for Reed, with the black flag incident, his podium, and the incident with Josh Grant his weekend. 

5. 3 Eli Tomac; Cortez, CO; Honda CRF450R – Tomac rode terrific to come through the pack after a fall while trying to pass Reed. From the press box, it looked like a pretty aggressive pass that went wrong. Upon watching it on TV, it didn’t look nearly as bad; Tomac just lost the back end while cutting underneath #22. Sucks for him; he had the speed to win, but he can hang his hat on a great ride from way back. The team has been on Eli to be a bit more aggressive in the opening lap or two, so I’m sure that’s part of the reason he tried to strike back so quickly. 

6. 14 Cole Seely; Laguna Beach, CA; Honda CRF450R- I guess we’re all off the Jason Anderson bandwagon and onto Seely’s? Not really, but you get what I mean, right? Anderson got the rookie buzz early on in the series, but now he’s had a few lackluster finishes and Seely is coming on. Cole won another heat and jumped a triple into a rhythm section that I didn’t see anyone else do. It looks like his confidence is building every week. #ridgelinenation 

7. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Strong ride by Baggett in San Diego. I think he’s getting better almost every week. The work with Rick Johnson is obviously helping his already impressive speed and fitness. He was up to fifth at one point before crashing back. All of this came after taking the last spot out of the LCQ. 

8. 29 Andrew Short; Smithville, TX; KTM 450 SX-F – Short’s starts are still there, but he admitted that he hasn’t been the same since his crash at A2. I was surprised that guys actually caught and passed him.

9. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Tickle missed one race with an injury and crashed out on the first lap two races ago. He wasn’t stoked on his ride after the race, but I think he’s selling himself short here after coming from the back.  

10. 21 Jason Anderson; Edgewood, NM; Husqvarna FC450 – Anderson and his untucked jersey got us excited at A1, but has since had some less-than stellar rides. He’s a solid sixth in points, though. He told me on track walk that he didn’t read this column last week, and I told him that was good because last week wasn’t that good for him.   

11. 24 Brett Metcalfe; Lake Elsinore, CA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – Metty’s last supercross this year (he’s racing in Canada) and he goes out with his best finish. He probably didn’t get the results he wanted to, but he’s been off supercross for two years and the field is deep this year. He’ll always have that semi race win at Anaheim 1 right? 

12. 33 Joshua Grant; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Grant got punted off the track by his team owner, but rebounded to win the LCQ and then give his team the best finish he’s had all year. Maybe he needs more track time every week? 

13. 800 Mike Alessi; Hilliard, FL; Suzuki RM-Z450 – I went on a rant on the Racer X podcast about how the hatred for Mike on social media makes me sad and mad. Yes, I believe his father has hurt his career and Mike should be racing the USA outdoor nationals (full disclosure of course in that Racer X’s parent company, MX Sports, runs the nationals) and he’s done some dumb stuff on the track over the years, but Mike’s a nice guy, he’s good with his fans, and he works hard. No one’s perfect. Anyways, Mike listened and thanked me on track walk. 

14. 46 Phillip Nicoletti; Bethel, NY; Yamaha YZ450F – I visited with Filthy after practice to tell him that his buddy Alex Martin was one second faster than him on the 250F. He didn’t appreciate this one bit. Obviously my “pep talk” worked because Filthy rode amazingly in the heat race and made it right into the main.

15. 12 Jacob Weimer; Wildomar, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Weimer had a bad night; he was rear-ended and his bike stalled. Still, I liked his Seven camo set-up and I’m happy to report that we are once again in goggle “talks” for 2015. 

16. 11 Kyle Chisholm; Valrico, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F – Getting into mains isn’t easy for privateers, but Chisholm is making it happen. I think Chisholm and Jimmy Albertson are riding well enough to be guaranteed picks for the main. 

17. 27 Nicholas Wey; Dewitt, MI; Kawasaki KX 450F – Wey’s had a rough start to the series, but he made his second main event of the year from the LCQ. He still has sweet style after all these years. 

18. 53 Jimmy Albertson; Shawnee, OK; Yamaha YZ450F – After everyone was long gone from the pits I was walking out with Weege and my brother when we saw a guy (we thought it was another homeless person) sitting by himself on a cooler in the middle of the parking lot—it was Top Jimmy. He said it wasn’t even his cooler. This is how he celebrates main events I guess.   

19. 58 Killian Rusk; Temecula, CA; Yamaha YZ450F – Rusk won the semi in a photo-finish battle with Tickle, which was probably cool for him. 

20. 18 Davi Millsaps; Murrieta, CA; Kawasaki KX 450F – Millsaps really likes giving me crap when I’m in the Kawi truck, and I get it; I dish it out (I’ve definitely dished it out on the #18 over the years), so I have to take it. I think Davi should stay away from reading about himself on the Internet from us “experts” because I think it may affect him in some manner. Anyway, he was much better this weekend after fighting through an illness of some sort, but he crashed a couple of times in the main. This finish doesn’t reflect the progress he made, and I think it will just get better from here. 

21. 199 Kyle Partridge; Canyon Lake, CA; Honda CRF450R- Partridge needs to ride in the main events like he rides to get into the main events. Not sure what happened in this main, but he looked to just cruise around. 

22. 69 Ronnie Stewart; Easton, PA; Suzuki RM-Z450 – The Candy Man makes his first main event of the year! He’s working with Sebastian Tortelli. In the first five rounds, he had the starts but couldn’t seal the deal. In San Diego, he did.

The "thing" between Roczen and Dungey didn't make it into the main. Photo: Simon Cudby
The "thing" between Roczen and Dungey didn't make it into the main. Photo: Simon Cudby

Some other news and notes:

- The CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha team dropped Ben Lamay and picked up Josh Hill for the rest of the season. Somehow, after qualifying tenth, Hill didn’t make the main. He’s tied with Lamay for two main events this year. I think any person not related to Lamay would say that Hill is a better rider, but right now he’s not showing it. More support couldn’t even get him into the main event. 

-Fast Freddie Noren is done with supercross and starting his testing with Honda for the outdoor nationals. If you think it is a bit early, you’re not alone. Things have changed over at Honda these days and it appears they’re very tired of not winning any titles. Anyway, you have to love Noren; there’s no lack of trying in his riding. There was a triple-triple-triple before the finish that only the elite guys were doing. Noren came around in practice, and as he was in the air for the first triple, I said “I can’t believe Noren is going…” As I got that out of my mouth Freddie over-jumped the first three, got whisky throttle, and separated from his bike rather quickly. It was ugly. You’ve got to know your lane! 

-We’ve got mechanics wearing boots to the starting line thinking they can pack the dirt hard enough that a sixty-horsepower 450 won’t break through. We’ve got tire warmers like it’s Laguna Seca, so why not fork oil warmers? Yes, I saw them this weekend on Eli Tomac’s bike. I’m so glad I’m not a mechanic anymore. 

Thanks for reading. I love you guys. No, seriously, I love you guys, even the haters. Email me at [email protected] if you want to chat about San Diego or anything else.

 
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