Staff Insights – Anaheim 1 and Phoenix
As usual, the hype around Anaheim 1 was big; new bikes, teams, big changes with a few top stars changing teams and more than a few, highly touted rookies making their debut in the premier class.
Sticking with a conservative track design for Anaheim 1, the track was definitely the one thing lacking excitement and widely regarded as simple, fast and only separated the top 20 qualifing riders by two seconds. The track caused the racing, in the mains to be uneventful and anti-climactic, but the racing during the qualifying races had their share of excitement.
Fast forward to week two at Phoenix – the track was definitely more technical, with more passing opportunities and more random obstacles to break up the flow, allowing more chances for mistakes as well as better competition.
There’s lots to talk about after the first two rounds, so let’s go over some points below.
– Ken Roczen holeshot the main at Anaheim 1 and checked out. He looked fast and looked like he was on cruise control. He will be tough this season. At Phoenix, Roczen led for the first half of the race before being passed by Eli Tomac. The question now becomes; how much has Tomac just got inside of Ken Roczens head? After all, if there has been one rider that has successfully denied Ken Roczen a few championships, it’s been Eli Tomac.
– Anaheim 1, Eli Tomac made a mental mistake, causing him to crash and finish back in the pack. His off season races showed what he’s capable of by throughouly whooopin sum a$$! But now he is behind and with the top guys obviously on point, it may prove difficult for him to regain those points. At round 2, Eli softened the blow of his poor finish at A1 by hounding and passing Ken Roczen for his firt 450 SX class main event win, gaining back maximum championship points and well as taking home the best rewards of all – belief and confidence.
– The hard charging Trey Canard rode great (as expected) at round 1, despite a bad start. He showed the speed that came to fruition at both the end of the nationals and during the MonsterCup. Trey had an even worse start at Phoenix, completing lap one in 20th, his drive to the front was stopped as he ended the night in 8th. He will be okay and I am sure he gained more fans with the profile that was shown on him during the telecast. If you can’t root for that guy, who can you root for?
– Ryan Dungey showed his usual conservative side, seemingly just riding to finish top five and survive. He usually does well in Phoenix. However, Phoenix proved to be prophetic, as Dungey rode to a third place, looking conservative as usual. On the podium, he had something for the naysayers of his riding style, saying “I get a lot of crap for not making passes or blowing guys off the track – I’d like to see them get out here, these guys are going fast”. Show the fire, Dunge!!!!!
– Jason Anderson, on his new Husqvarna, rode into second and held his gap to first place Roczen the entire race at the opening round. Round 2 proved to be some real work for Anderson. After a crash in the heat race and a poor start in the main rounding lap one in 16th, he was able to climb to 6th. He looked strong, though, and is a pleasant surprise! This kid is the real deal and totally unaware he should be anywhere at the end of the night except on the box.
– Team JGR has had a good showing during the first two rounds, but not from the guy you would expect, Barcia. Weston Peick has rode well, finished a solid 7th at A1 and really put the hammer down at Phoenix, leading Ryan Dungey for about three quarters of the race while fighting for the final podium spot. He said during post race interviews that he twisted his ankle and had to back off. He is a breath of fresh air and his no quit attitude is a throwback to guys like Bob Hannah and Mike LaRocco. According to www.Racerxonline.com however, Peick announced on Instagram today that he is getting a screw put in tomorrow, but hopes to be ready for the weekend.
– Cooper Webb had a sub-par finish according to his own expectations at A1, ending up 7th, getting tangled with Mookie Stewart in an early race crash. He struggled to get back to the top ten, as the track was fast and one-lined. His post race interview showed his frustration and at Phoenix, he came out gunning for the win. He passed Mookie Stewart for the lead and checked out, winning easily. It was Cooper’s first Supercross win and he showed that he’s a favorite for the title.
– As mentioned above, Mookie was nervous Nellie and was on the ground in a lot during Anaheim 1, finishing last in the main. He showed a massive turnaround at Phoenix, leading the main and ending up finishing 2nd, his best career finish. He looked fast and composed, which is what he needed to work on to make his speed stick. Good on Mookie!
– Anaheim 1 saw Tyler Bowers make a statement by taking out Zach Osborne in their 250 heat. Tyler said that Zach had been bumping him and since he’s new and here to prove himself, he had to show he won’t be pushed around. He finished third in the 250 main. At Phoenix, Bowers finished top five again, and proved he belongs. As an aside, Steve Matthes, on his post-race interview Pulpcast, interviewed Mitch Payton, owner and manager of the Pro Circuit team that Bowers rides for. Steve asked him about the Bowers/Osborne incident and Mitch didn’t pull punches, saying that Zach is known for his aggressive riding style and had it coming. He also pointed out that, in his opinion, the broken thumb was NOT caused by the incident with Bowers, but rather during another crash, later in the qualifier. He also was not happy with FIM official John Gallagher coming over to Bowers after the race to reprimand him, stating that although he respects Gallagher, the official did not have the proper information to form an opinion.
– Zach Osborne suffered a broken thumb in his tangle with Bowers at A1, but railed to victory in the LCQ and finished a nice second in the 250 main. He had a tough ride and showed that he’s hungry and here to stay. Phoenix proved to be a bit more challenging, as Zach soldiered on to a solid 7th in the main at round 2.
– Jessy Nelson, on his new TLD KTM, got the start and checked out on his way to winning the 250 main. He trains at the Baker’s Factory with Roczen, Dungey and Anderson, so it stands to reason that he would finish well. The Arizona round showed that Nelson is no fluke, as he finished third after a solid ride.
– Four out of the six podium spots were taken by riders who train with Aldon Baker at Anaheim 1. If that’s not proof that he’s the best trainer in the business, I don’t know what is. Not to mention, he trained Villopoto, Carmichael and James Stewart during their championship runs. Phoenix proved impressive in the respect as well, as THREE of the six podium spots were filled by Aldon’s guys. He truly is an amazing trainer with really no peer at this time in motocross history.
– During post race Anaheim 1 interviews conducted by Transworld Motocross Magazine, Webb, Barcia and Bowers all had choice words for their opponents. Their choice to keep it real and speak candidly is something that motocross severely needs and it was good to see that. Personalities help all sports, because you can’t market anyone without an antagonist.