We are almost at Anaheim 1 to kick off the 2017 season of Monster Energy Supercross! I have put together a pre-season list ranking the top 15 riders in the 450 class. This 450 field is absolutely stacked which should result in some great racing. I believe that any of the top 9 riders on my list theoretically have a shot at the championship as of right now. More realistically, I see it coming down to the top 2 or 3. Note that I chose not to put Wilson, the Stewarts, or Weimer on this list, due to the unpredictability of their rides this year.
Ryan Dungey (Red Bull KTM)
No surprise here. There are rumors of Dungey ending his career after 2017. Whether or not this is true, it is hard to argue against Dungey being the man to beat in a 17 round championship. If this is his last year, why not go out with 3 in a row? I have him ahead of Roczen because in 17 races, all Dungey needs is one crash out like at Monster Cup for him to runaway with it. I think this year will be his toughest year yet, but by the end of the season I see Dungey as a 4-time champion with 6 race wins this year.
Ken Roczen (Honda HRC)
Roczen definitely deserves this number 2 spot on my pre rankings. With 5 wins last year, Ken will be Dungey’s biggest competition every weekend. On RCH Suzuki, Ken Roczen really came alive near the end of the supercross season. At the last 6 rounds Roczen went 2-2-2-1-1 before crashing out in Vegas. How will the switch to HRC Honda treat Roczen? I believe this will be Roczen’s best year to date. The 2017 Honda has received great reviews and this could be what Ken needs. I predict 6 race wins and to be in the championship point fight right until Vegas. However I see him falling just short due to having 1 or two races outside the top 5.
Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
This is Eli’s 2nd year on Monster Energy Kawasaki. Last year he seemed frustrated with the bike and himself and just could not put it all together to string together the results he wanted. The only race Eli won was the unique Daytona and he did not get a stadium win in 2016. For a guy who is paid to win races and championships, he must perform this year or we will most likely see Tomac and Kawi part ways at the end of 2017. I think Eli will take a step up from last year and we will see flashes of brilliance, however can he put in a strong enough effort for 17 weekends to beat Dungey or Roczen? I just don’t see it happening in Supercross. I predict 2 race wins in 2017 and more consistent top 3s.
Jason Anderson (Rockstar Husqvarna)
El Hombre was the man on fire at A1 last year as he flew to a come from behind first career win. Unfortunately that was the peak of his 2016 season. He did officially get another victory at Detroit because of Dungey jumping on a Red Cross flag and getting docked 4 positions. Jason struggled big time with starts last year and almost always found himself way outside the top 5 to start the race. That simply cannot happen in this class. If he wants to be a championship contender we need to see 2016 A1 speed and great starts every week and frankly I do not see that happening. This class is just too stacked. I predict 2017 to be another good year, just not great and gathering 1 race win.
Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM)
As we drop into the 5th spot on my pre rankings list, we start to see a bunch of riders that are capable of podiums and race wins, but just aren’t quite there yet to be a solid championship threat. Marvin Musquin fits that perfectly as he enters his sophomore season in the 450 class. Marvin has won a 250 championship, he trains with Aldon Baker alongside Anderson and Dungey and he came within half a lap of winning a race last year. Oh yeah, he is also crazy smooth and fast. The Frenchman definitely can win races and I do believe that he will get his first win in 2017. But just like many others I only see him getting one win and not being consistently up front to battle for a championship.
Cole Seely (Honda HRC)
HRC Honda’s second rider is the 26-year-old Cole Seely who enters his 3rd season in the 450 class. 2016 was a good year for Cole with 4 podiums, however it was a slight step back than 2015 season (5 podiums, 1 win). Cole is highly skilled in supercross and I do believe he has all the right tools to do some serious damage. I mean win championships type of damage. Will that happen in 2017 with all these other talented riders? Probably not, but I think in 2017 he will get back to the top step of the podium with one win.
Chad Reed (Monster Energy Yamaha)
The Aussie will be turning 35 this year and in this sport, to still be racing and competitive is incredible. Chad was not able to get a win last year but if he does in 2017, it will make him the oldest winner in supercross surpassing Mike Larrocco who won at 33. I hope him all the luck, but I do not see him getting that win in 2017. However, you just can’t count this guy out! Look for Reedy to have podium speed for 3-5 races this year.
Cooper Webb (Monster Energy Yamaha)
Cooper Webb has been the most talked about 450 rookie in may years. He is the real deal and I certainly see him winning many races and championships in the future years. I will boldly claim that Webb will not be a frontrunner this year like many have him pegged to be. He simply does not have the starts yet to win in the 450 class. If Webb starts outside of the top 5 every week he just can’t reel in guys like Dungey, Tomac and Roczen. This rookie season on the 450 will be about staying healthy and learning. Will we see flashes of the 250 rider that dominated? Yes, but that is all, just flashes. Give this kid 1 or 2 years to reach his potential.
Trey Canard (Red Bull KTM)
Trey Canard is the biggest question mark heading into this season. He has switched to Red Bull KTM after his whole career on Honda. He could come out and win A1 and be a championship threat if he stays healthy or he could have another non-podium season and be a solid 4-10 placed rider. If the latter happens I see him calling it quits after this season.
Justin Barcia (JGR Suzuki)
Barcia has had injuries and sub par results in supercross ever since his 2 win rookie season. He stays with JGR, but switches to Suzuki for the 2017 season. Will the change bring back the old Bam Bam? We should know by the first few rounds on 2017. Most likely Barcia will be a solid top 10 guy with top 5 or top 3 speed on some nights. (note: Barcia will miss at least first few rounds with a wrist injury)
Blake Baggett (Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM)
Running in at 11 is Blake Baggett in his 3rd year on the 450s. He surprised everybody in 2015 with multiple top 5s, but momentum came to a crashing halt with an injury prone 2016. If he says healthy expect a big bounce back for Blake and to be a consistent top 10 rider. He is on a new bike this year signing with Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM. We will see if this hampers his results in the early stages of 2017. Rumors are running that Baggett is absolutely flying at the test tracks.
Justin Brayton (Smartop/Motoconcepts)
Justin Brayton is one of the older riders in our sport at age 32. Brayton will be in the top 10 for most nights, but he is the type of rider that can have a crazy good night if it all goes his way. Don’t be surprised to see Brayton podium one of these races and actually battle with the top guys.
Davi Millsaps (Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM)
It is crazy to have Davi Millsaps at the 13th spot in my pre season rankings, but that is just how deep this class is getting. He enters his 2nd year on the KTM team now known as Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM team. This veteran could land top 5s quite easily this year despite being this low on the list. Did I say this class was stacked yet?
Justin Bogle (RCH/Yoshimura Suzuki)
Bogle also is transitioning on to a new bike in 2017 (signed with RCH Suzuki). In his rookie season he showed some great starts and got a season high 4th at St. Louis. As sophomore seasons are usually not as great as the rookie season, I could see Bogle having similar results as 2016 but not better. I just don’t see him breaking the top 5 in this talented field.
Weston Peick (JGR Suzuki)
Rounding off my top 15 list is everybody’s favorite privateer turned factory rider Weston Peick! How can you not love this beast of a rider (tune to 2016 A1 to see this beast I’m talking about). Missing the first two rounds last year hurt Weston and he had his first step back in his career. Lucky for him he re-signed with JGR and returns to the Suzuki where he has a chance to redeem himself. I predict 2017 to not be much of a change in Weston’s results. Look for Weston to slide in that 6-12 range with a few DNFs.