Alongside the 450 class, the 250 SX West Region will be lining up this Saturday at Anaheim to kick off their Monster Energy West Coast Supercross Series. With Cooper Webb and Malcolm Stewart moving up to the 450 Class, we will be seeing two new 250 Supercross Champions in 2017. I think this region has the possibility of having multiple winners, so I just don’t see anybody dominating this series. Predicting the outcome of the championship is a challenging task; there really seems to be 4 or 5 guys that could win this title. Nonetheless, here’s a list I’ve created ranking the top 8 riders heading into Anaheim 1 this Saturday. I have also predicted the amount of race wins each rider will get (excluding Las Vegas, due to the uncertainty of the format in 2017).
Aaron Plessinger (Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha)
Aaron will definitely be one of the fastest riders out there any given night. He broke through with his first career win at Indianapolis last year and got a top 5 every night except for a 12th at Toronto. He has some laps were he is unbelievably the fastest on the track and that is usually with him coming from behind. Starts sometimes are an issue with Aaron, and we will see if he has figured that out during the off-season. I believe he has all the tools, but just needs to put them to good use. If he does that, he is the guy to beat in this championship. I see him getting 3 wins and a championship in 2017.
Austin Forkner (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
This 18-year-old supercross rookie should turn heads this year with blistering fast speed. I certainly see him being the fastest on many nights, but he is a rookie in supercross. I will have to say that consistency will be his downfall this year and we might see Forkner crash more than once. There is so much hype on this kid and I just don’t see him putting it all together to win the championship in his rookie year. I predict 3 wins with the possibility of dominating from start to finish, but in the end he loses out to Plessinger due to to lack of consistency. But boy am I excited to watch this kid ride.
Jeremy Martin (Geico Honda)
Jeremy Martin is most likely moving up to the 450’s next season so this is his last chance to get that 250 Supercross Championship under his belt. With two MX Championships, he knows how to win and get it done. You would think with half the field to face, certainly Jeremy would have won a SX championship by now. Unfortunately for him, it seems that supercross speed does not come as easy to him as Motocross. Maybe the switch to Geico Honda will be the change he needed, or maybe he is merely good at Supercross, not great. 2017 should be an interesting year for Martin and I see him finishing with just 1 win and lots of podiums, but one or two races outside the top 5 or even the top 10.
Justin Hill (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
Hill returns to Mitch Payton and Pro Circuit for a second chance on this elite team. Many do not get second opportunities like this so Hill must make the most of it. Hill has the capability to win a lot of races; that is if he can stay on two wheels and not get hurt. Hill is a tough guy to predict because he has had so many up and down weekends. When I watch him race supercross, I find myself exclaiming, “if only he could put it all together!” Well, maybe this return to Pro Circuit will allow Justin to finally reach his potential and be a serious title threat this year. Unfortunately I see Hill only getting 1 win, but I predict him to be up front lots.
Martin Davalos (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
This will be Marty’s 12th year in the 250 class. He returns to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna where he had some serious speed and won 2 races last year; However, some visa issues caused him to miss Toronto and that was pretty much it for his championship hopes. Could you imagine if the 30-year-old veteran won this whole thing against kids like Forkner and Plessinger?! Well, I think this field might be too stacked for Davalos to capture another win, but expect him to be up front battling in many races. Oh yeah, also expect some crashes and bad results.
Mitchell Oldenburg (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
Ranking in at 6th I have Mitchell Oldenburg. After getting his first chance at factory level equipment, Oldenburg put in some good results in 2016. He had 4 top 5s and showed some good consistency with staying on two wheels more often than in years past. I just have a feeling that this guy will impress a lot of people this year, as I don’t think he has reached his full potential quite yet. I expect Oldenburg to take the next step this year and gather his first SX podium
Tyler Bowers (51Fifty Energy Drink Yamaha)
Tyler Bowers did not have a good 2016 in his standards. He was supposed to be a guy that was contending for wins on a consistent basis; however, he only had one top 5 (a 4th in Detroit) and he seemed to be fighting with his fitness the whole year. Those results unfortunately left Bowers without a great factory ride and he signed with 51Fifty Yamaha. I do think this year will be better for Bowers and we will see him in the top 5 more often, however with the guys listed above him and the team he is on I just don’t see him getting back to that level he was at in 2015.
Shane McElrath (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
When I think of Shane’s SX season last year I think of disappointment. However, when you look at the results, he got five top 5’s and two podiums and those are pretty decent results for him. I would say that TLD is expecting more from him as he is most likely their top guy on the team. I just don’t see him competing for wins this year; as you can see, he’s got some tough competition. With that all said, If there was to be a dark horse in this series, I would give that spot to Shane Mcelrath.
Photo from Racer X Online