Well the west region takes a long break and this gives a chance for the 250 east region to kick it off this Saturday at Minneapolis. It will be nice to see a fresh set of riders out on the track to battle it out. I find this group of riders very unique and interesting and I see a lot of question marks when looking at the list of riders. Realistically I see 4 riders competing for this title at the moment. Savatgy, Craig, Osborne and Cianciarulo. Now of course this will change many times throughout the next couple of weeks. Will we see top riders struggle like Martin? Will we see a dark horse come up and take charge like McElrath? Only time will tell. Here are my pre-season 250 east rankings.
Joey Savatgy (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
In my opinion he is the clear favourite to win the title. I mean when you compare his track record to everybody else on this list he is miles ahead of everybody. Last year he found that winning level and won 3 races and came within 1 single point of winning the whole thing. Not only that, but he continued his success into the start of outdoors. It just makes sense for him to win this championship now that he knows what needs to be done. I’m not saying that he wins every race, because there are a lot of fast riders in this class, I mean A LOT. I just don’t see how anybody could not pick him as the title favourite at this moment. He is going to win many races, let me say 4 (not counting the shootout) and win the East Region and then glide into the 450s for next year.
Christian Craig (Geico Honda)
If you minus Webb, Craig and Savatgy were the top 2 guys last year in the west. They are now definitely the top 2 riders heading into Minneapolis. Now of course this is all pre-season talk and this could very well change by the end of Saturday night, but I see Craig as Savatgy’s biggest contender every week. Christian Craig has a wayyy different path to success then Savatgy. Savatgy is your typical fast young rider that struggles the first year or two and then breaks out with wins one season and then is a championship threat the following year. Craig RETIRED from the sport! He raced 2 races in 2011, 1 in ‘12 and then did the whole full year in ’13 and got one 5th, then didn’t race ’14 and ‘15! After all that he came out and surprised me at least and got 5 podiums and even won a race! He was a legitimate SX rider and there is no question in my mind that he will be just as good if not better. I’m thinking he is a solid podium guy every night and wins 2 races this year.
Zach Osborne (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
Zacho is definitely the veteran of these riders at the age of 27. With Davalos in the west, I guess Rockstar Husqvarna likes to hire veterans instead of the young guns. Osborne broke through finally at outdoors last year got his first ever moto win and was able to grab an overall late in the year. He has never won in SX but has finished on the podium 11 times! Will this be his breakout year? Can he finally get a win and be in the hunt? One thing he has going for him is the fact that he is training with Baker’s Factory with all the stars like Dungey, Musquin and Anderson. Can that training push him over that hill? I certainly see him as a threat week in and out and he would be my pick for the 3rd guy to battle it out consistently with the top 2. However, when I’m looking at the riders on this list, I am going to have to say that Osborne doesn’t break out and get that elusive first win this year. This is just a hunch and I could totally be off, but that is what I’m sticking with. Although there is no doubt in my mind that he will be on the podium and up front battling many many times this year.
Adam Cianciarulo (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Here comes the biggest question mark of them all. Out of his 6 career SX races, Cianciarulo went 1-2-1-2-1-22. Injuries have been his downfall, possibly more than any young rider that I can remember. He hasn’t raced SX since 2014 when he had his rookie year and so this will be very interesting to watch. He was able to stay healthy all outdoors this year for the first time ever so the goal should be to put some good results in and stay healthy. However, I know Adam will want to win these. He is a winner. He dominated amateurs and it has been a long time since he has been the top guy and he wants to get back to that level no question. We know he is very fast at SX, but I’m a little worried about how much he has grown since the last time he raced it. His riding style is so much different then before and so it will be very interesting to see if he can race at the lead pace that he had in 2014. I really see this going a couple of ways. He could either come out and win Minneapolis and pick up right where he left off in 2014 or he could be very fast but crash a lot. I do think he has the capability to win this championship, but my bet is on him winning 2 races, but crash out on a few others. Keep an eye out for Cianciarulo this year.
RJ Hampshire (Geico Honda)
The rest of the riders on this list and a few others who didn’t even make my top 8 are all dark horses to win races. I don’t think Hampshire can be a contender to be there every week and win the championship, but I should be careful with what I say considering with what we saw with McElrath in the west. Hampshire is one of those riders who have to put in the results this year. He has a lot of skill certainly and Geico has stuck with him in hopes he produces some podiums and race wins this year. I don’t think you can really look at last year’s results as an example of what Hampshire can do because he was coming off a serious concussion and wrist injuries. I really do think he is capable of winning races; it is just a matter of putting it all together. If he doesn’t do that this year, it will be tough for him to find a factory ride for 2018.
Alex Martin (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
Alex Martin would be the other veteran of the 250s. However he has never really gotten the attention as an amateur or a young rider in this class and only now has started to turn some heads. 2 years ago he had a breakout SX year and raced to 2 podiums and with that he was able to gain a factory ride for 2016. It is safe to say that he did not perform well for Star Racing in SX last year. He made up for it with another breakout year in MX where we saw him being the fastest rider on the track many times last year. He now moves over to TLD/Red Bull KTM where he hopes a new start can bring on the SX results he thinks he can get. Will we see 2016 outdoor Martin or will we see 2016 SX Martin? He could very well be another dark horse to get some podiums and maybe sneak a win if everything goes right, but He hasn’t shown me enough in Supercross for me to put him up the with the likes of Savatgy and Craig.
Jordon Smith (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
Here is another rider who has unbelievable dirt bike skills. Can Jordon Smith harness it all and put it together? Now this is only his 3rd professional racing year so I wouldn’t exactly say that he needs to podium and show what he is made of this year. I think we can agree that he has top 5 speed and possibly top 3 speed on many nights, but Smith crashes a lot and it seems a lot of those crashes are fairly gnarly which can result in injuries. This is something he needs to work on this year and I think he should be happy with getting consistent top 10s every week with some top 5s and podiums mixed in.
Dylan Ferrandis (Star Racing Yamaha)
So many people will not know whom Dylan Ferrandis is and that is because this is his first year in the U.S. You may recognize his name from the MXGP’s as he has been racing them for the past few years. The French native who is 22 years old will be racing for Star Racing Yamaha in his rookie SX year. Behind Cianciarulo this is the biggest question mark heading into this east region championship. How quick will the talented MXGP rider make the switch to SX? Will his talents transform into Supercross success or will it be another case of European rider not working out here in America (Hence Arnaud Tonus). I honestly don’t know what to expect from Ferrandis, but from what I’ve heard he is super fast but tends to crash out quite a bit. This will be one of the more interesting storylines to follow in Minneapolis.
- Colt Nichols (Star Racing Yamaha): Coming off a broken femur, it may take Colt a few races to get back into race shape.
- Mitchell Harrison: (Star Racing Yamaha): The rookie struggled last year. He enters his 2nd year with Star Racing Yamaha.
- Benny Bloss (Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM): The big guy will give 250 SX a try before moving to the 450 outdoors.
- Chase Sexton (Geico Honda): The rookie might miss a few races as he is coming off wrist injuries.
- Cameron Mcadoo: (Smartop/Motoconcepts): 2016’s Amateur All Star Winner will give professional SX a try onboard Smartop/Motoconcepts Honda.