Round 4 of the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Championship wrapped up in Phoenix, AZ, and wow, it didn’t disappointment.
With Roczen out, all eyes were on Ryan Dungey. Dungey won the prior weekend in Anaheim, and he just seemed to be a level above the rest of the field. Not many riders have beat Dungey in the last two years; only Roczen, Tomac, and Anderson have done so. Could anyone stop him now that Roczen was gone? Attention turned to the likes of Marvin Musquin, Cole Seely, or Jason Anderson, with the hope that they could grab some wins and make the series exciting once again.
Oddly enough, by the time the checkered flag flew in Phoenix, it wasn’t any of these riders that were able to challenge Dungey. Instead, Eli Tomac and Chad Reed set blistering fast lap times, both easily outpacing Dungey. Tomac (a rider who we all thought was a championship threat at first, but has majorly disappointed fans with finishes outside the top 5 since the start of the season) got the hole shot and flew away. Honestly, he opened up over a 10 second lead with ease, and was able to cruise into the finish. However, behind him, Chad Reed was quickly making his way up through the pack. After a mediocre start, Reed caught up to, passed, and pulled away from both Cole Seely and Ryan Dungey. If Reed had gotten a better start, perhaps he could have challenged Eli.
What really separated Chad and Eli from the rest of the pack was a particular rhythm section that they were able to nail consistently. This rhythm section was long and tricky, involving some technical triples separated by a quad in the middle. Other riders also had it figured out at some points in the night, but no one was able to do it as consistently as Chad and Eli. In fact, Dungey didn’t even jump it once.
In the 250 class, we were treated to another close finish, with Justin Hill grabbing the win narrowly ahead of Shane McElrath. McElrath had a rough crash in the heat race, had to go through the LCQ, but then pulled off a great start and opened up a comfortable lead. However, lappers got in his way late in the race, allowing Hill to catch up. With just over a lap left, Hill forced his way inside and ahead of McElrath in the whoop section, moving into the lead for the first time. McElrath stuck close behind, with less than a second separating them at the finish line.
The highly talked-about rookie Austin Forkner rode well in Phoenix grabbing his first podium. He remained fairly close to the leaders in front of him, and held-off a hard charging Plessinger behind him.
Here are the results:
My Opinion: The racing this year has been phenomenal! Honestly, A1 started out a bit boring, but I’ve been super excited and pumped on the racing action since then. Last night didn’t disappoint: awesome track, with great racing from start to finish.
More than anything, I’m super pumped for Chad Reed! Reed DNFed due to bike problems at A1, but has been steadily improving since. It seems he found that magic touch we all know Reed has, busting out a huge rhythm section all night long, and blitzing through the whoops. I love this Chad Reed!!! For the sake of all fans, I really hope he stays like this. Reed is an interesting character, when he’s on, he’s almost unstoppable, but when he’s off, he is super unimpressive and kinda just rides around out there. Reed was on last night, and I couldn’t be more excited.
Okay, time to be real though: I don’t think we can expect Reed to be like this consistently. Honestly, it takes a certain track for Reed to feel comfortable (slick, long rhythms with massive jump combos, and long whoops), and I just don’t see him being a consistent podium threat without these tracks. I wouldn’t be surprised if Reed is back to an 8th place rider next weekend. Reed: please prove me wrong though!
Tomac on the other hand: wow. Has anyone turned it around like that before. THIS is the Tomac we expected at A1, and it took 3 long and frustrating weeks to find him. Now that he’s found (and probably given an extra confidence boost from Roczen being out of the series), I think Tomac will be one of the guys to beat every weekend. This is the first REAL supercross Tomac has won on the Kawi (let’s not count Daytona), and I think this is a sign to come for the rest of the year.
The whole Baker gang (Dungey, Musquin, and Anderson) had an off night. For Dungey, a 3rd on an off night is still incredible; no doubt he’s still heavily the favorite for this title, despite being outshone by both Reed and Tomac in Phoenix. For the other two, they had horrible races. Webb was able to pass and pull away from both of them, and guys like Brayton, Baggett, and Millsaps were definitely faster. Surprising to see such lackluster performances from both Jason and Marv, but I have no doubt that their results in Phoenix were statistical outliers, and will be improved upon next weekend in Oakland. One positive note: at least they were both pushing until the very end, as they were involved in a hard fought battle for 9th until the checkered flag flew. One negative note: Marvin SUCKS in the whoops. He gets a bad start, struggles in the whoops, and barely finishes inside the top 10; he seems to be much better when starting near the front (totally a mental thing for him). This is something he needs to work on.
And Millsaps! Wow! Most of you probably didn’t notice, but he got his fastest lap of the night on the very last lap, and basically passed Seely. One more lap, and Millsaps would have gotten 4th. He has also won two heat races in a row now. These are little things for Millsaps, but impressive and noteworthy nonetheless.
In the 250 class, Hill continues to impress. His ability to race hard until the very end is impressive, and definitely has to be a concern for McElrath. Hill has now closed within 4 points of the championship lead. Truthfully, this 250 class is getting more exciting with each passing race. McElrath continues to show that he’s a serious threat for wins every week (and kudos for him in turning an awful night around and finishing with a near win), Hill continues to get faster, and the rest (Plessinger, Forkner, and Davalos) continue to show that they are just a small step away from winning. Entering round 5 in Oakland next weekend, any 5 of these guys could win, and I wouldn’t be surprised at all. Could you ask for a more exciting class?!?!
We’re heading back to California now for round 5, this time to the northern part of the state in the Bay area. The anticipation continues to build… I can’t wait for next weekend!
Cover photo from Racer X Online.