The opening round of the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship has come and gone in Anaheim’s Angel Stadium. What a spectacular night of racing it was! There were so many unanswered questions entering the day: who would step-up to fill the gap left by defending Champ Ryan Dungey? Did Ken Roczen have the mental and physical strength to race all 20 minutes?
Indeed, the biggest storyline of the entire day (and potentially this entire year) was the return of Honda HRC rider Ken Roczen. Roczen suffered a horrific injury just over 11 months ago in his last appearance at a race in which he almost lost his arm (literally). Well folks, the question is answered: the comeback is real. After qualifying 1st during the day, Roczen backed up his fast lap time with a solid come from behind ride in the main event to finish 4th. Not a win, but considering what he’s been through last year, it’s an incredible feat.
Roczen passed the likes of Baggett, Brayton, Peick, Seely, and Webb on his way to that finish, but he couldn’t recover enough from his poor start to catch up to Barcia, Anderson, and Musquin in front of him. Barcia got off to a great start, and was riding in 2nd until the race leader, Eli Tomac, crashed out. Tomac had gotten the holeshot and led for the first half of the race until a small mistake sent him over the bars in the first rhythm section. Tomac tried to remount, but looked visibly shaken and soon pulled off the track (word from Kawasaki is that suffered a contusion to his shoulder).
Tomac’s crash seemed to light a fire for Marvin Musquin. Musquin had been riding a few seconds behind Barcia up until that point, but quickly caught and passed Barcia after Tomac’s crash. From there, it was a typical Musquin-race that we’ve seen all off-season: smooth, fast, and smart riding all the way to the checkered flag for the first win of the year.
Musquin’s training partner and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider Jason Anderson was following Musquin the entire race. He stayed relatively close to Musquin, and also got past Barcia. Anderson would finish the rest of the race playing yo-yo with Marvin in front of him: some laps he would catch up, others he would lose time. The two riders were closely matched, but Anderson would have to settle for 2nd.
Justin Barcia entered the off-season without a ride. After an injury from Davi Millsaps, Barcia was hired to fill-in on Factory Yamaha for the first six races. His podium finish at the opening round is definitely impressive; he even won his heat race too! The question was immediately posed to Barcia in the post-race conference as to whether or not Yamaha had already talked to him about racing the entire season. Barcia remained humble and said he’s just focused on doing well in these opening rounds. A new, humble Barcia is great to see, and he surprised many people with his riding at Anaheim.
Unfortunately, injuries are part of the sport, and we already have 3 factory 450 riders with injuries after A1: Eli Tomac, Dean Wilson, and Benny Bloss. Tomac’s is apparently just the shoulder contusion, but we are still awaiting news on injuries for Wilson and Bloss (although Wilson’s appears to be a shoulder injury too).
The racing was spectacular in the 250 West class as well. The class is stacked with past race winners, but Shane McElrath came out on top for the second year in a row. McElrath won both his heat and the main even in a dominant fashion, and stated afterwards that he is “less starstruck” and more ready to race this year. Considering how well he did last year, that is scary news for all of his competition.
The Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki riders of Joey Savatgy and Adam Cianciarulo were some of the top riders all day. They both finished 2nd in their heat races, and came back from bad starts to finish 4th and 3rd respectively. Cianciarulo worked his way into third early, but couldn’t get around the Yamaha rider of Aaron Plessinger. The two riders grew up racing together, and were all smiles afterwards, joking around at the post-race press conference.
Defending 250SX West Champion Justin Hill struggled harshly in the main event with a 7th place finish; he started around that position, and wasn’t able to move forward at all. We were able to catch up with him after the race for an interview, so stay tuned later in the week for his feelings on why the night went so badly.
Here are the official results:
250 Main EventS2F1PRESS
450 Main EventS1F1PRESS
Opinions to come…
Cover photo from Supercross LIVE