Round four in Glendale, Arizona has come and gone. After four rounds I believe that there are three main riders that will be a championship contender throughout the rest of the year (Anderson, Roczen and Barcia). With that said, Tomac and Musquin who sit over 30 points back of Anderson still have a fighting chance if they remain mistake free the remainder of the season. Here are my rankings heading into Oakland.
- Eli Tomac
Eli returns to the top of my rankings for the first time since the opener. After returning from his shoulder injury he has gone 1-1 and I still believe that he will continue to improve for these next few weeks. Something that has been really impressive this year is the fact that Tomac has been absolutely nailing his starts so far (he has three holeshots already)! This is even more impressive for a guy that used to really struggle in this aspect of racing. That must be a little disheartening for the rest of the riders as now they are dealing with a rider who had won two in a row immediately after returning from an injury. If any rider can string on a bunch of race wins, it’s Tomac. The rest of the field better halt his momentum sooner rather than later.
- Jason Anderson
Anderson had a so-so weekend on Saturday. A fourth place on paper doesn’t look very good for the red plate holder especially considering that he had a top 5 start. However there is some positives to take away from this race. Anderson’s race could have been way, way worse as he at one point was getting passed by a string of riders and found himself back in 8th at one point. The way that he was able to regroup and pass all of them back and salvage a 4th was remarkable. If we ever had doubt whether Anderson was a real deal, that race should truly squash that doubt. If he goes on to win the title, we should all look back and remember how he responded to some adversity in Glendale. Look for Anderson to rebound with a podium in Oakland.
- Ken Roczen
Roczen is right there in the points battle. He sits only 12 points back of the lead and to me it just looks like a matter of time until he wins not only a race, but string on multiple wins. Both Roczen and Barcia were catching Tomac quickly at the end of the race, but Roczen went from being about 9 seconds off of Tomac at one point and 3 second off of Barcia to only 3 second behind Tomac and one second behind Barcia by the end. On such a demanding track, Roczen looked so good charging late in that race. Now that Anaheim 2 is far behind, expect Roczen to be in the mix every weekend from now on.
- Justin Barcia
I think I’m finally getting used to seeing Barcia out there battling for podiums and wins. He now lies 9 points back of the points lead and it is safe to say that Barcia is a championship contender. Okay maybe I’m not quite used to saying Barcia is a championship contender. It just feels weird considering he basically had no ride heading into the season and by most people, including me, thought he would struggle to get inside the top 10s. If anybody watched last week’s press conference it is clear that not only is Barcia a changed dirtbike rider, but he seems like a changed man all together! He is now way more humble and is actually trying to be nice to people (maybe he will unblock us from Instagram soon?). If anything major changed in his personal life he should keep it going because this so slowly becoming the biggest story of 2018 SX. I expect Barcia to be up on the podium a lot from here on out and race wins definitely coming.
- Marvin Musquin
I truly feel bad for Musquin as he had everything going right for him heading into the year, but the damn injury! You could say the same thing about Tomac, but Tomac is already winning again so… On the other hand Musquin still seems like he is struggling with the shoulder a bit. Glendale’s 5th was pretty good though considering he pulled off last weekend due to the pain/discomfort. He is back riding full time during the week so Oakland should go a lot better. I’m struggling personally to envision Musquin winning this championship. He is already 35 back on Anderson and while he may be mistake free for the remainder of the season, I just don’t think he is the type of rider to win 8 or 9 of the last 13 rounds and most likely that is what is needed for him to win this thing. In Oakland expect Musquin to be in the top 5.
- Cole Seely
After Seely’s exceptional Anaheim 2, a lot of people were watching to see if he could back it up in the following race. Spoiler: he didn’t. He was charging hard through the pack after a start in 15th place and things were looking up for him, but he made a mistake and knocked the wind out of himself and the rest was history. The 12th place finish really takes the wind out of the S.S Championship Seely boat. Continue to look for Seely to be hovering around that top 5 and when the pieces align, podiums and a win are very possible.
- Weston Peick
I just love the Peick isn’t afraid to battle hard against guys like Barcia, Roczen and Anderson. He just charges hard and gives it his all the opening laps. In my opinion, Tomac should give half of his race winnings to Peick because my oh my did Peick make it hard on Barcia and Roczen, really giving a chance for Tomac to break away. With an average starting position of 3rd, Peick continues to put himself in the right positions and one of these days he is going to get a podium just because of chaos in front of him.
- Blake Baggett
Every week that I watch the races, there is a little piece of me that is just patiently waiting for Baggett to explode out of the gate and race to an impressive podium or even a win. That part of me may be waiting until the outdoors unfortunately, but if he ever does something remarkable like that, I’ll just sit back calmly and nod my head knowing that I was right all along… In all seriousness though, expect Baggett to be near the end of the top 10 if he can’t figure out his starts.
- Justin Brayton
That track and night was leading to a Brayton podium, but he just didn’t get the start he needed to in the main and never found that speed he had all day and during the heat race. That heat race though… He easily won that and it was against riders like Roczen, Tomac and Barcia who all scored a podium in the main. It would be great to see Brayton get a podium this year, but unfortunately it feels like his window is sort of closing here with the top riders just starting to reach there stride. Regardless expect Brayton to be in the top 10 every single week.
- Cooper Webb
Webb has crawled his way back into my top 10 rankings, but I truly mean crawled his way in because he is not going much faster than crawling at the moment. I kid I kid, but seriously this has been a disaster of a start for a rider that was thought of as a possible multiple race winner. Quite the opposite of Brayton’s heat, Webb had an awful race. He could not catch Friese for a few laps (yes Vince Friese) and then he got passed all the way to 9th. All things considered he rebounded a little bit and got an 8th in the main which is his best finish. Webb, who already started his off season late because of a thumb injury, had an ankle injury that kept him off of the bike for another few weeks in the off season. This could be a major reason why he is starting slowly here. Considering Oakland was the sight of his first 450SX podium, I would expect a better-looking Webb this weekend. If this shows us anything about the 450 class, it shows just how talented all of these riders are.