2018 AMA SUPERCROSS, ROUND 9 REPORT.
ATLANTA, GA. MARCH 3RD.
TRIPLE CROWN FORMAT.
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship’s arrival into Atlanta, Georgia, was met with excitement as the series welcomed its second Triple Crown format event of the season.
This all-out formula requires the riders to fight it out in not just one, but three mains! Aside from providing audiences with much more racing to get stuck into, it tests the riders to their physical and mental limits as they’re forced to focus even more on strategy, longevity, and consistency. On the other hand, if mistakes are made in one race, you have the option to give it everything in another gatedrop. Although this new format was only introduced earlier this year, it seems to have already been proved a success, especially after a thrilling night of close racing on prime dirt in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz stadium.
After several shock losses (or are they really a shock, this is SX after all?) to injury this year, including Ken Roczen, Cole Seely, Justin Bogle and Justin Barcia, the pressure was on the remaining riders to stay safe, squabble for top positions, and haul themselves up the championship standings as the series reached round nine.
Jason Anderson brought the fire he’d lacked one week earlier in Tampa, Eli Tomac seemed flustered and off-form, while plenty of others were ready to take on the series leader to make for intense racing from start to finish.
450 Main 1
The first of the night’s three main races set the tone for the evening with fantastically close racing from the gatedrop until the chequered flag. In the early laps it was impossible to pick a winner as Christian Craig, Justin Brayton, and Blake Baggett all made great starts and placed ahead of their biggest rivals. As the laps ticked by the leading group grew ever bigger with SX veteran Chad Reed, and top contenders Anderson, Tomac and Marvin Musquin all getting in the mix. All the way through the 13-lap dash the leading group hovered at around six to eight riders. Anderson battled hard but had no answer for an incredibly on form Brayton, the Honda rider flowed around Atlanta’s excellent track and seemed to be able to get the drive out of every corner to inch away from the title leader. Race 1 of this Triple Crown event was hailed the closest race all season.
450 Main 2
On the surface the second main seemed like a more sedate affair with points leader, Anderson, back to his usual smooth and precise style, making it very difficult for anyone else to stay with him. But by the end of the race the excitement level had ramped up a gear as Cooper Webb and Tomac tried desperately to beat the Rockstar Husqvarna man. With both the chasing riders having a reputation for close and aggressive passes the pressure was well and truly on Anderson to keep them at a safe distance. He made it to the finish line a nail-biting half-second ahead of Yamaha’s Webb and was clearly relieved to have kept his head ’til the end.
450 Main 3
Craig and Baggett once again made excellent starts and looked keen to fight for victory, but Red Bull KTM’s Musquin had a quiet confidence about him and the Frenchman was in hot pursuit of the leading duo, along with Anderson. The racing remained close and only a huge crash from Baggett in the rhythm section could distract the crowds. Musquin put in an absolutely perfect pass on race leader Craig, the type that you could watch over and over again on replay. An exhausted Anderson failed to fight it out with his energised rivals and before long Tomac moved into second place, taking vital points. Webb also fought it out with the series leader, snatching third place. But Musquin was on the sort of unstoppable form which we see from him every once in a while, and he celebrated the race win with his signature heel clicker.
So, the second Triple Crown of the year was won overall by Anderson, who performed consistently in all three races, but came across as humble and relieved in his post-race interview. These regular results, generally taken without fuss or fight, has been what has so far defined Anderson’s superb season. The Husqvarna rider was clearly exhausted and described the event as “intense and hard on the body” but said he was “really pleased and happy” to have come out on top. What can his rivals possibly do to stop him now? Tomac, who has won four events this season, seems determined to keep clawing back as many points as possible and has moved himself into fifth overall. Meanwhile, Musquin will need to pull out more flawless performances (as we saw in Anaheim and Atlanta) if he’s to close the 42-point deficit to Anderson. And increasingly impressive results from the likes of Baggett and Brayton add an air of unpredictability to the coming rounds.