Anaheim II – was the sequel better? Probably yes, and the Triple Crown format certainly offered up great racing and the odd cliffhanger. Vintage stuff.
Cooper Webb. 1-1-3 = 1st. Wow, a second maiden win in two weeks! Last week it was Blake Baggett (who sunk badly this week – 15th overall), this week Cooper Webb demonstrating just how KTM is rejuvenating his career: “To win is insane – to win two races and be on the podium in the last one is incredible! I really have got to give it up to the group at KTM, they took me under (their wing) and they changed everything for me.” It might have felt surreal to him but Webb rode solid. In the first main he stalked Ken Roczen before putting in a clean pass within sight of the finish, precipitating a Hollywood chequered-flag act where he looked back and fired an imaginary pistol into the now following Roczen. Yep, a real gunslinger is Webb. The second main was a start-to-finish masterclass for win number two. For in the last race it was thinking-man’s game, taking just enough with third for the overall. The KTM certainly suits him. And the win boosted Webb to third overall, just six points behind Roczen.
Marvin Musquin. 3-2-2 = 2nd. Musquin was the fastest qualifier for the second week on the trot. Fast, but still not quite there. Not lacking aggression mind, as Eli Tomac found out when Musquin shot round the outside of him to steal third with three laps to go in the first main. Main 2 and Musquin started third, moving up past Cole Seely for second, no dramas. Last main he pressured his teammate to eventually sneak past for the runner-up. But hey, that wasn’t enough to hold off Webb in the championship, and with Musquin now fourth, who’s the number one rider in the KTM team?
Eli Tomac. 4+4+1 = 3rd. Tomac was second quickest in qualifying, just 1-10th of a second off Musquin, but the races – they were another thing. He started well in Main 1 to be third after one lap, but after that nothing happened, until Musquin passed him in the closing stages. Not the usual run of play. In Main 2 he had one of his bad starts that seem to keep coming this season, so 12th was a deep position to fight back from, but he duly did just that, getting back to fourth. So Main 3 was disaster recovery duly delivered, taking the holeshot then checking out, building a three-second lead in no time. All of that was enough to be right there in the game championship-wise, just two points behind Roczen. But there’s some homework needed – Tomac needs to get his starting consistently back where it used to be.
Ken Roczen. 2+5+4= 4th. Roczen’s holding down the red plate, but he’s not exactly red hot right now. Okay he looked it for a while in the first main, maybe he got too comfortable, but by heck he got ambushed by Webb at the finish there. In the second main after a mediocre start – 6th – he made it up to third before making a mistake in the whoops and crashing back down to 9th. So to battle back to 5th by the finish – yeah, he was working hard. Last race, sixth at the start, fourth at the finish. Enough to keep that red plate. Such a different game to his ‘I’m Alpha Dog – fear me!’ mind games of two seasons ago. And it’s working. But for sure Roczen – and Honda – would like a win sometime soon – it makes the ad-writer’s job so much easier.
Dean Wilson. 9+8+7 = 5th. Another strong performance from Husky’s super-privateer, maybe not stellar but he’ll be pulling in some prize money and performance bonuses to pay his way – and keep his name in the frame should any factory positions come vacant…
Justin Barcia’s night ended with a single Bam, unfortunately. The ruts in the rhythm sections had been tricky most of the night and a wild cross-up on the launch ramp of one saw the factory Yamaha pilot hit the ejector button and take a hard, bruising landing from which he couldn’t get up. Bad luck, but some good fortune, with a 7-3 from the first two races he still had enough in the bag to make 10th for the night and hold down equal-fourth in the standings. Jason Anderson’s night was another for the champ to forget. Yep, 6-6-17 does not reflect his talent, but maybe it reflects his mindset, which still doesn’t seem to be fully engaged at this time. That’s harsh criticism perhaps, but Anderson does not look ‘there’ much of the time.
RUST’s predictions for Oakland: We scored zero out of three for round two predictions. That does not put us off. So, for Oakland – this was a good venue for Roczen last year and it’s time he scored a win – so he’ll monster it this time. Then Musquin (buoyed by his improvement this week) and Tomac, who’ll get buried at the start but fight back, as he does. Baggett was on the podium here last year – can he get his head back in the game after his Glendale win? Can Webb not do a Baggett, and follow-up on this win? Can Anderson remember he’s a racer?