AMA SX 2018 rd2: ANDERSON ATTACKS

Husqvarna's Jason Anderson put Honda's Ken Roczen to the sword on a night that saw top challengers Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin sit out the action due to injuries

Monday 15th January 2018

After a thrilling and unpredictable season opener one week earlier at Anaheim I, the second round of the 2018 season in Houston, Texas, saw even more drama and huge news – before the gate could even drop for the main.

After a mistake and subsequent crash in round 1, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac was nursing a shoulder injury. Last year’s runner-up attempted to go through the practice and qualifying sessions for Houston, but failed to set a competitive time and pulled out. Tomac’s withdrawal surprised fans and rivals alike, and raised questions about just how bad the injury is, and whether or not he’ll return for round 3.

And if Tomac’s exit hadn’t caused enough of a commotion there was more to come…

Last week’s dominant winner, Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM) also fell foul of a nasty shoulder injury after crashing in the whoops during his heat race. The points leader knew there was something seriously wrong as soon as he hit the ground and could be seen holding his arm and wincing in pain. There was no chance that the Frenchman could make the start line, a real disappointment after his incredible display just seven days earlier. Musquin will need further checks to determine if he’s fit to ride at Anaheim II next weekend.


450 Main:
While the early exit of Tomac and Musquin was disappointing, it did in some ways make the 450 Main more intriguing – who would be able to take advantage while two of the top guns were away?

It was Justin Barcia who took the holeshot, the Monster Energy Yamaha substitute rider (for injured Davi Millsaps) seems to have renewed confidence since linking up with his new team and scoring third place at the opening round. But, by contrast to last week, Ken Roczen (Team Honda HRC) was able to make a much better start and the Honda rider was soon on the tail of Barcia. Roczen made an early pass for the lead, clearly keen to pull off the comeback win he hadn’t managed a week earlier. Barcia initially rode well to stick with Roczen but then lost his rhythm mid-race.

Roczen had a three-second lead at the halfway stage, but Jason Anderson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna) was on a charge, sweeping past Barcia and closing those three-seconds to Roczen in a matter of two laps. The Husqvana rider then cleared a huge jump to make a spectacular pass. Roczen had no answer for Anderson who quickly built a four-second buffer which he took to the chequers. Barcia admirably regained his composure to fight back to third, backing up his result in Anaheim.

Speaking after the race, Justin Barcia said, I made 100 mistakes in Anaheim, and maybe 50 here! So its already an improvement! If I can make 25 next week then we might be getting somewhere!

Jason Anderson seemed slightly surprised with the relative ease at which he took victory, especially given the tricky track conditions, It was really tough out there and the track was changing fast, you just have to adapt as you go!

Ken Roczen, still awaiting his return to the top spot, had an air of quiet calm about him. And the general consensus is that he realises the length of the season and is not in a hurry to go for gold until everything falls into place.

 

250 Main:
Monster Energy Kawasaki enjoyed another solid performance as Joey Savatgy flew to the holeshot in the 250 Main. Shane McElrath (TLD Red Bull KTM) and Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy Kawasaki) were on the charge and just a few laps in Cianciarulo made a pass on McElrath in the whoops to make it a Kawasaki 1-2. Further back Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger seemed to be on excellent form, making quick and precise passes and heading towards the front of the pack. While the leaders battled hard for the win, Cianciarulo made a mess of a turn and ended up on the ground and McElrath jumped off the track – Plessinger needed no second invitation. He then caught and passed Savatgy with relative ease, and proceeded to pull out a big lead before taking the chequered flag. Savatgy and an improving Chase Sexton (Geico Honda) rounded out the top three.

RUSTs Analysis:

SECOND BEST?

As we’ve said before, supercross is one mean sport. In MotoGP guys fall down all the time, but generally they slide and get back up, they make the race. There’s no sliding in supercross. And the sport, especially on the 450s is so damn difficult. So when top talents like Tomac and now Musquin get relegated to the injury bench it hurts. And if you look at the top teams, all are struggling for a strong second rider to take over when their main man gets sidelined. Honda has the best wingman (to Roczen) with Cole Seely but even he’s not been in podium form for some time (6-4 so far in 2018). KTM’s No.2 Broc Tickle has gone 8-8 having placed outside the top-10 overall in 2017. Kawasaki’s Josh Grant has gone 9-9 (10th last year), Yamaha’s Cooper Webb has placed 10-12 (outside the top-10 in 2017) while Anderson’s Husqvarna teammate Dean Wilson got injured at Anaheim I and is still waiting for an all clear on his shoulder injury. Actually the best performing second rider isn’t even that, he’s a third choice – Justin Barcia is a six-race stand-in at Yamaha for the injured Davi Millsaps. But with a 3-3 result he’s put Cooper Webb to shame. Maybe we’re simplifying it too much, but it comes down to a single-throw of the dice in SX, either your main man stays fit and keeps on headlining or you effectively pack-up and wait for the next season…

ROCZEN: STEP-BY-STEP

An interesting start to the year for Roczen: 4-2. He’s not quite hitting ‘Alpha Dog’ performances just yet but he’s getting there, and as we all know it’s a long season. He had nothing for Anderson, though. But we don’t doubt each week he’ll get stronger, which is not good news for Tomac and Musquin as they lick their wounds.

250s ARE FAST!

A 250 is easier to ride than a 450 – that’s a generalism, but it does at least seem to guarantee close racing. And fast laps. Houston-winner Aaron Plessinger’s average lap time on his Yamaha YZ250F time was faster than that of YZ450F-riding Cooper Webb and was even faster than Cole Seeley’s (4th in the 450 Main). So could a 250 podium if raced in the 450 Main? It’s thoughts like this that led to KTM’s 350SXF, of course. And it’s not entirely a fair comparison given the 250s race for 15mins+1 as against 20mins+1 in the 450s. And remember a 450 will smoke the 250s off the start, so a 250 or 350 rider has a lot of work making passes an entire race… Maybe what we should be asking ourselves is, is it time to see Plessinger, McElrath, Cianciarulo and Savatgy promoted to the 450 class?

2018 AMA Supercross

450SX Championship Standings

1. Jason Anderson Husqvarna 49

2. Ken Roczen Honda 42

3. Justin Barcia Yamaha 42

4. Cole Seely Honda 36

5. Weston Peick Suzuki 36

6. Justin Brayton Honda 33

7. Broc Tickle KTM 30

8. Joshua Grant Kawasaki 28

9. Blake Baggett KTM 27

10. Marvin Musquin KTM 26

250SX Western Regional Championship Standings

1. Aaron Plessinger Yamaha 49

2. Shane McElrath KTM 45

3. Joey Savatgy Kawasaki 42

4. Adam Cianciarulo Kawasaki 37

5. Chase Sexton Honda 36

6. Christian Craig Honda 36

7. Mitchell Oldenburg Yamaha 34

8. Justin Hill Suzuki 29

9. Bradley Taft Yamaha 27

10. Kyle Chisholm Yamaha 27

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