It is a crying shame that no Supercross fans on the East Coast will ever be able to say that they saw Ken Roczen, Cole Seely or Eli Tomac race a 250 Supercross. By the same token, no West Coast fans got to see Wil Hahn’s wild antics in the 250 East or MarvinMusquin’s domination in a losing cause.
The original basis for dividing the 250 Supercross series into Eastern and Western regions was part grassroots enthusiasm, part inferiority complex and part egalitarianism. Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, factory rides were predominantly handed out to West Coast-based riders?at least it was perceived that Californians had the fast track to sponsorship. For the 1985 season, the AMA wanted to develop a 125cc Supercross class that would serve as a training ground for future premiere 250 riders. At the same time, it was suggested (by the late Dave Coombs) that dividing the 125cc Supercross series into Eastern and Western divisions would force the factories to search for potential talent outside of the Golden State. The idea was that young riders would earn their stripes in the 125 class and the factories would be compelled to support twice as many riders. The system has worked, albeit with several glitches, for the last 27 years, but its usefulness has come to an end. The emphasis of professional Supercross racing is no longer grassroots. Supercross has become big-time entertainment, and the show’s producers have to be asking themselves if there is room on the stage for not-yet-ready-for-prime-time riders. The paying Supercross customers don’t care about bicoastal feudalism. They pay big bucks to see the best performers possible on the center stage, and it is obvious, by the fact that the 250 East/West winners lap up through the field, that there isn’t an abundance of 250 Supercross talent around. Well, that’s not exactly true. There is plenty of talent; it’s just split in half.
The AMA needs to combine the 250 East/West Supercross series into a single, 17-race series that runs in conjunction with the regular 450 series. Instead of Tomac and Roczen racing half the series and Musquin and Hahn racing the other half, all the stars of the class would race against each other every week. Think about that! The fans would get to see the best competition possible; the racers would get to prove themselves against the toughest competitors, and every weekend would be like the Las Vegas showdown race?without having to wait 17 weeks for it to happen. The upside is that the fans would get to see the best riders race. The downside is that the locals would have a much harder time qualifying. Plus, changing the 250 East/West into a single 250 Supercross series would mean that it would be a National Championship class instead of two Regional Championships. And that means that no rider could ever be forced to point out.
Another downside is that many of the big teams wouldn’t need four riders to make it through a 17-race series; three would most likely do. Currently, they hire two riders for the 250 West and two riders for the 250 East (the second rider in each division is a hedge against the good rider getting injured). The competition for spots on the good teams would get more intense, and the competition on the track would also be more intense. Would privateers be hurt by a 17-race 250 Supercross Championship? The slow ones would be hurt, but the 20 fastest ones wouldn’t be. That’s racing!
When the 125 East/West system was developed in the winter of 1985, the series’ founders never envisioned $250,000-a-year hired guns, coast swapping and rule morphing. Today, there are far more 250 East/West teams than 450 teams. Combining the two coasts into one 17-race series would make it possible for every team, big or small, to hire a contender. That isn’t true today. Unification is the ultimate answer. The sport doesn’t benefit from having some of its biggest stars race half the time.