FLASHBACK FRIDAY: ANAHEIM ON BEING THE SEASON OPENER
The first Supercross race is the most hyped event each and every year. Some riders debut on new teams—remember Jeremy McGrath on his factory Suzuki in 1997 or James Stewart in 2005? The excitement is palpable, leading to wild rumors and lots of speculation about who will win the opener. Supercross newbies do not know it, but the first round of the series hasn’t always been in Angels Stadium. From 1974 to 1980 Supercross had kicked off at venues like Daytona, Irving, Atlanta, Oakland and Seattle.
When Supercross first came to Anaheim, it was scheduled as the last race of the season (1976-1979). Kent Howerton, aboard a factory Suzuki, won the series opener in 1981 when Anaheim kicked off the series. Anaheim continued to host the first round from 1982 to 1990 (excluding 1985 and 1988). In a strange twist, the Supercross series opened in Orlando in 1991. The season wouldn’t start on the West coast until 1997 when it was hosted in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
The 1997 season saw the first back-to-back at the famed Los Angeles Coliseum. It was a cool and historic venue with riders jumping up and down the peristyles. Some will probably recall when former teammates Jeremy McGrath and Steve Lamson tangled, leading people to believe that Honda had ordered Lamson to take out McGrath for leaving the Red Riders in favor of Suzuki. But we digress. A second L.A. round was canned in 1998–instead, Charlotte was awarded a doubleheader.
In 1999, Anaheim became the season opener once again. It was also the first year the series would make two stops at Angel Stadium (at that time it was called Edison Field). SoCal Supercross nuts flocked to those two events in Anaheim, resulting in the Supercross promoter adding a third round at the stadium in 2001. Anaheim is the only stop in the series that has held two or three rounds every year from 1999-2020. While it’s true that Anaheim has hosted more Supercross races than any other since 1999, the real reason it’s synonymous with Supercross is that Anaheim is the opening round of the series. However, in 2021, it was the first time in 22 years that Anaheim wasn’t the season opener due to Covid. Heck, it wasn’t in the schedule at all for 2021. We hope it will be back to normal fashion as the first round in 2022.