TEN THINGS ABOUT THE 2015 HOUSTON SUPERCROSS

 

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107545_Misc-HoustonSX2015-Cudby-002_4928The happiest man in this victory celebration is Pit Beier (right) because he is the man who greenlighted the hiring of Carlos Rivera, Ian Harrison and Roger DeCoster five years ago. The 2015 Supercross Championship is the icing on KTM’s cake.

(1) DECOSTER’S GREATEST MOMENT: Yes, we know that Ryan Dungey rode the bike, but Roger DeCoster won the Championship. It was DeCoster who left Suzuki for the oranger pastures of KTM — even though they were an also-ran race team. It was DeCoster who got Ryan Dungey to leave Suzuki and join him a year later. It was DeCoster who convinced KTM to open their pocketbook as wide as possible to hire Dungey, Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin. It was DeCoster who told KTM to give up on their 350SXF Supercross idea and build a true-to-life 450. It was DeCoster that read the AMA rulebook and figured out how to get Dungey the newest possible machinery by having KTM build 400 of the Factory Edition models every year. It was DeCoster who assembled an impressive support team and built a totally new KTM race shop to rival anything in the sport. It was DeCoster who talked to his riders in straight forward language and told them when they were bad just as often as when they were good. Make no mistake about it—this is Roger DeCoster’s Supercross Championship.

107514_Dungey-HoustonSX2015-Cudby-021_4928Mr. and Mrs Supercross celebrate with big smiles? Ryan Dungey signed on the dotted line to stay at Team KTM for two more years at Houston.

(2) RYAN’S CHAMPIONSHIP: Ryan is now a two-time AMA Supercross Champion. Yes, he did win a 250 West title back in 2009, but in the rarefied world of Supercross stars, they never mention their regional East/West Championships once they make it to the Big Show. Ryan Dungey will go down in the record books as a two-time Champion (2010 and 2015), but behind the stats is a rider who will be remembered for his determination to race strategically. Never rushed. Never hurried. He took what each night had to offer. His game plan over his years in the premier Supercross series has been to always be there—maybe not first every time, but always near the podium and always lurking in the background. The fact that he only has two Supercross titles doesn’t mean that his strategy has any flaws — because he might well be a four-time champion except for a broken Suzuki chain guide one year and a broken collarbone (in the year that Villopoto wrecked his knee, but still had enough points to hang on to the title). In 2015 Ryan Dungey won six times and finished on the podium in 13 of 14 races, so far, and in the only race where he wasn’t on the podium, he was fourth. Over his Supercross career Ryan Dungey has raced 97 times and made the top five 85 times. He also has 20 wins and 60 podiums.

2015 PODIUMS
1. Ryan Dungey…13
2. Eli Tomac…8
3. Trey Canard…7
4. Ken Roczen…5
5. Cole Seely…4
6. Chad Reed…2
7. Jason Anderson…2
8. Blake Baggett…1

RYAN DUNGEY POST-RACE

(3) EAT YOUR HEART OUT J-LAW: Do you remember when Jason Lawrence used Ryan Dungey as his personal punching bag. Jason taunted Dungey, made fun of him and engaged in an all-out vendetta against a young Ryan when they were in the 250 class together. Sure you do, it is the only thing that anyone does remember about Jason Lawrence — that doesn’t involve black flags, the police or prison. In fact, Ryan Dungey switched clothing sponsors at the last minute when his gear company hired Lawrence also. Ryan wanted nothing to do with anything that would associate him, even remotely, with J-Law (and most people in the motorcycle industry, save for a few, were of the same opinion). Lawrence’s single claim to fame is the 2008 250 West Championship that he lorded over Dungey. There is no doubt that Jason Lawrence had Ryan Dungey’s number, mentally at least, 7 years ago. Now, Ryan Dungey is a multi-millionaire factory rider with two Supercross crowns, three MXDN titles, a 450 AMA National Championship and the admiration of everyone in the world. You have to ask, how’s that working out for you Jason? And every young rider who thinks he should take someone out on purpose, act like a fool at the races, rolls cars in the pits or think that they are the cat’s meow, needs to look (from a motorcycle racing perspective) at the relative positions in the world of the nice, polite and gentlemanly rider and his rowdy, black sheep former tormentor.

TomackkkkkThe Supercross crown may have slipped away, just like his front wheel on several occasions, but Eli has put himself in a good place for the AMA Nationals and next year’s Supercross chase.

(4) CORK SCREWY: If every Supercross track was a gem, then the track designers could be given a little slack for their absolutely wacky Houston start design. But, their track record isn’t stellar and it would serve them well to pay more attention to what has worked, on the occasions when their tracks had decent enough dirt for anything to work, and not waste time with slight-of-hand tricks. If you didn’t see the Houston start it was as Rube Goldberg as anything the sport has ever seen. Once the gate dropped the riders swept into a rhythm section that led them to a tight left through an over-under tunnel (which they would never go under again). They then did a corkscrew 360-degree turn to go over the tunnel. This led down a straight that came to a fork in the road. They went to the right side of the fork, but it was the “road less taken” because they never went right again during the race, but instead turned left. Then, they went down the start straight backwards before going over a narrow wall jump and out on to the actual racetrack. Once the race headed into lap two they never went through the tunnel or down the road less taken again. Without denigrating America’s home schooling system, professional motocross racers aren’t the people you want to throw mental challenges at while they are at speed.

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webb264Cooper Webb.

(5) HANGIN’ WITH MR. COOPER: Who would have thought a few years ago, that KTM and Yamaha would be dominating the Supercross series of the future. Well, it has come to pass. Not only have KTM’s Ryan Dungey and Marvin Musquin made the 450 class and 250 East their personal playgrounds, but Cooper Webb put Yamaha back on the map in the 250 West. After a shaky first race way back on January 3 in Anaheim, Cooper Webb has gone 7-1-1-2-1-1-1. When you add Webb’s dominance of the 250 West to Jeremy Martin’s rout of the 2014 AMA 250 Nationals, you have the makings of a Yamaha dynasty in the coming years. Although Webb and Martin aren’t the best of friends over at Star Yamaha, they better get used to each other because they have long-term contracts that will keep them on the track together for the foreseeable future. And now that Webb has elevated his game, he and Jeremy Martin will try to show who’s best when the AMA 250 Nationals start in four weeks at Hangtown. Oh yeah, they will have Marvin Musquin and his KTM to contend with.

107563_Osborne-HoustonSX2015-Cudby-020_4928Zach Osborne (16) had every chance to win 250 West during the 2015 Supercross season. He was up front in the majority of the 250 West races, but couldn’t get it done.

(6) MELTING AWAY: The 250 West started out as the powerhouse side of the country when compared to the 250 East. It had the major players, including Webb, Bowers, Nelson, Bell, Hansen, Durham, Osborne, Stewart, Izzi and Hill. Yet they all melted away under the assault of Cooper Webb. By the time they got to Houston, with Santa Clara still on their agenda, Webb was in total control. Mathematically, Jessy Nelson, Zach Osborne and Tyler Bowers had a shot at getting the crown away from Webb — if you believe in miracles. But, Jessy Nelson got hurt in a practice crash two weeks ago and decided to sit out the rest of the Supercross season to be ready for the Nationals. He had to watch as his second in the 250 West points became a fourth in one night. Tyler Bowers showed up in Houston with a back problem that was so painful for him and obvious to the spectators, that he could only ride gently into that good night. Tyler pulled out of the main event to earn only a single point and dropped back to fifth in points (and will miss the rest of the 2015 indoor and outdoor season while he recovers from back surgery). Zach Osborne had the best night of the three points chasers and finished seventh, but that seventh was earned after a violent heat race crash when Malcolm Stewart’s bike flew from one lane of the track over to the next and Zach landed on the Malcolm’s bike. Zach earned enough points to move to second in the points standings, but he is only 8 points in front of Shane McElrath, who got his second straight podium and is now third. Behind McElrath are Nelson  and Bowers — and they won’t be in Silicon Valley next Saturday night

fc2d1680-d822-4803-a59f-27cfbdacf0e2If Cole Seely can win the next 72 Supercross races of his career he will surpassed Jeremy McGrath on the all-time win list. He already has one win, so he’s closer this week than he was last week.

(7) CATCHING SUPER-MAC: Let’s be serious. Only one active rider (and he lost 17 chances in 2015 when he got caught up in a WADA drug suspension) is mathematically capable of catching Jeremy McGrath’s phenomenal record of 72 Supercross wins any time soon. James Stewart sits at 50 wins. He needs 23 more wins to pass Super-Mac. That may seem like a doable number, but remember, it took Stewart his whole career to get to 50 and he doesn’t have that many years left. For example, Ryan Dungey has 20 wins, but he’s been in the class for 6 years. The 2016 Supercross season will be Stewies’ 10th year in the class and even if he wins all 17 rounds in 2016, he would have to come back in 2017 and win 6 more. After James Stewart, the only riders in the top ten who are currently racing the AMA Supercross series are Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey. Chad needs 29 wins to top Jeremy McGrath and Dungey needs 51. As we have been saying for two decades now — McGrath’s record is safe.

ALL-TIME SUPERCROSS WIN LIST
1. Jeremy McGrath…72
2. James Stewart…50
3. Ricky Carmichael…48
4. Chad Reed…44
5. Ryan Villopoto…42
6. Ricky Johnson…28
7. Bob Hannah…27
8. Jeff Ward…20
8. Ryan Dungey…20
10. Damon Bradshaw…19

107425_HillJustin-HoustonSX2015-Cudby-003_4928Justin Hill has to realign his position in the pecking order.

(8) TIME TO REALIGN: Every racer has bad seasons and more often than not a talented rider will run up against a buzzsaw of a competitor that can’t be beat (like Ryan Villopoto, James Stewart and Jeremy McGrath). The loser has to buckle down, accept his place in the pecking order and regroup. Justin Hill finds himself in this category. He got hyped before the season started as a favorite for the 250 West crown. It didn’t happen. Justin only made one podium in 2015 (and only has one chance left in the 2015 Supercross season to get another one). Justin had speed, but not when it counted. His year so far as been 4-6-3-9-8-22-6. Often, riders who don’t have the year they desired show up in Vegas and win the 250 East/West Challenge race as salve on a wounded ego. But, in truth, the East/West Challenge is so forgettable that no one ever remembers who won it. This year the Supercross promoters have made the East/West Challenge a stand-alone event and Vegas is no longer the final round of the real 250 East and 250 West title chases. Although that matters little in 2015, since it is highly likely that every Supercross Champion will be crowned before Vegas even happens (if Musquin locks up the 250 East in New York).

 

 

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(9) TOMAC’S WALL JUMP: When the riders came backwards down the start straight they were squeezed into a single-line wall jump that had all the excitement of a Shriner’s parade. No one did anything over that wall jump, there were no passes and, by the way, there was no jumping either. Until Eli Tomac decided that he needed to find a way to get through the pack. Instead of doing the same-old same-old, Eli moved to the right and jumped the wall. Being a wall jump, Eli’s landing was very harsh. But, Eli discovered that if he landed with the throttle on, his bike would launch forward instead of bottoming. Eli made three important passes in that spot because he caught his competitors lulled into a sense of security that no one could pass them there. Eli did and he was the only one.

78f9304e-4f00-4d1b-8c93-2b6404199b41Shane McElrath has been learning what it’s like to be up front and is starting to like it.

(10) THAT’S ALL FOLKS: It’s over. The fat lady has sung and while she has three more performance this year, we already know the ending of the play. Ryan Dungey can’t be caught by anyone in the 450 class at Santa Clara, New York or Las Vegas. That doesn’t mean that he won’t show up, but he doesn’t have to. However, there is still a lot of bonus money on the line for Ryan, so he will be there with bells on. So, what’s there to look forward to in the 450 class. (1) Cole Seely. Once a rider wins, he learns the secret — it is that, the amount of work it takes to finish 5th is no different that the amount of work it takes to win—so you might as well win. (2) Eli Tomac. The heir apparent to the Supercross crown, Eli needs to win races, get good starts and not fall down anymore to seal the deal in the “Who’s Next?” story line. (3) Chad Reed. He hasn’t been hot since he was hot under the collarbone after being black flagged at Anaheim II and came back to win at Atlanta I.  Chad was sleep walking through the first part of the season, but once the black flag woke him up he has been a front runner…more accurately, a just behind the front runner’s runner (typically 5th through 8th). (4) Davi Millsaps. Every one expected Davi to have a little ring rust, but not this much. He has consistently been a 7th place guy. Kawasaki came to his defense and said that he was sick for the first half of the season, but he was consistently a 7th place guy when he was sick also. There are lots of rumors that Kawasaki is looking a finding a “new number one” guy for 2016. Davi will be staying on, but he faces a long slog through the AMA Nationals this summer unless he finds his mojo. (5) Josh Grant. The common palaver on Josh Grant is that he’s over-the-hill. That was true in theory for the first 6 races of the year when he rode injured (and never made the top ten). Since then Josh has been a player. He has gone 8-10-6-11-6-6-4 in the second half of the year, and finished in front of team owner Chad Reed in 3 of the last 4 races. (6) Andrew Short. A start is the greatest thing that a competitive racer can get. It doesn’t do much for a slower racer, as he is quickly shuffled to the back (Mike Alessi comes to mind), but Andrew Short has become a holeshot machine (for the second time in his career). Andrew grabbed another one in Houston. This time he made up for his wasted holeshot in St. Louis, where he crashed in the second turn, and held on to finish 6th. Short has 9 top ten finishes and is in the top ten in points. He pays off his BTO/KTM sponsors with every first turn photo.

HOUSTON SUPERCROSS RESULTS: APRIL 11, 2015
chisholmPLEA

HOUSTON RESULTS: 450 CLASS
1. Cole Seely…Hon
2. Ryan Dungey…KTM
3. Eli Tomac…Hon
4. Josh Grant…Kaw
5. Chad Reed…Kaw
6. Andrew Short…KTM
7. Davi Millsaps…Kaw
8. Broc Tickle…Suz
9. Justin Barcia…Yam
10. Justin Brayton…KTM
Other notables: 11. Blake Baggett; 12. Kyle Chisholm; 13. Nick Wey; 16. Jason Anderson; 22. Weston Peick.

HOUSTON RESULTS: 250 WEST CLASS
1. Cooper Webb…Yam
2. Shane McElrath…KTM
3. Malcolm Stewart…Hon
4. Aaron Plessinger…Yam
5. Alex Martin…Yam
6. Justin Hill…KTM
7. Zach Osborne…Hus
8. Matt Biscelgia…Hon
9. Chris Alldredge…Kaw
10. Tommy Hahn…Hon
Other notables: 12. Jackson Richardson; 13.Cole Martinez; 17. Johnny Jelderda; 21. Tyler Bowers; 22. Austin Politelli.

2015 AMA 450 SUPERCROSS POINTS STANDINGS
(After 14 of 17 races)
1. Ryan Dungey…318
2. Eli Tomac…236
3. Cole Seely…223
4. Trey Canard…204
5. Chad Reed…199
6. Blake Baggett…175
7. Jason Anderson…170
8. Broc Tickle…159
9. Ken Roczen…156
10. Andrew Short…152

2015 AMA 250 WEST SUPERCROSS POINTS STANDINGS
(After 7 of 8 races)
1. Cooper Webb…161
2. Zach Osborne…116
3. Shane McElrath…108
4. Jessy  Nelson…106
5. Tyler Bowers…105
6. Aaron Plessinger…99
7. Justin Hill…94
8. Alex Martin…91
9. Malcolm Stewart…89
10. Josh Hansen…89

2015 AMA 250 EAST SUPERCROSS POINTS STANDINGS
(After 7 of 8 races)
1. Marvin Musquin…169
2. Justin Bogle…149
3. Jeremy Martin…125
4. Joey Savatgy…113
5. R.J. Hampshire…84
6. Anthony Rodriquez…84
7. Jimmy Decotis…84
8. Kyle Peters…76
9. Martin Davalos…63
10. Kyle Cunningham…60

REMAINING SUPERCROSS RACES
April 18………………..Santa Clara, CA
April 25………………..East Rutherford, NJ
May 2…………………..Las Vegas, NV

 

Photos by John Basher, KTM, Husqvarna, Geico Honda, Troy Lee Designs, Marvin Musquin, Honda

 

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