By Jon Row, Lance Thruxton and Bikeland staff
AMA Monster Energy’s 17-round Supercross Series is ready for launch again putting us and a talent laden field on edge awaiting Anaheim’s opening event this Saturday night. It’s the start of what may be the most unpredictable Championship in years.
And what a difference a year makes. Big changes abound. Over sixty percent of the field is on different bikes or brands. Seattle and Toronto rounds are gone. Santa Clara California is a new destination, San Diego has a new venue and Atlanta’s Georgia Dome hosts back to back weekends.
Reigning SX Champion Ryan Villopoto is retiring. After four consecutive U.S. Supercross titles RV heads to Europe with plans to win the World MX title and end his career in world dominating style. Two-time AMA SX Champion James Stewart, is out for the season, banned from all racing by the Federation of International Motorcycling and the AMA until August 2015 for failing a controversial drug test. Bubba may watch from home or maybe one of 200 countries SX will be broadcast to this year.
With RV and Stewart gone, 2014 bridesmaid and 2010 SX Champ, Ryan Dungey should be the guy to beat this year. One of the few who did not switch brands. His KTM is all new but should be solid. World Champion-trainer Aldon Baker and 70-year old KTM-Red Bull team manager Roger DeCoster will be pushing him hard to further cement their own legacies. 450 class newcomer Dean Wilson will be RD’s Red Bull stable mate and provide little distraction however Dungey will not have any easy races this year. There’s plenty of guys to ensure that.
American Honda’s Trey Canard is in top form and Honda’s bright red catbird seat. Canard won 2014’s final outdoor race and almost swept a three-moto, one million dollar Monster Energy Cup prize at Vegas in October. Sponsor Muscle Milk is gone but Canard and teammate Cole Seely have new R & D muscle up their jersey sleeves. After years of modest “provisional assistance”, Honda Motor Japan is funneling new levels of HRC (Honda Racing Corp) support to the U.S. team. As demonstrated in Moto GP and elsewhere, big things always happen when HRC loads its legendary guns.
Factory Kawasaki’s new main man, Davi Milsaps, denied Canard that million bucks at the Vegas Cup race and looks lean and mean as he steps into Villopoto’s vacated slot. After finishing second to RV in 2012 and 2013, Milsaps endured an injury plagued 2014. Arguably the most gifted rider on the track , Milsaps has his best shot ever to finally win a SX championship.
Ken Roczen, the Austrian wunder kid, dogged Dungey and Villipoto to a third place finish in 2014 SX. Rocky impressively then proceeded to claim the 2014 AMA MX championship. Roczen wants the SX crown bad. Consistent podiums this year are a given however his choice to leave factory KTM and go with a Suzuki satellite has risk. Yes Dungey & Suzuki squeaked out the 2010 SX title but the brand doesn’t have a great track record. Roczen gets the benefit of Ricky Carmichael and his new RCH/ Soaring Eagle team but it’ll be an uphill run.
Chad Reed’s 2014 SX Championship run was cut short by ugly injuries but the Aussie scrapper will give it one more go this year on his own Two-Two Motorsports team. Some think it could be his last year. Although he has nothing to prove at this point. the two time SX Champ has finished runner up five times in his career. Reed doesn’t handle 2nd place well. He enjoys beating people. His way. On his own team. When asked this week how many more seasons his 33-year old body can handle? Reed responded: “At least this one” then chided the media throng for asking dumb questions…classic Chad. Nothing would delight Reed fans more than the “old guy” showing new kids some record book whup ass.
Justin Barcia ended his nearly lifelong relationship with Honda for Joe Gibbs Racing teaming up with fast guy Weston Peick on Yamahas. “Bam Bam” has the speed to disrupt any seasoned contender. Right now though he’s feeling lucky just to be at Anaheim after narrowly escaping horrific injury in a crash at the Genova SX in late November.
Feisty young lions coming up from the 250 class include Blake Baggett, Dean Wilson, Cole Seely and 2014 AMA 250 West Supercross champion Jason Anderson. All will be looking to upstage 450 class stars this year. Anderson will likely catch some off guard however his Rockstar Energy team’s decision to “reintroduce” Husqvarna (actually KTM-sourced technology) back to SX is a question. Staff historian Thruxton claims the one and only time Husky raced Supercross was 2001. Travis Preston won the Houston 125cc (two stroke) class event. The first European brand to ever do so.
Young gun Eli Tomac will be back on the Geico Factory Connection Honda. 2014 SX saw him sidelined by a shoulder injury though he came on strong at season end and did well in outdoor MX with double moto wins at Millville. Tomac will be a factor on several tracks.
So who is going to win the 2015 SX championship this year? Amazingly, Bikeland perfectly predicted both the 2013 winner and 2014’s winning duo. Can we do it three years in a row? Should we just fund our moto addictions with sure bets in Vegas? Not yet but stay tuned. A lot of hands are going to grab 2015 SX gold this year. Even we need see a few rounds to make a prediction.
Fox Television will air all events: Twelve races live on Fox Sports 1, Three races live on Fox Sports 2 The Rutherford NJ event April 25th will air on Fox’s National network. Big time indeed! Coverage includes the addition of new high tech aerial Spidercam cameras moving on guy wires at up to 26 feet per second, promising spectacular “never-before-seen perspectives”. In addition, eight, thirty minute specials “Supercross- Behind the Dream” will be broadcast through the season.
Check your local listings for times and better yet, see at least one event live.
January 3 – Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California
January 10 – Chase Field, Phoenix, Arizona
January 17 – Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California
January 24 – O.co Coliseum, Oakland, California
January 31 – Angel Stadium of Anaheim, Anaheim, California
February 7 – PETCO Park, San Diego, California
February 14 – AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
February 21 – Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
February 28 – Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Georgia
March 7 – Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach, Florida
March 14 – Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, Indiana
March 21 – Ford Field, Detroit, Michigan
March 28 – Edward Jones Dome, St. Louis, Missouri
April 11 – NRG Stadium, Houston, Texas
April 18 – Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, California
April 25 – MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, New Jersey
May 2 – Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nevada