Anaheim Monster Energy Supercross Season Opener

Roczen Serves Notice With Runaway Win
McElrath Gets First Career 250 Win

Thanks to suddenly stormy Southern California weather this week Ken Roczen didn’t ride his new 450 Factory Honda since last Tuesday---a long time off in his typical schedule. It didn’t seem to bother him. He easily smoked all his competitors Saturday night. Roczen was fast qualifier, heat race winner, holeshot winner and main event winner, leaving nothing on the table. A tricky, lime-laden Anaheim track morphed rain soaked dirt into hardened jump faces and took down quite a few riders. Roczen had some issues with the course but said he could have gone faster—he just didn’t really need to. Besting second place Ryan Dungey and 3rd place finisher Marvin Musquin on their KTMs by 16 seconds Roczen got the 2017 SX title chase off to a quick start.

It’s typically unwise to draw conclusions from Anaheim I. The series launch pad for 27 years is famous for first time winners, nerve-induced crashes, and surprises that border on outright weirdness. This year it was Eli Tomac’s turn. Fresh off his October Monster Energy Cup win and looking strong on the Factory Kawasaki Tomac dominated his heat race. In the main event he was a solid second looking ready to pounce on Roczen when he suddenly and inexplicably experienced debilitating arm pump. It was the first time in his career. Stunned, he faded back to fifth giving up fourth place to Jason Anderson. Another Anaheim surprise from out of left field.

The pre race Anaheim hype, tension and adrenaline seemed to be more in check this year due perhaps to a mature field with fewer rookies. The talent was well sorted and stratified from last year’s MX series, October’s Monster Energy Cup and the Bercy SX.

Honda’s confidence in the new CRF450R and decision to “write the check” for upper echelon talent like 2016 MX Champ Ken Roczen underscores Big Red’s desire to end its 14-year Championship drought. This was their first event win since April of 2015. Keeping Cole Seely on as Roczen’s teammate will prove wise when push comes to shove.

Yamaha’s team of 450 rookie Cooper Webb and ‘04 / ‘08 SX Champ Chad Reed could be the best of “old and new” experience making a difference. Reed at thirty four, is now the “old Dad” of the series”. Chad looks energized, relaxed and determined though. Don’t underestimate his tenacity and ability to prevail especially if he gets his wish of tough tracks with big whoops. Cooper may not spend much time adjusting to the big bore class before he makes serious moves.

KTM by far has the most current depth with a seasoned but still healing 2016 Champ Ryan Dungey augmented by teammates Trey Canard and Marvin Musquin. Musquin can be blazing fast and is highly confident after the Bercy France SX win. We think the flying Frenchman will have a breakout this year. We also expect a KTM to be on every podium.

Kawasaki is pinning its Championship hopes on Tomac and Josh Grant. Tomac stole the Vegas Monster Energy Cup when Roczen crashed and kissed away a million dollar night. Eli looks like the big green machine is dialed to his liking finally. Consistent starts and staying healthy will be the key to a SX ring for the tough Colorado kid.

Missing in action:
Sadly, James Stewart was a no show at Anaheim but issued a statement implying he’ll be back to the series at some point. Apparently he was unable to put together a suitable deal. The series will be lesser for it. Chad Reed summed it up at Thursday’s A-1 press conference: “I’m going to miss racing him”.

Format Change:
To increase main event durations and emphasize rider fitness, the series is adopting a minimum run time plus one lap for each class: Fifteen minutes for 250s (main event) and twenty minutes for 450s. Heats, semis and LCQs will have minimums too. The format may provide more time to overcome bad starts on shorter tracks but will likely increase the number of lappers top riders deal with.

Western Regional 250SX Class

Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Shane McElrath led the entire race to grab his first career win. Yamaha’s Aaron Plessenger was two seconds behind in second and Jeremy Martin was third on the Geico Honda. With Malcolm Stewart and Cooper Webb not defending their regional championships this year many believe Jeremy Martin is overdue for the crown. He’s got his work cut out for him.

The adage “You can’t win the championship at Anaheim, but you can lose it” resonated wisely in at least five helmets following Ken Roczen’s contrail Saturday night. Everybody knows there’s a lot more races to go.

450SX Class Results
1 Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda
2 Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
3 Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM
4 Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna
5 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki
6 Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda
7 Davi Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., KTM
8 Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki
9 Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Kawasaki
Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha

Western Regional 250SX Class Results
1 Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM
2 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha
3 Martin Davalos, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna
4 Mitchell Oldenburg, Alvord, Texas, KTM
5 Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki
6 Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda
7 Dan Reardon, Menifee, Calif., Yamaha
8 Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki
9 Jimmy Decotis, Peabody, Mass., Honda
10 Kyle Chisholm, Valrico, Fla., Honda 

The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season continues next Saturday, January 14, with live coverage of round two from San Diego's Petco Park on Fox Sports Channel 1 at 10 p.m. ET. / 7 p.m. PT.

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