Features 10 Mar 2022

Top 10: Topics to follow in Supercross

Key points to be aware of at the halfway point of the 2022 indoor season.

We’re now officially over halfway through the Monster Energy Supercross Championship and we could already fill a book with the drama and storylines that have unfolded. As we head into the second half of the championship, here are our Top 10 storylines to follow.

Image: Octopi Media.

1. Eli Tomac closes in on title:
There’s a saying that whoever leads the 450SX championship after Daytona usually ends up taking the title. If that’s the case, then the engravers could begin preparing to etch Eli Tomac’s name on the 2022 trophy. The new Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha recruit has really started to come into form, and with four round wins from the opening nine races, Tomac has well-and-truly established himself as the favorite to clinch his second 450SX Supercross Championship. An in-form Jason Anderson has kept Tomac honest for most of the series, but a slip-up at Daytona has seen Anderson slide to an 18-point deficit as the series heads into the home stretch. Tomac’s history-making, crowd-rousing performance at Daytona has also heavily tipped the scales in the Yamaha rider’s favor.

2. Anderson vs Stewart tensions:
Jason Anderson and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Malcolm Stewart have clashed at the last two rounds at Arlington and Daytona and both riders hit the dirt both times. At Arlington, Anderson came into a turn too hot and took down Stewart (and himself) while they were running first and second in the opening Triple Crown race, costing them both the chance of victory. At Daytona, they collided in entering the sand section on the opening lap and plummeted well down the order. They scrambled back to seventh (Stewart) and eighth (Anderson), but officials penalized them both one position after the race for their antics. Tempers are rising and the exchanges are getting heated between the two, and it’ll only take one more physical exchange to further ignite the powder-keg of emotions.

3. Cooper Webb turning the tide:
It’s been a frustrating start to the series for defending 450SX champion, Cooper Webb. The Red Bull KTM racer has struggled to come to terms with the new KTM 450SX, but over the past few rounds we’ve seen a significant improvement in his pace and results. After a string of eighth-place finishes, Webb seemed to turn things around as the series headed east. He scored a second at Minneapolis, a third at the Arlington Triple Crown, then was deprived of his first win of 2022 at Daytona when a lapper got in his way and allowed Tomac to sail past to victory. His sudden turn of form has seen him leap up the leaderboard to third overall, 15 points behind Anderson. If the momentum continues to shift and Webb finetunes the settings on his new bike, we could see Webb return to his gritty, determined best.

4. Can the challengers win?:
It’s now becoming clear that Eli Tomac and Jason Anderson are the class riders of the 450SX field so far this year, but that doesn’t mean we’re not going to see some new faces on the top of the podium for the rest of the championship. However, if Cooper Webb, Malcolm Stewart and Justin Barcia (TLD Red Bull GasGas) want to taste the winner’s champagne, they’re going to have to make it happen soon. All three have featured on podiums this year and shown plenty of promise, but time is now starting to run out. Of these three winless racers, Webb has looked the most likely to claim victory, but Malcolm Stewart has regularly been the fastest rider in qualifying and came really close to winning at Arlington, if it hadn’t been for his aforementioned clash with Anderson.

5. The clash of the 250SX titans:
The 250SX class is going to get spicy in five weeks’ time when we witness the first of the two East-West Showdowns at the super-sized Atlanta Motor Speedway track. On the West coast, Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Christian Craig has been in a league of his own this year, winning four of the six main events, and finishing on every podium. On the East Coast, Jett Lawrence (Team Honda HRC) is showing some searing pace and flair so far, winning two of the three races and finishing third after a horrific crash with Austin Forkner (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki) at Arlington. Craig and Lawrence are at two different ends of the age and experience spectrum, and their riding styles are polar opposite, but they’re both heavy favorites for the titles. Atlanta will be our first indication as to who’s got the upper hand from a speed and form perspective, and it’s a match-up we’re excited to see develop.

Image: Octopi Media.

6. The Ken Roczen mystery:
Two days ago we received the Team Honda HRC announcement that their number one rider, Ken Roczen, was taking an indefinite break from supercross, citing health issues, ‘with the strains of the hectic racing schedule complicating progress’. It’s obvious that Roczen hasn’t been himself this year. Even the Anaheim 1 win at the championship opener came as a surprise to him, as he cited he’d been unwell for most of December. Honda’s media release also revealed that Roczen had picked up covid after the San Diego Supercross, which had compounded the issues. Until this announcement it’d been unclear as to why Roczen was struggling to break the top five when he’s riding the same bike he had so much success with as last year. While we have a few answers now, we still don’t know exactly what Roczen’s health issues are, how long his indefinite break will be, or if we’ll see him at the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in May.

7. The West Coast battle for second:
Now that Christian Craig has torn out to a near-insurmountable 28-point lead in the West Coast Championship, the focus now turns to the battle for the runner-up spot. With four rounds of West coast action (including the showdowns) still to take place and a one-point margin between TLD Red Bull GasGas’ Michael Mosiman and Team Honda HRC’s Hunter Lawrence, the stage is set for an intense free-for-all. Mosiman won the San Diego round after Craig had to scramble his way through the pack from a first-turn crash, while Lawrence won two weeks’ later in Glendale. The Australian certainly has enjoyed more consistency this year and had been pushing Craig for wins, but a big crash in the whoops and resulting DNF at Anaheim 3 shattered his chances of a series victory this year. Lawrence won’t be happy with second in the championship, but it’s fair to say he’ll be less happy with third.

8. All-in for McAdoo:
Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider Cameron McAdoo came into Daytona as the joint red plate-holder with Jett Lawrence, but left the World Centre of Racing five points down and with a knee injury scare in his heat race. On top of that, Lawrence finished more than 18 seconds further up the field than him in the main event. If there’s one thing we learnt about McAdoo last year, it’s that he’s certainly not lacking in determination (remember his horror crash then miraculous comeback to third at Atlanta?), and there’s little doubt that the weekend’s result will give him extra motivation for the rest of the 250SX East Championship. There’ll be plenty of eyes on him this weekend in Detroit to see how he responds to the pressure and if he’s able to again take the fight to Lawrence.

9. Chisholm’s golden ticket:
We hate seeing riders get injured, but at the same time we love seeing riders get opportunities to shine, especially when those opportunities are given to the hardest-working privateers in the sport. Florida’s Kyle Chisholm has gained a reputation of almost always finding his way into a main event and consistently racking up points, and with two of Monster Energy Star Yamaha’s racers – Jeremy Martin and Levi Kitchen – sidelined, the team has given Chisholm a golden opportunity to race for them in the 250SX East class. At 34, Chisholm has seen more gate-drops than anyone else in the class and will be looking to use that experience when he gets behind the grips for the remainder fo the East series. We’re looking forward to following his progress, and now that he’s secured a ride on one of the fastest bikes in the field, we could see a big jump in his performance and results.

10. Opportunities to shine in the East:
With some of the 250SX East major contenders – Austin Forkner (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki), Jeremy Martin and Levi Kitchen – exiting the series early with injury, the door is open for a number of the up-and-coming racers to make a name for themselves. We’ve already seen Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Stilez Robertson take the bull by the horns with several big holeshots and an impressive second place at Daytona, while Pierce Brown (TLD Red Bull GasGas) and Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha pairing Enzo Lopes and Phil Nicoletti have also enjoyed some time near the front of the field. As the field naturally continues to thin out as the championship progresses, the opportunities for these racers to put themselves in good track positions will continue to increase… as long as they don’t find themselves on sidelines as well.