PHOTOS | EMERY
The 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series kicked off with a thrilling, wet night of racing at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Early January rains are always a risk in the Southern California city and hours of rain fell on the open-air stadium, which turned the already-technical course slick and sloppy. The common plan by riders at the 2019 Anaheim One Supercross was to make it through the night as safely and with as many points as possible, but with steady rain and a slew of eager competitors on the line, some had a better outcome than others.
250 Heat One
The afternoon rain caught racers in the night's first race off guard and when the field barreled into the first turn, nearly everyone in the lead pack slid out on the wet soil. Dylan Ferrandis was once of the many caught up in the commotion and he went from what looked to be a sure holeshot to nearly last place. This allowed Red Bull KTM Canada rider Jess Pettis to nab the lead and his experiences north of the border paid off as he set the pace in the opening laps. GEICO Honda's RJ Hampshire eventually tracked down and passed Pettis, then inched away from a lineup that included Shane McElrath, Enzo Lopes, Carson Brown, Sean Cantrell, Chris Blose, Justin Starling, and more.
In the middle of the moto Shane McElrath found the flow and with a series of quick laps closed the gap built by Hampshire. Despite the charge, McElrath was unable to close the gap enough for a passing opportunity and Hampshire snagged the race win by just over one second.
The opening lap crash did not seem to faze Ferrandis, as he spent the remaining minutes of the moto climbing through the running order. By the end of the race, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider reached fifth, a definite transfer spot.
250 Heat Race Two
Just like in the night's opening race, an eager rider overshot the first turn and lost their chance at the race win. This time it was JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing's Jimmy Decotis, who slid into the Suzuki bales and allowed Adam Cianciarulo to take the lead. Cianciarulo's initial time at the front was short, however, because the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider broke traction on the slick track, raced down the infield, and rejoined a few spots further back. Reigning Arenacross champion Jacob Hayes benefitted from this and the CycleTrader/Rock River Yamaha rider set the pace through the middle minutes of the moto. With just over two minutes remaining Hayes faltered through the tricky whoop sections and doubled the following triple, while Cianciarulo flew overhead and back into the lead. Colt Nichols put in a solid charge through the closing laps and with some help from lapped riders, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider had leader Cianciarulo in sight but could not make an attempt for the lead.
Decotis rebounded well from his opening-lap issue and passed back up to ninth place. A block-pass battle with Matt Jorgensen almost cost Decotis ninth place, but he managed to get back around the KTM-mounted privateer and secured the final transfer into the Main Event.
450 Heat Race One
The opening laps of the night's first 450 race were a thriller as Dean Wilson and Ken Roczen diced for the top spot, while Jason Anderson, Joey Savatgy, Aaron Plessinger, Cole Seely, Tyler Bowers, and Justin Brayton followed closely behind. After a few laps of glances back and forth, Roczen closed off an inside line in the turn before the tunnel jump and took over the lead, which he never relinquished.
While Roczen and Wilson raced up front, an event better battle developed just behind them between a fleet of factory rider. A mistake and poor laps by Anderson dropped the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna rider from second to sixth and let Plessinger, Savatgy, and Seely all by. Plessinger's solid mud skills came in handy on the slick track and the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider reached third place at the finish. Joey Savatgy had an issue in the final laps and the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider went over a berm and dropped back to eighth place.
450 Heat Race Two
Malcolm Stewart, making his first A1 appearance as a 450 rider, snagged the lead on the opening lap and led Justin Barcia, Blake Baggett, Justin Bogle, Vince Friese, Eli Tomac, Justin Hill, Marvin Musquin, Cooper Webb, and Chad Reed through the first minutes of the race. A small mistake while exiting a hairpin turn caused the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider to break momentum and Barcia blasted by. Once up front, the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider wicked up the pace, pulled clear of the field, and wheelied his way to the win.
After a slow start to the moto, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Tomac worked up to fifth place and pursued Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM's Justin Bogle for the next spot in the running order. Bogle, in just his sixth day on the bike, managed to hold Tomac at bay for the spot.
Plenty of factory talent in Heat Race Two filled the top-ten spots, but with only nine riders heading directly to the Main Event, Chad Reed was the one that missed the initial cut. In order to make his eighteenth-consecutive Anaheim One Main Event the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider had to run the LCQ.
Bradley Lionnet aced the 250 LCQ, as the South African transplant led all six laps over Jorgensen, Logan Karnow, and Jerry Robin. With this, the field of twenty-two riders was set for the Main Event.
Like the 250 LCQ, one rider owned the 450 LCQ. Carlen Gardner clicked off six solid laps, most of which were alone with a sizeable advantage over the field, and he claimed the win. With a small milestone on the line, Chad Reed did what had to be done in the LCQ. A poor start put the veteran deeper in the field than anticipated, but in time he worked up to second place, just ahead of Ben LaMay and Kyle Chisholm.
250 Main Event
Shane McElrath was credited with the holeshot, but commitment by Colt Nichols through the first major rhythm lane switched control of the race to Nichols. Once in front, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider immediately opened up a gap on the rest of the pack and at the end of the opening lap, was over three seconds ahead of second place. While the twenty-one other riders tussled for a place in the running order, Nichols strung together over a dozen consistent laps, hit most of the major obstacles, and got around slower lapped riders without incident.
Nichols' lead was assisted by the race-long battles by riders behind him, including McElrath, Dylan Ferrandis, RJ Hampshire, and Adam Cianciarulo. Ferrandis made moves first on Hampshire and then on McElrath to reach second place, while Hampshire and Cianciarulo exchanged aggressive moves with each other for spots deeper in the top-five. For Cianciarulo the Main Event was hampered by a series of mistakes, which included blowing through the first turn at the start, getting sideways in a whoop section, and a contact pass with Hampshire that put the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider on the ground and further back in the field.
But at the front, all was well for Nichols and through fourteen of the sixteen Main Event laps he put even more time on the field. When all was said and done, Nichols crossed the finish line sixteen-seconds ahead of the competition for his first career Main Event win.
450 Main Event
The intensity of the rain increased just as the riders loaded into the gate for the Main Event and this element played a major role in how the following twenty-five minutes unfolded. The ever-slick first turn caught Cooper Webb, Joey Savatgy, Chad Reed, and Justin Hill, but Dean Wilson, Malcolm Stewart, and many others were able to get through without much issue. Wilson, on his independent Husqvarna, proved throughout the day that he had the pace to be a front-runner and an excellent start in the feature put him in the lead as the put in the first lap. Tailed by Stewart, Wilson maintained momentum and managed to do most of the major jumps on the track, a feat that many of the "expected" race winners would not figure out until later on.
When Wilson did not do the infield double-double on one lap, Stewart saw an opportunity to close the gap but broke traction as he entered the next turn, which allowed the back of his Honda to slide out and put him on the ground. With this, Barcia and Roczen were able to go by and Stewart spent the rest of the race in a battle with others to hold down a spot near the top-five. Barcia, a rider known for his skill in the slop, managed to reel in Wilson through the late stages of the race and as Wilson struggled with vision and slower lapped rider. The lone pass for the lead came on lap fourteen when Wilson checked up due to two riders ahead and Barcia dove to an inside line in the next turn. After fifteen minutes of leading and with no goggles to protect his eyes, Wilson eased up his pace, which allowed Roczen and a late-charging Eli Tomac to steal the other two podium spots.
The Main Event win was the first in years for both Barcia and Yamaha; Barcia since Seattle six years ago and Yamaha since James Stewart.
Defending champion Jason Anderson was near the front of the field early, but things never seemed to click for the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna rider. In the final laps of the race, he was passed by multiple riders and dropped from a spot in the top-ten to fourteenth.
Cooper Webb recovered well from his first-turn crash and after being in nearly last-place on the opening, the Red Bull KTM rider passed all the way up to fifth place at the finish. Aaron Plessinger was the top-finishing rookie of the 450 Main Event, as the well-known mud rider took seventh place.
After making the Main Event via the LCQ and a near-crash in the first-turn, Chad Reed rose to ninth place at the finish. This was Reed’s 205 career top-ten result.