Features 16 Mar 2017

Top 10: AMA Supercross storylines

What has stood out following 10 rounds this season.

The 2017 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship has been action-packed during the first 10 rounds of the schedule with plenty of huge storylines developing along the way. We’ve seen great battles, substantial injuries and a range of interesting situations arise throughout what has been an exciting season to date. In this latest edition of Top 10, MotoOnline.com.au takes a closer look at 10 notable topics that have stood out so far with seven rounds of supercross racing remaining this season.

Source: Supplied.

1. Dungey and Tomac’s championship battle:
The battle for the premier class title is a huge talking point right now and will continue to be for the remainder of the season. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac is coming in hot and continues to chip away at Ryan Dungey’s points lead. Now 10 rounds into the series with seven remaining, the Red Bull KTM rider has seen his lead drop down to just 17 points as Tomac most recently took his fifth main event victory of the season in Daytona. Can the defending three-time champion turn things around and rebuild the buffer between himself and the number three rider? It definitely will take a revised approach from Dungey in order to do so, but if his post-race frustrations from Daytona are anything to go off, ‘The Dunge’ will be fired up this weekend in Indianapolis.

2. Roczen’s injury:
Ken Roczen started out the 2017 season in amazing form with his new Team Honda HRC backing – the guy was very impressive. After dominating the season opener and going on to win round two ahead of Ryan Dungey, Roczen was in control of the 450SX championship and many had picked him to take out the number one plate. All was going to plan before the German rider was forced to eject in the middle of a section at Anaheim 2, the impact causing devastating arm injuries for the red plate holder. Since then Roczen has endured 10 surgeries and it’s clear his injury is very severe, so bad that doctors have mentioned that this could indeed end a career. As he continues to recover from the extensive list of injuries, it’s not yet clear if or when he will return, but let’s hope we can see the number 94 back in action and at full strength in the near future.

3. Timed racing:
It’s the most significant change to the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship format since the re-introduction of 450SX semi-final races in 2014 – timed racing. The 2017 season marked the introduction of timed races from the heats all the way through to the main events. There’s multiple reasons behind this change, one major reason being that fans now have a guaranteed amount of racing action no matter how long or short the lap is. The biggest thing we have seen since this change is how the tracks are breaking down, and how the riders are dealing with this change. With more laps being ridden at each event due to the timed racing, it’s creating a rough and challenging circuit for the riders, which benefits and hinders some at the same time. For example, Eli Tomac seems to excel in these conditions, but Ryan Dungey on the other hand struggles when the track is beat and you’re forced to push the limits and ride on the edge. It’s just one extra element for these riders to deal with out there and it’s certainly playing a huge part in this championship.

4. Reed’s up-and-down season:
It was been a challenging season for Australia’s Chad Reed in 2017, you never really know what you will get from the now 35-year-old veteran of the sport each weekend. Reed’s Glendale runner-up performance had fans and media alike expecting a resurgence of sorts from the factory Yamaha rider, but it never really came about following that awesome ride. Although he did claim a solid fourth place finish in Toronto, the two-time champion has struggled to find a consistent groove since Glendale and it’s clearly a frustrating situation for the 22.

5. Reardon’s return:
It was an unexpected announcement from Reardon late last year when he confirmed he would fill-in at Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha for the injured Colt Nichols on the West Coast 250SX circuit. After spending multiple seasons in the premier class, it was an interesting choice for the veteran to move back to the quarter-litre category, but it has gone fairly well to date. The Australian notched a fifth place finish in Arlington right before the mid-season break began, a strong result for the returning rider who has been forced to build and re-learn the 250 during the season. Not yet satisfied with his 2017 results, look for the Queenslander to be pushing for that elusive podium finish during the final rounds of the year.

Source: Supplied.

6. Cianciarulo’s return to the top:
Adam Cianciarulo exploded onto the Monster Energy AMA Sueprcross Championship scene in 2014 and was very impressive right away. After claiming his first 250SX main event win in his very first start, the amateur star put together another two victories before it all fell apart. Following multiple seasons of injuries, the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider returned healthy in 2017 and has been quite impressive to date. The Floridian continued to build during the opening East Coast 250SX rounds and went on to confirm he is back to his previous form with a win in Daytona.

7. Martin’s strong 450 debut:
Joining the GEICO Honda team for 2017, Jeremy Martin’s season to date in the West Coast 250SX series definitely hasn’t gone to plan. Sitting ninth overall in points and with a season-best main event finish of sixth place, Martin took the opportunity to fill-in at Team Honda HRC for a one-off appearance in Daytona. Aboard Ken Roczen’s 2017 CRF450R, the two-time Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship winner impressed on debut in the premier class leading half of the 20-lap main event before bringing it home in second place. It was a promising performance for Martin who has been vocal about his desire to move to the 450 category full-time in 2018.

8. Anderson’s disqualification:
It’s never a good thing to see one of the best riders in the sport disqualified from the night’s racing, not one person benefits from the situation. Unfortunately for Jason Anderson it was a combination of events and emotions that saw the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider sit out the Anaheim 2 event following a heat race incident with Vince Friese. It was a well-reported post-race altercation between the two that saw Anderson excluded from the event, but nobody knew at that point in time how badly injured the 2014 West Coast 250SX championship winner really was. That kind of behavior definitely isn’t the way to handle the situation, but it became more apparent that Anderson was reacting in that way due to multiple reasons. The former main event winner returned the following week with a severe arm injury that hindered him for quite some time, it was an unfortunate turning point for the title hopeful that definitely stood out as a major talking point of the 2017 season.

9. McElrath’s improvement:
Heading into the 2017 season, there definitely wasn’t a huge amount of hype around Shane McElrath on the West Coast 250SX schedule. He was certainly in there as a strong contender, but his Anaheim season-opening and San Diego wins really put him on the map as a serious title contender. A first-time winner at round one, McElrath continued to notch solid results and his improvement this season has been quite impressive. Although at this point in time the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM rider now sits in third place on the standings following a mechanical issue in Arlington, he still remains as one of the top contenders and one of the larger surprises of the season.

10. James Stewart’s absence:
What’s happening with James Stewart? There’s been a tonne of speculation, rumours and stories making the rounds in 2017 and nothing really can be confirmed to date. When his younger brother Malcolm put together a deal featuring Seven (James’ race wear brand) backing, it created a lot of hype and fans were hoping this could be a deal ‘Bubba’ could be a part of. Unfortunately nothing has eventuated from that situation to date and Stewart has remained very quiet on social media and within the media in general. It has been said multiple times that he would return at some stage in 2017, but we’re already 10 rounds in and there’s still no James Stewart in sight.