Atlanta Supercross Commentary Recap
There was lots of drama at the seventh round of the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Some controversy (with Mike Alessi, naturally), plus another win for Ken Roczen, who keeps his title hopes alive as the only rider within one race of Ryan Villopoto in points. Let’s see who won and lost in Atlanta.
Ken Roczen. Red Bull KTM. Rebounding from last week’s 6th place finish, Roczen got his KTM 450 SX-F off the gate well and was in second place behind Mike Alessi by the end of the first lap. Both Roczen and Ryan Villopoto got around Alessi five laps later, and Roczen stayed close enough to Villopoto to capitalize on his training partner’s mistake nine laps later and take over the lead. Staying focused to the finish, Roczen took his second win of the season, and most importantly regained some confidence. “I don’t believe this,” said Roczen. “Getting on the podium is one thing but a win is another…such an awesome feeling. This proves that hard work pays off and helps build my confidence.” Win.
Ryan Villopoto. Monster Energy Kawasaki. Villopoto was in a position to rack up his third win of the season once he took over the lead on lap 5, but three-quarters of the way through the race he made a small mistake. It caused him to double/single a triple, allowing Roczen to easily triple past him into the lead. Villopoto was unable to get his KX450F close enough to Roczen in the remaining laps to challenge, and settled for second. Villopoto and Roczen have matched each other for number of podiums this year – five each in eight races – and Roczen has just whittled a few points off Villo’s lead. Still, the reigning champ, while not looking quite himself this season, shows no signs of cracking. Win.
Wil Hahn. GEICO Honda. Way to go Wil! Hahn looked fast in his Heat, riding to a 2nd place finish behind James Stewart. He then got a good enough start in the Main to keep his Honda CRF450R in 4th place behind Ryan Dungey for the entire race. Although Hahn is a rookie to the 450 class, he’s a veteran to AMA Supercross racing and wasn’t expected to crack the top five in this year’s deep field. With several top riders out due to injury, there was more room up front at the Georgia Dome. Still, this is a best-of-season finish for Hahn. Win.
Mike Alessi. MotoConcepts Suzuki. It was no surprise that Alessi pulled one of his signature boneheaded moves in Heat #2 trying to grab the last transfer spot to the Main (what was Broc Tickle thinking leaving the door wide open?), but his move left both riders on the ground, sending them to the Semi, and Alessi with a $4000 fine and on probation for the rest of the 2014 season. What was surprising was Alessi managed to pull off his best finish of the season in the Main. How did he regroup after the overly heated Heat, pull a holeshot—collecting another Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot award—and finish 6th? Impressive compartmentalization. Win.
James Stewart. Yoshimura Suzuki. Stewart looked poised to follow up his back to back wins by taking over the lead early on the first lap. This might have inflicted some serious damage into Villopoto’s head. Instead, he lost the front end before the first lap was over, and had to play catch up from last place. He managed an 11th place finish and is still third in overall points, but Stewart is blowing an otherwise good season. He’s either on the podium or on the ground with his RM-Z450. That doesn’t get it done. Lose.
Eli Tomac. GEICO Honda. Bad luck continues to follow the 450 rookie this year. His A1 crash cost him four races, and mechanical issues to his CRF450R have now cost him two. Trying to maintain a positive outlook in the face of so much disappointment must be tough when expectations were so high coming into this season. Lose.
Justin Barcia. Team Honda Muscle Milk. Barcia went down hard in the whoops during practice, hurting his knee and decided to skip the Main and recover for next weekend. His season had already long gotten away from him, so it made probably made sense to leave his CRF450R in the pits and not risk further tweaking his knee. “This was not how I wanted today to go,” Barcia said. “Atlanta is like my home race and I have a lot of friends and family here, so I am definitely disappointed.” Lose.
TV Announcing Team. Team owners should not be announcers – it’s impossible to give unbiased commentary. I’m no Alessi fan due to his antics over the years, but Jeff Emig and Ralph Sheehan piled on to Ricky Carmichael’s mischaracterization of Alessi’s hard move on Tickle during Heat #2 and it was embarrassing. One would think Alessi had ghosted his RM-Z450 into Tickle if it weren’t for the many replays that Fox Sports 2 ran. If Carmichael had been true to form, he would have approved the last turn hard dive for the last qualifying transfer to the main – after all, “Rubbin’ is racing,” as we’ve heard ad nauseam. Also, when Alessi made an unequivocal apology and took full ownership of what happened, none of the three announcers acknowledged it. Commentators need to be fair and impartial, and they did not meet that standard at Atlanta. Lose.
Photography by Simon Cudby and Jake Klingensmith