2015 Anaheim Supercross Preview – A1 Season Opener

Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey, a favorite ahead of 2015 SX
Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey, a favorite ahead of 2015 SX

2015 Anaheim Supercross Preview

The 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season begins this Saturday evening at Angel Stadium for Anaheim I – round one of 17.

Two major stories precede the 2015 SX season – the absence of the man who won the past four consecutive Supercross titles, Ryan Villopoto, and the absence of two-time SX Champion James “Bubba” Stewart.

Villopoto, who took the titles aboard the Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F, joins FIM MXGP for 2015. As for Stewart, he is currently serving a 16-month suspension due to an anti-doping violation. The Floridian failed a drug test at 2014 Seattle Supercross, and won’t be able to compete until August – well after the 2015 SX season.

Villopoto and Stewart are two of the most successful riders over the past eight season, and have taken five of the past six championships.

Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey, a favorite ahead of 2015 SX
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, a favorite ahead of 2015 SX

With these two out, all eyes will be on the only two past champions competing in 2015 Supercross – Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey and TwoTwo Motorsport Kawasaki’s Chad Reed.

Dungey, who finished runner-up in 2014 Supercross and seeks his second SX title, will be joined by a new teammate in 2015 – former Monster Energy Kawasaki 250SX pilot Dean Wilson. As Wilson begins his rookie year in the 450 class, it will also be the first time he rode something other than Kawasaki machinery.

The Scottish rider Wilson did very well in 2014 450X while riding at select races, and was well received by Dungey and Red Bull KTM Team Manager Roger DeCoster.

As for Dungey’s former teammate Ken Roczen, the German has joined the the factory-backed Team RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki effort of Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart. Last season, Roczen finished his rookie 450 Supercross season in third overall before winning the AMA Motocross title.

Roczen is no stranger to Suzuki RM-Z machinery; he had much success with Suzuki while competing in Europe earlier in his career.

TwoTwo Motorsports Kawasaki's Chad Reed
TwoTwo Motorsports Kawasaki’s Chad Reed

Reed, who owns and operates the Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports team, will compete next to veteran Josh Grant, a former winner in Supercross. Without factory backing, Reed’s team has been a dominate player.

Reed himself scored wins in 2014 SX, but suffered an injury that sidelined him. Always a favorite, his chances are much better now that Villopoto and Stewart are missing from the grid.

The Supercross field will look drastically different in 2015, with 13 riders either racing with a brand new team or on a different brand of motorcycle.

Replacing Villopoto on the Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F is Davi Millsaps, who finished runner-up behind Villopoto in both 2012 and 2013. Millsaps had his name high for title contender for 2014, but was injured ahead of the season. He wouldn’t ride until the Monster Energy Cup, and much doubt surrounded his ability.

But Millsaps, who debuted on the Monster Energy Kawasaki KX-F450 at the Monster Energy Cup, was able to take the overall victory with a 3-4-1 finish. This gave him much bragging rights ahead of 2014. For 2015 SX, he will be joined by Wil Hahn, who spent his 2014 rookie season aboard a Honda.

With Grant joining Reed, this left a vacancy on the Joe Gibbs Racing effort of Toyota/Yamaha/N-FAB/JGRMX. The rider? Justin Barcia, who begins his third year in the 450SX class. Barcia will without a doubt be a top Yamaha YZ450F pilot, and he will be joined by Weston Peick, who will begin his first season with a factory bike.

RCH Suzuki's Ken Roczen
RCH Suzuki’s Ken Roczen

With Barcia off the factory Team Honda, Trey Canard is the dominate CRF450R pilot. Though he was sidelined for a majority of 2014 due to injury, he returned for the final five races with vengeance. He also took second in the 2014 Monster Energy Cup. He has much to do for Honda, which has not won a championship in 11 seasons.

Canard will be joined on the factory Honda team by the rookie Cole Seely, who substituted for Canard at a few races last season, even earning one podium.

The GEICO Honda team will feature much talent, including sophomore 450 rider Eli Tomac. He also sustained some injury last season, but managed a pair of runner-up finishes.

Husqvarna makes its return to Supercross in 2015 with the Western Regional 250SX Champion Jason Anderson. Anderson will ride for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team – one of the most anticipated teams to field a bike in 2015 SX.

Another rookie entering the 2015 SX season is Blake Baggett. The Yoshimura Suzuki Racing RM-Z450 rider trained behind Stewart for most of the off season, and will be the sole pilot on the Yoshimura Suzuki Team.

Speaking of the 2015 season opener at Anaheim, Feld Motor Sports – the series promoter – says “As a whole, the lineup set to battle for the open Monster Energy Supercross championship is filled with veteran talent, youthful exuberance and a list of riders who know how to win. With no one standing in their way, each competitor will lay it all on the line to stake his claim for the title, which could make for one of the most parity-driven seasons of all time.”

Monster Energy Kawasaki's Davi Millsaps
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Davi Millsaps

2015 Monster Energy Supercross Championship Key Insights:

  • The winner of the opening 450SX Class race of the year has gone on to win the championship in 17 of 41 seasons.
  • For the first time in four seasons, a new 450SX Class champion will be crowned in 2015.
  • Just two former titleholders will line up on the 450SX Class gate to start the 2015 season – Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey.
  • A total of nine Main Event winners will highlight the 450SX Class field.
  • Four former 250SX Class winners will embark on their rookie 450SX Class season in 2015 – Jason Anderson, Blake Baggett, Cole Seely and Dean Wilson.
  • A total of 13 of the most prominent competitors in the 450SX Class will compete on a new brand of motorcycle and/or with a new team in 2015.
  • With Davi Millsaps missing all of 2014, can he build off of the success he enjoyed in Anaheim back in 2013 when he won the season opener?
  • Can Ken Roczen give RCH Racing its first victory and establish it as a championship contender?
  • Will Justin Barcia be able to get back on top of the podium with JGRMX and give the team title aspirations?
  • Fully healthy, can Trey Canard return to the level that helped him challenge for a title as a rookie in 2011 and end Honda’s 11-season championship drought?
  • At the age of 32 can Reed, the sport’s oldest full-time competitor, rekindle the magic he had last season before a major injury ended his championship hopes?
  • Will Dungey’s impressive consistency as a 450SX Class competitor, top three championship finishes in each of his five seasons, lead him to a second career title and the first for KTM?