Upside/Downside: 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross 250 Round 1

There’s nothing like watching the kids go at it at the first round of the AMA Supercross season. This year, there’s a great mix of returning youngsters and some new competitors (some a bit older). Here’s a look at who did well and who needs some improvement in Phoenix on Saturday.

Upside

Jessy Nelson – Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM – Easily surpassing his career best finish last year — a 5th place in Seattle — Nelson grabbed the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot Award and raced unopposed to the checkered flag. With 4 top riders moving out of the class this year, we expected to see Nelson in the top 5 in the West, but we didn’t have him picked for the top of the box without breaking a sweat. It sounds like Nelson was as surprised as the rest of us: “This [win] is just a big shock.”

Zach Osborne – Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna – Tough as nails, Osborne didn’t let Tyler Bower’s self-described ‘mean pass’ on him during Heat #2 ruin his night. He picked his FC 250 up, got the broken thumb taped, won the LCQ, then rode to a second place finish in the Main. Adrenaline is an amazing elixir. On the downside, we don’t know how he’s going to get through the next seven rounds with no time for that thumb to heal.

Tyler Bowers – Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki – The 4-time AMSOIL Arenacross Champion rode hard and is not apologizing for his aggressive riding, despite a talk with the AMA/FIM Race Director directly after his Heat race. Bowers was expected to be a contender in the West coast division based on his Arenacross speed and tenacity, but it’s quite clear that he’s here for nothing less than the 250 title. “I didn’t come here to get pushed around,” Bowers warned the other riders. The West coast 250 series will not be boring.

Aaron Plessinger – Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha – Moving up from the Amateur ranks this year, Plessinger surprises with a top 5 finish in his professional debut. Not bad for the 2014 Monster Energy Cup Amateur All-Stars winner, and now teammate to Cooper Webb. Plessinger methodically worked his way from a poor start to a 5th place finish in an impressive manner, beating some big 250 names in the process.

Josh Hansen – MotoSport.com/Team 100 Kawasaki – Returning to racing after a long absence, Hansen finished 2nd in his Heat with a strong ride, but went down in the Main when he came together with Shane McElrath. Still, his 3rd place start showed that he hasn’t lost his reflexes, and the 9th place finish looks about right considering the field. We’ll be keeping an eye on Hansen to see if he can sharpen up his pace in the coming rounds, but this is a better return than some might have expected.

Downside

Malcolm Stewart – GEICO Honda – Stewart had a tough night, ending up on the ground in both his Heat and the Main. “I was trying to throw down the fastest laps and push it harder. That’s what I’m supposed to do in practice, not the race,” admitted Stewart, who had to retire from the race after a crash on lap three left him with a tweaked wrist. “I think I was maybe too excited for Anaheim 1 and to race.” We hope Stewart is not following in his big brother’s footsteps, riding-on-the-edge that left JS7 on the tuff blocks in too many races.

Justin Hill – Red Bull KTM – Looking good early in the day with the 2nd fastest qualifying time, Hill won his heat race and looked ready to collect some podium points at A1. He got his 250 SX-F off the line in 5th and worked his way up to 3rd after several laps, but wasn’t able to maintain the pace, eventually getting passed by Bowers. Hill didn’t have any excuses, but said a 4th would have to be something to build on. We’ll be watching closely in Phoenix.

Cooper Webb – Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha – Staying out of trouble is not always easy in the 250 class, and a mid-pack start doesn’t help. Webb got caught in a big pile up that started when Stewart went down, taking a lot of riders with him. That leaves Webb 11 points down from the leader after just one race, certainly not where he wants to be.

Matt Bisceglia – GEICO Honda – Making a few mistakes of his own, as well as getting pushed off the track and stalling his CRF250R, left Bisceglia with an unlucky 13th place finish at the end of the night. He managed a decent 4th place start, but feels he needs to be riding more aggressively. “When I get in certain situations I need to be the one that pushes through, not the other guys,” Bisceglia explained. “The competition is at a level where you have to be the aggressor.”

Photography by Don Williams

2015 Western Regional 250SX Class Results: Anaheim 1
1. Jessy Nelson, KTM
2. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna
3. Tyler Bowers, Kawasaki
4. Justin Hill, KTM
5. Aaron Plessinger, Yamaha
6. Shane McElrath, KTM
7. Cooper Webb, Yamaha
8. Alex Martin, Yamaha
9. Josh Hansen, Kawasaki
10. Michael Leib, Honda