Atlanta Supercross Commentary: Upside/Downside

Atlanta Supercross Podium
While there was precious little passing at the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross round at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, the results were anything but predictable. It was truly an upside/downside night, with 11 riders bettering or tying their best results of the year, and six riders having their worst (or equaling their worst) night of the year in the Main. That’s not the sort of statistic you expect to see almost halfway through the season. Let’s check out who is on the Upside in the 450SX class, and who is on the Downside.

Upside

1. Red Bull/KTM’s Marvin Musquin. It was a heartbreaking ride for Musquin, who was considered to have no better than an outside chance for a 450SX win in the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season. Musquin did take a 3rd in Oakland, but has otherwise been in the bottom half of the top 10 from San Diego 1 on. He led 19 laps, but Musquin was distracted by lapper James Stewart, who had no business battling with the leaders, resulting in an error that sent Musquin off the track and into 2nd place. Musquin doesn’t look like a reliable win contender yet, but this shows what he is capable of doing on any given Saturday.

2. Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Chad Reed. Last week’s 12th place at Arlington was the bottom of a four-race slide for the two-time Monster Energy Supercross champion. Things weren’t looking good, and then all of a sudden Reed gets a good start at Atlanta and he finishes on the podium. This is certainly a turnaround for him, and Reed takes back 5th in the standings, but which way does he go from here?

Ryan Dungey, Atlanta Winner
KTM’s Ryan Dungey

3. Red Bull/KTM’s Ryan Dungey. Very little has gone wrong for Dungey over the last two years, and his win at the Georgia Dome illustrates that. He kept the pressure on teammate Musquin for 19 laps in a gentlemanly manner, and then pounced when Stewart caused a problem for Musquin. Dungey could have been taken out in a three-way crash, but he managed to thread the needle through the carnage and take his fifth Monster Energy Supercross win in eight starts this year. With the woes of Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson, Dungey has a solid lead of 33 points over his nearest competitor, just short of the season’s halfway point. That lead means that Dungey is the only rider who controls his own destiny. Roczen can win all of the last nine races and still not win the Championship. It is Dungey’s to lose.

4. BTO Sports KTM’s Davi Millsaps. Although he had to qualify out of the Semi and didn’t get the greatest of starts, Millsaps was steady all night. He worked up from a 6th place start to a 4th place finish, getting by Anderson when he fell, and teammate Justin Brayton on Lap 13. His 4th in Atlanta is his best finish of the 2016 campaign.

5. BTO Sports KTM’s Justin Brayton. It was a big night for Brayton, who had not finished better than 8th all year. He’s been consistent, though, only finishing as low as 11th once. Inside the Georgia Dome, Brayton took the Heat win, and converted it into a holeshot in the Main. Things went downhill from there as he dropped down to 4th by Lap 3 and finished 5th. However, that’s his best result in the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season, so that’s a darn good upside.

6. GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle. Hampered by injury, it has been a tough season for Bogle, who crashed out at SD1 and didn’t return until SD2. His 8th at Atlanta is his best finish in his rookie 450SX year, and that has to be encouraging. He also happened to be the top Honda CRF450R on the track. Most impressively, he turned a 15th pick on the starting line into a 9th place start. Let see if he starts mixing it up regularly with the second tier riders.

7. KTM and Husqvarna. The two closely related teams took an amazing six of the top 9 spots at Atlanta in the 450SX Main, and the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition was in four of the top 5 slots. In contrast, Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha each had one bike in the top 9, with the top Kawasaki being Tomac in 11th.

Welcome To The Jungle. Pilgrim Powersports’ AJ Catanzaro (21st), Got Gear Motorsports’ Heath Harrison (22nd), and Motorcycle Superstore Suzuki’s Kyle Cunningham (18th) all made the 450SX Main for the first time in the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season. It was the first attempt for Catanzaro and Cunningham. All three made it into the Main through the LCQ (with Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Jake Weimer).

Downside

Atlanta Supercross Start1. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen. A poor start doomed Roczen at Atlanta. Although he won his Heat, Roczen found himself in 16th place at the start, and it was a hard race from there on in. Yes, he worked his way to a reasonable 6th place, but with Dungey winning, this was a terrible night for the 2nd place rider in the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross standings. Roczen went from being within a race of Dungey in the standings to being 33 back.

2. Rockstar Energy/Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson. Although Dungey’s streak of first-or-second place finishes is still alive, Anderson’s run of top 5 finishes at all of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross races is over. He came together with Cole Seely, and went down. Remounting, he finished a respectable 7th, and is now 46 points behind Dungey.

3. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. Tomac’s disappointing season got worse at Atlanta. Tomac went down early and ended up outside of the top 10. A rider expected to be competing for the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Tomac is a staggering 62 points behind Dungey and 6th place in the standings.

4. Team Honda HRC’s Trey Canard. Canard is simply running in reverse. He grabbed a 5th at his comeback race at SD2, and it looked like he was getting quickly back on path. Unfortunately, a 9th in Arlington followed by his 16th in Atlanta is not encouraging. He did make it up to 8th place before falling and moving back to 20th, but this is a rider who is expected to challenge for the win. He hasn’t been anywhere near the podium all season.

5. Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely. It was a rough night for Seely. He collided with rival Anderson twice, going down twice (Anderson just once), and only salvaged a 10th place finish. Seely remains 4th in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross standings but is only two points ahead of Reed and five points up on Tomac.

6. Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart. It was a sad return for the two-time Supercross champ. Although he looked good in his Heat, Stewart went down in the sand and had to qualify out of the Semi. He turned a mediocre 10th place start into a 14th place finish. However, the real disaster for Stewart came on the final lap when he failed to yield to Dungey and Musquin as they were coming through. It was as if he forgot he was being lapped, and his unwillingness to respect the blue flag had an impact on the race. Ironically, Stewart’s misbehavior benefited Dungey, whose wild ride through a corner at A1 took out Stewart and caused the concussion that has ruined Stewart’s year.

7. BTO Sports KTM’s Andrew Short, Autotrader/Monster Energy/Yamaha’s Phil Nicoletti, and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn. That was a truly nasty crash at the beginning of Heat 2. Short and Nicoletti came together, with Short’s bike shooting across the track and taking out a defenseless Hahn. Early reports are a broken collarbone for Hahn, a concussion for Short, and knee injury for Nicoletti. Short had been coming back from a preseason injury, while Nicoletti was subbing for the still-injured Justin Barcia. Hahn had been struggling all year, and had never been able to do better than 10th place in 2016. Click here for a video of the incident.

Next Monster Energy Supercross Round
March 5, 2016: Daytona International Speedway, Daytona, Florida
TV Schedule: Fox Sports 1, 7pm ET

Monster Energy AMA Supercross Results – Round 8 – Atlanta
1. Ryan Dungey – KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
2. Marvin Musquin – KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
3. Chad Reed – Yamaha YZ450F
4. Davi Millsaps – KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
5. Justin Brayton – KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
6. Ken Roczen – Suzuki RM-Z450
7. Jason Anderson – Husqvarna FC 450
8. Justin Bogle – Honda CRF450R
9. Christophe Pourcel – Husqvarna FC 450
10. Cole Seely – Honda CRF450R
11. Eli Tomac – Kawasaki KX450F
12. Weston Peick – Yamaha YZ450F
13. Mike Alessi – Honda CRF450R
14. James Stewart – Suzuki RM-Z450
15. Vince Friese – Honda CRF450R
16. Trey Canard – Honda CRF450R
17. Jake Weimer – Suzuki RM-Z450
18. Kyle Cunningham – Suzuki RM-Z450
19. Tommy Hahn – Yamaha YZ450F
20. Nick Schmidt – Suzuki RM-Z450
21. AJ Catanzaro – Kawasaki KX450F
22. Heath Harrison – Kawasaki KX450F

2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Standings (after 8 of 17 rounds)
1. Ryan Dungey – 191 points (5 wins)
2. Ken Roczen – 158 points (2 wins)
3. Jason Anderson – 145 points (1 win)
4. Cole Seely – 134
5. Chad Reed – 132
6. Eli Tomac – 129
7. Marvin Musquin – 114
8. Davi Millsaps – 103
9. Justin Brayton – 98
10. Jake Weimer – 77
11. Christophe Pourcel – 64
12. Trey Canard – 62
13. Wil Hahn – 56
14. Weston Peick – 49
15. Mike Alessi – 48
16. Vince Friese – 32
17. Justin Bogle – 31
18. Dean Wilson – 18
19. Tommy Hahn – 18
20. Broc Tickle – 17

Photography by Simon Cudby