Inside The 2016 Daytona Supercross by Honda

Sitting right in the middle of the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship series (eight completed coming in, eight to go leaving), one would think the series has settled down and each rider has found his place. Instead, we have many racers with highly inconsistent results, including big names such as Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Cole Seely, and Chad Reed. A few factory riders—Frenchmen Christophe Pourcel and Marvin Musquin, for instance—seem to be ascending, while Jake Weimer and Weston Peick are struggling. Injuries have wrecked the Yoshimura/Factory Suzuki Racing team’s season. One rider who has been consistent is defending Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey, who holds a commanding lead and has not finished worse than 2nd all year. Let’s take a mid-term look at the Upside/Downside of the 2016 Daytona Supercross by Honda.

Eli Tomac Wins Daytona 2016
Eli Tomac – Daytona Winner

1. Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. Few people would have expected it would take nine rounds of the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championship Series for Tomac to score his first win, but that’s how long his dry spell has been. Tomac had only managed one podium—in Phoenix—and finished 11th the previous week in Atlanta. Regardless, it all came together in Daytona Beach for Tomac, as he was fastest in Qualifying, beat Ryan Dungey to win his Heat Race, and nearly grabbed the holeshot in the Main. Leading all 20 laps of the Main, Dungey never challenged Tomac, who must be breathing a huge sigh of relief this week and enjoying his big Upside moment for 2016.

2. HLTN CO/Suzuki’s Josh Grant. Why is this guy retired? Although he qualified 13th in the afternoon in his supposedly one-off comeback ride, Grant qualified for the Main straight out of the Heat on his Suzuki RM-Z450, beating a handful of factory riders. His 9th place start was not encouraging, and he had slipped back to 10th by Lap 3. However, Grant hung in there. He battled with Christophe Pourcel for a while, eventually taking 8th when they both passed a fading Phil Nicoletti, and Grant finally pulled away from Pourcel. On Lap 18, Grant was gifted 7th place when Davi Millsaps went down and out. Not only was this an amazingly good ride on what was described as a last minute opportunity while on a fishing vacation, Grant put it to quite a few factory riders on what is the most grueling course of the year. Will this Upside turn Grant into the 450SX version of Christian Craig in the 250SX class? Believe it or not, Grant is higher in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross standings (25th) than both Yoshimura/Factory Suzuki Racing riders—James Stewart (28th) and Blake Baggett (26th), who have been injury plagued.

2016 Supercross Daytona Ryan Dungey3. Red Bull/KTM’s Ryan Dungey. Dungey’s 2nd at Daytona International Speedway marks his 25th consecutive 450SX podium, tying Chad Reed’s record. Although Dungey got the holeshot, he make a quick error that allowed Tomac to get by and take the lead. With a clear track, Tomac took off and Dungey smartly settled for 2nd, well ahead of his closest championship rival, Ken Roczen. Dungey continues to be the only rider in Monster Energy Supercross who controls his own destiny—he doesn’t have to win another race to take home his second consecutive crown.

3. Red Bull/KTM’s Marvin Musquin. Daytona marks two podiums in a row for Musquin. Though he was never a challenger for the win, finishing 20 seconds behind Tomac, it was still a strong night for Musquin, coming off a near-victory in Atlanta. Musquin won his Heat, started 3rd in the Main, and stayed there for the duration, far ahead of Jason Anderson. Now that Musquin has back-to-back podiums, we’ll find out in Toronto if he’s for real, or Musquin will return to his usual position in the bottom half of the top 10.

Jason Anderson on Husqvarna at Daytona4. Rockstar Energy/Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson. It was a better than average night for Anderson, though he did have to go to the Semi to transfer to the Main—something not unusual for him. Even without a great gate pick, the notoriously mediocre starter improved to 5th at the start. He went by Nicoletti on Lap 4 and settled into 4th for the night. A charging Ken Roczen was closing at the end of the race, but never challenged.

5. Rockstar Energy/Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Christophe Pourcel. Finishing outside of the top 10 at the first six rounds, Pourcel seems to have found his way and has now finished in the top 10 for three races in a row. With Anderson a reliable top 5 rider (eight rounds of nine), Husky has to be happy to now see two riders in the top 10 on a regular basis. Plus, Pourcel usually wows the crowd in Qualifying, often topping the timing charts. This week, he was 2nd, which is still impressive.

DOWNSIDE

1. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen. It doesn’t seem that long ago that Roczen strung together five podiums in a row, along with two wins in three races. In fact, it looked like Roczen was going to make a run at Dungey. Since the Arlington win, Roczen has finished 6th in Atlanta and 5th in Daytona. Roczen had gotten within a race of Dungey in the Monster Energy Supercross standings, but now he is 39 points back and will have to rely on others if he’s going to take the championship this year. In reality, he’s only 11 points ahead of Anderson, so he’s not secure in his 2nd place slot.

2. Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Chad Reed. Every round you have to wonder, which Reed will show up. Reed was 12th in Arlington, on the podium the next week in Atlanta, and now back to 12th at Daytona. Reed was reportedly unhappy with the track designed by his one-time rival Ricky Carmichael, but that’s hardly a good excuse for a factory rider, and the track didn’t bother Tomac or Dungey. It was sad to see Reed struggle and have to rely on the LCQ to make the Main, but that’s what happened to the aging factory racer. Daytona was a big Downside for Reed who was pushed back to 6th in the Monster Energy Supercross standings.

3. Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely. What has happened to Seely? After a 2nd at SD2 and a 4th in Arlington, Seely now has two 10ths in a row. Seely has gone from battling for 3rd in the standings to trying to hold onto 5th place. He never looked good at Daytona, and being involved in a first-lap multi-bike crash in the Main didn’t help. Despite advancing from 21st to 10th with a dented body and bike, Seely is a factory rider and needs to avoid situations like that. Wild card rider Josh Grant should not be finishing three spots ahead of Seely.

4. BTO Sports/KTM’s Davi Millsaps. It looked like a pretty good night for Millsaps, who was running in 7th place, and as high as 5th, before being passed by Roczen and Team Honda HRC’s Trey Canard. Disaster struck on Lap 19, however, and Millsaps went down hard. He went on Twitter from the hospital to reveal he had suffered three broken ribs, a partially collapsed lung, and internal bleeding. Millsaps was looking for his 3rd consecutive top 10 finish when he crashed out. There’s no word when he’ll be back, though he is out of the hospital (but unable to fly). Daytona was a serious Downside for Millsaps.

5. Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart. If Stewart thought that sitting out last year on suspension was bad, little did he know what was awaiting him in 2016. Just as he seems to be recovering from the concussion he suffered at A1, Stewart loops out hard in the whoops on the first lap of his Daytona Heat race, ending his night. According to Suzuki, Stewart suffered “deep bruising to his lower back.” It has still not been determined if Stewart will be fit to race in Toronto.

Results: 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Round 9, Daytona International Speedway, Daytona Beach

1. Eli Tomac (Kawasaki KX450F)
2. Ryan Dungey (KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition)
3. Marvin Musquin (KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition)
4. Jason Anderson (Husqvarna FC 450)
5. Ken Roczen (Suzuki RM-Z450)
6. Trey Canard (Honda CRF450R)
7. Josh Grant (Suzuki RM-Z450)
8. Christophe Pourcel (Husqvarna FC 450)
9. Justin Brayton (KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition)
10. Cole Seely (Honda CRF450R)
11. Justin Bogle (Honda CRF450R)
12. Chad Reed (Yamaha YZ450F)
13. Blake Baggett (Suzuki RM-Z450)
14. Vince Friese (Honda CRF450R)
15. Kyle Cunningham (Suzuki RM-Z450)
16. Mike Alessi (Honda CRF450R)
17. Jake Weimer (Suzuki RM-Z450)
18. Weston Peick (Yamaha YZ450F)
19. David Millsaps (KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition)
20. Nicholas Schmidt (Suzuki RM-Z450)
21. Phillip Nicoletti (Yamaha YZ450F)
22. Thomas Hahn (Yamaha YZ450F)

2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Standings (after 9 of 17 rounds)
1. Ryan Dungey, 213 points (5 wins)
2. Ken Roczen, 174 points (2 wins)
3. Jason Anderson, 163 points (1 win)
4. Eli Tomac, 154 (1 win)
5. Cole Seely, 145
6. Chad Reed, 141
7. Marvin Musquin, 134
8. Justin Brayton, 110
9. David Millsaps, 105
10. Jake Weimer, 81
11. Christophe Pourcel, 77
12. Trey Canard, 77
13. William Hahn, 56
14. Mike Alessi, 53
15. Weston Peick, 52
16. Justin Bogle, 41
17. Vince Friese, 39
18. Thomas Hahn, 19
19. Dean Wilson, 18
20. Phil Nicoletti, 18

Photography by Simon Cudby

Next Round: March 12, Rogers Centre, Toronto+. Round 10.

TV Schedule: March 12, 7pm (EST); Fox Sports 1