2016 Mid-Season Supercross 450SX Commentary

2016 Daytona Supercross 450SX Tomac

The Daytona Supercross by Honda marks the middle race in the 17-race Monster Energy AMA Supercross season. With Daytona out of the way, the second half of the season begins, and riders have to think about their expectations at the beginning of the year, and how they’re going to achieve them as the season moves towards its conclusion.

As it has settled out, there are the upper echelon riders who are reliably in the top 5—Ryan Dungey, Ken Roczen, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac. From there, you have the occasional top 5 riders, such as Cole Seely, Chad Reed, and Marvin Musquin. The third tier are those who are typically in the top 10 and working to finish the year that high in the standings–Justin Brayton, Davi Millsaps (now injured), and Trey Canard.

Let’s see who’s on the Upside as the first half is over, and who needs to step it up for part two of the Monster Energy Supercross season and get off the Downside.

UPSIDE

Ryan Dungey, Atlanta Winner
Ryan Dungey

1. Red Bull/KTM’s Ryan Dungey. Sure, Dungey could have won every race so far this year, but he’s done the next best thing—he has finished 1st or 2nd at every race in 2016 and has a 39-point lead built over nine rounds. Dungey pushes to a win when the opportunity is there, and rides smartly into 2nd place when necessary. Barring injury, only Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen has a shot at beating Dungey, and it’s a very long shot. With eight rounds remaining, Roczen does not control his own destiny and will need help to snatch the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship from Dungey.

2. Rockstar Energy/Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson. While he only has one win and just two podiums in 2016, Anderson’s record of eight top 5 finishes in nine races is an impressive display of consistency (only a 7th in Atlanta spoiled his perfect top 5 record). Anderson needs to work on his starts, certainly, as he needs to be up front right away if he expects to win. He can overcome mediocre starts to finish in the top 5, but podium finishes will require top 3 starts.

Marvin Musquin Whip at Daytona Supercross
Marvin Musquin

3. Red Bull/KTM’s Marvin Musquin. Rookie years are always tricky, and one had to wonder how slightly built Musquin would adapt to the power of the KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition racebike. It was a rocky start, as Musquin struggled to 14-9-9 finishes in the first three races. He followed that with a podium in Oakland, and then fell out of the top 5 for the next three races. However, Musquin seems to be on the gas moving through the mid-point of the season. He led 19 of 20 laps of the Main in Atlanta, and would have won had a lapper done the right thing and yielded to the leaders battling it out on the final lap. Musquin showed that was no fluke as he returned to the podium at Daytona. Sitting in 7th in the Monster Energy Supercross standings after nine rounds, Musquin is just seven points behind 6th place Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Chad Reed and nine points shy of 5th place Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely, and those two are struggling.

4. Smartop/MotoConcepts’ Vince Friese. Not the most popular racer on the Supercross circuit with other competitors due to his hard riding, Friese’s season got off to an ignominious start when he tangled with Weston Peick at A1 in both the Heat and Semi. The latter resulted in Peick losing his cool, assaulting Friese, and getting sat down by the AMA/FIM for the rest of A1 and the next week in San Diego. Friese didn’t qualify for the Main at A1, but has made every Main since then (even when he was taken out by Peick in a Heat at Oakland). Friese has also been slowly improving, with his 14th in Daytona being his best result of the year, so Friese goes into the second half of the Monster Energy Supercross series moving in the right direction.

5. BTO Sports/KTM’s Justin Brayton. While Brayton may have gone into the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross Series expecting more than 8th place at this point, it is not a bad showing. All seven riders ahead of Brayton are full-fledged factory riders, so he’s the top satellite guy, and he’s doing better that a number of factory racers. Brayton has been fairly consistent, finishing outside of the top 10 only once (an 11th in Arlington), and he did pop into the top 5 at Atlanta. Brayton’s last two finishes are his best back-to-back results all year, so he should get some momentum out of that going into the final eight races.

DOWNSIDE

Daytona Winner Eli Tomac in Alpinestars Special Edition Daytona Boots
Eli Tomac

1. Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac. Yes, he finally won at Daytona, but if you had told Tomac at the beginning of the season that he’d have one win, just two podiums, and trail the leader in the Monster Energy Supercross points standings by 59 points, he would not have been pleased. Many expected this to be Tomac’s breakthrough year, but with a new bike and team, plus recovery from major surgery on both shoulders, his year is definitely a disappointment so far. On the upside for Tomac, should Dungey falter significantly, Tomac is only 20 points behind 2nd place Roczen.

2. Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn. Factory riders should be battling for the podium, ideally, or at least be a regular in the top 5. Hahn has simply not delivered. Hahn’s best finishes were two 10ths in 2016—Oakland and Glendale—and he then got taken out for the season in Atlanta while buried in first lap traffic, somewhere a factory rider should not be. If he were on a satellite team or riding as a privateer, expectations would be lower, but he’s on a premier team.

3. Team Honda HRC’s Trey Canard. It would be tempting to write off Canard’s failed 2016 Monster Energy season to injuries, as he missed three Mains due to various maladies, but before he got hurt, he only had a pair of 7ths in the opening two rounds. Since his return, Canard has just one top 5 finish. With 77 points, Canard is 11th in the standings with little momentum going into the back-half of the season.

Team Honda's Trey Canard at Daytona
Trey Canard

4. Autotrader/Monster Energy/Yamaha’s Weston Peick. Peick was a great story as he battled from obscurity to a ride on the prestigious JGRMX team, and he was certainly promising last season (outside of a broken foot). Unfortunately, 2016 has been an unmitigated disaster for Peick. He started the season by getting into an on-track fight with Friese, which got him sat down for Anaheim 1 and San Diego 1. Since then, Peick has come back and done very little. He has one top 10 finish (a 9th at SD2) in 2016 and that leaves him in 15th place in the Monster Energy Supercross standings, behind Mike Alessi. Peick needs to turn his career around, quickly.

5. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Jake Weimer. Weimer had a strong start to the season as a member of Team Tedder/Kawasaki, and then jumped to the Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing team when they lost Broc Tickle. Weimer’s first Suzuki ride was an encouraging 8th in Round 4 at Oakland, but he hasn’t finished that well since. In the last two Monster Energy Supercross rounds, Weimer has a pair of 17th place finishes, which is not the way to build momentum going into the second half of the season.

INJURY DEPARTMENT

James Stewart To Miss Phoenix Supercross | Blurred Vision Issues
James Stewart

1. Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart. After getting unintentionally taken out by a somewhat out of control Dungey in A1 and suffering a concussion, Stewart has never gotten his season on track. Stewart tried a comeback at Phoenix, but was suffering vision problems. His first full race back was at Atlanta, and he became embroiled in the battle for the lead on the last lap—the only problem was, Stewart was being lapped and needed to get out of the leader’s way. The next week in Daytona, Stewart mis-rode the whoops and went down hard, injuring his back. He’s day-to-day for Toronto. There were great expectations for Stewart coming off a suspension for the 2015 season, but nothing has gone right in 2016.

2. Autotrader/Monster Energy/Yamaha’s Justin Barcia. Every year, people talk about Barcia as a potential championship contender, and 2016 was no exception. Instead, Barcia entered the season at less than 100-percent with an injured thumb, and was outside the top 10 in the first three rounds. Wisely, Barcia decided to get the thumb fixed rather than struggle unsuccessfully through an entire season. Now, people can speculate about 2017 being Barcia’s year.

3. Red Bull/KTM’s Dean Wilson. Injuries have haunted Wilson’s career, and his rookie 450SX year in the Monster Energy Supercross season is no exception. Wilson tore his ACL and MCL in practice before Oakland, and there goes 2016 out the window.

4. Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Blake Baggett. Before the season started, Baggett had a horrific practice crash that resulted in multiple broken bones. Baggett retuned to action at Oakland, but promptly crashed and reinjured his shoulder. As a result, he missed the next four rounds. Baggett’s second comeback at Daytona earned him a 13th place to go with his 14th in Oakland, and that’s all he has to show for the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross season.

5. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Broc Tickle. Tickle had two finishes outside of the top 10 to start the season, and then he broke his arm in practice and surgery was needed. Tickle hasn’t returned, and Weimer has been hired on to ride for the Suzuki team, which is not a good sign.

Photography by Simon Cudby

2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Standings (after 9 of 17 rounds)
1. Ryan Dungey, 213 points (5 wins)
2. Ken Roczen, 174 (2 wins)
3. Jason Anderson, 163 (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

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

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