2016 St. Louis Supercross Preview
Following what was arguably the fiercest battle for victory that Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey has faced all season, the reigning Monster Energy AMA Supercross Champion has won consecutive races for the first time since the third and fourth stops of the 17-race schedule.
With a total of seven victories and a podium finish in all 13 races so far in 2016, Dungey has the title defense as the championship makes its annual visit to the “Gateway to the West” of St. Louis for the 14th race of the season inside “The Dome” on Saturday, April 16. While Dungey inches closer to a third 450SX Class title, the Eastern Regional 250SX Class has reached historic levels of parity with five different winners through its first five races.
The longstanding rivalry between Dungey and RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen reached new heights at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium this past weekend. The former KTM teammates put on a show for the more than 60,000 fans in attendance, providing what could be considered the most compelling Main Event of the 2016 season thus far. It wasn’t the first time this year that Dungey and Roczen dueled it out for victory, with the German outlasting the champ in Arlington, Texas, and Toronto, but for the past two weeks Dungey has emerged triumphant.
In Indy, deteriorating track conditions kept both riders within mere bike lengths of one another throughout the entirety of the Main Event, with mistakes by each leading to several instances of side-by-side competition and pass attempts that brought the crowd to its feet. Roczen was able to successfully make a pass on Dungey late, on Lap 16, but a mistake right before the finish handed the spot back to Dungey, who held of Roczen’s last-ditch push to take his third straight win inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
It was Dungey’s 29th career 450SX Class win, giving him sole possession of sixth on the all-time list. And after a surprising three-race stretch in which he went winless, Dungey has returned to dominant form and is in position to clinch the title before the season finale in Las Vegas. He also enters St. Louis as the defending race winner.
“That’s what it’s all about right there. That’s why we work hard [during the week], to put on a good show,” said Dungey on the podium. “It’s not going to be easy all the time, but we fought to the end. I was riding on the ragged edge there to keep it [the bike] in line. I was able to get a good start and that’s what put me in position to run up front and take the win.”
Dungey’s record 29-race podium streak that dates back to last season has been the key to his supremacy in 2016. Should that streak continue through the remainder of the season, he would amass the most statistically dominant 17-race championship résumé of all time, becoming the first rider to finish on the podium at every race since the schedule expanded during the 2008 season. Four other riders have accomplished this feat, but never over the course of 17 races. Rick Johnson first did it during the 12-race 1986 season, followed by Jeremy McGrath in 1996 when there were 15 races. Ricky Carmichael accomplished the feat twice in 2001 and most recently in 2005 during those 16-race seasons, with Chad Reed doing the same in 2004. It would be just another highlight of what has already been a historic season for Dungey, doing so in what many have considered to be the sport’s most competitive era.
Despite missing out on his fourth win of the season, further adding to what is already a career high of wins in a single season for the German, Roczen has done well to keep pace with Dungey and has definitively established himself as the champ’s biggest threat. However, some inconsistent results, including three finishes outside the top five, have put Roczen into a 45-point hole entering St. Louis. He knows wins will be key if he has any hope of taking the title fight to Las Vegas, and he’s capable of putting the pressure on Dungey as the season winds down, just like he did in Indy.
“It was fun,” commented Roczen after his second straight runner-up finish and 13th straight top six. “It was an amazing ride the whole way. I’m pretty bummed I messed up on that dragon’s back but we’ve been riding really good and strong and that’s what counts. I kept him (Dungey) on his toes the whole time and was actually able to make the pass happen. Unfortunately, I made a mistake right after I made the pass and that cost me the win. Overall, our Suzuki RM-Z450 has been working amazing. We’ve made a few changes and it just keeps getting better and better. My start wasn’t the greatest but I made some moves and overall, I’m really happy with the way I rode. Obviously, bummed to finish second but it is what it is.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson completed the podium, producing the same finishing order in the top three for consecutive weeks. Anderson is in the midst of a career-best three-race podium streak, just two races removed from recording consecutive podium finishes for the first time ever.
“Indy was good for me,” said Anderson. “I had some good practices. The track was very rutted, but I still felt like I was riding well and I ended up qualifying fourth. I got into the lead in the heat race and was able to hold off Dungey for the win. I felt like I had a good start going into the first corner of the main, but then I just got shuffled back really quick. It was chaos for a little bit, but I managed and came out with a third.”
The exceptional start to the Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship continued in Indy, with Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger becoming the fifth different winner in as many races, while also becoming the 102nd different winner in the history of the division.
Entering the race Plessinger was the only rider among the top five in the championship standings yet to win in 2016, but he added his name to the list with a dominant effort. A native of Hamilton, Ohio, it was considered a home race for the second-year rider, who now sits second in the points following his breakthrough victory.
“I can’t even tell you how amazing this feels. I’m speechless,” said Plessinger. “These fans are crazy. I heard them every lap. I was so determined today, especially in front of my hometown crowd. I just put my head down and got the start. It wasn’t easy, but it was easier than my last races for sure.”
A runner-up finish for GEICO Honda’s Malcolm Stewart ensured that he would retain control of the red number plate as the championship leader for another week. He carries a 10-point lead over Plessinger into St. Louis. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Gannon Audette recorded his first career podium result in third in his debut ride for the legendary team as a fill-in rider for an injured Arnaud Tonus. Audette’s previous career-high finish was sixth.
Only once in the history of Monster Energy Supercross has a Regional 250SX Class season started more competitive than this, when the Western Regional Championship opened with six different winners during the 2000 season. Entering Indy five riders sat within 20 points of each other in the championship standings, but as a result of the success from Plessinger and Stewart, combined with misfortune for several of the other top contenders, it has become a two-rider race entering St. Louis as Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Martin Davalos, who is third in points, faces a 25-point deficit to the lead. However, given with the unpredictability of this region thus far, anything can happen inside “The Dome” on Saturday afternoon.
450SX Class Championship Standings
- Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 303
- Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki – 258
- Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna – 240
- Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 212
- Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha – 193
- Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM – 182
- Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda – 173
- Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., KTM – 149
- Trey Canard, Edmond, Okla., Honda – 138
- Jacob Weimer, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki – 106
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship Standings
- Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Honda – 102
- Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha – 92
- Martin Davalos, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna – 77
- Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha – 74
- Tyler Bowers, Corona, Calif., Kawasaki – 66
- Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., KTM – 63
- Gannon Audette, Tallahassee, Fla., Kawasaki – 61
- RJ Hampshire, Brooksville, Fla., Honda – 59
- Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM – 53
- Matt Bisceglia, Weatherford, Texas, Suzuki – 49