2016 Las Vegas Supercross Preview
Fresh off clinching his second-straight (third-career) 450SX Class title, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey will enjoy a victory lap of sorts this Saturday as he leads Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, into Las Vegas for the 17th and final round of the 2016 season.
Accompanying the action of the 450SX class will be the crowning of a pair of regional 250SX champions, as both the Eastern and Western Regional title fights have yet to be decided.
Last weekend during the SX’s annual visit to MetLife Stadium in New Jersey, Dungey entered the penultimate race needing to finish 14th or better to clinch back-to-back titles. The reigning champion did just that, crossing the line in fourth place aboard his KTM SX-F450 to secure his third-career 450SX Class title and successfully defend a championship for the first time in his illustrious career.
The fourth-place finish proved to be a little bittersweet for Dungey as it resulted in the end of his all-time record 31-race podium streak. But alternatively, his third-career title puts him into elite company as just the sixth rider in history to earn three 450SX Class championships.
“It’s a bummer [to have the podium streak come to an end], but the real goal this year was to back up the title [from last season]. It was a tough challenge and we had to bring it every single weekend,” said Dungey. “[My competitors] were tough and they brought it, but we kept fighting and here we are, back where we wanted to be. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my entire team and family. There’s definitely no I in team and this could have never happened without their commitment.”
While Dungey was able to enjoy the spoils of a championship, it was RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen who made the biggest statement of the night.
The German rider grabbed the holeshot and proceeded to run away from the field in what was arguably his most dominant effort in Monster Energy Supercross, leading all 20 laps to claim his career-best fifth victory this season. It was Roczen’s ninth career 450SX Class win and his second in a row, putting him in a position to close out the season with three-straight wins in Las Vegas and wrap up his runner-up finish in the championship the best way possible.
“We grabbed the holeshot and never looked back,” commented Roczen. “I felt great out there. We were as consistent and you could possibly be out there, in my eyes. We didn’t make any mistakes and had an awesome night. It’s exactly what we were shooting for. Now we have to keep the ball rolling. We got the job done. We got a heat race win and then a main event win so I would say that’s almost a perfect night. I think that’s the first time I’ve gone back-to-back so hopefully another one next week and make it three in a row.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac posted his second straight second-place finish behind Roczen. “I can really say I like it here” said Tomac. “I’ve had three podiums here in the past three years with my second place tonight. I had a really good day in practice, then my heat and semi didn’t go exactly how I wanted but I still felt good heading into the Main Event. In the main I had to make a lot of passes in the first 10 laps but was eventually able to make a push for second. I did some exploring here and there for the right lines and ways around other riders, but I felt strong and am really happy with my result.”
Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely rounded out the podium in third with his first top-three finish since the sixth race of the season. “That was really tough but I’m happy with a third tonight” said Seely. “It was a good 20 laps. To be laid up on the couch with a broken vertebra in so much pain and then be able to jump right back into it, I guess I had a better base then I thought.
“Once I got into second off the line, I was just trying to focus on [Ken] Roczen and match his lines and pace but he was going so fast. I think he had the track pretty dialed and has a lot of confidence coming off of last weekend’s win, so he basically checked out.
“I was giving it everything I had and really had to put a lot of heart into those last few laps to hold off [Ryan] Dungey for third. It’s great to be back on the podium, which is where I feel I should have been all season. Hopefully I can take this to Vegas and end the supercross season back up here.”
Dungey and Roczen have locked in their points positions for the 2016 season, but Tomac still holds a slim chance at unseating Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson for the third and final spot on the championship podium. A total of 23 points sit between them and with 25 points awarded for a Main Event win, a season-ending victory by Tomac, combined with a finish of 20th or worse by Anderson, would result in a shift of position.
Las Vegas 250SX Preview
This year’s race in Las Vegas will feature a first for the Regional 250SX Class Championship finales. Traditionally, Las Vegas has served as the home of the East/West Shootout, the lone race of the season in which each region races head-to-head in order to determine who is the best individual 250SX Class rider.
However, the 2016 season will take a page out of the history books to bring a new format to Las Vegas for the first time ever. Saturday night will feature the debut of a combined region race at Sam Boyd Stadium, in which both the Eastern and Western Regional fields compete together in an immersive battle for victory.
This practice was commonplace with the inception of the regional 250SX Class in 1985, pitting the Eastern and Western Regional championships against one another at least twice a season for the next 12 years. The dual-region races evolved into East/West Shootout starting in 1997 and has been a one-race, non-points-paying showcase ever since. Las Vegas will mark the 31st time in Monster Energy Supercross history that the regions combine for a points-paying race, and will take place for the first time in 20 years.
Each region will be divided into individual Heat Races with a full gate of the top 22 riders in each respective championship. From there the regions will converge for the Last Chance Qualifier, leading up to a 22-rider Main Event filled with both Eastern and Western Regional competitors. Points earned by each rider will count towards their point total for the season, from which the Eastern Regional and Western Regional championships will be decided.
GEICO Honda’s Malcolm Stewart and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb lead the respective championships coming into Las Vegas. Stewart, the Eastern Regional points leader, is fresh off his second win of the season in East Rutherford, New Jersey, last weekend.
He led 13 of 15 laps and extended his lead to 14 points over Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger. Webb’s class-leading five wins has put him in a position to defend his Western Regional crown in Las Vegas. His victory at the most recent Western Regional race in Santa Clara, California, moved him out to a 16-point lead over Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy.
Collectively, there are three riders in each respective championship still mathematically eligible in the title fight – Stewart, Plessinger, and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin in the Eastern Region, and Webb, Savatgy, and GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig in the Western Region. Each of the eligible riders has at least one victory to his credit. When the checkered flag flies, two of these riders will be crowned champion at Sam Boyd Stadium.
450SX Class Championship Standings
- Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 366 (2016 SX Champion)
- Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki – 330
- Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna – 293
- Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 270
- Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha – 232
- Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM – 213
- Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda – 207
- Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., KTM – 186
- Trey Canard, Edmond, Okla., Honda – 183
- Weston Peick, Menifee, Calif., Yamaha – 125
Eastern Regional 250SX Championship Standings
- Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Honda – 160
- Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha – 146
- Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha – 141
- Martin Davalos, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna – 130
- Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM – 109
- Tyler Bowers, Corona, Calif., Kawasaki – 108
- Gannon Audette, Tallahassee, Fla., Kawasaki – 105
- RJ Hampshire, Brooksville, Fla., Honda – 99
- Anthony Rodriguez, Cairo, Ga., Kawasaki – 78
- 10. Matt Bisceglia, Weatherford, Tex