The midway point through the Silly Season used to leave fans itching for the New Year and a new season of Supercross. January can't come fast enough! Not anymore.

For now, anyway, the October Classic in dirt bike racing injects some excitement into what used to be a long and painful racing dry spell, at least in the United States. Indeed, gates drop for the sixth annual Monster Energy Cup on Saturday in Las Vegas giving fans a sneak preview of riders and teams lining up at Anaheim 1, not to mention the million bucks on the line.

Only one rider in five years of the event managed to win all three 10-lap Motos and walk home a millionaire. Four-time Supercross Champion and now retired Ryan Villopoto accomplished the feat in 2011, the event's inaugural year. In 2014, Trey Canard grabbed Moto 1 and Moto 2 and if not for two crashes in the third Moto would have joined Villopoto in the annals of history but Davi Millsaps took the checkers and overall victory.

The "concession" prize of $100,000 isn't too bad either which goes to the overall winner if no one wins all three Motos. Last year, reigning 2016 Motocross Champion Ken Roczen went (1-4-1) acing out Ryan Dungey for the victory. Dungey, the reigning 2016 Supercross Champion has never won the Monster Cup. He returns to the track fresh off a win last week at the SMX Cup in Germany, his first racing action since June at Thunder Valley when he crashed and fractured the C6 vertebrae in his neck.

The Monster Cup track used to be a hybrid Supercross/Motocross track but is now mostly a Supercross track on a bit of steroids. A few years ago the introduction of the Joker Lane brought a new strategic element for the riders. The Joker Lane is mostly a sand pit that slows a rider's momentum considerably. Each rider must take the Joker Lane once during a Moto. Past "winners" of a Moto like Villopoto, Dungey and Jason Anderson celebrated upon crossing the finish line only to learn they failed to take the Joker Lane. Forgetting assesses a five-position penalty.

Upping the ante this year is the elevated start which rises to 45 feet, the highest in the event's history and stretches 470 feet from top to bottom. The start eats in to the grandstands dropping onto the floor of Sam Boyd Stadium. Check out the track map:

The MEC also features Supermini and Amateur racing and this year a new Toyota truck goes to the rider from the Amateur All-Stars who sweeps the holeshots instead of to the pro class. Anderson won the truck last year.

Slovenian rider Tim Gajser, the MXGP Champion for the 2016 Motocross World Championship series, aggravated an injury, sustained during a practice crash, at the SMX Cup and will not make his debut at the MEC. But expect most riders lining up at A1 to be ready for Saturday night.

Eli Tomac brings momentum from two straight MXGP wins; Roczen, fresh from his 450 class Motocross Championship gets to showcase his new Honda; Cooper Webb, the 250 class Motocross Champion starts his career on the 450; Chad Reed sounds renewed and ready to compete; Canard debuts his KTM and his new teammates Dungey and Marvin Musquin should be ready to roll. Anderson, who was hurt at the Motocross of Nations, remains sidelined.

Practice and qualifying for the 2016 Monster Energy Cup starts at 12 p.m. (PST) and gates drop for the Main Event at 6:30 p.m. (PST) Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas. Buy tickets online or at the box office. Fox Sports 2 airs the event live.

Past Winners of the Monster Energy Cup:

  • Ryan Villopoto - 2011
  • Justin Barcia - 2012
  • James Stewart - 2013
  • Davi Millsaps - 2014
  • Ken Roczen - 2015

Written By: AndrewT