The 2016 Monster Energy Supercross season is finally here.
On Saturday the gates drop for Round 1 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. Every year seems to be the most highly anticipated with the deepest field ever and this year hardly disappoints. At least 10 riders can arguably compete for the crown which means possible podium shake-ups week in and week out.
As for Anaheim, just a handful of riders the last 10 years have dominated Orange County and all but one not only still race, but remain in contention. This year also marks the first since 2012 that Anaheim gets two rounds instead of three. San Diego gets two this year but California fans still enjoy five of the first six rounds in their state.
Check out the track map for A1 below:
Defending Champ Ryan Dungey enters with three wins in Anaheim and all the confidence in the world. And, though he rides the #1 plate he might as well have a bullseye on his back. He's the heavy favorite to win the title and there's no reason to believe he won't be on the podium every week. Last year he finished off the podium just once, at, of all places, A1, and stood in the center for less than half the races. He is proof that consistency wins Championships.
Ken Roczen is looking for his third straight opening night win and fourth at Anaheim (he also won in 2013 in the 250 class). He took two there last year and after three rounds looked to be the rider to beat but a crash in Oakland derailed the season until he finally called it quits after the second round in Atlanta. Roczen rode through a bad back to finish second in the 2015 Motocross season but a win at Monster Cup showed he's ready to add a Supercross Championship to his 2014 Motocross title.
Eli Tomac has yet to win in Anaheim in the 450 class (won there twice in 2013 in the 250 class) and fell twice last year to start the season in 20th place. But that didn't prevent him from finishing runner-up to Dungey thanks to a win a week later in Phoenix. He ended the year with six straight podiums and started the Motocross season with five straight dominating Moto wins before a crash ended his season. He returns on a new bike with two surgically repaired shoulders.
Trey Canard has also yet to win at Anaheim but took third to open the 2015 season. He was right off Dungey's back fender for most of last year before a freak crash during practice at the Detroit round ended his season and kept him out of most of Motocross. He finished on the podium for seven of the first 11 rounds last year so a healthy Canard is a dangerous Canard.
James Stewart returns to action after missing all of last year thanks to his suspension. He's got eight wins at Anaheim but hasn't stood at the top since 2011. It's safe to say most eyes will focus on Stewart not only to welcome him back to racing but to see what he brings after more than a year away from battle. He's got two Red Bull Straight Rhythm victories but other than that it's anyone's guess as to how prepared he is and what he's got left in the tank at 30 years old.
Chad Reed also has eight wins at Anaheim including a season sweep in 2008 the last time his won the Championship. At 33, his status to race the 2016 Supercross season was in doubt after he folded his team TwoTwo Motorsports last year but he found a ride and lines up behind the gates on a Yamaha. Reed owns a record of 11 consecutive seasons with at least one win in the 450 class - a feat he'll try and stretch starting Saturday.
Davi Millsaps opened the 2013 season with a win at Anaheim and competed much of the year against eventual Champion Ryan Villopoto. He was injured for the 2014 season and despite illness and injury finished 13th last year. This season was also in doubt for a while but he found a team and is on the same factory KTM Dungey rides so don't expect a healthy Millsaps to land outside the Top 10 this year.
Perhaps the biggest difference this year from past years is the low reports of off-season injuries though Andrew Short might disagree. Practice crashes and accidents in races overseas have sidelined fan favorites and contenders, especially the past few seasons. The veteran Short, who announced 2016 would be his last, crashed and injured his shoulder on Nov. 30. He's expected to return just not for A1.
Blake Baggett, a promising young rider coming off a stellar rookie season in the 450 class broke his collarbone, scapula and some ribs just a few weeks ago and is also expected to miss a part of the 2016 season.
In the 250 class., Cooper Webb is looking for his third victory at Anaheim and first to start the season. The 2015 250SX West Champion is defending his title rather than pick-up in the East where his teammate Jeremy Martin will try and grab a Supercross title before moving on to the big bikes. Webb dominated last year winning six of eight rounds and is the favorite this year to take the West.
Jessy Nelson is looking for his second straight A1 win and then keep the pressure on Webb the whole season. Nelson took second at A3 last year and trailed Webb in second-place by 30 points after San Diego but injury forced him from the remaining two rounds.
Zach Osborne took second to open the season in 2015 and came close to runner-up status to finish the year but a crash in the final round put him in third behind Shane McElrath who won't be lining up thanks to a wrist injury from early November.
Justin Hill, who finished fourth last year, is competing in the East and Aaron Plessinger, who finished fifth, is also moving East. Alex Martin, Webb's teammate, stays in the West and finished sixth last year with two podiums and has the experience to compete for a title. If Malcolm Stewart can bring consistency he'll do a lot better than his seventh place last year. He's no stanger to the podium or winning.
Round 1 of the 2016 Supercross season gets underway at 7 p.m. (PST) with practice and qualifying starting at 12:00 p.m. on Saturday. Fox Sports 1 airs the race live starting with the pre-show at 6:30 p.m. Buy tickets online or at the Angel Stadium box office.
2015 Supercross Season Standings - Final
- Ryan Dungey (390) - 2015 Supercross Champion
- Eli Tomac (305)
- Cole Seely (277)
- Chad Reed (226)
- Blake Baggett (223)
- Trey Canard (204)
- Jason Anderson (200)
- Broc Tickle (194)
- Andrew Short (180)
- Weston Peick (160)
250SX West Class
- Cooper Webb (186) - 2015 250SX West Champion
- Shane McElrath (124)
- Zach Osborne (117)
- Justin Hill (116)
- Aaron Plessinger (113)
- Alex Martin (111)
- Malcolm Stewart (107)
- Jessy Nelson (106)
- Tyler Bowers (105)
- Josh Hansen (91)