Just two riders remain in contention for the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Championship in the 450 class with one simply needing to stay away from trouble while the other probably should flee from it.
Jason Anderson has put in a season of consistency with three wins, 11 podiums and 14 finishes in the Top 4. His 34 point lead nearly assures him of clinching his first 450 class Supercross title on Saturday at Round 16 in Salt Lake City, UT but a feisty Marvin Musquin can certainly surprise.
Since Round 4, Musquin has raced toe-to-toe with Anderson totaling 262 points during that stretch - the exact number of points as Anderson. The difference? A Round 2 Heat race crash that left Musquin on the sidelines followed by a "recovery" round the next week netting a 13th place finish. Musquin needs a win and Anderson to finish fifth-place or lower (and even lower if Musquin doesn't win) to stay mathematically in the Championship for Las Vegas. Musquin also needs to find a safe space away from Eli Tomac's potential wrath.
Marvin Musquin got the win in Foxborough but not without controversy which might carry over into Salt Lake City
Last week in Foxborough, while Anderson cruised to a third-place finish enjoying a leisurely pace 30 seconds or so behind Musquin and Tomac, Musquin appeared headed for his third win after leading 20 laps. But Tomac passed Musquin and appeared headed for his eighth win. Then Musquin and Tomac collided in a corner on the final lap resulting in a win for Musquin, accusations of a dirty takeout and a sarcastic thumbs up from Tomac who casually walked to his downed dirt bike and re-entered the race for a second-place finish.
Tomac said he won't retaliate but with the title out of the picture and high emotions clearly on display during the post-race press conference, you know everyone plans to watch not for a Championship victory but possible track shenanigans. It won't measure up to the excitement of last year's final but sure sounds like a good week to air this round on regular broadcast television. FOX just might get some good ratings out of this.
Body language speaks volumes
If Tomac and Musquin deliver the goods and put on the "Itchy and Scratchy Show" for the viewers, that opens the door for Justin Brayton and Justin Barcia and maybe even Blake Baggett to get some podium time. Brayton was unable to keep up with Tomac's torrid pace the last few weeks and slipped to fourth in the standings. A rough outing in Seattle for Brayton helped Baggett get close and the two have tied in points the last two rounds with Brayton holding a slim four point lead for fourth-place. Barcia returned two weeks ago after a round 7 injury taking fifth-place but finished ninth in Foxborough. Baggett hasn't stepped on the podium since a three week stretch of third-place finishes ended in Arlington.
Elsewhere, Dean Wilson, who injured his shoulder in a Round 1 Heat race and sat out the first two rounds then placed 18th in Round 3 and 15th in Round 4, rebounded nicely thereafter including a second-place finish in Indianapolis and should move into seventh-place after this weekend. He sits one point behind Broc Tickle who was provisionally suspended prior to Round 14 after a failed drug test taken in San Diego. No word whatsoever on Tickle's fate since that news dropped two weeks ago. Nothing. Nathan. Nada.
Aaron Plessinger controls his destiny for the 250SX West class Championship
The 250SX West class resumes running solo before the combined finale in Las Vegas with the East class. Aaron Plessinger gutted out his fourth win last time out in muddy Seattle and holds a solid 17 point lead over Adam Cianciarulo, who has yet to win this season but has five podiums including three straight.
Overall, five riders remain in contention though the uphill climb looks pretty steep for some especially for Chase Sexton, who is 45 points back but got a career high second-place in Seattle, and Shane McElrath, who won the opening round but now sits 31 points from the lead in fourth place thanks to rough outings in Oakland and Indianapolis. McElrath brings hopeful history to SLC with a strong win last year taking the lead after Plessinger crashed out.
Elsewhere, Joey Savatgy who held the Red Plate after Round 3 (along with McElrath) dropped to third after a season worst 12th place in Seattle. He's nearly a round down in points behind Plessinger but winning out and Plessinger repeating last year's performance this weekend or in Las Vegas offers the only real chance for his first title.
Mitchell Oldenburg who finished second last year tore his MCL and ACL this week in practice and won't line up. Defending Champion Justin Hill took third last year but a brief stint in the 450 class this year during the West break ended in injury and he has no chance of repeating but is expected to line-up on Saturday.
Our Podium Picks for Salt Lake City:
- Jason Anderson
- Justin Barcia
- Justin Brayton
250SX West Class:
- Shane McElrath
- Adam Cianciarulo
- Aaron Plessinger
Check out the track map for Round 16:
A warm 80 degree day for the second straight afternoon race as gates drop for Round 16 at 3 p.m. (MST) Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT. And yes, the race airs live on your local FOX affiliate.
2018 Supercross Season Standings
- Jason Anderson (332)
- Marvin Musquin (298)
- Eli Tomac (269)
- Justin Brayton (247)
- Blake Baggett (243)
- Weston Peick (219)
- Broc Tickle (184)
- Dean Wilson (183)
- Cooper Webb (181)
- Malcolm Stewart (150)
250SX West Class
- Aaron Plessinger (177)
- Adam Cianciarulo (160)
- Joey Savatgy (153)
- Shane McElrath (146)
- Chase Sexton (132)
- Justin Hill (119)
- Kyle Chisholm (110)
- Christian Craig (106)
- Mitchell Harrison (100)
- Hayden Mellross (81)