Ryan Dungey doesn't need to win Round 14 in Houston to take the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross Championship. He could always do a slow burn of the points needed until not enough remain for Eli Tomac to take over first.
But he won't.
He'll win his seventh race of the season on Saturday because Ryan Dungey wants to win when he gets crowned Champion. None of this "backing in" to the title. When he crosses the finish line at NRG Stadium and the checkers drop he'll exalt in not only winning another race, but putting a cap on his best ever pro Supercross season.
Dungey has won four of the last five rounds, hasn't finished lower than second since Round 2 and hasn't finished off the podium since Round 1. If he doesn't win on Saturday it's not for a lack of trying. Somebody else will beat him fair and square. But Dungey will win.
So who is going to try and stave off the Championship winning round another week?
Not Ken Roczen. Initially it was hoped he'd return to action for Houston, but his ankle injury is not 100 percent resolved and he's out at least another week. Unless finishing in the Top 10 really matters, don't expect Roczen to return at all to Supercross this year and instead heal and start testing for Motocross which starts in just five weeks.
Eli Tomac is fighting for second-place
Eli Tomac seems to be the best chance to dampen the party for Dungey but he might be due for another 1 point race. He's got two this year the last one coming at Atlanta 1. He's also got an 11th place finish just three rounds ago. But in the stretch of the last five rounds he finished second or higher in four times. Tomac needs not only a first-place result but for Dungey to finish fourth to post-pone the Championship party.
Cole Seely is beating around the center podium in recent weeks chalking up two fourth-place finishes, a second and third in the last four rounds. All Seely can really do is prevent Dungey from winning his Championship clinching round by crossing the finish line first. This result likely ensures Seely Rookie of the Year honors. If he does finally get a rookie year win, then Dungey needs to roll up fifth with Tomac taking second to hold off the Championship event. That won't happen.
Tomac is really in a fight to hang on to second-place which is sure to drive him out front because just imagine, Seely is definitely thinking about a runner-up spot in his first year on the 450s. He'll be on Tomac's tail if need be.
Chad Reed is the only other still-racing rider to have won this year but ever since he took Atlanta 1 he's landed out of the Top 5. But Reed also has something to prove, so if he can get on the Championship box at his age (33) he's pushing the sun up a bit from setting on his career. Remember, just a year ago before that season-ending crash in San Diego, Reed won two of five starts and finished in third-place twice sitting just two points back from Ryan Villopoto after Round 5.
Davi Millsaps should get on the podium for the first time this season in Houston
The bottom line is whoever stands center box on Saturday, other than Dungey, then it's really about who prevents Dungey from winning the same round he clinches the Championship. Therefore, the rest of the field is fighting for positioning be it in the Top 10, Top 15 or Top 20 and for privateers looking for a factory ride next year that can make a world of difference.
One hundred points remain in the series which is a lot considering Seely is mathematically still in it for the Championship. But whether it's Davi Millsaps trying to reach the Top 10 or Jason Anderson and Blake Baggett attempting to finish their rookie careers in the Top 5 it depends on other riders performing badly.
All things remaining the same Millsaps and Broc Tickle battle for the rights to finish in 10th but if Roczen calls it a season then Josh Grant who is on a tear the last few rounds (three six-place results last five rounds) could pass the 2014 Motocross Champion in points and finish 10th. Baggett and Anderson, sixth and seventh, respectively, are tied in points (165) so finishing strong could determine any tie-breakers. Both of them are also within reach of passing Trey Canard who is done for the season but currently is in third-place with 205 points and should drop to fourth after Houston.
Jason Anderson should make it two straight podiums in Houston
As for MotoSport riders, Nick Wey is calling it a career after Las Vegas and his recent 12th place finishes in the last two rounds put him in 18th place for points and easily within reach of ending in the Top 15. Adam Enticknap is also getting Main appearances having qualified in two of the last three rounds after missing the first 10.
Houston will be a Championship winning night
The 250SX West class resumes in Houston and like Dungey, Cooper Webb, who boasts a near-lock on the Championship holding a 30-point advantage over Jessy Nelson with two rounds left, should blaze to his fifth win of the season as well as the 250 West title. Webb has four wins on the season, no one else has more than one.
Expect a repeat performance out of Shane McElrath in Houston
The battle for second in the 250 West should be brutal with Nelson, Tyler Bowers and Zach Osborne within four points of each other. Shane McElrath who finished second in San Deigo before the two-month break could be a dark horse to finish on the final podium.
Jason Hansen is overdue for a podium. He'll be on it in Houston
But don't rule out MotoSport rider Josh Hansen. He has the speed and as much determination as anyone else to finish strong and end the season with a couple of box appearances. Thomas Hahn, also a MotoSport rider, sits in 11th place and needs solid riding to catch Malcolm Stewart for 10th place.
Houston 450 Class Podium Prediction
Houston 250 West Podium Prediction
2015 Monster Energy Supercross Season Standings
450SX Class Season Standings (Expanded)
- Ryan Dungey (296)
- Eli Tomac (216)
- Trey Canard (204)
- Cole Seely (198)
- Chad Reed (183)
- Jason Anderson (165)
- Blake Baggett (165)
- Ken Roczen (156)
- Broc Tickle (146)
- Andrew Short (137)
- Davi Millsaps (133)
- Josh Grant (110)
- Weston Peick (108)
- Jacob Weimer (74)
- Kyle Chisholm (73)
- Justin Barcia (71)
- Phillip Nicoletti (66)
- Nick Wey (57) - MotoSport rider
- Mike Alessi (48)
- Josh Hill (40)
250SX West Class Season Standings
- Cooper Webb (136)
- Jessy Nelson (106)
- Tyler Bowers (104)
- Zach Osborne (102)
- Shane McElrath (86)
- Aaron Plessinger (81)
- Justin Hill (79)
- Josh Hansen (79) - MotoSport rider
- Alex Martin (75)
- Malcolm Stewart (69)
- Thomas Hahn (56) - MotoSport rider