Eventually, it might go down as one of the most talked about and controversial starts to a racing season but despite all the drama, the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross season opens the doors on Saturday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
As always, questions abound. Can the current Motocross Champion Ken Roczen repeat as A1 winner. Trey Canard missed most of last year's season but managed a Top 20 finish after racing just the final five rounds and he finished third in Motocross. How about Jason Anderson? The 2014 250 West Champion is now racing the 450s. Chad Reed is healthy after a promising start last year ended in a terrible crash. Davi Millsaps is back but can he reignite the 2013 magic that kept him in arm's reach of the championship? Ryan Dungey probably wants more than runner-up status which he settled with in both Supercross and Motocross this year.
Heck, will anyone show up to watch?
Four-time defending Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto is shunning the chance for an unprecedented five straight titles for a chance to take home an MXGP crown overseas where he will end his storied career. And now, James Stewart, one of the most popular riders and always a podium and championship contender, is banned from racing until August.
Courtesy Ken Roczen Facebook Page
Though fans dished out a lot of piss and vinegar in recent weeks thanks to the FIM's decision to suspend Stewart from racing, expect a packed Angel Stadium to greet another stacked field that may just be more competitive than last year's.
Unlike the 2014 series, no riders reported major off-season injuries the past few weeks preventing them from lining up on Saturday, though, in the 250 class, Adam Cianciarulo is out after dislocating his shoulder in a crash at the Geneva Supercross earlier this month.
Millsaps returns after more than a year away from racing. He stayed out of the 2013 Motocross season to rest his surgically repaired knee but then reinjured it in a practice run prior to the 2014 Supercross season. His knee looked pretty good during his winning run at the Monster Cup in October.
Eli Tomac - the King of Bercy
Eli Tomac went overseas and took home the King of Bercy crown (Lille-Paris) in France and won the Genova Supercross in Genoa, IT during the off-season. Tomac missed nearly half of the 2014 Supercross season and started Outdoors in Round 5 all thanks to injury but he landed on the podium in six of the seven Motocross rounds he entered including a sweep at Spring Creek. Canard, who broke his wrist during a practice run prior to 2014 Supercross, won four of the last five Motos of Motocross including three straight and a sweep at Utah, plus he almost walked away with $1 million at Monster Cup after winning the first two Motos.
Trey Canard and Cole Seely - Courtesy: Trey Canard Facebook Page
In the 250 Western Region, Justin Hill and Cooper Webb who placed fourth- and fifth-place last year, respectively, don't have Anderson, Cole Seely and Dean Wilson to contend with as all three made the 450 jump. Malcolm Stewart also returns to the 250 West series and he placed sixth last year. Other returning faces include Zach Osborne, Jessy Nelson and Shane McElrath.
On the home front, MotoSport sponsored rider Fredrik Noren brings a solid resume to the 450 class. The 2010 Swedish National Champion placed 10th in Motocross for the Factory Honda Outdoors team. Jimmy Albertson returns on a Yamaha and if his off-season condition program works he's got a great chance to take up residence in the Top 10.
In the 250 class, MotoSport is sponsoring veteran rider Tommy Hahn and Josh Hansen in the 250 West Class and Mitchell Oldenburg and Colt Nichols in the East.
Whoever places in the Top 5 at A1 gives themselves the best chance to win the 2015 Supercross title. Only five times in the 40 year history of Supercross did the eventual champion place outside the Top 5 in Round 1. Villopoto did it in 2013 placing a dreadful 16th and boasting the third greatest comeback in Supercross history that year for the crown. Villopoto also failed to make the podium last year but did take fourth-place. Only 17 times has the winner of Round 1 gone on to take the Championship.
Courtesy Ryan Dungey Facebook Page
Roczen can become the fourth rider since 2000 to take back-to-back season opening wins. Jeremy McGrath has five Round 1 wins and Stewart and Reed each have three.
Stewart's ban means he has to wait a year to try and break his tie with Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath for the all-time 450SX Class wins at Anaheim. He stated in a letter to fans after the suspension came down that he won't retire, as some speculated, but instead plans to "be around for a long time to come."
Southern California race fans get four of six rounds to start the season with riders back in Anaheim for Rounds 2 and 5 and Round 6 in San Diego. The Golden State also gets Round 4 in Oakland and Round 15 in Santa Clara.
Doors to A1 open at 12 p.m. and the Main event starts at 6:30 p.m. (PST) Saturday at Angel Stadium. Buy tickets online or at the stadium box office, 2000 Gene Autry Way in Anaheim, CA.