The 2016 Monster Energy Supercross season finally hits the East Coast on Saturday with Round 8 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA which also serves as the first round for the 250SX East class.
The experiment adding two back-to-back rounds in Atlanta lasted just a season as the Peach State gets one this year. The dirt here is much different then West Coast soil and is typically tacky. The track layout features another long straightaway and a sand section. Should be fun!
The start of the 250 East adds to growing excitement in the 450 class now that Ryan Dungey appears to have some legitimate competition that could keep him from winning his second straight Championship before the series heads west in April. OK, maybe it won't be that soon but fans wishing for a title fight in Las Vegas have Ken Roczen to thank.
Roczen not only beat Dungey aboveboard last week at Arlington - no crash, no mechanical failure - he's also got a one point edge in the last three rounds. Roczen has two wins to Dungey's one along with five straight podiums. But...
Dungey has yet to place below second-place this season and is riding a historic podium streak that if it continues gives him the record in a few weeks. His improved starts also require mistake free riding for anybody in front, a feat Roczen must accomplish for the rest of the season. A 23 point lead nearly halfway into the season won't be easy to overcome but it's not insurmountable and if Roczen can get in Dungey's head that's when mistakes drop you off the podium.
Fans hope this battle continues in Atalanta
You also can't discount that continued wins by Roczen serves as a rebuke, at least for him, to the hyper intensive training employed by trainer Aldon Baker who Roczen broke ranks with prior to the 2015 season shortly after Dungey's enrollment in the program.
In the rearview of the frontrunners is Jason Anderson who has not finished outside the Top 5 and got back on the podium in third-place last week, the first time on the box since his series opening win at Anaheim. Anderson's two fifth-place results following his win dropped him in the standings but he's moved back into third, eight points ahead of Cole Seely.
Seely's got three podiums but also three finishes outside the Top 5. He's already shown the speed and stamina to get on the box and keep up with Dungey but as for Championship hopes he's 43 points out of first-place and has yet to win a race. Eli Tomac rounds out the Top 5 and despite entering Atlanta coming off his two worst rounds of the season he's only four back from Seely and 12 behind Anderson. He's got one podium but needs many more to make it a series.
Jason Anderson will try and get the spotlight back on him this weekend
Chad Reed is the last of the riders who've reached 100 points or more at this point in the season and he limps into the round he won last year. Arlington was not kind as Reed landed in 12th but he did get a bad start in 18th. Since Reed took second-place in Rounds 2 & 3 he's been on a downward trajectory finishing 5-6-8-12 in the last four rounds. Perhaps age is catching up with the soon to be 34 year old.
James Stewart is hopeful to return. He's been riding and all reports indicate his concussion symptoms from the Round 1 collision with Dungey have completely abated. In the two rounds Stewart raced, or at least attempted, he looked fast in the qualifiers and a continued presence in the Main, if healthy, could add more complexity to the developing title fight between Dungey and Roczen.
Chad Reed won Atlanta last year, can it help him get in front of the pack?
The gates drop for the 250SX East class the first time this season which means a new line of prognosticating. Marvin Musquin, the defending Champion, is in the 450 class so no riders get the #1 plate and there's really no clear cut, make that supposed clear cut, favorite. Justin Bogle, the runner-up to Musquin, has also moved on to the premier class which leaves Jeremy Martin, who finished third as the early frontrunner. Joey Savatgy, who finished fourth, is in a heated battle with Cooper Webb in the West this year.
RJ Hampshire returns to the East to improve upon his fifth-place result and it's to-be-seen how that brutal crash at Red Bull Straight Rhythm in October affects his head, physically and mentally. Brock Hepler was never the same after his seven minute knock-out blow in 2007 but everyone heals differently.
Anthony Rodriguez finished sixth last year and ended the season strong finishing 5-5-7. Kyle Peters, James Decotis and Kyle Cunningham grabbed the seventh, eighth and ninth spots last year and all now ride in the West. Martin Davalos finished 10th last year in the East and should content for the 2016 title.
Switching from last year's West is Malcolm Stewart who has the speed and talent to run away with the Championship, it's consistency that holds him back. He went 1-2-3-4-5 in five rounds last year along with a 17th and two one-point finishes. It was enough for seventh on the season and if not for the three off rounds he would have finished second to Webb.
Tyler Bowers, the four-time Arenacross Champion, started strong last year to start the West class but back surgery ended a promising season that also could have had him on the Championship podium. Aaron Plessinger is also a legitimate threat for the title. He finished fifth in the West last year and also had a decent chance at second or third place to end the season if not for two forgettable rounds.
Other potential contenders include past MXGP rider Arnaud Tonus, Shane McElrath and Matt Bisceglia who are all big question marks thanks to injury or illness. Off-season wrist surgery prevents labeling McElrath as a top contender in this series but he finished runner-up to Webb last year in the West jumping from eighth-place after Round 5 thanks to a strong year-end run that included two second-place finishes.
Doors open to Round 8 at 12 p.m. (EST) with opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. and the Main event at 7 p.m. on Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA. Buy tickets online or at the box office.
2016 Monster Energy Supercross Season Standings
450SX Class Season Standings
- Ryan Dungey (166)
- Ken Roczen (143)
- Jason Anderson (131)
- Cole Seely (121)
- Eli Tomac (119)
- Chad Reed (112)
- Marvin Musquin (92)
- Davi Millsaps (85)
- Justin Brayton (82)
- Jake Weimer (73)
2015 250SX East Final Standings
- Marvin Musquin (194) - 450 class for 2016
- Justin Bogle (171) - 450 class for 2016
- Jeremy Martin (143) - Returning
- Joey Savatgy (133) - 250 West class for 2016
- RJ Hampshire (100) - Returning
- Anthony Rodriguez (98)- Returning
- Kyle Peters (91) - 250 West class for 2016
- Jimmy Decotis (87) - 250 West class for 2016
- Kyle Cunningham (72) - 250 West class for 2016
- Martin Davalos (63) - Returning