Good day and welcome to another edition of the Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop. So far 2019 is just moving along as we are already well into the second half of January. With bike show season started in the western part of the country, soon the shows will be in the east and that means that spring will almost be upon us. Of course, I say this as most of Canada is in a deep freeze.
One place that was not cold this past weekend was Southern California. After four days straight of heavy rain, the sun came out and Round 3 of the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series took place under clear skies and warm temperatures. It was a perfect day to have the very first Triple Crown event of 2019. The Triple Crown format is really simple: three main events in both classes over the course of the evening, then at the end of the night the rider with the lowest score wins the overall. Last year was the first year that Supercross tried this format and I honestly didn’t think it went all that well. However, I must admit that last night while sitting in the stands and watching it live, I loved it. I loved that as soon as the incredible seven-year-old National Anthem singer was singing, the gate dropped on the first 250SX main event. From there it was non-stop action until the final 450SX main event came to its conclusion.
I know that many longtime SX fans might not like that there isn’t just one main event and therefore one winner. But honestly, the three main events were so full of action that I didn’t really care who won the overall in the moments after the final main events. I mean, obviously the winner of the 450SX class was crystal clear to even the most uneducated person watching. And even though the 250SX class took a little more addition, no one seemed to care as the racing was that good. Also, the Triple Crown race schedule provided very little downtime so very few spectators were bored. The only downside to this type of format is that they only take one gate full of riders to the night show, so it does leave a good group of riders, mostly privateers, sitting in the stands watching. Normally a few of these riders would be battling for the final few main events spots in the LCQ, under the lights and more importantly, in front of the cameras. This is why I don’t think Supercross should adopt the Triple Crown format full time, however a few, like they’re doing now, is an entertaining spectacle.
Other than the overall winners, I thought that in the 250SX class that Yamaha mounted riders Colt Nichols and Dylan Ferrandis were on another level compared to most of their competition. Adam Cianciarulo is also very fast, but he appears to make a lot of mistakes at very inopportune times. Nichols and Ferrandis are very smooth and very in control, and their Yamahas looked to be completely dialed in. Like the 450SX class, the 250SX class is very competitive and a lot of fun to watch. I watched the opening two rounds of this series from the comfort of my own home, but to see these guys live is absolutely incredible. The speed at which the top 250SX riders enter the whoop section is mind boggling. There is no hesitation, they just launch into the whoops and keep going. It really is one of the big things that separates the top riders from the next group.
Other than watching Shane McElrath and Cooper Webb win their first main events of 2019 (this was also Webb’s first ever 450SX main event win), watching Chad Reed out there at 36 years old was pretty cool. This is obviously his farewell tour as I cannot see him coming back in 2020. If you can, I think you should try and get to a SX this year to see Reed race at least one more time. On Saturday evening Reed rode pretty good in the opening main event, then while waiting on the gate for the second main event his bike malfunctioned and he was forced to sit and watch. Then, in the third main event he brought the crowd to its feet when he almost holeshotted, ran fourth for most of the 12 minute race, and then had to settle for fifth after Ken Roczen passed him. Whether it was the normal format or the Triple Crown format, Reed’s fifth was pretty amazing. Hopefully he can get through these remaining west rounds in one piece, and then find a little more consistency in the east. Flying back and forth to these western rounds from Charlotte has to be hard on him. Look for his soon to be 37 year old body and mind to be a lot fresher after San Diego when his travel is less each weekend.
Being at Anaheim 2 also gave me a chance to speak with and watch Jess Pettis ride. After two successful rounds, Pettis came into Anaheim excited to have his best finish to date. Unfortunately, the flu bug caught up with him last week and he spent all of Thursday in bed trying to get better. By Saturday, he had shaken the flu but was still feeling a little weak. During practice and qualifying Pettis appeared to be struggling just a little with his timing and overall feel. Anaheim 2 was a difficult time to not be 100% as the afternoon qualifying sessions decided whether you were going to the night show or not. In the end, Pettis logged some good lap times and made it to the night show and the three 250SX main events. I felt like Pettis got better as the day and the night went on as his best race was the final main event of the evening. Although he’s slightly off the pace of the Top 5 right now, with a little more testing and experience, he will no doubt find more comfort and more speed. One of the great things is that he continues to get good starts so at least he’s up in the mix early in the main events. On Saturday night I thought he got stuck behind riders like Chris Blose early in the main events, and that allowed other riders to stay close. The track at Anaheim 2 was entertaining to watch, but it did look a little hard to pass as the riders always seemed to funnel back to the same line. At this point, though, it’s still a steep learning process for Pettis and he should be much better this weekend in Oakland.
Well, that’s it for me this week. As I write this I’m sitting in LAX waiting to fly back to freezing cold Ontario. Look for more Anaheim 2 coverage from me this week as I have a lot to go over. Before I go I want to send best wishes to Blake Savage. Blake raced in Canada for a few years and since then he’s been not only Ken Roczen’s training partner, but also Roczen’s brother-in-law. Blake was a massive help to Roczen during the past two years while he recovered from his two arm injuries. Well, in an awful turn of events last week, Blake crashed while riding and broke his back in three spots according to his Instagram. As of now, Blake has no feeling from his chest down. However, doctors are hopeful that as this heals and the swelling goes down, he will get feeling back. Anyway, heal up Blake and we’re all thinking of you! I hope everyone has a safe week and thank-you for reading this week’s Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop.