Words and Photos by Krystyn Slack (@freestylephotocross)
We are now 7 rounds into our 17 race Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship season. Not only did Round 7 mark the first round of the Eastern Regional Championship in the 250SX class, but it was also the first time the series has stopped in Minnesota since the epic Ryan (Villopoto) vs. Ryan (Dungey) battle of 2013. Only this year, however, racing took place in the brand new US Bank Stadium, the new home of the Minnesota Vikings. This “Viking-sized” stadium is an expertly designed venue that brought with it some “Viking-sized” racing last Saturday night. And while the great north is known for its frigid winters, we were graced with 10*C temperatures and mostly clear skies – an anomaly for this location and time of year. It’s also no secret that Minnesota is home to some of the most enthusiastic fans on the circuit – and boy were they pumped for the return of their “hometown hero”, Ryan Dungey.
It was almost like A1 all over again as the 250SX Eastern Regional competitors got ready to drop the gate for the first time for a Monster Energy Supercross race since the Las Vegas finals in May of 2016. This is equally as exciting for both the fans and the riders as a blank page sits before them, waiting for the story to unfold. In the first Heat Race of the season for this “new” list of competitors, we watched the familiarly fast #17 of Joey Savatgy, who missed being crowned the 2016 250SX Western Regional Champion by one point last year, return to racing with something to prove and no time to waste. After qualifying with the 2nd fastest time during practice, even the first race jitters weren’t going to stop the #17. Savatgy took the first Heat Race win followed by his teammate, the #36 of Adam Cianciarulo. Adam, who is also known for his speed and racing IQ, has unfortunately also been plagued over the past two seasons with injury after injury – in his words, making him feel like he’s entering his rookie season all over again. If he can stay healthy he will assert himself as a likely title contender. Another potential title contender, the #26 of Alex Martin (and Minnesota native) will be one to watch this season. Although, unfortunately for Martin, the evening didn’t start out exactly as planned after going down shortly after the start of the Heat Race and finding himself without a transfer spot and earning a place in the 250SX LCQ. In Heat 2, we saw the debut of the #128 of Cameron McAdoo, fresh off winning the Amateur All-Star Class at the 2016 Monster Energy Cup, who would earn a transfer spot directly to the Main Event. The winner of Heat Race 2 was Christian Craig, making it his third career Heat Race victory. The #48 GEICO Honda rider finished third in points in the 250SX Western Regional Championship in 2016 and is looking to carry that momentum into the 2017 season, only this year he’s racing the 250SX Eastern Regional Championship instead.
In the 450SX class, in front of his hometown crowd, Ryan Dungey set the fastest lap time during Heat Race 1. However, it was the #61 of Vince Friese who took the holeshot and ultimately the #18 of Davi Millsaps who claimed victory in this first Heat Race – his 3rd Heat win of the season so far. After a collision in their Heat, both Cole Seely and Marvin Musquin found themselves with a place in the Semis, as did Malcolm Stewart after getting together with a lapped rider in the last lap. For Heat Race 2, fans welcomed back the #51 of Justin Barcia to his first race of the season. After sustaining a wrist injury just before the start of the season, Barcia has taken the first six weeks off from racing in order to rehab his wrist and get back to 100%. While Justin made his return, unfortunately a hard crash in the first turn would be the turning point for Cooper Webb, who injured his left shoulder and would not compete the remainder of the evening. It was recently announced that, unfortunately, Webb will not line up for the next round in Atlanta, but his social media posts have shared that “it’s nothing major” and he’ll “be back soon” (aiming for Toronto). For Jason Anderson, however, the night started off great with a great jump off the gate and leading his entire Heat Race to take his 3rd Heat Race victory of the season and the 6th of his career.
In the 250SX LCQ, the #70 of Dakota Alix got an incredible start – something he is known for being quite good at – which is advantageous in all stages throughout the evening, but especially during the LCQ where racing is only 3 minutes + 1 lap. Alix led for three of the five laps, but Alex Martin was able to execute a late pass for the win – the 2nd career LCQ victory for the Minnesota native. The Semis for the 450SX riders were also filled with key stats and upsets. For Semi 1, the #800 of Mike Alessi took an early lead, battling with the #47 of Malcolm Stewart for the entirety of the race. Unfortunately, wild riding struck again, this time to Justin Bogle, who endo’ed off his bike, completing at least one full rotation before hitting the ground hard. Luckily he was not seriously injured and looks to be lining up this weekend in Atlanta, but he was finished for the evening in Minneapolis. While the battle continued between M. Alessi and M. Stewart, Stewart was able to make a pass for the lead on Alessi in the whoops, resulting in his first career 450SX Semi win. Followed behind the #47 was the #51 of Justin Barcia, the #800 of Mike Alessi, the #75 of Nick Schmidt, and finally – making his third main of the year – the #722 of Adam Enticknap. 450SX Semi 2 would have Cole Seely taking the holeshot and battling with Marvin Musquin. Coming off his huge win in Arlington, the Frenchman likely has some added confidence and motivation to keep the momentum rolling this week, and walked away with the Semi 2 victory. Following behind Marvin would be Cole Seely, Chad Reed, who reported that he’s been dealing with some knee pain with an unknown cause, Broc Tickle, and Vince Friese. The four remaining transfer positions in the 450SX class would be earned in the LCQ by Jake Weimer, Jimmy Albertson, Cade Clason, making his 4th Main Event of the year, and Alex Ray, also earning a spot into his 4th Main Event of the year.
The stage was now set in both the 250SX and the 450SX classes and we were ready to Drop The Gate. The evening started out great for the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM rider Jordon Smith, who took the holeshot after barely squeaking by with a transfer spot in his Heat Race. Smith would go on to lead 9 of the 19 laps before being passed by Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy. Savatgy would carry his speed the remainder of the 15 minute + 1 lap Main Event all the way to the checkers where he claimed his 4th career victory and the first of the year. His West Coast counterparts, Justin Hill and Austin Forkner, got the ball rolling for the PC team and Savatgy picked up right where they left off at the break. For Smith’s teammate Alex Martin, however, fortune was not on his side as a hard crash in the dragon’s back section would leave him dazed and frustrated and out for the remainder of the evening. He appeared to be favouring his right hand, but after the DNF in his home state, Martin plans to be good-togo and lined up this weekend in Atlanta. Things did not end on as positive of a note for the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 Rookie of the Year, Benny Bloss, as he sustained a dislocated shoulder, torn labrum, and fractured humorous. Sadly for this potential title contender, his season ended before it even got rolling. Bloss will be undergoing surgery to repair his shoulder and he hopes to have it rehabbed before the start of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross seasonwhere he will contest on a 450. The podium was rounded out by a second place Jordon Smith and a third place finish from Zach Osborne. This is a new series and new tracks for many of the East Coast riders this year as they rode for the Western Regional Championship last year. It may only be the first race on the East Coast, but the season is already off to a great start, and it will be interesting to watch the narrative unfold.
It may have been the first race for the 250SX Eastern Regional riders, but our stop at the US Bank Stadium marked the 7th round of racing for the Premier Class. It was also the hometown race for reigning champion Ryan Dungey. He’s spent so much time at the top that few probably remember what a “Cinderella Story” it truly is to have a Minnesota native be a multi-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion – a state that remains in winter-like temperatures for a good portion of the year. The fans erupted with applause and cheers throughout the evening for their hometown hero, from qualifying practice through to the Main Event. When the gate dropped, Cole Seely would grab the holeshot but was quickly passed for the lead by Davi Millsaps after he tucked the front end and went down in the first lap. Davi would go on to lead two laps before being passed by #3, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac. Eli would go on to lead the remaining 24 laps to claim his third victory in four races, crossing the finish line 6.701 seconds ahead of second place finisher, the #25 of Marvin Musquin. Rounding out the top three would be the defending champ, Ryan Dungey, in front of the hometown crowd. Heading into Atlanta, Ryan maintains the points lead and red plates, with teammate Marvin Musquin now sitting in second place overall, and Eli Tomac running third. We head south to Atlanta for Round 8 for the final race in the Georgia Dome. How will the series shake up when we drop the gate on Saturday?