Words and Photos by Krystyn Slack (@freestylephotocross)
Round 5 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship sent us north to Oakland, CA, home of the Oakland Raiders. For the fourth California race, of four California races, the schedule has been impacted by rain. You’d think by now we wouldn’t still be talking about weather, but here we are, Round 5 and it’s still at the forefront of our race reports. The wet weather made for soft and rutted dirt that increased in gnarliness as the day went on. Round 5 also marked the first round of racing that was a day race, with the “evening program” wrapping up around 7:30 PM. Epic battles and great racing have continued to unfold through each round of Monster Energy Supercross. Here’s what went down in Oak-town.
Without an untimed practice due to the rain, riders in both the 250SX and 450SX classes rode an eight-minute timed qualifying practice and a ten-minute qualifying practice on a rapidly deteriorating track that was extremely gnarly and rutted by the end of the Main Events. Some qualifying times that caught us by surprise this week would be the 2nd fastest qualifying time set by 250SX rider, the #95 of AJ Catanzaro and the fastest qualifying time in the 450SX class was set by rookie, Cooper Webb.
When the first gate dropped on the evening (daytime), it would be the #30 of Martin Davalos who would take the first Heat Race win of the day. This was the 3rd Heat Race victory on the year for Martin and the 24th of his career. AJ Catanzaro would continue the trend of making it a great day of racing for the #95 and finished 3rd in his heat. We also saw Monster Energy Pro Circuit’s #24, Austin Forkner, go down in a first turn crash, but there was enough time left on the clock for him to recover a transfer position directly to the Main Event. In Heat Race 2 for the 250SX class, current points leader, the #38 of Shane McElrath, got of to an early battle for the lead with the #57 of Jimmy Decotis. Following close behind, however, was the #23 of Aaron Plesssinger and the #46 of Justin Hill. Even after being sick all week and still feeling a little under the weather, Hill still set the fastest qualifying time of the day in his class. This heat also marked the first race back for the #58 of Chris Alldredge, after recovering from a broken collarbone that had taken place a few weeks prior. As the Heat Race continued, McElrath and Decotis again found themselves in another battle for position up until the 2nd to last lap of the race where the two would end up getting tangled together just after the whoops. No dirty moves, just a racing incident; however, both riders would go down resulting in Shane having a cut up right arm after landing directly on the razor sharp footpeg of Jimmy D and Decotis being thrown up and over the two-high set of Toyota tuff blocks. Surprisingly enough, Decotis would still maintain a transfer spot after that crash, whereas McElrath found himself headed to the LCQ for the second week in a row. As Shane and Jimmy battled, Plessinger capitalized on the opportunity and took the win in Heat 2.
The 450SX class hit the track with as much excitement as the 250SX class and provided us with another exhilarating night of racing. In Heat Race 1, the #21 of Jason Anderson rocketed to the front of the pack for the holeshot and a clear track for the entire Heat. It was great to see Anderson up front after a rough couple weeks for the Rockstar Husqvarna factory rider, who has been dealing with a large hematoma on his arm that was the result of his run-in with the #61 of Vince Friese back at Round 3 in Anaheim. Anderson would go on to claim his second Heat Race win of the year in Oakland. Also in his Heat was the #19 of Justin Bogle, racing in his first race back since also injuring himself at the second Anaheim race of the year. He was recovering from a bruised lung. During the second Heat Race for the premier class, we would see the #2 of Cooper Webb take an early lead, followed closely by the other rookie in the class, the #47 of Malcolm Stewart. Cooper would go on to take the Heat Race win – the historical first 450SX Heat win of his career. Behind him at the line would be Stewart, followed by the #4 of Blake Baggett and the #20 of Broc Tickle, marking only the second time this season where he earned a direct transfer to the Main Event. Also notable, defending champion, Ryan Dungey, as well as Round 4 winner, Eli Tomac, would both find themselves headed to the Semis to earn their spot in the Main Event.
After the 250SX LCQ, two 450SX Semis, and the 450SX LCQ, we were ready to Drop The Gate on the Main Events for Round 5 of Monster Energy Supercross. In the 250SX class, it would be Martin Davalos who claimed the holeshot, but would quickly be passed by Justin Hill in the first lap. Behind the front-runners, a huge first turn pileup would result in rookie, Austin Forkner, being thrown over the bars and getting run over by the #100 of Josh Hansen, quickly ending the rookie’s already rocky evening. Also running up near the front of the back would be the #38 of Shane McElrath, the #57 of Jimmy Decotis, and the #37 of Phil Nicoletti. Absent from this mix would be Heat 2 winner, #23 Aaron Plessinger. Aaron has shown throughout the season that he has the speed to contend with podium positions. Unfortunately, however, his starts have often found him in the middle of the pack – or in this case, 13th after the first lap. Once Hill made the pass for the lead, he would maintain the lead for the entire Main Event, even after getting caught in a piece of plywood and going down near the end of the Main in one of the last turns before the finish line. Luckily for Hill, he had approximately an 8 second lead at the time he went down and was able to recover and maintain his top step positioning. Hill would claim his 3rd victory in a row with Martin Davalos and Shane McElrath following behind him. The pairing of Shane and Justin’s finishes would result in a transfer of the points lead from the #38 to the #46 with Hill heading into Round 6 with the Red Plates, only one point ahead of McElrath. Other notable finishes would be the season-best 5th place finish for Phil Nicoletti, as well as the career-best match of 4th for Jimmy Decotis. The #59 of Noah McConahy, newly appointed fill-in rider on the 51Fifty Yamaha team in place of the injured Tyler Bowers, also crossed the line for his career-best finish of 9th place. Rounding out the top 10 would be another career-best finisher, the #68 of Heath Harrison, who also made his first 250SX Main Event.
As the sun finally set in Oakland, we got ready to Drop the Gate on the 450SX Main Event. No stranger to good starts, Vince Friese was the first to the chalk off the gate, claiming the SupercrossLive.com holeshot. However, current points leader and defending champion, Ryan Dungey, was quick to pull into the lead, where he would remain for 16 laps of the Main Event. During those 16 laps, a very calculated Eli Tomac was picking off riders left and right, gaining time on the leader, Dungey, who held a 7+ second lead at one point. Tomac was clocked as 8th after the first lap, but was doing something no other rider was doing in the rhythm section – a triple in, quad out rhythm that gained him a ton of time during each lap. With about three minutes remaining, the #3 of Tomac had chipped away at so much of Dungey’s 7+ second lead that he would find himself making the pass and maintain the lead for the remaining 5 laps of the 20 minute + 1 lap Main Event. Not only did Tomac pass Dungey, but he made up so much time that he would actually finish a remarkable almost 8 seconds ahead of the defending champion when the checkers flew. That missing piece has definitely clicked for the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider in a big way and Eli has proven he is a force to be reckoned with as he took his second win in a row in Oakland. Rookie, Cooper Webb, added another check to his historical accomplishments list by finishing in 3rd – his first career 450SX podium appearance. Webb is another rider who has obviously shown he has the speed to contend for podium positions in the Premier Class, but the last piece of the puzzle seemed to be missing, until this weekend, that is. The other rookie in the class, Malcolm Stewart, was not so lucky this weekend. He was battling for a season-best finish inside the top 10, but got himself cross-rutted and went down. Stewart would ultimately finish 17th on the evening. Also notable, the season-best 10th place finish by the #15 of Dean Wilson. Deano started the season on a privateer-backed and dad-wrenched Yamaha. After many opportunities and unfortunately as many injuries on factory teams, Wilson only has 13 career Main Event SX starts. But perseverance has always been the name of the game for Wilson, who will stop at nothing as long as it means getting to go racing. His tenacity has paid off, however, as he has been picked up by the Rockstar Energy Factory Husqvarna team for the remainder of the Monster Energy Supercross Season. With only two days on the bike, it was impressive to see the #15 finish in a Top 10 position in Oakland.
The Championship hunt continues to heat up in both the 250SX and 450SX classes. We will be heading to Arlington, TX for Round 6 of racing – the last 250SX Western Regional race before the break and the introduction of the Eastern Regional riders. How will Round 6 play out? Who will have the points lead heading into the break for the 250SX class? Will Eli Tomac make it three in a row in Texas? Or will we see another new winner in the Premier Class? Stay tuned as Monster Energy Supercross heads to AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.