Words and Photos by Krystyn Slack (@freestylephotocross)
Hard to believe but we’ve already wrapped up Round 8 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship. Round 8 brought us to the heart of the south in Atlanta, Georgia to the Georgia Dome for one final hurrah before the Mercedes-Benz Stadium steps in as the new stadium on the block. This race marked the 26th visit to the historic Georgia Dome, a place that will always be remembered as legendary for the type of racing battles that took place under the roof. To commemorate the final stop at the Georgia Dome, Feld Entertainment Inc. combined Round 8 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross with the 7th round of AMSOIL Arenacross for the inaugural, epic, and unforgettable MotoFest. Monster Energy Supercross was sandwiched between the AMSOIL Arenacross pro races on Friday evening and the AMSOIL Arenacross amateur races on Sunday marking the first time where Arenacross competitors had the opportunity to race on part of a Monster Energy Supercross track.
For the first “last gate drop” of the evening in the 250SX Heat Race 1, rookie and Frenchman, Dylan Ferrandis of Yamalube/Star Racing/Yamaha, put his YZ250F up front for much of the Heat Race. But the #36 of Adam Cianciarulo was charging from the moment we dropped the gate and was able pass Ferrandis at about the halfway point for the lead. Cianciarulo, who has unfortunately been plagued by injury after injury, has finally started the season off healthy and comfortable on the bike. He was especially quick through the whoops and managed to claim his second career Heat Race victory. Luck was not, however, on the side of the GEICO Honda team in Atlanta, unfortunately. On his way to making his Supercross debut, the rookie Chase Sexton went down in the whoops during qualifying, resulting in a broken femur. Then in the Heat Race, his teammate, the #48 of Christian Craig, also went down hard in the whoops, resulting in a an immediate removal from competition for the evening after suffering a concussion in his crash. Heat Race Number 2 put the #93 of Josh Cartwright up front with the holeshot. However, he had company behind them with the #16 of Zach Osborne, the #56 of Kyle Peters, the #26 of Alex Martin, and the fastest qualifier of the day, the #17 of Joey Savatgy. Just past the finish line, Zach Osborne was able to cut from the outside to the inside line and take away the leading position out on the track. Osborne claimed his 5th career Heat Race win, with Savatgy following close behind, followed by Jordon Smith, Kyle Peters, Alex Martin, Colt Nichols, Cameron McAdoo, Gannon Audette, and Dakota Alix. In the LCQ, Luke Renzland found himself in the lead, taking his 2nd career LCQ victory.
In order to make it to a Main Event, as always, riders must earn their way via transfer position in either the Heat Race, Semi, or LCQ for the 450SX riders. Now in their 8th race of the season, the 450SX riders have become rather familiar with this year’s new timed race format and what it takes to qualify for a Main Event. In 450SX Heat Race 1 in Atlanta, RCH Racing’s Broc Tickle was off to an early lead after grabbing the holeshot. But following close behind him was defending champ Ryan Dungey. The thing about Ryan that makes him one of the best riders in the field, three years in a row, is his racing IQ. He takes in each week like a calculated machine, adapts as needed, and overcomes challenges of past races. He is able to precisely adjust his racing of an “off week” and come out back on top, as in this instance where he waited for his moment and then made a pass that would stick on Broc Tickle. The remaining transfer positions in the first Heat would be taken by Chad Reed, Broc Tickle, and Cole Seely respectively. In the second 450SX Heat Race, Vince Friese found himself up front off the start, a place he is familiar with as he is consistently very solid with his starts. But a couple bobbles and close run ins with other riders left Friese in the dirt and outside of a transfer position. The #4 of Blake Baggett made the pass for the lead in the first lap and kept it all the way through the checkers where he claimed his first ever career 450SX Heat Race win.
In the two Semi Races, transfer positions went to Jason Anderson, Eli Tomac, Malcolm Stewart, Justin Brayton, Nick Schmidt, Trey Canard, Dean Wilson, Justin Barcia, Mike Alessi, and Vince Friese. The final four transfer positions in the 450SX class were awarded by way of the Last Chance Qualifier. As Jake Weimer took the win in the LCQ the battle was heating up behind him for the remaining transfer positions. For three weeks in a row, the #374 of Cody Gilmore has finished 5th, just outside of a transfer position. But in an interview with Ralph Sheheen and Jeff Emig, Gilmore said this would be the week that he made his second Main Event of the season, and he was correct, finishing the LCQ in 2nd and securing his gate pick for the final Gate Drop of the evening. Alex Ray would take spot number three, and then the #76 of Scott Champion and the #80 of Cade Clason would duel for the remaining transfer position in a battle that lasted all the way until the finish line where Scott Champion snuck in on the inside of the last turn, edging out Clason.
Round 2 of the Eastern Regional 250SX Championship kicked off the night with the #44 of Jordon Smith soaring to the front of the pack and claiming the holeshot and the lead in his 13th career start. He would remain in the lead until just over ten minutes remained in the 15 minute + 1 lap Main Event. But on the charge was the #16 of 250SX veteran Zach Osborne. In 49 career starts in the 250SX class, Osborne has earned the 2nd place trophy four times in his career but had always missed the elusive “top step” since turning pro, until now. Once moving into the lead after lap five, Osborne would maintain the lead for the remaining 13 laps of the race to claim his first ever career victory. To take the win in the final race of the Georgia Dome is particularly special for Osborne, as he was a KTM Jr. Supercross Champion in this same venue in 1998 at 8-years-old. It took him 10 years, but Zach can finally add the title of Supercross victor to his list of accomplishments. Finishing behind Osborne would be the #26 of Alex Martin after making a pass on his teammate, the #44 of Jordon Smith, with about two laps remaining. Unfortunately, Smith went down in the pass and was not able to recover a podium position in the time remaining. Martin’s 2nd place finish is a career best for him. Third place was occupied by the #39 of Colt Nichols, who was scored in 6th after the first lap. His podium finish is particularly impressive as this is only Nichols’ second race back after recovering from a femur break back in November.
For the final final gate drop in the legendary Georgia Dome, it’s only fitting the three-time and current defending champion Ryan Dungey would launch himself to an early lead after being the first to cross the chalk at the SupercrossLive.com holeshot line, his second holeshot of the year. His only other Main Event Holeshot thus far happened during Round 3 in Anaheim where he led all 22 laps of that event. In a similar fashion, Dungey took the lead and never looked back, leading all 24 laps of the final Monster Energy Supercross hurrah in the Georgia Dome. This marks his 33rd career win and 5th win in the Georgia Dome, tying the ranks of legends Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael for most all-time wins in the Dome. His second win of the year also places Dungey 25 points ahead in the Championship race. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac continued his streak of incredible racing, finishing 2nd on the evening after being scored in 9th after the first turn. There is no denying that Tomac is one of, if not, the fastest guy on the track, but his inconsistent starts place him in precarious situations where he has to fight the entire Main Event for a podium spot. Chad Reed started of the final race in the Georgia Dome in a great position, potentially even in the mix for a podium spot, but a mid-race spill caused him to lose a lot of time and a lot of steam. Reed would finish the night in 5th. To cap off the legendary racing in the Georgia Dome, the #4 of Blake Baggett carried his momentum directly from his Heat Race win over to a 3rd place finish in the Main Event. Previously known for his skill on outdoor tracks and not particularly as a Supercross specialist by any definition of the term, Baggett has found the comfort and confidence with his new team to greatly improve himself as a Supercross rider. The 3rd place finish marks the second career Supercross podium appearance for Baggett and the first ever podium for his Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS team.
For a last hurrah inside the Georgia Dome, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, certainly went out with a bang!! For Round 9, the series FINALLY returns to Canada at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Monster Energy Supercross may be born and bred in the United States, but the global audience is what makes it the greatest show on dirt. I’ve heard my great neighbours to the North know how to make Supercross a real party. Can’t wait for you to show this California girl how Canucks do Supercross!!