Well, one thing is clear as I sit and watch the snow fall outside, Wiarton Willie (the groundhog who predicted an early spring) might not know what the heck he’s talking about. Here in Southern Ontario, Spring’s arrival doesn’t appear any closer than it did a month ago. Even down by Gopher Dunes, where the milder weather usually arrives first in Ontario, is once again sitting under a thin blanket of the fluffy white stuff. I’m sure everyone has their bikes ready to go by now, so let’s cross our fingers that Mother Nature will cooperate sooner than later.
The winter weather and stubborn Spring hasn’t just been an issue here in Canada but in some of our neighbouring States as well. Because of this, the dirt brought into Lucas Oil Stadium this past weekend was as wet and soft as we’ve ever seen in years. My son raced the KJSC event in Indy eight years ago, and that was another tough winter and soft track. I remember walking the track in the morning, and you could feel your feet bouncing on the spongy soil. Tracks like this are challenging and ever-changing to say the least, and we saw that on Saturday evening. The old Pontiac SX and Toronto SX in the early 1990s used to have the same conditions, and it’s hard to put into words how tough it is to ride a track like that and race on it as well. The tires feel glued to the surface, and you’re constantly searching for good or at least decent lines. Races like this are both mentally and physically exhausting as there is zero opportunity to rest or relax. We saw this exhaustion on the faces of the podium riders in Indy. There was also some conjecture about some of the top 450 riders going to a narrower 110/90/19 tire instead of their usual 120/80/19 size. According to the television broadcast, all the top riders except Eli Tomac went to the narrower size tire for the main event. Even back in my day this was a common practice on rutted SX tracks as our good friend Marshall Plump (Dunlop Tire guy for years) once told me to use a narrower rear tire and a full hard packed front tire. This is because the narrower rear tire gets into the ruts easier and doesn’t ride on the edges, while the hard-packed front tire gives you a more connected feel in the soft soil. Because of its flatter and harder knobs, a hard-packed front tire doesn’t bounce as much as it goes through the deep ruts. I’m not sure why Tomac didn’t go to the narrower rear tire on Saturday night. Perhaps he thought the upside was so slight once on the track and that the wider rear tire would hook up better off the metal starting grate. Whatever happened, it clearly didn’t work for Tomac, and he pretty much floundered through the main event.
After watching the Indy SX, I’m not sure what surprised me more, Tomac’s poor performance and giving up the 450SX points lead to Webb or Ken Roczen winning the main event on his trusty but outdated RMZ450? Let’s begin with the Tomac/Webb points battle. I mentioned above about Tomac’s rear tire choice for the 450SX main event. Maybe that would be the difference between a win and a third place, but I cannot see it pushing Tomac back to a horrible 8th place finish. Something else was most certainly up with Tomac, and the fact that he didn’t talk to anyone after the race leads me to believe that he was pissed off. I think the first mistake he made was picking a risky gate for the main event and it ended up costing him any chance at a good finish. This was not the track to come from behind on, and on lap one Tomac was way back. In the past few races, we’ve seen Tomac not be afraid to line up more outside than his competition. I’m sure his thinking is that he’ll be able to get a much better jump off the gate than the riders around him and then he can build up speed and sweep into turn one in front of everyone. That is confidence folks, and when it works, it’s a beautiful thing. However, Indy had a short start straight, and that limited Tomac’s ability to build speed and beat everyone to the first turn. In fact, he didn’t even get a good jump off the gate in the main event and five feet out you could see that he was going to get an awful start. After that, Tomac slowly moved up, but not at the pace or with the urgency you’d expect him to. Perhaps he was at odds with the rutted Indy track and got to a point in the main event where he decided to limit his losses and move on to Detroit. Obviously, he didn’t want to lose the red plate to Webb, but so far in 2023, Tomac has shown the ability to have more speed than Webb when it’s mattered the most. With that in mind, look for Tomac to bounce back strong this weekend in the Motor City. Like the Daytona SX, I think this weekend is another must-win for Tomac as he can’t lose more points to Webb. With Seattle coming up the following weekend, we know it will be another soft and rutted track that Tomac will have to deal with, and Webb will most likely be solid. This title fight is shaping up to be incredible in the second half of this series.
As for Ken Roczen, what an amazing performance on Saturday night! Actually, when discussing with my family what might happen during the main event, it was my son who said that Roczen was going to win the 450SX main event, and that Deegan would struggle and probably crash on the challenging Indy track. Well, he was correct on both, and while I’m sure Indy was humbling for Deegan and his crew, it was great to see Roczen win the 450SX main event. To see Roczen and Barcia battling in the closing laps and their reactions on the podium was exactly what the series needed at the halfway point. Multiple storylines surrounding this sport’s most experienced riders is incredible. Now, heading into Detroit, we have the Tomac/Webb story to talk about, the Roczen and Suzuki story, the resurgence of Barcia, and also the Sexton story. What an interesting night it was in Indy, and Roczen holding up his kick-starter on the podium was one of the greatest moments of the past few years in Supercross.
In some Canadian moto news, a few of our pro riders competed in the Red Bull ‘Day In The Dirt South’ this past weekend in Florida. Tyler Medaglia was a class winner, as was Jess Pettis. Quinn Amyotte, Hayden Jamieson, and Wyatt Kerr also were there and rode well. Over in Texas, we had a few riders racing at Freestone in the ‘James Stewart Championship’. Payton Morningstar and Brennen Schofield rode well, but the big news came from Ryder McNabb as he won a couple of motos in the Pro Sport class against some very good riders. In the opening 250 Pro Sport moto, McNabb came from well back to pass all of the top riders to win. It was some great riding against some heavy hitters in Texas for McNabb, but honestly, it’s the results he should be getting. He’s our 250 Pro National Champion, so I’d be more surprised if he didn’t come away from Freestone with at least a few moto wins. It’s also good to see him adapting well to his new KTM, so if all goes well, McNabb will come into the 2023 Triple Crown Series as the favourite to repeat as champion.
In other news, Tanner Scott has finally found a home for his rookie season in the pro class. Scott has teamed up with Al Dyck on the MVP Sky Racing Husqvarna Team, along with Blake Davies. It took a little longer than expected for Tanner to find a home for 2023, but I think this is a great deal for all involved. Regardless of his amateur class success, the pro class is a completely different animal; he will need a lot of guidance and advice this summer as he battles for results and respect in the 250 class. As a young pro rider, Tanner will obviously need a kick in the butt when he’s not riding well, but more importantly, he’s going to need a pat on the back when he’s not only doing well but also when he gives it everything he has in certain motos and still finishes 10th. If Scott can navigate these first few years in the pro class okay, then there will be success in his future. Having an experienced guy like Al Dyck will no doubt help Scott as he jumps into the deep end, and tries to swim this summer.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a great week and a safe March Break (for those that are this week). Hopefully, Spring isn’t too far off, as we are almost into the middle of March. The clocks went ahead this past weekend, so the days are longer, and the weather should be warming up. Thank you for reading, and if you have any questions or comments, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.