McThoughts: Houston SX
By Jeff McConkey*
*this week written by Billy Rainford
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross series resumed this past Saturday night in Houston, Texas, after a weekend off for Easter. The math was worked out and both Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha rider #17 Cooper Webb and Red Bull KTM’s #5 Ryan Dungey had chances to clinch their respective titles with a few weekends still left to go.
Going into Saturday, the Kawasaki Animated Track Map had a lot of people worried that riders would be crisscrossing all over the place resulting in chaos. It didn’t happen. In post-race interviews, most riders commented that the track was pretty basic and that a good start would be key. Well, the two new champions proved you could still win (or come close) with a so-so gate drop.
In the end, they both did what they had to do and took the titles. Here’s a look at the results and my ‘McThoughts’ on the Houston SX:
1st Cooper Webb: #17 ‘Mini Coop’ did exactly what was expected of him. He was lined up right beside who has become his arch-nemesis (media-accentuated) #911 Tyler Bowers. Bowers will sit out the remainder of SX and miss the outdoors to get back surgery, but got out ahead of Webb. Cooper kept his cool and made a clean pass on his way to the front.
2nd Shane McElrath: McElrath led the first 9 laps of the main event. That was a great performance for the North Carolina rider. In the end, he was only 2.4 seconds behind Webb at the flag. He proved he has the speed to at the front in this one! Great race.
3rd Malcolm Stewart: Remember when Malcolm was quitting racing and going fishing? I don’t know how good he is with a Shimano, but he worked the heck out of his Geico Honda and posted the 2nd-fastest lap time of the main event en route to his 3rd place. He’s listed as 11th place at the end of the first lap, so you know he worked hard for that one. Great race for the younger Stewart.
4th Aaron Plessinger: Plessinger continues to impress this season in Supercross. He actually ran 3rd until only 5 laps remained. This kid is good.
5th Alex Martin: Alex had a solid race in Houston. If you look at the competition, 5th place is perhaps a little higher than you would place him, so it was a solid stop in Texas for the Minnesota native.
6th Justin Hill: Justin got of to a horrible start and had to play catch up the entire main event. After starting near the back, a 6th place had to put a smile on his face…after the sneer wore off from being 15th at the end of the first lap.
7th Zach Osborne: Osborne probably should have been better in Houston. He was getting good starts all day and then faltered when it really mattered. At one point in the main event he was outside the top 10, so getting back up to 7th wasn’t as bad as I’m sure he thinks it is.
8th Matt Bisceglia: Matt got off to a 2nd place start and was looking good until he messed up on the 5th lap and dropped back. Grabbing an 8th place was good considering how bad it could have been.
9th Chris Alldredge: Watching the broadcast, I don’t think they showed or mentioned Alldredge once. He came up through the amateur ranks with a lot of momentum. He will only get better in the following years and weekends.
10th Tommy Hahn: The West has been off for so long it took me a second to remember who the triple digit rider was when he flashed across the screen Saturday night. I don’t think the veteran rider feels 10th is a success but I’m not sure he should be any higher. He held off Josh Hansen to the checkers so that’s pretty solid.
Stud: Who else but the new champ can be the Stud this week?! Congrats to Cooper Webb and his team on a super-dominant season. Now be sure to stay healthy for the outdoor season.
Dud: I don’t want to kick a guy while he’s down, but I’m giving our old friend Austin Politelli the status of Dud for this week. He won his heat and qualified 2nd, ended the first lap in 12th and then disappeared. Something obviously happened to him on the 5th lap. He’s posted a happy tweet or two since, so I assume he’s OK?
Biggest Surprise: Shane McElrath leading 9 laps and finishing a very solid 2nd makes him my Biggest Surprise of the 250 class in Houston. Not that he’s slow, but that was impressive. Nice one.
1st Cole Seely: Wire-to-wire win for #14 Cole Seely. Suck it, McConkey! You’ve bagged on the guy all season and he goes out and does that despite your criticism. No Christmas card for you. Cole proved a lot to himself and everyone else on Saturday. Congratulations. In his words, “It was surreal out there!” It’s always easy when you lead start to finish…so I hear.
2nd Ryan Dungey: Dungey got off to a pretty bad start (crossed the line after lap 1 in 10th) and pushed his way to the front railing outsides and cutting inside. It was a level of aggression and intensity that he’s criticized for lacking. This guy knows what he’s doing and clinched his 2nd C’ship with 3 races left. Not many can say that.
3rd Eli Tomac: I really appreciate Eli’s no-excuse attitude – he’s humble when he wins and not a whiner when he has a tough one. He was back in 11th at one point and passed riders like they were Juniors out there! Chances are he’ll finish the series in 2nd place and will be at or near the front all summer long. Obviously, he needs better starts.
4th Josh Grant: Great ride for Grant. He qualified way up in 3rd and was in the mix all night. He has to be pretty happy with that one.
5th Chad Reed: These two are always near each other or almost banging into one another. He was up in 2nd for 5 laps and was only 1 second behind his teammate, Grant, at the flag.
6th Andrew Short: I call Andrew ‘Kyle Lewis 2.0.’ He keeps grabbing holeshots and hanging on to top finishes. He may not have the speed of the guys at the very top, but he’s proof that good starts equal good finishes.
7th Davi Millsaps: Davi got off to a poor start and moved forward all race long. He was in some great battles and should be pretty happy with 7th.
8th Broc Tickle: Tickle looked really good in weeks past and I figured it would carry over to an even better finish last week. 8th isn’t bad, but he was hired to be on the podium and I think he can do it.
9th Justin Barcia: It was good to see #51 back out there after some time off with injury. He had a few chances to push the champion off the track but seemed to forget his nickname and left him room. What gives??? I’m sure he’s just happy to be back in the conversation.
10th Justin Brayton: Brayton seems like a really nice guy and a 10th place finish is about where you’d expect the #10 to be…de-doyee!
Stud: Ryan Dungey, of course. He got off to a bad start and muscled his way to a well-deserved early title.
Dud: Shouldn’t #4 Blake Baggett be doing better? Is he pushing for an ‘outdoor only’ contract? (How do you sleep at night after picking a Dud every week, Jeff?)
Biggest Suprise: I was surprised Ryan Dungey grabbed his 2nd title with 3 races left and I was also surprised ‘Bam Bam’ Barcia let him! I remember watching him in his A class in Amateurs and there’s no way he would have given the points leader any room.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy your holiday, Jeff, but hurry back because we miss your input on Supercross races. Seriously, Jeff could tell you who wore what gear as far back as you care to ask him. He’s kind of a ‘moto gear savant!’
We move to a new baseball venue in Santa Clara, California, this Saturday.