Saturday saw the Monster Energy Supercross land in Seattle with only three more races to go until the 2017 SX Champions are crowned.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, returned to the Pacific Northwest on Saturday with its largest audience ever at CenturyLink Field for Round 14 of the 17-race season. A raucous crowd of 56,063 was on hand for the series’ first visit since 2014, where Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Marvin Musquin cruised to his second career win. The battle for the hotly contested 450SX Class title intensified even further as Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac now sit tied atop the championship standings following adventurous races for each rider. In the return of the Western Regional 250SX Class Championship, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger broke through for his first win of the season.
The drama in the 450SX Class Main Event started immediately off the start when Dungey and his Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine were collected in a first-turn crash with RCH/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Justin Bogle and Autotrader/Monster Energy/Suzuki’s Justin Barcia. Dungey remounted at the tail end of the field in 22nd place.
Out front, RMATV/MC-WPS-KTM’s Davi Millsaps earned the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot, but was quickly passed by Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson and Musquin. Anderson took control of the race briefly, but then gave way to Musquin and settled into second ahead of Millsaps. Tomac endured through a tough start of his own and completed the opening lap aboard his Monster Energy Kawasaki in 10th, while Dungey moved up a couple spots to officially start 19th
A deteriorating track surface allowed Musquin to move out to a comfortable lead in the opening laps while Anderson asserted himself into second and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Chaparral/Yamaha Financial Services/Yamaha Factory Racing rookie Cooper Webb moved past Millsaps into third. While the leaders settled in all eyes were on both Dungey and Tomac, with each fighting their way through the field quickly despite the conditions.
Tomac put himself into podium contention on Lap 4 when he gained three positions to move from seventh to fourth, just behind Webb. The pace of the Kawasaki rider ultimately forced Webb to increase his pace, which allowed both riders to close in on Anderson. Tomac was able to pass Webb for third briefly, but the rookie responded and ultimately took second away from Anderson a short time later on Lap 9. Tomac followed into third but crashed out of the spot the following lap, dropping to fourth just ahead of Millsaps in fifth. As this unfolded Dungey broke into the top 10 in his continued move through the field.
Webb held onto second firmly for a handful of laps but started to lose ground to Anderson. Behind them Tomac was overcoming a deficit of more than six seconds to get both riders back within reach. On Lap 16 Anderson dove to the inside of Webb coming out of a corner, forcing the rookie to alter his line slightly and make a mistake that would take him to the ground and out of contention. Tomac slipped by unscathed to get back into a podium spot in third. Webb’s misfortune also benefitted Dungey, who moved into fifth.
Tomac’s forward progression culminated on Lap 18 when he passed Anderson for second, which also put him into the points lead as time ran out on the Main Event clock, leading to the final lap of competition.
Musquin handily controlled the Main Event to lead every lap and cross the line 4.7 seconds ahead of the field, which mirrored the effort of his debut victory earlier this season at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
“It means a lot to get this win. We’ve been working hard and today was a good day,” said Musquin. “The track was really tough and technical, and you could easily make mistakes. I didn’t have the greatest start so I don’t know how I pulled it off, but I got into the lead pretty quick and just tried to ride consistent.”
Tomac enjoyed an unlikely runner-up effort, while Anderson completed the podium in third. Dungey’s resiliency carried him to a last-lap pass for fourth, and earned him a pair of invaluable championship points.
“That was some chaos. I didn’t get the greatest start, but I ended up finding some rhythm combinations early on that were huge in getting me to the front,” said Tomac, whose five-race win streak came to an end. “Once I got up to about Cooper [Webb] I hit a wall [in my performance speed]. Then I ended up making a mistake and went down. Luckily the bike was ok and I ultimately was able to get by Jason [Anderson]. It’s not something I expected after everything that happened.”
With their respective finishes Dungey and Tomac now sit tied atop the 450SX Class standings, with Tomac successfully erasing a 29-point deficit that dated back to the sixth round of the season. Since then the Kawasaki rider has won six of eight races, earning 194 of a possible 200 points over that span. Dungey, on the other hand, has earned just one win and 165 points over that same stretch. Musquin’s victory solidified his hold on third, 42 points behind the leaders.
The first Western Regional 250SX Class Main Event since early February initially saw an impressive run to the front by Plessinger, who raced his way from fourth to first over the opening laps. However, a red flag brought the Main Event to a halt and forced a restart.
When the field roared out of the gate for the second time it was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Martin Davalos who claimed the holeshot ahead of GEICO Honda’s Jimmy Decotis and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM’s Shane McElrath. Championship leader Justin Hill started fourth aboard his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, while Plessinger slotted into fifth.
Davalos sprinted out to an early lead as Decotis and McElrath battled for second, which allowed Hill to join the fight from fourth. Hill eventually found his way into third on Lap 1 and wasted little time attacking Decotis for second, taking control of the position on the same lap. As Hill made his march forward so did Plessinger. After making a pass for fourth, he moved into podium position by passing Decotis on Lap 1 and quickly reached Hill’s rear fender for second. Plessinger fought his way past his championship rival on Lap 2 and then blew past Davalos for the lead on Lap 3. Hill would also pass Davalos a take over second just after the start of Lap 4.
Once he put himself out front for the first time in 2017 Plessinger never looked back, while Hill continued unchallenged in second. Davalos lost even more ground and gave up third to Decotis on Lap 6 and fourth to Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM’s Mitchell Oldenburg on Lap 8. Oldenburg and Decotis then engaged in a battle for third, with the KTM rider prevailing on Lap 11.
Plessinger maintained a multi-second lead over Hill and easily took his second career win by 6.3 seconds.
“I got out front the first time and then they red flagged it. I thought to myself ‘I can’t catch a break,'” said Plessinger. “But I did it again and put my Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha out front, and it was amazing. I haven’t won a race this year and it feels great to finally get back on top of the box”
Hill’s runner-up finish ended a four-race winning streak for the championship leader, who has finished off the podium just once in seven Western Regional races. Oldenburg enjoyed his first trip to the podium in third after starting seventh.
“I could have been better. But we had seven weeks off and I have a little rust on me,” said Hill. “All things considered, I can’t really complain. I still have the points lead and I’ve been on the podium in every race but one. I think I can learn a lot from this and be better (at the next race).”
Plessinger was able to take three points out of his deficit to Hill in the Western Regional standings, but 18 points separate the pair with two races remaining.
The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season will observe its lone off weekend before returning to action on Saturday, April 22, for the 15th round of the championship and an anticipated return to Salt Lake City’s Rice Eccles Stadium for the first time since 2013. Live broadcast coverage can be seen on FS2, beginning at 7 p.m. PT / 10 p.m. ET.
Words: Press Release Photo: Feld Entertainment, Inc.