For the twelfth week in a row, the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series lined up and dropped the gate, this time in Seattle. Going to the PNW in the spring is always dicey, as we don’t know what the weather will bring, but this time around we were greeted to bright skies and dry dirt. That all made for a great day of racing and there’s a lot to go over. Read Kickstart and come back for more over the next few days…
The track design included a long set of whoops and like always, there was a mixed review on them. Many were excited for the challenge that the rollers presented, as it took a high degree of skill and patience to get over all 15 without issue, and by the end of the day nearly every rider had a near crash in them. During qualifying it seemed like if a rider charged too hard into the whoops, by the sixth one they were at risk of losing the rhythm and getting out a shape. A smooth, slightly slower entry was better for consistency and if a rider could make it to the sixth whoop of the fifteen, they could get the rest okay.
The track crew made the decision to mow them down before the night show and it drew the ire of the racers, as it was one section that could have separated the pack. You can read some of the complaints online…
One thing worth noting is that Adam Cianciarulo has said that jumping the whoops is becoming the preferred technique this year and that he’s looked to Marvin Musquin’s riding style for cues. Not everyone is happy about this change in style, as they prefer to skim them whenever possible and they don’t actively practice jumping through the rollers during the week.
80 TOTAL ENTRIES
Maybe it’s the back and forth of the schedule or a number of injuries to the field, but only 40 riders signed up in each class for Seattle, which meant all competitors were confirmed a spot on the starting gate in the night show. Before you panic and say the sport is dying, keep in mind this happens at some point every single year.
REED & BRAYTON
First off, we hope both guys a speedy recovery from what was one of the harder crashes we’ve seen this year. It’s a shame to see two veteran riders get taken down by injuries, especially at this point in their careers and they continued to build through the later rounds of the season. Early word is that Brayton has a torn MCL and damaged ACL, which will sideline him for a few weeks while Reed is still in Seattle waiting for a discharge from the hospital for eight busted ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken scapula.
Seattle was supposed to be Mike Alessi’s last Supercross of the year, but on Friday we learned that he and SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda had decided to extend their deal through the Nashville round. After what unfolded on Saturday night, this proved to be a smart call. Alessi said that as soon as he’s done with Nashville, he will put his full focus on prep with Honda Canada/GDR/Fox Racing for the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MX Tour in Canada, which begins on June 1st.
Enzo Lopes has had a quiet rookie season in Supercross. The Brazilian has been part of the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team for nearly a year, after a last-minute call to join the team required graduation to the pro ranks, and his addition to the four-rider 250 team has brought fair results, with best being a ninth place in Seattle.
Is Adam Enticknap allowed to win his own Lit Kit award? His white THOR MX Pulse Air gear with red gloves, white 6D ATR-2 helmet, white Alpinestars Tech 10 boots, and red EKS Brand goggles proved that yes, the 722 is a worthy judge of riding apparel. Props, Adam.
Seattle was a struggle for Shane McElrath and the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM. Per the team, McElrath tweaked his back recently and the pain was a problem on the bike, so Doc G spent much of Saturday trying to alleviate the issue. Unfortunately, the lone TLD KTM rider was unable to overcome the pain and pulled out of the night’s race. This was unfortunate enough, but then came the claims by outsiders that it was a tactic to avoid pointing out of the 250 class. We understand why one would think McElrath would want his career to include a 250 title, something is yet to accomplishment and needs another year of eligibility to pursue, but is performance in the 450 class at Daytona (on a 250, no less) proved that he has the speed to be in the mix in the premier class and KTM seems eager to keep him on orange through that transition.
Have to say it was odd to see the 33 on a blue bike again. Josh Grant spent a good portion of his career on Yamaha bikes and this fill-in ride for the rest of the SX season brings him back to the tuning fork brand. JG33 told us that he had four total days of riding the YZ450F, two of which were on a beaten down Supercross track, and that he had logged enough laps per session to get a feel for the bike without completely destroying his body or hands (keep in mind how many injuries he’s had over the years).
As is standard with a Monster Energy backed team, Grant had the M claw on his replica Shoei. These colors go well together, don’t you think?
Low friction coating on a fork tube that costs more than a complete motorcycle. We love factory parts.
We caught Eli Tomac and Brian Kranz during an early morning control set-up session. Tomac was able to notice that something was a touch different with the front brake lever position and Kranz quickly put the ARC lever to the desired position.
Bell Helmets had a freshly painted Moto 9 for Cooper Webb at Seattle. Since Webb is a Red Bull rider, all of his helmets are done by California paint shop Air Trix and we appreciate the abundance of metal flake used in this scheme. Note the red rubber trim, which accents the rest of the lid. Sadly, this will never be a replica lid.
But if you do want a helmet like a Supercross hero, Bell has you covered with the Tomac edition Moto 9. The black paint, exposed carbon fiber, and patriotic details all make this one of the top selling designs in the company’s catalog, while the gold three is just for Tomac.
Reed has said that early prognosis of his injuries should park the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing bike for the last five rounds of the SX season, but he’s hopeful that the broken scapula, eight busted ribs, and punctured lung could be healed enough to race Las Vegas. It’s unfortunate, as Reed seemed to be finding his form in recent weeks and scored a podium finish at Detroit. The team and Reed were in talks to line up for a few Nationals this summer, but that plan is likely on hold too.
It’s good when brands work together. Before each race season, every apparel company will outline what riders will wear each weekend in order to cycle through the catalog and showcase select styles. In recent years, separate gear/goggle/helmet/boot brands have all shared their schedules with one another in order to piece together a perfect setup for a rider. And yeah, it’s much more difficult when multiple companies have to come together compared to the head to toe deals some brands have with riders. Thor, Bell, 100%, Monster Energy, and Alpinestars aced it with the black and camo kit worn by the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha riders in Seattle.
More custom lids. This 6D ATR-2 was done for Justin Hill by his preferred painter, Tagger Designs, and features a mix of details like flames, camo, bright colors, and ghosted in text.
SHIFT and Fox Racing put RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo in their yellow and navy colorway of the Black Mainline collection with Fox Racing’s V3 Motif helmet. SHIFT has done a great job with the GEICO Honda team, as each set of gear is simple and features minimal branding, which allows the designs of the gear to standout.
Waiting in the wings.
Something we learned about Reed’s deal with CBDmd: they are the only publicly traded CBD brand and that is what convinced the JGRMX team to let Reed run the logo. In fact, a number of people involved with the team have bought stock in the brand.
Mitchell Harrison has things coming together for a summertime deal. The 250 class rider told us that he’ll be a privateer at the start of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and should things go well, he’ll run the full tour with his father. Harrison hasn’t been able to keep a spot with a factory-supported team the way one would think a capable rider and podium finisher in the 250 class could, but we wouldn’t be shocked if he landed a fill-in spot this summer.
Seattle was not great for Justin Barcia, as the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider seemed out of sorts on the track in qualifying and had a very hard crash in the 450 Main Event that mangled the controls of his YZ450F. After a stop in the work area for repairs, Barcia rejoined the race and finished seventeenth. Injuries have kept Barcia from replicating his Anaheim One intensity and he would greatly benefit from a small break in the schedule. Unfortunately, we’re still a few weeks away from the lone weekend off in the season.
Good news Dean Wilson fans: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing has confirmed that the 15 will be a factory rider for the full Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship this summer. With a healthy season so far, Wilson has gotten back up to speed and is in the mix for front of the field finishes on any given weekend, something he proved with the fasted lap in qualifying at Seattle.
After a few weeks of managing the rider-Feld negotiations, Tyler Bowers has taken a slight step back from the deal in order to concentrate more on racing and getting back to full health after a long bout with the flu. That’s not to say that the line of communication between riders and Feld has collapsed, because Feld intends to keep the meetings going as a way to receive direct input, something that Bowers will be a part of as well. Seattle was Bowers’ best result in a few weeks, as he finished tenth in the 450 Main Event.
We heard mixed reports about the dirt used at Seattle. Dirt Wurx said that it was mostly the same soil as last year with some new material mixed in, but they spent much of the day dealing with a number of massive rocks and pieces of debris that proved to be problematic. This is just one piece that was dug out of the whoop sections.
Fresh rubber on a factory bike. What more could you want?
We’ve said it before already this year, but props to Michael Mosiman for his improvement on a Supercross track. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider has made massive gains in two seasons and was in the fight for a podium finish at Seattle, where he ultimately finished fourth. Big wrecks during practice are an issue that Mosiman knows he needs to eliminate, as he seems banged up quite often for a young rider, but he said that Seattle was a step in the right direction. With results like this, we expect him to stay on factory-supported equipment for a while longer.
Joey Savatgy and Blake Baggett before the final practice session. You know which one is which, right? Just checking…
The final practice is the only time during the afternoon that riders are able to get a true practice start on the metal grate and we’ve been told that this is one of the more beneficial parts of the entire session, because the metal material behind the gate is so much different than a dirt start. Sure, a lot of riders and teams have made their own metal pads for their practice tracks, but this is the only time that they can see how their technique compares to the competition.
The Dunlop rig is always loaded down with tires for a race weekend and in Seattle, it sounded like a number of riders opted to have a mousse installed over the standard inner tube because the dense rubber isn’t prone to damage from debris like rocks. However, the heavier mousse has an impact on the handling of the bike, as Ryan Villopoto said that it’s a “dead” feeling on the rear of the bike and can have some impact on traction.
With St. Louis off the schedule and the Atlanta pits outside, the Seattle Supercross was the only round this year that featured a full indoor pit area with rigs and displays. The tighter confines of the WaMu Theater meant that teams had to scale back their footprint, which put bikes in full display of passersby and allowed more opportunities to interact with teams.
Stock stoppers on the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing YZ450F? Looks like it for the caliper at least, and that would make sense considering the team’s intent to use as many production parts as possible. While many teams opt for aftermarket or custom-made parts, Yamaha decision to use stock parts allows them to work with data direct from the engineers that designed and developed the motorcycle.
Hurly is making quite the push into American motocross racing with their fabric components like radiator wraps that keep debris from hitting the cooling units, brake disc covers for spare wheels, tire wraps for muddy rides to the starting line, and carpet pit mats for a clean appearance. Hurly is an Italian company that’s slowly bringing products to the US for consumers.
Titanium teeth. The footpegs on Eli Tomac’s Monster Energy Kawasaki aren’t the sharpest we’ve ever seen, but they’re very trick thanks to the clean welds, rows of teeth, and expensive material. Yes, we’d all like a pair, but no, we probably can’t afford to buy them or resole boots on a frequent basis.
Two safety features in one shot. Feld Entertainment has added a second set of warning lights at the base of the triple jump to alert riders when there is a danger on the other side of the jump, a welcome feature that will help get a racer’s attention in the heat of the moment. Also, notice the cut-down size of the FLY Racing Tuff Blocks up the face, which are less likely to catch on a bike as a rider goes for takeoff, ala Weston Peick last year in Atlanta.
We see you, RJ. If you need headshots for a modeling portfolio, let us know.
The constant threat of rain in Seattle meant that Dirt Wurx had to take every precaution necessary when building the track. The final step was to “seal” the surface so that any rain would run off and not soak in. This works great when weather hits, but a sunny day in Seattle this time meant that the track became hard packed, to which a number of riders compared it to a Southern California circuit. The Dirt Wurx crew has faced a number of challenges this year and have done a great job considering the circumstances, including in Seattle.
We heard a few riders raise concerns about the tight first turn at Seattle, which hooked riders with a quick 180-degree left-hand bend and into two small jumps, as it as small and didn’t offer a lot of room. When it came time for bikes on the track, it didn’t seem to be a big deal and there were few major incidents like some feared. We wouldn’t be surprised to see more slower, tighter starts like this in the future, just because it kept massive pile-ups from occurring.
Wear and tear. You can see that this set of XTRIG triple clamps have been on Justin Brayton’s bike for quite a while, evident in the gouges and faded finish.
Brad Bensch at work on Justin Hill’s JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing RMZ-450. Bensch has been a mechanic for a number of riders over ten years and has been paired with Hill for two seasons, one year in the 250 class and one year in the 450 class. The Seattle stop was home race for the wrench, as he’s originally from Spokane, Washington.
Looks like JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing have come up with their own remedy to keep riders from accidentally pressing the kill switch. We didn’t realize this was that big of a problem until a few years ago, when we saw it on a GEICO Honda bike, but considering the fluid riding styles that some racers have, it’s totally possible for them to lean over on the button by accident.
All in the details. Fox Racing adds these Monster Energy M claws to the back of the pants for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki riders. Few may see the logo, but it’s there and that’s what matters.
One thing you’ll find in every pro mechanic’s toolbox. And yes, there’s a difference in color, so do your research before you grab a bottle of the red when you really need the blue.
Manny, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s carbon fiber supplier, was eager to show us the new transponder brackets he has fabricated for the team and eventually, a consumer with cash to spend. The trick piece mounts onto the leg but makes use of the standard bracket by permanently screwing it into place.
Here’s what it looks like when assembled and on the bike. We’d send you to what we think was the corporate site for Manny’s company, CDG Technology, but it now leads to a Mexican Viagra purchasing site so that might not be right (might be, we’re not judging). Instead, we suggest you find him on Vital’s message board, at the pro races, or a SoCal track.
Couple of things we noticed on Justin Hill’s RM-Z450. First is the high position of the front brake lever, which is done by rotating the master cylinder and lever assembly backwards. This allows Hill to keep his fingers near the lever at all times…
The next was the modified swing arm, which features extra material for more rigidity. Yamaha had a very similar setup a few years back with Reed and Webb and JGRMX did the same with their team, so it looks like the design has stayed in the playbook since the switch to Suzuki.
Star Racing made waves a few weeks back when they took a tire groover and made a cut across the center knobs of their Dunlop tires. From our understanding, taking out the small amount of material will make the knob slightly more flexible and would change the grip characteristic. If you’re into auto racing, then this is a common sight, but it’s seldom seen at the top levels of motorcycle racing due in part to Dunlop’s “race” rubbers that are considered the ultimate tire.
Here’s a look at the finished product. Notice how the cut is rather shallow, so the knob doesn’t rip or chunk from excessive force.
Race team tech. Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha relocated the water temperature sensor on their YZ250F motorcycles: the stock placement is located on the valve connected to the cylinder, while Star Racing moved it further up on the hose with an additional part.
Since Seattle is the closest Supercross race to adidas HQ, Troy Lee Designs clad Cole Seely in their collaboration gear with the athletic brand. The materials of the adidas X TLD gear are some of the most impressive we’ve seen used in motocross, but it comes at the cost of durability. Either way, Seely’s setup was bitchin.
Because of the rocky track conditions, a number of riders opted for handguards. Adding the mounting bracket from the protective pieces meant that certain controls had to be repositioned, like the kill switch on Seely’s Team Honda HRC CRF450R.
While talking to the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM team we learned a lot about Blake Baggett’s engine preferences. Turns out that Baggett runs the most aggressive engine package of any KTM-Husqvarna factory rider and that the team alters the output via the header pipe (longer header equals improved low-end feel) or very rarely, a sprocket size change (Baggett reportedly went to a 51-tooth rear recently, the first time he’s changed in a while per the team).
Bubba Pauli’s TXS Productions/Outlaw Motorsports outfit has looked excellent this year. It’s important for race teams to look good for sponsors, but it’s rare to see a very small and independent effort with multiple riders coordinate with identical gear, helmets, and pit presence. Props to the small crew for their efforts, it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Happens every year, but there’s still something strange about seeing a Supercross start in full daylight. We’re not complaining, though, because it makes for great images.
2019 has not been a great year for Justin Starling and injuries have kept the Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports rider from being on the line at a number of 250 West Coast stops. It seems like Starling has overcome the issues in recent weeks and at Seattle he logged a season-best tenth-place finish in the 250 Main Event.
Sounds like a hand injury is keeping Jacob Hayes from his full potential. The CycleTrader/Rock River Yamaha rider has been impressive in his first real Supercross season and was one of the better riders in the Seattle whoops. A crash in the 250 Main Event further aggravated the injury and Hayes was forced to pull out of the race before the checkered flag. We’re interested in seeing how Hayes stacks up outdoors this summer.
Nacnacs in the city. Colt Nichols celebrated his 250 Heat Race win with the move the Jeremy McGrath made famous in the 90s. Fun fact: the first time in the US that McGrath threw his leg over the bike in the air was at the 1994 Orlando Supercross, which took place on January 15th, while Nichols was born on March 22nd of the same year. Yes, MC’s impact was that big on the current era…
Some insight on Ken Roczen’s recent illness and struggles on the track. The Team Honda HRC rider said that he first fell ill after the Arlington Supercross and that the cause is still uncertain, but that his energy is improving and that he’ll undergo some blood work at the Red Bull fitness facility to learn exactly what is going on. Clearly Roczen was feeling better in Seattle, as he was near the front of the pack through the entire day and finished a close second place to Marvin Musquin. We’re all still waiting for the breakthrough win, but if this illness is over with, we’d think it’s imminent.
Big news for Ben LaMay. After a season-best fourteenth place finish at Seattle, he has been hired by SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda for a three-race deal while Justin Brayton recovers from a torn MCL and damaged ACL. LaMay’s first race with the team will be this weekend in Houston.
While most of the attention has gone to Reed and Brayton (rightly so, both dudes suffered significant injuries), Kyle Chisholm got his share of damage in the collision. The H.E.P. Motorsports Suzuki rider said that his knee is sore after the crash and is hopeful it is just a sprain or severe bruise and not damage to the ligaments. Chisholm said he will have to wait and see if he is able to race later in the week.
How do teams keep their starting blocks in place on the grate? Elastic bungee straps! The JGRMX team told us that the blocks are a welcome accessory for their 250 class riders, most of whom are smaller in stature, and that they’ve watched hours of film from starts to perfect the technique.
Props to Chris Blose for his season so far. We’ve kept an eye on the Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports rider, who raced in the 450 class and worked out of the back of a rental car at East Coast rounds, and are impressed by his skill in the small-bore class. Seattle was solid for Blose as he was among the fastest riders in qualifying and a good start in the 250 Main Event put him up front and he finished a season-best fifth place.
Those last laps in the 250 Main Event were pretty good, huh? We really enjoy the differences in style and line choices that come from Ferrandis and Cianciarulo, especially because the two have a clear respect for the other and don’t let races be determined by contact or aggressive passes. With Colt Nichols’ bad result at Seattle and McElrath’s back injury, it’s between these two for the 250 West Coast SX title.
Dylan Ferrandis relished in his first Supercross win. When he was in the MX2 class of the Monster Energy FIM Motocross World Championship, the French rider made it very clear that his true desires were to race Supercross in the United States and he did everything necessary to make that a reality. 2019 is his third year in the US and it seems like he has found a balance to life on this side of the planet. We’ll have a more in-depth article on this soon…
There’s a lot left in Jimmy Decotis. A few years ago it was a surprise to seem him on the podium, but now it’s expected of the veteran 250 class rider and he has two third-place finishes to his credit in 2019. We asked in How Was Your Weekend if something has clicked for him in recent years and he replied that he’s become very serious about his career and puts in the work that is required when on a factory-backed team.
After a strange Main Event in Indianapolis, Eli Tomac seemed improved at Seattle and it showed in his third-place finish. To be honest, Tomac’s ride was overshadowed by other things and he received very little attention on the podium or in the post-race press conference, but the points scored keep him in the mix for the championship chase and he is currently ranked third in the standings. Anything can happen with Tomac at this point in the year, be it a charge to championship success or just more podium finishes for a spot high in the order, and we wouldn’t be surprised either way.
The biggest non-injury story of the weekend was Marvin Musquin’s jumping through a section that was under caution flags and the penalty (19 championship points instead of 26, no purse money). The vibe at the podium was strange, as it was unclear if Musquin was going to be credited with the win at all and he acknowledged his mistake in the post-race press conference and in a social media post on Sunday. As for the rule which allows Musquin to retain the win but not the full reward has caused quite the argument online, but the rule was put in place so that there’s no confusion of “what rider won” when a fan leaves the stadium or the broadcast cuts off.
Cooper Webb’s expression after the race never changed from this. The Red Bull KTM spent the final moments of the race in pursuit of Eli Tomac for the final podium spot and looked like he was going to make a charge. Unfortunately for Webb, Musquin noticed that he could slow the pace down, let the clock run out, and pull the white flag out sooner than some expected, and it inadvertently kept Webb from getting the time he needed to make a pass attempt on Tomac.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.