Well, that was a wild one. The 2020 Arlington Supercross will likely be remembered for being the most chaotic round of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series, as a number of big crashes, takedowns, and race wins all took place in Texas. Maybe it was the track, the Triple Crown format, the fact that riders are eager to get big results in the middle of the season, or everything all together. Whatever the reason was, it made for an interesting day that will have a lasting impact on the series as a whole.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty with photos and captions, here are a few things to point out…
Adam Cianciarulo will undergo surgery to plate his busted collarbone, which will help expedite the recovery time. We figure the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider will be back on the starting line before the end of SX because those few gate drops will help acclimate him to the pace of the class before the summer’s Nationals.
We were surprised at the turnout for the Triple Crown, especially in the 250 Class with 54 total riders, because only 22 riders were confirmed for the night’s races. It’s obvious that racers want to race, even if the odds are against them.
Benny Bloss sat out Arlington to recover a pulled muscle on the side of his torso. The Rock River Yamaha rider showed us the bruising and with the green and purple tones, he looked like Barney The Dinosaur. We expect to see him back in the next few weeks.
Matt Winters built Shane McElrath’s Arlington race bike with a special set of backgrounds from D’COR Visuals. For those of you keeping track at home, this is the sixth round that a Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider has bike has had the red plates, including Justin Cooper and Dylan Ferrandis’s run on the West Coast.
McElrath’s bike also had a special FMF Racing muffler, which used red carbon fiber for the end cap to accent the number plates. That Lil’D and the crew have a supply of special carbon fiber on hand at their factory shows how important it is to have one of their riders at the top of the standings.
A pre-ride warm-up routine isn’t complete until you put each hand by the muffler for a few seconds…
We’re always interested to see what riders prefer in the small but crucial details of their bike setup, like fork height in the triple clamps, which impacts the handling characteristics. Raising the fork tube in the clamps creates a more agile turning feel but decreases front-end stability at speed, while lowering them takes away some of the turning prowess in favor of a more rigid straight-line feel. The WP forks on Dean Wilson’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC 450 were perfectly flush in the clamp. If this is a tip you intend to use on your bike, be sure to get a ruler that will help you measure in millimeters and make sure both sides are equal height.
Chase Marquier’s day, and possibly season as a whole, went sideways when his block pass attempt on Darian Sanayei for the final transfer spot to the night show in the 250 LCQ put both riders on the ground and left the Manluk K&R Racing rider with an arm injury. We saw him across the pit area later that night with his arm in a sling but were unable to catch up with him; he or the team are yet to share an update on what exactly the injury is.
Can you properly explain a section on a track without using hand motions? Chase Sexton and Jordan Bailey don’t seem to think so.
A few years ago Feld and Dirt Wurx brought big berms back into track designs, a move that we applaud. Why’d they go away? On Friday we recorded a podcast with Mike Muye, Senior Director Of Operations for Supercross, and he explained that the berms were initially made lower so that fans could see action on the track from their place in the stands, but that it negatively influence the on-track battles, so they have re-introduced them. Check back for the podcast on Tuesday, because Muye shared much more than we anticipated or hoped.
Last week at Tampa, Jordon Smith told us that he has ongoing issues with his wrist from last year’s injury and that it’s something he’ll have to deal with for all of 2020. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider said that his preseason prep was hampered by the injury, that he couldn’t do multiple days of work without the area becoming sore and swollen, and that the Mobius wrist brace will be a key part of his gear bag going forward.
John and Justin Starling, two generations of Supercross.
Jimmy Decotis was one of the many riders that took a slam on Saturday. The JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider was already limping through the weekends from a preseason crash, so this endo into the face of the triple and knock to the head put him on the sidelines voluntarily for the Texas race. Decotis is hopeful that he can rest up during the week and be back for Atlanta.
The hip jump was sick. When we saw it on Friday, we knew it was a matter of time until one person skyed the wall and went to the downside, instead of just hopping onto the top and then off. Jace Owen demonstrates the high line.
When the big screwdriver comes out in the work area, some suspension setting changes are about to go down. Jimmy Decotis and Jared Keller, Showa tech for JGRMX, made some on the spot adjustment to the fork on Decotis’s RM-Z250.
You know how sometimes pets and their owners start to look alike? We’re seeing a lot of JBone in ARay here.
The Dallas dirt offered plenty of traction, especially at the start, so some riders and teams went for a much lower setting on their holeshot device to keep the front-end of the bikes down under acceleration, seen here on Chad Reed’s CR22/Mountain Motorsports/cbdMD/ARMA Honda CRF450R.
Jo Shimoda’s second race was another exciting for the rookie, as the GEICO Honda rider posted 14-10-8 finishes for 10th overall, which matched his Tampa debut. That Shimoda’s moto scores improved each time out shows he’s quickly getting the hang of Supercross, but he had a few oh shit moments, including a mistake in the whoops during practice that shot him into the nearby, oncoming lane of track. Luckily no other riders were jumping through the long rhythm and Shimoda avoided certain disaster, then took it easy for the rest of the session.
Did you have a parent that dressed you and a sibling in matching outfits?
Henry Miller was on the track for the first time this season in Arlington. The Minnesota racer missed the first part of the season due to a shoulder injury he suffered in Australia, but he’s healed up enough in the last few weeks to get back at it with the support of Stussy Construction, FXR, and other sponsors. Miller missed making the night show after a ranking 30th in qualifying and some carnage during the LCQ that resulted in a 13th place finish.
Double up. The Triple Crown races are the only time that teams can build and tech two bikes, as the tight timeframe leaves little time for repairs to be made, so the rule was amended in 2019. There’s an argument to be made that this is an unfair advantage for privateers, and we get it, but it’s not like the factory teams don’t have spares of every part on hand in their rigs at other races. MXGP and MotoGP allow teams to have second bikes at the ready, just in case something would go wrong or if riders wanted to have two different setups to try at once. We’d like to see that here, but it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. So, we’ll just pay close attention at times like this, when Eli Tomac’s two Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450s were on display in the pits.
Here’s something your KTM or Husqvarna doesn’t have. Last year we noticed a few factory riders on orange and white bikes had braces added between the front spars of their frames, which added more rigidity to the chassis helped in Supercross obstacles like whoops and rhythm lanes. The parts disappeared during the summer Nationals, as riders wanted a more compliant feel for the rough conditions of the outdoor tracks. Now that we’re back to Supercross, the spars are back, too.
Interesting differences on the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing RM-Z250s. Jimmy Decotis runs the solid engine hanger and a beefier aftermarket front mount, as he likes the rigid feel it gives the small-bore Suzuki.
Isaac Teasdale, meanwhile, runs an engine hanger with a small hole in the center and the stock front mount, which allows the chassis to flex a little more.
As for Broc Tickle, we weren’t surprised to see that he likes the flex and feel offered by the highly-machined hanger that JGRMX has developed for the RM-Z450.
Trick parts in the pits. ARC is known for their creative take on essential pieces and fabricated a transponder mount that simply bolts onto the triple clamp and stays just far enough away from the fork to keep it from wearing on the tube.
Since Jordon Smith is still new in his term with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, he’s still sorting out the kinks of the KX250 to get it to his liking. We caught him making midday adjustments with mechanic Brandon Zimmerman and Showa tech before the final qualifying session.
With the Kicker Arenacross series on a short break, Kyle Peters and the Phoenix Racing Honda decided that it would be a good idea to line up for a few 250 East Coast Supercross races. It made sense, considering Peters holds the top spot in the point standings and the team will turn their attention to Supercross after Arenacross wraps up. Unfortunately, a crash in Arlington could Peters’ title hope at risk, as we’re still waiting to hear if the injury he suffered was significant enough to make him miss the next round in Salt Lake City. Racing is brutal sometimes.
Tickletime is on hold. One week after returning to competition after serving an 18-month FIM-WADA suspension, Broc Tickle is on the sidelines with a hand injury. The JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider collided with another rider in the early laps of the night’s first race and as soon as the crash was over, he walked off the track and to the medics. Here’s hoping it’s nothing serious and that Tickle will be back in no time, for his and the team’s sake.
Feeling the flow. Justin Hill has been on a roll lately and he showed plenty of potential during the afternoon qualifying sessions, when the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider was the only rider to post a lap in the 45-second range. There was a lot of criticism of Hill following his 2019 season, especially after his few good showings on the 450 in 2018 and push to be on the big bike, but we think these last few races should be enough to start to change the perception surrounding him. Should Hill continue to improve his pace and speed, especially on the upcoming technical and challenging tracks that he says he favors, we will have another rider to factor in for Main Event podiums.
Are you following Aaron Plessinger’s improved results lately? The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider went 9-10-7 for eighth overall in Arlington, which is his best result of the season. AP has been much better in recent weeks and he’s almost back to the rank in the running order he had at this time last year. It’d be good to see a top-five finish or two from the number seven before the end of the SX season, because that could carry over into the summer’s Nationals.
Back in November, Ben LaMay told us he would sit out the start of the Supercross season due to a lack of interest from teams or new sponsors but would still be ready for when a team inevitably called him for a fill-in ride. Since LaMay is a Main Event caliber rider that showed promise as a privateer last year, we were bummed to hear about it yet understood where he was coming from. When injuries riddled the FXR/Chaparral/Honda team, Michael Lindsay made the call to LaMay and agreed to field him in the 450 Class for the rest of the season, a deal that started in Texas. Unfortunately, a crash on Friday left LaMay with a thumb injury and the likelihood that he will have to race the rest of the season far from full strength or sit it out completely.
Did you see our interview with Darian Sanayei from Press Day? The American had spent the last few years of his career racing in the MX2 class of the MXGP series, but now 23 years old and forced to the MXGP class, he felt it was time to come back to the States and turn his attention to Supercross. Sanayei is racing Kicker Arenacross and later rounds of 250 East Coast Supercross with the support of Monster Energy, Seven MX, and Babbit’s and looked solid for a first timer in Arlington. He led laps in the 250 LCQ and was on the verge of making the night show until that aforementioned run-in with Chase Marquier put him out of contention on the last lap. You’ll see Sanayei on the starting line of another SX soon.
Golden Hour at AT&T Stadium.
While we’re on the topic of personal touches of riders on the same bikes, here’s something we noticed at Team Honda HRC. Justin Brayton opts for the rigid feel offered by Renthal Twinwall bars…
While Ken Roczen wants a different flex characteristic that’s offered by the new FatBar 36. Roczen is currently the only factory rider that we know of using the new oversized bar from Renthal, as he was very influential in the testing process and has been riding with it for months, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see that change the longer they are on the market.
One thing the two Red Riders have in common is a similar engine hanger, which features the small hole for more flex. We might be wrong, but we’re pretty sure that only one of them had the drilled hanger at the start of the season.
Gary Chisholm has always been ready to wrench for his kids. How many amateur and pro races do you think this set of Mechanix Wear bags have been used at?
A second bike means a second engine to pre-heat. Dave Feeney got both of Zach Osborne’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC 450s up to operating temperature before the night’s race. We love factory bikes.
Spot the key difference between Jason Anderson’s two Airoh helmets.
Temperatures were a bit chilly in Arlington, so most teams dropped the curtains on their pit canopies and turned on the heaters to keep themselves and the bikes warm. This is going to be a common sight when we get to Indy/Detroit/Denver/Foxboro.
Team Honda HRC and others wrapped their Dunlop tires in Chicken Hawk warmers so that the rubber wasn’t stiff for the night’s races. Tire warmers have been a very popular tool for teams, but it’s not the massive traction aid you might think. Instead, they just want the rubber to be near operating temperature and consistent throughout, instead of a mid-race performance change.
Girl dad. Justin Brayton and his daughter, Parker rode out together on his Team Honda HRC CRF450R during opening ceremonies in complete sets of FLY Racing gear. While JB lined up for the night’s three races, Parker was on the track for the STACYC holeshot challenge during intermission.
Red bikes at the ready.
El Hombre waiting for the Voice of God to call him out during opening ceremonies.
This was a very special part of the opening ceremonies in Arlington. A group of World War II veterans were brought on stage and celebrated for their service, then stood at attention and saluted while the National Anthem was sung. It was a very moving moment to start the night and one when won’t soon forget.
Props to the CLUBMX crew. The independent team made quite the mark in the 250 Class, as riders Josh Hill, Joey Crown and Enzo Lopes finished sixth, seventh, and eighth overall. Laps at the front of the pack put Crown on the radar of many fans and industry personnel with 7-5-10 scores, while Lopes was steady and speedy to finish a steady 8-8-7 in the three races. Keep an eye on these guys as the season goes forward, because they could race their way onto a factory team next year.
RJ Hampshire isn’t on the track to make friends this year. After a fair showing in Tampa, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider knows that it’s win or bust for the rest of the year and he made his share of aggressive passes on his way to the front, including moves on former teammates Chase Sexton and Jordon Smith. Hampshire was rewarded with a third place overall finish for his efforts, but you can bet that he and the others will share a few more block passes or takeouts through the remaining rounds, which will make the championship that much harder.
Controlled chaos. Respect to the guys that do this every Saturday.
Racer awareness. Eli Tomac knew that he wasn’t going to jump the triple on the opening lap of Race One, so the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider wisely looked behind in the air to make sure that no one else behind him had different plans.
After sitting out the Tampa Main Event with whiplash, Blake Baggett was back on the line for Arlington. The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider seemed upbeat after last week’s issue and joked around in the rig while we were there, then raced his way to 10-8-13 finishes for 10th overall. That one missed round really did some damage to Baggett’s rank in the points, though, and he’s now 11th in the standings.
alek Swoll had a tough go in Tampa and missed making the Main Event at his pro debut, but the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider bounced back in Arlington and finished ninth overall. It had to be hectic to have your first real SX be a format as challenging as the Triple Crown and Swoll said it did present a few challenges, yet he overcame it to put 10-12-9 rides.
Jace Owen made sure he voiced his displeasure with Jordon Smith after the two tangled in the turn after the finish line. Smith remounted and finished the race with a busted visor and tweaked bike, while Owen seemed to take a long time looking at his arm before he went back to the pits to get his setup sorted out in time for the night’s last race.
Curren Thurman has been impressive this season. The Team All South rider continues to make progress with his speed and skill, something that was added by his time in the 450 Class on the West Coast, and he’s made both Main Events in the 250 Class on the East Coast, with a 15th at Arlington being his best result of the season.
Thoughts on Josh Hill? We figured the former 450 Class Main Event winner would be very good on the small-bore bike and he held his own against the field in Arlington with excellent starts, some laps at the front, and fierce battles for position. This shot is moments before the checkered flag in Race Two, when Hill tried to hold off RJ Hampshire for sixth place, only to have the Husqvarna rider sneak by at the scoring loop. 9-7-6 finishes put Hill sixth overall on the night.
Just how much of a boost are Zach Osborne’s Nihilo Concepts starting blocks? Here’s an accurate look.
Getting all the traction you can at the start of the race is important, which is why riders and teams put so much emphasis on prepping their gate, grate, and bike. Nick McCampbell used his hand to rub all of the dust off the panel on the front of the gate, a very nice trick considering the wheelspin that the rear tire could get on the slick plastic…
While Jordan Troxell made sure to brush the loose dirt off of Roczen’s Dunlop tire while it was on the grate. The coarse brush is the only “tool” that mechanics can use to prep their gate.
Malcolm Stewart is not a fan of the Triple Crown. The plan for 2020 is to make it through every race without issue, something he's never done before, but the madness that comes with three starts and 10-minute plus a lap sprints isn't something that he looks forward to. Stewart did well in Arlington, with 8-6-9 finishes for seventh overall, and he's now seventh in the championship. Also, take note of the new Seven MX kit that he had on. Should we expect a few more new releases in the next few weeks, Roger?
Justin Hill with one of those berm blasts that you would look back at if you were riding alone…
That Cooper Webb intends to ride Atlanta after his body-jarring crash in Arlington is badass. We feared the worst when the Red Bull KTM rider was taken off of the track and even heard a report of a broken pelvis from a very reliable and close to the team source, but soon after that, Webb stated that he was cleared of any serious injury and said that he’ll be on the line to pursue his second 450 SX title. We watched the Instagram Live of Webb for his 2 For 2 video series with Bell on Monday morning and he looked upbeat and comfortable sitting on a stool. This isn’t over.
Steady progress. After a podium finish in Tampa, Jeremy Martin backed it up with 5-3-4 finishes and fourth place overall in Arlington. The GEICO Honda rider has made it clear he will be in the mix for podium finishes and race wins in 2020, and you can see a more measured approach in his riding style on the SX track. We’re looking forward to what Martin does at Daytona, as it will be a glimpse at what’s to come in the Nationals.
Chase Sexton had the highs and lows that the Triple Crown is known for. The low was the run-in with Hampshire during Race One that cost him the win, but the highs were a win in Race Two and a second-place finish in Race Three, scores that salvaged his results and put him at the top spot of the podium. Hard to believe this is only Sexton’s second 250 Main Event win, but it was, and it came at the right time. He and McElrath are now tied in points as we enter round three.
Tony Alessi has a very interesting and calculated reason for all that he does for riders on the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda team, and the picking the best starting spot is something he looks at very closely. It clearly works, because all three riders were at the front of the pack in the early laps at different points in the night, thanks to their good starts.
RJ Hampshire has said over and over that leaving GEICO Honda was a hard decision, especially because of the close relationship he had with team principals like Jeff Majkrzak. The two found each other on the podium Saturday night and shared a few congratulatory words before going back to their own teams. It’s good to see that results don’t always get in the way of friendships.
Jason Anderson damn near had his first win since 2018. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider has gone through a recent slump in results, due in part to his duel with Brayton in San Diego and Tampa’s 10th place finish, but he bounced back big in Arlington and with 3-2 scores in the first races, was in control of the overall midway through Race Three. Eli Tomac’s push moved Anderson back to second place overall while his crash at the end of the whoops dropped him back to fifth in the moto and third overall. Roughly 40 points back of Tomac in the standings, Anderson’s chance at the title is basically gone, but he can really make things interesting with more podium finishes and possible race wins.
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.