They did the damn thing. Against all odds and unforeseen circumstances, the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series got through all seven races in Salt Lake City and fulfilled the full seventeen-round championship. It couldn’t have ended any better, as Sunday’s 250 East-West Showdown and 450 Main Event determined all three titles. By now you know the outcome, that Chase Sexton and Dylan Ferrandis successfully defended their 1E/1W number plates and get to exit the 250 Class as back-to-back champions while Eli Tomac finally added the 450 Class Supercross title that will be mentioned in his still-distant but undeniable induction to the AMA Hall of Fame.
The Sundays and Wednesdays spent at Rice Eccles Stadium are something we will never forget, but that final day in SLC had plenty of storylines to follow and discuss. A podium sweep by one OEM, 250 Class chaos, career-defining performances, a technical track, warm temperatures, post-race protests, and a send-off for one of the sport’s icons. Here’s a quick recap of what we saw during the 2020 Salt Lake City Seven Supercross…
Track walk.” It was weird at first, but by the end of the month, it seemed like rider were good with scoping out the obstacles from the stands before each race and then rolling every jump for the first two laps of practice. This could be one of the many new measures that gets adopted for future SX events…
Fox Racing and Bell Helmets made sure the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki riders looked their best on the track. The two companies coordinated together so that the apdesigns paint job laid on the Moto-9 matched the all-new Venin gear that was debuted on Sunday.
With no B Group to “cut in the first lines,” the 250 West Coast riders had to soak up the slop of the watered track on their freshly-prepped bikes. We liked Christian Craig’s wheelie method as an attempt to shed the weight…
Luke Clout took a hit during Timed Qualifying and was too beat up to race the afternoon show. How do you rate the Australian’s season in the States? As part of the first-year Penrite Honda effort, Clout showed pace in the early part of the year and his best finish was a fifth place at Oakland, but his time in Utah was mixed due to 12-11 results and talk of a recent practice crash. We think he's earned another year of SX in the US.
Shane McElrath’s morning was eventful. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider had the fastest lap in the first round of Timed Qualifying, but then got caught up in a wild crash with Pierce Brown at the start of the second session. Let’s just say we’re glad the shape of the Bell lid was bigger than the gap between the fork leg and frame at that moment, because McElrath’s head was not a round peg we wanted to see go in that hole.
Doesn’t matter when or where it is, we’re always excited to see new gear get rolled out on pro riders. Thor MX put Aaron Plessinger in this blue and white setup (apparently the blue-only gear rule is still in effect) for practice at two rounds, including Sunday’s closer. We’ll keep an eye out for more details for this stuff in the summer months.
We we’re really pumped to see Jason Anderson in this setup from Alpinestars. Designed by Cactus Plant Flea Market, the same designer that did the 2019 Nashville gear that was worn by Lil Uzi Vert at a concert, Anderson actually ran this setup once before during his TWMX cover shoot to celebrate his 2018 450 SX title. Sadly, this is one print that won’t be mass produced anytime soon.
Untucked side. Tie-dye and smiley faces kick ass.
Don’t just paint, give it the Krylon touch. Jerry Robin made the smart call for the final round and jumped up to the 450 Class, which offered a bigger purse than the stacked combined coasts of the 250 Class. Unfortunately, the backgrounds didn’t show up in time and Robin had to break out the spray paint cans and a stencil for some custom 67s on his Husqvarna.
We’re sad to see our time in Utah come to an end. With the food, the bike rides, the scenery, the coffee shops, the weather, and the good times, Salt Lake City exceeded all of our expectations. Seriously, if you’re an outdoor person, schedule a visit to the area.
Eli Tomac was eager to get to the end of Sunday. How do we know that? He was the first person in the 450 Class to show up at staging for the first round of Timed Qualifying, even before the first session of 250 Class bikes had hit the track.
That just gave us more time to look at the new Bell Helmet on his head. We’ve heard that a new high-end helmet was coming from Bell for a while but didn’t expect the “soft launch” to come during practice of the final SX. The shape of the carbon fiber shell has some traits of the Moto 9 but is still wildly different…
Here’s a side view of Cooper Webb’s helmet. We couldn’t get any details from our friends at Bell, but clearly this is a new shell (two-piece?) and the protrusion of EPS foam in the collarbone region is a creative safety feature.
If you’re looking for a gritty rider to cheer for, then Chris Blose should be your guy. The Chaparral/FXR/Honda rider has been around for years (TLD Honda, H&H, Areancross front-runner, AJE Motorsports, Team ML512) and is always going to give it his all. Still dealing with limited range of motion in his right wrist from the Glendale get-off, Blose made it back in time for the Utah races and was back up to speed at the final round. Fifth-fastest in 250 East Coast qualifying, Blose scored a 14th in the Showdown against the combined regions.
With at least two of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s riders on the sidelines for the summer (Smith with a knee injury, Marchbanks with internal damage and a torn knee) we’re interested to see who Mitch Payton calls up to ride the KX250 in the summer’s Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Darian Sanayei should pay a visit to the Corona office ASAP and explain to anyone that will listen how those years on the MXGP scene make him a good fill-in for the US MX series…
It’s simple, but we like the camo paint that apdesigns put down for the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha guys.
All the necessary spares. The pit cart has become a staple for race teams in Supercross, as it’s the only way they can take bulky items like spare wheelsets and exhausts with them to the side of the track. It might seem like a little much, especially because the time it would take to swap a wheel or silencer is an eternity in Supercross, but to teams the chance for points salvaged could become important in a championship scenario, ala Husky in 2018.
A visual example of power being put to the ground, courtesy of Michael Mosiman.
Salt Lake City was a mixed time for Justin Hill. It sounds like the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider expected Supercross to pick up later in the year, not May, so he took advantage of the time off and didn’t ride as much as he would in “normal” circumstances. A lack of comfort on the bike and a hand injury from roost can be chalked up as the reasons for the mixed results, but his continued work with the team and Showa helped him score a ninth-place result to end the season. It proved to be a big result for Hill because he kept 10th place in the point standings, which often merits a good paycheck from the Supercross-only crew.
While we’re on the topic of Hill, we really enjoyed the triangle stand he took to the starting line with him on Sunday. Yes, other riders did the same so they could prop their bike up and better clean their grate, but Hill was the only guy that did it so the 450 could stay upright while he punched out the airbag behind the starting line as part of a pre-race routine.
Rookie update: Jalek Swoll ended the SX season with a 19th in the Showdown, something the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing press release said was due to a strained shoulder and separate crash that both occurred after the red flag restart. That’s a bit of a bummer for Swoll, who could have hopped over Martin and Marchbanks to finish in the top-five of the East Coast points, but that’s part of being a first-year pro.
Glad to hear Pierce Brown is okay after his LCQ slam. The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM rider had a very rough last round, including a weird crash in the Heat Race that took him out of a transfer position and left his bike wrapped up in trackside banners and then his hard get-off into a bowl turn. Once Brown and the team learn how to harness his speed and block out mistakes, the young racer will become a front-runner.
Colt Nichols’ bike and arm took the brunt of the blow from Chase Sexton’s bike in the last-lap Heat Race collision. When we saw the tweaked bars and that Nichols had secured a transfer to the Showdown, we figured it was something that the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha team would fix in time for the rider to get back to the gate, but Nichols didn’t show up for the last race of the season. We’re still waiting for a full update, but it sounds like a possible arm injury from the incident could sideline Nichols for part of the summer.
A 10th place finish to end a wild year. Mitchell Oldenburg’s life has been hectic since he got back from Australia last year (new team, knee injury, move home to Texas) but it hasn’t held him back too much on the track. Even with one missed race (San Diego), the Penrite Honda rider ended the season ranked ninth in the 250 West Coast championship standing.
Martin Castelo had reason to celebrate his ninth-place result in the 250 West Coast Heat Race: it secured the JMC Motorsports rider a spot on the starting line for the Showdown. Castelo has gotten noticeably each year and to qualify for the Main Event, directly out of a very stacked Heat Race, is proof of his improvement.
Castelo claiming the last transfer out of the West Coast Heat Race meant that Dylan Ferrandis had to line up for the LCQ, a career-first for the now two-time champion. Ferrandis explained in the post-race press conference that his years of watching SX had made him nervous of the LCQ, but he got through the first turn without issue and rode off to a dominant win that put him into the Showdown.
Rookie of the year. On Wednesday Martin Davalos was named the RotY by the AMA, an honor that the Team Tedder/Monster Energy/Lucas Oil/KTM rider achieved by making it in for all 17 rounds of SX and for finishing the season ranked 13th overall in the championship. Davalos was very good at different points in the year, including recent races in Utah, and we think it’s earned him enough attention for another year in 450 SX.
We get excited before the gate drops, too.
If you’ve listened to our post-race Kickstart podcasts or read past Kickstarts, then you know that there had been some tension between Eli Tomac and Zach Osborne on the starting line at recent races. Tomac felt that Osborne’s starting technique was a way to intentionally hop out the main rut and cut over, which the AMA watched closely in recent races and later deemed a non-issue. Ever the competitor, Osborne continued to line up by Tomac as often as possible, including during Sunday’s Heat Race.
Justin Barcia struggled with bike setup in Salt Lake City. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing team and rider couldn’t find a happy balance to the engine and chassis of the powerful YZ450F on the hard pack dirt, which showed in Barcia’s results through the final rounds. A crash in the first turn of the Main Event did something to Barcia’s bike and he had to go to the mechanic’s area very early, then pushed through to finish in 20th. Ranked fifth in the final championship standings, Barcia didn’t place high enough to activate the automatic renewal clause in his contract and recent social media posts by Barcia hint at an uncertain future in SX, but we’re confident there’s a team somewhere that would sign BamBam for 2021.
Fox Racing really worked with their partners to promote the new Venin line. From afar, it looks like Ken Roczen is just wearing the bold jersey and pant…
But a closer look reveals a custom-painted Red Bull helmet to match the theme…
And a Throttle Jockey graphic kit that swapped the usual blue accent colors for black lines and a special spider web on the shrouds. That Fox Racing is the apparel provider for Team Honda HRC certainly played a part in all of this coming together.
Big money. Cade Clauson came out as the winner in the PulpMX Privateer Challenge and the Team PR-MX rider will score some cash courtesy of Steve Matthes and the listeners that funded it by buying raffle tickets for a chance to win a YZ450F. It’s cool to see how moto fans come together to support the guys who make the show happen, either in a contest or by handing off a few bucks for gas to the next race.
The short run and tight hairpin curve at the final round really caught guys off guard. There really was no “ideal” run to the first turn, because too much speed meant one could overshoot the mark while going too slow meant they’d be pushed to the back and risk getting into a pile-up. Somehow Shane McElrath saved this near fall and still came out near the front of the pack…
Cameron McAdoo is the only healthy rider left of Pro Circuit’s original four-rider roster for 2020, but that’s after he missed rounds early in the year with a collapsed lung. Two top-five finishes at the West Coast races in SLC city were a highlight for the PC rider, but over-eager pass attempts in the Showdown held him back to an 11th place finish. Can McAdoo become a title contender for 2021?
Chase Sexton really, really wanted to win that Showdown. The GEICO Honda rider had been motivated by the talk that he “lucked” into his 2019 title and a contract with Team Honda HRC for the 450 Class for the past year, while multiple run-ins with Shane McElrath made for motivation in Salt Lake City. Sexton was the fastest rider of the 250 Class on Sunday, something that can be seen in his lap times and battle over McElrath to the win in his last race on the small-bore bike, and he made celebrated over the finish line and at the podium.
Dylan Ferrandis knew he had the 250 West Coast title won when Austin Forkner was carted off the track in the early laps of the Showdown, but the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider had to finish the full 15-minute race before he getting a second-straight 1W plate for his collection. Ferrandis is another rider that will move to the 450 Class in 2021, but his future hasn’t been finalized just yet and we’re still waiting for more word on where he’ll sign for his move to the premier class. Rumor in the pit ranges from a new 450 program at Star that would keep him on blue or that Red Bull KTM would expand their factory team to support three riders (Webb, Musquin, Ferrandis). As for mechanic Alex Campbell, we’d think he goes with Ferrandis, because the two have developed a good working relationship over the course of two title seasons.
When we saw Cooper Webb off the bike in the first turn, we knew the title was Tomac’s. Down 19-points as the pack lined up for the Main Event, Webb was the only person that had a chance to take the championship away from Tomac until the pile-up put him deep in the field and ended any hopes of an upset. The Red Bull KTM rider tried his hardest to retain the number one plate for another year and scored some big wins in Utah, but it wasn’t enough. As sick as we are of seeing it, that Arlington crash really did influence the outcome of Webb’s championship chase.
The triple onto tabletop was a massive send that we saw guys going for all day but it wasn’t until we saw this shot of Zach Osborne going all the way through the stroke on his WP suspension that we realized how tough the landing and then immediate bounce off was on riders.
Yeah Broc! The 2020 season hadn’t been great for Broc Tickle, because although he was given the chance to race factory equipment with JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing, a pair of hand injuries at Arlington and SLC One kept him from having full strength. Tickle told us that his expectations on the track after missing part of 2018, all of 2019, and part of 2020 was to be near the top-10 and he was certainly above that goal with excellent starts and a sixth-place result at the finale. Tickle finished the season 20th in points, which means he’ll collect some money from the AMA championship bonus fund.
It was great to see the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing riders run 1-2-3 in the Main Event. Jason Anderson, Zach Osborne, and Dean Wilson have faced their share of challenges in 2020 (Anderson with some poor finishes and a departure from the Baker’s Factory, Osborne injuries and a rough start to the season, Wilson racing back into shape after a hip dislocation) and they overcame all of that to lead laps and sweep the podium, a first for the OEM. On the podium all three riders dedicated their race to Scott Burtness, an in-house Husqvarna employee that passed away over the weekend unexpectedly.
Malcolm Stewart had an excellent 2020 SX season with the MCR crew. We’ve all wondered what Mookie could do with a solid team, dedicated training program, and well-developed bike and he showed that his current potential is near the podium. Stewart’s consistency through the season was impressive, hurt only by a busted footpeg-DNF at one of the SLC races, and he ended the year tied with Zach Osborne in points. Malcolm’s Seven MX kits were excellent as always in Utah and we found out from Roger Larsen that Malc picks out the gear he wears for each round, like this red and grey setup on Sunday. Hit the homepage and watch Roger’s SLC Quarantine Daily for more Stewart family stories.
Late-race encouragement from Rango and Damon.
We hear some people criticize Jason Anderson based on his laid-back attitude, but seriously, his ride on Sunday shows how motivated he is to finish at the front. The seat came off of Anderson’s bike in the closing laps of the race, which allowed Osborne the chance to run off to the win, but El Hombre finished out the moto and was still “seat bouncing” obstacles out of corners. Respect.
Big win. Zach Osborne had been close to a Main Event win during the time in Utah and on Sunday there was no stopping his charge to the front of the pack. Osborne stayed behind Anderson for much of the race, then saw his chance to make a move and overtook his teammate in the late stages to secure his first win. Like Anderson, a small part of his bike came off during the course of the moto and the heat from the exhaust melted part of his boots. Didn’t seem to matter much to Osborne, though, especially after the handlebar he had taken to the stomach earlier in the day.
Eli Tomac, Supercross champion. The 450 SX title has always been the priority for Kawasaki and all of their efforts went in to making sure Tomac ended the SX season at the top of the point standings. With the most wins of any rider Eli was certainly the fastest in the field, but his consistency (average finish was 2.5), ability to avoid any major disasters, and his all-around mental stability proved to the keys to his success. Now the team’s attention turns to the outdoors, where Eli is the three-time and defending 450 MX champion.
Is this it? We were part of a pre-race press conference with Chad Reed last week and the question of “Is this really your last race” came up a few times. On Thursday, Reed seemed open to the idea of truly ending his career with a final appearance at select races in 2021 so that he could see the fans, but by the time his post-race interview happened on Sunday, it sounded like that was less likely after he stated he didn’t enjoy the process of practice and the Heat Race the way he did before, and that his only goal was during the Main Event. We’ll wait and see how a summer at home helps the decision.
But if this is really the end, then a top-10 finish is a great way to go. Chad put in a solid last race on track that was far from ideal, then was surrounded by his friends and wife as soon as he crossed the checkered flag. We’ve enjoyed seeing Chad’s tour in person these last few months, starting with the Paris SX, his emotional message to the Australian crowd at the AUS-X Open, his A1 introduction, and opening ceremonies ride with the kids in Atlanta, so we know those last few laps had to be overwhelming and full of memories. Seeing Chad and Ellie ride away with the checkered flag was the perfect end to the 2020 season.
Champs. Congratulations to Eli Tomac, Chase Sexton, Dylan Ferrandis, and the staffs of the Monster Energy Kawasaki, GEICO Honda, and Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha teams for their accomplishments this year.
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.