On the road again. The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series loaded up the trucks and made the 2000-mile trip from Southern California to Missouri for the second round of the series, the 2020 St. Louis Supercross. After the outcome of Anaheim One, everyone was eager to see how the field would fare once they had gotten over the opening round nerves. What’d we see? Just further affirmation that this year’s roster of riders is incredibly talented, maybe even more than we initially thought. In qualifying, there were ten 450 class riders within a second of each other on the stopwatch and a podium finisher at Anaheim One was on outside the group. Yeah, that’s a very small difference at the very highest level.
With this small sample of results, it’s still too soon to say how the remaining fifteen rounds of the 450 season will play out. Riders are still trying to find their rank in the running order, the perfect bike setup, or the cure for lingering symptoms from recent illness (there’s a lot of that going around, especially between teammates or training partners). So no, it’s not the time for the riders that were pegged as championship contenders to have a full-on panic for their mixed results. But damn, they better get on the podium soon if they want a shot at this title later on because there’s already a growing gap between current championship leader Justin Barcia (the only rider to finish on the podium in both rounds) and the rest of the pack.
A similar, yet different storyline is playing out in the 250 class. Like Barcia, Justin Cooper is the only rider to touch the podium two weeks in a row and he maintained control of the red plate with a second-place finish in St. Louis. Cooper’s consistency has been aided by the errors of Austin Forkner and Anaheim One (track cutting penalty that put him in fifth place) and Dylan Ferrandis in St. Louis (opening lap crash in the Main Event, twelfth place finish), but he has the raw speed to back up the results.
Left off the calendar in 2019, the STL SX made its return thanks in part to the completely open schedule that the vacant Dome at America’s Center has (it was the home to the Rams until the NFL team moved to California), Feld Motorsports’ ties to the venue with Monster Jam, and a recent dirt track event in December that used the same soil. Riders love the dirt in St. Louis because the clay base offers excellent grip and doesn’t breakdown like Indianapolis or Atlanta, traits that are aided by the stadium’s powerful heating system. Dirt Wurx made good use of the rectangle floorplan and built a course with long lanes, rhythm sections with multiple options, the over-under bridge, two massive double jumps, and whoops that reminded us why we watch from the sidelines.
The temperature was warm inside the stadium and attached pit area, but it was different outside, where the wintery mix moved over the area on Saturday morning and made the roads a little tricky. Why are we bringing that up? Because we’re trying to get an answer for the scant turnout in the seats. Did the weather keep people from showing up to a race that used to boast a healthy attendance, or is St. Louis’ reputation keeping Midwest fans from making the trip? Those of us that did show up to the race were treated to a memorable night, thanks to hometown hero Austin Forkner’s win in the 250 class and Ken Roczen’s massive triumph after three years of injury and issues.
Here’s what we saw and heard in the STL…
At long last. It had been nearly three years since Ken Roczen had last won a Supercross Main Event, but the Team Honda HRC rider did everything right during long feature in St. Louis and scored one of the biggest wins in the history of the sport. Re-watch the race or check out Roczen’s GoPro footage if you can, because it shows how he took advantage of an excellent start, an opening on Zach Osborne in a key corner, and clear track during the opening laps. After struggles with suspension at Anaheim One and recent issues with energy-draining illness, this win couldn’t have come at a better time. We’ll have a longer write-up, including insight from Roczen, on the site tomorrow.
Austin Forkner’s Main Event win was important to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasak rider for two reasons. A Missouri native, Forkner grew up riding at a track just a few miles from the stadium and had plenty of friends in attendance during his run to the checkered flag. On the confidence side of things, this win was Forkner’s first since he destroyed his knee in Nashville last Spring. Check out the stats from the first two races: AF has led a huge number of laps, has an average start position of 1.0 (that means two for two on holeshots), and is down five points to Cooper for the top spot in the standings.
First off, shout out to local hero Bubba Pauli. The Illinois native has followed the full Supercross series for years and this is the second season of his current team with Scotty Wennerstrom and Joan Cros that is backed by TXS Productions, FXR, and other sponsors. Pauli is one of those guys that’s on the cusp for making the Main Event every week, his setup is legit, and he gives it an honest effort every time. Pauli took part in Friday’s media session with the local news, traded stories with Blues player Colton Parayko, and showed his local sponsors what the sport is about. Alas, Pauli was a few spots short of making the Main Event, but he made his mark off the track.
Justin Cooper made sure to accent the red plates on his Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha with red gloves, red boots, and red grips. A second-place result in the Main Event keeps Cooper at the top of the point standings for another week, but there’s more to his day than that: Cooper was nearly taken out in two separate incidents on the opening lap of the race, due largely to a poor start, and spent the full duration of the race trying to catch leader Forkner. Take a look at the leader’s gap over second place in the final laps. Did Forkner ease off the pace in the final laps or was Cooper that much faster? With one win each, we’re eager to see how the two shake out this Saturday in Anaheim.
Bummer for Cameron McAdoo. The St. Louis race was going to be big for the Iowa boy, as it was his chance to showcase his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki ride to the Midwest, until a hard crash in the first timed qualifying session ended the day early. McAdoo was cleared to ride the second practice but pulled off when he had issues breathing. A trip to a local hospital revealed that he had full collapsed his right lung and partially collapsed his left lung, which required insertion of a chest tube and an overnight stay to monitor his status. It’s a bummer for McAdoo, because although there’s no broken bone or need for surgery, the timeline of recovery is tough to determine, and he’ll miss multiple rounds of the West Coast region.
Ready with the red plates. This was the second year in a row that Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing and Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha went to the second round with the point lead in their division; Justin Barcia and Colt Nichols had them at Glendale in 2019.
During the weekend we learned that although the engine of the Kawasaki KX250 is new in 2020, Mitch Payton and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki have stuck with their 2019 spec for the first part of the season. Per the team, parts for the new small-bore bike have been tough to get from Kawasaki and other sponsors, so they haven’t been able to fully test or build the proper number of spare engines for riders. It’s not a big issue for PC, especially because the engine was proven by Forkner and Cianciarulo last year, so they are okay with running the 2019 setup through Supercross while test rider Ivan Tedesco continues developing a race-ready bike for the Nationals.
Vince Friese is tough on sidepanels and graphics, so mechanic Nick McCampbell opts to cut out the excess vinyl from printed background and adds sections of grippy plastic material to the frame and lower part of the number plate.
Take a good look at the engine in Justin Brayton’s Team Honda HRC CRF450R. Looks complex, right? When the bike started to have an issue during the Heat Race, Brayton wisely pulled off the track and passed the bike to mechanic Brent Duffe. Every moment mattered for the team and in roughly 21-minutes, the staff of Honda mechanics got the ailing powerplant pulled out and swapped with a race-ready spare, just in time for Brayton to make the starting line for the LCQ. It’s an impressive feat for everyone and shows how second-nature bike maintenance is for pro mechanics.
The individually-cut sponsor logos on the rear fender serve two purposes: getting rid of the extra material shaves a few grams off the total weight of the bike, something that teams spend thousands to do with titanium fasteners, and it looks totally badass.
Cooper Webb’s Red Bull KTM 450 SX-F, both Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM 250 SX-Fs, and a number of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing bikes all feature this split-design triple clamp on the front-end. Offered in the KTM-Husqvarna PowerParts catalog, the aluminum clamps are made to work perfectly with WP suspension by not binding up the stroke of the fork.
Another thing we noticed was the shape of the radiators on the KX250 bikes. They are thinner but longer than the stock units and the right-side piece is plumbed to double as an oil cooler.
Red Bull KTM with the number one plate. We’ve seen this look before…
Eagle-eyed fans spotted the addition of the Wells Fargo logo on the Red Bull KTM bikes this year. This is part of some big business dealings, which goes back to when Wells Fargo acquired the North American business of Commercial Distribution Finance from GE in 2016; the CDF has run KTM’s dealer inventory financing for years.
Bummer for Vann Martin. The Team AllSouth rider took a tumble through one of the long rhythm lanes in timed qualifying on Saturday and suffered a ruptured patella tendon in his knee and some broken toes. Unfortunately for Martin, the injury will likely need surgery and thus, some time off of the bike to recover.
It’s the little things. Alpinestars trackside support staff applies small identifying stickers to the backside of all their rider’s boots, which include the rider’s name and a flag of where they’re from (we’ve noticed it’s either the country or the rider’s home state).
Contract negotiator. Moral support. Jewelry holder. An agent’s job knows no limits.
A few characters of Supercross. We have a good time with our friends every Saturday at the track.
Did you read our Gear Check breakdown of helmets, apparel, boots, goggles, and bikes from Anaheim One? To our surprise, the Husqvarna FC 250 was the most popular bike of the 250 Main Event at the opening round, even more than the powerful Yamaha YZ250F or ever-popular Honda CRF250R. We are eager to put the STL recap together, so check back Tuesday for that.
We feel for Taiki Koga. The Japanese rider isn’t known for his Supercross skills, but he’s shown some speed on the tricky tracks. Unfortunately, he’s been in the wrong place at the wrong time two weeks in a row: first was the last-turn LCQ take down by Chris Howell in Anaheim, then the run-in with Jett Lawrence in the Heat Race in St. Louis. Both incidents have kept Koga from making the Main Event. What he lacks in Main Event starts, he makes up for in bitchin’ custom painted helmets.
Things went well for the Penrite Honda team in St. Louis, especially compared to the rough start at Anaheim One. Mitchell Oldenburg was seventh-fastest in qualifying and led laps over Austin Forkner in his Heat Race, ran sixth in the opening lap of the Main Event before a small mistake, then raced back to eighth place at the checkered flag…
While Australian Luke Clout settled into the pace of the American scene and was tenth-fastest in qualifying, finished fourth in his Heat Race, and nabbed a solid seventh in the Main Event. This is a big result for Clout, because more finishes like this or better could keep him in the US for the full West Coast calendar, not just the initial six-round run that was planned.
Todd Hansen had Tagger Designs lay paint to a fresh Shoei for Austin Politelli and we like the Guns N Roses vibe. Custom paint is always badass…
But it’s not always the best thing to sponsors. Monster Energy wasn’t stoked on the colorful Arai that Troy Lee Designs painted for Justin Barcia, a lid the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider made his signature offering that’s soon to be available in the Arai catalog and wore for the Monster Energy Cup, Paris and Geneva Supercross, and the team photo shoot. As a result, Barcia has been in a plain black helmet with maximum M Claw branding for the first two races. It sounds like Monster, Barcia, and TLD came together for a design that all agreed on, which you should see in the next few weeks. | Side note: it’s badass to see that Troy Lee Designs, an established helmet company, is still open to doing paint jobs and signature designs for riders that are sponsored by their competitors.
Much was made about the multiple run-ins that Justin Hill and Adam Cianciarulo had at Anaheim One, but this shot shows it was nothing more than close racing by two guys that are determined to make their mark in 2020. If you’re gonna dish it out, you’d better be ready to take it.
We liked the new offering THOR MX put Cooper Webb in during qualifying. The colors and patterns work well together against the orange KTM. Fashion aside, it was a rough day for the Red Bull KTM rider, as Webb was reportedly still dealing with lung issues from his illness at Anaheim One. An intense physical activity with the flu, the damp air of Anaheim, the cross-country trip to Florida’s humidity, another flight to St. Louis’s sharp cold weather, and a day inside a stadium full of fumes and dust. Sounds like hell on the lungs. Webb was far from full speed on Saturday, as he qualified in 15th place, pushed to a fourth-place finish in his Heat Race, and labored to a 12th place result during the Main Event. Webb needs to get this sorted out as soon as possible, because he cannot afford another finish outside the top-10 if he wants to defend the title, nor the chance of making the illness worse this early in the season.
Props to Chris Blose. He and Michael Lindsay agreed to follow the tour to St. Louis and the FXR/Chaparral/Honda rider made it directly to the 450 Main Event from his Heat Race, then finished 18th in the feature. Blose has established himself as a constant presence in the 450 class over the years and won the SX2 title in Australia this past offseason, so we’re eager to see how things go when he and the team follow the full the 250 East Coast region in a few weeks.
We’ve enjoyed watching Jimmy Decotis ride the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing RM-Z450 these past two weeks. Small in stature but big on style, Decotis isn’t afraid to move around the big yellow bike and rarely does he look bad in photos. The JGRMX team weren’t expecting podium finishes from Decotis in his limited stint in the 450 class (he’s signed to race the 250 East Coast region for the Suzuki squad), so while results aren’t super important, keeping a bike on the track is, and that’s something Decotis has done. With Fredrik Noren sidelined with an ankle injury, it’ll be interesting to see if Jimmy D stays on the bike longer than initial three-round plan
Even the best have their moments. We’re all human.
Malcolm Stewart had a rough week before St. Louis. A crash testing during the week left the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider with an extremely sore core (ribs and back) and there were initial concerns that he would sit out the second round of the season. Stewart sat out Friday’s press session with the team and started Saturday slow in practice, but picked up the pace when it mattered, particularly in the whoops during his Heat Race and with a sixth-place result in the Main Event. “I told myself I just needed 20 minutes and a lap,” Stewart shared with us after he matched his career-best finish.
We really don’t get all this “Aaron Plessinger is at risk of being a bust” talk we see online. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider was going well in his rookie season until a badly broken heel sidelined him at Daytona in 2019 and he’s spent the past year getting over the first serious injury of his career. St. Louis was much better for Plessinger than Anaheim One, as he avoided big crashes or issues and finished 10th in the Main Event. What does Plessinger make of the negative remarks and situation as a whole? “You have to take everything with a grain of salt and I don’t even pay attention to that stuff, really. I’ll see one and it’ll make me mad, but I’m coming off the first really big injury I’ve had in my career and it’s one of the gnarliest you can have to your foot. Luckily everything went good, I’m back, and I can only be excited for myself at this point. Making it back to the last few outdoors was a big thing for me and even though I didn’t do great, I was there and I was riding. This year is starting out not in a way I wanted, but for this being my third Supercross since March, I think I’m doing good.”
STL local Carter Stephenson lined up for the 450 class on his KX250. Why? Because Stephenson aims to follow the 250 East Coast region and running the 250 class in St. Louis, a West Coast race, would have made him ineligible. The STL SX being a West Coast race made for plenty for interesting things like this, the absence of many privateers, etc.
Michael Mosiman must have tested a few of Dean Wilson’s parts this offseason, because now Mosiman’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC 250 is outfitted with the wide saddle GUTS Racing seat. And we dig the handguards he had Mo’Head mount up this weekend.
What is it? Isa Sprocket.
How many Suzuki logos can you count? Alex Martin did very well in St. Louis and was about than half-second short of a podium finish in the 250 Main Event, as he was just a bit behind Brandon Hartranft at the checkered flag. This was a big bounce-back finish for the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider after his Anaheim One issue and he’s current fifth in the championship standings. Martin was a factor in the first-lap crash that collected Mosiman and Ferrandis, but luckily, he was able to get away unscathed.
Let’s check out some of the starting blocks used by 450 class racers. Here are Justin Barcia’s steps, which are remarkably tall for Barcia’s average height. Why so tall? It allows him to quickly get his feet onto the pegs and near the gear shifter.
That Adam Cianciarulo uses blocks at all is eye-catching, since he’s among the taller guys in the field, but it shows how they’re helpful for riders of all sizes.
Eli Tomac isn’t as tall as Cianciarulo, so his platforms are a little higher.
Cooper Webb is the shortest of this group, but his steps aren’t ridiculously high.
Justin Bogle's blacked out PAK EMH platforms.
We’re going to say that Zach Osborne’s Heat Race slam at Anaheim One is a testament to the quality of the FLY Racing Formula helmet. Osborne told us that he took a whack directly to the back of the head on what was basically a paved road, but never felt foggy or out of sorts after the crash. Buy a good helmet. Please.
Martin Davalos was better in week two, even if the results don’t show it. The Tedder Racing/Monster Energy/KTM rider got on the board with a fast lap during timed qualifying and finished fourth in his 450 Heat Race, but a big crash in the opening lap of the Main Event forced him to bail out of the race. He’s figuring it out.
Zach Osborne’s starts were solid in St. Louis, thanks in part to this LED display on his front fender. The box serves as a sort of tachometer and lights up when Osborne has the bike in the right rpm before the gate drops. This has become a common part in the last few years, due directly to the popularity of programed ignition maps for the starting line.
Christian Craig didn’t get to step on the podium at Anaheim One, as his third-place result came due to Forkner’s penalty post-race, but the GEICO Honda rider more than made up for it with a 250 Heat Race win in St. Louis. Craig was on pace for a possible podium finish in the Main Event until a crash in the closing laps, handlebar to the chest, and DNF. Expect Craig to be in the mix for a straight-up podium finish through the rest of the series.
Sixth in the St. Louis Main Event, seventh in the 250 West Coast championship. Jacob Hayes has been solid through the first two rounds, especially considering the lack of preseason prep he had due to a shoulder injury. The Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports/Husqvarna rider doesn’t have a huge Supercross result sheet to his name, but the past Arenacross champion has plenty of pro racing experience. Keep an eye on Hayes as the season continues, because he could become a normal top-five finisher.
It was at this point ARay knew he fked up.
Kyle Cunningham was the lone rider for the H.E.P. Motorsport Suzuki team in St. Louis as Adam Enticknap sat out the race with a wirst injury and Ryan Breece went to Germany for the final round of the ADAC Supercross series in Dortmund. Cunningham is one of those guys you can expect to be in the Main Event on any given weekend in Supercross and battling for top-15 finishes outdoors. It’s good to have guys like that on the line and he finished 16th in the Main Event.
What’d you make of the passes between Adam Cianciarulo and Zach Osborne in the Main Event? Sure, the two have a history of racing each other very close (Indy practice a few years back comes to mind), but it’s not a vengeful thing between them. We asked for their opinions on the topic in How Was Your Weekend and both said they know it’s a part of racing when done respectfully, and they are comfortable putting a wheel in on the other whenever necessary.
Dylan Ferrandis was the fastest rider of the 250 class in qualifying, but things were much more difficult during the night’s race, as the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider was collected in chaos during the Heat Race and Main Event. His run-in with Mosiman was a big incident and both were very fortunate to remount and continue on without serious issue. A quick stop in the work area for repairs put Ferrandis a lap down, but he stayed in the race for the full duration and passed back to 12th place at the checkered flag. As a championship contender, it was a wise decision to run with the leaders and get by the riders at the tail of the field (they probably thought Ferrandis was lapping them, not passing for position), even if it irked front-runners Hartranft and Martin.
TLD KTM’s investment in Brandon Hartranft is already paying off. The third-year pro scored his first career podium result in St. Louis, in just his second true SX race with the team. Talk from the training facilities is that Hartranft is one of the most physically fit riders in the sport and that he’s not afraid to put in the work. Given the right time and results, he could be a title contender come 2021.
We’ve been thinking of our mates in Australia since first hearing of the fires during our trip down under in November and the current devastation is staggering. It’ll take years of work and big money to help the country’s natural habit recover, so it’s no surprise that Aussies like Chad Reed and Yarrive Konsky are doing their part to raise funds for the relief efforts. Reed’s Main Event gear from St. Louis, featuring this patch on the pants, will be up for auction on eBay soon while Konsky has a collection of jerseys from racers (Tomac Anderson, Roczen) in a separate campaign for charity. Check back for details and if you have the means, do what you can to help.
How you feeling about Justin Barcia’s title chances after two rounds? Not going to lie, we could see the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider be in this all the way to the end. Everything is working in Barcia’s favor right now (bike setting he likes, team willing to accommodate, injury-free, very fast) and despite being seriously ill on Saturday night, he rallied to a second-place finish in the 450 Main Event. Remember what we said about Webb last week? The same applies to Barcia now and if he’s in championship contention at the end of the series, it’ll be thanks to a podium result on a very challenging night.
Week Two of the Adam Cianciarulo 450 Project. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was again the fastest in the 450 class during qualifying, even with some crashes in the final session, but STL wasn’t exactly easy for AC. He seemed a little more on edge than he did at A1 and a last lap crash dropped him to seventh in the final results, a finish that he took in stride and chalked up as a learning lesson.
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.