Doesn’t matter if it’s one race a season or three, the Atlanta Supercross will always be exciting. The move to Atlanta Motor Speedway for a portion of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series was one of the year’s biggest talking points, as it marked the third venue in six years or so for the popular Southern race and required massive changes in track configuration-logistics-spectating. Five decades of racing on the infield at Daytona International Speedway were proof that the concept has some merit, but we didn’t know how things would go until bikes got on the track.
What’s the general consensus after three races in seven days? Speedway Supercross is good, but it’s not a permanent replacement for stadiums. We had a blast watching rounds thirteen-fourteen-fifteen, and the 2021 Atlanta Three Supercross gave us plenty to talk about.
Let’s hit a few quick things before we get into the photos and captions…
We’re so glad to hear that Chris Blose is okay for the most part after a scary crash in the opening lap of the 250 Main Event. The Motul/AJE Motorsports/GASGAS rider was unconscious for a brief time and had little idea what was happening when he came to, so a medical flight was deemed necessary to get him to a nearby hospital for scans on his head and chest. Blose somehow came away with only a broken thumb and some busted ribs. Feel better, CB.
Garrett Marchbanks has tried to make amends for his 250 Main Event takedown on Cameron McAdoo. The CLUBMX rider went for the kill in a banked turn, an ill-fated move that put both he and McAdoo on the ground and was caught on camera. No, it was not a good idea and Marchbanks caught plenty of heat for it in the days following the race (death threats are a little much for a dirt bike race, but we don’t doubt they’ve been sent his way), but he and the team have acknowledged the situation and will do what they can to put it in the past. Marchbanks has a long-term contract with the team, so despite some reports that he’s fulfilling a vendetta against PC or lost his future in the sport are not entirely accurate.
We’re late in the season, which means some riders are going to go for it a little more in the final rounds while others will coast to the checkered flag. These next two races could bring new talent to the front of the pack and shake up spots further back in the championship standings.
Supercross is doing one last push for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital charity drive, which includes a number of race-worn jerseys, plastics, and a Dean bass guitar that’s been autographed by the top-four riders in the 450 Class championship.
Watching from the hauler, like a real racer at the speedway.
Alpinestars knows they can go wild with Jason Anderson's gear. The company and rider have come up with some far-out designs over the years, including the Cactus Plant Flea Market and DEUS collabs, and Atlanta Three's tie-dye set was one of the boldest yet.
Malcolm Stewart ran three different sets of SEVEN MX-Ethika Lakers inspired gear while in Atlanta, including this blacked-out set on Saturday. This gear was meant to be worn at the 2020 Monster Energy Cup in Los Angeles, a nod to the championship-winning team and Kobe Bryant, but was shelved when the offseason race was canceled. Expect it to be sold as a limited drop in the coming weeks.
Stilez Robertson had a rough time in the South. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider sat out Tuesday's race after a practice crash, came back for Saturday's finale, survived the carnage of the first turn, but went down in the whoops on the opening lap. Robertson said he felt a pop in his knee during the crash, which turned out to be a "dislocated fibula head," and was unable to restart the race. It's unclear how severe the injury is or how long Robertson will be sidelined.
We had a quick catch-up with Seth Hammaker on Saturday morning and discussed Tuesday's post-race issues, which required some medical attention for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider. Hammaker told us that he didn't drink enough during the long day at the track and that the warm weather caught up with him during the Main Event, a rookie mistake, but that it wouldn't be an issue going forward.
Like many of you, we were curious to see how Cameron McAdoo would ride on Saturday. Sore and stiff in the early laps, it took the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki a bit to get loosen up, and he got better as the session continued. A flying crash during the final lap of Timed Qualifying didn't help matters, but that was a good of an outcome as possible considering the severity of the get-off.
Will one of these guys claim a win in Salt Lake City, or will they have to wait until the summer's Pro Motocross tour?
Six riders, one rut. Take notes on each guy's technique and body position as they exited this tricky corner, starting with Red Bull KTM's Cooper Webb...
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Jason Anderson. We noticed that El Hombre made it a point to keep his front wheel out of the deep line.
Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM's Joey Savatgy. He and Tomac have a way of finding each other on the track.
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac.
Did you notice that Marvin Musquin was without his neck brace last week? We were as surprised as anyone to see the Red Bull KTM rider without the piece because he's worn one for almost the entirety of his pro career.
Ronnie Stewart during his sighting lap in the Free Practice session...
And after the checkered flag in the 450 LCQ.
We're eager to see what Fredrik Noren can do during the Pro Motocross season. The Swedish import has never been known for Supercross speed, but outdoors, he has the potential to fight for a place in the top-12. Noren's 2021 effort is well-supported and he does a great job showcasing the brands in his vlog.
450 B Group Timed Qualifying, presented by Kawasaki...
Team owner, racer, and coach. Theodore Pauli and his MADD Parts/DEMX/Namura Tech/TXS/International SX Team with Logan Karnow and Joan Cros have become a staple of the Supercross tour, and the independent effort has had a season of standout moments (feature in Kawasaki's Science of Supercross, Karnow's finishes in the 250 East Coast region, Cros' increase in speed). If you want to learn how to ride from a pro, pay a visit to the Double Eagle MX facility in Missouri, where Pauli is a USMCA certified coach.
Keith Clickstein knows precisely where to position the KYB PSF fork tubes on Aaron Plessinger's Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha YZ450F. The small ruler in his right hand gets it to the exact millimeter.
Will there be more speedway events in the future? After spending a week in Atlanta and having conversations with people from the track, we noticed that the venue has various perks compared to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The dirt used for the big track was on-site, so the cost of sourcing and moving it was almost nil. There were thousands of fans on hand Saturday, and they were free to tailgate in the parking lot before going to the track, something you can't do downtown. Now, we don't think speedways will entirely replace stadiums, but we're almost certain there will be more events at the speedway.
Send it. A few 450 Class riders let it fly off a single and over the sand during Friday's press riding session (you can see Anderson go for it in our RAW video footage), and it looked to be the key line during Saturday's final Timed Qualifying session. Eli Tomac tired early in the 450 Main Event, something he said he hoped would help in the tight pack, but found out it wasn't faster due to the hangtime.
RM Army. The BARX/Chaparral/ECSTAR/Suzuki team has kept the yellow bikes on track this year with Dilan Schwartz, Derek Drake, Sean Cantrell, and John Short. Schwartz finished ninth and Cantrell seventeenth in Saturday's 250 Main Event. The team has upped its commitment to pro racing in 2021 and will participate in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Coty Schock showed the drain plug on his FXR/Chaparral/Honda to everyone on pit road this weekend. We watched Schock throw the bike sideways off the triple at least ten times between Friday's riding session and Saturday's race.
Sounds like SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda has decided not to race outdoors this season. The four-man team has faced every challenge this season (injuries, crashes, illness) and was down to just two riders at Saturday's race. Friese could come back for the Salt Lake City races, depending on the pain in his ribs, but McElrath is done for the 2021 SX season.
The early evening light made for great photos, but the shadows and eye-level sun were probably hell for racers during the 450 Class Heat Races. While we're here, props to Justin Rodbell for his start in the qualifying moto. The SGB/Maxxis/Babbitt's/Kawasaki rider told us that Cooper Webb gave him a pair of Tech 10 boots one time a few years ago, so it was cool to see him run to the first turn with the factory rider.
Risk versus reward. The hot line in this corner meant that riders risked snagging their footpeg and shift lever on the inside Tuff Block, which you can see in the torn cover. Anderson got through it clean this time, but it it caught up with him later in the night during the 450 Main Event.
Crash & Burn
Joey Savatgy's recent rides have been good, huh? The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider went 8-10-11 in Atlanta, and he's one of only eight guys to run in every Main Event so far. Sounds like Savatgy's speed and consistency, plus his potential, has put in him good standing with KTM's management, and the OEM wants to retain him in some way for 2022.
Nate Thrasher's LCQ to Main Event win at ATL One was awesome, but we thought it was nothing more than a wild run of events. Wrong. A rough Heat Race meant that Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider had to line up for the Last Chance Qualifier at Atlanta Two, which he handled from start to finish. Apparently, the rookie doesn't feel the same stress as others do in the LCQ...
Did you see the side-to-side swap that Ramy Alves had in the LCQ? Wow.
We watched it happen through the viewfinder of our camera and yeah, the TV footage showed just how fast the JMC Motorsports Husqvarna stepped out and how he reeled things back in.
Remember Justin Cooper's "slump" early in the season? The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider pinned the poor results to a problem with his starts, and after some work with the team, he's been at the front of the pack from the moment the gate dropped. Yes, this skill and the YZ250F will come in handy during the upcoming Pro Motocross championship.
Come over the wall, click up a gear, bomb through the sand section, and then get ready for two high-speed doubles. With Supercross suspension. We’re glad the riders chose to do it, because it’s not for everyone.
It took race officials less than 30-seconds to throw the red flag in the 250 Main Event, quick action that should be applauded considering the circumstances that come with a downed rider. Yes, we’ve seen more red flags over the last few years and there are a lot of factors that trend could be attributed to, but they always seem to be warranted.
Cameron McAdoo will never forget that 30 minutes. You have to respect the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider for trying to keep his championship hopes alive, and no, we don't believe he was willingly or purposely putting anyone in danger during the races.
McAdoo was sent wide and into the Tuff Blocks down the first rhythm lane, a common incident during starts, and was directly hit by Chris Blose's rear wheel (ripped jersey and knicks on the helmet).
McAdoo kept his composure after the race, went to the podium for a post-race interview, and summed up his thoughts on the night without getting too emotional.
Who knows how that 250 Main Event could have turned out. Justin Cooper’s high side in the opening laps happened just in front of Cameron McAdoo, and for a moment, we thought the battle of the season was about to unfold.
Instead, it was the opportunity that Nate Thrasher needed to take the lead and run unchallenged to the checkered flag for his second career win/second victory at AMS/second win in a week/second LCQ to Main Event Refuse To Lose challenge.
Seth Hammaker ran most of the 250 Main Event without a rear fender on his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, which was the result of a bump and run with McAdoo. Hammaker didn’t know how the part broke until the end of the race, when mechanics by the podium explained what happened.
We didn’t think Pierce Brown’s Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing bike was going to go the distance in the 250 Main Event. Brown was collected in the whoop section crash, which busted the number plate off the left side, but the real cause for concern came when a big puff of smoke came out of the exhaust over the finish line. Surprisingly, Brown kept the bike going to the checkered flag, made passes, and finished in 14th.
Enzo Lopes hasn’t had the easiest year (shoulder injury during practice at Houston One, missed the East Coast region, joined the West Coast region a few rounds in) but the Phoenix Racing Honda rider has made progress over the last few weeks and was one of the few riders to put in a 1:42 lap time during the Main Event (McAdoo and Brown were the others) on his way to a season-best seventh place result.
During the post-race press conference, Thrasher confirmed that the extra time in the LCQ gave him a better idea of the track conditions and kept him loose for the Main Event. Is this going to become a new strategy for Supercross? Doubtful…
If you had said in January that three of the 250 West Coast region wins and multiple podium finishes would be scored by Nate Thrasher and Seth Hammaker, no one would have believed you. Talk at the test track in the offseason was that they were having a rough time getting adjusted to Supercross and buzz about the two rookie riders was very, very low.
How will the young rippers do outdoors? That’s starting to be a talking point in the pits and we wouldn’t be surprised to see similar results from either guy.
Aaron Plessinger did well last week. No, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider didn’t leave Atlanta with a trophy, but the laps led and experience racing with Webb-Roczen-Tomac will be much more valuable to AP than a runner-up award. AP is one of the big free agents this signing season and yes, it sounds like the decision is between Yamaha and KTM.
Three rounds, two Main Events. Josh Hill got noticeably better over the three weeks in Atlanta and Saturday’s 17th place finish in a stacked field was impressive. Hill told us that the track was fun but challenging and a little scary at times. If Hill says something is “scary” then you know it’s serious.
Ken Roczen was on it during the 450 Main Event. The Team Honda HRC rider made quick work of AP and pulled away from the pack in no time. Yes, he was up by 12-seconds when he went down in the whoops, and yes, he still had a six-second advantage when he remounted, but the crash and twisted bars knocked him out of rhythm right when Cooper Webb was launching a charge. Roczen tried his best to fight back and if there had been another lap, he might have been able to show Webb a wheel, but his last-ditch effort didn’t work out. Visibly frustrated by the podium, Roczen collected his thoughts for the post-race press conference, explained the crash/recovery/wide line in an attempt to square up Webb, and seemed at peace with the missed win and points lost. The title isn’t out of reach, but Roczen made it obvious that he’s going to be okay either way, proof of his positive at all times outlook.
How close was the Webb-Plessinger-Tomac battle? Well, AP is in-between the two but out of frame (he was at the apex of the bowl turn)…
This shot from a few seconds later shows the three riders in the same airspace. For a few minutes we thought that Plessinger and Tomac were going to get Webb for the spot, which would have had huge implications for the points and championship, but Webb managed to up the pace and pull away. Seriously, this summer’s 450 MX Class is going to be unreal.
Webb credited his ATL turnaround to a mid-week test with Red Bull KTM in central Florida. The team headed south and joined Webb for a day at the Baker’s Factory in an attempt to soften the setup of the 450 SX-F for the track conditions (high speed, big jumps, hidden holes, steep whoops). The last element of the track has long been Webb’s weakness, and he attacked the rollers during the 450 Main Event as good or better than Plessinger and Roczen, two guys known for their prowess in the section.
Like we said, another lap or two could have made the outcome of the Atlanta Three Supercross even closer. Webb made a few small mistakes on the final lap, which allowed Roczen to close the gap to less than a second when they crossed the finish line.
Aaron Plessinger was caked in red clay after the race was over and waited by the podium in case the TV crew needed him for an interview. When Webb was on the stage for NBC, AP started to scream “Do it for Dale! Do it for Dale!” in hopes that the race winner would dedicate his victory to the Intimidator.
Give 'em a hand. That's it for Kickstart, two more to go for SX.
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.
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