Our time in Houston as come to an end. The three-round run to start the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series had everything a race fan could ask for, from new parts to multiple winners and even a little controversy thrown in for good measure. Seeing it all up-close made the 12-day stay in southern Texas fly by and as soon as we press publish on this post, we’re going hit the road, take a few days at home, and get ready to do it again in Indianapolis. Buckle up for a busy, eventful season…
Fast fashion. Jett Lawrence's personality is being put to good use by the many people who think that the young rider can help market moto to the masses. Being fast on the bike is the most essential element to the Lawrence allure, so don't get caught up in the barely buttoned Team Honda HRC pit shirt or his easy-going demeanor; the people writing his checks are happy.
We got the full Houston weather experience on Saturday. Temperatures were cool and skies were cloudy in the morning, so many opted for warm jackets to go against the chill, but things changed completely when we exited the stadium at night and were surprised by steady rain, warmer temps, and higher humidity. If you're headed to Indianapolis for the next triple-header, it looks like heavy coats and hats will be a necessity (no, you can't get Ken Roczen's Red Bull hat with the ear flaps. No, not even on Ali Express).
Marvin Musquin and Dylan Ferrandis have always been fast friends, and you can usually find the riders and their wives chatting in the moments between motos on the track. Who will be the next young rider from the French Connection that will make a full-time move to American motocross?
Sights of the starting line. Here are a few details that caught our eye. We won't tell you what to look for; it's all cool shit.
RJ Hampshire's day ended a few moments after this photo. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider was already hurting ahead of Houston Three after run-ins with Christian Craig (line of stitches on his finger) and Austin Forkner (tire burns and road rash on his torso), but he planned to put push past the pain and go for a podium. Unfortunately, a crash in the morning's free practice left Hampshire with a wrist injury, and he decided to call it a day. Now out of the title fight, it's uncertain if Hampshire will hurry his recovery for a chance to race at Indianapolis or if he will be forced to take more time off.
Austin Forkner wasn't the only rider to hit the deck at Houston Three, but the crash was by far the most impactful of the day. Finishing off the podium at the prior race made round three a "must-win" for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider and was ready to push the pace from the moment he took to the track. A short landing in the long 3-3-3 rhythm lane sent Forkner into the ground shoulder-first, and despite initial concerns of a severe injury, we've heard it could be something as "simple" as a collarbone break.
Do they have sand sections at the French SX Tour? Or is this an American thing?
Crouching giraffe, hidden dragon. Benny Bloss's 15th place Main Event finish made him Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda's top rider at Houston Three, which is a step forward considering his Houston One DNQ and Houston Two crash-DNF. "We've made a lot of progress," Bloss noted of the week in Texas. "I got better with every session on the track. With how deep this class is, it's hard to start in the back and come through, but the team and I feel like I am riding better."
We're still trying to figure out the "new" Justin Barcia. The steel frame-air shock-power delivery-size of the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing 450 shares little with the YZ450F he spent the last few years aboard, and his current riding style reflects all of the differences. Barcia didn't get back on the box in Texas, but with the most Main Event laps led thus far (28), some Heat Race success, a 4.7 average finish, and 59-points, he's tied for second in the championship standings. How will this bike-rider combo do on Indy's soft soil?
Phoenix Honda knows how to put all of the pieces in their gear bag together. The Moose Racing-Alpinestars-FMF Vision gear-boots-boots goggles setups that Josh Osby/Enzo Lopes/Kyle Peters have worn in recent weeks are always paired by color, which makes each piece look even better.
Speaking of gear, if you're a fan of Seven MX, keep an eye on Malcolm Stewart. Roger Larsen told us that he plans to have a different style or color on the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider at every race; the Houston Three look was color-coordinated with coral from top to bottom, including accent colors in the Shoei helmet and on the toes of the Gaerne boots.
Brandon Hartranft is discovering how difficult it is to race in the 450 Class. The Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki rider started the season off strong with 21-17 finishes in two Main Events, results that revealed how talented everyone in the 450 Class rider is to him, while Houston Three's crashed showed him the fine line between riding near the limit and over the limit. Hartranft will be good to go for the Indianapolis races.
No mistaking who this Bell Helmet belongs to. The all-new, yet-to-be named lid looks like the perfect canvas for custom painters.
Yeah, there've only been three races, but we'd say that Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha has done quite well with the YZ450F. It's no secret that the public's perception of the blue bike has been (somewhat incorrectly) based on the results-feedback of the pro racers and the decisions of the now-closed factory team and that there's pressure for Star Racing to fix some of the "problems" through their own strategy and bike setup. In a recent media debrief, 450 Team Manager Jeremy Coker explained Plessinger-Ferrandis-Stewart are riding almost-identical YZ450Fs, and that the only differences are in suspension settings or control preferences.
Or black and white? Excellent lighting (LED panels by Musco) and good angles made shooting at NRG Stadium seem easy, maybe even a little repetitive. Click on our other content from the Houston Supercross to see hundreds of photos and hours of video from the 12-days in Texas, and we'll have more to come later in the week.
Privateer Power. Lane Shaw and TJ Albright went bar-to-bar with Jett Lawrence and his factory bike through the first turn in 250 Heat Race. Shoutout to TLRPerformance for engines in Shaw's KTM and Albright's Kawasaki.
Get well soon, Dylan Woodcock. A colorful last name and Main Event-speed got the British privateer some buzz at rounds one and two, but a hard crash in the whoops at round three left him with a serious back injury. Woodcock shared an Instagram updated and said that he's currently experiencing pain in his back and numbness in his legs but that he's hoping to be up and out of the hospital soon.
Home race. Lane Shaw is a Houston local (house to stadium is under an hour), and he celebrated a hard-fought seventh-place Heat Race finish and transfer to the Main Event. We know this is the Heat Race because we're pretty sure Shaw had different gear on every time he hit the track.
Shoutout Logan Karnow. The MADD Parts/TXS Productions/Jonesboro Cycle/International SX rider got a good start and avoid the first-turn carnage to take the lead in 250 Heat Race Two until he got out of control exiting the sand, went up the berm, and into the safety net before the end of the opening lap; he made up for that mistake with a trip through the LCQ and ended the night ranked 12th in the Main Event.
The steady progression of Max Vohland continues. We've explained the Red Bull KTM rider's plans for the season repeatedly (top-10s, stay healthy), and he's checked off all the boxes so far. The teenager spent some at the front of the pack in 250 Heat Race Two and had a spirited match-up with Michael Mosiman in the 250 Main Event.
Big night for Bobby Piazza. The Pennsylvania rider finished eight in 250 Heat Race Two, transferred directly into the Main Event, and finished the night in 21st.
Time for our weekly game of "Count The 250 Class Championships In One Frame."
"Hang loose." Ken Roczen was the best overall rider in Houston. No, he didn't win a race, but he led lots of laps in the Main Events, showed single-lap speed in qualifying, and had the best overall finish (third place). Oh, and he scored the most points, too. Although penalties and a last-lap incident cost him points, Roczen is happy, healthy, and in title contention.
"I would like to build from here and get better because I think we still have a lot in the tank. This is just the beginning," he shared in the press conference. "Going to Indianapolis is like going to round one because everything is tight in points. I feel like I got robbed here a couple of times, and it's a lot of valuable points that were left on the table for me, but I'm going to move past it and not let it faze me."
Malcolm Stewart found Frankie Latham after 450 Heat Race Two and apologized for the miscue in the whoops that sent him into Marvin Musquin. Frankie seemed to understand and agree that it was a racing incident. Always cool to see the respect shared by everyone at this level.
Congrats on the 250 LCQ win, Kevin Moranz. Check back soon for a profile piece on the the Topeka privateer.
Justin Brayton slipped down to the stadium floor and watched the 250 Main Event on the big screen. Brayton's podium finish at Houston Two generated plenty of buzz about the Muc-Off Honda team and probably added a little more time to Brayton's career...
Jett Lawrence found out how much he can get away with at Houston Three. His whack in the whoops during Timed Qualifying showed him just how hard he can push the Team Honda HRC CRF250R without getting hurt and his slam-pass on Michael Mosiman in the final laps of the 250 Main Event earned him a warning for rough riding from the AMA.
Another Josh Osby-John Short battle. Awesome.
Did you have concerns that Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha would struggle to field nine riders and contend for titles in 2021? Both of the YZ250F bikes will be adorned with the red plates at Indianapolis One, as Christian Craig and Colt Nichols are tied at 70 points.
3-2-1. Colt Nichols continued his steady progress by scoring the Main Event win at Houston Three, his first victory since the 2019 season. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider has encountered a few issues and injuries from then to now, some out of his control, and this season's results have reaffirmed him as a championship contender in the 250 Class.
Will Nichols be able to rally through the next four races (three in Indianapolis, one in Orlando) before the East Coast region goes on break? We'll see next week.
For now, Colt can enjoy his win.
Christian Craig is in a great position. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider finished on the podium at all three rounds, was often the fastest or lead rider during every session on the track, and is tied for the top spot in the championship. That he's going against Nichols makes the fight as fair as can be, as both are equipped with identical YZ250F bikes and follow the same Swanepoel training routine.
Supercross and St. Jude Children's Hospital have continued their successful partnership to help fight childhood cancer with this year's new campaign, "We Won't Stop." The promotion launched at Houston Three with rider photos and commercial promos, and you can support it by visiting www.supercrosslive.com/stjude.
One thing new we've noticed about Barcia's technique? He's ditched the starting block altogether. During last year's hunt for the perfect setup at Yamaha, he and the team determined that foot-tall platforms helped him stay in place on the line; on the GASGAS, he's flat-footed and has a slightly different position over the bike.
Joey Savatgy's shoulder showed signs of his tough time in Texas. The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider was a question mark after he hobbled off the track on Tuesday (we were fearful of another ankle or heel injury), but he was taped together, put back on the bike for Houston Three, and finished a respectable 14th place.
Remember the Al Van Noy sticker from Friday's Kickstart? The adidas company man was also a big supporter of Justin Brayton and helped JB10 get a personal endorsement deal/endless supply of goods from the shoemaker.
Rip the holeshot and pull a tear-off over the first jump? Cooper Webb looked unfazed when he hopped through the opening lap at the head of the pack, as the Red Bull KTM rider finally got the start he needed and raced for the win.
Whole lot of FLY Racing in one photo...
If you're wondering what happened to Marvin Musquin in the 450 Main Event, the Red Bull KTM rider got caught up on the wall in traffic and stalled his 450 SX-F. By the time he got it off the mound and going again, he was in last place. Musquin ended the race in 13th.
What do you believe: the dozens of riders that say how competitive the 450 Class is or the internet fodder that claims Eli Tomac isn't trying? The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was very honest after Tuesday's race when he said that he was stressed about his riding and that the pace Sexton-Cianciarulo was running in the Main Event was higher than he anticipated, and he fought hard to finish in fifth place at Houston Three. Maybe, just maybe, it really is the fastest field ever...
Hey, Aaron Plessinger is starting to get it together. The last few years have been hard on the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider, as serious injuries always seem to strike just as he gets on a roll, but he's always returned to the track in good spirits. AP7 likes the setup that Star Racing has on their YZ450F, telling us that it's much better than the factory spec, and he took it to 7th place on Saturday.
Vince Friese is tough as nails. The Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider went down hard in the final laps of Timed Qualifying, and they threw the red flag so that the Alpinestars Mobile Medical staff could get him off the track. Still, he was back on the line like nothing happened for the night show and overcame a nagging pain in his hip to transfer straight from his Heat Race to the Main Event and finish in 19th place.
Wow. Just, wow. Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen added another incredible race to their rivalry at Houston Three, and once again, it went down to the last lap and a gritty pass.
There's been plenty of animosity between these two, from racing moves to personal matters, yet they always settle it on the track. With one point between them in the standings, they could end up being each other's biggest competition for this championship.
By far, the race's biggest topic was the Roczen-Wilson incident, which cost Roczen the win-points-a hefty payday. You could see that Roczen was seething when he came to the podium and could hear his frustrated yells over the commotion inside the stadium...
We get that many of you are fired up about what happened, but it's a matter that's between these two. If Ken Roczen can accept an apology and move on, then there's no need for the hostility posts from kooks online who felt they were robbed of "something."
Webb told us that this win came at the right time. He and the team struggled with starts and the setup of the WP air shock at the early races, which led to a mid-week practice session between Tuesday and Saturday, and he admitted in the post-race press conference that he gave them complete control over his bike at Houston Three. Expect the air shock to stay on the Austrian bikes all season; a handful of MXGP riders proved its potential outdoors last year
Post-win spin. Thanks for reading, come back soon.
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.
Always great photos Anton!