Two races in one week means two installments of Kickstart. We’ve sorted through the photos and storylines from the 2021 Houston Two Supercross, the second race of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series, and put together a quick recap of the Tuesday action at NRG Stadium. Start scrolling, because there will be another write-up on Monday.
Christian Craig and Justin Barcia didn't win at Houston Two but did enough to maintain their respective classes' championship lead. Their bikes will be complete with the red number plates at Houston Three.
We love what heat does to a titanium header. Team Honda HRC has thrown all of its resources at the CRF250R. At Houston Three, we spotted the spool and wire data logger that records the front fork's motion and an O2 sensor on the Yoshimura exhaust that monitors the engine's performance and emissions. These two items are commonly used by teams, but one new addition for Honda has generated some buzz...
See the wire near the swingarm and the small attachment above the axle? It's a sensor that measures the rear wheel's action, not a traction control system like we've seen speculated by others online. The AMA-FIM rulebook has clearly outlined standards on traction control systems, stating, "Electronic devices designed specifically for traction control are prohibited. This includes sensors that can determine front wheel speed and any electronic control to the brake systems." There are some amendments to the rules, including the OEM ignition features that react to spikes in the engine rpm.
Don't expect to see the WP air shock on the 250 Class bikes. The works piece is not for sale, and per the rules that limit the cost of suspension packages, is barred from use in the small-bore division.
There's a small yet meaningful detail to the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing bikes: a tribute to Al Van Noy. An avid race fan and close friend of Troy Lee's, Van Noy was the Global Head of Future Team at adidas and helped shape collaborations between TLD and the three-stripe company. Known by riders through the industry and for his guided tours of the high-tech facility in Oregon, Al will be missed.
WP has a set of specially-designed sensors for the rear shock, shown here on Michael Mosiman's Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing 250. We usually see these on the factory 450s, but given the lack of data on the red bikes (yes, there are differences in the handling and performance between the European brands), it makes sense to see them used this early in the season.
Not your average frame tape. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki has partnered with Vibram, an Italian company known for their high-traction rubber products, for specially-cut pieces that perfectly fit the aluminum frames. Will this be part of PC's catalog soon?
With everything from spare wheels to cans for a podium interview, Rockstar Husky's pit cart has everything one might need near to the track.
The way Joey Savatgy hobbled off the track after his Main Event crash was something no one wanted to see, especially after his long recovery from a busted heel. The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider says he's okay, aside from a hematoma, and aims to race Houston Three.
Malcolm Stewart has been excellent through two rounds. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider was one of the few to clear the big quad at Houston Two, was in the top-five during Timed Qualifying, and was in the mix for a podium in the Main Event until a faceful of sand messed up his focus. The 5-7 finishes have Stewart seventh overall in the points. (Hi, Roger.)
This fast 45-degree corner looked tricky. Riders who railed the outside had to avoid catching the curb and getting thrown into a high-side.
It looks like Christian Craig prefers a rigid feeling on the front-end of the YZ250F.
Lil' D is really pushing the FMF Vision line, with Zach Osborne, RM ATV-MC/WPS/KTM, and Phoenix Honda riders in eyewear that's from a new partnership with 100%.
It's hard to get a feel for Jason Anderson after the first two rounds. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider has the speed and pace to run at the front, but poor starts have made the Main Events a challenge for El Hombre. Anderson was one of the riders the AMA penalized for jumping through the rhythm lane when the red cross flag was displayed, and it cost him four championship points.
Sand sections always make for excellent photos. Here are a few from Houston Two...
Another Main Event for Kyle Chisholm. The fan-favorite had a very good day, as he was ninth in his Heat Race and finished 14th in the feature race. The shortlist of hop-up parts on the YZ450F (FMF pipe, Sunstar sprocket with stock gearing, the necessary SX suspension, and a Rekluse clutch) makes it even cooler to see.
The face you make when you are the fastest rider of a 450 Class Timed Qualifying session...
It's been an eventful start to the season for Lorenzo Camporose. The lone Italian on the entry list, the young rider finished 19th in the 250 East Coast Main Event at the opening round, had a hard slam during practice at round two, smacked his face and shoulder, and struggled to make it through the rest of the day. Camporose's SX skills have improved quite a bit over the last two years.
Ken Roczen was the rider impacted most by the final ruling for the red cross flag incident in the Main Event. The Team Honda HRC rider explained that he didn't see the warning signs as he approached the jump, but the AMA-FIM stuck to their prewritten guidelines, docked him four points, and knocked him from first in the standings to fifth. Roczen has been the most consistent racers of the opening two rounds, as his 3.5 average Main Event finish is the best in the 450 Class, and there crashes or major mistakes to note.
Young No Quit. Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM's Justin Bogle sat out Houston One after a Timed Qualifying crash left him with a sore knee, lower back, and hip. He lined up at Houston Two, crashed at the start of his Heat Race, and did not line up for the LCQ. The team stated his absence was due to a mechanical problem, not an injury, and he will be back for Houston Three.
Chase Sexton had a few big ones on Tuesday, including this big tumble during Timed Qualifying. It was good to see the Team Honda HRC rider walk away from his crashes, but the limited range of motion and pain in his shoulder will keep him from racing Houston Three.
Subtle part change for Ken Roczen. After spending all of last year on Renthal's FatBar36, the Team Honda HRC rider has gone to the traditional Twinwall on the all-new CRF450R.
It's hard to beat a pair of all-white boots...
Monster Energy Kawasaki has two uncommon logos on their rear fenders: GearWrench and Haas Automation. The handheld toolmaker has taken an interest in the sport and has signed on as a series sponsor. On the other hand, Haas has always invested the money from the CNC business back into the racing. Hey Gene, you could make a big impact in MX at a fraction of the cost of your F1 team...
Our first 12-day stay in Texas is almost done. We'll miss the Gulf city's pleasant weather, especially when Indy's temps are in the teens.
AC in opening ceremonies.
You'd be hard-pressed to find two riders on more opposite than a 29-year-old married father of two and a teenager that's still years away from legally renting a car on his own.
You don't see too many riders stand up through bowl turns at Supercross, especially in the closing minutes of the Main Event, when the ruts are littered with hooks and holes.
It's good to see Marvin Musquin back on the track. The Red Bull KTM rider has been solid in his return to SX after a long layoff (he missed all of 2020), and if not for a crash in the sand on Tuesday, he could have been a possible podium finisher. Don't rule him out for a Main Event win and celebratory heel clicker this season.
Texas FMX with Lane Shaw.
Devin Simonson's loose, fluid riding style caught our attention at Loretta Lynn's amateur race last summer, so naturally, we've kept an eye on him at the Houston Supercross races. A third-place finish in the LCQ put the PRMX Racing rookie in the first Main Event of his career, and he ended the night in 20th place.
Houston hasn't been the greatest to Broc Tickle and Benny Bloss. The Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda riders have their share of problems in the opening rounds, from hard crashes to time in the LCQ, but they've told us they like the CRF450R and that they felt an improvement in their riding from Saturday to Tuesday.
Did you listen to the Kickstart podcast from Houston One? Broc Tickle joined swap, Anton, and ARay for the post-race discussion and shared some excellent insight on the night's event. Tickle tested positive for COVID during the offseason and told us that he can feel its effects on his lungs during the Main Events.
Zach Osborne isn't the first name that comes to mind when we think about the big, risky jump combos at Supercross, but the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider repeatedly aired out the quad at Houston Two during his pursuit of Eli Tomac. A set of 10th place finishes do not properly reflect Osborne's speed, and he could certainly claim a race win in the next few weeks.
We like the rally-inspired vests that Alpinestars have made to keep their riders warm on the starting line.
The short gap between rounds one and two didn't help RJ Hampshire. A Heat Race run-in with Christian Craig at the opening round busted one of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider's fingers open badly enough that stitches were needed, and the Main Event smash with Austin Forkner left him with road rash and tire burns on his torso. Hampshire is openly frustrated with how things have gone, and during Wednesday's media session, he called Forkner's pass attempt "stupid" and that "what comes around goes around, and I'm sure we'll have a moment again here." He's now focused on healing the wounds as good as possible and contending for a win in the upcoming rounds.
One thing we noticed about Hampshire's Rockstar Husky 250: he does not run the additional spar on the front of the frame, which is said to increase the chassis' rigidity characteristics.
We always appreciate the attention to detail on race bikes.
No mistaking who these steps belong to...
Looks harmless, huh? Don't let the smooth top fool you, this was one of the most treacherous sections of the entire Houston Two track. The sand will be used again at Houston Three in a small turn and punchy straightaway.
John Short's deal with the BARX/Chaparral/ECSTAR Suzuki deal came together quickly. During a Wednesday roundtable with riders in the 250 Class, he explained that he'd only ridden the RM-Z250 a handful of times before the opening round and that he's getting more comfortable on the yellow bike every time he hits the track. His battle with Osby in the 250 Main Event, complete with the huckabuck save in the whoops, was one of Tuesday's race highlights.
Don't overlook Colt Nichols as a contender for the 250 East Coast title. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider's runner-up finish at Houston Two was a statement, as he caught-passed teammate Craig and put down lap times that consistently among the fastest of the field. Remember when Nichols won Main Events in 2019? Because he sure does...
Max Vohland doesn't seem fazed by much. Red Bull KTM and the Vohland family repeatedly stated that this is a learning year and that the teenager's goal is to make it through every race in one piece. With 9-8 Main Events, Vohland is ranked ninth overall in the point standings.
Believe the hype. Jett Lawrence was one of the most talked-about topics of the preseason, and his flawless start-to-finish run to the 250 Main Event win at Houston Two proved that he was worth all of the praise. Can he make it the start of a streak, or will we see a third victor in as many races?
Austin Forkner has one big factor looming over the season: it could be his last in the 250 Class. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider has earned a lot of points over the course of his career, enough that he's on the verge of being automatically advanced out of the small-bore class but hasn't been able to turn them into a title. The run-in with Hampshire at Houston Two cost him a few positions and kept him off the podium, but a win would keep him in contention for the title. Forkner is known for a ruthless approach to racing and tried a few psych-out tactics on Houston Two's starting line.
It's rare to hear Eli Tomac say that a race pace is too fast for him to match, but the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider admitted that Chase Sexton and Adam Cianciarulo had him worried in the opening laps of the 450 Main Event. "All I know is the opening laps were crazy fast. Chase was going really fast. Adam was going really fast," he told us in the post-race press conference. I'm just like, this is going to be insane for 29 laps. They both made mistakes. That pace was pretty wild early on. Then in the middle, it was kind of like trying to manage Zach. He was creeping a couple tenths a lap on me, and I couldn't really figure out where I was losing the time. Then I got to four or five minutes. I shouldn't have said halfway. I should have said like five minutes left. I'm like, all right, I have to go now, and I pushed a little bit harder. That's what really got me through to the end."
Cooper Webb is still dealing with soreness from last year's Arlington slam, something that the Red Bull KTM kept quiet until just the other day. Evidently, Webb's lower back pain returned late in the offseason, which forced him to back down the riding and training intensity. It's been a little slower start to the season than we expected of the 2019 SX champion, but his 9-4 finishes have him eighth overall and just seven points down in the standings.
Just another moto at the Baker's Factory.
We've seen some comments online that say Tomac wasn't pushing in the 450 Main Event. The oil burn-off from his Monster Energy Kawasaki and his post-race demeanor indicated otherwise.
Dylan Ferrandis achieved a lifelong dream at Houston Two. We've known the French rider for a while, dating back to his days in the MX2 circuit, and he's always made it clear that racing American Supercross was the goal of his career. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider was fast and steady during the 450 Main Event, didn't fall victim to the same mistakes that others made, and was on the move late in the moto to take a second-place result. It was great to see him and Nastasia celebrate by the podium.
Podium finish for a 36-year-old, soon-to-be father of three. Justin Brayton put in an excellent ride during the 450 Main Event, as he got a good start, pushed to the front in the early moments, and held off the competition in the closing laps to take third place. Brayton's result is a monumental occasion for Yarrive Konsky's Muc-Off Honda, as it came in the Honda Australia-backed group's second-ever race in the 450 SX division and second year in the United States.
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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