2022 Anaheim One Supercross | Kickstart
It’s good to be back. Back at the track. Back at Angels Stadium. Back on the West Coast. It’d been 23 months since the last Supercross in California, an unthinkable stretch considering the importance of the state to the sport, but the preseason press conferences, parties at South Coast Plaza and the Fox Racing H.Q., riding sessions on Friday afternoon, catchups with friends, and Saturday’s on-track action made it feel like it never left.
The week technically began on Tuesday evening, when 450 Class riders logged into Zoom and took questions from the assembled media. Although the chatroom lacked the energy of the Diamond Club, it had many of the same elements: riders in team shirts, Roczen in a suit, standard statements of “feeling better than ever.” We don’t get too much from this scrum, but every guy needs to give an update and provide quotes or context for the final pre-race write-ups. A few interesting notes from the hour-long session…
– After going opposite ways with the new platform in 2021, Chase Sexton and Ken Roczen said they’re now on a similar setup on the CRF450R and have improved some of the bike’s handling woes.
– Eli Tomac split his time between Colorado, California, and Florida (a first for him) and put in practice sessions with all of the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha crew.
– Justin Barcia stayed in SoCal with Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing teammates Michael Mosiman and Pierce Brown, a youthful duo that reminded him of the 250 Class days, plus new mechanic Olly Stone and crew chief Josh Wisenor.
– Dean Wilson is back at the Baker’s Factory but still is not part of Aldon’s core program. Instead, he works with Mike Brown and the 250 Class riders at the facility.
A few hours later, it was time to get in the truck and pin it to the S.T.L. airport for a 6 AM flight. I used the time in the air to clear photos from the 2021 race season from my phone, lay out a plan for the coming days, and update the provisional entry list post to include Hunter Lawrence, a surprise late addition for the 250 West Coast Region. Seeing the older brother’s name on the AMA website was odd, considering Jett was also on there, but I figured we’d get an answer after landing in Ontario or at that night’s special event in Orange County.
It became obvious that something was amiss when Hunter’s bike was the only one at Ancillary Studios, and soon they told us about a late December crash that left Jett with busted ribs. The injury, though minor, was enough to keep the teenager from full strength and to convince Team Honda HRC that it’d be best for the brothers to switch regions. Hunter was at ease about the last-minute decision and sessioned the specially built double for the crowd while they sipped free Red Bull or sampled Jettson Donuts, a new business venture that aims to open locations around the world. Dommer and I headed to My Place in Huntington Beach with PLo for Bike Night after the Q&A session wrapped, a fitting end to a 20-hour day.
Thursday was just as busy. The morning shift was spent editing an interview with Hunter, posting about Justin Barcia’s A1 race bike with the Method Race Wheels R.I.M., or tracking when FedEx would deliver the 70-200 lens Sony overnighted to Dommer’s house, while the afternoon included another Zoom press conference, this time with the 250 Class. The younger riders were a little more candid in their replies and gave us plenty…
– Colt Nichols put an end to the misunderstanding that his West Coast presence was because of Justin Cooper’s injury. The defending 250 East Coast champ told us that he and the team decided to weeks ago and that Cooper’s crash was coincidental.
– Garrett Marchbanks sprained his wrist in the last days of the preseason, an injury that was brought up after Racer X’s Mitch Kendra noticed a wrap on the CLUB MX rider’s arm.
– Michael Mosiman told stories about the practice track antics that he, Justin Barcia, and Pierce Brown had gotten into, a detailed tale that led to jokes from Jalek Swoll, Hunter Lawrence, and Jo Shimoda.
– Chris Blose confirmed that 2022 would be his last year as a professional racer.
Once the Zoom called cleared out, Dommer and I headed back to Orange County for Fox Racing’s open house, which was a real open house. Thousands of people RSVP’d for what turned into the unofficial pre-race party, which was complete with a 10-grand to win minibike race, In-N-Out, some light alcohol, and a set by Steve Caballero’s band. Highlights of the night were hearing that Yoshimura has stepped in as the sponsor of our new Midweek Podcast and that I’m on the list for a trip to Spain to test the STARK Varg but was bummed to see that my white Nike Cortez got stained by the racetrack dirt and some spilled red wine.
Sean Brennen was right when he recommended getting to the stadium early in the morning to pick up credentials; two lines had already formed from the will call trailer by 9 AM and were taking hours to get through. I got a lucky break when one of the workers opened a new window because it literally cut my wait time in half and got me into the stadium for the first laps of the Friday press session.
To be honest, I don’t see a lot during the press day rides. Being on the floor limits how much of the track you see, especially when certain lanes aren’t used, and the 10-minute sessions are just enough for guys to get warmed up, then stop. If someone is much faster or trying something different, I usually won’t notice until it’s time to sort photos or edit footage, but a few things stood out during the short demo…
– The course layout was challenging, especially for an opening round. There were long rhythm lanes that offered plenty of options and rewarded riders that dared to go for bigger combinations, bowl turns to maintain momentum, and two whoop pads that offered little run-in to build speed.
– Rain in recent weeks added lots of moisture in the dirt and cloud cover kept it from drying out, so it didn’t take long for the track to get chewed up. Ruts were quickly carved into every jump face or corner, something that riders hadn’t expected on the “West Coast.”
– Small chop and funky transitions between jumps caused some riders to make immediate suspension changes, a trend that continued through the weekend.
I hit the pits after riding wrapped up to catch up with people at different rigs, including a one-on-one interview with Troy Lee about the Method Race Wheels project, Brad Hoffman about the Star Racing squad, and Big Wave Dave about the Husqvarna coffee maker. Hoffman confirmed that Nichols was always going to ride West and that Cooper was always going to ride East, partly due to Nichols’ preference for the more hard-packed terrain, and said that Eli Tomac might be the only rider that the team’s ever had who wants more power from the YZ450F. A few more hours were spent inside the stadium editing photos, and while they exported, I walked onto the track to see it prepped, lit, and ready for the following day.
Donn and I were invited to Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda’s traditional Friday night dinner at the nearby DoubleTree. I’ve heard about these get-togethers for a few years, but this was my first time, and apparently, I picked a good one. Executives from Leisure Concepts, plus team sponsors, riders, and their families, were enjoying cocktail hour in the Atrium ballroom when I arrived, so I found a spot next to Nathan Alexander and Mitchell Oldenburg and settled in for the evening.
It’s no secret that MCR was at a crossroads at the end of the 2021 SX season. But rather than stop, Genova and Tony Alessi decided it’d be best to bring back Justin Brayton for the 450 Class and build a 250 Class program with Vince Friese and Oldenburg. Developing a new motorcycle is always a challenge, something that’s been especially difficult due to the limited parts for the new CRF250R, but the team claimed that Chad Braun at XPR Engines had crafted a potent package for the small-bore bike and they were eager to show it.
Although Saturday was the longest day of the week, it went by the fastest. The first proper track walk since 2020 was immediately followed by a set of afternoon practice sessions, and before I knew it, the lights were off for opening ceremonies. So what stood out at the opening round?
– When Christian Craig said he dreamt of winning A1 on the podium, he probably never thought it’d happen the way it did. Craig was the top rider of the 250 Class in every way, as he topped every Timed Qualifying session, claimed the Heat Race, put in the fastest lap of the feature, led 18 total laps and won the Main Event by 5.625 seconds. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider was always one of the contenders for the 250 West Coast Region title, but Saturday made it clear he’s now the favorite in what should be his final season on the small-bore bike.
– Seth Hammaker will be one to watch in 2022. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider’s runner-up finish on Saturday night was the fourth podium of his career, and it came after he posted the second-fastest lap of the race, held off Hunter Lawrence in the final turn, and slammed his chest on the crossbar. The hit knocked the wind out of the sophomore racer, but he caught his breath in time for the podium presentation.
– Hunter Lawrence’s finish didn’t come easy. He was visibly off during Friday’s riding session, washed out in the first laps of 250 Heat Race Two, made slight contact with Craig and went down after the restart, and was one of the guys caught off-guard at the start of the Main Event. Lawrence charged back to third place despite a late launch out of the gate and kept his championship hopes alive.
– Garrett Marchbanks had a solid weekend, even with a sprained wrist. The Muc-Off/FXR/ClubMX improved every time he was on track, and late-race battles with Hammaker and Lawrence proved that he’ll give the factory guys fits for podium finishes. Marchbanks was a little miffed about Lawrence’s pass attempts, mostly because ongoing probation from 2021’s run-in with Cameron McAdoo meant he couldn’t fire back as hard as he wanted.
– Michael Mosiman was one of the fastest riders in the 250 Class, evident in his fourth to first run in Heat Race One (he passed two riders in one lap), but small mistakes in the opening laps of the Main Event led to bigger issues and it kept him from finishing in the top-five. Keep an eye on the NorCal native this weekend in Oakland.
– Jo Shimoda’s weekend was good until the Main Event. Fifth fastest in practice and second in his Heat Race, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider was caught out after Christian Craig flinched waiting for the gate to drop and had to claw back from dead last. A seventh place isn’t what Shimoda or PC expected but getting through the pack without serious issue and scoring decent points kept the weekend from being a complete loss.
– Vince Friese put the XPR engine to good use. Holeshots in the Heat Race and Main Event put the MCR rider at the front of the field, but he slid back as the laps clicked off and finished in fifth place. Friese said that a lack of riding in December was the reason for his late-race fade and that he’ll improve as the weeks continue.
– Shoutout to Devin Harriman. The PNW privateer struggled with a wrist injury through the 2021 season, a problem that ultimately required surgery and a lengthy recovery, but he started the new year off by transferring to the 250 Main Event directly out of his Heat Race.
– Dylan Walsh and Kaeden Amerine were the rookies in the 250 Main Event. The two made it through via the LCQ and finished the night in 17th and 20th, respectively.
– Ken Roczen’s fourth Anaheim One win might be his most unlikely. After being under the weather for most of December and seventh overall in Timed Qualifying, the Team Honda HRC rider dominated his Heat Race and led all 22 laps of the 450 Main Event. Yes, he was under fire from teammate Chase Sexton through the early part of the feature, but his ability to block lines and control the pace forced the younger rider into mistakes. Roczen has said that he has made riding his “hobby” again, a lighter outlook that he hopes could finally net him an SX title.
– Cooper Webb knows how to play the game. A cartoon of him relaxing on a couch painted on the back of his Bell Helmet was a response to critics (one in particular) that claimed his departure from the Baker’s Factory would be a bad thing, and he had no problem pushing his way to the front of the pack as the waited for the Timed Qualifying to begin. The track developed exactly how Webb wanted during the Main Event, as he was able to put the KTM through the tightest lines and charged all the way to the checkered flag. A second-place result is Webb’s best at the opening round and is much better than the top-five he was said to be shooting for.
– Justin Barcia’s opening round win streak came to an end, but he seemed to be okay with it. Excellent pace in the opening laps put Barcia near the front of the field, and for a while, it looked like he might have had the speed to reel in Roczen. Instead, Barcia got into a duel with Jason Anderson, a brief exchange that put the 21 on the ground and allowed BamBam to ride to third place. Don’t expect frontier justice for this; they agreed it was a standard racing pass, and Barcia admitted it was necessary because Anderson was faster.
– Marvin Musquin’s run-in with Malcolm Stewart is all anyone will remember of his Anaheim One, but there’s much more to it. The Red Bull KTM rider was the fourth-fastest rider in the 450 Main Event, and even after the crash, he was able to remount, reel in Chase Sexton, and make a pass for fourth place on the final lap. How many wins can MM get in this SX-only season?
– Chase Sexton should have won A1. The second-year 450 rider was third overall in Timed Qualifying, scored the win in 450 Heat Race One, and was on Roczen’s rear wheel through the opening laps of the 450 Main Event. Sexton waited patiently for a while, but things went awry after a few of his moves were rebuked by Roczen. Two separate incidents, one in a turn and another in the whoops, allowed the field to bunch back up and put Sexton out of podium positions. He’ll learn from this one.
– Jason Anderson was one of the weekend’s most impressive riders, even if he went down twice in the same turn. As for his adaptation to the aluminum frame on the Monster Energy Kawasaki, Anderson says the frame feels softer than a Husqvarna, that he’s very comfortable on the KX, and that it shouldn’t be a constant question through the year.
– Malcolm Stewart has what it takes to win. Single-lap speed? He was the quickest rider in Timed Qualifying. Capable bike? He’s got the latest generation of the Husqvarna FC 450 beneath him. End of race fitness? His 1:00.664 on lap 22 was the fastest final lap of the 450 Class. A seventh-place result is largely due to his run-in with Marvin Musquin, but he was over the incident by the end of the night and was already looking ahead to Oakland.