The 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series has gone full-bore for ten weeks now. We’ve seen so many storylines play out, from every position in the field, that there’s no telling how the last part of the season ends. The 2019 Daytona Supercross was an indication of that, as a much-needed win was scored by one 450 class title hopeful and the others stayed in the hunt all the way to the checkered flag, a 250 class that brought the emergence of young, confident competitor as a championship favorite and a slew of riders behind him that are all eager to take him down a peg, plus some factory bikes and pit area shuffles. You get the idea, it’s a great time to watch the races. Now that we’re back in the swing of things and on the books to hit all remaining rounds of Supercross, every week will start with a wrap-up of what we saw. Finally, here is Kickstart.
No one is putting in more miles than Ryan Sipes this week in Daytona. No, not even a guy on a Goldwing. Over the course of seven days, Sipes will line up for Supercross, GNCC, and the opening round of the American Flat Track racing series with support from Red Bull and KTM. The week started with a fourteenth place finish in the 250 Main Event on Saturday night but a shoulder injury was too much to overcome at Sunday’s GNCC. Have you enjoyed the Red Bull video projects that have been shared online lately? You’ll see one with Sipes soon, too.
Impressive ride from the Texan veteran. A first-lap run-in with other riders put Cunningham at the back of the field in the 250 Main Event, but he remounted and raced back to a stunning ninth place finish. There are few riders on the track in either class doing as much as Cunningham is with so little.
As usual, opinions on the track layout were influenced by a rider’s finish on the night. Those that did well enjoyed the soft soil and big jumps in the rhythm lanes. Those that did not do well were not fans of the pit lane-long rhythm lane that required precision, speed, and bravery. We can go on and on about why the Daytona track basis has changed so many times over the years, like sprinklers, lap times and television times, and accessibility, but it’s clear that this year’s track did provide much better racing than some past events (think about the year of short straightaways that fed into inside line turns).
Daytona makes use of multiple soil types, from dark dirt to red clay to white sand, but really the consistency of all the dirt is similar, with a sandy base that breaks down into countless ruts and bumps. In the past riders and teams have been on the fence between paddle-style sand tires or a traditional block-knob intermediate tire, but almost everyone opted for the knob-style rubber this year.
Injuries have taken a toll on the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM team in 2019 and right before Daytona it was announced that Jordon Smith would sit out the weekend due to his ongoing wrist injury. With the rig and most of the race team already in Florida, it was decided that Shane McElrath could rep the team in the 450 class. But since the truck was already on the other side of the country and time was limited to test, McElrath just used his usual 250 SX-F in the 450 class. McElrath told us at the end of the night that the bike was not the disadvantage some might assume, except for on the start, and he finished a respectable twelfth place in the 450 Main Event. Since McElrath is still in the mix for the 250 West Coast championship, which picks up again at Seattle in two weeks, it doesn’t sound like he’ll line up at Indianapolis, but that could change.
What’s the difference in motorcycles like between Supercross and MXGP? Thomas Covington is finding out the hard way and he told us it’s still something he’s working out with the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team. “I’m not used to it and am trying to find some comfort out there,” he told us after the race. The feel of a stiffer chassis and suspension necessary for the fast-paced and successive obstacles of Supercross is quite different than the softer feel that riders prefer for the rolling, flowing layout of MXGP. As for Daytona, the unique track was something new for Covington, as he was told to expect “an outdoor race on the speedway” but instead found a Supercross track with long rhythm lanes.
Of course the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team had some race track themed graphics for the trip to Daytona. The NASCAR side of the shop recently had a big week at the Speedway with Denny Hamlin’s win of the Daytona 500 in February.
Troy Lee Designs laced Cole Seely out in a new gearset for Daytona and we were getting some NASCAR vibes from the print and colors. We weren’t alone in this, because even mechanic Jordan Troxell said it looked like the TIDE car run by Ricky Rudd in the mid 90s. Happy birthday to Cole by the way, as he turned 29 this week.
Sometimes we drool over the parts that teams have for their racers and wish we could get some of our own. Take these Nihilo Concepts carbon fiber starting blocks used by Jordan Bailey and Zach Osborne (ZO’s have a few metal extensions to aid his stature). We saw these in use at the Minneapolis SX a few weeks back and couldn’t get over how trick they were. As luck would have it, a set landed on swap’s doorstep the other day and we’re impressed at how strong the material is! If you’ve got a few hundred bucks to spend and a helper to retrieve these off the starting line for you, check out our product report on the main page.
Spring means new gear and at Daytona Fox Racing put out a new print of Flexair gear on Chad Reed at Daytona. This is one of three new styles we’ve seen from Fox Racing in two weeks, because the Pro Circuit team has debuted new sets the last two weeks (“Iced” Airline at Atlanta and an all-black set at Daytona).
There was no real pressure on Justin Brayton at Daytona this year. Yeah, the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider was kept busy with media obligations through the week, but it helped him keep his mind of a severely sprained ankle that JB10 suffered ahead of Atlanta.
Want to ace starts like Mike Alessi? Cranking down the front-end with a low mounted holeshot device could help, but it’s on you to learn the count of the starter’s routine in the doghouse and the immediate reaction time that comes from gate drop to clutch dump. Alessi snagged the holeshot in the LCQ from a far outside gate and went on to take a spot in the Main Event. Two crashes late in the race put Alessi twentieth in the 450 Main Event.
Two of the many fast residents of Central Florida.
Mitchell Oldenburg was back in action after sitting out Atlanta due to a daytime crash. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider didn’t seem too miss a beat in Daytona and posted a season-best fourth place finish in the 250 Main Event. Oldenburg is currently ranked eighth in the 250 East Coast region championship standings, but fourth through eighth are separated by only nine points, which could make for an interesting few weeks in the final part of the season.
Chase Sexton has been one rider to watch in the 250 East Coast region this year and he’s steadily improved with each week. The GEICO Honda rider was the top qualifier in Daytona but had issues in the night show that kept him from going straight-up with Austin Forkner; Sexton ultimately finished the night in second place and is currently tied for second place in the standings with Justin Cooper. With five rounds remaining, Sexton still has a shot at the title (something would need to happen to Forkner), but he knows that this is a learning year which will help in 2020 and beyond. “I feel like I have been up front at every race and that’s key,” he told us after the race. “My speed has been really good but there are some mistakes. Austin had mistakes last year and now he’s crushing, so I’ll clean that up.”
Another new kit was debuted at Daytona, this one from Seven MX. We always loved the white gear that was common at the lone daytime SX race back in the early 2000s and it’s nice to see some of the trend continue. You can expect the jersey, pants, and gloves to be in the Seven MX webstore soon, but you’ll have to hit up Kordel Caro for a matching helmet. The privateer has a side hustle of custom helmet painting and has whipped up lids for Fox Racing and Seven this season, including the one worn by Bowers.
Hang it out. Zach Osborne and Dean Wilson have completely opposite body types and bike setups, so we asked the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team to fill us in on the details and differences of the two riders. Check back in a few days for a rundown.
Rookie of the year. Joey Savatgy came into the season with a factory ride at Monster Energy Kawasaki and an-almost win at the 2018 Monster Energy Cup, so his success shouldn’t be a big surprise, but the number 17 has been impressive at nearly every round. With a another fifth place at Daytona (his third top-five of the season) Savatgy will certainly land on a factory bike in 2020.
Daytona. This was the “whoop section” after one full round of practice, where instead of rollers, riders were going through ruts of various heights.
Number three, never forget. Bell Helmets and apdesigns crafted up one of the best tributes to Dale Earnhardt that we’ve ever seen, complete with a mural of The Intimidator on the back, on the helmet worn by Eli Tomac. We loved it.
Two now, three later? With Benny Bloss expected to be back on the bike sometime soon and racing the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, there’s talk that the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM team could keep Justin Bogle under the tent for the summer. If that happens, it shouldn’t be a big surprise, as Bogle has brought a few sponsors to the team and has meshed well with Team Manager Michael Byrne. Keep an eye on this as the season winds down.
Yeah, this is how we feel Aaron Plessinger’s season-ending heel injury. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider was improving every week in his rookie 450 season and had recently relocated to Florida for full-time training next to teammate Justin Barcia. Plessinger is locked into a multi-year contract with Yamaha, so there’s no fear he’ll lose his ride and this will allow him to take his time with the recovery. Heal up, AP…
With Plessinger out, expect Justin Barcia to come back soon. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider has been sidelined for two weeks with a concussion and overall body soreness; he was released to ride ahead of Daytona but decided against coming back to one of the hardest races of the year.
“Where’s Kickstart?!” Here you go, ARay.
Stick and ball athletes have signature shoes, motocross riders have signature helmets. Shoei has added a Justin Brayton replica lid to their VFX-EVO model and it’s now available at retailers. Props to JB10, because this is an accomplishment that only a select number of racers have reached.
Justin Hill’s rookie season has been rocky, something the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider acknowledges, but Hill showed some of the speed that impressed so many last year at Daytona over the weekend. A good start put him near the top of the field in the early laps and he hopped his way around the technical track to a season-best seventh place finish. Should this finish motivate Hill, expect him to improve over the next few weeks. And yes, contrary to some talk that he can opt out of the Nationals, he tells us he will be on the line come Hangtown.
Week two of Mike Alessi’s return to Supercross was eventful, to say the least. A small illness kept the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda rider from putting him practice laps early in the week, but on Thursday he swept the Tampa Pro motocross race over Tyler Bowers and some other speedy riders. Considering the time that Alessi spent away from SX, it’s impressive to see him make two Main Events right off the bat.
The paddock in Daytona makes for unique photos, like this shot of Brian Kranz and Eli Tomac on their way to the track while the auto racing garages shine light in the background.
Then there’s the walk from the pits to the staging area, which was darkened for opening ceremonies. We snapped this one of Dean Wilson and Chris Loredo as they approached the Rolex arch.
Daytona does some things a little differently, like the smoke that rises from the stage during rider intros, and it makes for excellent images. As much as we’d love to see smoke at every SX, it would kill the cool vibe that comes in Daytona.
Dude’s clean for someone that just came off the track at Daytona. Austin Forkner was unchallenged in his Heat Race and there was virtually no sign on his bike or body that he’d just cut laps on the sandy track. Note the GoPro on top of his Bell lid; yeah, that’s a new addition for Forkner.
Justin Cooper should take home rookie of the year honors in the 250 class, right? The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider is ranked second overall in the East Coast region standings, has three top-three finishes to his credit, and is one of the few riders that could keep Austin Forkner from having a “perfect season” (no, AF didn’t win Atlanta but he was the top ranked East Coast rider, which is like a win). Like Sexton, expect Cooper to be a title contender in 2020 and beyond.
One of these riders has brought back the third gear start technique. We watched Zach Osborne click the shifter on his bike a few times before the gate dropped at Daytona and asked him if he was going into a higher gear. After a joking denial on camera, he cracked and admitted that he’d been trying it for a few weeks. No, we don’t recommend you trying the same on your motorcycle, as your ride isn’t equipped with a factory Pankl transmission.
Just as many pit boards as there are Ron Jon Surf Shop billboards on the Florida highways. If that reference doesn’t make sense to you, then get in the car and cruise down one of the major interstate roads in Florida. You won’t go a mile without being reminded of the famed Cocoa Beach retailer…
Coming over. Blake Baggett aced the start from an outside gate and made his move to towards the inside line as the field funneled into the first turn.
Blast off in the 250 Main Event…
Props to Kyle Peters for his ride in Daytona. A holeshot put the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing rider at the front of the field for a few laps until passes by Austin Forkner and others, but Peters held on to a seventh-place finish. This is good for Peters, especially after last year’s severe knee injury and the late confirmation that he would be back with JGRMX in 2019.
This is one rubber that the Dunlop guys won’t be collecting data on. After winning the 250 Main Event, Austin Forker rolled up onto the asphalt and smoked the knobs off his rear tire in true Daytona fashion.
Sand section as one of the first sections of the track race pros and cons. Pro: excellent photos. Con: caused a lot of riders to crash at the start. Pro: much safer than a rhythm section with riders flying around. Con: caused a lot of riders to crash at the start. Share your opinion if you feel ever so inclined…
Boosted. Daytona almost always has a wall jump around the mechanic signal area and in 2019, we waited all day for someone to sky the single past their wrench. We had to wait until the opening laps of the 450 Main Event, when Blake Baggett rocketed up the face on his Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM motorcycle and landed with a soft thud thanks to the WP suspension. Was it really the faster line or more of a mental play at the competition that he could do something new at any time? We’re thinking it’s a little of both.
What’s better than one rider going off the wall? How about two.
We watched Ken Roczen ride the rear wheel of his Team Honda HRC CRF450R out of the hole that was dug before the finish line. It was bitchin’. Daytona was a tough day for Roczen, as it was the first time he had raced the track since 2016 and the first time on the red bike. A first-turn crash with teammate Cole Seely put both of them at the tail of the field, but Roczen rallied to reached eighth place at the final flag. This was a clutch ride for Roczen, because although he dropped from second to fourth in the point standings, he’s down just two markers to Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin.
This was sort of a must-win race for Eli Tomac. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider crashed at Arlington, won at Detroit, but was never in the mix at Atlanta, which greatly impacted his point scored total. After a hard-earned push to the front of the pack, Tomac went on to take the checkered flag for the third time in his career at Daytona, a feat that has been matched or topped only by Ricky Carmichael, Mike Kiedrowski, Jeff Stanton, Jeremy McGrath, Bob Hannah, Jeff Stanton, Chad Reed, and Ryan Villopoto. It also boosted him from fourth to second in the series standings. When we asked if there were every concerns about the title, Tomac said, “At this point it’s taking it each week. Being nineteen points out, it’s a lot of work to do. It’s going to stop the bleeding, maybe not stop it but put a band-aid on it. If it would have went the other way, it would have been bad, but there is still some hope.”
That’s quite the hump…
For how big the main grandstand is at Daytona, we were stoked to see the seating area and front straightaway packed with fans. Florida and Supercross hasn’t been the best pairing over the past decade, but Daytona draws in the true fan or racer that is in town for Bike Week and maybe even lining up during the amateur day events. No, it’s not the same Daytona that had the brutal heat and 40-rider gates, but there’s talk a more flowing, “traditional” Daytona track layout and other memorable features will be back in 2020.
Two very different expressions at the same moment in time.
Chefs call it their “Mise en place,” which essentially means “everything in its place” and describes a proper personalized workspace with utensils, ingredients, towels, and other items all put into a routine location. This is basically a motocross mechanic’s version.
We spotted this long header on Dean Wilson’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC 450 at Daytona. A longer header like is will broaden out the power and can create a more manageable low-end, which makes them the preferred setup for the MXGP series and the US MX series. We weren’t surprised to see it on Wilson’s ride at Daytona, though, because an easier to ride engine profile would be an energy saving tool.
In Atlanta we noticed the intricately crafted engine hangers on the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing RM-Z450 bikes had been replaced with bigger, triangle style pieces. We incorrectly assumed a bigger part meant a more rigid feeling of the chassis, but Brad Bensch informed us that the new parts are actually thinner and as a result, make the chassis softer.
A subtle reminder to Justin Hill that his GET ignition has a few options that need to be tried on the track.
There’s a mechanic-rider relationship and then there’s a friendship. Travis Soules was with Weston Peick in Paris when the life-changing crash occurred, and he stayed with his rider for the full time Peick was in the hospital. To commemorate Peick’s recovery, Soules added this ink to the piece on his right arm.
Front brake prep on Chad Reed’s RM-Z450.
The H.E.P. Motorsports Suzuki team has mixed up the look of their RM-Z450s in recent weeks and the trip to Florida meant graphics with brightly colored flowers and a white GUTS Racing seat cover. As much as this worked in Daytona, it would have worked just as well in Detroit as a nod to Jackie Moon and the Flint Tropics basketball team of “Semi-Pro” fame. Let’s get tropical!
Data collection on Cooper Webb’s KTM 450 SX-F. We love stuff like this. There’s so much more to motorcycling that can come into motocross and vice versa. Take Ducati in MotoGP for example. This year’s Desmosedici GP19 motorcycle is built with a holeshot device that seems to lower the rear-end of the motorcycle for improved traction off the start. Although that’s nearly twenty-year old tech in motocross, it’s causing quite a stir in road racing.
A new Airoh lid with a Red Bull paint scheme by French artist OCD. This is Marvin Musquin’s third custom-painted helmet of the 2019 season.
You think a team is going to leave the bearings and hub of their spare wheels exposed on the trackside cart? Come on now, of course they have a trick aluminum cover to keep debris out. It’s the little details that factory mechanics and race teams come up with that make us want to redo our garages.
Moving parts and pieces from race shops, through airports, and to race tracks on the other side of the country requires some special containers. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing take engines back and forth each week with these rugged plastic cases that feature perfectly cut foam inside that protects the engine. We have a similar setup from Pelican and praise the design of the well-made case.
Big week for the CTR Motorsports race team. First was title sponsorship for the weekend by ZMax, a leader in high-quality automotive oils and chemicals. Then there was the departure of Joey Crown (a personal decision by the rider, he’ll be on privateer equipment at Indianapolis) and the addition of Bradley Taft and Justin Thompson. We spoke at length with Taft about his absence from racing late in 2018 and the sudden hiring to CTR Motorsports in a feature that will be published this week.
Dakota Alix was back in action at Daytona on a Jamie Ellis-tuned KTM 450 SX-F. Alix made a late decision to race, evident in the stick-on numbers he picked up on the way to the track, but he still showed speed by holding a transfer spot to the Main Event until a last-lap pass by Scott Champion. Sounds like Alix will spend the summer north of the border racing in Canada.
Chris Blose lined up at Daytona in the 450 class and the 250 West Coast region rider did very well against the premier class. Blose made the Main Event via a top-four finish in the LCQ, then logged laps in the feature for a seventeenth-place result. Blose will be back with the Gas Monkey Energy/AJE Motorsports Husqvarna team in Seattle.
We’d be surprised if Marvin Musquin doesn’t get a win before the SX season ends. The Red Bull KTM rider has been at the front of the field late in the races the last few weeks and is willing to send it through a rhythm section if it means a chance at a better finish. Musquin finished third in Daytona and is tied with third for the season points.
FLY Racing always brings out their Kinetic Mesh line of gear at Daytona and this summer’s designs are just what we’d expect from the popular gear brand. Simple, clean, and so well ventilated you can see right through the 2019 offering is sure to be popular in warmer climates.
Always wrap it up…
We like the garage pit setup of Daytona. With Minneapolis and Detroit being too cold or inconvenient for teams to work outside, almost all have resorted to working in the close confines of stadium hallways in recent weeks. The vibe at Daytona is somewhat similar, with everyone in full view of each other, but the comradery is tough to ignore. At Indy we will be back to the usual pit setup with outdoor temps in the mid 40s. See you there.