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KICKSTART

Kickstart | Analyzing The Top-10 Racers In 450 Supercross

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It’s hard to believe that we’re in the homestretch of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross Series. This year’s 17-round tour has been condensed and restructured amid the ongoing global situation, and in what felt like no time, we’ve blasted through 12 races in five venues (Houston-Indianapolis-Orlando-Daytona-Arlington). The incredible on-track action and the Saturday-Tuesday-Saturday rotation helped the season feel even more expedited, and we’re practically fiending for more races to watch.

With no races to cover during this break, we took a look at the results of the top-10 riders in the 450 Class championship chase. It has been a very close fight for every racer in the field, and these riders have come out ahead more often than not.

Here are a few notes before we get into the heart of this installment of Kickstart…

Justin Barcia has the most Main Event holeshots, with a current total of four. Cooper Webb has two to his credit, while Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin, Zach Osborne, Dean Wilson, and Chase Sexton each have one.

We only listed the average finish for racers that have lined up for all 12 Main Events, an elite group that includes Webb, Roczen, Tomac, Barcia, Plessinger, Stewart, and Savatgy.

Webb, Roczen, Tomac, Barcia, Osborne, Adam Cianciarulo, Justin Brayton, and Sexton are the eight riders in the top-20 that have led 450 Main Event laps this season.


1. COOPER WEBB
275 POINTS
6 MAIN EVENT WINS | 99 LAPS LED
9 PODIUM FINISHES | 11 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 12 TOP-TEN FINISHES
2.5 AVERAGE FINISH

Wins have been the key to Cooper Webb’s season. Obviously. The Red Bull KTM rider started slowly, and the 9-4 finishes at the first two rounds caused some to lose faith in the 2019 champion, but the way he stole the win at round three in Houston reminded everyone of his cunningness and late-race efforts. The Indianapolis races were good for two reasons: 3-4-2 finishes kept him in the mix, and a switch back to the spring shock helped sort out setup issues.

The Orlando sweep showed that Webb could win in different situations. He went made moves early but came under pressure from Roczen at Orlando One, then caught and passed Cianciarulo at the halfway point and finished over three seconds ahead of Musquin at Orlando Two. These results earned him ten more points than Roczen during the same time frame and closed the gap considerably.

If Webb wins the series, it will be largely due to his rides at Daytona and Arlington races. A tactical play at the Daytona let Tomac take the lead, an outcome many expected would happen, which regulated Webb to second place and shuffled Roczen back in the running order. The move drew Roczen’s ire and created a short-lived social media fracas, something Webb said all of this motivated him even more going into Arlington; he won all three races convincingly and took possession of the red plate.

Now up 15 points with five races to go, Webb is in a very good position to win the championship for the second time.


2. KEN ROCZEN
260 POINTS
3 MAIN EVENT WINS | 109 LAPS LED
8 PODIUM FINISHES | 11 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 12 TOP-TEN FINISHES
2.8 AVERAGE FINISH

Ken Roczen’s consistency this season deserves some accolades. The Team Honda HRC rider has placed in top-five in most motos and the top-10 at every race and has an impressive 2.8 average Main Event finish (only Webb’s is better, and he has six more wins to his credit). It’s rare for riders to match rock-solid results with blazing speed, yet Roczen’s been able to do that, too, with impressive on-track pace and the most laps led of the 450 Class. Yes, much of his success came early in the season, but despite a supposed mid-season “slide,” the results have been good (2-5-2-1-1-1-2-4-4-6-3-2).

Roczen has rebuilt himself for the umpteenth time in his career, and with the help of an undisclosed mental coach, he’s put on a cheerful face through every setback this season. The championship lead helped him shrug off a penalty and lap traffic at Houston, which led to a sweep in Indianapolis and arguably the best he’s ridden since early 2017, and he scored plenty of points in Orlando and Daytona after early issues at the three races.

Is there a connection between this “everything is alright” mindset and an apparent absence of aggression? For lack of a better term, Roczen has been bullied by Webb in recent weeks (“Red Plate” pit board, Daytona as a whole, and assorted post-race comments), and except for some minor post-race arguing, he’s refused to engage in the game. Some have speculated that a hard pass on the track or some smack talk by Roczen could make things exciting in these last few races, and we agree, but would be surprised to see it happen. Roczen wants to win straight-up, without any sort of antics, every time.

Health issues and general burnout are why Roczen sat out last year’s Pro Motocross tour, a move he’s credited to helping this season and his career as a whole. With that said, do not expect to see a similar absence this summer; all recent indications show that the two-time 450 MX champion and Team Honda HRC will line up for the 12-round run.


3. ELI TOMAC
234 POINTS
2 MAIN EVENT WINS | 43 LAPS LED
6 PODIUM FINISHES | 8 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 11 TOP-TEN FINISHES
4.7 AVERAGE FINISH

It’s unlikely Eli Tomac will defend his Supercross championship this season. And that seems to be okay for ET3 and Monster Energy Kawasaki. He said that realization occurred a few weeks ago (likely around when he won Daytona then finished eighth at Arlington One), and that’s a massive statement for a rider that’s been “do or die” for much of his career. You really can’t win them all.

This has been an unusual year for Tomac. It started ordinarily enough with a 13th place at round one, a win at round two, and top-five/top-ten finishes through the season. He’s now third in standings going into the last five rounds, all of which are tracks that seem to suit his style.

What’s different? His overall speed seems to be dialed down. Tomac said the importance of a start and the increased pace of the 450 Class are partly to blame, and wins at Arlington Two and Daytona backed up that assertion, but even those wins were less dominant than the 10-second plus margins we’ve come to expect.

Questions about Tomac’s future have made this situation even more nuanced. His current contract with Monster Energy Kawasaki will expire at the end of 2021, and, depending on who you talk to, this next deal could be the last of his storied career or the start of a new chapter. We’ve heard it all lately; that he will re-up with Team Green to stick with what he knows for one more year, or that he will ink a multi-year contract with another OEM.

Look, it’s understandable for riders to back it down as time goes on. Tomac has gone through every sort of scenario in the last decade, including time-consuming injuries and non-stop dedication to training, and he’s at a time in life when riders have to make decisions about risk versus reward. This will be a big story to follow through the next six months.


4. JUSTIN BARCIA
214 POINTS
1 MAIN EVENT WIN | 28 LAPS LED
4 PODIUM FINISHES | 8 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 10 TOP-TEN FINISHES
5.9 AVERAGE FINISH

Just when you count Justin Barcia out, he bounces back in the biggest way possible. The racer has had his share of ups and downs, and just when it seems his time on the track is coming to an end, he puts it all together and reminds everyone why he’s worthy of a factory ride. That’s certainly been the case in 2021, as the move to Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing revitalized his career.

A win at the opening round, the proper stateside debut for the red bike, was a massive success and was followed by gritty rides (a bent shifter at Houston Two, crash to fourth at Houston Three) that kept him in the championship hunt. His chance at the title was curtailed by Indianapolis issues (crashes and a separate run-in with Vince Friese), but he’s stayed on everyone’s mind with podium finishes, fast laps, and a wild style. To see him win on any given night wouldn’t be a surprise at this point.

This is a big year for Barcia, on and off the track. He’s riding well, gets along great with the TLD team, and has the drive to keep working on the bike and himself. Yes, his famed Bamland property in the south is for sale, but that seems to be a step that will help him get closer to the KTM program and the rest of the team in central Florida, not retirement.


5. AARON PLESSINGER
183 POINTS
0 MAIN EVENT WINS | 0 LAPS LED
1 PODIUM FINISH | 3 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 10 TOP-TEN FINISHES
7.8 AVERAGE FINISH

This has been Aaron Plessinger’s comeback season, and the timing couldn’t be any better. Not many knew he had a three-year contract with Yamaha, and while some believed his place in the pit was in jeopardy in 2020, he assured us everything was okay. Yamaha’s decision to give Star Racing their factory racing effort meant Plessinger got to go back to the group of people he started his career with, and together, they’ve gotten the YZ450F to mesh with his riding style.

Yes, the Daytona podium and 5-6-9 results in Arlington have been a massive boost to AP’s position in the standings, but they’re not a vast improvement; he finished in the top-10 five times before Daytona. The real change is his comfort on the blue bike, which he credits to Star Racing’s outlook on setup. Plessinger’s stature and flowing technique look better than ever, and he’s going to be one to watch when the outdoors start later this year.

The big question now is will he stay or go? That three-year agreement runs out at the end of the season, and recent rides have put him on the radar of multiple team managers. Yamaha already has one 450 Class spot filled next year (Dylan Ferrandis earned a multi-year deal), and they’ve told Plessinger that another contract can come if he continues to finish in the top-five/three, but KTM might have an opening (Musquin, more on that below) and it would put AP back with good friend Cooper Webb.


6. MALCOLM STEWART
179 POINTS
0 MAIN EVENT WINS | 0 LAPS LED
0 PODIUM FINISHES | 3 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 9 TOP-TEN FINISHES
8.1 AVERAGE FINISH

To really get an idea of Malcolm Stewart’s season, you need to look back to 2020. Through 12 rounds last year with the MotoConcepts crew, Stewart was sixth in the standings, earned 180 points, and had an 8.0 average Main Event finish. There were signs of Mookie Speed every so often, but after a broken femur in 2019, he’d understandably dialed it down in an attempt to make it through the whole season unscathed.

Even with some significant changes, including a move to Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha and a noticeable uptick in speed, the stats are pretty much the same. After 12 rounds in 2021, Stewart is again sixth overall, scored 179 points, and his average Main Event finish is 8.1.

So, what gives? A complete look at each season’s scores (9-6-8-7-10-8-7-7-8-8-11-7 in 2020 and 5-7-6-11-10-4-9-7-5-14-13-6 in 2021) shows that the highs are higher and the lows are lower in 2021. Stewart was firmly ranked fifth in the standings until two tough Arlington races (botched block pass with Anderson at A1, early washout crash at A2) allowed teammate Plessinger to overtake him for fifth overall in the championship.

These last five races are massive for Malcolm. His current deal with Star Racing is supposed to be Supercross-only, but he recently joined the team in Southern California for outdoor practice motos, a sign that the summer plans are open to change. In need of a contract for next year, a top-five overall rank in SX and some results outdoors could be what finally convinces a team to make a long-term investment in Stewart.


7. JASON ANDERSON
171 POINTS
0 MAIN EVENT WINS | 0 LAPS LED
1 PODIUM FINISH | 3 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 10 TOP-TEN FINISHES

It took a while for Jason Anderson to get going in 2021. Admittedly out of sorts in the first few races, the 15-8-8 finishes prompted some to say that the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider was no longer trying. A practice crash and dislocated finger at Indianapolis Two made those criticisms even stronger, so Anderson has fired back with aggressive riding and hard efforts at every race since. He would be closer to the top-five in points if not for the Indianapolis injury and one-race absence, and that makes the recent results a little more impressive.

The perception that Anderson lacks heart or motivation is a misconception. He openly said that the podium finish bonus helped urge him to third place at Arlington One and that banging bars with others is his style of racing, something many riders on the track can attest to. Anderson has the potential to be a podium finisher on any given night, and if things go the right way, he’s a wildcard that could score a win.

That, paired with his popularity, will make him an exciting candidate in this year’s negotiations. A lengthy deal with Husqvarna, something he signed amid his championship peak, is nearing its end. Does Anderson renew with the brand he’s been the face of since its relaunch, or will another team make an unbeatable offer that meets his requests (Supercross-only with international events in the offseason)?


8. DYLAN FERRANDIS
153 POINTS
0 MAIN EVENT WINS | 0 LAPS LED
1 PODIUM FINISH | 1 TOP-FIVE FINISH | 7 TOP-TEN FINISHES

Dylan Ferrandis has gotten the authentic rookie Supercross experience this season. Things started off very well for the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider and a second-place result at the second round accelerated his potential in the premier class, but instead, he’s finished outside of the top-five in every race since. Ferrandis isn’t struggling, per se, but is instead finding out how tough it is to race this much and this fast, without making a mistake.

This was especially true from Orlando One to Arlington One. A hard crash at the first Orlando race resulted in a DNF, posted 11-11 finishes in the following Florida races, and was taken down by Anderson at Arlington One. Ferrandis shook off the incident and wrapped up the time in Texas with 8-7 scores, which have him securely in eighth overall in the championship. Ferrandis will be the top rookie of the 2021 season and, barring catastrophe, will end the year in the top-10.

He’s all-in on the Star Racing program, too. Signed to a multi-year contract, Ferrandis has purchased a home in Florida and moved East to put in practice laps at the team’s recently acquired facility in Tallahassee. You might have heard of the previous owner, Ricky Carmichael…


9. JOEY SAVATGY
138 POINTS
0 MAIN EVENT WINS | 0 LAPS LED
0 PODIUM FINISHES | 0 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 5 TOP-TEN FINISHES
11.5 AVERAGE FINISH

Who expected Joey Savatgy to be the second-highest ranked KTM rider in the 450 Supercross standings? Savatgy has made the most of the opportunity with Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM (a deal that came together late in the offseason) by lining up for all 12 Main Events, finishing in the top-ten five times, and maintaining a top-10 spot in the season standings. Not bad for a rider who hadn’t raced SX in more than a year.

This has been a tremendous year for Savatgy, personally and professionally. On the track, he’s surpassed expectations and held his own against more-hyped competitors. In Florida, he and his family from Tallahassee to Clermont to be closer to the team and ride with Bogle/Anderson/Lawrence brothers. And most recently, he revealed that he has dealt with confidence and mental struggles, something few have the willingness to acknowledge. 

Everything is going good for Savatgy right now, and with the way things look, he will be back on the orange bike in 2021.


10. MARVIN MUSQUIN
136 POINTS
0 MAIN EVENTS WINS | 0 LAPS LED
3 PODIUM FINISHES | 3 TOP-FIVE FINISHES | 6 TOP-TEN FINISHES

You have to feel for Marvin Musquin. The Red Bull KTM rider has had a very rough go of things in 2021, and it’s all happening at a pivotal point in his career.

It hasn’t been all bad. A podium at the season opener, Musquin’s first SX since Spring 2019, reminded everyone of his skill and prowess, and he’s backed it up with two more podiums since (3rd at Indianapolis Three, 2nd at Orlando Two). Need proof of one-lap speed? He’s been near the top of the timesheets in qualifying on a handful of occasions. Track getting chewed up? Watch how the featherweight figure will rely on technique, and not strength, to get around without issue.

But when things have been bad, they’ve been terrible. A mechanical issue with the engine caused Musquin to DNF at Daytona, and a hard Heat Race crash at Arlington One sidelined him for the rest of that event and the next with a concussion and cut on the arm. He returned for Arlington Three, then had an incident with another rider further injure his sore arm and send him back to the truck during the Main Event.

Like we mentioned earlier, this is the last year of Musquin’s contract with Red Bull KTM, the company he’s been with since his years in MX2 and the only team he’s ridden for in the United States. From what we’ve heard, the odds of retirement or an extension seem to be 50-50. He’s been at this a while, and now in his early 30s, will have to make the decision before someone (potentially a team) makes it for him.

If Musquin continues, he will retain the hard-earned status as a possible winner and likely podium finisher at any race he lines up for. If he stops, it opens up the coveted second spot at Red Bull KTM, which lots of riders have their eyes on.

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Michael Antonovich

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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