Monster Energy Supercross Houston 1 450 Class Observationsby Jack Gaffney January 17, 2021 0 comments
An excellent season opener at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas is now in the books. Multiple bits of history were made, courtesy of Justin “Bam Bam” Barcia and the all-new Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GasGas Factory team. We’ll be looking at those who both shined and disappointed on Saturday Night as riders and teams get ready for a short turnaround getting back to racing this Tuesday Night.
#51 Justin Barcia- Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing (1st Place)
Maybe the spoof video that the team posted of Barcia winning Anaheim 1 for the 3rd year in a row last week, despite there not being an Anaheim 1 this year, was a good omen for the 450 Class Veteran. After qualifying a respectable fifth place earlier in the day, he got the all-important holeshot in the first 450 Heat race. Barcia proceeded to let the sails down and fly to a win. A lot of his success in the heat race came from hitting a quad line right after the finish line jump that allowed him to hold off a hard-charging Ken Roczen of Honda HRC.
The Main Event for Barcia was close to being a carbon copy of his heat race. He just missed out on the holeshot to Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin but was able to get by him and take off shortly after. Roczen was his main competition, and he was all over Barcia in the middle to late stages of the night. Barcia did not look to be faster than Roczen was, but Roczen could not find a way around him. This was mainly due to Barcia taking away lines that Roczen had shown good speed in his pass attempts. All night the track progressively became harder to pass on. This factor is the benefit of a good start in the sport of Supercross.
Eventually, Barcia held steady to take home his third consecutive season-opening win, a feat that has not been equaled since “The King” 7-Time Supercross Champion Jeremy McGrath was able to do it between 1994 to 1996 with Factory Honda. Also, he gives GasGas, in their AMA Supercross Debut, their first-ever win. On a bike Barcia looked extremely comfortable on, opposed to the last two years with Yamaha, it will be interesting to see if he can show the speed shown tonight consistently this season. If Barcia rides like he did last night, it’s going to be a long season for the rest of the field.
#25 Marvin Musquin- Red Bull KTM (3rd Place)
The 31-year-old native of France showed a great deal of mental toughness in his return to the podium tonight. After securing a holeshot in the main event, he lost the lead immediately after. Musquin then lost second by getting roughed up a bit by Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo shortly after. As demoralizing as this could have been in his first race since May of 2019, he was able to keep everything under control on this night. This was Musquin’s first race since his knee injury in the final round of the 2019 motocross championship.
He was able to rally past Cianciarulo later on in the race and secured his first podium finish since Las Vegas in 2019. Despite only ever finishing outside the top three in points twice out of a possible nine 450 championship runs between AMA Supercross and Motocross seasons, it felt like Musquin came into tonight, maybe a little under the radar. His performance tonight should have made strides into reminding fans who he has been and can still be even as his career seemingly winds down. Even though I don’t think he would admit this in public, it probably felt good to outperform his teammate Cooper Webb as well.
#27 Malcolm Stewart- Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (5th Place)
Probably the most perplexing move of the offseason was Mookie, as he is mainly known by, leaving MotoConcepts Honda with seemingly no new team deal in the works. Stewart has typically skipped the motocross season as a 450 rider, and MotoConcepts Honda was a Supercross-only team. On top of the fact that he seemed to mesh well with that team and program, it felt like a perfect marriage. What we didn’t know is that he had his one-year SX-Only deal with Star Yamaha waiting. Their faith in him was instantly rewarded.
He finished the best of his two teammates Aaron Plessinger and Dylan Ferrandis, who both also had exceptional performances. Stewart stayed in fifth from about six minutes into the race to the end. While he had a chance to finish a spot or two higher, he did not do anything to throw away what was a great debut for a new team either.
#17 Joey Savatgy- Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS (10th Place)
Saturday Night must have been a relief for Savatgy. In the last 18 months, he lost his ride with Monster Energy Kawasaki after just one year. After signing with Joe Gibbs Racing Suzuki, he suffered a significant heel injury in an offseason supercross race in Australia. The heel injury cost him the entire 2020 Supercross season. Then to cap it off, JGR Suzuki closed its doors, leaving Savatgy again without a ride. Luckily in November of last year, Savatgy signed a deal with this Rocky Mountain KTM Team.
I would imagine that it must have meant the world for him not only to get the chance to line up and race but end up getting a very respectful tenth place in his return to Monster Energy Supercross. When he was with Kawasaki in 2019, Savatgy showed flashes that he could be a race-winning rider. Hopefully, he can build off of this performance on Tuesday Night.
#1 Eli Tomac- Monster Energy Kawasaki (13th Place)
In his championship-winning season last year, Tomac finished outside of the top five only once. That was a seventh place at the season opener in Anaheim. His 13th place finish on Saturday marks his worst Supercross finish since March of 2018 in Indianapolis, where he ended up 15th. He began Saturday’s Main Event with a below-average start. Things got worse as he went down trying to make an aggressive pass on Honda rider Vince Friese. The wreck cost him, as he fell from 8th to 16th about five minutes into the race. Tomac only ended up making up three spots after that incident. He was never one of the faster guys on track. Tomac having this kind of performance is similar to past seasons.
He can have nights like last night, where something goes wrong, and he shuts it down. Just as easily, he can show up the next race, lap up to fourth, and win by 20 seconds. I would not call this a death knell for Tomac. He can dig himself out of his hole. If he looks back on his year once it’s all said and done and he does not win the championship, tonight will be one of the three main factors.
#23 Chase Sexton- Honda HRC (16th Place)
While a 16th place finish leaves a lot to be desired, circumstances put things in perspective for the rookie. There were positives to take away from his first 450 race. Sexton started Saturday pacing the 450 class in qualifying with a blistering 44.006-second lap. He then started the night show with a respectable fourth-place finish in his heat race. His main event started well, riding around the tenth position in the early goings. Unfortunately for him, he got caught up in a wreck that was no fault of his own.
KTM rider Martin Davalos ended up riding on top of some tuff blocks near the end of a rhythm section, and Sexton ended up running into his bike. Unfortunately for him, he had nowhere to go and got caught up in that incident. As a result, he fell to 18th. One could imagine if not for that accident, a top ten finish in his maiden 450 Supercross race would have been easily attainable. However, a 16th was the best he could muster on this night. His showings in both qualifying and the heat races probably have the folks at Honda excited about his season. Honda hopes the rest of the season has a better trajectory than his main event results showed last night.
Supercross is back at NRG Stadium for the second of three races Tuesday Night. This race can only be viewed live on the premium version of The Peacock Streaming Service beginning at 8:30 EST/5:30 PST. The race will be on NBCSN on a two-hour tape delay, beginning at 10:30 EST/7:30 PST the same day.