2022 Monster Energy Supercross: 450 Preview 1by Jack Gaffney January 2, 2022 2 comments
2021 is now officially in the books, and that means the upcoming season of Monster Energy Supercross begins in just a matter of days. A new year will bring back some normalcy to the ordeal as well. West Coast rounds in bulk are back, namely Anaheim getting their first three-round year since 2015. In addition to multiple East/West 250 Showdowns (Atlanta and Salt Lake City). As well as the return of the ‘Triple Crown’ format for a trio of rounds (Glendale, Dallas, St. Louis).
We enter Anaheim 1 coming off of one of the most notable offseasons of the last decade as well. Eli Tomac, Jason Anderson, Malcolm Stewart, and Aaron Plessinger all swapped teams in the fall. Even outside of those four major moves, the 450 class stills shapes up to be one of the best ever. There are no less than a half dozen riders who are capable of winning Main Events this year. Here we hit only a portion of the 450 Supercross field, as the class depth warrants it.
(Preseason Power Rankings and Championship pick coming in Part 2. All statistics shown are from Main Events only)
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Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha
No. 3 Eli Tomac
2021 Stats: 3 Wins, 8 Podiums, 1 Holeshot, Average Finish of 4.9, 45 Laps Led, 3rd in Points
The Landshark after a six-year stint with Monster Energy Kawasaki is now officially a member of BluCru. By most standards, 2021 was a good year for Tomac, just not one in terms of what we expect of him. The numbers from 2020 to ’21 were down across the board, except for holeshots and starts which have never been strong suits ironically enough. It also didn’t feel like that killer instinct that was there in Tomac’s title defense as well. He essentially fell out of the hunt just weeks into the season, which felt very odd.
Now aboard a YZ450, ET3, along with his running mate, hopes to give Yamaha their first 450 Supercross Title since James Stewart in 2009. As far as milestone watch for Tomac goes, he enters this season at 37 career wins. Five more would vault him past Ryan Villopoto (41) for fifth-most all-time. While an additional three would get him by Chad Reed (44) for fourth. By all accounts, Tomac has been a title contender for a half-decade, and there’s no reason to believe he will not be again in 2022.
No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Podium, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 7.2, 0 Laps Led, Tied for 7th in Points
Tomac and Ferrandis as teammates is an embarrassment of riches for the Star Yamaha team. Feels like the ‘Mega Powers’ or ‘Legion of Doom’. Ferrandis enters his sophomore year aboard a 450 coming off a dominant, and I mean dominant, Motocross campaign where he won the Championship. There were stretches where he looked, by a wide margin, the best guy on track. That gives a healthy amount of optimism for Ferrandis’ 2022 Supercross hopes.
Ferrandis is one of three riders, along with Marvin Musquin and Colt Nichols, who is on the David Vuillemin program. It has been a winning combination for years, as clearly seen last summer and in years prior as well. Not hard to say that should remain as such in 2022 as well. The real question is will Ferrandis vault himself into title contention this year? That remains to be seen, but expect the stats to look better than they did in 2021. Love him or hate him, Ferrandis is no joke.
Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda
No. 10 Justin Brayton
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Podium, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 11.1, 2 Laps Led, 17th in Points
Brayton is back with the MotoConcepts Honda squad after stints with Honda HRC and Muc-Off Honda these last two seasons. Three teams in as many years is rare, having them all be the same manufacturer is unheard of for a rider of Brayton’s caliber. Nonetheless the 37-year-old Fort Dodge, Iowa native is back after an injury-shortened 2021. Outside of a good run in Houston in the opening three rounds, Brayton went on to score zero top 10s in his remaining five outings. Seeing as he has finished no worse than 12th in the points in a healthy season since 2015, expect that to be his absolute floor in 2022.
No. 54 Mitchel Oldenburg/No. 62 Vince Friese
The MotoConcepts team is going with a platoon with their second 450 entry. Friese and Oldenberg will alternate between the 250 and 450 on each coast. By looks of the Anaheim 1 entry list, it’s going to be Friese running West, so Oldenberg will start out 2022 on the big bore. In the last three years, the latter has finished no worse than ninth in points running 250 Regional Supercross. Oldenberg however did four rounds of Supercross a year ago on a 450, scoring three top 15s. Look for Oldenburg to be a consistent main event starter when he makes his 450 starts.
Now we move on to Friese. Him running 250s should be wildly entertaining, especially if he gets into any on-track disagreements. As for his 450 expectations, Friese has more or less hung around just outside of the top 10 for the better part of the last several years. By no means is that bad either, especially as the fields have gotten deeper. He should likely hover around that benchmark this year.
Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing
No. 51 Justin “Bam Bam” Barcia
2021 Stats: 1 Win, 4 Podiums, 4 Holeshots, Average Finish of 6.5, 28 Laps Led, 4th in Points
Year one with GasGas was a good one for Barcia, taking no time at all to get the brand their first win in Houston. Just four times all year did Barcia finish outside the top 10 as well which is always good. Something to watch for with him this year is the starts. Barcia led all riders with four Main Event holeshots but averaged a start of just above eight, ranking seventh in the 450 class. He averaged a finish of eighth in those four holeshot rounds, which gets dragged down severely by a 19th at Indianapolis 3. A round where Barcia was wrecked out of second place with under three laps to go.
For Barcia to elevate himself into a Championship contender in 2021, his ability to consistently finish in the top five must get better. In his defense, some of his shortcomings last year were not on him. However, some poor results likely kept him out of a dogfight with Cooper Webb and Ken Roczen as well. If the consistency is there, watch out. Now Barcia looks to win Anaheim 1 Supercross for a fourth consecutive year. Yes, he did win it last year. Hard to lose when no one else shows up to the stadium quite frankly.
Muc-Off FXR Club MX Yamaha
No. 26 Alex Martin
2021 Stats (250 Class): 0 Wins, 0 Podiums, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 14.3, 0 Laps Led, 22nd in Points (West)
A Martin brother has made the jump to the 450 class, but it’s Troll Train as opposed to Jeremy Martin. The numbers from a year ago don’t tell the full story, as Troll Train only ran three rounds in the 250 West Championship. in 2020 still on the West, Martin was a top 10 rider all season save his final two outings in Salt Lake City. The other big headline here is that Martin is with the Club MX squad, who also has a very solid 250 program this year as well. Nice to see them getting into the 450 game with a veteran like Troll Train. Expect a healthy amount of Main Event starts here.
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM WPS
No. 12 Shane McElrath
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Podiums, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 15.5, 0 Laps Led, 29th in Points
A retuned Rocky Mountain team starts with McElrath. in 2021 he ran just the two Orlando rounds with MCR Honda before he bowed out for the year. In essence, 2022 could be described as a redshirt freshman year for the veteran. Kind of hard to gauge where he will stand since he has not raced in nearly a full year. However, McElrath was a mainstay in his final few years in the 250 class, both with TLD/Red Bull KTM and Star Yamaha.
No. 17 Joey Savatgy
2021 Stats: 0 Win, 0 Podiums, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 10.8, 0 Laps Led, 10th in Points
Savatgy is back once again, despite waiting longer than he would have probably liked to get re-uped on a new deal. Odd given that his 2021 was exceptional all things considered. After a so-so run in Houston, Savatgy was a top 10 finisher just about every round afterward and managed to finish 10th in points to boot. A big thing to mention as well is that Savatgy is in year two with a 450 team for just the first time in his career. That no doubt is a plus entering Anaheim.
No. 34 Max Anstie
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 0 Podiums, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 15.4, 0 Laps Led, 21st in Points
The Anstie signing from the team perspective is more for his world-class Motocross ability. Nevertheless, the former MXGP star is entering year No. 3 back in the United States, but he has missed 24 rounds of Supercross due to injury. Perhaps entering the year with a clean bill of health will improve Anstie’s results. The shift to a good Rocky Mountain team won’t hurt his chances either.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
No. 15 Dean Wilson
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 4 Podiums, 1 Holeshot, Average Finish of 10.3, 0 Laps Led, 11th in Points
Of the trio of himself, Anderson, and Zach Osborne, Wilson is the only one left standing at Factory Husky. Deano was about as consistent as it gets in 2021. He finished no better than ninth but no worse than 12th the entire year. Safe to say if his handicap is good, put him in your PulpMX Fantasy Lineup when available.
Sadly for Wilson, what would have been five straight years finishing top 10 in points was just missed out on a year ago. He finished a little over 40 points back of 10th place Savatgy. The track record shows that Wilson is close to a lock to end up in the top 10 again this year. Keep in mind, Wilson almost won Anaheim 1 in the mud literally out of his van just a few years ago. He’s more than just a great personality.
No. 27 Malcolm Stewart
2021 Stats: 0 Wins, 1 Podium, 0 Holeshots, Average Finish of 8.5, 0 Laps Led, 6th in Points
If ‘Mookie Fever’ was a stock, it would be somewhere beyond the outer rim of our galaxy, let alone the moon. New home with the Rockstar Husqvarna team, running the full calendar, and on the Baker Program? Buy, buy, buy. From 2020 to 2021 the notable jump was in Stewart’s starts. He went from an average start of 9.8 to 7.9. The finishing average was more or less the same, but having better starts is never a bad thing.
Another feather in Stewart’s cap, as it runs in the family, is his ability in the whoops. At the worst, there’s only say four or five guys better, and not a stretch to say races can be won and lost in the whoops. Mookie on the Baker’s Program is what should get people excited. It can be demanding, but if Aldon Baker can get the absolute best out of Mookie, everyone is in big, big trouble. This may finally be the year Stewart gets his first Supercross win.
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