Supercross’s return to Orlando, Florida came with an exciting 450 Class Main Event, featuring Ken Roczen’s three-race win streak getting snapped as well as the class getting its second multi-time main event winner. All that and more in this breakdown of Round 7 of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross season.
Going into yesterday it felt all but certain that last night would be a mud race as it was raining all morning and did not look good. Luckily, the weather broke right and despite some damp conditions in practice-qualifying, the night show provided good enough track conditions for the riders.
Last night’s track was also interesting for another reason. It happened to be a near replica to the 2007 Supercross track in Orlando, which happened to be the final supercross race in the iconic career of Ricky Carmichael. That night he would end up losing out by just a few bike lengths to eventual ’07 champion James Stewart in his swan song before heading off to begin his NASCAR stint. I cannot recall the last time this has happened where a track design was made in the same venue years later but seeing as it was one of the most important races in the history of the sport, I did not see an issue as it did, after all, provide some great racing.
Before we get to the 450 fields, I wanted to get some thoughts in on the two main 250 East class championship contenders as the series will be off for the next two months as the 250 West class begins next weekend, on top of the fact that they now only have two races left to go.
64 Colt Nichols – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (1st Place)
A surprise but a welcome one is how I would describe the season of 250 East points leader Colt Nichols. Before entering this year, he has only had one career main event win, coming at Anaheim 1 in 2019, and only raced in a total of six supercross races between 2017 and 2018 due to injuries. You could say his success this year is due to other riders, most notably Austin Forkner and RJ Hampshire, suffering major injuries is the main catalyst for his success, but I would argue that finishing no worse than third in seven races as well as getting three wins in a row is impressive regardless.
The biggest highlight of his season did not even involve him winning. Last week in Indianapolis he charged from 22nd place (dead last) off the start due to a crash and managed to pull out a third-place finish passing 19 riders in under 15 minutes, it may have been the most impressive effort in either class to this point in the season. With just two races left his points lead is at eight points and his closest competition happens to be his teammate.
29 Christian Craig – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (2nd Place)
Craig who has been on a 250 bike for seemingly forever has put himself in what is perhaps his best position to win a supercross championship in his career. He picked up his second and third career main event wins this year at the first round in Houston, and last weekend at the final round in Indianapolis, and his worst finish is only a 5th place finish. However, Craig may have avoided an absolute disaster last night.
During his heat race, Christian cased the landing ramp of the triple jump and then proceeded to catapult himself forward and hit the ground rather well. When he got up, he was visibly shaken up and was holding his wrist/hand. Despite this, he came back for the LCQ race, won that, and then finished in third place. That is the kind of mental toughness that can win a rider a championship and he showed championship metal last night. Now Craig gets two months to heal up his wrist/hand and when he comes back, he only has an eight-point deficit to erase in two races, one of which will feature both 250 regions which will probably help.
Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Jo Shimoda and Honda HRC’s Jett Lawrence are on the outside looking in, as both are over a race worth of points behind Nichols, but weirder things have happened before (looks at Zach Osborne at Vegas in 2017). It is a shame though that the east region has been decimated by injuries, was looking to be a good field at the start. Now for the 450 guys.
2 Cooper Webb – Red Bull KTM (1st Place)
Was thinking that either Cooper Webb or Eli Tomac would start this next stretch of races and it happened to be the former tonight. Webb took an ok start in the main event and sliced his way to the lead, featuring a very impressive pass taking second and first place away from Ken Roczen and then race leader Justin Brayton in the last bowl corner before the finish line jump. From their Webb put a vice grip on the lead and never let go for the rest of the night despite at times not being the best guy on track it seemed, specifically in the whoops section. In the end, Webb picked up his second win of the year, and the 13th of his career, despite a last-ditch effort by title rival Ken Roczen.
Webb only took a three-point bite out of Roczen’s lead after the first of two Orlando Rounds, but I believe the saying is it is a marathon, not a sprint, seeing as there is still over half of the season remaining. On top of the fact that Webb has seemingly been Ken’s boogeyman since making the jump to KTM in 2019, picking up multiple wins now with Roczen being the bridesmaid since then. Webb also in 2019 seemed to do well in races in the Eastern part of the country, finishing on the podium far often more than not. Maybe that can be a good omen for the former champion going forward.
16 Zach Osborne – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing (3rd Place)
The reigning national motocross champion easily put together his best performance of 2021 to this point. Osborne pulled out an impressive holeshot in the main event, however, was not able to hold on to the lead and fell back a few positions. However, he held firm and was able to only fall back as far as fifth place. Once he stabilized. Osborne began to fight his way to the podium for the first time this season, picking up a third-place result due to a mistake by Justin Barcia, whom we are getting to next.
I would say that while the title is out of reach realistically for Osborne at this point seeing as he is nearly 60 points out of first place, however, tonight can go a long way for his confidence going forward. He still has the second half of supercross in attempts to nab some wins, and then into his title defense in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross this summer to look forward to.
51 Justin Barcia – Troy Lee Designs Red Bull GasGas Factory Racing (4th Place)
After a brutal wreck that put him in 19th last Saturday in Indianapolis, Barcia put in an almost podium-worthy performance last night in Orlando. Once everyone in the field got situated, Barcia tucked in third place and was behind Roczen and Webb for most of the evening. However, he ended up avoiding another possible scary wreck in the whoops section. Barcia ended up falling off the right side of his bike at the very end of the whoops but was able to get his feet on the dirt and was able to walk with his bike and hopped back onto it on the step-up jump afterward, an all-around preposterous save.
Despite losing a podium due to this mistake, Barcia was able to not let this incident get to him and brought home his GasGas machine home in fourth place. Like with Osborne, I would say he’s out of championship contention at this point, but last night was an excellent rebound after Indianapolis 3 for Barcia.
1 Eli Tomac – Monster Energy Kawasaki- (5th Place)
On paper a top 5 is not horrible by any stretch but considering his two primary championship rivals finished first and second and now sits 31 points out of first, last night was an absolute disaster for Eli Tomac. The defending champion did himself zero favors on the start, being scored in 15th position early on, and these starts simply will not cut it anymore. In the seven races to this point, starts have seemingly made or broken riders’ results, much more substantially than in years past. This is not motocross where you get an extra 10 minutes and two laps and there are not as many passing zones on a supercross track, so Tomac needs to get his starts in order if he wants to get back into title contention because you can only pass so many riders when starting in 15th.
As stated, above Tomac now sits 31 points back of Ken Roczen for the points lead. Seeing as four speedway infield tracks are coming up and Tomac has completely dominated at Daytona since 2015 (has finished no worse than second and has four wins in that span). So, I am not in complete panic mode just yet, but I am for sure starting to lean that way right now. Something must start clicking here starting next weekend or else Tomac may be as good as done in this championship hunt.
14 Dylan Ferrandis – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha (22nd place)
Ferrandis, unfortunately, got hurt at some point within the opening minutes of last night’s main event. However, the NBCSN broadcast only showed him sitting on the ground with his helmet off talking to members of The Alpinestars Medical Team, and then proceeded to not show what happened or mention it the rest of the evening. As this is being written we have no clue what his status is.
Now here’s where I go off on a tangent about NBCSN’s coverage these last two rounds a little bit, since it has not been great by any stretch. Last weekend they cut to a flashback on the final lap of the 450 main event when Roczen and Webb were in a legit battle for the win and we missed about a third of the final lap. In qualifying coverage, they seem to show riders pacing around a lot despite riders going on hot laps all the time, and do not seem to show battles for transfer positions in heat races. I will say I like the announcing crew and will go to bat for Leigh Diffey every day of the week and twice on Sunday, as I believe he is the best motorsport play by play man in the business, but NBCSN must tighten up their ship.
And that will do it for Supercross Round number seven. I wish a good Sunday day to those who bet on Ryan Blaney +1200 in The Daytona 500, and those who bet on Ryan Blaney +1200 in the Daytona 500 only. Also, best wishes to 450 Privateer rider Alex Ray who has a confirmed Covid-19 case, get well soon.
Follow Jack Gaffney on Twitter @JackGaffneyPTST
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