We are on the third day of 2018 and the first motorsports season to open is this Saturday night, as the AMA Supercross season begins in Anaheim. I have been a causal Supercross observer for most of my life but would never describe myself as a diehard supporter. Every year though I find myself looking forward to these opening rounds of the season as it gives me something motorsports related after spending the better part of the previous month hungry for something.
Between the starts of other motorsports series and late start times for west coast Supercross events, at some point I normally fall out and then come back for the season finale. Last year, I made an effort to watch every race I could and caught most of the races either live or taped the next day. This season I want to give the series its due and properly preview it while following it race-by-race from Anaheim in January to the Las Vegas season finale in May.
With the retirement of Ryan Dungey, there is only one former Supercross champion on the entry list. This preview will look at the schedule, the new format for a few races and 18 riders to keep an eye on in 2017.
The season opens at a traditional stomping ground at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on January 6th. One week later the second round sees the series head east, all the way to Houston's NRG Stadium for the series' earliest trip to Texas before Anaheim hosts round three and the first of three Triple Crown events.
Triple Crown events will have two ten-minute qualifying rounds with the top 18 advancing to the main event with the rest of the field going to the last chance qualifier. Four riders will advance from the LCQ to complete the 22-rider main event. The main event will be broken down into three races at lengths of eight minutes, 12 minutes and 15 minutes. The rider with the lowest combined scored after the three races will be declared the overall winner.
After the first Triple Crown event, Glendale's University of Phoenix Stadium closes out the month of January. The day before Super Bowl LII, Supercross will be in Oakland Alameda Coliseum with a trip down the coast to San Diego the following week. The series returns to Texas on February 17th at Arlington's AT&T Stadium. Supercross returns to Tampa Bay for the first since 1999 at Raymond James Stadium on February 24th.
The midway point of the season is not only the second Triple Crown event but also the Supercross debut at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on March 3rd. Daytona Bike Week follows Atlanta on the schedule. The series returns indoors for races at St. Louis and Indianapolis before the Easter break. After Easter, Seattle's CenturyLink Field hosts Supercross on April 7th.
Minneapolis and U.S. Bank Stadium is the final dome and the final Triple Crown event on the schedule on April 14th. The series makes its furthest trip east to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts on April 21st. The season closes with Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City hosting the penultimate round on April 28th and the season finale from Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on May 5th.
Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team
Broc Trickle: #20 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
What did he do in 2017: 12th in the Supercross championship. One podium finish, third at Toronto, his only top five finish.
What to expect in 2018: This is a step up for Trickle and I think it will be a year for him to get his footing. He will get on the podium at least once and crack the top eight of the championship.
Marvin Musquin: #25 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
What did he do in 2017: 3rd in the Supercross championship. Second in the National Motocross Championship. Two Supercross victories (Arlington, Seattle) and ten podium finishes. He won seven motocross races and four of 12 rounds. He ended the year with victories in the Monster Energy Cup and Supercross Paris-Bercy.
What to expect in 2018: The Frenchman is one of the top championship contenders. Musquin is ready to pick up where Dungey left off and he is entering on a great wave of momentum.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Eli Tomac: #3 Kawasaki KX 450F
What did he do in 2017: 2nd in the Supercross championship. 2017 National Motocross Champion. Nine Supercross victories (Phoenix, Oakland, Minneapolis, Toronto, Daytona, Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis, Salt Lake City) and 12 podium finishes. He won nine motocross races and four of 12 rounds.
What to expect in 2018: Like Musquin, Tomac is a championship contender. If it weren't for a few poor results at the start of 2017 he would have won the championship over Dungey. If he stays on the bike, he will be in the championship discussion until the end but it won't be easy.
Joshua Grant: #33 Kawasaki KX 450F
What did he do in 2017: 10th in the Supercross championship. One podium finish, third at Las Vegas. Three top five finishes in the final four races. He missed three races.
What to expect in 2018: Grant has won races but he is now an elder statesman in the series. He is on a good bike and ended 2017 on a high note. He won't beat his teammate but he should have a better championship finish than last year.
Team Honda HRC
Cole Seely: #14 Honda CRF 450
What did he do in 2017: 7th in the Supercross championship. Fifth in the National Motocross Championship. Two Supercross podium finishes with his best finish being second at Arlington and eight top five finishes.
What to expect in 2018: We are pushing three years since Seely's maiden Supercross victory at Houston in April 2015. Seely has had seven podium since then. It will be hard for him to keep up with Roczen and I expect he will finish at a minimum five championship positions behind his teammate.
Ken Roczen: #94 Honda CRF 450
What did he do in 2017: 20th in the Supercross championship. Injured in the third race of the season at Anaheim and missed the rest of the season. Won the first two races of the 2017 season at Anaheim and San Diego.
What to expect in 2018: If Roczen hadn't been injured he would have been in the championship discussion and very well could have beat both Dungey and Tomac. I think we are set for a great three-way battle between Roczen, Tomac and Musquin.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Team
Dean Wilson: #15 Husqvarna FC450
What did he do in 2017: 8th in the Supercross championship. Fourth in the National Motocross Championship. Two Supercross top five finishes, both fifth-place finish at Arlington and Las Vegas.
What to expect in 2018: The Scotsman had a very good outdoor season. I think he could sneak on the podium on one or two occasions.
Justin Anderson: #21 Husqvarna FC450
What did he do in 2017: 4th in the Supercross championship. One Supercross victory (Las Vegas) and six podium finishes including four consecutive podium finishes to close the season. Anderson won two motocross races.
What to expect in 2018: Anderson is a consistent rider but a healthy Roczen makes it significantly more difficult for Anderson to be a championship contender. It would surprise nobody if he did win a race or two and if he keeps up his form a top five championship finish seems to be a given.
Monster Energy/Knich/Factory Yamaha Team
Cooper Webb: #2 Yamaha YZ450F
What did he do in 2017: 13th in the Supercross championship. One podium finish, third at Oakland. His only other top five finish was fourth at Anaheim II. He missed five races due to a shoulder injury
What to expect in 2018: It seems like Webb would get great starts and fade in 2017 and sometimes he round himself on the ground. If he can stay up right and be able to run strong start to finish he could crack the top ten of the championship.
Davi Millsaps: #18 Yamaha YZ450F
What did he do in 2017: 5th in the Supercross championship. Four top five finishes with his best finish being four at the MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
What to expect in 2018: He is going to miss at least the first six rounds due to a fractured elbow. It has been a few rough seasons since he finished second in the championship in 2013. If he comes back, I think he will take over as the top Yamaha rider.
Justin Barcia: #51 Yamaha YZ450F
What did he do in 2017: 18th in the Supercross championship. Best finish was ninth at Toronto and East Rutherford. He missed six races.
What to expect in 2018: Barcia fills in for the injured Millsaps and I think the goal is to do enough in the first six races to either impress Yamaha to keep him for the rest of the season or impress someone else to bring him in when Millsaps returns.
Autotrader JGR Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Team
Justin Bogle: #19 Suzuki RM-Z450
What did he do in 2017: 17th in the Supercross championship. His best finish was ninth at Arlington. He missed five races. He won two motocross races and one round while finishing sixth in the championship.
What to expect in 2018: The good news is he entering on a strong note but Suzuki had a tough 2017. Bogle's teammate got off to a strong start in 2017 and if Weston Peick remains healthy it will be a tough test for Bogle to finish as top Suzuki factory rider. It could prove to be an interesting intra-team battle.
Weston Peick: #34 Suzuki RM-Z450
What did he do in 2017: 22nd in the Supercross championship. Eighth in the Motocross championship. He finished eighth, seventh and fifth in the first three races before a wrist injury at Phoenix sidelined him for the rest of the season.
What to expect in 2018: Peick had a promising start to 2017 before he got hurt. He was able to run the entire Motocross season but wasn't a factor. If he matches his 2017 start it wouldn't be a surprise if he finished in the top ten of the championship.
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC – KTM – WPS
Blake Baggett: #4 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
What did he do in 2017: 6th in the Supercross championship. Third in the National Motocross Championship. One Supercross podium finishes (3rd at Atlanta) and five top five finishes. He won two motocross races and two rounds.
What to expect in 2018: He did well in both championships and I think this could be the sleeper of the season. A win might be a stretch but he could have his night and he could challenge for top five in the championship.
Benny Bloss: #60 KTM 450 SX-F Factory Edition
What did he do in 2017: Injured in his only 250cc race at Minneapolis. Contested five 450cc Motocross rounds with his best finish being 10th at Unadilla.
What to expect in 2018: For someone who did not get much time on the bike in 2017 and already suffered an injury in testing I am concerned he will be able to contest all the races. Not everyone can crack the top ten in the championship and I think Bloss should shoot for completing as many laps as possible.
Chad Reed: #22 Husqvarna FC450
What did he do in 2017: 9th in the Supercross championship. One podium finish, second at Phoenix. Only other top five finish was fourth at Toronto.
What to expect in 2018: Reed is the only previous Supercross champion on the grid. However, Reed is 35 years old and turns 36 years old prior to St. Louis. It has been ten years since he won his second championship and with him on a privateer bike I don't see a third in the cards. But I wouldn't rule him out to have a stunning night and pull out a top five finish or two.
Justin Brayton: #10 Honda CRF 450
What did he do in 2017: 12th in the Supercross championship. His best finish was sixth at Phoenix and East Rutherford. He missed one main event.
What to expect in 2018: Despite being a regular Supercross competitor since 2010, he is still looking for his first career victory. It won't happen in 2018 and I think he will struggle to even get a top five finish.
Vince Friese: #55 Honda CRF 450
What did he do in 2017: 16th in the Supercross championship. His finish was 12th at Arlington and he missed one main event.
What to expect in 2018: Friese's only Supercross top ten finish was a ninth at Oakland in 2013. He is bound to get another top ten finish but I think he finishes behind Brayton in the championship.
The 2017 Supercross season opener takes place Saturday January 6th at 10:00 p.m. ET from Anaheim, California.