Even on the opposite end of California, rain continues to persist in the early portion of this Supercross season. The good news is that this seemingly was only going to affect things in qualifying, with the second set of sessions getting canceled again, but far better than what teams and fans experienced in San Francisco last Saturday night. I'd imagine everyone involved is glad that Mother Nature wasn't going to turn another track into a trouble-filled mud pit.
Speaking of trouble, it wasn't a clean week going into Saturday for a couple of key guys, the first of which was Pro Circuit Kawi's Max Vohland, who's officially set to miss time with a hip injury after a midweek practice crash. The bigger news involves Jett Lawrence, who, during press day riding on Friday, had a get-off and hurt his thumb in said crash. While he was a full go on Saturday, it didn't appear at first glance in practice that he was anywhere close to 100 percent. Not exactly great news coming off a ninth in San Fran, and with Chase Sexton, Eli Tomac, and Ken Roczen all looking good in the daytime program. Oh, and did I mention it's throwback weekend yet?
Daytime Program/Injury Notes:
- Not too surprised with the fast lap times in practice. Snapdragon is comfortably the smallest floor Supercross is being held in this year.
- Jett Lawrence, in an albeit limited sample size, didn't look too fast in practice with the hurt thumb.
- Due to the weather, both classes only got one timed qualifying session on Saturday afternoon, once again.
- 250 Fastest Qualifier: No. 31 Jordon Smith (50.931)
- 450 Fastest Qualifier: No. 94 Ken Roczen (52.027) (Roczen's second-best lap would have been good for third fastest in the class)
Heat Racing Roundup
With a lot of the slick stuff still on the track, things were sloppy early, with Mitchell Oldenburg and Nate Thrasher swapping the lead, but a red flag brought things to a halt about two minutes in. You could hear the crowd react to something, and then you saw a literal minefield of bikes on the downside ramp of the finish line section. On the full race restart, Oldenburg wasn't as lucky with the start, but this was the break Levi Kitchen needed, as he paced Thrasher, Josh Varize, and Jo Shimoda to victory. Worth noting that riders weren't jumping much of anything in this first Heat.
Lots of YZ250s up at the front early in Heat 2. You had both the ClubMX boys Garrett Marchbanks and Phil Nicoletti, plus Jordon Smith and Robbie Wageman, along with Ryder DiFrancesco and R.J. Hampshire, who passed about seven guys in the opening rhythm lane, jumping the whole thing all out. Now, R.J.'s lead didn't last, as he went off the side of the finish line downramp, but luckily was ok and still in a transfer spot by the end of things. Although not a clean win, Marchbanks was able to come home with the win.
For those of you who had a Cade Clason anytime holeshot prop at +5000000, congratulations, slide me some spare change. More shocking was that he stuck inside the top five for as long as he did. Now, Jett Lawrence getting the huge early jump over Eli Tomac here, very good. Crashing out of the lead in the whoops, not so good. You saw him trying to put in hot laps on a hyper-sketchy track, which went as well as you'd expect. Although Lawrence rallied to third, this led to a Tomac-Mookie Stewart 1-2. I thought Mookie especially looked good, making some late charges on the eventual race-winner.
Onto Heat 2, tons of key guys had some brutal starts, including but not limited to Chase Sexton, Hunter Lawrence, and Cooper Webb. The former pair specifically had brutal outings here, needing upwards of five minutes to get into transfer spots. The battle for the win was a relatively brief one between Aaron Plessinger and Ken Roczen, as the Red Bull KTM rider picked up a five-second win. Really nice run for Cooper Webb meanwhile, outside of his old KTM teammate, he looked like the fastest guy on track by a comfortable margin.
250 West Class Recap
1st - No. 57 Nate Thrasher (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
If we look back a few months from now and this ends up being the only win on Thrashers' resume, it was one hell of a victory. After those first couple of laps that Marchbanks led, it felt like a matter of when, not if, he'd get by him, and that was certainly the case. It also so happens that lap 12, the lap Thrasher made the winning pass, was his best of the evening by about a half second, so he for sure smelt blood in the water. Although still outside of the top 10 in points due to his nightmare start to the year, this slip-and-slide victory is hopefully what gets the Star Yamaha rider back on track.
2nd - No. 26 Garrett Marchbanks (Muc-Off/FXR ClubMX Yamaha)
Tweeted this out postrace, but Marchbanks had a phenomenal night, even if he couldn't seal the deal. In these last three weeks, and especially these last two, he's shown as clear as day this ClubMX team is capable of putting race-winning bikes on the gate. The fashion in which he lost will certainly sting, but the positive is he's just 10 points out of the points lead, and the second time he's ever put up back-to-back podiums (the first was Daytona SX and SLC 1 in 2020, so do with that what you will).
4th - No. 30 Jo Shimoda (Honda HRC)
It seemed like another bad night for "our" agenda was in order, but after a great save quite literally off the gate drop, Shimoda put together a great comeback ride, coming from 10th to 4th on the night. Additionally, he was also the fastest rider on average in that Main Event believe it or not. Shimoda averaged a 1:02.553, while Thrasher was just behind him averaging a 1:02.592. Simply put, the race-winning pace is there, but this is three weeks in a row where an early issue has either been a roadblock or completely unraveled his night.
5th - No. 47 Levi Kitchen (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki)
If anyone let something slip through the cracks on Saturday, it was Kitchen, who had R.J. Hampshire dead to rights with nine minutes to go and tried to rush by him with zero pressure behind him. The lap before he went down, Kitchen was a half second faster than Hampshire, making this feel all the more rushed. He had plenty of time to pass him, especially given that R.J. went down at the very end, he got by him anyway. Not saying he should've cruised behind him until a few corners to go, but this is what poor race management looks like.
250 West Class San Diego Top 10
1st No. 57 Nate Thrasher
2nd No. 26 Garrett Marchbanks
3rd. No. 31 Jordon Smith
4th No. 30 Jo Shimoda
5th No. 47 Levi Kitchen
6th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire
7th No. 55 Mitchell Oldenburg
8th No. 34 Ryder DiFrancesco
9th No. 85 Hunter Yoder
10th No. 100 Anthony Bourdon
250 West Class Points After San Diego
1st No. 31 Jordon Smith (67 Points)
2nd No. 47 Levi Kitchen (59 Points)
3rd No. 26 Garrett Marchbanks (57 Points)
4th No. 24 R.J. Hampshire (54 Points)
5th No. 55 Mitchell Oldenburg (41 Points)
6th No. 100 Anthony Bourdon (39 Points)
7th No. 30 Jo Shimoda (36 Points)
8th No. 41 Carson Mumford (36 Points)
9th No. 85 Hunter Yoder (36 Points)
10th No. 929 Julien Beaumer (33 Points)
450 Class Recap
1st - No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (Red Bull KTM)
Before we hop in, I refuse to believe I was the only one not ready to start feeling happy until AP got over that step-up tabletop before the finish. Simply refuse, I tell you, I can't take chances like that emotionally after Detroit last year. But 'we' did it! Aaron Plessinger is finally a Supercross Main Event winner, and better yet, he's the new 450-class points leader. That's one hell of a way to get on the podium for the first time of the year. AP ran as good a race as you could ask for in those conditions from start to finish, and I don't think it would've mattered if Webb had caught him or not, Plessinger wasn't getting denied again.
2nd - No. 2 Cooper Webb (Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha)
Even if he's 11 points back in the standings (entirely due to San Francisco), I think Webb is right where he should be three rounds in. I wouldn't blame him for being upset with Sexton over that contact late in the race (which I think was unintentional, for the record. I doubt Sexton is trying to make enemies this early in the year), but Webb has also been on the other end of that himself, that being Houston 3 in 2021, with Dean Wilson playing the role of Sexton, and Ken Roczen playing Webb. Bad luck aside though, I'd feel great if I were a Webb fan right now, the wins are coming and soon I'd imagine, and that's the last thing any of these title contenders want.
4th - No. 18 Jett Lawrence (Honda HRC)
While Jett's ride was spectacular last night, going from borderline dead last to fourth, I imagine all the talk with him going into A2 will be about his postrace spat with Jason Anderson. They showed the two battling inside the top five in the waning moments of the Main Event, and El Hombre was pissed about something. I will say, the visual of guys riding back to the pits and just looking back at what was happening was very funny, but I can't recall anything that Jett did that was egregious. Guessing we'll find out soon enough, but if for nothing else, this was a points salvaging masterpiece by the Jett, and hurt at that.
12th - No. 94 Ken Roczen (Progressive Ecstar HEP Suzuki)
Welp, it was going great for KRoc until it wasn't, on a night where he could have walked out with the red plate. Going down in the same section Levi Kitchen did, the dastardly kickstart reared its ugly head and cost Roczen a ton of time after the RM stalled. Between getting it fired up and his trip to the pits, that entire lap took him 2 minutes and 11 seconds. Yeah, that'll do you in every time. 12th isn't too bad in the grand scheme of things, but Roczen looked dialed in all day and into the second quarter of that Main Event.
19th - No. 27 Malcolm Stewart (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing)
I think I speak for all Mookie Stewart fans when I say get me off this ride. It's been one thing after another these last three weeks, and last night, it was some incidental contact with Chase Sexton in the opening moments of the Main Event. The speed has shown up in the Heat Races, making this all the more frustrating, but Mookie can't buy a break right now.
450 Class San Diego Top 10
1st No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
2nd No. 2 Cooper Webb
3rd No. 51 Justin Barcia
4th No. 18 Jett Lawrence
5th No. 21 Jason Anderson
6th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis
7th No. 96 Hunter Lawrence
8th No. 1 Chase Sexton
9th No. 3 Eli Tomac
10th No. 15 Dean Wilson
450 Class Point Standings after San Diego
1st No. 7 Aaron Plessinger (60 Points)
2nd No. 1 Chase Sexton (59 Points)
3rd No. 18 Jett Lawrence (56 Points)
4th No. 21 Jason Anderson (49 Points)
5th No. 2 Cooper Webb (49 Points)
6th No. 14 Dylan Ferrandis (49 Points)
7th No. 3 Eli Tomac (48 Points)
8th No. 94 Ken Roczen (42 Points)
9th No. 51 Justin Barcia (40 Points)
10th No. 111 Jorge Prado (35 Points)
San Diego Lit Kit Recipient: Robbie Wageman and Cole Thompson (Leatt)
Best Throwback Bike: MaddParts Kawasaki (Chevy Kawasaki Replicustom)
Main Image via KTM