It was an exciting start to the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, January 5. As the rain came down, any number of riders had a good shot of winning the 450SX main event, but when it was all over, it was Justin Barcia on the #51 Monster Energy Factory Racing Yamaha who prevailed.
But for a long time it looked as though #15 Dean Wilson (Rockstar Energy-backed Husqvarna/Shiftmx/Artificial Grass Liquidators/Toyota Escondido) was going to surprise the crowd and take his first 450SX win of his career. Wilson pulled the holeshot and opened up a small lead over a rejuvenated and super-fast Malcolm Stewart, and Barcia. Wilson, however, was fast too and looked smooth and in control on a track that was getting wetter and wetter by the moment while leading the way. Stewart, though, kept him honest for much of the race before falling on the 12th lap.
Barcia inherited second but was making far more small mistakes than Wilson but still managed to keep the Husqvarna rider within reach.
As the race went on, Wilson started having vision troubles while the leaders encountered lapped traffic. Barcia saw his chance and pounced, passing Wilson for the lead on the 14th lap. At the same time, Wilson threw away his goggles and started to fade. Ken Roczen eventually got by Wilson, as did Eli Tomac who passed him for third and the final podium spot on the last lap after getting off to a terrible start. A disappointed Wilson ended up fourth but still had to be happy with such a solid outing.
But Barcia was the man of the hour. “That was crazy, that’s all I can say,” Barcia said. “I got a good start and made the passes when I had to. It was incredible. This [win] is a special one in my career. It was a fantastic day.”
Roczen (Honda HRC) held on for second place. He ran in the top five for much of the race; took his time and played it cautious on the slippery track, taking advantage of Stewart’s crash then getting around Wilson who was struggling without goggles.
“I’m happy,” Roczen said. “A lot of things can go wrong in situations like this.”
Tomac wasn’t his usual super-fast self all day but finally got things to click late in the race.
“I was patient there [because] it’s so easy to get squirrely. The last six or so laps I starting feeling good. Heat racing we were a little off, so I’m happy [getting on the podium].”
Cooper Webb, who was making his Red Bull KTM Team debut, had an encouraging ride. He went down in the first turn with a couple of other riders and was 20th after the first lap, but he thrived in the difficult conditions and finished out the race in fifth, seven seconds ahead of Aaron Plessinger, who was making his 450SX-class debut.
Stewart, on the Smarttop/BullFrog Spas/Motoconcept Honda, took seventh ahead of Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM), Chad Reed (JGRMX/Yoshimura/Factory Suzuki Racing) and Cole Seely (Honda HRC).
Defending champ Jason Anderson struggled in the wet conditions. He started off in in great shape—in third—but steadily slipped back in the field to 14th place.
In the 250SX West class, it was a 1-2 finish for the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Thor/Parts Unlimited/Yamaha Team, with Colt Nichols taking the win and Dylan Ferrandis second. It was the first win of Nichols’ supercross career. The rider from Muskogee, Oklahoma, jumped into the early lead and never looked back, mastering the slick and muddy course superbly.
“This is huge, it’s what everyone dreams of, especially Anaheim 1,” Nichols said. “I had a lot of nerves but was able to hold it all together.”
Shane McElrath (Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM) gave chase early on but struggled to match Nichol’s pace and was eventually caught and passed by Ferrandis, who, at that time, had no chance of catching his teammate who was way out in front.
Nichols ultimately crossed the finish line a massive 16.389 seconds ahead of Ferrandis.
McElrath took the checkers 3.9 seconds behind the Frenchman, Ferrandis.
As the track got slicker and slicker, the pack got more spread out, with RJ Hampshire (GEICO Honda) finishing 22 seconds behind McElrath and 6.6 seconds ahead of fifth-place Adam Cianciarulo (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki).
Cianciarulo was the favorite to win after topping the 250SX qualifying and coming from behind to win his heat race. But in the main event, he over-cooked it into the first turn and went off the track and was midpack after first lap. He quickly started working his way up through the back but had a couple of crashes that held him back. He had climbed has high as fourth before his first crash, and then found himself stuck behind his new teammate Garrett Marchbanks. Cianciarulo finally got around him on the 10th lap and kept it on two wheels the rest of the way for fifth.
Marchbanks held on for sixth, followed by James Decotis (Suzuki), Jacob Hayes, Chris Blose and Jess Pettis.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series
Angel Stadium of Anaheim
RESULTS: January 5, 2019
Blake Baggett (450SX) and Adam Cianciarulo (250SX) are the top qualifiers going into tonight’s program at the opening round of the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Baggett (KTM) topped the leaderboard with a time of 54.346 seconds, edging out Dean Wilson’s 54.384 and Malcolm Wilson’s 54.471. Fourth is Justin Brayton (Honda) with a 54.698 — a somewhat surprising start to the season when you consider that the top factory-back rider, Eli Tomac, (Kawasaki) is fifth with 54.795. But it’s tight at the top with the top seven riders — Baggett, Wilson (Husqvarna), Stewart (Honda), Brayton (Honda), Tomac, defending champ Jason Anderson (Husqvarna) and Cooper Webb (KTM) — all in the 54-second range. Ken Roczen (Honda) is eighth with a 55.027. Joey Savatgy (Kawasaki) and Justin Hill (Suzuki) round out the top 10.
But the big news is that 250SX-class rider Cianciarulo had the fast lap of all with a 53.963. He’s the only rider to crack the 53-second range. However, light rain during the final 450 timed practice made the track much slicker for the riders in the premier class. Regardless, Cianciarulo was tearing up the track, posting a time that was nearly a full second quicker than the next-fastest rider Dylan Ferrandis (Yamaha).
James Decotis (Suzuki), Shane McElrath (KTM) and Colt Nichols (Yamaha) were the top five 250SX West qualifiers. RJ Hampshire (Honda), Michael Moisman (Husqvarna), Chris Blose (Husqvarna), Jacob Hayes (Yamaha) and Enzo Lopes (Suzuki) fills out the top 10.
Heavy rain is in the evening forecast, but it’s already beginning to come down as we approach the 5:00 p.m mark. The first heat race (250SX) is scheduled for 7:06 p.m. PST.