It’s time for the big one, ladies and gentlemen. Round eight of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross Championships lands in Atlanta, Georgia, for the biggest race of the year in American supercross. Whether it’s the huge racing demographic in the South, or the fact that this is one of only two races in the region, the Georgia Dome consistently hosts between 60-70,000 rabid fans. With Anaheim 1 being the lone exception, no other race carries as much juice for opening ceremonies and throughout the night of competition. Consider the creative track design and the championship picture beginning to focus in the 450 class, (halfway through the main is the halfway mark of the season) and we have a feeling we are in for one of those nights.
If we go back a year ago to this event, we saw Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart capture his first and only supercross victory of the season. I was there to witness it, and after also watching Stewart win last weekend in Arlington, I believe we are seeing a faster, smoother #7. After two consecutive wins, which saw him lead the majority of the laps, he is the guy right now, but still trails Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto by 14 points.
The red flag here is that Villopoto has 14 more points at this mark in the season than he did last year. Villopoto is still in command. That said, Ryan has yet to have a “mulligan” thus far in the series, and we all remember what happened to James at the opener.
At the Monster Energy Cup these two seriously went to town, and I believe the stage has been set at the ultimate time. No more dry-slick dirt. We will see berm fanning abandon this Saturday night and these two giants are masters of the art.
We have completed seven rounds in the series and Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen is still very much in the thick of things. There have been a few events this year where things could have gone the other way and the German could only be six points out (or fewer) instead of 12. Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Barcia was the culprit on a couple occasions and we have a bona fide rivalry on our hands. That said, I believe Roczen being a rookie played just as much of a role in coming out on the losing end of both situations. If you leave the door open, or hit a jump side-by-side with “Bam Bam” you will suffer the consequences. There have been racers like Barcia throughout motocross history, and rough, dangerous or whatever you want to call it—racing is part of the game.
As we draw close to Atlanta, Roczen is still learning and Barcia is beginning to come on strong. It’s a funny thing about racing and rivalries; more often than not you will find yourself next to that person on the track. Hopefully these guys start at the front and we get to see a good, clean show.
One of the burning questions coming into the event in my opinion is: “When is Ryan Dungey going to win?” The Red Bull KTM veteran has led laps, been in contention and he pulled the holeshot to finished second his last time out. In some quick history, Dungey won this event on a Suzuki in 2010, then on a KTM in 2012 over Villopoto and Stewart. As far as predictions go, I think we will see the big #5 make one of his strongest impressions of the year this weekend. Also, do not count out JGR Toyota Yamaha’s Justin Brayton, who continues to lurk in the top five.
Discount Tire/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed is now out with injury, and we’ll see Dean Wilson in his spot soon, but not this weekend—Indy is more likely.
The 250 East is underway and the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit team produced a strapping sweep of the podium to open up the series. The team collectively has won three straight 250cc main events dating back to Anaheim 3, and while the West title may be lost, things sure seem peachy in this side of the division. Adam Cianciarulo is bigger, faster and stronger than he was last summer and impressed me from the opening practice session all the way to his interview in victory lane.
A side story I wanted to share was that in 2003 I saw his Mom at a laundromat outside of Mosier Valley, Texas, where I raced the Vet class at the GNC Finals. We were just washing red-stained riding gear and had a small conversation. Eleven years later, I saw her at the team hauler after Adam’s win last Saturday night and congratulated her. I was very surprised she remembered our encounter so many years, and amateur championships, ago. It was another one of the cool rewarding things I love about staying around this sport for as long as I have been able to.
Behind the PC trio of AC, Blake Baggett and Martin Davalos, there is a lot of open space. Virtually everyone else seemed to struggle at the opener and the biggest surprises to me were Gavin Faith and Anthony Rodriquez. It will be exciting to see if they can keep it on two wheels and race in the top five again. I think we’ll see Justin Bogle and Blake Wharton race much stronger on the softer dirt, while the third member of their team, Matt Bisceglia will look to rebound from his 19th in his SX debut. Jeremy Martin has some making up to do for his Yamaha Star Racing team after missing the main last weekend. As the old saying in racing goes, “Winning cures all.”
The city of Atlanta has hosted some of the greatest races of all-time. From the 1989 and ‘90 barnburners at Fulton County Stadium to the infamous “pick-up pass” between Reed and Stewart in 2011 inside the Georgia Dome, the “ATL” is where the action is. The vibe at the event is special and you can see the look of excitement on the thousands of faces that pack the indoor pit area. They all arrive with their shoulders back for the battle of Atlanta, and maybe it’s time for another classic?
I’ll tell you what else it is time for—traction! Not since Oakland have we seen some ruts that the racers can plant themselves into and let it really rip. I believe this is the best track design we have seen all year and the stage is set for this race to be a banger! Huge crowds have been the theme in 2014, but this time the cacophony of almost 70,000 die-hard fans will rock when they hit the lights for rider intros. It gives me chicken skin just typing it.
Can Stewart begin a streak, or will Villopoto remind folks why he is the points leader? Will Dungey become the fifth different winner of the series, and what noise may be made of Roczen vs. Bam Bam? The racers are as pumped up as the fans for this one, and you can feel the anticipation building throughout the industry. Time for the Atlanta Supercross.
Thanks for reading, see you at the races.
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