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Images from the 2019 Supercross event at Petco Park in San Diego, CA
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Monster Energy Riders Conquer the Mud in San Diego

Feb 042019

When the rain began to fall on Saturday afternoon in what is usually a sunny San Diego, it was clear that the fifth round of the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross season was going to be a wild one. A torrential downpour lasted the entirety of the afternoon and while the rain ultimately stopped in time for the races, the riders were left to navigate a tough and muddy track inside Petco Park that would wreak havoc as the night wore on and continued to deteriorate.

Often in these types of races the championship can experience a dramatic shakeup. Mud races are inherently unpredictable, and it presents the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the misfortune of others. For Monster Energy riders Eli Tomac and Adam Cianciarulo, that’s exactly what happened. A dominant, drama-free effort not only carried both riders to victory, but also vaulted them to the top of the championship standings.

The key to the triumphs of Tomac and Cianciarulo lied in the start. A clean, clear track when conditions are at their worst will certainly make or break any riders’ chances, and both emerged from the first turn in front. From there it was a matter of patience, keeping the bike on two wheels, avoiding conflict, and doing everything possible to keep the engine running as mud and water continue to fill every crevice.

Now, both riders have possession of the red plate, in control of their own destiny as the championship leaders. They were heavy favorites entering the season, and are now poised to fulfill that destiny.

450SX Class

 

The heavy rain forced the schedule to include just one practice session, and while posting a good time was still important, there was arguably a bigger emphasis on getting a sense of what the track would be like that night. In the end, Tomac ended up with the fastest time of the session aboard his Monster Energy Kawasaki. His fellow Monster Energy riders all secured a spot inside the top 10 as well, with the Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing duo of Justin Barcia and Aaron Plessinger in sixth and ninth, respectively, and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgyin 10th.

 

The first Heat Race saw Barcia and Savatgy on the gate, and they experienced different misfortunes off the start. Savatgywas in the thick of it in second, while Barcia found himself caught up in the first turn, eventually slotting into 10th. Savatgy rode steady and maintained his spot inside the top three, while Barcia was on a mission as the fastest rider on the track. At the finish, they followed each other across the line in third and fourth, respectively.

 

Heat Race 2 featured Tomac and Plessinger, with the rookie positioning himself in second off the start and Tomac in fourth. It wasn’t long before both Monster riders pushed their way to the front and were running 1-2 on the track. A persistent Tomac was able to make a last-lap pass on Plessinger to steal the win.

 

A pair of solid Heats provided ample reason for optimism from the Monster foursome, but the challenge of a lengthy, albeit shortened Main Event presented an entirely different challenge. When the gate dropped to kick off the race for the win, it was Ken Roczen who narrowly grabbed the holeshot over Tomac. However, Roczen tipped over a short time later, which opened the door for Tomac to not just take over the lead, but also push the pace to establish some distance between he and the field.

 

While Tomac led the way, Barcia was also making a run, feeling confident in conditions that were similar to those on his victorious night at the season opener. He successfully positioned himself inside the top three and was showing the same aggression that carried him to the front in the Heat Race. Unfortunately, his hopes of making an impact came to a heartbreaking end when hid bike stopped and needed to be pushed off the side of the track. 

 

Without the threat of his fellow Monster rider, Tomaccontinued to add to his lead and soon enough built an advantage that was insurmountable. A formidable mud rider in his own right, Plessinger was enjoying one of his best outings of the young season, fighting for a spot in the top five. Just a few spots behind him, Savatgy was putting up a valiant fight of his own.

 

As chaos ensued around him over the late stages of the race, Tomac was forced to give up some of the cushion he’d established, but there was never any real threat to his lead. He went on to lead all 12 laps of the Main Event to take a long-awaited first win of the 2019 season. Plessinger just missed out on his first career top-five result, but equaled his best result of sixth. Savatgy was able to climb up all the way to seventh after starting 12th, giving him the best result of his rookie campaign.

 

"Man, what can I say? Today was just insane with the weather conditions and the sloppy mud,” said Tomac. “For me, today was one of those days where I just felt on all day long. I had a few hectic moments in the Main Event, but we survived the mud, got our job done, and now we are leaving with the red plate which feels good. I am looking forward to racing back underneath a dome next week on a dry track in Minneapolis."

 

Tomac’s convincing win, combined with a bit of a tough night for entering points leader Cooper Webb, vaulted him from third to first in the championship. He now holds a four-point lead over Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen, who sit tied for second.

 

450SX Class Results

1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki

2. Marvin Musquin, KTM

3. Ken Roczen, Honda

4. Justin Bogle, KTM

5. Chad Reed, Suzuki

6. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing

7. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki

21.​Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing

 

450SX Class Standings

1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 106

2. Marvin Musquin, KTM - 102

3. Ken Roczen, Honda - 102

4. Cooper Webb, KTM - 98

7. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing - 74

8.​Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing - 66​

15.​Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 40

Western Regional 250SX Class

 

The final Western Regional race before their annual breakput an added emphasis on the San Diego round, and when combined with the adverse conditions it set the stage for a night that would have a big impact on the season.

 

The Monster Energy foursome of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammates Cianciarulo and Garrett Marchbanks, along with the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha duo of Colt Nichols and Dylan Ferrandis, all looked good in the lone practice session of the day with Ferrandis, Marchbanks, and Cianciarulo all inside the top five, with Nichols in seventh.

 

The first Heat Race featured Ferrandis and Cianciarulo, who established themselves as the dominant force. They easily seized control of the race and put on an exciting battle for the lead. Ferrandis ultimately prevailed, but it looked as though the battle for the win might come down to one of these two.

 

The second Heat Race quickly turned into a nightmare for Marchbanks who found himself on the ground in the first turn. It took him an extended amount of time to get restarted, which all but guaranteed a trip to the LCQ. Nichols, meanwhile, was engaged in a battle for the lead with RJ Hampshire. The championship leader didn’t force the issue and settled for a solid second-place result. In the LCQ, Marchbanks was able to avoid trouble and took an easy win to secure his spot in the Main Event.

 

Tensions were high when the Main Event got underway, where Cianciarulo emerged with the holeshot. Ferrandiswas right behind in third, with both Marchbanks and Nichols also inside the top 10. Cianciarulo pushed the pace as much as he could in the opening laps and it helped him put some distance between he and Ferrandis, who moved into second. The Frenchman kept his Kawasaki counterpart within reach and ended up bringing along Marchbanks, who was defying the odds given all the additional track time he endured. With his closest rivals out front, Nichols had his work cut out for him after a start deep inside the top 10. Things only got tougher when he went down and dropped to about 15th.

 

Cianciarulo withstood the early pressure from Ferrandis and inched away slightly, while the Frenchman was forced to fend off pressure from Marchbanks. After holding off an initial pass from Marchbanks, Ferrandis went down as he navigated the finish line jump. That gave the position to Marchbanks, while Ferrandis was able to get going again in third.

 

The Pro Circuit duo controlled the remainder of the race and went on to capture the first 1-2 finish for the team since the Las Vegas finale in the 2017 season. Given how eventful of a night Marchbanks had, it made the result even more improbable, but nevertheless is was a well-earned, hard-fought first ever podium for the rookie.

 

"What a night! It has been an up and down first couple weeks of racing for me, but to get the win tonight is huge,” said Cianciarulo. “It eases my mind going into the break with points lead and the red background plate, although I can't wait to see it on my KX250. I also want to give a shout out to my teammate Garrett Marchbanks on his first ever podium. It was awesome to have the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team go 1-2 tonight."

 

“Tonight is a night I will never forget. I felt good all day as I qualified in third place and I got a good jump in my heat race but then another rider took me out off the start and I wasn't able to recover,” said Marchbanks. “In the LCQ, I knew I needed to just get out front which I did. I didn't have the best gate pick so I knew I just needed to send it off the start. By Lap 2 I couldn't see out of my goggles and just ditched them, and once I was able to see I was able to make some passes into second place. I can't thank my whole team enough, it feels so good to put my Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki up on the podium!”

 

Ferrandis appeared to have third place locked up, which would have led to yet another Monster Energy sweep of the podium, but his bike stopped running on the final lap. Misfortune plagued both Star Yamaha riders, but they dug deep to both pull out top-10 finishes, with Ferrandis seventh and Nichols 10th.

 

Nichols had led the championship since his opening round win, but his worst result of the season, combined with Cianciarulo’s third victory in five races, put the Kawasaki rider on top of the standings. Cianciarulo now holds an eight-point lead over Shane McElrath, with Nichols third and Ferrandis fourth. Marchbanks’ runner-up finish moved him into the top 10 as well.

 

Western Regional 250SX Class Results

1. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki

2. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki

3. Jimmy Decotis, Suzuki

4. Shane McElrath, KTM

5. Jess Pettis, KTM

7.​Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha

10.​Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha

 

Western Regional 250SX Class Standings

1. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 114

2. Shane McElrath, KTM - 106

3. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha - 104

4. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha - 102

5. RJ Hampshire, Honda - 75

8. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 71

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