For months, riders, teams, and fans have been chomping at the bit for racing to resume, but admittedly, it felt like a long shot, and potentially even an impossibility at times. As each state battled through its own issues with COVID-19 and events across the country were canceled en masse, the likelihood of finding a venue that could host upwards of 1,000 members of the supercross industry seemed like an insurmountable obstacle.
However, as the pandemic appeared to reach its peak in many places, leading to a plateau or downward trend, optimism took hold. There was a window of opportunity, and Feld Entertainment, organizers of Monster Energy Supercross, would need to pounce on any potential option. As a result, the series committed to completing the season before the end of June. Working in cooperation with MX Sports Pro Racing, organizers of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, a window was put in place to try and get the final seven rounds in. From there, Feld executives went to work on trying to locate a venue. For weeks, series personnel have looked at options like Las Vegas, Houston, Phoenix, and most recently St. Louis as potential host cities, but none of them panned out. However, thanks to the unwavering support of the Utah Sports Commission, Salt Lake City stepped up when the sport needed it most. The original site of the season finale will once again bring the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross season to a close, which almost seems fitting given how upended this year has been so far.
Now, the thrilling season-long battle and longstanding rivalry between Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen will continue to a proper conclusion. These two riders have really been the class of the 450SX Class field for most of the season, and it’s very likely that one of them is going to emerge with his first FIM World Championship on June 21.
Following an incredible come-from-behind victory at Daytona, Tomac reclaimed sole possession of the championship point lead and will carry the red number plate into the first race at Salt Lake City on May 31. The downtime since Daytona will serve as a major equalizer in how things play out, as every rider has been able to take full advantage of getting healthy, including the likes of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo, who suffered a broken collarbone, and defending series champion Cooper Webb, who was battling through a massive hematoma in his lower back. Virtually everyone will come into SLC at 100 percent, which just adds to the challenge that both Tomac and Roczen face as they look to chase down the championship.
Historically, Tomac has been somewhat of a slow starter in Monster Energy Supercross, building momentum as the season wears on. That trend continued this season, but Tomac appeared to be nearing his peak at Daytona. On the flip side, Roczen has always come out of the gates with fire, and he’s tended to struggle to maintain that momentum as the season has gone on. While he had certainly lessened the severity of that this season, it was clear that he was going to need to chase down Tomac over those final seven races. Now that everyone is coming in feeling refreshed, it’s a bit of a clean slate, and it will be interesting to see if those trends that Tomac and Roczen have exhibited in the past will present themselves under this unique scenario.
Over in the 250SX Class, Monster Energy is all but destined to wrap up at least one of the two regional titles. Out west, the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing duo of Dylan Ferrandis and Justin Cooper, along with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner, have controlled every round. These three riders have been in a class of their own, with a total of 13 points sitting between them. Prior to their midseason break all the way back in February, Ferrandis had stepped up his effort to successfully defend his West Region crown, but a growing bitterness between he and Forkner was simmering under all their pleasantries. With just four races remaining, Forkner will really need to step up if he hopes to erase his double-digit deficit. Should Forkner win each of the final four rounds, he would at least erase 12 of the 13 points separating him from Ferrandis. This is where Cooper’s role in the title fight becomes interesting. With one win to his credit, Cooper sits seven points behind his teammate, and there’s no reason to believe team tactics are in play with a pair of riders up for the title. Cooper is arguably the most consistent of three riders, with the lack of wins proving to be the difference maker thus far. It sets the stage for an exciting finish to the championship battle in the West Region.
Over in the east, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing’s Shane McElrath remains within striking distance of capturing his first career title, 10 points behind Chase Sexton. McElrath appeared to be increasingly frustrated with his inability to capture more wins prior to the break, but the time off should serve him well. With five rounds remaining, there’s still plenty of time for McElrath to make a move, and he’ll certainly put all the pressure on Sexton, who’s hoping to repeat as East Region Champion. Beyond this pair, a rider to keep an eye on will be Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Garrett Marchbanks. The sophomore rider broke through for his first career victory at Daytona, and did so in dominant fashion. Confidence is riding high for the youngster, regardless of the downtime, and it will be interesting to see if he can continue to make inroads on his 19-point deficit to Sexton.
With seven races in 22 days, we’ll be captivated to see how the remainder of the 2020 Monster Enegry Supercross season unfolds. In the midst of the most unique situation in series history, it’s anyone’s guess as to how this jam-packed schedule will impact the action out on the track. One thing is for sure, it’s going to be awesome, and it’s just what the world needs as we continue to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
450SX Class Standings (After 10 of 17 Rounds)
1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 226
2. Ken Roczen, Honda - 223
3. Cooper Webb - 197
4. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing - 195
10. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 128
11. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing - 125
Western Regional 250SX Class Standings (After 6 of 10 Rounds)
1. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing - 135
2. Justin Cooper, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing - 128
3. Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 122
20. Cameron McAdoo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 27
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Standings (After 4 of 9 Rounds)
1. Chase Sexton, Honda - 98
2. Shane McElrath, Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing - 88
3. RJ Hampshire, Husqvarna - 80
4. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 79
8. Jordon Smith, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 48