All eyes were on Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider Justin Barcia in the premier class, as the veteran racer made his triumphant and long awaited return to the top step of the podium at the Anaheim opener, earning the red plate for the first time in his career. Barcia’s journey back to the top has been incredible, but he was going to have a series of challengers looking to bounce back from less-than-stellar outings at the first race of the season.
Youngsters Justin Hill and Cooper Webb set the tone in practice and qualifying, while Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac led the way for the Monster squad in third. He and teammate Joey Savatgy each secured spots inside the top 10, with Barcia 14th and rookie teammate Aaron Plessinger in 17th.
The Heat Races offered the first glimpse of what kind of race pace the riders had on the expansive layout inside the stadium. The opening heat started on a down note after Savatgy crashed hard and was forced to sit out the rest of the night, leaving one less rider in the Monster Energy stable. In Savatgy’s absence, Barcia rode to a solid fourth-place finish. In the second heat, misfortune struck again for Kawasaki when Tomac appeared to be dealing with an issue from his rear tire. He slowly rolled through in hopes of working through the trouble and eventually was able to get back into the action, albeit at the tail end of the field. That left Plessinger to carry the torch for Monster Energy with a solid fifth-place finish, while Tomac just narrowly missed out on a transfer spot in 10th.
A trip to the LCQ is never good under any circumstance, but Tomac didn’t let it get in the way of his ultimate goal. Although he came within inches of being collected in a first-turn pileup, Tomac put the No. 3 into the lead off the start and never looked back. His sights were set on the Main Event.
When the 20-minute finale got underway, it was Ken Roczen who emerged with the lead, while Barcia and Tomac followed just outside the top 10 in sixth and seventh. The Monster Energy duo showed patience in the early going and kept the top five within reach until the red flag was flown and brought the action to halt. A big crash by Malcolm Stewart necessitated the stoppage of the race and resulted in a rare single-file restart just over five minutes into the race.
With the field lined up mere inches apart from one another, it opens the door for some quick and aggressive moves to take place, which is exactly what happened at the front of the field, ultimately changing the complexion of the race. Looking to challenge Roczen for the lead, defending champion Jason Anderson was perhaps a little too aggressive and forced the issue, initiating contact between the two riders that left Roczen on the ground losing valuable positions. When he remounted, Roczen found himself right in front of Tomac and Barcia, and this trio would use that to their advantage over the remainder of the Main Event.
Anderson’s lead continued to shrink to a hard-charging Blake Baggett, and soon enough Roczen found his way back into podium position in third, with Tomac right behind in fourth. Barcia settled solidly into sixth.
A late pass by Baggett helped him break through for the first win of his career, while Tomac led the way for Monster Energy just off the podium in fourth. Barcia followed in sixth with Plessinger in 11th.
“I was feeling confident coming into the weekend and felt good in qualifying. The track was massive and different from most of the tracks in the series,” said Tomac. “It’s never ideal to have to go to the LCQ, but we got it one and stayed focused on the Main Event. We’ll be focusing on our starts this week and look to apply that practice to the race next weekend. We’re still third in points and in a really good position, so we’ll come out swinging for the second go-around in Anaheim.”
Barcia’s narrow miss on a top-five result dropped him to second in the championship standings, but he is just one point shy of reclaiming the lead. Tomac is much further behind in third, just four points out of the lead.
450SX Class Results
1. Blake Baggett, KTM
2. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna
3. Ken Roczen, Honda
4. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki
5. Marvin Musquin, KTM
6. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing
11. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing
DNS Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki
450SX Class Standings
1. Ken Roczen, Honda - 44
2. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing - 43
3. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 40
4. Blake Baggett, KTM - 37
5. Dean Wilson, Husqvarna - 34
9. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing - 29
20. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 7
Western Regional 250SX Class
Following his impressive breakthrough win in Anaheim, Colt Nichols carried all the momentum into State Farm Stadium and held the red plate for the first time in his career. The Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider would be faced with pressure unlike he’d ever experienced before, but it didn’t seem to faze him. At the conclusion of timed practice, the Monster Energy trio of Dylan Ferrandis, Cianciarulo, and Nichols occupied the top three spots. It looked like it was going to be a good night for the Monster Energy squad.
When the Heat Races unfolded, both Nichols and Cianciarulo were in a class of their own. They showed tremendous poise, and easily controlled their respective races to take easy wins and give themselves the best two gate picks for the Main Event.
As the gate dropped on the Main Event both Cianciarulo and Nichols grabbed awesome starts and pulled ahead down the longest start straight of the season. As the field stormed into the first turn, Cianciarulo was able to grab the holeshot and open an early lead. Nichols emerged in third, with Ferrandis in fifth, but the Frenchman came on strong and moved around his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha teammate into third. Unfortunately, as he looked to track down second Ferrandis made a mistake that forced him to the ground, from which he remounted in 15th right behind Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rookie Garrett Marchbanks.
The clear track is all the advantage Cianciarulo needed. He was on rails and enjoyed more than a second lead after just one lap. That advantage would only continue to grow as the 15 minute Main Event continued. As he checked out, Nichols was steadily mounting his challenge for second. While he briefly dropped out of a podium spot, it proved to be the moment that rejuvenated the points leaders’ race. He reclaimed third and settled into a rhythm that would carry him up to second. With just over six minutes remaining in the race, Nichols made his move to grab the runner-up spot. While it was too late to do much with the nine-second lead Cianciarulo had built, it put Monster Energy 1-2 for the second consecutive weekend.
Cianciarulo led every moment of the Main Event to capture his seventh career win, taking the checkered flag 9.5 seconds ahead of Nichols. Behind them, Ferrandis capped off an exceptional come-from-behind with a sixth-place finish while Marchbanks helped put all four Monster Energy riders into the top 10 for the second week in a row with a ninth-place effort.
Nichols’ runner-up finish helped him hold on to the championship points lead, where he and Cianciarulo are now separated by five points.
Western Regional 250SX Class Results
1. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
2. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha
3. Shane McElrath, KTM
4. RJ Hampshire, Honda
5. Jimmy Decotis, Suzuki
6. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha
9. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Western Regional 250SX Class Standings
1. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha - 49
2. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 44
3. Shane McElrath, KTM - 42
4. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha - 40
5. RJ Hampshire, Honda - 38
7. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 31