Before a sell-out crowd of 45,050 rabidly enthusiastic So. Cal supercross race fans, Team Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing riderJustin Barcia motored to an excellent opening night performance in the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series, racing to third position in the 450Sx main event, his best supercross in years—and the first Anaheim 1 he’d made without injury since 2015.
“When I got the call from Yamaha it was exciting but I was also scary because I’ve struggled with the Yamaha in the past,” said Barcia afterwards in the pit area. “But they did a good job on the new bike. People have a hard time believing that coming into the season, like “Oh, you didn’t like the Yamaha." It wasn’t like I didn’t like it, I just struggled, I didn’t adapt, I had a lot of injuries and I couldn’t get comfortable. I felt like I had a solid month and a half on this bike just rebuilding. Getting comfortable, getting the speed back up. It was good at the test track because I got to ride with Cooper [Webb, teammate] and the Star Yamaha guys. We don’t have the Aldon Baker training facility but we do have our little Yamaha test track, and it’s good.”
In 250SX West Region main event action it Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger starting off his 2018 season in fine form, the Ohio-based racer placing a hard charging second overall and making a spirited late race charge to nearly catch race winner Shane McElrath on the last lap.
“This is a big year and the West Coast has a lot of competition," said Plessinger in the post-race press conference. "I definitely felt Adam, Cianciarulo behind me the entire race as he was there right there, but I just stayed consistent and kept my eyes forward. I didn’t look back and got second.”
Team Monster Energy Kawasaki converged on the 2018 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, season opener Saturday night at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California. Starting off the night program in excellent form, Eli Tomac qualified right into the 450SX main event with a great run in Heat 1 with a second place finish. Shortly thereafter, Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Josh Grant qualified seventh in heat number Heat 2. With the enthusiastic crowd on its feet, Angel Stadium roared in collective approval as the starting gate slammed into the ground to launch the first 450SX Main Event of the season. With a great leap out of the hole, Eli Tomac railed out of the first turn with the holeshot and took off like a scalded cat to build a large five-second lead. However, on lap number, Tomac was tripped up over a rolling jump and hit the dirt hard. Banged up and his bike out of sorts, Tomac rolled off the track, his race run. Meanwhile, Tomac's teammate Grant started in 13th place and pushed hard to guide his KX™450F into a strong ninth place finish.
“We started the day off great,” said Tomac back in the pits, nursing a sore shoulder. “I felt really strong on the bike all day and I had a good heat race, which put us in a great spot for the main event. The main didn’t end how we wanted it to, but this is only one race in a long season.”
Added Top 10 finisher Grant, “I have to give it up to the team for their hard work today. We struggled a bit in qualifying today and I didn’t have the intensity in the opening laps I needed. I’m happy to get through Anaheim 1 safe and with some points, which I’m grateful for. I’m looking forward to Houston.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki and the team's potent KX250Fs ran quite well on Saturday night with both Adam Cianciarulo andJoey Savatgy qualifying second out of their respective 250SX heat races. When it came time for the gate to drop on the 250SX Main Event, Cianciarulo rounded Turn 1 inside the top-5 with Savatgy in eighth place. Cianciarulo quickly passed his way up into third on Lap 8 and he would control the position until the checkered flag, placing his KX™250F on the podium. Savatgy would also make his way forward to finish fourth behind his teammate.
“Today was great,” said Cianciarulo. “I felt the best I ever have coming into today’s race. To leave here on the box feels good. I’ve been working hard on my strength and stamina and I know I’ve got what it takes to win. Let’s keep it rolling into Houston.”
Said Savatgy after all was said and done, “Not a great finish today, but not horrible either,” said Savatgy. “I felt pretty good all day and I knew I had the speed. I felt the track conditions held me back tonight, but we’ll look to rebound next week.”