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Justin Barcia at the first stop in Anaheim of the 2019 Supercross season

Supercross Anaheim Stop 1 Recap

Jan 072019

No race on the Monster Energy Supercross schedule carries as much pressure and anticipation as the season opening race in Anaheim. The countless hours in the gym and on the track, logging lap after lap, essentially boils down to one race. Who is the best prepared? Who is going to make the first statement? What will this race mean for the season as a whole? The questions, and unknown answers, are seemingly endless, all anxiously waiting for that first gate drop.

While in the big picture of the championship Anaheim 1 is just another race, it’s hard not to get caught up in the energy and overwhelming sense of opportunity that accompanies the opening round. As arguably the most iconic race in the sport, Anaheim 1 isn’t necessarily a place where a rider can win a championship, but it is most certainly where he can lose one. That’s without a doubt the one trap each and every rider needs to try and avoid, although that is sometimes easier said than done.

Historically, the external factors around the event have led to some of the most memorable and unpredictable outcomes, which only fuels the intrigue of the race. Last Saturday night, the scene was set yet again for a wild pair of Main Events as Mother Nature took matters into her own hands, just in time for the most important races of the evening. When all was said and done, through the chaos of the official start of the 2019 racing season, Monster Energy stood atop the podium with a sweep of both the 450SX Class and 250SX Class wins from a resurgent Justin Barcia and perennial underdog Colt Nichols.

For Barcia, it was the latest accomplishment in what has been a total return to stardom and rejuvenation of his career. For Nichols, it was the realization of years of potential, finally overcoming all the ups and downs that have been littered with both injuries and bright spots. Now, both riders sit in control of their own destiny atop the championship standings of Monster Energy Supercross, effectively seizing the moment on the sport’s biggest stage.

450SX Class


Barcia showed he was ready to do battle aboard his Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing machine as soon as the day got underway inside Angel Stadium. He positioned himself near the top of the time sheets in the first couple practice sessions, but struggled to get a completely clean lap in the final session, which landed him ninth. Monster Energy entered the night show with all but one of its riders inside the top 10, with Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac leading the way in fifth, followed by Barcia, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy (10th), and Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Aaron Plessinger (16th).


The first Heat Race featured rookies Plessinger and Savatgy and both riders were solidly in the top five early on. Plessinger was impressive in moving forward while Savatgy was forced to deal with a brief bit of misfortune that cost him some spots, but still kept him in transfer position. When the first checkered flag of the season flew, Plessinger and Savatgy transferred out of their inaugural race in the premier division with third and eighth-place finishes, respectively.


A loaded second Heat Race provided the first glimpse of what was to come for Barcia. After getting a strong start, he quickly moved into the lead and set sail. Tomac found himself caught up in the jostle for position out of the first turn and was forced to settle deep in the top 10. Barcia was untouched out front and easily took the win, while Tomac showed patience and worked his way up to fifth.


As soon as the Main Event rolled around a steady rain was falling. While the track was in good condition, it would inevitably become increasingly treacherous as the race wore on. Minimizing mistakes would be at a premium, but the start was going to make or break the hopes of any rider. When the gate dropped on the 22-rider field, it was Dean Wilson who emerged with the early lead. Barcia was the best of the Monster Energy foursome, slotting himself into fourth just behind defending champ Jason Anderson with Plessinger not far behind in fifth. The Kawasaki duo of Tomac and Savatgy both had their work cut out for them, with Tomac starting 10th and Savatgy all the way back in 19th.


Barcia made quick work of Anderson to break into podium position and set his sights on Malcolm Stewart in second. While Barcia was clearly the faster rider, the rain made it difficult to go outside the preferred line and to push the pace. A lengthy 20 minute Main Event, in addition to lap times that were pushing between 10-20 seconds slower than practice, meant Barcia could bide his time and methodically work his way forward. He kept Stewart within striking distance and when Mookie tipped over in pursuit of the lead, Barcia was there for the taking. He moved into second and had just over a second separating he and Wilson, with a slew of lappers awaiting them.


While Barcia built his charge for the lead, Plessinger and Tomac were hanging tough as well. Both riders were in a hotly contested battle for a spot in the top five, showing impressive comfort in the treacherous conditions. After a less than ideal start Tomac appeared to be on a mission, and it looked like he was destined to make a challenge for the podium.


After stalking Wilson for several laps, the door opened for Barcia on Lap 14, with about five minutes remaining. Lapped riders brought the two close as Wilson was forced to make the first move on the unwitting riders and when the leader made a poor line choice to get around Blake Baggett it provided the chance for Barcia to use a surge of aggressiveness and seize the moment. He put his Yamaha into the lead and never looked back. 


Barcia entered Anaheim 1 in the midst of a 55-race winless drought that dated all the way back to 2013, but on this night he was vintage Bam Bam. He looked poised and confident, and it carried him to an unlikely-yet-impressive victory. For Tomac, he successfully erased the Anaheim 1 demons that have seemed to haunt him for years with a resilient ride that carried him onto the podium after a last-lap pass on Wilson, which put a pair of Monster Energy riders on the box. Plessinger’s 450SX Class debut resulted in a solid sixth-place finish, while Savatgy endured through an up and down race to finish 16th.


450SX Class Results

1. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing

2. Ken Roczen, Honda

3. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki

4. Dean Wilson, Husqvarna

5. Cooper Webb, KTM

6. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing

16. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki


450SX Class Standings

1. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing - 26

2. Ken Roczen, Honda - 23

3. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 21

4. Dean Wilson, Husqvarna - 19

5. Cooper Webb, KTM - 18

6. Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing - 17

16. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy Kawasaki - 7

Western Regional 250SX Class


Typically the West Region opener is wide open, but this year it was clear that both Monster Energy-backed squads at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha were heavy favorites thanks to the likes of Adam Cianciarulo, Dylan Ferrandis, and Nichols. All three of these riders were no strangers to running up front, and one would be hard pressed to think the championship won’t come down to one of them.


This has been considered the year that Cianciarulo finally shows the racing world what we’ve known all along, given that he’s fully healthy for the first time since his rookie season. He wasted little time in proving everyone right by consistently posting the fastest times in practice, concluding the afternoon sessions with the top time by nearly a full second over Ferrandis in second. Nichols posted the fifth-quickest time, while rookie Garrett Marchbanks was 13th for the Pro Circuit squad.


Ferrandis was the lone Monster Energy rider in the first Heat Race and adversity struck quickly when he got caught up in the chaos of the first turn and completed the opening lap in 14th. The savvy Frenchman wasn’t deterred and he easily rebounded to fight all the way back to fifth at the end.


The second Heat Race showed that Cianciarulo himself expects to be the torchbearer in the West Region. He put himself in the lead, but gave it up with a spectacular save. From there, he aggressively looked to recover and despite some more small mistakes he successfully reclaimed the lead and cruised to the win. Nichols followed in second, while Marchbanks finished in a solid sixth in his first official supercross race.


The skies opened up just before the start of the Main Event, and while the rain was persistent, the track was going to be in the best possible shape for the 15-minute battle. Much like his Heat Race, Cianciarulo was poised to seize control and run away with it, but contact pushed him off the side of the track and back in 12th. That handed the lead over to Nichols, who took full advantage of the opportunity and easily opened a gap on the field. It was the last any of his rivals would see of the No. 39, while both Ferrandis and Marchbanks were both looked to make the most of their solid starts in fourth and seventh, respectively.


With Nichols in full control of the race all eyes shifted to Cianciarulo to see if he could successfully claw his way back into the mix. To no ones surprise he did just that and soon found himself in the top five, hot on Ferrandis’ rear fender. At this point in the race all four Monster Energy riders sat inside the top six, and they would remain there for the rest of the Main Event.


Ferrandis followed the lead of his teammate and moved into podium position on Lap 5, which put RJ Hampshire into the clutches of a hard-charging Cianciarulo. The Kawasaki rider made and aggressive pass to take control of fourth, but Hampshire returned the favor and put the No. 92 on the ground, which dropped Cianciarulo from fourth to sixth behind his rookie teammate.


Nichols enjoyed a stress free Main Event and looked like a rider who had been there before. He was on rails for the entirety of the race and never showed even the slightest sense of nervousness while chasing the biggest win of his entire career. As he soldiered on to a truly dominant wire-to-wire win, Ferrandis was made a move on Shane McElrath for second in the closing minutes to make it a Star 1-2.


Nichols captured his first supercross win in style, by more than 16 seconds over Ferrandis. Cianciarulo successfully got around Marchbanks to salvage a top five.


Western Regional 250SX Class Results

1. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha

2. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha

3. Shane McElrath, KTM

4. RJ Hampshire, Honda

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

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


Western Regional 250SX Class Standings

1. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha - 26

2. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha - 23

3. Shane McElrath, KTM - 21

4. RJ Hampshire, Honda - 19

5. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 18

6. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki - 17