2018 Motocross of Nations: News

Stat Sheet: Broken Down

Facts to take into account

· 13 min read

Statistics are a major part of any professional sport, no matter what time of year it is. That fact inspired this feature, which focusses on the upcoming Monster Energy Supercross series and has something to match the first twenty-two numbers. Why twenty-two? There will be that many riders on the starting line in the main events all season. There are some complex statistics and then some simpler thoughts along the way in this, but plenty to ponder ahead of the season opener this weekend.

1 is for Ryan Dungey. Although Ryan Dungey will not be on the starting line at any point in the upcoming Monster Energy Supercross series, there is no doubt that his name will crop up in conversations frequently. Dungey, a four-time champion in the 450SX division, exited the sport on top and has left a gaping hole, as he did so much in the mainstream media and attracted a substantial amount of attention. Who is next in line? Thanks to Ryan Dungey, you’ll undoubtedly hear that a lot as the season progresses. The great thing is that we will have an answer soon enough!

The door is wide open for another rider to take a number one plate (KTM Images/Simon Cudby)

2 is for Cooper Webb. There were many ways to go with this number, but a lot of attention will be on Cooper Webb when the lights flicker on at Angel Stadium. Webb was a stand-out star in 250SX, but endured a mediocre maiden campaign in the 450SX division. Armed with the new YZ450F, as well as some additional experience at the highest level, it is time for him to either sink or swim. There is no doubt that he could follow in the footsteps of many former champions and steal main event wins, but that is quite a leap from where he was a year ago.

3 is for Eli Tomac. It has to be! Although Eli Tomac is fairly reserved when it comes to social media, he has become a polarising character. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider won nine main events last season and led one hundred and eighty laps, so it would be wise to bet on him. There were points where he just struggled to put it together, however, and most struggle to overlook that. Tomac was twenty-five points down on the series leader after just three rounds, so it will be intriguing to see if he encounters such a bumpy start when the series fires into life this weekend.

The statistics say that Eli Tomac is a clear favourite for the 450SX title (Monster Energy Media/Octopi)

4 is for Eli Tomac. This time we are focussing on his average starting position though, which was the best in the 450SX class. A common theory is that Tomac struggles to get out of the gate, but for whatever reason that was not an issue last year. It is worth noting that these figures are generated from the positions that the riders occupy at the end of the opening lap and Tomac often wasted no time to slice through the pack at an alarming rate. Confidence contributes to that, of course, as we saw exactly the same thing happen with Ryan Dungey the previous year. 

5 is for Jason Anderson. The average finish that he had across seventeen 450SX rounds last year is what this point is all about. Fifth may not seem overly impressive and that is hardly surprising, as his campaign arguably had less flashes of brilliance than the year before. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider still had a better average finish than his training partner, Marvin Musquin, who is also expected to contend for the title this year. Consistency is key in a title chase, so it would be beneficial if Anderson can have the edge in this category again.

There is no doubt that Jason Anderson has the speed to win (Husqvarna Motorcycles/Simon Cudby)

6 is for Jeremy Martin. There will be many storylines to follow at the opening round of Monster Energy Supercross, but plenty of eyeballs will wander across to the CRF450RW that Jeremy Martin will pilot. Martin, a 250SX East contender, is set to compete in the premier division at the first three rounds and may just crack the top ten. That may not seem like too big a deal, but the field is going to be stacked at that point in the season. Remember that his best main-event finish in 250SX West last year was a sixth too.

7 is for James Stewart. Come on, it had to be done. After all, this is still his number. Stewart wrote to the AMA at the end of last year to confirm that he intended to race in the not-so-distant future and would need to retain the number seven in order to do so. The AMA granted his wish, just as one would expect, but we are no closer to finding out whether Stewart has any plans to take to a starting line. It is rather unlikely that he'll take to a track in anger again, based on recent events and his lack of presence within the media.

The same questions will continue to be asked, unfortunately (Red Bull Content Pool/Garth Milan)

8 is for Blake Baggett. Blake Baggett had an average finish of eighth across the seventeen rounds that were run last year, which is about right. There were some great showings, such as a third in Atlanta, but then some disastrous ones to counteract that. Eighth was actually the average starting position that he had too, so he fits this slot perfectly. Baggett was all over the map through the first six rounds, as he attempted to find a way to harness his raw speed, so it will be interesting to see where he ends up if he can avoid those poor showings this season. A top-five finish is easily achievable, but could he go even further?

9 is for former winners. If everything goes as planned, it is likely that there will be nine former 450SX main event winners on the starting line. Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin, Jason Anderson, Cole Seely, Davi Millsaps, Chad Reed, Josh Grant, Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen should all be on the starting line and set to duke it out at one point or another. That number would be even higher, had Ryan Dungey and Trey Canard not retired in the last twelve months. James Stewart is obviously the ultimate wildcard too and could push this figure to ten. It would be rather foolish to expect him to be at Anaheim 1 though, as mentioned above.

Most forget that Josh Grant is a former 450SX main event winner (Monster Energy Media/Octopi)

10 is for Honda HRC. The Honda HRC team are entering the Monster Energy Supercross series with a formidable duo and will hope that is enough to increase their win total. Bad luck has struck the Japanese manufacturer in recent years, you see, as they have acquired just ten wins in the last five years. Justin Barcia, Trey Canard, Eli Tomac (on a GEICO Honda) and Ken Roczen contributed to that total. If Roczen is at one hundred percent, which it seems he is, there is no doubt that he could even double that number across the next seventeen events. There will undoubtedly be a ton of attention on the red awning.

11 is for Ken Roczen. Although there are plenty of heavy hitters in the 450SX class, the title contenders do not have too many 450SX main event wins. Chad Reed has obviously won a ton, forty-four to be exact, but that is more than the rest of the riders in the class combined! Ken Roczen is in the top three with eleven, hence him being placed here, and could easily end the season with around seventeen victories to his name in total. There are still huge question marks regarding the injury that he sustained twelve months ago, of course, but at least those will be answered by this time next week.

Ken Roczen will strive to finally put Honda HRC back on top (Honda Racing Corporation)

12 is for Dean Wilson. Moving to the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team solved a lot of problems for Dean Wilson. Good starts continued to elude him, however, as a twelfth was his average-starting position. There is no denying the fact that he was capable of more during the season, as he proved that he could run comfortably inside of the top five at races in Arlington and Las Vegas. Wilson has seemingly made huge strides this off-season and that should mean that he’ll be contending for podium spots at points. Will starts continue to be an issue though?

13 is for Justin Barcia. It is rather insane to think that thirteenth was the average finish that Justin Barcia had last season, but then that is the level that he has fallen to. There is no doubt that he’ll have to drastically improve on that with the Monster Energy Knich Yamaha Factory Racing team this season, as most view this as his final chance to prove that he can enjoy success on the bigger bike. A ninth was the strongest finish that he managed to acquire in the eleven rounds that he competed in a season ago. That is not what he expects at all, even with the injury that he dealt with to begin with.

14 is for Cole Seely. Most tipped Cole Seely for brilliant things ahead of the last Monster Energy Supercross season. Although he enjoyed a consistent term, there were no amazing rides that caused him to dominate headlines. Two podium finishes were achieved through the first thirteen rounds, for instance, and then he dropped out with a hand injury. Consistency was his strength before that hiccup, which is worth acknowledging, but there is no denying the fact that he is capable of claiming multiple wins. If he does not stand atop the podium at least once this year, there is no doubt that he’ll label the campaign disappointing.

Cole Seely has a single 450SX main event win to his name (Honda Racing Corporation)

15 is for Chad Reed. Did you know that Chad Reed has now completed fifteen seasons in the premier class? Reed has represented four manufacturers through that time and will add a fifth to the list at Anaheim 1 this weekend, as he’ll be on a privateer Husqvarna. Reed is going at it alone yet again, following a difficult season with the Yamaha Factory Racing outfit, and is quite far behind the eight ball. Following an injury at Red Bull Straight Rhythm, he was only cleared to ride just a couple of weeks ago and really has not had much of a chance to moto down aboard his new steed.

16 is for Suzuki wins. Suzuki have enjoyed a fair amount of success in Monster Energy Supercross, but have hit a bit of a dry run recently. Some of the biggest names in the sport have piloted their RM-Z450 in the last seven years, like James Stewart and Ken Roczen, and delivered sixteen victories in total. Those two claimed thirteen of those wins, then Davi Millsaps had two in 2013 and Ryan Dungey nabbed one in 2011 too. After losing both Ken Roczen and James Stewart at the start of last year, they failed to acquire a single win a year ago and now face a similar situation this season. Weston Peick and Justin Bogle are their brightest stars.

17 is for seventeen. The number seventeen holds a special place in the hearts of some riders, as it often equals success. A rider with that specific number has won a 250SX title five times in the last seven years. There was Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, Jason Anderson and then Cooper Webb! Webb ran number one whilst en route to his second title, of course, but seventeen still belonged to him. Joey Savatgy ran the number last year and just missed out on the 250SX East title, so will he be able to join that group this year? There is no doubt that he is due.

Joey Savatgy is a favourite in 250SX, no matter what coast he is on (Monster Energy Media/Octopi)

18 is for Davi Millsaps. A former winner at Anaheim 1 and a major question mark. Davi Millsaps picked up a great ride with the Monster Energy Knich Yamaha Factory Racing team, but crashed at the test track soon after and sustained some rather serious injuries. A broken elbow and severe concussion have stopped him from piloting his YZ450F for three months now and, according to our correspondent in the United States, it seems there is a chance that he may not return to racing at all. That is just speculation at this stage, but the former winner of Anaheim 1 will certainly not be on the starting line for a little while.

19 is for average points. After trawling through the series standings from the last ten years, it became apparent that the worst average points haul that an eventual champion has had is nineteen. Ryan Villopoto had that when he claimed his second 450SX title and missed the final two rounds with a torn ACL. Consistency is an important part of any title run and, as a result of that, it seems that stringing together a run that gives you an average points haul similar to this would get the job done. However, it is worth noting that Eli Tomac acquired twenty-one points at each round on average last year and still missed out.

20 is for Anaheim 2. The date in January that the event was be held on, to be exact. This race will be a big one for the industry, you see, as it'll be the first time that a radical change has been made to the traditional supercross format. Three main events will be run for the 450SX and 250SX West riders. The 450SX riders will endure main events that are eight, twelve and fifteen-minutes long. The 250SX West riders, on the other hand, will have main events that last for six, ten and twelve-minutes. The practice sessions in the day will cut the field down to twenty-two riders.

There is no doubt that the racing at Anaheim 2 will be particularly intense (Monster Energy Media/Octopi)

21 is for 250F winners. Although a lot of teams have not officially stated who they will have in the 250SX West class, rumours suggest that it is going to be a stacked division. Adam Cianciarulo, Joey Savatgy, Justin Hill, Aaron Plessinger, Shane McElrath and Christian Craig are expected to line up beneath the lights at Angel Stadium this weekend. All of those riders have won 250SX main events in the past. In fact, there are twenty-one main event victories between them. Alex Martin, Mitchell Oldenburg, Chase Sexton and Mitchell Harrison are expected to join them on the coast.

22 is for Ken Roczen. It is important to remember just how dominant Ken Roczen was before that unfortunate mistake at Anaheim 2 caused him to miss the fourteen races that followed. Missing that amount of time was obviously a tough pill for him to swallow, especially considering the great position that he was in, but it was not the first time that he has had to skip some 450SX rounds. Roczen skipped eight rounds in his sophomore season, again due to injury, so has missed twenty-two events in total since stepping up to the premier division on a full-time basis. That is thirty-two percent of the races that have been run over the last four years.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: 

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