Anaheim Uno has come and gone and, with it, all of the “experts" in the media have talked themselves out of anything and everything to do with the race. That is somewhat true, for sure. The big stories for Houston this weekend are as follows.
Is there something wrong with Eli Tomac and his shoulder? That is about it. Seriously, the #3 Monster Energy Kawasaki rider is going to have his shoulder looked at this week and is hopeful that he can ride after his main event crash. I have been told that he’ll be at 80% if he races and, holy smoke, 2018 is off to a bad start for the title favourite. He was on his way to the win last weekend when he made a mistake on a simple double and just like that, boom, things are in chaos.
In the good news department, he has been there before! 2017 was not exactly easy for Tomac and he came about as close as anyone could to winning the 450SX title. He is gritty and I predict he will tough it out to a good finish.
– In other news, JGR Suzuki has signed up Malcolm Stewart to fill-in for Justin Bogle. It is on a race-by-race basis, but there is no way it is just for one or two. Bogle must have concussion symptoms pretty bad for the team to take this step. Of course, the team once employed Malcolm’s brother James and that went terribly to the point where James and the team parted in the middle of the supercross season. But, because of that, the team has a relationship with Malcolm and Coy Gibbs, who owns the team, is not around as much anymore, so maybe that is why the team went with Malcolm? Malcolm’s father, James Sr., and Coy did not see eye to eye many times the first time around.
I was ready to write a column on Malcolm and the puzzling choices he has made in his career. From not doing outdoor motocross after winning the 250SX title to skipping races last year, then jumping into the series not 100% ready to refusing to wear any gear other than Seven (that his brother owns) to now not being at Anaheim 1. Frankly, I do not get it.
But, he is on a good team now and has a chance on a bike he is familiar with to do some damage. I hope he is prepared and ready to strike. He was getting some support from Kawasaki, so not sure what happens with that from here on out. Malcolm Stewart is really good at supercross people. This is an interesting team.
– Justin Brayton went 14-16-13 to start the supercross season last year. He was new to the MCR Honda team and on a very different motorcycle, as he had been riding a 2016 CRF all off-season in Australia and did not have much time on the all-new 2017. He was nowhere near his usual self pretty much all year and with his age and team he was on, you could understand thinking that he was on the downward spiral.
Well, in Anaheim he almost won a heat and then ran a very respectable seventh in the main event. He looked 48% better this year than he did last year (all percentages are approximate), so maybe Brayton is not done yet?
One thing he changed up is he got settled down in Australia with a 2017 bike he knew (not much different from the 2018) and a practice track he could ride to get prepped like he knows how to. How much did the off-season change help him out? Well, I asked him that same question.
“The biggest thing is just mentally you feel prepared so you are not as stressed," Brayton said. “You’re not as worried. You’re just confident in what you’ve done. You’re confident in the bike. That’s the biggest change. Last year to be quite honest it just wasn’t that much fun to be riding.
“I had a couple of decent finishes, but to show up at the race not that confident and I would hope that I would get to a track that would suit my style and I could do okay, whereas I feel like even a track like tonight was kind of my weakness. An easier track with easier whoops and stuff like that. Overall, I feel great. Happy with the seventh, but also looking for more, as everyone is. I feel good about the year so far," Brayton told me afterwards.
He gets some help from Honda, so he is not a total privateer guy by any means but there is also not a full factory bike under him. Keep an eye on Brayton this year, he might just surprise us.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Monster Energy Media/Octopi