Thomas on: Impressions

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Round one of the 250SX East series is in the books! While the main event might not have been a battle for the win, there were certainly several storylines to talk about. Last week we took a look at many of the riders and made a few predictions. Now, after having a full day to absorb, let’s revisit many of these stars and chat about a few pleasant surprises as well as a few riders with disappointing starts.

Shane McElrath: Well, that’s one way to get things rolling My pick for the opener, Sugar Shane certainly didn’t disappoint. He won his heat and the main event with relative ease, his starts making life much easier. He is an opening round assassin and has been doing this for years regardless of the coast. I am not sure if it’s a mental calm that he possesses or maybe just has his pre-season prep more dialled in than most. Whatever the reason, he finds a way to send a clear message to everyone in these opening rounds.

The real question will be in his ability to maintain this same edge. He has struggled towards the end of the series in more than one year. I think he is the clear title favourite but I have said that in previous seasons also. This 2020 season, though, with his equipment, experience and confidence looks to be his best shot for the elusive 250SX title.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

Chase Sexton: I am very high on Sexton leaving round one. I liked what I saw from him every time he hit the track. He looked much more confident than in 2019, attacking the track and asserting himself. He looked like he truly believes in himself. I wondered how he would carry that #1 plate but he is definitely approaching this series like it’s his to lose. His technique and skill set is not in question but I just wondered if he would step up mentally. He answered that question with a resounding yes. He is going to have to match McElrath in the early laps but if he can get out with him, buckle up because it’s going to be a wild ride.

Jeremy Martin: After a long lay-off, J-Mart made his return. His back injury sustained in June of 2018 was nearly career ending. GEICO Honda stuck by the former national champ, keeping him employed and patiently believing in their veteran star. He came out swinging in Tampa, qualifying fastest and proving that he still has “it” in him. Supercross has always been a rollercoaster for Jeremy Martin but the last time we saw him he was winning races as the 2018 season wound down.

The key to his season will be consistency in his first lap positioning. He has had a tough time in years past, allowing his competitors to build early lap advantages that are too much to reel in. Similar to Sexton’s path, J-Mart’s title chances will rise and fall within the first 100 meters of many weekends.

Garrett Marchbanks: One of the nicer surprises was Mitch Payton’s offering from Utah. Marchbanks had a rough 2019, not really showing the potential that many expected. It’s clear that he put the work in last off-season as he looked faster and fitter than ever. Ivan Tedesco is his riding coach and if anyone knows the 250SX class, it’s Tedesco. I really liked what I saw from Marchbanks, mentally and physically. He wasn’t scared of the moment and wanted to put himself into the battle. Last year I really didn’t see him as a threat. He seemingly still had a lot to learn, wading into the deep end with floaties on. This year, though, he appears ready for any and all comers. In a make or break year, he stepped up at round one.

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Monster Energy/Octopi

Jordon Smith: Expectation can be difficult to swallow. For Jordon Smith, many expect him to be a serious title contender. He has been in this spot before, nearly winning the 2017 250SX East title. I heard rumours that he isn’t 100% healthy so maybe that was the reason for a slightly off night. He wasn’t “bad” per se, it just wasn’t the performance that will win a title. He is going to have to be better and better quickly. His starts were solid which will give him opportunity but these rounds are coming fast and points will get out of hand quickly if he doesn’t improve. Maybe the Arlington Triple Crown will be a better chance to capitalise on his starting prowess.

RJ Hampshire: Steve Matthes’ favourite 250SX East rider, RJ didn’t get the result he wanted but he did show signs of life. He had the fastest lap and also looked to have great endurance at the end of the main event. His starts were absolutely atrocious which will need immediate remedy as we roll into Arlington. Many wondered how RJ would respond to his home race also being the opener. That’s a lot of pressure to manage so maybe he can relax a little as we move into Texas this Saturday. I do think we will see some excitement from the #24, I just don’t know if he has the consistency to be a real title factor.

Joey Crown: Making his first main event ever, Joey Crown was a revelation. He was easily the most intriguing PulpMX Fantasy pick of the day but also the highest risk. His +14 handicap looked so enticing but, as I mentioned, he had yet to qualify for a 250SX main event in his career. His off-season win in Geneva looked to help his confidence and poise, as he rode from behind into qualifying position and then backed that up with a super strong eighth place in the main. I was nothing short of terrified when I finalised my team and he was on it. He delivered, though, and might be well on his way to turning his young career around.

Jo Shimoda: Japanese rookie Shimoda had an up-and-down first race. He grabbed a good start and looked like he was ready to log a top ten. It appeared that the bright lights of supercross got the best of him, though, as he tightened up and moved backwards. He was able to salvage a top ten, though, so all is not lost. To be deemed a success on that team, he will need to be battling the likes of Marchbanks and crew. I don’t know if he has the top-level speed to be a podium guy but I think he can be top six or seven without too much fuss.

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GEICO Honda

Jordan Bailey: After a few years on Rockstar Husky, Jordan Bailey finds himself on a privateer effort in this 250SX East series. I was curious as to how Bailey would respond. Losing a factory ride can’t be easy and I also wondered how his equipment would stack up to his previous programme. He had a tough day in Tampa, never really standing out. He made the main and there’s something to be said for that, but a seventeenth isn’t really what he had in mind either. This is an important year for Bailey.

Cedric Soubeyras: A French veteran, Soubeyras dropped down to the 250 class this year. Soubs isn’t flashy but he gets the job done. He puts in methodical laps and his years of global SX experience help him through dicey moments. Case in point, Josh Hill repeatedly tried to make contact as the main event grew long but the wily vet countered most every move. Hill finally made the pass stick in the last corner but it was still a strong opener for an unlikely 250 racer.

Enzo Lopes: Joey Crown’s teammate, Lopes had a tough night. He found himself on the ground a few times but will bounce back. Lopes was a long time JGR rider but has moved to a Yamaha this season. I wondered how that transition would go but we really didn’t learn much as of yet. I think Lopes will put in a few top tens this season but he will also likely have a few rough nights like Tampa. Consistency for these youngsters is not easily found.

We now have data to opine upon. This 250SX East series is going to be fairly erratic in my estimation. There are five to six legitimate race-winning level riders. This Triple Crown event on Saturday will be drama filled, every rider thinking they are in the fight to win. Keep an eye out for who can stay calm and think about the overall points. As we saw out west, riders love to toss away valuable points in these 250SX regional classes. Their inexperience is in a battle for supremacy with their intensity and youthful exuberance. Which will win out? We will all know more come Saturday.

Words: Jason Thomas | Lead Image: Monster Energy/Octopi

GoPro HD: Tampa

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GoPro footage from the seventh round of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross! Ride along with Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo as he fight for the win in the premier-class main event, crashes in the whoops and then battles back. This is a great look at the insane battle that took place in the lower half of the top ten towards the end of the main.

Video: GoPro Motorsports | Lead Image: Race Kawasaki

Social Spot: Tampa

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The seventh round of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross was run in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday night and played host to some exciting premier-class battles. What did the main-event finishers have to say following the race? Rather than rummage through social media, all of their posts have been collected and put in one place. They are even in the order that the riders finished! This post will be updated as more guys share content.

Eli Tomac
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🏝

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Cooper Webb
Ken Roczen
Justin Barcia
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Tampa was wild! I destroyed myself in the first free practice, I was feeling fly throwing down some scrubs feeling loose on the bike and slipped my hand off the grip right before the triple & couldn’t back out…the rest of the day was an up hill battle preparing for the night show. Nearly a last place start in the main I knew I had my work cut out for me. If you would of told me I had a 4th place finish at the end I wouldn’t of believed it. Don’t get me wrong, I love a hard charge but that’s been the story the last few weeks & I’m definitely ready for an up front start. Will give it a solid go this coming weekend in Dallas 😂 Thanks for all the support, I appreciate it ✌🏻 📸 @octopi.media

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Justin Hill
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Top 5 guy at Tampa 🌴 battled with bam bam last turn for 4th and he got me🥺

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Dean Wilson
Malcolm Stewart
Adam Cianciarulo
Justin Brayton

No social media post yet.

Jason Anderson
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rough Tampa but still had a kick ass time😎

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Zach Osborne

No social media post yet.

Broc Tickle
Vince Friese
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Tampa @officialleatt 📸 @octopi.media

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Martin Davalos

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Tyler Bowers

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Aaron Plessinger

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Kyle Chisholm
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Some good and bad from last night in Tampa. Made some changes on the bike throughout the day which was good. Getting more comfy on the bike. I got hit with a rock in the face just a few laps into the main and had a hard time seeing for a few laps. I also had a tough time getting into a flow the first 5 minutes or so. But by about halfway I got into a groove and got going and made a few passes. Not pumped with the result on paper but made improvements which is the goal every time out and just need to work on some things to get closer to the front. It was awesome racing in @rjstadium in front of the home crowd. So awesome racing 20 minutes from home. Thanks to every one that’s a part of #teamchiz this year. @tilube @rockriverpowersports @purekanaactionsports @yamaharacingcomofficial @sean_backus @chadward321 @engineice @mypowerdot @ls2helmetsus @fxrmoto @activeride @evssports @atlasbrace @xbrandgoggles @sidimotousa @rickiefowler @actionsportscanopies @backyarddesign @odigrips @twin_air @fmf73 @rekluse_motorsports @bolt_motorcycle_hardware @tmdesignworks @sunstar_ea @firepowerparts @guts_racing_inc @galferusa @worksconnection @motohose @twisteddevelopmentracing @matrixconcepts @motionpro 📸 by @ls2helmetsus and @browndogwilson

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Kyle Cunningham

No social media post yet.

Chad Reed

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Ryan Breece

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Adam Enticknap

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Blake Baggett

No social media post yet.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Honda Racing

The Pressers: Tampa

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There was a lot to discuss following the seventh round of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross, as the red plate changed hands in both the 450SX and 250SX East classes. The new leaders, Eli Tomac and Shane McElrath, discuss being up at the top in their respective classes in the video below. The rest of the podium finishers from Tampa (Cooper Webb, Ken Roczen, Chase Sexton and Jeremy Martin) join them on the stage as well. All six of the riders are featured in the one video below – the format has been shaken up a bit.

Video: Supercross | Lead Image: Yamaha Racing

Penalty: Jason Anderson

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Eli Tomac won the premier-class main event in Tampa, Florida, in a fairly quiet manner, but there was chaos behind him. A battle in the lower half of the top ten kept fans on the edge of their seats and ensured that they had a good reason to stay in the stadium until the chequered flag waved. Malcolm Stewart was at the centre of that fight – he slipped down the order in the latter stages and engaged in an entertaining duel with Jason Anderson on the final lap.

Stewart slammed Anderson in the final turn and forced him to skip the whoop section before the finish, something that was scrutinised by the officials. Anderson did not slow down and entered the track at speed, therefore ensuring that Adam Cianciarulo could not make a pass and demote him to ninth. The officials have now deemed that unacceptable and docked him two positions.

“#21 penalised two positions for track cut advantage gained.”

Cianciarulo has been bumped up to eighth and Justin Brayton awarded ninth as a result of that. The official results show Anderson in tenth, meaning that he gained thirteen points. Anderson now runs sixth in the championship standings, thirty-seven points down on the current series leader.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/Simon Cudby

Race Highlights: Tampa

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The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross is progressing at a rapid rate. It’s difficult to believe that the seventh round of seventeen just wrapped up in Tampa, Florida, on Saturday night! The event in the Raymond James Stadium was particularly interesting, as the 250SX East series fired into life for the first time. What actually happened? Catch up on the action in under ten minutes with the 450SX and 250SX highlight videos below.

450SX
250SX

Video: Supercross | Lead Image: 

The Latest: Brian Moreau

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February 19 (09:50).

The Moreau family shared a much more detailed update on Tuesday night. Although this may quite not be the positive news that some hoped for, the fact that he has regained some feeling in his back is a good sign.

“I would like to thank you all for caring for Brian. First of all, I’d like to say that Mathilde Musquin has been amazing through those very tough times. She’s managing the situation with great care. She is a guardian angel for Brian. Marvin is very worried about Brian as well. He went to see him and supports him too. In addition, Troy Lee Designs, KTM and Red Bull have also been very supportive. Tyler, [Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM team manager], is with Brian all the time. Brian’s mom arrived Monday night in Tampa with his younger sister. He is surrounded by loved ones.

“Regarding the hospital he is in, staff personnel have been very attentive since Saturday. Before even getting to the hospital, the doctors were waiting for him, knowing exactly the extent of his injury. It was a priority for them. They even cleared the CT scan room in order to be able to go into surgery as fast as possible. Regarding his injury, Brian still doesn’t move his legs but today he gained a little bit of feeling in his back compared to yesterday. It gives us hope. We all are with him and we believe in him. Thank you again for Brian.”

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KTM Images/Simon Cudby

February 17 (22:24).

KTM Factory Racing just released the following information on Brian Moreau’s crash and injury. There is no new information below, but there is a poignant quote from the owner of Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM.

Press Release.

MURRIETA, Calif. – Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Brian Moreau suffered a major crash during Saturday’s free practice session at the seventh round of the AMA Supercross Championship in Tampa, Florida. The French rider was immediately rushed to a nearby hospital where he underwent surgery to repair a fractured vertebra in his neck. Moreau is in stable condition at this time as he awaits further information from doctors.

The Moreau family released an update on Sunday morning via social media stating: “Hit in the vertebrae, Brian had surgery last night at Tampa hospital. Surgery is good and Brian woke up. He is currently in intensive care but doctors will not be able to decide on his condition in several days…Brian is a very brave and strong boy and is aware of everything!”

TLD/KTM Team Owner, Troy Lee: “Brian is a very tough kid and we know he will tackle this injury and do whatever he can to make a full recovery. Everyone at Troy Lee Designs and KTM are fully supporting his recovery every step of the way. I want to also thank both Marvin and Mathilde Musquin for all the support they have given Brian from the very first day he showed up in California. Mathilde has been at the hospital with Brian since his crash and has been amazing to work with during this difficult time.”

KTM North America, Inc., along with the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM Factory Racing and Red Bull KTM Factory Racing teams are sending positive thoughts to Brian and the Moreau family at this time.

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KTM/Simon Cudby

February 16 (12:47).

There was some confusion on Saturday in Tampa – there were no clear reports on the injuries that Brian Moreau suffered in the first 250SX East practice session. Now, however, his family have released the following statement. The statement was originally published in French, so has been edited for clarity.

“Hello to all. We wanted to inform you about the state of Brian’s health. Hit in the vertebra, Brian had surgery last night at Tampa hospital. Surgery is good and Brian woke up. He is currently in intensive care but doctors will not be able to decide on his condition for several days… Brian is a very brave and strong boy, and is aware of everything!

“We wanted to thank all the people who support us. Of course I do not thank the people who, on the other hand, still allow themselves to criticise him in such moments! We will keep you informed when we know more.”

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KTM Images/Simon Cudby

February 15 (19:51).

Brian Moreau was set to make his Monster Energy Supercross debut with the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team today, but didn’t get very far at all. Moreau crashed out of the first untimed practice session in Tampa, Florida, and will now skip the night programme. The TLD outfit confirmed the news via the following social media statement.

“Unfortunately after a crash in the free practice @BrianMoreau104 will not be racing tonight in Tampa. We are hoping for the best and will keep everyone posted once we get more updates.”

Pierce Brown – the other 250SX East rider on the Troy Lee Designs Red Bull KTM team – is not present at the event in Tampa, as he is building himself back up after sustaining a scaphoid injury in the off-season. Brown is expected to make his debut at either round two or three. There is currently no timeline on Moreau’s recovery.

Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: KTM/Simon Cudby

JS7 Analysis: San Diego

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James Stewart is back! Five out of six weeks is not bad at all. The sixth round of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross, San Diego, is broken down in the latest video from the two-time 450SX champion (2007 and 2009). There is a lot of Cooper Webb and Adam Cianciarulo talk below, which is hardly a surprise, but Eli Tomac is also covered at length. There is so much to discuss at the moment!

Video: Supercross | Lead Image: KTM/Simon Cudby

Matthes on: The Drama

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The sixth round of 2020 Monster Energy Supercross, San Diego, was spicy! Tensions are getting ratcheted up a bit now that we are six rounds into the current campaign. Let’s break this down and award some rivalry points, yeah?

Martin Davalos/Justin Barcia

These two guys have spent a lot of time together and Justin Barcia really helped put Millsaps Training Facility (MTF) on the map before leaving while Marty still rode there. Something happened a couple of weeks ago that I didn’t see but Marty put it this way: “I was doing my fast lap and he happened to come up. He gained on me, went through the finish line, just threw the bike at me, revved the bike and hit me through the mechanics area. It’s practice, man. What is your deal?”

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Monster Energy/Octopi

This move pissed Davalos off enough to where he remembered it and he took his chance to cross-jump Barcia over a triple on press day in San Diego. You cannot mess with someone like Bam Bam like that – he is a pro. Barcia checked up, headed to the exit of the turn after the triple and knocked Marty down with precise placement of his rear wheel. It was amazing and truly an art form. That got them nose-to-nose afterwards with Davalos appearing to be the aggressor with Barcia had his hands up in the proclaiming innocence.

I didn’t create it. It all started a few weeks back. I’ve never been known for an aggressive rider. It’s my rookie season. I’m learning and I just want to have fun. I’m not going for the championship. I got nothing to do with them guys. Barcia just thinks he can do whatever he wants with whoever he wants. It don’t roll like that with me. I’m thirty-three, dude. I’ve been around this sport for a while and I’m not going to take shit from anybody,” a heated Davalos told me after Saturday’s main event. “If you are going to play dirty with me, I’m going to come back. I’ll come out after the race and beat you up. I don’t use the motorcycle to hurt you because it’s dangerous. If you got a problem with me, just come and find me.”

Barcia for his part has mastered the, “Me?” act from his numerous encounters over the years. “It’s awkward because we live in the same neighbourhood,” he told me afterwards. “Probably going to be on lots of flights together. I just think that he was not riding that cool with me in practice the last couple weekends. I felt like he was doing stuff intentional to me. It probably got blown out of proportion. Then I felt like he cross-jumped me a couple times yesterday. Then I stood him up and he fell down.” Who is here for Marty trying to run Justin down one morning when he puts the garbage out?

Heat Index: A 7 out of 10 because while Marty seems upset, it was just a move that Justin did in qualifying and didn’t hurt anything. Plus Justin’s ambivalence towards the whole thing makes it seem like this will cool down. Still, I love that Marty said he would take any fights out “to the street.”

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Monster Energy/Octopi

Justin Barcia/Eli Tomac

Tomac caught Barcia around halfway in the main event and squeezed by Barcia before the finish line. It was a hard enough pass that neither rider could jump the finish line. Many riders have told that the key to passing Barcia is that once you make the move, you have to ride your balls off to get away because he will come and get you!

Well, Eli didn’t do that and Barcia went hard at the Kawasaki rider a few turns later and rammed him. That didn’t really work (and hw knew it wouldn’t) but Barcia did sneak under Tomac a couple of turns later. It was good hard racing by the two of them with Tomac eventually getting by but Barcia trailed right behind him the whole race.

Afterwards they had words and I asked Justin about that as well. “I was like, ‘You drove in on me pretty hard.’ He ripped my jersey and gave me some cherries on my arm. I was like, ‘That was kind of aggressive.’ He was like, ‘I could have hit you harder.’ I was like, ‘That’s true.’ You always could hit someone harder. No big deal. Move on from that. I’m not holding grudges anymore. It’s not fun,” Barcia said. Again, you cannot rattle the cage of a guy who’s spent his life rattling other people’s cages.

Heat Index: Ehhh, a 5 out of 10 because Tomac has got more important things to do than even the score with Barcia and I think, upon re-watching it, that Eli will see that he actually started it with a semi-hard pass on Barcia. You gotta know who you are dealing with, right?

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Monster Energy/Octopi

Justin Brayton/Jason Anderson

Early on in the main event Anderson hit Brayton pretty good in a left-hand corner. It was enough contact that the #10 got sent off the track. Anderson carried on his way whilst Brayton rode alongside the rhythm section and then doubled in at the end and absolutely teed off on Anderson as he exited the turn. It was pretty good and definitely way harsher than what Anderson did to him. It also earned Justin a trip to the AMA truck, where he was reprimanded.

For Brayton, Anderson is a guy who he has encountered before out there and usually comes out on the losing end. This move was a few years in the making. “He blasted me off the track where pretty much no passing is made. It’s an off-camber and he just went straight right into me and I went off the track. Then the next turn I went in and he actually cut down kind of into me, but I was going inside. That was that,” said Brayton afterwards.

The biggest thing is you just need track position now. I can’t let him pass me and then that’s another position. Then you get stuck just behind guys. Especially then, I was in the fray of five or six guys. I’m like, ‘I got to go.’ I knew if one more guy passed me it’s just another guy that I have to pass later or another guy who I have got to eat roost from. I was trying to move forward as well.”

Heat Index: I’ll give this one an 8 out of 10 because Anderson will remember and get Justin back at some point. I know Jason posted on his Instagram that it was all good but I’m not sure I’m buying that. We’ll see, this could be an indication of whether Anderson has changed his ways a bit. Count me as skeptical so I say Brayton needs to keep his head on a swivel.

Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: 

Thomas on: 250SX East

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East coast, here we come! After six weeks of 250SX West racing, I am more than excited to head east. Unlike Lewis Phillips, I will be at Tampa for the 250SX East opener. This is a hometown race for me, growing up two hours north and actually still owning a home inside Tampa itself. Tampa is also the hometown race for Feld Entertainment and it’s a sure bet that they will roll out the red carpet. Now that we have the useless side information out of the way, let’s dive into a little 250 preview.

My favourite part of this 250 east series is there is no clear favourite. Chase Sexton is the defending champion, yes, but I don’t think anyone believes he has a big edge over the field. Austin Forkner was the dominant east rider but a knee injury at Nashville completely changed the outcome of that series. Justin Cooper and Chase Sexton were left to battle for the title with Sexton bringing it home. Both Forkner and Cooper moved to the west for 2020, as we know, changing the dynamic for this year’s chase (pardon the pun).

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GEICO Honda

The real contenders look to be Sexton, Shane McElrath, RJ Hampshire, Jordon Smith and Jeremy Martin. We could of course see one of the youngsters like Garrett Marchbanks, Brian Moreau, Jalek Swoll or Jo Shimoda step up. My money is on that first group though. There is also a group of wildcards that are either veteran mainstays or coming back from injury including Jimmy Decotis, Colt Nichols, Kyle Peters, Jordan Bailey and Josh Hill.

Chase Sexton: Your defending champ has looked great on his recent social posts and will be brimming with that #1 plate confidence. My main concern will be his collarbone injury he suffered not too long ago. How will that time off impact his preparation and overall performance at the opener? The GEICO Honda’s seem to have an improved engine package for 2020, helping him get his larger body type better starts than in 2019. He won the title last year with consistency and capitalising on other riders’ mistakes. With everyone going full send thinking “this is my year,” maybe Sexton can replay his success of a year ago?

RJ Hampshire: Here is your big question mark for 2020. RJ switched teams, motorcycles, trainers, gear companies and literally everything in between. He’s a new father and also lost 20 pounds this off-season. How all of that changes his results is what I am waiting to be answered. There are some who are very high on RJ’s chances this season. The tough part is that his results on paper have been much worse than I would have guessed. For his career, RJ’s average SX main event finish is 7.5. That’s not horrible but it’s also not going to have you in many championship considerations. He will need to be much better this season to perform at the level he’s looking for. More importantly, he needs to remove the catastrophic rounds that can effectively eliminate a title run in one night.

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Husqvarna Motorcycles

Shane McElrath: A multi-race winner, McElrath has been in his fair share of championship fights. He is notorious for fast starts both on the track and in the points standings. It was a curious move last season as his narrow avoidance of pointing out of the 250 class was followed by a team switch. I can’t imagine that his prior team thought much of the manoeuvre but what’s done is done. He comes into 2020 on arguably the best bike and in the best position to become champion that he could ask for. He is my title pick for this season but I have no real conviction behind it. I think he will come out and win Tampa, putting him in the perfect position moving forward. My only real question is if he can continue that same elite performance as the series pushes into April. That’s been his struggle in the past.

Jordon Smith: Your woulda coulda shoulda 2017 250SX East champ makes a big change for 2020. He has joined Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team in hopes of finally making good on the years of promise he has shown. 2019 was not a good year for Smith, missing many races and surely spending much of that time frustrated. This year could be his best chance at redemption. Payton and crew are experts at this scenario, recreating riders in their darker days. The real question will be consistency for Smith. I expect podiums but winning this title will take several wins in my estimation. With a revolving door of podium level riders, maximising points on the good nights will be very important. I don’t have him as my title winner but he’s certainly in the top three for me.

Jeremy Martin: A wily veteran and former Lucas Oil Pro Motocross champ, J-Mart is coming back from a serious back injury suffered in the summer of 2018. GEICO Honda stuck by the Minnesotan, keeping him employed and allowing a proper recovery. He is fully healthy and focused on a triumphant return in just a few days’ time. Reports from the test tracks are overwhelmingly positive but that’s nothing new for J-Mart. He has been down this road before, burning up the off-season but struggling once the gate drops for actual racing.

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GEICO Honda

He will have yet another chance this season and another chance to make good on a title he has long sought. The last time we saw him in 250SX he was arguably the best in class, wracking up wins down the stretch of the 2018 series. If he arrives with that pace and confidence then 2020 could be his year, and what a comeback story it would be! If you are looking for a feel good story, this is a good place to start.

The Field: With a few factory rookies, anything goes for Tampa. Incoming Frenchman Brian Moreau is a complete wildcard. He has no real American supercross experience but showed well in Paris, prompting the opportunity in front of him. Jalek Swoll is making his debut for Rockstar Husky, too, after lighting up the amateur scene in recent years. If he gets a holeshot, look for him to go for broke. He is used to leading races and will attempt to sprint away as amateur racing typically rewards.

Another rider to keep an eye on is Josh Hill. A former 450SX winner (Minneapolis 2008), Josh Hill has had a wild ride of racing and retirement and is now back into racing yet again. His younger brother Justin is on the Bullfrog Spas/SmarTop Honda team, making for an interesting dynamic between younger and older brothers. Have we ever seen an older brother on the 250 while his younger sibling is a 450 contender? I am completely clueless as to how Hill will fare on the 250. His talent is undeniable but racing against the youth of today is always difficult. Their carefree style and intensity is challenging to match. Regardless, he adds a unique storyline to an already stacked line-up.

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Site-Brian-Moreau

KTM Images

Prediction: I expect to see multiple winners this season. The field is fairly wide open. I have changed my mind multiple times but I think I have it narrowed down…

1

Shane McElrath

2

Chase Sexton

3

Jordon Smith

Words: Jason Thomas | Lead Image: GEICO Honda