Anaheim 1 is in the books and for the most part things went pretty much as expected, although there were a few surprises here and there. FELD Entertainment came away as the big winner, selling out Angel stadium for the first of only two races this year. Meanwhile, KTM has to be a bit disappointed at the performance of its orange bikes, with Andrew Short managing only a 10th in the main, while Mike Alessi finished a dismal 14th. However, the good thing about the first race of the Supercross series is that there are many more races to come and plenty of time to pick up the slack and get up to speed.The opening round of any series is where the teams and the fans find out where everyone stacks up, and I think a few of the riders, Chad Reed included, have to feel good about where they stand at this point in the season. So, since I’m a big fan of lists I’ve compiled a list of the top 7 things we learned from A1…
1. Ryan Dungey is fast even without Roger DeCoster. Granted, Roger is THE MAN. And he’s the man who picked Ryan Dungey out of a polk patch full of moderately fast amateurs. DeCoster says he saw something in Dungey. If so, he must have looked deep into the soul of the young man and saw the heart of a ninja and the cool head of New York taxis driver, because that’s what Dungey seems to have. And now that Dungey has passed his Jedi lesson he seems to be able to make it without the master. I look for Dungey to be around for the long haul, based on his patience during the outdoor series. And if this year is anything like last year, then those that endure will be rewarded.
2. Ryan Villopoto hasn’t lost a step. RV2 had all the bases covered at A1. He got off the line near the front, made a spectacular pass on Ivan Tedesco to take the lead and then quickly broke away from the pack. I think I mentioned last week how impressed I was with Villopoto at the Budds Creek MXoN. Well, his race at Anaheim 1 reminded me a lot of the way he rode in Maryland – confident, aggressive and purposeful. Villopoto has spent way too much time on the sidelines these past two years, dealing with injuries and illness, and it appears that he is ready to get back down to business.
3. James Stewart is still the fastest man on the planet. Yep, I have to say I didn’t give JS7 enough credit. I bagged on him because I thought his reality show, “Bubba’s World”, might be too much of a distraction. At A1, Stewart proved he can still cut the fastest lap of anyone, in addition to being able to read a cue card. At A1, Bubba (I thought he grew out of the nickname) posted the fastest lap in practice and then, after getting off to a terrible start, moved to within several bike lengths of Dungey by the end of the race. We still don’t know what would have happened if he had caught up with Dungey, and that’s where the speculation comes in – which is exactly what my predictions last week were: pure speculation. Anyway, James knows as well as anyone that this game is all about getting a good start, so look for Stewart to be taking a fair share of practice starts before Phoenix.4. Chad Reed will be in this hunt. It’s been a long time since Chad Reed rode a Supercross in America. It’s also been a long time since he rode a Honda. In the last five years Reedy has ridden for Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki, and now he’s made the rounds of the Japanese big four by riding a Honda for his own team: TwoTwo Racing. After the race Reed sounded relieved that the first race of the season was out of the way and he says he came away with a lot of positives. Reed maintains that his bike and set-up are close and that the good thing, by his account, is that there is room for improvement. It won’t take much improvement for him to get up to speed with the leaders.5. KTM has some work to do. I have to admit I was pulling for the 350 KTM to do well. I think it’s cool that KTM had to balls to come out with a bike as radical as a 350 for Supercross/motocross. But with anything as radically new as this, I’m sure there’s bound to be a world of unforeseen technical issues to deal with before it’s competitive with teams that have been running basically the same bike for several years. But like I said at the start, this is just race one, and there are 16 more to go. And don’t forget about KTM’s new team leader, Roger DeCoster, the same guy who lifted so many other programs to new heights. I still think KTM will get a win before the season is over.6. Ivan Tedesco is a player. I was impressed with Ivan Tedesco’s ride at A1. Hot Sauce was the fastest man out of the hole, grabbing the holeshot in his heat race and in the main event. He also looked impressive while running out front in both races, riding what he admitted was a fairly ill handling bike. After the race Ivan said they will be spending the week before Phoenix dealing with the chassis, which he said produced a pretty sketchy ride in the whoops. He also said he wasn’t comfortable riding out front and rode a little tight. If Ivan continues to nail the holeshot he will soon be accustomed to running out front. Problem solved.
7. The 250 class looks to be another Pro Circuit party. Like Roger DeCoster, Mitch Payton is a winner. And he knows how to turn his riders into winners. However, it doesn’t hurt that his riders are mounted on the fastest sleds in the cosmos. The 250 class at A1 looked like a St. Patrick’s Day parade with all the green out front. Payton’s latest squad, consisting of Josh Hansen, Broc Tickle and Tyla Rattray, finished one, two and three, respectively, making it look like a long season ahead for the blue, yellow and red.