The Jeremy McGrath Invitational at the Home Depot Center in Los Angeles has a lot of unique features to it – a double-header format with racing on both Friday and Saturday night, an overall winner of the two nights, head to head racing, a run-what-you-brung displacement free-for-all, two metal ramps… But by the time Friday’s main event began the most interesting aspect of the race was that McGrath himself wasn’t on the line.Jeremy injured himself with a nasty crash in a timing section during one of the qualifiers early in the evening. He was slow to get up, and announced later that he broke his right big toe, pinched his neck, and was seeing stars right after the fall. Is an injury-DNF becoming the standard way to try to cap a brilliant career?The event started out a bit confusing. The race format is so unique that at first it doesn’t register to those of us expecting heats, semis, LCQs, and mains. This is the one event where you can’t tell one race from another without a program. But basically the riders hit the track together for a timed practice. They get several laps, and only their fastest one will matter – it seeds them into the head-to-head elimination racing.Three riders stood out in the timed practice, all for different reasons.Kevin Windham looked smooth and fluid. He almost didn’t look like he was trying, but he was flying. He was riding like, well, Kevin Windham.Travis Pastrana came out with a back flip off the second ramp on the first lap. He looked smooth and fast, but did not charge every lap. He knew he only needed one fast one. It looked like he was alternating between riding a site lap and racing for points. His strategy netted him the fourth fastest qualifying time.Josh Grant, one of the two riders who elected to race on a 250F, looked fast and aggressive in practice. It was clear he didn’t come to shake out any cobwebs – his mind was on racing for a win.Before the match racing began, the crowd was treated to a freestyle exhibition. A portable ramp and landing was set up on the starting straight, and the freestylers started throwing big tricks. The wild thing was that as they looped back around to take another run, they would usually come around on the track’s metal ramps and show some more amazing tricks. With three huge ramps and a group of talented freestylers flipping and whipping in every direction, it looked like a supercross track was juggling motorcycles.Then the match racing began. Two riders at a time would race the track for two laps. The early match-ups didn’t produce any close racing, and the energy seemed to settle a bit. Advancing on after the first round was Kevin Windham, Heath Voss, Josh Hansen, Travis Pastrana, Danny Smith, Nick Wey, David Vuillemin, and Josh Grant. Strangely, both 250Fs holeshot their races.And then something happened. Suddenly everything about the event got exciting. The unique format suddenly made sense as the more closely-matched riders began going head-to-head in two lap elimination motos. The first two races were thrillers. The Windham/Voss match up had both riders trading back and forth several times between, well, between first place and last place. Windham came out on top.The second match up between Travis Pastrana and Josh Hansen was even more of a nail-biter. Going into the first turn, Hansen had a slight lead and the inside. Pastrana hit the brakes hard and early – so hard he looked like he was doing a stoppie – and ducked inside Hansen. Problem was, Hansen was already all the way inside. Pastrana hit the pile of dirt marking the inside and looked sure to go down, but somehow made the wild move stick. One turn later he threw a back flip right in front of Hansen. Hansen proved to be more than Pastrana had bargained for. Both riders rode aggressively for a tense two laps, with Hansen taking the victory.The Wey/Smith match up wasn’t as lively, but again pointed out one of the benefits of McGrath’s format – the uneventful races are short, and the exciting races are amplified by the short motos and do-or-die nature of the qualifying. There is no strategy or learning lines in a two lap sprint.The Grant/Vuillemin match was close, but without much passing. The moto was tense, with Grant leading Vuillemin across the line.The next rounds had Windham and Grant advancing, and by the time the final race of the head-to-head racing was about the leave the line, the tension and excitement was high. Windham got the holeshot. Over the first ramp, Grant pointed to Windham, and slightly shorted the landing. What looked like a bobble that would cost him the race somehow turned into a pass. Grant rocketed his 250F down the landing and jumped past Windham on the same straight with a rhythm through the next jumps that few other riders were attempting. Windham got back around before they came to the white flag, where Windham’s 450 was able to triple an obstacle that Grant’s 250F had to double-hop over. Grant managed to get right back up on Windham, and made the pass in the same rhythm section – but this time it didn’t stick, and Windham left the next corner back in control of the lead and held it to the finish.The head-to-head racing worked. It was like watching a string of LCQs. At many supercrosses those do-or-die races are some of the best. We may be spoiled right now because of the good race action in this year’s AMA series, but McGrath’s format seems to guarantee tight, exciting motos.There was a second freestyle exhibition, a little track prep, then all the racers came back to the line to race on the track all together.The standard-format main event was a 16 lap affair, and didn’t hold the same energy as the head-to-head racing. Friday night’s main was won by Windham, Grant took second, and Nick Wey landed on the podium with a solid third. Friday night’s main will be combined with Saturday night’s main to crown one overall winner.As of the end of the evening Friday, tickets for Saturday were still available. If you need to get your fix of supercross, or if you just want to see a new approach to the racing format, get down to the Home Depot Center and take a look at Jeremy’s unique race. Hey, you might even wind up sitting in the stands next to him.