What Really Happened: Anaheim 1 Supercross

Jeremy McGrath made an appearance during opening ceremonies and threw in his signature nac-nac.Photo by Shan Moore

After the usual speculation, a lot of crazy weather, a red flag restart, an on-track cage match brawl, and a surprise, but worthy 450-class winner, Anaheim One is finally in the books and we’re certain it will go down as one of the most eventful rounds in the history of the series.

After a week of on-off rain in the Southern California area, the Anaheim One dirt was surprisingly good come race day. This was definitely a testament to the hard work of the track crew, who covered the course, pumped water out of the stadium, and ensured that the first round of the year was not a slop-fest. Walking the course early in the day revealed a spongy, soft surface that was reminiscent of an east coast supercross round. We would have expected more ruts to form, but the loam actually packed into a nice mixture, and—fortunately for the racers—no more rain fell throughout the day.

Jason Anderson will go down in the history books as the man who gave Husky its first 450-class supercross win.Photo by Shan Moore

Watching the practice sessions earlier in the day, there were a couple of standouts: most notably, Trey Canard looked really, really comfortable, as did Cole Seely and eventual winner Jason Anderson. James Stewart showed his usual flashes of blinding speed, but for the most part kept it cool and under control (minus a semi-scary case in a long rhythm section that he recovered from quite well). Surprisingly, Eli Tomac didn't look entirely comfortable on his new Kawasaki in his first practice sessions of the year; the Colorado native appeared to be riding tight, but he definitely smoothed out throughout the evening.

Roczen also didn’t look like his aggressive-self, and in the second heat race he crashed on the start after he and Barcia traded elbow jabs down the start straight. The split start was weird and the inside gates were the better gates. Later in that lap Stewart swapped spectacularly before the second triple and kicked a tuff block into the track – though no one hit it. Stewart shorted a jump down the next lane, but then mellowed and rode smoothly. Dungey tangled with Bogle and went down, and in the mess Barcia went the long way around the finish line jump (using the edge of the start straight backwards). Barcia then got Millsaps on the last lap to qualify for the main.

Ryan Dungey was on the ground a couple of times, but managed to survive all the turmoil and finish second on the night.Photo by Shan Moore

In the semi, Roczen hung in seventh place for a lap-and-a-half before steadily moving up to an eventual third. The RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns Suzuki rider seemed off the pace most of the night, except for the final 15 laps of the main event.

In the 450 main event, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson was impressive while claiming his first win in the premier class. His victory also marked the first win in the 450 division for Husqvarna, something that will put Anderson in the history books forever. The impressive part is that Anderson did it after getting off to a mid-pack start, which backs up the off-season speculation that Anderson working with Aldon Baker and training with Ryan Dungey would pay off in a big way, and it certainly did. After the race, Anderson told Dirt Rider that he and Dungey had been pushing each other to the absolute limits during the off-season at Baker’s training complex in Florida. You could see the same confidence and stamina from Dungey, as he aggressively moved up from just inside the top-10 to finish second after HRC/Honda’s Trey Canard put him on the ground early in the race.

“I’m kind of shocked that I was able to move up and take the win,” said Anderson. “Me and Ryan, I feel like we’ve been pushing each other so hard in practice, and for him to fall and then come back to second, I feel like he’s the guy that I want to be racing with and he’s the guy that I’ve looked up to. When I went pro he was a champion and now it’s cool to be battling with him. I’m looking forward to trying to get up front with him more often.”

Justin Barcia grabbed the holeshot the first time the 450 main event got underway, while Dungey and James Stewart battled just behind. On lap two, Stewart pinched down hard into a turn, leaving Dungey no outs and the Red Bull KTM rider had no choice but to center-punch Stewart, putting the Yoshimura Suzuki rider on the ground and bringing out the red flag.

“We were settling in nice,” said Dungey. “I knew going into that section before we hit that James was going to cut down, I had a feeling. So I kind of took my time over the double and was going to roll the inside underneath him, but then he cut down so hard. I’m not blaming anybody but he cut down so fast, and I even let up and then I even had to hit the brakes. I hit the brakes as quick as I could to slow that impact, which ended up being pretty hard. I don’t know what the case may be, but I hope he’s okay. I really didn’t mean for that happen. He just cut down super hard and I had nowhere to go.”

Our opinion when it comes to Stewart's unfortunate slam—which resulted in his DNF on the evening—was about 85% Dungey's fault. For one thing, Dungey should have known that tripling into that corner at that angle would put him on a collision course with the main line. For another thing, Dungey's coming up short on that jump caused his back end to bounce up, which took away about 15-feet of braking distance and ended in him barreling into Stewart much faster than either of them anticipated. The resulting crash was just nasty! Stewart clearly hit his head in a bad way, and the call to red flag the race was definitely the right one. We've seen James DNF multiple times before, but this time we can definitely say that the incident should not have occurred. Without this crash, Stewart likely would have been on the podium.

Cole Seely was deceptively fast and led 13 laps of the 20-lap main event.Photo by Shan Moore

Seely, who benefit enormously from the restart, got the holeshot the second time around, with Anderson running in seventh and Dungey in fourth at the end of the first lap.

On lap four Canard came in on Dungey, forcing the Red Bull KTM rider off the track. “I think Trey came in just a little hot and I had to ride the bales up and I tipped her over,” said Dungey. Dungey was able to get going again in seventh position and from there the defending series champ rode an aggressive race to work his way back to the front, passing Seely on the 14th lap to take over the runner-up slot.

Speaking of Canard, kudos to the Oklahoman for making it through the evening unscathed. Trey has had a string of injuries over the past few years, but he looks to have shaken this off—or at least put it out of his head—and he was riding confidently and well at Anaheim. We're really rooting for Trey to have an injury-free year, and if he's able to do so he'll almost certainly be in the hunt when the season comes to a close.

Seely may be the sleeper this year, although he admitted to us that he was extremely nervous before and during the race.

“Honestly, I got the worst stomach ache out there,” admitted Seely. “It’s no excuse, but I’ve just been really nervous all day, just “bubble guts” from all the nerves. It’s been a gnarly day. I qualified 13th, so I just came in really nervous today. But it’s not only good to get the first round out of the way for the season but also my first race back after my injury.”

Seely also told us that the track was “brutal”, which is understandable considering the condition it was in at mid-week.

“For what it was three days ago they did a heck of a job turning it around and making it into an actually race-able track,” said Seely. “Got to hand it to those guys, they definitely put in some long hours. It was gnarly. It was the softest Anaheim’s ever been and it really took a lot of energy to ride. A lot of holes everywhere.”

As far as Anderson running him down, which was reminiscent of the 2014 250SX West battles, Seely said he could see Jason coming but could do nothing about it. “I could see him,” said Seely. “I was running really good lap times there for 12 or 13 laps. I could see him out of the corner of my eye just inching closer, inching closer. I was actually able to stop his momentum and then he just kept going. I couldn’t hold the pace.”

Of course, the big talk in the evening's qualifiers was the spat between Weston Peick and Vince Friese, the latter of which seemed magnetically attracted to the Yamaha racer all evening. By the second takeout, Peick had had enough, and he started windmilling at Friese while they were both getting up, resulting in Peick's eventual disqualification. If you ask us, this incident is in line with what we've seen from Friese in the past: he will instigate over and over with aggressive riding, but then doesn't seem to know how to react when it comes back on him. Peick's frustration was understandable, but out of line. And while he shouldn't have started throwing punches, it was evident that he was sick and tired of being cleaned out by Friese. In our opinion, the AMA did what they needed to do in disqualifying Peick, but there is no reason that Friese should have been allowed to line up again after that—we would have put him on the sidelines as well.

The 250 race started off as a repeat of last year’s race, where Jessy Nelson kicked off the 2015 season with a big win. The Lucas Oil/TLD KTM rider grabbed the holeshot to start the main event with GEICO Honda teammates Jordan Smith and Jimmy DeCotis right behind. Meanwhile, Cooper Webb sat in fourth at the end of the opening lap, but that wouldn’t last for long as the Star Racing Yamaha rider made passes on the next two laps to move into second behind Nelson. Nelson would lead until lap 11 of the 15-lap main event before Webb made his move to take the lead when Nelson bobbled in the rhythm section.

Cooper Webb came from way back to take the first win of the season in the 250SX West series.Photo by Shan Moore

“Jessy made a mistake and kind of hit that rhythm slow and I knew he was going to try to kind of break it right there, so I waited for him to break and just cut underneath,” explained Webb.

Webb managed to pull a slight gap on Nelson before taking the win by 1:01.392 seconds.

“It was a fun race; a tough one for sure,” said Webb. “We had to sprint that whole race, but it was cool to be able to pull it off that way.”

Webb was the fasted 250F guy, but he didn’t look particularly smooth. A lot of the jumps were hard to clean but he seemed to be landing short more than some other top guys.

Throughout the evening, Nelson looked fast and solid each time he took to the track. Nelson carries a ton of momentum when he corners, and this results in his being able to set up for rhythm sections and drive through whoops is as good as anyone else. If we had to criticize one thing about Jessy's riding, though, it's that his line section when he's trying to get around a rider is almost TOO creative; there were a few times when Nelson, refusing to follow the rider in front of him, would get too far off of the main line and lose vast amounts of speed. We applaud Jessy for not sticking to the back tire in front of him, but we're hoping that the kid develops a little bit more patience from knowing that he has the speed to get around most anyone so long as he waits for an opportunity.

Jessy Nelson led 10 of the 15 laps in the 250 class.Photo by Shan Moore

Notes and Quotes

Here are just a few final comments from the Dirt Rider crew:

  • Alldredge and Nelson were super aggressive but clean. It looked like their training was kicking in and they believed that they should be at the front of the race.

  • It is amazing to watch Cooper Webb ride. He is never coasting and barely braking. In each corner he is on the gas a second or two sooner than everyone else.

  • Both Dean Wilson and Chad Reed showed some flashes of speed but not enough to get on the podium.

  • Justin Bogle played the rookie well and he looked like a wrecking ball out there, bouncing off this rider into that rider. Canard looked very confident and comfortable and Stewart looked smooth and solid.

  • It is shocking to see Roczen and Dungey, plus a lot of top level riders, having to qualify out of the semis, but I guess that is bound to happen when there are so many top level riders in the field. Peick looses his cool, but apparently Freise had it coming from years of dirty racing.

  • Nelson showed great composure out front and had some consistently fast laps. But they were just not fast enough to keep Webb behind him. Webb was just plain faster and more aggressive. Osborne said he played it too safe in the beginning to make a real charge later in the race. Disappointing night overall for Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.

  • Tomac and Canard benefit the most from the restart since they didn't have great starts the first time. Canard is not afraid to ride a really wide bike, taking Dungey out in the process. Barcia had early speed but tossed out the anchor by lap 10 and was dropping positions fast. Anderson was crazy fast, but more than a little sketchy. I hope he doesn't turn into the new Stewart where he wins or crashes violently. Dungey really showed his bike control in the flat first turn as he passed riders by out braking and using just the right amount of throttle.

Eli Tomac leads Trey Canard over the wall jump during the main event.Photo by Shan Moore

RESULTS

450 SX Final

  1. Jason Anderson (Hus)
  2. Ryan Dungey (KTM)
  3. Cole Seely (Hon)
  4. Eli Tomac (Kaw)
  5. Ken Roczen (Suz)
  6. Chad Reed (Yam)
  7. Trey Canard (Hon)
  8. Davi Millsaps (KTM)
  9. Dean Wilson (KTM)
  10. Justin Brayton (KTM)

250SX West Final

  1. Cooper Webb (Yam)
  2. Jessy Nelson (KTM)
  3. Zach Osborne (Hus)
  4. James Decotis (Hon)
  5. Jordon Smith (Hon)
  6. Alex Martin (Yam)
  7. Colt Nichols (Yam)
  8. Joey Savatgy (Kaw)
  9. Mitchell Oldenburg (KTM)
  10. Kyle Peters (Hon)