What Really Happened: Monster Energy Cup 2015

Race Report

If you were looking for a preview of the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Season then you got it this weekend with the annual Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas, Nevada. The only top rider not participating was newly signed Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac, who is still recovering from his shoulder injury. We also got a look at the future of the sport in Monster Energy Pro Circuit signee Austin Forkner, who swept the Amateur All-Star class and will no doubt be a stud in next year’s Amsoil AMA Arenacross Ricky Carmichael Road To Supercross Series.

This year’s race boiled down to a battle between RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki’s Ken Roczen – the eventual overall winner with a 1-4-1 score – plus Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson, although three riders back from long layoffs who were looking pretty good were RCH Honda’s Trey Canard (the morning’s fastest qualifier), BTO Sports KTM’s new addition Davi Millsaps (last year’s winner), and Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart, who was hot off his win at last week’s Red Bull Straight Rhythm.

Of course, the Monster Energy Cup Supercross is a unique race in that it’s not part of a series, but a one-off race like the Red Bull Straight Rhythm, which means everyone is all out instead of thinking about being consistent for the long haul, like they might an 18-round Supercross season. There are no heat races or LCQs, but the MEC goes straight into three main events after practice (qualifying). The Monster Energy Cup course featured some cool obstacles, with an elevated starting gate, a big off-camber turn, a finish line triple, and a big launch into the sand whoops. None of the combos looked particularly difficult, which leant itself to multiple passing opportunities and favored racers who were fit enough to charge hard late into the race.

It’s also unique in that it features the “Joker Lane”, which always seems to trip someone up. Last year it was Dungey, and this year it was Anderson. Even though he won the first race, Anderson was docked five positions for missing the Joker Lane, giving him sixth for the first main event.

The intriguing elevated start featured an extruded metal starting pad that dropped 12 feet onto a 33-degree incline, which made for an interesting setup. Anderson must have liked it because he killed it, winning the holeshot in all three main events, thus walking away with a brand-new Toyota Tundra for his efforts.

Ken Roczen, chasing #41 Trey Canard in the first main event, went 1-4-1 for the overall win and $100,000 payday.Photo by Jeff Kardas

According to co-team owner Ricky Carmichael, Ken Roczen had only had four days of testing on his Suzuki when he went into the Monster Cup, having just recovered from the back surgery he had after the 2015 season. However, the German transplant still looked in top form as he went 1-4-1 for the overall win and the $100,000 top prize (one million was up for grabs for anyone who swept all three races, but that was not the case). Roczen has a history of starting strong at the beginning of the season and then fading near the end, although this year that was due to a nagging back injury. Time will tell if he can hold his speed for the entire supercross season in 2016.

Jason Anderson proved he is likely to be a forced to be reckoned with in 2016.Photo by Jeff Kardas

Jason Anderson didn’t win the overall, but he may have been the fastest racer on the night. Clearly, Anderson’s Husqvarna was dialed in perfectly for the fast, jumpy track, and his starts were amazing. Watching Jason ride, his style didn’t look as fluid as some of his competitors, but he was still wicked fast. Anderson was very deliberate in his starts and didn’t waste any time passing other racers. He looked and rode very aggressively, even when next to a typically aggressive guy like Justin Barcia. If this is a sign of things to come, Anderson should be one to watch in the upcoming Supercross season.

Anderson might have taken this year’s overall win had he not forgotten to take the “Joker Lane” while winning the first main event. Anderson said he saw the “number nine” on the lap board and thought that meant he was starting the ninth lap instead of finishing the ninth lap. If this weekend’s race is any indication, Anderson is definitely going to be a player during the 2016 season, and though he’s never been known for his starts, “El Hombre” grabbed all three and won the Toyota Tundra that was given to anyone who could pull off the feat.

James Stewart slid into Trey Canard on the second lap of the first main event and didn’t race the final two main events due to a sore right hand.Photo by Jeff Kardas

James Stewart came in as a relatively unknown commodity having spent 16 months out of competition. Stewart looked good and qualified sixth overall, but went down in the first main event with Trey Canard and decided to call it a night after injuring his right wrist.

Trey Canard (41) leads the first main event ahead of Anderson (21) and Roczen (94).Photo by Jeff Kardas

It was great to see Trey Canard back in action; the Oklahoman has struggled to stay healthy in recent years, but he looked super aggressive and strong in Las Vegas. A weird mistake when Trey ran into the back of Jason Anderson sent Canard flying into the finish line tower, but luckily the Honda rider was unhurt and remounted fairly quickly. We hope that this was the last time we see Trey hit the ground for the next year.... the dude deserves at least 12 solid months of staying healthy!

Having just missing out on last year’s win, Canard set fastest qualifying time in morning practice at this year’s event and jumped into the lead two turns into the first main event. However, a tip-over in a slippery turn on lap two, which also collected James Stewart, left both riders at the back of the pack. In the second main event, Canard showed he hasn’t lost a step by passing Roczen midway into the race to move into third before eventually passing Barcia for second after posting the fastest lap time of the race. However, the final race was when the HRC Honda rider suffered his nasty looking crash, when Anderson clipped his front wheel, sending Canard flying off the track.

Canard ultimately went 10-2-14 for sixth overall.

Davi Millsaps looked good in his first ride on a BTO Sports KTM.Photo by Jeff Kardas

Davi Millsaps looked exceptionally good considering he was making his first ride on the BTO Sports KTM and first race in a while. Millsaps, last year’s winner of the Monster Cup, ran third at one point in the first race and ended the night in fifth (3-6-6)

Justin Barcia makes his way though the rhythm section at MEC.Photo by Jeff Kardas

Justin Barcia led early in the second main event after passing holeshot winner Jason Anderson in turn two. The AutoTrader.com/Toyota/Yamaha rider was part of this year’s Motocross of Nations team, so has been a bit later than a lot of the riders when it came down to testing for the upcoming supercross season.

Ken Roczen Negotiates the Joker Lane on the last lap of the first Main Event.Photo by Jeff Kardas

Once again, the Joker lane (a special segment of the track that each racer was required to take once in a given race) proved to be a source of contention, with a discrepancy in the first Main Event between Jason Anderson—who took the Joker lane on the first lap, and crossed the finish line first—and the AMA, who claimed that riders couldn’t do this until the second lap and penalized Anderson five positions. This meant that Ken Roczen was the fist main event winner, with Anderson ending up in sixth. Of the Joker lane, Roczen said the obstacle was, “kind of freaky, but what makes the race so special.” The best strategy, it seemed, was for racers who were leading to hit the Joker lane on the last lap, and racers who were coming from behind to get it out of the way early.

Ryan Dungey was consistent as usual and went 2-5-2 for second overall, saying the MEC was a preparation for 2016.Photo by Jeff Kardas

Having finished fourth once at the Monster Cup and second place three other times, Ryan Dungey was hoping to improve his result and put a MEC first place trophy on his mantle. One tool that Dungey used throughout the night was excellent line choice; the KTM rider doesn’t like to follow, and he is always trying to get around the racer in front of him. Unfortunately, this wasn’t enough to help the likable Dungey to bag his first Monster Cup win, as he once again had to settle for second place when the night was done.

Monster Energy Cup Notes:

  • 17-year-old Hannah Hodges turned some heads in the Super Mini division, running in 7th for much of the first race (after qualifying in 16th) before a small mistake knocked her back. Hodges has her sights set on racing pro Supercross with the boys—much like Vicki Golden has one recently—in 2017.

  • Lance Kobusch took the Super Mini overall win, showing impressive speed and a lot of tenacity in the process. The minis were able to jump the majority of the basic combos on the track, although they were unable to launch the big triple at the finish line.

  • The racers commented that the roost on the Vegas course was brutal, making it one of the worst tracks of the year as far as painful dirt. The course received tons of water in the days before the race, and then it baked in the sun on race day, causing a lot of the moisture to come out of the dirt as the sun set and the air cooled. This caused a few racers to hit the ground early in the night from simple slide-out crashes.

2015 Monster Energy Cup Results

Monster Energy Cup Class Overall Results

  1. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki (1-4-1)
  2. Ryan Dungey, Tallahassee, Fla., KTM (2-5-2)
  3. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Husqvarna (6-1-3)
  4. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., Yamaha (5-3-4)
  5. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., KTM (3-6-6)
  6. Trey Canard, Edmond, Okla., Honda (10-2-14)
  7. Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., KTM (11-7-12)
  8. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., Suzuki (4-9-18)
  9. Christian Craig, Plymouth, Minn., Honda (14-14-5)
  10. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha (9-16-8)

Amateur All-Star Class Overall Results

  1. Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki (1-1)
  2. Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (2-2)
  3. Mitchell Harrison, Cairo, Ga., Yamaha (5-3)
  4. Josh Osby, Valparaiso, Ind., KTM (3-5)
  5. Tristan Charboneau, Tenino, Wash., Honda (4-6)
  6. Bradley Taft, Nixa, Mo., Yamaha (10-4)
  7. Sean Cantrell, Newbury Park, Calif., KTM (6-8)
  8. Max Markolf, Fort Mill, S.C, KTM (8-9)
  9. Dylan Merriam, Corona, Calif., KTM (12-10)
  10. Mitchell Falk, Costa Mesa, Calif., KTM (17-7)

Supermini Class Overall Results

  1. Lance Kobusch, New Florence, Mo., Kawasaki (1-1)
  2. Max Miller, Springfield, Ore., KTM (3-2)
  3. Joshua Varize, Perris, Calif., KTM (5-3)
  4. Jo Shimoda, Winchester, Calif., KTM (4-6)
  5. Jesse Flock, Adair, Okla., KTM (6-9)
  6. Chase Fasnacht, Port St. Lucie, Fla., Kawasaki (9-8)
  7. Austin Black, Tualatin, Ore., KTM (2-15)
  8. Conner Mullennix, Lakeside, Calif., KTM (14-4)
  9. Marcus Phelps, Cairo, Ga., KTM (7-12)
  10. Hannah Hodges, Deland, Fla., Kawasaki (13-7)

KTM Junior Supercross Challenge

  1. Casey Cochran, Arlington, Tenn., KTM
  2. Dalton Tisdel, Sturgis, Mich., KTM
  3. Austin Weinsziehr, Amanda, Ohio, KTM
  4. Kason Little, Magnolia, Texas, KTM
  5. Ian Fruge, Rayne, La., KTM
  6. Van Adams, Morgantown, Ind., KTM
  7. Landin Pepperd, Wasilla, Alaska, KTM
  8. Preston Zollers, North Aurora, Ill., KTM
  9. Nate Freehill, El Dorado Hills, Calif., KTM
  10. Tyler Mollett, Port St. Lucie, Fla., KTM