With the Monster Energy Supercross series resuming this upcoming Sunday, on the heels of an unprecedented 12-week break, we can expect some wild racing. Considering off-season races and sponsor commitments, this is the most extended break they will ever get. Whenever a series returns after such a long pause, it's like a completely new season. Riders have a chance to heal injuries, improve weaknesses, make their motorcycles better, and reset their expectations. Whatever we thought we knew back on March 7th in Daytona, toss it out the window, it won't matter in this stand-alone seven-race shootout.
(Can Eli close out the title?)
Looking at the 450 standings, it's wide open between the top four riders. Eli Tomac has a three-point lead over Ken Roczen, and Cooper Webb is only 29 points behind. The sleeper in this crazy format is Justin Barcia; he always comes in hot early in the season. He could walk away as a Supercross champion if he were to gain momentum in this short series; he is only 32 points behind Tomac. Also, Barcia has a contract clause that ensures him a factory ride in 2021 if he finishes in the top three overall in either Supercross or Motocross, so you can bet "Bam Bam" is ready.
(Tomac and Baggett aftermath from Atlanta)
I have written quite a few columns about Tomac and his bewildering psyche, but this year he looked different. He looked confident, and when he did have an unexplainable moment (torpedoing Blake Baggett), he was able to recover and salvage a fourth-place finish. In previous years Tomac would compound his mistakes and loose bundles of points. He had many of the experts, including myself, wondering if he had finally exercised his demons. Unfortunately for Tomac, he will have an entirely new pressure cooker in front of him. During the next three and a half weeks, will his "yips" come back?
(Will Roczen's body hold up to 7 rounds in 3.5 weeks?)
Ken Roczen is only three points behind Tomac, but I worry about his stamina and the racing being in such proximity. Ever since his horrific arm injury, Roczen has struggled with his health, anytime a body experiences that much trauma issues arise. Building a mechanical arm might work seamlessly in the movies, but adding metal and foreign materials to the human body presents quite a few unintended consequences. In Roczen's case, his immune system is compromised, I don't know the scientific reasons, but if Roczen says, that is the problem I trust his assessment. Will he be able to handle seven races in three and a half weeks?
(Webb will be a problem for both Tomac and Roczen.)
Cooper Webb is the guy I would put money on if Vegas took odds on this series; unfortunately, the Nevada governor is a dumbass and still has casinos on lockdown. Webb has proven strong when pressure and challenges arise. With his mental toughness and racecraft, he could easily take charge of this series. He is the defending champion, and you don't get the number one plate without learning how to overcome adversity.
The only other guy in the field that knows what it takes to close out the series is Jason Anderson, but he has a history of altitude sickness. Unfortunately, holding all seven rounds at altitude has him as a non-factor. In addition to that giant hurdle, he is 56 points behind, an almost impossible amount. He could play spoiler but don't expect him to be at the front consistently. Add a healthy Adam Cianciarulo into the mix and an incredibly talented field of racers, and this will be the most exciting 3.5 weeks in the sport's history.
(Can AC get that elusive first win? He has 7 more chances.)
The first race kicks off this Sunday, May 31st, and then follows up each Wednesday and Sunday until the series is complete. The races will air on NBC and NBCSN, but the only way to ensure seeing everything is by purchasing the NBC Gold package. I have the Gold package, and it's worth the money! Who do you think will end up on top of this unprecedented series?
Photos - @twofoursocial