The race in Tampa is all about the sand section, this is the only race on the circuit that uses beach sand as a rhythm section. The top guys are all close with 47 and 48 second lap times, we can expect the track to deteriorate quickly and lappers will play a key role. Both Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac are looking ready to battle. Malcom Stewert was fastest in the first timed session, maybe he is inspired by his brother James Stewart being in the stadium.
(Will AC finally get it done, or will Webb establish alpha status)
A few guys had big crashes in qualifying; Justin Barcia had a scary crash as he came up way short on a triple jump. Barcia did come back out for the second timed session but was a little off the pace. Vince Friese took a good spill in the second timed session and looked to be sore but finished the session. Alex Ray went down hard in the second timed session, unfortunately, it looked pretty bad. The session was red-flagged but after a couple minutes the likable privateer walked off. Not sure his status for tonight’s event but it was good to see him walk away. On the last lap of the second timed session, both Benny Bloss and Zach Osborne were down. Both looked sore, but walked and rode off the track respectively.
(Can Tomac hault Webb's momentum?)
Brock Tickle is making his long-awaited return after his ridiculous WADA suspension, he looked good but clearly is a little rusty. Something to watch tonight is the Barcia vs Martin Davalos feud, while Davalos was picking himself up in the sand Barcia went out of his way to bury him in the sand. Last week Barcia seemed to downplay their feud, he felt it was overblown, but I promise you Davalos didn’t appreciate the sand shower courtesy of Barcia’s rear wheel.
The 250 East guys are making their season debut and everyone still has high hopes for the season. Four guys are expecting to be the 2020 Champion; Shane McElrath, Jordon Smith, Chase Sexton, and Jeremy Martin. Sexton had a close call in the second session as he almost landed on Justin Starling then launched off the backside of a large bowl berm. This easily could have ended in injury, but luckily he is alright. It will be fun watching these four battle for the 2020 championship, but my money is on Jeremy Martin. I think Star Yamaha made a critical error placing McElrath in the East. It won’t matter much tonight because the dirt in Tampa is hard-packed (except the sand section) and that’s where McElrath shines. It’s peculiar that they would put one of the best hard-packed riders of this era on the East coast.
(Ryder Floyd, making his debut)
There are tons of rookies making their debut tonight, but Brian Moreau won’t be one of them. He crashed hard in the untimed session and didn’t return to the track. Jo Shimoda and Jalek Swoll are the two highest-profile rookies racing tonight, but watch Ryder Floyd. He looked good all day and put in consistent laps while staying in control. I expect him to qualify or be extremely close to qualifying. A few sleepers to watch for tonight are Joey Crown, John Short, and Josh Hill. All three riders looked extremely fast, but I am not sure if Hill has the endurance to keep it up for an entire main event. Both Crown and Short have proven they can finish races strong.