The Monster Energy Supercross series is more competitive than it’s ever been. Every racer who qualifies for a 450 main is a legitimate superstar. If you need proof just look at the credentials of the riders finishing in 21st and 22nd at San Diego, Chad Reed, and Ryan Breece. Chad’s credentials speak for themselves and Breece is the reigning German Supercross Champion along with his Arenacross regional championships. Needless to say, the field is deep!
The tracks in 2020 have been some of the best designs of recent memory, but when they don’t feature technical obstacles that separate the field, passing can be tough. I just watched the Busch Clash, an exhibition Nascar race and the cars all run at almost the exact same speed. When this happens drivers become impatient and track position becomes premium. The result is crashes and tempers flaring, only 6 of the 18 cars that started the race finished. The Supercross track in San Diego wasn’t technical and much like Nascar race speeds were close. This makes track position valuable and passing difficult, so tempers were flaring in San Diego.
Anytime we talk rough riding the name Justin Barcia always seems to be right in the middle of the action. His drama started on press day with Martin Davalos, it was kind of silly but both riders are dealing with their own pressures and they both were on edge. I chalk their incident up to racing pressures, but Barcia wasn’t done with the drama in San Diego. He is fighting hard to stay relevant in the championship battle and has been on a steady downslide since winning the opening round. At San Diego, he was on a mission to turn things around and he was going to fight for every inch.
Both Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac got off to poor starts in the main event and on this track, it spelled doom for both of their chances to win. They were battling to salvage as many points as they could. Unfortunately for Tomac when he caught Barcia his run to the front would stall. Barcia wasn’t going to let anyone pass without a fight and the battle let the top three riders get out of reach. Usually, battles of this intensity are reserved for the front of the pack, because when riders impede each other their lap times slow considerably and most riders choose to skip the battle in favor of faster lap times.
Tomac was upset with Barcia, but while the strategy kept them from reaching the podium Barcia has every right to fight for his position. If anyone is mad about his riding, it’s because of his reputation and not the racing with Tomac. This brings me to the Jason Anderson and Justin Brayton incidents; these were not as much above board. Anderson slammed Brayton in a relatively high-speed 45-degree turn which forced Brayton off track. Brayton then sped past the rhythm lane and cut back on the track at a perfect angle to clean Anderson's front wheel out from under him. Both moves were un-necessary and considered dirty. Anderson has bullied Brayton on multiple occasions and Brayton clearly wanted payback.
This brings me to ask when should action be taken to protect riders from dirty racing? The AMA put 250 rider Dylan Ferrandis on probation for less malicious intent than what these guys did last Saturday. Are they punishing intent or result? Are they punishing based on public opinion? The punishments are inconsistent and only make this situation more confusing. I believe what Brayton did was exactly how these incidents need to be handled, if someone does you dirty then they deserve payback. Unfortunately, the AMA has decided retaliation warrants a penalty, this leaves dirty riders protected as the payback isn’t allowed.
With the field this close in speed it’s impossible to race without block passing. Unless the AMA wants to add a referee in every corner they need to stop interfering. I am not arguing what Ferrandis did at A2 wasn’t stupid, but it wasn’t intended to do anything but get past Craig. Brayton, on the other hand, went looking to put Anderson on the ground and succeeded. With only a few officials holding the power to impose penalties it becomes completely random as to what is acceptable and what is punishable. Of the 45,000 people watching in San Diego, not many witnessed the two moves by Anderson and Brayton, thus no punishments were handed down.
Bottom line is the AMA needs to let these guys race and not let fan approval determine if punishment is necessary. In stadium fans have limited views and might be intoxicated, do you really want them to be the voice of reason? If riders are allowed to retaliate, the system police’s itself. Punishment should only be handed out when things reach a ridiculous level and everyone involved knows punishment is coming.