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Steve Matthes On 2019 Glendale

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State Farm Stadium Glendale, AZ Glendale (Phoenix) Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship

Round two of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship went off in Glendale this past weekend and it again gave us more excitement. We had a first-time winner in 450SX, we had a staggered start, we had a great track (again), and all in all, it was another interesting start to the season.

We’ve been moved to Glendale for, I think, four years now and there are plenty of good things about the race moving out to the suburbs of Phoenix and away from downtown. Let’s recap the positives and negatives from the move, yeah?

Positive

Glendale is a football stadium with a huge floor to accommodate the artificial turf that slides into the stadium. So the track is always great (football stadiums are generally better tracks than the baseball ones).

Negative

It’s far from the airport so you can either stay by the stadium or by the airport but either way, you have a bit of a drive.

Positive

The press box in the new stadium is better than the cramped older one and the pit setup is way better than being crammed under a bridge. #Modernstadiums

Negative

There’s no TGI Fridays in the new stadium. We used to head over there to grab some potato skins and watch practice back in the day.

Positive

There’s a roof on the stadium so if it rains, you’re fine. Wait… actually the roof was leaking this weekend. 

Anyway, you get my drift. There are some cool things about the new place but also stuff I liked about Chase Field.

Feld Motor Sports

The track was, as always in Glendale, pretty good. It was technical, had long rhythms, and a good-sized whoop section. It also got very hard packed and baked which made it tough for riders. I didn’t like that they changed the track for the third practice to make it a bit easier, therefore inducing everyone’s best time coming in that session, but I’ve been complaining about track changes made in qualifying for years and clearly, no one cares. Not sure how you can do that to the riders. I loved the different rhythms that the riders could do, it’s always cool when a guy can switch it up and gain or lose time. Just seeing options is a good thing.

Well, he did it. Blake Baggett won his first 450SX in convincing fashion. El Chupacabra stalked the lead riders like they were some sort of greasy goats that he wanted blood from. His pass on nemesis Jason Anderson for the lead was ballsy. Third gear pinned down a straight, drive it on the outside of Jason, and grab the lead. Anderson and Baggett have gotten into it plenty of times before and I thought that Ando was going to take Blake out to the giggle-weeds on the outside before he gave up that lead but nope, Blake was able to drive it in deeper, get some traction, and take off.

Awesome to see for Baggett and the family. Remember he qualified fastest last week at Anaheim before the heavy rains came so maybe this is a new Blake we’re seeing. Should be exciting the next few rounds because the confidence he’ll have gained from this is bound to help.

Blake Baggett earned his first career 450SX win in Glendale on Saturday and got the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS team its first win in 450SX as well.
Blake Baggett earned his first career 450SX win in Glendale on Saturday and got the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS team its first win in 450SX as well. Rich Shepherd

Michael Byrne, the ex-factory rider that’s now team manager at Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS, is a super smart guy and one of my favorite guys to talk to in the pits. He’s thoughtful, analytical about riding, and generally pretty level-headed. Baggett called him his “life coach” on the PulpMX Show the other night. He’s worked with Baggett on a number of things and pretty much every guy I’ve spoken to that’s worked with Michael in the past has high praise for him.

It’s interesting to know that Baggett rides essentially the same bike as Anderson and Marvin Musquin but it’s not a factory team like those other two. So there are rules to follow and one of them is that Baggett, last year anyway, wasn’t always allowed on the KTM SX test track. He would often ride at the Troy Lee Designs KTM track. Weird deal, right? I mean, who cares who wins as long as it’s an orange bike but there’s always been this simmering under-tension with factory teams vs support teams. See Honda with Kevin Windham or Yoshimura Suzuki with RCH. So I just wonder if we’ll see a change in that policy going forward or not.

There was a red flag when Malcom Stewart went down and when it flew, Honda HRC’s Kenny Roczen was leading. In fact, until the riders lined up for the staggered restart, I’d have put Roczen as the favorite to win the main. He looked great (after a not so good heat that he put down to going the wrong way with bike settings) and had almost three seconds on Jason Anderson before he lost that by probably being too cautious around Stewart when he was laying on the track and then he lost his lead completely when it was red flagged.

Roczen was passed by Anderson and Baggett after the restart and has to be wondering what the hell else he has to do to win one of these supercrosses. He’s come so close to getting back on top for the first time since his accident and it’ll happen real soon. I think we all know that, but for now he waits.

While the staggered restart appeared not to affect Roczen’s focus during the race, it did affect the lead he had gained. With the staggered restart placing riders tire to tire, Roczen’s three second lead was gone. He was passed by both Jason Anderson and Blake Baggett and finished in third.
While the staggered restart appeared not to affect Roczen’s focus during the race, it did affect the lead he had gained. With the staggered restart placing riders tire to tire, Roczen’s three second lead was gone. He was passed by both Jason Anderson and Blake Baggett and finished in third. Jeff Kardas

The good thing is he’s got the red plate with 2-3 finishes at the first two rounds and that’s pretty awesome for Ken and Honda. I don’t know what it is with Kenny, he looks more stable than before his injury in terms of being in control. He’s more textbook than before the crash—even though he was pretty much perfect before the crash. Roczen would agree with all of that and then also wonder “WHEN IN THE HELL AM I GOING TO WIN AGAIN?”

Jason Anderson answered a lot of questions about his Anaheim 1 ride with a strong second place. One where he passed Marvin Musquin and Kenny to get there. Yeah, he looked like he ran out of gas late in the race when Baggett was catching him (he wasn’t doing the rhythm that BB4 was doing down the first lane and that was hurting him) but second place is second place. His pass on Roczen that left the German on the ground was fine. He rode it in there deep but Roczen turned down too soon; he had to be more aware of where Anderson was in my opinion. It wasn’t without fault for sure but calm down, everyone. 

I think years from now we’ll always remember Anderson’s A1 and put it into the category of Ryan Dungey’s Hangtown opener from a few years ago and wonder what in the hell happened that night.

I think Eli Tomac thought he had something in his brake or did have something in his brake on the opening laps of his heat race. It slowed him down enough that he couldn’t make the main and had to win the LCQ. This gave him a not so good gate pick and he spent most of the main event fighting to get by Justin Barcia, Vince Friese, and others. If he tried something different to get by, he’d get passed or lose time. You could practically see the frustration on him out there. Glendale is usually a great track for him, but it wasn’t working on Saturday.

So seventh to fourth this weekend and that’s off a tenth to third ride last week. Got to be a bit of anger for Tomac at this point. Some of the reason his charge to the front was stalled in Glendale was because his tire had basically gone away. Knobs missing, chunked out on the concrete-type of dirt out there. The tires they use are custom and for whatever reason, Eli’s didn’t hold up as well as the others.

He’s still my pick to win this title. Calm down, everyone, it’ll come.

Adam Cianciarulo had pretty much a perfect day going on in Glendale. He won his heat, he led every lap of the main event, and won his first race of the year. He also made that sketchy fifth last week appear very distant. If he can continue to ride like this it’ll be over for the competition (well, maybe not Dylan Ferrandis) because he’s got incredible raw speed. He just has to calm down out there. Mission accomplished in Glendale.

Cianciarulo told us on the PulpMX Show that he’s letting Nick Wey basically run his life now. Adam let his agent go last year and was looking around a bit for a new one. I told him to just let Wey do all the negotiating for him and have a lawyer look over the final deal. Wey’s been in the sport a long time and knows what’s up. He also said that Wey is now his trainer, which is a new thing. Add in the fact that Nick has been his riding coach for a couple of years and really, it appears that Nick Wey is Adam Cianciarulo’s Svengali. Which is cool but possibly could be weird at some point.

After a performance at A1 that didn't show Adam Cianciarulo had changed this year, AC came to Glendale as the new AC.
After a performance at A1 that didn't show Adam Cianciarulo had changed this year, AC came to Glendale as the new AC. Rich Shepherd

Colt Nichols was very good again. The round one winner passed his teammate Dylan Ferrandis and Shane McElrath to take an easy runner-up spot. He seems to be someone that’s ready to win this title and perhaps we underestimated him in the pre-season. Nice work by Colt 39.

Ferrandis has the speed to win (qualified fastest) but both last weekend in practice and this weekend early in then main, he’s made some mistakes that have held him back. I mean, he did a nice job salvaging a sixth after he was almost last, but he got lucky last week with his crash (landed on Tuff Blox) and he made a weird error in Glendale. Add in the fact that we’ve seen him miss races before with injuries and after a while, the errors outnumber the great moments. He can win this title but has to cut down on unforced errors.

I don’t know what’s up with Shane McElrath right now. I mean, 3-3 at the first two races is fine, maybe even great, but he lacks a bit of that speed he had last year. Maybe he wins the Triple Crown this weekend and we all forget about these first two but as of right now, he doesn’t look as good as the last two years.

I realize that after typing that we’re talking about a guy that podiumed the first two races so it’s weird, but trust me on this.

Jimmy Decotis was good in Glendale, just frustrated with his last ten minutes of the race. Looking at his lap times, they definitely dropped in the last few laps of the main so that is something he can work on. The new Suzuki is a much-improved bike. In talking to the JGR guys they tell me that the production model engine is way better than last years but the race bike (motor wise) isn’t a huge difference because they really breathed on last years bike, but they have found a bit more power. Decotis told me the chassis is way better than before as you site more on the bike compared to in it like before.

Some other news and notes:

I stopped by the GEICO truck to see RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo just there signing posters for, well, not really anyone so there was time to chat. McAdoo said that he’s still getting a ton of fans asking him if he’s going to RAM IT and Hampshire mentioned that he got a lot of social media hate this week for his pass on AC. I said, yeah bro, when you take down the Golden Boy, these things tend to happen.

We had some serious penalties handed out at Glendale. Angelo Pellegrini got docked two spots for jumping on a red cross and lost his spot in the main and also Pellegrini lost his fast lap for sound check violation. Adam Enticknap also lost two spots in the LCQ for jumping on red cross and Eli Tomac was fined $1,000 for not sticking around the podium after a top five.

On the Racer X Glendale SX Review podcast I said that Jason Anderson had gone back to the newer motor after seeing that he went old-school at A1. Well, upon further investigation that was wrong. Anderson stuck with his A1 set-up on the FC 450 and it obviously worked pretty well for him. I apologize for the confusion.

Jason Anderson finished in second at Glendale after a 14th place finish at A1.
Jason Anderson finished in second at Glendale after a 14th place finish at A1. Jeff Kardas

Malcolm Stewart had been amazing this year to start off. Leaner, fitter, and faster, Stewart looked great last weekend and this one also until he went down in the whoops and broke his femur. Until that point he was like a comet streaking across the sky and going faster and faster in the whoops until, well, disaster struck. You can only go so fast in the whoops and Mookie found that out. Huge bummer for him and the team and the Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/Motoconcepts Honda squad will not be filling-in for him so everyone calm down on that one. See you soon, Mookie!

Justin Barcia and Dean Wilson had a spirited battle in the heat race and afterward had words in the tunnel with it getting pretty heated I guess. I spoke with Paul Perebijnos, Wilson’s mechanic, and he said he wasn’t quite sure what started it, but Wilson went to Barcia with some issues. I didn’t see anything out there but who knows, with these guys and their history, it doesn’t take much to get things flared up between them. Racer X’s Aaron Hansel talked with both of them after the race.

Rough start to the season for Joey Savatgy, who was the surprise of the Monster Energy Cup. Looked good in practice last week but didn’t have the kind of race in the main that he would’ve liked. This week he crashed in his heat and it rang his bell a bit and he was out for the night. The key for him now is to just get back into the top ten and kind of get better each week. 

Justin Hill is going to be SO much fun to watch all year long. It doesn’t even matter what he does in the main events. Sometimes I bet he’s awesome, sometimes I bet you’re not even going to notice him. But qualifying? Heat races? Some mains? He’s going to be must see TV.

Justin Hill was the fastest qualifier in the 450SX at Glendale.
Justin Hill was the fastest qualifier in the 450SX at Glendale. Rich Shepherd

You people, and you know who you are, are just going to have to deal with Vince Friese being good. Seriously, he crashed late in the main and got 12th but he was very good and in the top five for a long time. His whoop speed is so much better (Brayton’s helped with bike set-up on that) and he’s, like, way legit. And no, I’m not just saying this because he bought me a delicious steak dinner in Geneva this year.

Blake Baggett wasn’t happy with the start procedure for the restart explaining on the PulpMX Show that what the AMA said they were going to do wasn’t what they did. Another top 450 rider told me, “It was messed up, no one knew what they were doing.” Insert AMA joke here.

Speaking of the staggered restart. The riders at the front started right behind each other in a straight line… then as the line went longer the guys were starting to bend to the right and other guys had front wheels beside the riders back wheel in front of them. Like, this isn’t ‘Nam here, there are rules. Not sure why they just can’t go straight all the way down the start and enforce the front wheels right behind the rear.

Thanks for reading this week. Barcia, Baggett winners of the first two rounds, what in the hell else is going to happen in Anaheim this weekend? Can’t wait! Email me at [email protected] to chat about this or anything else.