Good, Bad, 'n Ugly: Houston
This was great to see. As I mentioned last week, it's been a rough year for GIECO Honda on the West Coast. Until Houston, the duo of RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo had scored zero podiums and only a handful of top fives. And, honestly, I was starting to get a bit worried that the team would end the West series with no podiums this year. Things were different in Houston, though. RJ and the team had done some testing out in California during the week and it sounded like he'd become much more comfortable on the bike in that short amount of time. He qualified in fourth place which was a decent start to the day, but he looked like a different rider during the Main Events. He got great starts and ran comparable lap times to the leaders in every race, and he fairly comfortably claimed a spot on the overall podium. He was clearly pretty pumped about his podium spot and he had every right to be. This was a big monkey off of his back, and perhaps he'll be able to carry this momentum through the final few rounds of the season.
The Good Bonus: Colt Nichols | 3rd Place Overall
Houston was a nice bounce-back round for Colt considering the second half of his season has been rough. He looked solid but not quite podium material in the first two Main Events, but it was obvious he really wanted the win in the final race of the night. He made quick work of Dylan Ferrandis (who had a comfy lead in the overall standings) and threw down a load of consistent laps during what ended up being an uncontested win for him. That final Main Event result also helped him edge out Adam Cianciarulo for the final spot on the podium, which I'm sure was a huge relief for him. I have to give Colt props. Despite how this season has turned out for him, he still seems incredibly positive and just happy to be healthy and racing his dirt bike.
The Bad: Michael Mosiman | 12th Place Overall
This wasn't a "Bad" result, but it had the potential of being better. He clearly had the speed to run inside the top five and in the first Main Event he did just that by finishing in fourth place, but crashes in the second and third Main Events left him with 4-18-14 results and 12th overall. However, I do think that Michael has made great strides in his racecraft this season and could be a podium threat next year if he continues to improve.
The Ugly: Adam Cianciarulo | 4th Place Overall
While it's always hard to classify a fourth place finish as the "Ugly", this was not a good weekend for Adam. Now, it started off great with him grabbing the holeshot and running away with the win in the first Main Event of the night, but the second one was where the wheels came off. He got bumped off of the track in the first turn and as a result was buried in the pack early in the race. He was moving through it fairly well until he came up on Sean Cantrell, who faded over just a tad on Adam, which led to Adam hitting the deck. After seeing the GoPro video, I kind of understand why Adam's immediate thought was to put out his hand, but I'm not exactly sure how he thought that would help and I'm also not sure why he didn't let off a bit before the over-under considering how close the two guys in front of him were riding. I guess he was a little too impatient. He was going to be pretty far back either way, and with the shorter race time he only came back to tenth place. The final Main Event was looking a little worrisome, as well, after he got a mediocre start and went down with Michael Mosiman in the first whoop section, but he turned on "Mad Man Mode", and went all-out for the remainder of the race. He was able to get back to third which was awesome to see, but he ended up fourth overall on the night and lost over half of his points lead to Dylan Ferrandis. The gap between the two is now five points, and both riders are in a must-win situation.
The Good: Dean Wilson | 3rd Place Overall
Dean has always had the speed to podium at any given race. No one is ever surprised if he qualifies first, but the actual races have not gone his way very often. He was able to put it all together in Houston, though, and while he wasn't the most talked about rider of the night I think he was by far the most impressive given the current circumstances in the championship. It's all about Cooper Webb, Marvin Musquin, and Eli Tomac right now, but Dean just stuck it right in there with them and looked like he belonged. If he can score another podium or two before the end of the season, I hope Rockstar Energy Husqvarna finds the budget to sign him as a third rider for next year. It also sounds like he'll be racing outdoors this year, which is great to hear.
The Bad: Eli Tomac | 4th Place Overall
Uh, okay? I'm still trying to figure out what exactly was going through Eli's mind when he rolled the finish line at the end of the first Main Event. There's no way he didn't know Marvin was right there. He'd been on him the entire lap and almost made contact with Eli before one of the final rhythm sections. So did he give it to Marvin hoping that he'd be able to take points away from Cooper because he knew he wouldn't be able to? Did he just not care enough to jump the finish line jump? It genuinely makes no sense to me. Knowing Eli, we'll never get an answer about it. We'll just be left to speculate until we find something else to talk about. Anyway, the night was not great for Eli even if you take out his finish line roll. He would have gotten sixth place in the first Main Event, and then his seventh place finish in the second race was not encouraging either. He tried to pass Justin Bogle for a few laps, and when his final attempt at the pass led to him missing a rhythm section and getting passed by Zach Osborne it seemed like that was it for him. He didn't look to have much fight in him after that. Then all the sudden he was his old self in the third race and finished second behind Marvin Musquin. I really don't know if this could get any more puzzling. He now sits 26 points behind Cooper Webb, and his championship hopes are slim-to-none.
The Ugly: Ken Roczen | 10th Place Overall
Oh, what could have been. We've all been waiting for Ken to win his first race of the season. Everyone felt like it was coming at some point, and it was looking good after the first Main Event on Saturday. He won the race comfortably, and with everything else going on (Marvin vs. Cooper, Eli struggling, etc.) I felt like his chances of winning the overall were very high. If anything, I thought it'd come down to his starts in the other races. But then he went down in the first turn of the second Main Event and had to pull off because he thought he had an ankle injury. It ended up being a toe injury, which was a relief to hear, but the win was well out of reach, and he had to push through the pain to an eighth-place finish in the final race. He ended up tenth overall and dropped another huge chunk of points. The good news is that it sounds like the toe injury won't force him out of any future races, but, similar to Tomac, his championship aspirations are pretty much done for this season.
Words and photos by Grant Dawson