Whereas there were nearly three years between Ken Roczen’s 10th and 11th career premier-class AMA Supercross wins, only 14 days passed before win number 12, and this one was even more convincing than the last.
In Glendale, Arizona’s State Farm Stadium—host to the 2020 series’ fourth round and the first of three, run under the unique Triple Crown format — the Team Honda HRC rider topped all three of the evening’s 450SX races, confirming the speed shown two weeks earlier in St. Louis and stretching his title-chase lead to eight points.
With his CRF450R wearing the red number plate that denotes the points leader, the German used strong starts and masterful race management to rule the evening, leading the bulk of laps and setting the fastest lap times in two of three races (including the fastest of the night).
Meanwhile, team-mate Justin Brayton overcame so-so starts by putting in solid rides through traffic, tallying 7-7-9 finishes to take sixth overall—his best result of the season thus far, and good enough to improve his position in the points battle from eighth to seventh.
Roczen woke up on Thursday with a stuffy head and a sore throat, which was some cause for concern considering the physical demand of the Triple Crown format. “Everybody’s been sick, and I’ve been trying to stay away from all that stuff,” he said. “Lucky, it improved between Friday and Saturday.” Still, Roczen’s voice was noticeably rough after the race.
The Triple Crown format has the daytime qualifying sessions determine order of gate selection for the evening, and Roczen notched the third-best time with a 1’01.954” lap in the second outing.
Team-mate Brayton was 13th with a 1’03.124” lap, with fellow Red Riders Malcolm Stewart, Justin Hill, Vince Friese and Chris Blose fifth, sixth, 16th and 17th, respectively.
As has been the case at every round this season, Honda was the best-represented manufacturer among those riders advancing to the 450SX Main Events, with no fewer than seven of 22 machines being CRF450R race bikes.
Because of the shorter races run with the Triple Crown schedule, strong starts were vital to a good result at Glendale, and adding to the pressure that comes with that were a pair of restarts. Roczen was among the best in the sprints to turn one, with the first race-three start being the only flawed getaway.
Even then, he was quickly improving his position when the red flag flew, and could well have still scored the overall win even without it. “It was madness out there with the restarts and people crashing, and it’s just good to come out of here healthy,” he said.
The Glendale race took place on the eve of Australia Day, when Australians celebrate their country, and Penrite Honda commemorated the occasion with special bike graphics featuring kangaroos, Ayers Rock and the Australian flag. More importantly, the squad (whose headquarters are in Australia) turned in a strong 250SX West performance, with Mitchell Oldenburg and Luke Clout finishing sixth and 10th, respectively.
The GEICO Honda team continued its trend of strong riding mixed with misfortune. Following Jett Lawrence’s injury last weekend, Christian Craig was the only rider representing the team in Arizona, and he notched a podium result in Glendale’s first 250SX race, only to suffer a hard crash in race two, resulting in injuries that will leave him sidelined for the next two races. The squad has a talented line-up of riders preparing for the 250SX East series.
This coming weekend, the Red Riders return to California for Round Five, only this time it’s further north for the Oakland Supercross. On Friday, Roczen and Brayton will make a dealer appearance at Fremont Honda from 6-7.
Ken Roczen: “I can’t believe we won all three Main Events! I think it’s the focus that we bring. Between my team and especially my mechanic, we just have a good regimen going into all the races.
“Every time we go down there for a gate drop, I just want to put maximum focus, put myself in a good position and make life a lot easier—and safer as well. We had some good battles with Eli [Tomac] in the first one, but I was stoked to pull it off.
“I got a decent start in the second one, and then we had to do a restart unfortunately. I grabbed that holeshot and rode a super-solid race and won. The first start for race three was not good, and me and Tomac were battling in like eighth or something.
“Then we had another restart, and I pulled the holeshot there and just rode a super-solid race. I had a good time tonight, and I’m really happy with how the team has been excelling and making changes to the bike. We’ve been working really well together, and the team spirit is high right now. Obviously, I’m beyond stoked and want to enjoy tonight and tomorrow, but then get back to work and keep 100 per cent focus.”
Justin Brayton: “The night went pretty good, but I had a lot of bad starts for some reason. I really struggled with track position at the beginning of the race, and I came from the back pretty much all three races. I’m a little disappointed in that because I felt like with my lap times, a better track position could have given me a top-five finish. But to end up sixth is nothing to hang our heads for at all. It was a positive night, awesome to see Kenny get the win, and the team’s just jelling really well right now; everyone’s doing an amazing job, and I keep getting better and better every weekend. I hope to keep this momentum rolling and be in the top five next week.”