Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen turned in an impressive performance aboard his CRF450R at round two of the AMA Supercross series in Glendale, Arizona, scoring his second podium result in a row and assuming the lead in the young title chase.
Roczen had a poor gate pick for the night’s main event and lined up on the far outside, but he impressed everyone when the gate fell, rocketing down the long start straight with the holeshot and early lead. The German put together consistent laps, opening a small gap, but with a little over 13 minutes remaining, the race was red-flagged so that medical staff could tend to an injured Malcolm Stewart. Because more than three laps had been completed, riders were lined up in running order for a staggered restart. When the flag dropped to resume the race, Roczen remained in the lead until lap seven, when Jason Anderson made a pass that resulted in Roczen going down. Ken quickly remounted in fourth and initiated a heated battle for third, successfully making the pass through the whoops and taking the final podium position.
“Tonight was a little hectic but overall it ended on a positive note,” said Roczen. “In the Main, I was just so focused on that start because the heat race didn’t go well for me, so my gate selection was terrible. I wasn’t going to let that bring me down, so I came out swinging and pulled the holeshot.
“I led some good laps and had good speed. I was just focused on hitting my marks. It’s never fun when you’re leading and the red flag comes out. I definitely don’t want to see anyone get hurt so I hope Malcolm [Stewart] is okay.
“I wasn’t too sure if we were going to restart at the gate or do a staggered start but luckily it was staggered. Once the flag dropped, I was focused again on trying to stay out front.
“When Jason [Anderson] came in for the pass, he ended up taking me down. It’s racing – I didn’t think about him diving in there like that and didn’t hear him either. I tried to get up as quick as possible and luckily my bike was still running so I didn’t lose too much time. I knew I was in fourth so I was just trying to get on the podium.
“We’re on the right path. I’m trying to stay focused and consistent, and I’m looking to get some more races under my belt.”
Although it wasn’t reflected in his final result, Cole Seely also had a strong night as he continued to make progress and gain confidence in his return from injury. After a strong showing in his heat race, Seely had hoped to replicate that performance in the main event, but a poor start that saw him 14thafter the completion of the opening lap left him fighting through the pack. After the restart, the Californian put his head down and began laying down some of his fastest laps of the race, working his way into ninth by the checkered flag.
“I had a lot of positives from the day,” said Seely. “I felt fast on the track and was flowing really well. I also had good speed in the heat race. My start was good in the heat but I made a mistake in the main, which put me at the back of the pack. On my way to ninth I felt really comfortable and gained a lot of confidence passing other guys, which is exactly what I need. I’m really excited to get the first couple out of the way and finally feel like I’m ready to do battle now with my boost in confidence.”
The Glendale track featured long straights and fast rhythm sections that put lap times around the one-minute mark. During the daytime qualifying practice, MotoConcepts Honda’s Malcolm Stewart was the top Red Rider, scoring the sixth-quickest lap with 1’01.139” time, followed by team-mate Justin Brayton in seventh with a 1’01.175” lap. The Team Honda HRC riders struggled to find their pace early in the day, with Roczen qualifying ninth-fastest at 1’01.504” and Seely 10thwith a 1’01.577” time.
In heat one, Seely launched out of the gate to a third-place start. He swapped positions multiple times with fellow Honda rider Malcolm Stewart before making a pass stick on lap five and taking over second, which is where he finished. In heat two, Roczen struggled to find his rhythm on the long Glendale track. He ran sixth for much of the race before slipping back two positions, taking the checkers in eighth.
According to Seely’s mechanic Jordan Troxell, the fact that the restart came relatively late in the race made things difficult for the riders. “They were six or seven minutes into the race when the flag came out, so they were going hard at that point,” he explained. “Cole was actually pretty calm though, so I just tried to keep him that way. It’s easy to get frustrated and flustered in a situation like that, so you have to be positive and just try to keep their mind in the game.”
Malcolm Stewart’s Main Event crash resulted in a broken femur, and the MotoConcepts rider underwent surgery on Sunday morning. “While I am super bummed and disappointed for Malcolm, his family and our group, I am equally grateful and happy that Malcolm’s injury is limited to strictly a broken femur,” said team owner Mike Genova in a statement.
Roczen’s steady podium finishes at the first two rounds mean that for the first time since 2017, he holds the points lead and the red number plate that goes with it. Although that’s exciting, Roczen said that he has his sights set long-term.
“It’s only been two races, so I’m trying not to get ahead of myself,” he said. “It’ll be cool to have the red plate again at Anaheim 2, but I’ve missed a lot of racing the past two years so I’m not letting my highs get too high or my lows get too low. We’re in a great spot, I’m having fun out there, and we’re all working really hard.”
For the second consecutive week, Honda had the most bikes of any manufacturer finishing in the top 10 of daytime qualifying, as well as the most machines in the main event.
In the 250SX West Main Event, GEICO Honda’s RJ Hampshire turned in another solid performance aboard his CRF250R, working his way from ninth after the opening lap to fourth by the checkered flag. Hampshire currently sits fifth in the points standings. Team-mate Cameron McAdoo struggled during the 16-lap race, finishing just outside the top 10.
Next weekend, Team Honda HRC heads back to Southern California for their second and final 2019 stop at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. On Friday, the Honda Red Riders will attend an autograph signing at Huntington Beach Honda from 6 to 7:30 p.m.