The SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda team travelled to arid Arizona for the 2020 Glendale Supercross, Round Four of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross Series.
As the first event of the season to run the Triple Crown format, three 12-minutes sprints that combine the rider’s result of each race to determine their overall score, the weekend was a test of fitness and racecraft for Malcolm Stewart, Justin Hill, and Vince Friese.
The track at State Farm Stadium was exactly what one would expect to find in the desert, as it featured long lanes of obstacles and hard-packed dirt that offered varying amounts of traction which made the already intense motos even more demanding.
Malcolm Stewart entered the weekend with an understandable sense of anxiety, as his visit to State Farm Stadium in 2019 resulted in a broken femur that ended his season, but he was able to put that aside and focus on the task at hand.
A 1:02.174 lap time in practice ranked Stewart fifth-fastest in the 450 class qualifying results and he carried the speed into the night’s racing. Stewart got to the front of the field early in 450 race one and maintained his position against the competition to finish in fourth place but suffered a crash in the whoops during 450 race two and ended the moto in 14th place.
Things were better in the last race of the weekend and Stewart rebounded to finish in sixth place, a result that salvaged his overall score of seventh place.
“The Triple Crown format is quite different and to be honest, I don’t know if I had ever raced one. It’s different but it’s cool. The track was pretty cool, but it got really slick tonight, and everyone was fighting for traction,” Stewart noted at the end of the night.
“The format keeps the racing tight and I almost got the holeshot in the first one, that was the best start that I’ve had! I was like, ‘Man, there’s nobody next to me. I’m feeling good!’ And then I blew the corner *Laughs*. The cool thing about the Triple Crown is that it’s almost like a throwaway race, so I am happy with that and to get out of here in one piece, especially after everything that happened to me here last year.”
Stewart is now eighth in the 450 championship standings.
Justin Hill was again one of the faster riders of the weekend, as a 1:02.375 lap in the afternoon practices ranked him sixth overall in qualifying and his race times were on pace with the front-runners, but his results were marred by issues on the track. Hill hovered around the top-10 through the night and posted his best result, a ninth place in race one, despite a slower pace in the final laps.
It took him time to get into a rhythm during race two and a push in the last part of the moto got him to 13th place, while a steady ride in the final race of the night put him in 10th place.
With 9-13-10 scores, Hill ended the night 12th overall. “My first race felt okay, the first three corners were really good, and I tightened up at the end,” he said.
“The second one was just mediocre all around, and in the third, I was sluggish at the start and loosened up at the end.
“I’ll chalk it up to not liking the track too much, so hopefully next week is better. I feel like my fitness is there and I felt good in the whoops, where a lot of guys were complaining tonight, and there were a couple of positives. But it’s just frustrating to be back there, because I know I am capable of so much more.
“Every Monday and Tuesday I think about how I can get up there, but that’s just the game right now. There are 17 or 18 really good guys, and everybody is on one.”
Hill is now 12th in the 450 championship standings.
Vince Friese’s day started slowly, evident in the 1:03.932 practice lap that put him 16th overall in qualifying and a 13th place finish in race one, but he made progress through each of the night’s races. One of the better starters in the field, Friese came around the first turn near the front of the pack in race two and race three but was unable to replicate his reaction times during the restarts after the crash-caused red flags, and logged a pair of 12th place finishes in the two races.
Friese’s 13-12-12 finishes combined put him 14th overall on the night. “It was up and down. The first race didn’t go my way and I turned it around in the second one. There was a quad into a turn that was a little sketchy that I finally started to jump and that changed my night because I started to ride a lot better,” he reflected.
“The red flags messed me up because I was in second place during one race that got red-flagged and fifth in the other. In the last race, I was in 10th place when I was about to get the white flag but had a crash in the whoops that cost me a good overall position.
“That was frustrating, but my riding came around and I’m happy with that. It’s just not the result I was looking for, but it is what it is, and I’ll try to keep getting better.”
Friese is now 13th in the 450 championship standings.
Considering the circumstances of the weekend, which saw a handful of riders suffer season-changing injuries, the SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda team was pleased to make it through without serious issue and with points scored for the championship.
“The Triple Crown is a tough format because you have three short, high-intensity races. We had about 45-minutes between races to get the bikes prepped and the riders ready,” explained Team Manager Tony Alessi.
“Malcolm was our top finisher at seventh overall and his best race score was a fourth place, which was good. Justin Hill was 12th overall and he had a couple of moments where he was close to one of the fastest riders on the track but had a couple of crashes and that held him back. Vince was held back by crashes tonight, too. We’re still running strong and will keep forging ahead.”
What’s next for SmarTop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda?
The 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series continues this weekend in California’s Bay Area with the fifth round of the championship, the 2020 Oakland Supercross at RingCentral Coliseum.