(Edit - Lap Times Chart is now at the bottom of the page. As for Jason Anderson's penalty of 2 finishing spots, I'm going to ignore that for now in terms of evaluating performance in this race -- not out of principle or anything (though it seemed a bit questionable, but I'll let others get into that), but because adjusting for the change would be a real pain in the ass.)
Even before the Main Event from Petco Park, two stories emerged that might have to do with numbers if you look at them the right way. James Stewart didn’t feel ready to race after his concussion, despite apparently passing the concussion safety protocol tests – while a lot of opinions will fly around about whether he’s being too timid (“a wuss”, “a pussy”, “soft” – all comments that I’ve already seen around the world wide web) or whether he’s smart and well within his right to be cautious (also seen a few of these comments, so at least not everyone is a short-sighted blowhard), not getting any points in San Diego will really lower his odds (see…numbers, sort of) of getting anywhere near the top 3 for the season. We’ll look at updated projections in the coming days, but I think we all know without even looking that Stewart would need to rebound in a big way when he does return.
The other chatter was about how short the course was. The fastest lap average for the Main Event was 49.7 seconds while the slowest was a little over 53. Last year at Petco those were 56.6 seconds and 1:02.6, respectively, which was middle-of-the-road for a 2015 Supercross event. Three events in 2015 had "fastest lap averages" that were quicker – 47.8 (St. Louis), 48.1 (Houston), 49.0 (Santa Clara) – and one other was close, 49.9 (Atlanta 1). (The others: 56.0, 56.8, 1:02, 53.6, 57.5, 52.2, 55.7, 1:09, 52.8, 52.4, 54.6, 1:07, and 1:07.) So yes I understand the complaint but it would seem that San Diego 1 was short but not that short, at least relative to the last season. Now, on to the actual racing.
Ryan Dungey, back to #1 – the only question with him right now is if our projection is somehow too low.
Chad Reed impressed again, and he currently sits in 4th. That’s one spot above where he landed in the preseason predictions, but the big question for him is staying healthy and holding up through the wear and tear of the full 17 weeks. He mentioned post-race that the comments about his age and his expected decline had gotten tiresome. In the preseason projection, his age did cost him 2 spots in our ranking – he would have edged out Trey Canard and Eli Tomac for 3rd if age weren’t a factor. But it is. Let’s see how the full season goes for Reed, but if he outperforms where we projected him, at least his continued success against the doubters will be a great story.
Last week’s winner Jason Anderson continued his run, and while this week's finish was not as inspired as the previous week, he again beat out the supposed challengers to Dungey: Ken Roczen, Trey Canard, Eli Tomac, Cole Seely to name a few. Anderson edged Seely in Lap 17—using a little nudge in the process—causing the announcers to decry Seely’s ability to hold off riders when it mattered. Anderson, however, had better times in both rounds of qualifying and a better fastest lap in the Heat races (they were in different heats, and Seely’s overall average was nearly a half-second better). So possibly Anderson is just racing faster than Seely right now, having very little to do with whether Seely has the “heart/grit/fortitude/(pick a sportscaster expression)” to hold off Anderson. (If Anderson is being penalized for what may have been deemed a jump during a red flag, AMA has not updated the results yet. It affects his standings, potentially, but I don't think it affects our takeaway from his
Cole Seely – well, it seems like according to the above Seely should be upset or something about where he finished compared to Anderson, but he managed to finish 4th on a day when Dungey and Reed really had it going. As far as consolation prizes go, that’s a pretty good one considering how loaded this field is right now. I can think of several other riders who wish they could have finished 4th—such as Roczen and Justin Brayton, both of whom Seely passed along the way.
One of those would be Eli Tomac, who seemed a little flat again – I say that only because expectations for him are so high. He got a mediocre start, and worked his way fairly quickly into 5th, but then for 12 laps could not overtake Seely or Anderson. Tomac had the #2 and #3 fastest lap times in qualifying round 1 and #2 and #4 in round 2, so the stuff was there for him on the Petco track, he just couldn’t make it stick in the Main Event. To his credit, Tomac did manage to hold off Roczen and Canard, though.
Ken Roczen looked solid early, getting a good start and forcing his way up to 3rd. Then a mishap took him off the course and doomed his race – from the footage, it looked like his own error, not some unlucky tangle with another rider. If so, his low finish is on him, not a poor result that we might chalk up to bad luck as often is the case.
Trey Canard put in another race where he didn’t live up to where the data expects him to be (our preseason predictions have him edging out Tomac for 3rd overall). Right now he’s in 7th, and though last week his times leading up to the Main Event impressed, in San Diego his qualifying times were middle-of-the-pack, and he had to go through the Semis after finishing 5th in his heat race. Canard’s high preseason prediction is fueled largely by his 11 450SX races in 2015 where he earned the 2nd-most points per race, trailing only Dungey. His 2014 and 2013 seasons look good, but not Top 3 good. So while the numbers think his 2015 was the precursor of future success, possibly it was the outlier and Canard is miscast as someone who can compete for #3. But for now, the numbers will continue to predict that Canard will rebound toward that #3 projection, but each lackluster finish will chip away at the lofty prediction.
A somewhat unexpected result was Jacob Weimer at #8 – we have Weimer rounding out the bottom few spots in the Top 20, but this is his second straight finish quite a bit above where we have him slotted. It’s not like he had one of those races where the guy gets a great start then just tries to hang on as he is passed and passed and passed until he trips over the finish line trying to avoid getting caught by the rest of the pack – he started at 8th and maintained that position within a couple spots the whole way. Yes, some top riders passed him, but he passed some slower ones, and it netted out to even in the end. In qualifying, he was 13th and 18th, though he was 5th in Heat 2 and 3rd in Semi 2. Nothing that really jumps out and says that he was feeling it in San Diego or that he’s possibly breaking out like with Anderson – however, he’s beaten the predictions twice and with that will come a slightly higher ranking in projections before Week 3 back in Anaheim.
Marvin Musquin didn’t blow us away, but he did seem to right the ship and get back into the Top 10. As has been discussed, with so little data to go on for him, each result sways the prediction a lot. This will put him somewhere in the range of #10, give or take a couple spots. But, neither his qualifying times (9th and 12th) nor his Heat result (9th) show much progress in terms of making the adjustment from the 250 bike and being a contender. There’s a long way to go, though, so he still has a chance to improve and even make some noise (or at least climb up to that #7 spot we predicted him in before the season!).
Justin Brayton had a great start and then trailed off. Like Weimer, he seems to be settling in a bit above where our projections had him (#15 before the season and #12 after week 1). His qualifying times were not particularly impressive, but he did finish 2nd in Heat 1, so maybe he’ll manage to stay above his projection as the season goes along.
Justin Barcia finished 11th, which is an improvement on last week, though our prediction going into San Diego had him at #8 (#6 preseason). Barcia did not have a particularly good 2015, especially compared to 2013 and 2014 on a per-race basis, so perhaps 2015 is the new normal and he’s expected to finish 10/11/12 rather than 6/7/8? He’s a younger rider, so we expect improvement, but that isn’t a rule, just a trend.
Davi Millsaps had a slightly better than expected finish in week 1 and a slightly worse than expected finish in week 2 (granted there must have been a crash or problem of some sort in Lap 4 last night that didn't really get covered in the broadcast). That leaves him right around where he’s been predicted, at 9th and 10th over the two weeks.
Christophe Pourcel was a bit of a surprise – making the Main Event now two weeks in a row, including a 13th place finish this week (also had very good qualifying times, including leading one of the rounds). While he hasn’t really shown up on the radar since he didn’t have any prior 450SX experience in the U.S., I’ll at least note his performance this week and am curious if he slides into the Top 20.
Broc Tickle had a disappointing finish, with not much of a silver lining to speak of -- mediocre qualifying times and having to go through the LCQ. Our preseason prediction had him pretty solidly in 10th, but his performance so far has put that in doubt.
Dean Wilson, William Hahn, Vince Friese, and Mike Alessi all had days that were about as expected – made the Main Event but finished 15th or below. Dean Wilson did have good qualifying times and won Heat 1, so that may be a sign the 23-year-old is improving.
Thomas Hahn, Nicholas Schmidt, Phillip Nicoletti, and Justin Bogle may have each made it on the map (so to speak, if you believe that MotoXGraphs top 20 is “on the map”) with respectable finishes. Considering Bogle’s decent finish last week, he looks like the most likely rider from outside the top 20 to make a big leap up, though it may take another week since although he won Semi 1, he had some sort of problem in the Main Event with what looks like a DNF.
Kyle Chisholm, on the other hand, who just made the list, looks to be out since he had a DNS before the Main Event and didn’t qualify for the final.