2016 Week 12 - By-The-Numbers Recap: Santa Clara
Ryan Dungey does it again, with emphasis on the word "again". Let's hope Feld and company don't mess everything up with a "Chase" because of it. (FWIW, I think the only acceptable "Chase" format would be a separate, lesser honor for whoever wins some sort of chase over the last, say, six races. So there's a Season Champ, as always, with a very big trophy for being the leader over 17 weeks, and a "Chase" champ with a much smaller trophy.)
But back to the racing: Dungey disposed of Justin Bogle fairly quickly, then managed to hold off Ken Roczen. Another week for Roczen where on one hand he should be more than content with earning a 2nd-place finish, but on the other hand it must be extremely disheartening to have had another shot at Dungey but instead Dungey just outraced him. On paper, their days look pretty similar -- Dungey was 3rd in qualifying and won Heat 2 (by 3.8 seconds) while Roczen was 6th in qualifying and won Heat 1 (also by 3.8 seconds). At the starting line, Roczen had Dungey to his left and Jason Anderson to his right. Just after the start Anderson pinched in a little bit, which caused Roczen to fall back, then Anderson was able to get a wheel in front of Dungey as well, beating them both to the first turn. Then, when Anderson swung wide a little bit, colliding with Justin Brayton (not sure either one was completely at fault, but interested to hear the fallout), it opened the inside for Dungey, and Roczen was left playing catchup.
If it had been the other way around, with Dungey getting pinched behind Anderson and Roczen, would the race have ended differently? If you exclude Lap 1, as you can see below, then Roczen would have had the lead after Lap 2 because he was 0.21 seconds faster than Dungey in that lap (the red number under "Difference" in the table below -- Roczen going faster than Dungey are negative numbers in red; Dungey going faster than Roczen are positive numbers in black). Roczen would have held this lead through Lap 9 -- see "Running Total" where the number stays negative (i.e., Roczen is ahead) until Lap 10, when Dungey hypothetically would have caught and passed Roczen. Dungey then extends his hypothetical lead to 1.4 seconds after Lap 16, and holds that lead through the end (the times are less reliable as we get toward the end of the race when Dungey and/or Roczen most likely throttle down a bit since Dungey's lead in the actual race was effectively insurmountable). So that hypothetical is what's shown in "Running Total", where Dungey still takes the lead and pulls away:
But, rather than just pretending Lap 1 didn't exist, what if we completely reverse the opening lap, and instead of Dungey being ahead by 0.9 seconds after Lap 1, Roczen had a 0.9 second lead on Dungey? Assuming the race went the same for the both of them, you can see in the "Running Total with Ken Roczen leading after Lap 1" column that Roczen keeps this new hypothetical lead all the way until Lap 15 where they are basically dead even. Dungey then takes a lead over the next 3 laps, leading by a half second after Lap 18, which is where I like to draw the line for when riders usually let off the gas in a noticeable way (we've looked at this in the past). You might argue that Roczen eased up around Lap 15, or that Lap 19 and/or Lap 20 should still be included, which could lead to the conclusion that Roczen would have won the race had Lap 1 been reversed. But, after looking at that table, if I'm answering the question "Did Roczen finish second solely because he got squeezed at the opening, which allowed Dungey to take an early lead?" then my answer is "No" -- without that early lead, it appears Dungey was fast enough that he would have caught Roczen, and that's even if Roczen had made it out of Lap 1 with a small (but decent) lead.
As for Anderson, he survived the run in with Brayton, and held on to 3rd fairly comfortably but never challenged Roczen or Dungey from what I could see. Per lap, he was about a half second slower than Dungey through Lap 18 (0.525 seconds per lap), but true to form he was 0.79 seconds slower (on average per lap) in laps 2 through 11 but only 0.15 seconds slower in laps 12 through 18.
Chad Reed finished #4 for the second race in a row, with a fairly quiet day at Santa Clara, qualifying 8th in practice and finishing 3rd in his Heat Race. He got a clean enough start, passed Justin Bogle, then held off Trey Canard at the end of the race.
Trey Canard looked quite god in qualifying, putting up the second-fastest time, then had a problem in the first turn of his Heat Race. It was hard to tell what happened, but it looked like he got clipped or somehow tangled up and crashed. He couldn't get back into the mix for the heat, but he then won his Semi Race. Canard didn't get a "bad" start for the Main Event, but early on he was running in 10th with James Stewart, Marvin Musquin, and Justin Bogle in front of him, among others, so it looked like Canard might have another disappointing race in what's been a disappointing season. But Canard managed to pass all of those riders, ending up with a fairly impressive 5th place finish, which equals his best of the season (5th at San Diego 2).
Justin Bogle, thanks to a great opening to the race, was in 1st for about a half of a lap. He grazed the top of a rhythm jump with his front wheel, on a landing right before a turn, slowing himself down ever so slightly but it was enough for Dungey to make an inside pass. From there, Bogle fell to 5th by Lap 3, but was able to hold on from there, only getting passed by Canard, and finishing with his best result of 2016 (previous best was 8th at Atlanta).
Eli Tomac was left with another unsatisfactory result (I would assume that's how he and his team feel) due to another terrible start. Out of the gate he rubbed shoulders with Weston Peick (granted, Peick was slightly in front of him), and that caused Tomac to come out of the opening section in 16th (I think he was about 18th before the turn). That's been the story so many times for him in 2016, and like usual he battled back, at Santa Clara making his way up to 7th.
Despite putting up the fastest qualifying time (which goes along with what we mentioned in the predictions, about his previous success at the Santa Clara stadium), he couldn't get out of his heat, finishing 6th, then was 2nd in his Semi. And in the Main Event, even though he made up 10 or so spots, his lap times were generally a full second slower per lap than Dungey's. Tomac is fighting through traffic while Dungey isn't, but that's still much slower than we would expect from Tomac.
Speaking of riders who had done well at Santa Clara, that prediction also mentioned Weston Peick, whose previous race in Santa Clara ended in his best result ever. This time around wasn't quite as lofty, but he did achieve his second-best finish of 2016, tied with his 8th place from two weeks ago in Toronto (his best result was 7th at Detroit). Finishing 8th in the Main Event was an improvement on his racing earlier in the day, since he qualified 12th, was 8th in his Heat Race, and finished 3rd in his Semi Race. (Our prediction for him without the stadium adjustment was 12th, but with the adjustment it was 8th (9th, but then Cole Seely was out, moving Peick up to 8th).)
Jake Weimer (9th) and Blake Baggett (10th) rebounded from somewhat poor qualifying and heat/semi races to make the Top 10 in the Main Event. Weimer qualified 17th, was 8th in his Heat and 5th in his Semi; Baggett qualified 11th, was 7th in his Heat and 3rd in his Semi. For Weimer, though, 9th is his third-best finish in 2016, and for Baggett 10th is his best finish (out of 5 Main Events).
Notables outside the Top 10:
Justin Brayton had a wipeout, as mentioned colliding with Anderson, taking him off the track right at the first turn. After falling to 22nd, he was only able to get back to 13th.
James Stewart is always interesting, tantalizing his fans with a 2nd place Heat Race finish after putting up the 7th-fastest qualifying time. Then bike problems (apparently) caused him to leave the Main Event race during the Lap 6. Prior to leaving the race, Stewart put up a lap of 44.356, which was only bested by 6 other riders.
Josh Grant continues to put up decent results despite this being only his third race of the season. He finished 12th despite a start that had him at 18th.
Mike Alessi had his second-best finish of the season, following last week's 9th with an 11th at Santa Clara. He also finished 4th in his Heat Race.
Josh Hansen -- loved the 14th-place finish, in his first race of the season, because right before the Main Event this tweet went out:
Didn't predict Josh Hansen, but if we had he'd have been at 14th. #Supercross— MotoXGraphs (@MotoXGraphs) April 3, 2016
Justin Barcia returned from injury and ended up in 16th. We had him predicted at 9th, and he was running in 11th for much of the race, then dropped off quickly at Lap 11 and beyond. That prediction includes an injury adjustment (which is still a work in progress), to attempt to account for riders like Barcia who assumedly are not going to be fully 100% right when they return from an injury -- one note to self is to take into account how long the rider has been out, since you would expect that being out for a longer period of time would have a bigger impact (i.e. two weeks off for Canard is probably different than the 10 weeks that Barcia was out).
Marvin Musquin seemed off during the Main Event. The announcers didn't mention it (that I heard, anyway), but he started more or less in the pack after the opening stretch in the Main Event, then he fell back from 6th to 17th, losing a spot or two every couple laps. MotoXAddicts noted that at one point he was rolling triples, so something must have been wrong with him or his bike. He apparently had a fall during the first round of qualifying, but he finished third in the ensuing Heat Race, so it seemed that everything was fine.