Roczen kicks off 2017 season with dominant victory in Anaheim
The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, opened to a sold out crowd of 45,050 fans on Saturday night inside Angel Stadium. Following the most high profile move of the offseason, Team Honda HRC's Ken Roczen earned a dominant victory in his championship debut with the team, leading the entirety of the 450SX Class Main Event for his 10th career win. In the Western Regional 250SX Class Main Event, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Shane McElrath captured his first career win, also leading the entire race.
The 450SX Class Main Event started with Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Marvin Musquin narrowly edging out Roczen for the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot Award, but it was Roczen who emerged from the fray with the lead. Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac also pushed to the front and got alongside Musquin, but eventually settled into third. Defending Monster Energy Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey found himself as far back as eighth, but eventually put his Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing machine into fifth.
Roczen was able to pull away early, and soon a battle for second ensued between Musquin and Tomac, with the Kawasaki rider assuming the position two minutes into the race. Just a short time later, Dungey, who moved up to fourth, closed in on the rear fender of his teammate, eventually moving into podium position. The lead group stabilized for several minutes until Dungey erased his deficit to Tomac and made the pass for second. Tomac would continue to lose positions and eventually dropped off the podium, with Musquin reclaiming control of third.
Roczen took the checkered flag more than 16 seconds ahead of Dungey, for this third Anaheim opener win in four years. It ties him with Chad Reed and James Stewart for the most Anaheim opener wins of all time. He also becomes the first rider in history to win the Anaheim opener aboard three different brands of motorcycles.
"It's like I've been saying [all week], I'm just bringing that much more focus [into the season] and I'm super fit," said Roczen. "I had a lot of fun out there. The track got rough, and since they tamed it down it helped out a lot once it got rough. We've got to keep our head on our shoulders, bottom line."
Dungey's runner-up effort equals his result from a season ago at the Anaheim opener, from which he mounted a run that carried him to a second consecutive title.
"[Ken] rode great. From where I was at [coming off an injury] to have the first big race, this gets my feet back in the game," said Dungey. "All we've done is testing and we've been waiting to get into a race. This was a true challenge. There was a good distance between first and second and that's a challenge. I'm looking forward to closing that."
Musquin rounded out the podium in third.
Roczen will carry the red number plate into the next round as the points leader, holding a three-point lead over Dungey.
The Western Regional 250SX Class Main Event began with McElrath edging out Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Martin Davalos for the SupercrossLive.com Holeshot Award. Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Dan Reardon followed the lead pair, but soon gave up the position to 51Fifty Energy Drink Yamaha's Hayden Mellross, until Mellross was forced to pull off the track and out of the race. That allowed Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Aaron Plessinger to take over third.
The early pace by McElrath allowed him to open a gap over Davalos and the rest of the field, which he ultimately maintained through the remainder of the race. Davalos held on to second for the majority of the race, but Plessinger continued to close the gap until he ultimately made the pass with about six minutes remaining.
McElrath crossed the finish line just over two seconds ahead of Plessinger, who made a late charge. The KTM rider becomes the 103rd different winner in the history of the 250SX Class.
"[Winning] doesn't really have a feeling, so it's hard out put it into words. The whole time out there riding I was tired, but [my opponents] were tired too. It was 'keep pushing, keep pushing,' 'one more lap, one more lap.' When I crossed the finish line I wanted to let go of the bike. It's unreal."
Davalos followed McElrath and Plessinger in third.
For the first time in his career, McElrath will carry the red number plate as the championship leader next weekend. He holds a three-point lead over Plessinger.
The 2017 Monster Energy Supercross season continues next Saturday, January 14, with the second round from San Diego's Petco Park. The action can be seen live on FS1 starting at 10 p.m. ET. / 7 p.m. PT.