Supercross racers contend with unique soil characteristics at each venue as well as changing track conditions throughout each race. The dirt – or more specifically the deep, peg-grabbing ruts in the dirt – of the first Indianapolis round of the 2021 Monster Energy Supercross series was throwing even the best racers in the world out of shape and in several instances completely off the track during the racing.
The Indy dirt is legendary for rutting up, and the soil on Saturday night at the opening round of the Indianapolis triple-header was maybe more treacherous than in previous years. The deep ruts that form in the corners are manageable to the riders, who can take advantage of the miniature banked wall they provide for higher cornering speed; though those deep corner grooves also prevent the riders from avoiding corner entry and exit bumps.
The more challenging ruts are those that form just before, and up the front of, the steep jump faces. As the riders charge into the obstacles that will launch them 70 feet through the stadium air, the g-forces compress their machines into the ground, which also compresses both ends of their bike's suspension. This lowers the motorcycle's ground clearance precisely when the rider needs that clearance the most. When the ruts are deep enough, the bike's pegs and frame rails drag, slowing the bike, throwing the rider off balance, and often kicking the bike unpredictably offline and sideways into the air.
In the worst scenario for a rider, they cross-rut on the jump face, which means their front and rear wheel are not in the same rut, ensuring the bike cannot launch off the face straight. The top racers can usually straighten the bike enough to land cleanly, but they cannot alter their flight path.
Many racers were bit by these deep ruts at the Indianapolis round on Saturday night, including the 450SX Class race winner, Honda's Ken Roczen. After two near-wins in the first three rounds, he'd battled into the lead when he was suddenly jettisoned by the track. He stayed upright, rounded around the outside of the next bermed corner, re-entered the race in second place, and quickly recaptured the lead.
The unique 2021 Monster Energy Supercross schedule lands three rounds in Indianapolis. The track builders will change the track layout and do what they can to minimize the ruts, but the Indy rounds are sure to deliver more great racing – and unpredictable flight patterns – through the next two Indianapolis races. The next race is the second-ever SuperTuesday round on February 2 inside Lucas Oil Stadium, then the final Indy round takes place on Saturday, February 6. The full season schedule, race dates, airtimes on Peacock and NBCSN, and ticket sales for the restricted-access events are all available at SupercrossLIVE.com.