Monster Energy Supercross racing is sanctioned domestically by the American Motorcycle Association (AMA) and internationally by the Federation of International Motorcycling (FIM), hence the official series name, 'The Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship.' Great effort is made to keep the tracks safe, the machinery within rule book specification, the riders free of performance enhancing products, and the track battles clean and safe.
But like every sport, there is that place that lives at the outside edge of the rules that competitive athletes are compelled to inch up against. Pass interference in football, the corner of a strike zone in baseball, or a traveling call in basketball – all are subjectively observed and therefore enforced with what's called 'human error' balanced with opinion-limits of 'fair play.' In Supercross, there's a bit of a blurry line when it comes to aggressive riding involving contact. To some its dirty, to most it's just the nature of racing.
Earlier in the season, in the Western Regional 250SX Class, Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis was fined after he entered a corner at a speed that nearly ensured a collision with Honda's Christian Craig. The result was dramatic: it put Craig out for several rounds and left defending champion Ferrandis on probation.
Just two weekends ago, in the Eastern Regional 250SX Class, Husqvarna’s RJ Hampshire cut across a corner and swept out the front wheel of the defending champion, Honda's Chase Sexton while he was in the lead. The result was a slam to the ground for Sexton while Hampshire motored off in first place. That incident was on the minds of 59,743 fans in Atlanta a week later when Sexton, running in second behind Hampshire in the 250SX Class Main Event, squared up a corner and cut across into Hampshire's line. Hampshire was ready, leaned in, and managed to stay up. Sexton pulled away and earned the race win; Hampshire held on for second despite heavy pressure from third place rider, Yamaha’s Shane McElrath.
The 450SX Class also offered some rough battling in Atlanta between two riders who each have at least one win this season, Kawasaki's Eli Tomac and Yamaha’s Justin Barcia. No stranger to physical riding and contact-passes, Barcia is nicknamed "Bam Bam." At the Atlanta race this weekend Barcia got a miserable start, and Tomac hit the ground on Lap 4 – incidentally while making an aggressive contact-pass on KTM's Blake Baggett.
Both riders charged through the pack while battling one another. Their contact occurred in two consecutive corners – both 180-degree bowl turns. Barcia struck first, cutting under Tomac and bumping him wide in the same turn, and with the same move, Sexton had pulled on Hampshire and Tomac had pulled on Baggett. This time, the bumped rider counterattacked immediately, and in the following turn Tomac gave Barcia a forceful shove back. Both riders remained on two wheels and resumed their charge forward. Barcia reached second place, moving him into third place in the championship points. Tomac only climbed as high as fourth, dropping him into a tie in the points after nine rounds.
The 17-round Monster Energy Supercross series lines up the racers every Saturday night from January 4th through May 2nd, except for Easter weekend. With heated rivalries and close points, there are sure to be more fireworks than the airborne variety launched off during the opening ceremonies at each round. The series continues this weekend in Daytona Beach, Fla. at the Daytona International Speedway.
450SX Class Championship Standings
1. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (200)
2. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda (200)
3. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., Yamaha (177)
4. Cooper Webb, Clermont, Fla., KTM (176)
5. Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna (151)
6. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Honda (137)
7. Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Kawasaki (128)
8. Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Honda (127)
9. Justin Brayton, Charlotte, N.C., Honda (116)
10. Dean Wilson, Murrieta, Calif., Husqvarna (113)
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship Standings
1. Chase Sexton, Clermont, Fla., Honda (75)
2. Shane McElrath, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha (70)
3. RJ Hampshire, Minneola, Fla., Husqvarna (61)
4. Garrett Marchbanks, Coalville, Utah, Kawasaki (53)
5. Jordon Smith, Ochlocknee, Ga., Kawasaki (47)
6. Jeremy Martin, Rochester, Minn., Honda (44)
7. Jo Shimoda, Irvine, Calif., Honda (44)
8. Joshua Hill, Huntersville, N.C., Yamaha (41)
9. Enzo Lopes, Huntersville, N.C., Yamaha (36)
10. Joey Crown, Metamora, Mich., Yamaha (31)