You Can’t Win The Championship If You Don’t Finish
Round eight of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series took place this past weekend at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas and the race might have knocked two top competitors out of contention for the title. In a 17-race series that runs from January through May – with only one weekend off during that time – staying injury-free and healthy is more important than track speed for the athletes.
Supercross racers learn the track and its obstacles during daytime practice, which also serves as qualifying for the night event through lap times. Though the title contenders rarely have trouble qualifying, lap times also determine starting gate position, which is critical. Because so much is on the line for what is essentially practice, racers push the limits from their first minutes on the track.
2020 qualifying had been dominated by Kawasaki’s 450SX Class rookie Adam Cianciarulo. Adam had topped the field in quickest qualifying laps at every 2020 round, until Arlington. The 23-year old rider mis-timed the launch off a jump obstacle nicknamed a “Dragon’s Back” for its similarity to the bumpy back of a dragon; riders skim the bumps up the obstacle then launch into the air with the bike level. At the beginning of practice, Cianciarulo’s front wheel missed the final bump, sending him into a nose-down flight altitude. He crashed into the next jump face. The result was a broken collarbone, taking Cianciarulo out of the championship hunt; he’ll surely reach an insurmountable points deficit during the rounds he sits out while recuperating.
The series’ defending champion, KTM’s Cooper Webb, had a similar crash while charging through the pack in 450SX Race 2. Webb’s crash looked more dramatic, with the jump after the “Dragon’s Back” launching rider and bike off the track and onto the stadium floor. A social post from Webb reported a hematoma and deep bruising to his pelvis and sacrum. It’s unclear if the champ will be ready to ride this coming weekend at the Atlanta round, and it will be an uphill battle to make up the points he lost this weekend, but Supercross title hunts rarely go smoothly. Webb is a tough, scrappy fighter and is one of the tougher competitors; his fans will watch for injury updates throughout the week.
At the season’s halfway point, the top two riders are within seven points of one another. Honda’s Ken Roczen – no stranger to overcoming injuries after crashes in the 2017 and 2018 seasons – has two wins in 2020 and the mental toughness to stay in the fight. Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac leads the points; he has put together four wins so far in 2020 and looks to have the field covered in raw speed. But even more so than in other forms of racing, anything can happen in Supercross.
The series continues this weekend at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Ga.