2019 Supercross Preview: Monster Energy Supercross Returns
There is a big changing of the guard looming in the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season. There are no less than four rookies with factory rides this year, along with some prominent names who now privateers—at least for the time being.
Last year we broke down the riders into different tiers, so let’s do it again and prognosticate about the 2019 Supercross Championship Season that starts January 5 at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Tier 1: Jason Anderson, Marvin Musquin, Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac
Last year the top tier was Musquin, Roczen, Tomac. They looked to have a near lock on podiums for the season. However, all three suffered injuries in 2019.
Anderson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing FC450) stepped up to win the title when his competitors faltered. Being the returning champion certainly earns you a spot in our top tier. Anderson intends to repeat in 2019, using the same strategy of consistency.
Tomac is on a roll. He dominated the 2018 Nationals, and won a slightly tainted million dollars at the Monster Energy Cup. Although Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F) finished third in last year’s Supercross series, he still won eight of the 17 rounds. With that track record, Tomac is undeniably a favorite for the 2019 title.
Musquin will try to win the championship the same way Anderson is trying to repeat—through consistency. An injury at round 2 in Houston meant that Musquin (Red Bull KTM SX-F 450) didn’t return to the podium until round 6 at San Diego. Even with that, he finished the year just nine points shy of Anderson. If Musquin can avoid getting hurt, he will be right there every week.
After two years of debilitating injuries, Roczen (Team Honda HRC CRF450R) is a great unknown. Roczen is undoubtedly fast, but two years running he hasn’t made it past five rounds without a season-ending injury, and he didn’t win an SX Main last year. He has damaged both arms, and that’s where the mystery lies. As it was last year, Roczen is wait-and-see, but you cannot count him out.
Tier 2: Blake Baggett, Justin Barcia, Cole Seely
This is a trio that didn’t win a Main last year—Baggett has never won one—but certainly was a threat to take the top step. However, you were still likely to see them make the podium at various races. All three riders had high and low points in last year’s Supercross season and are looking to erase the bad memories.
Halfway through the 2018 season, injury ended Seely’s campaign. Along the way, Seely (Team Honda HRC) picked up a podium and four top-four finishes in seven rounds. He has won a Main before, and he can do it again.
A last-minute pickup for Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing, Barcia was the surprise of 2018. He nabbed three podiums in the opening four rounds, before missing seven rounds due to injury. Barcia has won Mains in the past, and is capable on the right night of getting on the top step.
Baggett avoided Main-missing injuries last year, but he was a streaky rider. He couldn’t do better than ninth in the first four rounds, and then Baggett (Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM) reeled off three consecutive podium finishes. He then went seven rounds without a podium, before finishing the year with a pair of third-place finishes. Baggett will be looking for upside-consistency in the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Championship Series.
Tier 3: Benny Bloss, Justin Brayton, Chad Reed, Cooper Webb
These riders will be looking to grab podiums when they can, with past winner Brayton and past-champion Reed hoping to return to the top step. Sure, if things fall perfectly, Brayton and Reed could win a Main, but it’s a longshot. Bloss and Webb will take a win if they can get it, but podiums are their real goals.
After possibly season-ending injuries to Weston Peick in Europe, JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing grabbed two-time Supercross Champion (2004 and ’08) Chad Reed to take over the factory ride. Reed has a lot of work to do. In 2018, he rode every round and had just four top-10 finishes, never doing better than seventh place. The reality is, Reed is getting on in years.
Cooper Webb moves from Yamaha to the Red Bull KTM factory team this year. Former 250 class champion Webb has yet to meet expectations on a 450, and has had too many injuries. Perhaps the move to KTM will change things for him—Webb did have a podium and three top-five finishes last year. He could surprise everyone.
An unexpected winner at Daytona last year, veteran Brayton (Smartop/Bullfrog Spas/MotoConcepts/Honda) had a breakout year in 2018—a year that he turned 34! Brayton only finished outside of the top-10 twice, and had a single podium to go along with his Daytona victory.
That put him fifth in the overall standings—easily the top rider not associated with a factory. It’s difficult to imagine Brayton repeating his 2018 successes, but he’ll work hard to prove that wrong.
Bloss started 2018 injured, but moved into the top 10 for the final two rounds. If Bloss (Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM) can continue that momentum, expect more top 10 finishes. If not, he’ll be a rare finisher in single-digits.
The Rookies: Justin Hill, Zach Osborne, Aaron Plessinger, Joey Savatgy
Rookies are always hard to call in Supercross. Jeremy McGrath (1993) and Ryan Dungey (2010) won the championship as rookies, but others have failed to make the transition successfully. It’s definitely an odd set of rookies in 2019, with no guaranteed phenom in the group.
The most unlikely 450SX rookie is Osborne—he will turn 30 at the Minneapolis round on February 9. Osborne (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) has won the last two 250SX East championships, as well as the 250MX championship in 2017. It has been a long road to the 450SX class for Osborne, so one gets a sense he will make the best of his promotion. He’s undoubtedly one to watch.
After winning the 250SX West championship in 2017, Hill (JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing) has struggled on a 250. At the same time, he moved up to the 450SX class at Tampa last year and finished in sixth place. He seems very comfortable on a 450, so he could be a reliable threat for the podium this year.
With championships in the 250SX West and 250MX classes last year, Plessinger (Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing) moves to the 450SX class with momentum. A tall and lanky rider, Plessinger seems like a natural on a 450. We’ll see!
After a five-year apprenticeship on 250s that yielded no championships, but dozens of podiums and lots of wins, Savatgy (Monster Energy Kawasaki) moves up to the 450SX class. Savatgy has always seemed to be his own worst enemy. If he can get the mental part of racing straightened out, he could be competitive for a championship. Savatgy went 5-6-2 at the 2018 Monster Energy Cup, and might have won the final Main had he not graciously pulled over for teammate Tomac. Savatgy is an enigma, and a fast one.
Former Factory Racers: Justin Bogle, Tyler Bowers, Josh Grant, Dean Wilson
All four of these riders have had factory rides in the past, but find themselves cast adrift after tough years with injuries. Any of these riders are potentially reliable top-10 finishers, if they stay healthy and find the right team in 2019.
Photography by Simon Cudby, Brandon Krause, and Don Williams
2019 Supercross Preview Photo Gallery
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