If Ken Roczen had any naysayers left, those cynics were certainly silenced Saturday night when the rider of the Wiseco-sponsored No. 94 Honda CRF450R captured his second win of the season when Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, made its annual visit to State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
Roczen was poetry in motion Saturday night, scripting three perfect sonnets to collect wins in all three premiere 450SX Class main events in the first of three Triple Crown races on the 2020 schedule.
The triple crown format features a three-race showdown where both the 450SX and 250SX Classes compete in three main events. Each triple crown race features Olympic-style scoring, where the rider with the lowest point tally at the end of the night collects the overall win.
Roczen tallied a perfect 1-1-1 score across all three 12-minute-plus-one-lap main events to stretch his championship lead to eight points over second place Eli Tomac.
Despite the grueling nature of Supercross as a whole, never mind the challenges that come along with Triple Crown rounds, Roczen made it look easy by leading 38 out of 39 total laps in the night. Despite two red flags, requiring the 22-rider field to return to the starting gate twice for restarts, Roczen never wavered, delivering three top-of-the box performances.
“I had good battles with Eli (Tomac) all night,” commented Roczen during his post-race media availability. “I’m just having a lot of fun. I’m really confident in my starts right now, so that helps. Those red flags are never fun to see, especially for the person who went down. When you line back up for a restart, there are 22 guys going down the start straight heading for the first turn so there’s some sketchiness happening there. The extra start definitely doesn’t help.”
“Overall, we just stayed out of trouble and got two holeshots. I rode really well … and we were really focused. I’m still blown away by having three main event wins. It’s great. I had an awesome time.”
Roczen’s Team Honda HRC teammate Justin Brayton turned in a respectable 7-7-9 performance to finish sixth overall and record his best effort of the season. Always a fan favorite and one of the sport’s longest tenured journeymen, Brayton notched his 155th career start Saturday night and brought home his fourth top-10 of the year.
“The night went pretty good, but I had a lot of bad starts for some reason,” explained Brayton. “I really struggled with track position at the beginning of the race and I came from the back pretty much all three races. I’m a little disappointed in that because I felt like with my lap times, a better track position could have given me a top-five finish. But to end up sixth is nothing to hang our heads for at all. It was a positive night, awesome to see Kenny get the win, and the team’s just gelling really well right now. Everyone’s doing an amazing job and I keep getting better and better every weekend. I hope to keep this momentum rolling and be in the top five next week.”
In Western Regional 250SX class action, GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig looked strong early on aboard his Wiseco-powered machine, securing a solid third-place effort in the opening main event for the junior circuit. Much to his chagrin and for the third week in a row, an incident on the track found him heading back to the pit and paddock area prior to the checkered flag.
Unfortunately, Craig left Round 4 with injuries that will keep him sidelined for the next two races, but a welcome break in the Western Regional schedule will give him plenty of time to recover before his planned return at the end of March for the Seattle Supercross.
“I was super excited to be back in Glendale,” said Craig. “That’s where I won a few years ago and I just love the dirt, stadium and fans there. The whoops were pretty good, too, and didn’t break down much which suits me well. I really felt like it was my night to at least podium if not better. The first main was pretty good. I got the holeshot then some contact with another rider shot me off the track, but I was still able to make my way up to third from probably seventh or eighth. I was pumped on my riding in that first main. Second main, bunch of us were going into a corner after the sand and I grabbed my brake a little too hard. So, it was just one thing after another. I can be a front runner, which makes me happy, but set back after set back gets frustrating. I’ll get myself all fixed up and be back in Seattle.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross returns to northern California this weekend when the series will make its annual trek to Oakland’s RingCentral Coliseum. The fifth of 17 races on the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule will be televised live on NBCSN Sat., February 1 beginning at 8:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 5:30 p.m. Pacific.