What the Monster Cup told us about 2020 AMA Supercross


10/22/2019

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With the 2019 Monster Energy Cup in the books, we can extrapolate the results and performances to see into the future a bit about the upcoming AMA Supercross season. 

While some of the top stars didn't make the event this time around, several of them did and what we saw was certainly telling. For instance, Eli Tomac will always be a favorite for the win at any round of the series, and that was no different for the two-time Monster Cup winner. What was somewhat unexpected was just how fast his new teammate was. Adam Cianciarulo, this year's winner, not only beat his teammate straight up but had it not been for a mid-race mistake that put him on the ground briefly while leading (and pulling away), he looked like a shoe-in for the Monster Million. 

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But he did go down, and he didn't win every main event, yet he proved he had what it took to go toe-to-toe with arguably the fastest and most motivated man in the field -- his teammate Tomac. Cianciarulo has been groomed for a spot in the factory Kawasaki pits since his days on KX65's at Loretta Lynn's. His career thus far had been off to a bit of a slow start with exception to this last summer's pro motocross series, where he won in the 250 Class. If the Monster Cup is any indication, it appears his transition to the premier class will be seamless and just like that, we have another title contender!

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Of course Tomac looked fast and solid, had it not been for an untimely mistake while chasing the leader (Cianciarulo) and so-so starts all night long. He was the fastest qualifier, and looked to be on his way to dominance after winning the first main, but it was not to be. It will be interesting to see how Tomac adjusts to another rider that's nearly as fast (or even faster) than he is, who gets the same amount of attention from the crew. 

Also remarkable, and despite the relatively thin field, was the return of two riders that would be considered wild cards in the 2020 season compared to the two Monster Kawasaki teammates.

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Malcolm Stewart certainly could be considered one, and having not raced since Round 2 in Glendale, AZ way back in January 2019, Stewart's performance could only be described as impressive. He qualified third, was always moving forward in each main event, and even walked away with a win after moving through the pack in the second main. Stewart once again found a home on the Motoconcepts/SmartTop Honda team with nearly full factory support and a solid team behind him. If Stewart can just get through the off-season healthy and come into Anaheim 1 swinging, he'll be hitting podiums regularly.

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Jeremy Martin hadn't seen a gate drop since June 2018 when he decided at the last minute to have the Honda folks round him up a 450 and race the Monster Cup. He looked comfortable and fairly fast, but most importantly he was mistake-free for the entire day and night. Briefly leading one of the mains, he was able to nail good starts in each main. His plans now, though, are not to race the 450SX class at all, but will most likely pick up in the 250SX East region, which means he won't hit an AMA Supercross track until mid-February. 

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The Monster Energy/Yamaha teammates of Aaron Plessinger and Justin Barcia probably didn't envision getting beaten by a couple of privateers and an MXGP competitor whose never raced Supercross. But they did, and it was not a very fruitful night for either of these former 250SX regional champions as they seemed to struggled throughout the event. Let's hope both can figure out what the issues are between now and the first weekend in January.

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Another rider returning from injury after a long while off was even more of an underdog, and that was Vince Friese. Stewart's teammate for the 2020 season is a holeshot master and he proved at Monster Cup that he also has the speed to run up front - even lead - a main event for at least a while. He managed to do that a couple of times in Vegas and may just force himself in between some battles up front next season.

So while the Monster Cup is a unique and one-off event each year, it certainly always packs some surprises. Whether those surprises result in anything fruitful for when AMA Supercross kicks off in Anaheim in January is another question entirely.


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