The 2018 AMA Supercross Opener Didn't Disappoint



Angel Stadium of Anaheim has become the epicenter of AMA Supercross racing. It was 1999 when the series first opened at the iconic venue, and since then it's hosted more than 70 rounds. As in previous years, there have been as many as three rounds per season on its well-groomed dirt. This year, two rounds will visit the site. And this past weekend, the season opener went off with a blast. New riders, new teams, new sponsors, and full gates of the fastest Supercross racers on the planet. All that before a sold-out crowd of more than 45,000. The racing did not disappoint.


With a lineup of top stars that could arguably be called the greatest in the sport's history, the 2018 Anaheim 1 season opener had just as many top stories as it did racers. France's Marvin Musquin came into the series with a string of wins in the off-season that would make even the greatest racers in history jealous. A million dollars for the win at Monster Cup? Check. Red Bull Straight Rhythm? Check. Paris Supercross? Check. Geneva Supercross? Check. Musquin walked away with the win in Anaheim, as well, keeping his streak of wins alive and launching him into the points lead in the process. Musquin played it cool early on in the main event, letting the race come to him as the few riders in front of him–namely Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac–either crashed or dropped the pace enough that he could slip through unscathed and effortlessly ride away with the win. Musquin seems to be entering the next phase of his career and, at this point, seems to be the title favorite. But hey let's not forget: there are 16 rounds remaining.


Coming into the opener, many pundits and fans felt that Eli Tomac was the clear-cut favorite to win the title. While his Anaheim 1 results have been lackluster in the past, that all appeared to be in the rear-view mirror as he holeshot the main event and opened a 5-second lead on Barcia in the runner-up spot. Then disaster struck, as Tomac made a small error exiting a corner into a double-jump and crashed hard on his left shoulder and head. The spinning rear wheel of his KX450 tore open his pants and, with them falling down around mid-thigh, the flustered and possibly injured MX champ remounted in third. His pace then slowed dramatically, as he essentially just "rode around" for a few laps before eventually pulling off. Scoring no points, he suddenly found himself 25 points down to the man who was clearly his biggest challenge for the title. As of now, it seems his shoulder is not significantly injured and he'll be able to at least line up for Round 2 in Houston this coming weekend. This isn't the first time Tomac's been way down in points early in the season, such as last year when he made up the deficit with nine wins in quick succession before nearly taking the title from Ryan Dungey. This is all bound to make for a very interesting start to the season, because Tomac is now very much behind the 8-ball in such a stacked field of superstars.


Formerly a training partner with Musquin at the famed Baker's Factory in Florida, Jason Anderson (above) has chosen to separate himself from the Frenchman and train elsewhere. What this spells is a budding rivalry and, based on Anderson's outstanding ride in Anaheim for a strong second-place finish, it promises to be a great one. Anderson is well known for his speed, but not so much for being able to maintain it over 17 rounds. Of course, it's one thing to be fast, but it's entirely another to be consistently fast with finishes necessary to be competitive in such fast company. But it seems Jason, too, has entered the next phase of his career. It will be interesting to see how Anderson is able to perform (and how many races he can win) over the long road ahead. He certainly has the speed and support necessary, so the deck is stacked in his favor.


In yet another interesting sub-plot for the 2018 season, Justin Barcia found himself without a job just a couple of months ago. At Monster Cup, he was on a Honda that he bought for himself after he was able to scrape up just enough sponsors to make the main events. Since then, he was fortunate enough to find a fill-in spot on the Monster Energy/Yamaha factory squad, replacing the injured Davi Millsaps for the first six rounds. Barcia's performance at A1 (third place after leading for several laps) is likely to be a big step toward his staying on the team for the remainder of the season. He was, as many have noted, more like the "BamBam" that many of us had grown to love over the years. Fast, aggressive, stylish, Barcia seems to have a fresh fire lit beneath him for the 2018 season, and that is definitely a good thing for the fans.


Actually though, the biggest story of the 2018 season opener was the nearly miraculous return of Team Honda HRC's Ken Roczen. After a horrific crash at the Anaheim 2 round last year, the injuries Roczen sustained led several doctors to feel that the best option for the superstar was to amputate his left arm just above the elbow. After finding a doctor who felt differently, the seemingly impossible recovery to the top of the sport began. Eleven operations and what must have felt like an infinite amount of effort and sweat later, Roczen seems to be nearly 100 percent heading into the long season. 


Finishing an impressive fourth in the main after a great battle with his teammate Cole Seely, Roczan seemed to be running down Barcia for a third before time ran out. What made his race most remarkable, though, was how he was able to move swiftly through the pack after a terrible start, getting into the lead pack very quickly and dicing with many of the sport's top riders. Along the way, Roczen made a small error that was eerily similar to what resulted in the crash last year that mutilated his arm. This time though, he didn't hit the dirt, averted disaster and recovered beautifully to continue his march to the front. At this point, it is evident Roczen will be in the championship hunt for the entire season, and his return appears to be complete.


The 250 West Regional opener again saw TLD/KTM's Shane McElrath run away with the win. In a replay from last year's Anaheim 1, McElrath was untouchable all day, easily winning his heat race, as well. After nabbing the holeshot in the main event, Shane simply never looked back and was never challenged. On the podium, he was calm, cool and collected and at this point, seems to be the clear favorite for the title--which would be his first.


McElrath's teammate, Alex Martin (#26 above), also was considered a front-runner for the title, or at least for some wins. Unfortunately, Martin had a few crashes on the day that left him with 0 points and make him questionable for Houston this weekend. On the other hand, the other rider in the photo above, Aaron Plessinger, had a great night, ending up second in the main event. For a few years now, the Ohio native has clearly been one of, if not THE, top prospect for a 250 regional title, but he's never quite been able to reach the goal. This year, he seems as strong as ever and, with a ton of experience now coupled with his speed and endurance, it seems the deck is in his favor. The only question is whether he can parlay all of that into enough of a run to beat out the other great favorites. Besides McElrath and Joey Savatgy, Plessinger also has to deal with ...


... Adam Cianciarulo. Talk about hot prospects! This young rider has had that cloud hanging over him since he was 6 years old. As one of the most highly-touted amateurs to ever come through the ranks, this year AC92 seems to have all of his ducks in a row for what may be the first time in his career. A solid ride in the main event led to this observation, although he seemed to be less than enthusiastic about it and no doubt is looking for wins, not just podiums. This all makes for a great 250 west battle shaping up as we roll into Houston.


So we're back to Houston after a bit of a hiatus, and for the first time this season the racing will be indoors. NRG Stadium is a great venue, and the crowd should be massive, as the region went without an event last year. Both classes have already shaped up to be great season-long battles, and with so many sub-plots, we're all winners.

Be sure to check out the action on for live timing and scoring. Our Facebook page: AMA Supercross Championship, will have photos from both practice and the night's racing, and on Instagram be sure to follow @amasupercross. Also, this week's race will be televised on Fox Sports 1 at 8PM EST - TV listings are available here:

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