Ah Anaheim 1, it was the best of times (Roczen), it was the worst of times (Stewart), it was another barn-burning season opener in SoCal. I mean really, what more could you ask for to kick off a series? We got the all-time, most awkward heat race podium speech ever (It was actually almost hard to watch. I know a lot of people will kill Mike for it because he is an easy target, you have to appreciate a guy who cares so much), several full-on, old school Bradshaw/Chicken-style block passes (one for the 250 win), a somewhat surprising first-time winner and the return of the semi races! It really was one hell of a great night of racing in the land of flat-bills and boob jobs.
My take on the 450 top ten-
• 1st Place: Zee German- I don’t think Kenny’s win should come as a surprise to anyone (Reports that his gear could be spotted by the Mars Rover may or may not be false). The kid is had been winning GP’s since he was 15 and already has a podium finish in the big-bike class. He has incredible raw talent, probably the most well funded team behind him, endless enthusiasm and now the trainer to the stars in his corner (how long before RV regrets this decision?). This has the potential of a real Stanton/RJ deal from 1989 in the making. While I think it may be a little to early to get all crazy crowning Kenny the new Supercross champ, confidence is a crazy thing. Do I think he will win it all this year? No. Would I be surprised if he pulled a McGrath or Dungey and did the deed as a rookie? Absolutely not. Grade: A+ for Team Hasselhoff .
• 2nd Place: The Dunge- Last night, Dungey did what Dungey does. He was solid as a rock, steady Eddie and just a tick off the fastest guys. He lacked the balls-out speed of Stewart, but kept it on two wheels and stayed in the hunt for the title. I have to admit, after last year I did not have really high expectations for my two favorite riders. Reed’s year was an unwatchable abomination and Dungey never seemed to be comfortable with his Carlos-tuned KTM. If A1 is any indication, however, it looks like DeCoster and the boys have those pumpkins pretty well sorted out. I still think RV has the field covered in a 17-race marathon, but I am quietly encouraged…. Grade: B+ for the Dungenator.
• 3rd Place: Speedy Reedy- Damn, it is nice to use that nickname again and not seem ironic. OK, all jokes aside, I never would have predicted this. After his last stint on the green machines and the trail of tears that was 2013 who could have? At one point last night, I even thought for a second he might have a shot at the win. He was that legit! Like everyone else (including the winner), he lacked the “holly shit did you see that” speed of Stewart, but for the first time in about twenty months, he looked like the old Chad Reed. Last night, I looked a shark in the eye my friends, and that shark’s name was Chad Reed. Grade: A- for The Thunder from Down Under (lower expectations going in and a huge rebound from last year).
• 4th Place: The Champ- My what an interesting night for one Ryan Villopoto. First of all, he got to rekindle his rivalry with The Hype. Then, he actually lost to Alessi for the first time since the term “lites” was just a misspelling. This of course, resulted in the most cringe-worthy bit motocross television since Erin Bates asked JS7 about his traction control (Am I the only one that thinks Dungey should have gone ahead and given Mike that hug he owed him from Washougal 2012?). Then, the Universes got their revenge and smote Team Hot Tub for trying to jump the gate again and handed the holeshot to RV.
From here, it should have been smooth sailing for the redheaded munchkin, but once again the Moto Gods had other ideas for Villopoto. Unlike most of last year, RV was not able to get away, so when a minor tip over happened, a bunch of top guys got by. It had to be a bummer for Ryan, but at least he was not hurt and rebounded well with a forth. Considering what happened last year at A1, I know no one at Team Kawasaki is panicking. Ryan recovered from a sixth at round one to wrap it up a round early. Still, at least there is some hope that we might actually have a race for the title this year. Grade C for the man who would be King .
• 5th Place: Bam Bam– OK, am I the only one who thought Barcia looked like a weird cross between Duck Dynasty and Wonder Woman last night? That had to be the craziest get up this side of a comic-con convention. Between him and Tomac, Alpinstars had the drag queen and Spirograph set covered last night. But enough about fashion.
On the track, Barcia looked like his same aggressive self, scrubbing revving and whipping his CRF to within an inch of the tuff blocks on every rhythm section (It actually scares me to watch Justin. It always feels like that yard sale is only a few moments away). The kid is blazing fast and a fifth place is a solid finish. I don’t know if I am ready to crown him the heir-apparent yet, but I think he will win some races this year no doubt. Grade: B- for Sparkle and Shine
• 6th Place: Justin “Real Tree” Brayton- Sixth is a really solid finish for Brayton and Team JGR. I think it is too much to expect Justin to get a podium in this #DeepField, but a top ten is right where he should be. A fifth would be great (and attainable), but a sixth is awesome. Once again he was invisible on TV, which is a bit of a bummer for Gibbs Racing, but with the return of the semi races (yeah!) I imagine we will get some face time with Jason Weigandt’s man crush at some point this year. Grade: I am cele-Brayton a solid B+
• 7th Place: Josh “The Unit” Grant– Another solid finish for Team JGR. While I am sure J-Bone was hoping for another out-of-nowhere 2009 upset from Grant, a seventh is a good way to get things rolling. To be frank, any A1 where Josh does not turn himself into a tatted-up lawn dart is a victory, so there is that. Also- bonus points for a cool A1 themed lid. Grade C+ for the guy who stole my first Monster Girl crush away from me (Damn you Josh!)
• 8th Place: Broc Tickle– I hear there was some serious B-to-B going down in the RCH pits bro. Major activation yo! That is all I know about that. Grade: C for the guy with the second porniest name in moto (come on, no body can beat Dusty Pipes).
• 9th Place: The Smiley-faced Assassin- While I am sure BTO, Moser and Shorty would love to see a better result than ninth, a top ten is nothing to sneeze at. Andrew has great equipment, and a solid team behind him, so it would not surprise me to see a sixth, or even a fifth, if everything falls his way. That said, if he can stay healthy and the class does its usual meat-grinder deal, he might steal a miracle finish or two. I’m just glad he will not be stuck going all Winner Take All mid-season again. Grade: C+ for the man with 29 reasons to love him.
• 10th Place: Jake “Third time is a charm” Weimer– Tenth may be the ninth loser, but I would actually consider this a victory considering the way the rest of the night went for Jake. Three shots and the best you can do it a third in the LCQ? Whoa, that is scary shit my friends. Hell, at one point I was worried he was going to blow it and not make the main. After all that (and you just know Jake was not in a good head space at that point), he pulled it together and gutted out a top ten finish. Bravo my slightly Emo friend. I’m sure Jake will get it figured out and nail a few top fives before we hit Vegas. Grade C-
• Honerable Mention- 17th place: Team Speedo– Damn, what a brutal night for the Stewart camp. For fifteen laps, it was 2007 and he was “The fastest man on the planet”. Then in the course of one whoop section, it was back to 2014 and huck-a-buck for the ages (personally, I think that skin-tight gear prevented him from placing his balls on the crossbar at the moment of truth, resulting in epic carnage). I have never been a Stewart fan (I’m a Reed guy), but I have actually come around on the guy in the last year. I could not stand that he just seemed to quit if he did not feel he could win and I never liked the way he treated everyone else on the track like a speed bump. Last year, however, he showed heart and humility in the face of adversity and that cracked open my hardened heart.
Last night, I actually found myself rooting for a little yellow rain. It, however was just not to be. Stewart was just amazing out there; until he wasn’t. Damn, it was heartbreaking to see his title chances go down in a heap. I know he came back from a DNF to win it all in 2009, but that was a dozen massive diggers ago. Now, it looks like he will have to try and play the role of spoiler. It is just too bad, and if you see Raining Yellow guy, you might offer to give him a hug.