Now one for the history books, the 2016 Monster Energy Cup was once again an interesting and revealing success. Whether one considers the Monster Energy Cup as a review of the previous season or a preview of the next, the experimentation aspect–by riders and teams or by the track builders and promoters–always tells us a bit about the state of the sport.
One thing is for sure: The fast guys last season are going to be the fast guys next season. The premier Cup Class stacked up undoubtedly the top four in the sport, and all but one ended up on the final podium. Eli Tomac walked away with the lion’s share of the purse ($100,000), while perennial front-runner and current AMA Supercross Champ Ryan Dungey got the runner up check for $35,000. Marvin Musquin’s podium spot netted him a cool $25,000, as the Frenchman begins to enter his sophomore year in the premier 450SX class.
Tomac was great all day and night, always one of the fastest, and always battling for position. It wasn’t his speed that won the event, though. It was his consistency–2,1,4 finishes–that won it for him. Beaten by Roczen, Musquin and Dungey at least once, it goes to show that the top four were very evenly matched throughout the event and certainly also shows that they’ll be equally close for the upcoming AMA Supercross season.
If one rider stood out, it was Ken Roczen. Almost impossibly good for what he stated was the ninth ride on his new factory Honda CRF450R, Roczen was well on his way to the Monster Million before a (relatively graceful) high-speed trip over the handlebars dashed his hopes. After his bike wouldn’t restart, Roczen walked away from the incident. Surprisingly, he showed up for the final main event and, forced to start from the far outside, was still able to pull off the final win. With scores of 1, 21, 1, Ken didn’t end up on the podium but had he been able to restart and finish the second main event, he’d have had to finished fifth to still end up with the win. Lesson learned here: Ken Roczen is the man to beat for 2017.
Runner-up Ryan Dungey was also exceptionally consistent all night with 3,2,3 scores and was briefly in the running for the overall win. Never a winner at the Monster Energy Cup, Dungey wanted it badly and, had it not been for his teammate Musquin getting by him on the final lap, he would’ve had it. There were no hard feelings after the race between the teammates, though, as Dungey admitted there are no team orders and they’re all “in it to win it.” In just his first race back in the United States since early in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series, the champ seems to be well on his way to his old self, and as the grind to Anaheim 1 begins, he’s shown he won’t have far to go to be back up front.
The final podium spot went to Marvin Musquin, who probably surprised a few people with his speed and aggression throughout the evening. Going 4,3,2, he improved all night long and even seemed to be running Roczen’s pace for a while in the final main. Marvin’s been building a head of steam this past year. Injury-free for the entire AMA Supercross and Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Series, he improved all year and certainly reinforced his position at the Monster Energy Cup. Musquin will be a threat for every podium in 2017.
Roczen’s teammate on Honda HRC, Cole Seely, had an admittedly “flat” night of racing. Never a standout on the track, Seely was just where he needed to be to finish one spot off the podium. One of the pre-race standouts in the slightly depleted field of riders, Seely had a built-in excuse–he hadn’t raced since June. He summed up the night well in a post-race interview, enforcing why he’s a crowd favorite: “It’s tough to come back from not racing and be 100 percent right out of the gate, but it’s all good. It’s another night racing dirt bikes, and I’m happy I can call it my job.” After spending the off-season practicing and testing with Roczen, it’s safe to predict he’ll be another one of the weekly threats for podiums in 2017.
Blake Bagget made his debut on the newly reorganized Rocky Mountain ATV/MC/KTM/WPS team, where he’s a teammate of Davi Millsaps (who is currently injured). Baggett struggled all summer with injuries and what may have not been the best match of team/bike. Baggett sounds like he’s feeling rejuvenated on the new team and, while sixth overall (5,7,9) may not be up to his standard, he mentioned post-race that “(I) got the first moto holeshot, rode within my comfort and ability and dropped back to fifth…the night went pretty well.” A former national 250cc motocross champion, Baggett hopes to relocate the fire within to have a more successful 2017 AMA Supercross season.
The Amateur All-Stars race, consisting of two main events, showcased the best of the up-and-coming talent in AMA amateur racing. The top of the heap this year was Sioux City, Iowa’s Cameron McAdoo. On the top step of the podium with three of the most interesting names in motocross (the others were Challen Tennant, second, and Garrett Marchbanks), McAdoo’s 7-1 scores don’t illustrate how well he performed. He’d lead the first two-thirds of the opening main event, only to crash and fall back to seventh. McAdoo is set to turn pro next year and will be a welcome addition on the Motoconcepts team as their lone 250 rider.
Also, with two main events to showcase their talents, the Supermini class never fails to keep the fans on their toes. The two top minicycle riders in the country–Carson Mumford (122) and Stilez Robertson–made sure this year was no exception, as the two went back and forth all night. It was ultimately Robertson who ended up on the top step, with Mumford second and Aiden Tijero rounding it out.
The big experiment of the night, of course, was the massively elevated starting gate and straightaway. Widely considered a huge success by the fans, media and riders, it’s something that many look forward to seeing again in the future. According to Tomac, the initial fears of so much speed being carried into the first turn were allayed as the racing went on: “It looks huge and kind of sketchy, but it kind of stretches everybody out and makes it less tight in the first turn, so it wasn’t too bad at all.” There were no incidents by the Cup Class, which was a surprise to many, considering the estimated top speed was in excess of 70 mph. In one word: Awesome.
That’s it for the 2016 Monster Energy Cup. Whether a preview or a review, it was revealing in many ways. But, most of all, it showed us that the 2017 AMA Supercross Series is set to be one for the ages. See you in Anaheim!