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This Week in Monster Energy Supercross: Roczen and Nelson Lead the Championship into Phoenix

Roczen@SX1

AURORA, Ill.(January 9, 2015) – With the opening race of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, completed, the world’s best riders have shifted their focus to the desert of Phoenix for the second stop of the 2015 season inside Chase Field. The anticipated start to the season produced great racing across both the 450SX Class and 250SX Class, but in the end RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Factory Suzuki’s Ken Roczen and Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Red Bull KTM’s Jessy Nelson posted dominant efforts to make the first statements of the championship. #WhosNext.

450SX Class

Roczen’s first start for the RCH Racing squad was a memorable one, signifying the team’s biggest accomplishment to date since joining Monster Energy Supercross in 2013. Now they sit at the forefront of the premier class as the points leader and are instantly considered title favorites as a result of the convincing win. In his first start at Chase Field a year ago, Roczen finished sixth and he’ll look to improve on that result to keep the early season momentum going.

“It was good to grab the win in the opening race at Anaheim,” said Roczen. “We just want to stay consistent and not get hyped up too early. We all need to just focus on doing our job. Going into Phoenix, I want to be aggressive again. It’s going to be a little bit of a harder track but I’m usually pretty good at that. In Germany, we didn’t have a watering system so I’m used to riding a lot of hard-packed tracks. I’m really looking forward to it. I think we can do some damage again. I want to be as aggressive as the track allows me to be.”

Fellow RCH Racing rider Broc Tickle completed a strong start for the team by finishing in eighth. Tickle hadn’t raced since suffering a season-ending back injury in Toronto last season.

“I’m looking to build off Anaheim,” explained Tickle. “I was kind of frustrated after the race because I felt like I should have been better but, in the grand scheme of things, eighth is pretty good for being off the bike for so long. I just want to be better than I was at Anaheim. That’s the goal. Keep maintaining, building, and doing as much as we can to get closer to the top-five.”

In his 450SX Class debut, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson had about as good as a ride as possible in his first taste of action in the premier division. Anderson’s runner-up effort was assertive, moving into second by the second lap and never looking back. Despite being out of competition for many years, Husqvarna came back swinging and the combination with Anderson looks to have potential. Anderson emerged victorious in the 250SX Class at Phoenix last season.

“The race was good last weekend, I got a good start, settled into a pace and ended up with a podium so I’m stoked,” exclaimed Anderson. “I expected to hopefully have a good night and be in the battle, but what happened was crazy. I train with Kenny [Roczen] during the week but we don’t know where we’re at with each other as far as racing. Going 1-2, we talk about it but it actually happening is surreal.”

Many thought Trey Canard would be a factor in the battle for victory at the season opener and while he wasn’t able to battle alongside Roczen for the win, he still finished the night with an impressive third-place finish. Canard passed five riders in the Main Event to land on the podium and he has his sights set on the top step on Saturday night.

“I’m happy, because other than the starts, the night went really well,” stated Canard. “I thought I rode well and although I had to roll the triple once, I missed some carnage around me and had no big crashes or drama. Starts are key, because we’re all going about the same speed. We’ll work on that for next week, but I don’t want to get lost or mess things up by doing too much different. I’m glad to get on the podium at the opener and now I’ll come back ready for next week.”

Canard’s rookie Team Honda teammate Cole Seely had to endure some ups and downs in his official 450SX Class debut. The California native found himself on the ground more than he would have liked and it forced him to qualify for the Main Event through the LCQ. While his 14th-place finish was a resilient one, Seely knows he’s capable of running inside the top-10.

“Finishing 14th is a hard pill to swallow when you work as hard as the team and I do,” said Seely. “I know it’s a long season and I’ll have other races to prove myself, but it’s tough when the first race doesn’t go as planned. It was really just a string of bad luck; I felt like a black cloud was following me all day. I’m just going to stick to it, keep doing what I’m doing and hope for better luck this weekend.”

Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey narrowly missed out on a podium result in Anaheim, but the trademark consistency Dungey has presented his entire career in the 450SX Class continued, even if he was hoping for a little more. Dungey has two Phoenix wins in his career, including KTM’s first, back in 2012, so he knows how to be successful in the desert and will look to swing the momentum his way this weekend.

“I would have liked to be on the podium last weekend,” stated Dungey. “I am happy to be in the top five. It is definitely not the worst place to start the year, but I have some work to do to improve my position for the next race.”

Dean Wilson’s first ride with Red Bull KTM started out promising, but the rookie ultimately needed to race his way into the Main Event through the LCQ. He didn’t get the start he needed but fought valiantly to bring home a 15th-place result. While it wasn’t the way Wilson wanted his 450SX Class career to begin, he’s confident he’ll be able to things around in Phoenix.

BTO Sports KTM’s Andrew Short was arguably the surprise of the night in Anaheim, winning his Heat Race and taking advantage of a strong start in the Main Event to finish fifth. Short has the unique opportunity to be a development rider of sorts for KTM this season and it has him excited for the potential to achieve similar results moving forward.

Autotrader.com/Toyota/Yamaha’s Justin Barcia had one of the most impressive outings at the opening round, surpassing eight riders to just miss out on the top-five in sixth. In his first race with Joe Gibbs Racing, Barcia looked comfortable on the new Yamaha and with Phoenix serving as the first win of his 450SX Class career in 2013, perhaps Barcia could join Dungey as the winningest riders at Chase Field currently competing in the premier division.

Weston Peick also made his debut with Autotrader.com/Toyota/Yamaha at Anaheim, posting a solid top-10 effort in seventh. Peick had to do battle with his teammate in the closing stages of the Main Event, but looks ready to do battle in hopes of taking advantage of his first factory opportunity.

Smartop Motoconcepts Racing’s Mike Alessi turned the first holeshot of the 2015 season into a ninth-place finish. Alessi has a knack for getting out the gates quick and consistently good starts would put him in the hunt each and every week.

“I’m really happy I was able to get my very first Anaheim holeshot this year,” said Alessi. “I felt great riding the bike Saturday night and I’m confident for the season. I’m looking forward to Phoenix and the season ahead.”

Neither Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Davi Millsaps or GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac walked away from the opening race happy with their results. Both riders entered the night as favorites to contend for victory and had the speed to do so, but misfortune plagued both riders on multiple occasions, ultimately leading to 19th and 20th-place finishes respectively. Both riders will look to bounce back in a big way in Phoenix and keep their early title hopes alive.

“I’m excited to be back in the swing of the season,” said Millsaps. “Anaheim did not go as planned, but we knew what we needed to work on when we left and we did just that. With the hype out of the way, we’ve shaken the cobwebs out and should be down to business in Phoenix.”

“Things got hectic in the Main Event,” said Tomac. “I almost had the holeshot, but some guys pushed in from the outside and bunched us all up. I was settling in and starting to work my way up but had a spill. I got up and rode hard to regain positions and fell again. That was about it for me. That’s racing. Our margin for error definitely shrunk a little but we’ll be ok.”

250SX Class

Nelson entered the evening in Anaheim as an underdog. However, after a strong start and what ultimately resulted in a wire-to-wire victory, Nelson made himself a contender for the Western Regional Championship. Many will look to see if Nelson can keep the momentum going and retain control of the red number plate.

“It feels so great to get the win,” explained Nelson.¬†“The team and I have put so much work into the program this year and I am so comfortable on this bike. I was excited to get the win at the opening round.”

Fellow Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Red Bull KTM riders Shane McElrath and Darryn Durham experienced different evenings at the opening round. McElrath was solid throughout the Main Event, finishing seventh, while Durham endured misfortune and was forced to record a DNF in 21st.

Capping off a hugely successful debut for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, Zach Osborne overcame a trip to the LCQ and a broken thumb to defy the odds and finish with a runner-up effort. Osborne will surely have to continue to endure through his injury, but he hopes the ability to contend for the title is a remedy for the pain. He finished third in Phoenix a year ago.

“Anaheim was good, I had good speed all day and felt really good on the bike,” said Osborne. “Everything was going well until the Heat Race when I had a run in with another rider and fractured my thumb. I gutted out the rest of the night. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to line up for the LCQ and then I ended up winning it. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the Main Event and then I got second. It was an awesome feeling to salvage what I did.”

After a dominant four-year reign in AMSOIL Arenacross, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Tyler Bowers made his return to Monster Energy Supercross with a strong podium effort. Bowers earned a Heat Race win and battled from behind to finish third and put himself in title contention early.

“I’m happy with how the season started,” said Bowers. “We’re here for the championship and plan on going for the win every weekend. There’s always room for improvement and I’m planning on putting Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki on top in Phoenix.”

Red Bull KTM’s Justin Hill hoped a Heat Race win would translate into continued success in the Main Event, but the third-year rider admittedly got tight and was forced to settle for fourth. Hill believes he’s a threat for the championship and will do all he can to make his presence felt up front.

Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger enjoyed a top-five finish in his Monster Energy Supercross debut. The Road to Supercross graduate was impressive, starting outside the top-10 and passing nine riders. Plessinger already looks comfortable one race in and hopes to continue an upward trend.

“I went out for the Main Event and got a really bad start, but I just put my head down and rode my own race and I didn’t stop charging, and got fifth, so I am really happy about that,” said Plessinger. “It just gives me more motivation and confidence to go out to Phoenix this weekend and try and get a podium spot. I know I can run with the top guys and I want to prove that. So I want to go into Phoenix with my head high and my expectations high, and hopefully get on the podium.”

Plessinger’s Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha teammate Cooper Webb had hopes to victory in Anaheim and started the night off strong. However, a crash early in the Main Event dropped him to the back of the field and forced him to come from behind. Despite the misfortune, Webb still battled his way back to seventh.

“In the Main Event, I didn’t get off to the best of starts and I was making my way through the pack when Malcolm [Stewart] went down and collected about four other riders,” explained Webb. “We were all in a pile up and I was trying to throw bikes off as fast as I could and managed to get back up from that and fought for seventh. I am looking forward to Phoenix, I always like that stadium and I did well there last year. I think for me it will be kind of some redemption to hopefully get out there and show what I can really do.”

GEICO Honda teammates Malcolm Stewart and Matt Bisceglia also brought high hopes into the opening round, but misfortune ultimately hindered each rider’s result. Stewart crashed out of the top 10 early and was ultimately forced to record a DNF, while Bisceglia went down while running fourth and had to fight his way back to 13th.

“I think I was maybe too excited for Anaheim and to race,” said Stewart. “I was loving every moment of it, but honestly I got too excited. I wasn’t necessarily focusing on the outcome of the race like I should have been. I was trying to throw down the fastest laps and push it harder. That’s what I’m supposed to do in practice, not the race. I’ll be better off for Phoenix. I know I have the bike to get it done. I just can’t rush it. I need to let the spots come to me.”

“I have a lot of confidence right now,” said Bisceglia. “I want to be more aggressive; I think that’s the only thing missing for me. When I get in certain situations I need to be the one that pushes through, not the other guys. The competition is at a level where you have to be the aggressor.”

Headlining the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross television package will be the first-ever live FOX network broadcast from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, April 25 at 3pm E.T. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast 12 races live and FOX Sports 2 will broadcast 3 races live. Each race will include a next-day re-air on FOX Sports 1. In addition, the authenticated FOX Sports Go app will live stream each race.

As a precursor to the live television, don’t forget to catch all of the pre-race coverage with Supercross Race Day Live, which will stream on www.SupercrossLive.com from 12:50 – 4:30 p.m. local race time each Saturday during the season.¬† Practice, qualifying, behind the scenes features, and key rider interviews will all be highlighted on the Supercross Race Day Live webcast.

For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, please log on to www.SupercrossLive.com, the official website of Monster Energy Supercross.