McGrath predicted that Saturday’s race, as well the fight for the Supercross championship, is likely to come down to three riders: Tomac, HRC Honda rider Ken Roczen of Germany and KTM Red Bull pilot Marvin Musquin of France.
Roczen and Musquin are both former Motocross world champions and are seeking their first Monster Supercross 450SX title.
“Eli Tomac has to be one of the favorites,” McGrath said. “Ken Roczen has to be one of the favorites, even though he’s coming back from a crazy injury. I think he’s ready. Marvin Musquin has been on a roll, so he has to be one of the favorites.”
Roczen is the biggest question mark heading into Saturday’s race. Arguably the world’s fastest rider at the beginning of last season, he was involved in a serious crash at Angel Stadium last year, dislocating his wrist and elbow and suffering a compound fracture to his radius, which required 11 surgeries to repair. This race marks his return to competition.
Also racing Saturday will be the 250SX West Region classification, with reigning series champion Justin Hill out to defend his number one plate on a Suzuki.
Angel Stadium will once again be the site of the AMA Supercross season opener on Saturday, the first of two events at the stadium and three in Southern California.
It’s the start of a wide-open championship race as Ryan Dungey, who won the last three riding championships, retired after the 2017 season, which creates an opportunity for three riders from Southern California.
Blake Baggett of Grand Terrace, who suffered from a thumb injury most of the ’17 season, finished sixth aboard a KTM. Sherman Oaks’ Cole Seeley was seventh on a Honda while Josh Grant of Wildomar, who rides a Kawasaki, was slowed by nagging injuries. They’ll be competing against Eli Tomas (Kawasaki), Marvin Musqion (KTM) and Ken Roczen (Honda) for top honors.
As the Anaheim stops on the circuit are usually sold out, fans will notice a few changes in the series that has competed in Southern California for 40 years. It’ll be the debut of a new points system that organizers hope will create a more competitive race at each stop and for the season. Semifinal races have been eliminated, meaning the top nine racers in each heat advance to the main event and 10-20 to the last-chance qualifier.
A Triple Crown format will also be introduced with competition in Anaheim, Atlanta and Minneapolis. The 22 riders in the finals will compete in 8-, 12- and 15-minute finals (6, 10 and 12 for the 250cc class).
An Olympic-style scoring system will determine the main event winner, with the lowest combined score being declared the first-place finisher.
Doors open at noon for practice and qualifying, and pit passes are available for $10 for the “pit party” from noon to 6 p.m. A valid event ticket and Pit Pass are required for entry. Show time is 6:30 p.m.he best off-road motorcycle riders in the world will converge on Angel Stadium on Saturday for the opening round of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross series.
The 17-race series will visit many of the nation’s premier stadiums during the next four months, before a finale at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on May 5.
Angel Stadium has an illustrious history with the sport dating to 1976, when Marty Smith won the main event before a crowd of 30,569. In a few different configurations, the venue has hosted 70 supercross events, and has staged the opening round of the series since 1999.
“For me, as a rider and as a fan, Anaheim is the race,” said Jeremy McGrath, a seven-time Supercross champion who won eight times at Anaheim before retiring from the sport in 2006. “It’s the one and only. It’s the big one.”
Ryan Dungey, who won the 2017 Supercross championship, announced his retirement last spring. Hoping to fill the vacuum left by the four-time champion is Eli Tomac of Cortez, Colo. Tomac, who races for the Monster Energy Kawasaki team, won nine races last season and finished just five points behind Dungey in the standings.
“Tomac hasn’t done well at Anaheim the last couple years,” said McGrath, who works alongside Tomac as a Kawasaki brand ambassador. “He’s been up front and faded, like last year where he placed fifth. I think this year he’s going to have a lot more confidence coming into this race and I certainly think he has a lot to prove because he didn’t win the title last year.”
Tomac, 25, said he would be up to the challenge. “It’s the most hyped-up race, and it’s our season-opener so everyone is super excited and feeling fresh and ready to go,” he said. “I’d like to get a win here. It’s something I need. I think we have a good shot at the championship and we’re ready to rip.”
Monster Energy Supercross Series
When: Saturday. Gates open at noon for practice and qualifying. Pit party: noon to 6 p.m. Opening ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. Racing starts at 7 p.m.