The time is upon us to make our selections and stand proudly behind our riders as they head for battle this weekend at Anaheim 1. In case you didn’t know, MotorcycleUSA’s Fantasy SX allows AMA Supercross racing fans to build their own teams, create or join leagues and vie for prizes every week. Sign up is free and the top scoring individual from each week will win tickets to the final race in Las Vegas. The overall season champion gets a grand prize package from Leatt. Read the complete game rules for full details. If you’ve already signed up, make sure to take note of the new cutoff time of 7 p.m. local for all rounds. This allows you to make changes right up to the opening ceremonies. Also, we’ve added new team selections but were forced to yank the MotoConcepts crew because they have more than two riders, so watch for that if you’ve already selected the Yamaha team.
Ok, now that you know what it is and have your creative team name, let’s peek at the A and B riders and see who’s the smart bet for the opening round at Angel Stadium. All the racers will say that you can’t win the series in the first race, but you can definitely lose it. The same goes for Fantasy SX! AMA racin history has shown 17 times that the rider who wins first, wins the title. This is the most difficult round of the year to predict since riders are making their first race appearances on new bikes and shaking out the off-season cobwebs. We’ll give it a shot anyway, and since Marty Smith was the first-ever winner at Anaheim back in 1976 aboard a Honda, let’s start with the red bikes.
Trey Canard (A rider) borrowed a CRF450R last year and immediately, and repeatedly, found the podium. That was with minimal amounts of testing and zero 450 race experience. Now he’s had the entire off-season to work with Erik Kehoe and the Big Red technicians to get his #41 bike dialed in. Canard is one of the easiest-going riders on the circuit but knows how to put on his game face. Last year was impressive, but it’s also a bit misleading because he really
Josh Grant was a surprise addition to Team Honda. He has the speed to run up front, but it’s hit-or-miss.
had nothing to lose. Now he’s wrapped up in a full-time contract to win races against the big dogs, and that will put more pressure on the young rider. He’s a pretty level-headed guy, so watch for him to use the lightweight Honda to his advantage and run right up front.
Josh Grant (B rider) moved over to the factory Honda squad this year after putting in flashy rides on his Yamaha. Grant is more than his Metal Mulisha-inspired whips (which are seriously at the top of the racing circle). Grant has experience on red bikes from the 250 class and has proven he has the speed to win on the big bikes. The #33 rider picked up his first Supercross victory at Anaheim 1 in 2009 in what was one of the most dramatic wins ever. He’s a solid B pick, but like everyone in this first round, is unproven.
TwoTwo Motorsports will be fast, but is his equipment really good enough and how has all the extra work affected Chad?
Chad Reed is on a Honda now as well, though it’s not under the factory tent. He’s formed TwoTwo Motorsports and is doing his own thing which creates too many question marks surrounding the former champion right now. Who knows how well his bike will work, and has the extra stress/responsibilities of organizing and running a team affected his preparation? Reedy has enlisted good help which should allow him to focus on riding, and if there’s anything we’ve come to like about CR, it’s that he’s not afraid to say he doesn’t want to race with subpar equipment. Reed knows he can win and he’s got a lot to prove. Pro Circuit is helping with his CRF and those guys know a thing or two about fast motorcycles. Despite the doubt, Reed is a safe bet for points and has won here six times already, but wins against Ryan Dungey and James Stewart this year might be asking a little much.
Kevin Windham (B rider) knows his way around the stadium circuit probably better than anyone. The guy has been racing SX since the dawn of time, but don’t let this geriatric fool you. K-Dub has his program figured out, and that’s possibly the most important thing. As the elder statesman and a dedicated family man, Windham has his priorities sorted out and he’s with the Geico Powersports team that has supported him for years. He doesn’t race motocross and comes into A1 with a fresh body and mind. Everyone knows he’s got the ultimate natural talent, plus he finished second last year. This Honda rider is solid as a rock and will be consistently hanging around the podium. Pick him often, especially if it’s going to be raining.
Yellow bikes are next and this is where we talk about the reigning champion. Ryan Dungey leads the A riders after one of the most dominating seasons ever in 2010. He won Supercross, 450 Motocross and the MXdN. He’s consistent, has the outright speed to chase down anyone, is a physical stallion and handles pressure like nobody else. The Rockstar Makita Suzuki team lost Roger DeCoster, who has been with Dungey since Day 1 of his professional career, but the effect remains to be seen. Mike Webb is the new Team Manager and he’s got plenty of experience in that roll. The RM-Z450 has impeccable handling for tight tracks and it isn’t too far off from the 2010 machine, so preseason testing should have gone smoothly. In his short career, Dungey has proven that he’ll take your money if you bet against him. Last year he almost won A1 in his first 450 SX appearance but tightened up at the end and allowed James Stewart to pass. Don’t expect that to happen ever again.
Brett Metcalfe (B rider) is Dungey’s teammate. The Australian just can’t seem to get that first win in America, but he’s been oh-so close. Last year he moved to the 450 class for outdoors and immediately proved he can handle the extra horsepower. Metty is a wild card in the stadiums, but with factory equipment underneath him, there’s no reason he can’t land a top-five or even a podium. He’s one of the bigger names that it might be worth waiting on for a round or two.
The new 350 SX-F and KTM’s upgraded efforts might be what Andrew Short needed to find his winning ways. With Roger DeCoster in his corner there’s no doubt the support crew is top notch.
Red and yellow make orange, and the KTM contingent is more newsworthy than ever in 2011. The Austrian manufacturer is putting major resources into Supercross in an attempt to establish itself for good in American moto racing. The first move was to introduce the 350 SX-F, then pick up DeCoster to run the show and slap some proven speedsters in the saddle to learn from the Man and make use of the lightweight machine. Andrew Short has been the most consistent rider in America for the past few years. He’s constantly in the top-three or top-five each season, but he’s earned the reputation of a guy who works hard and rides in his comfort zone. Shorty doesn’t lay it all out very often which has been good for his career. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been good for collecting race wins. Moving from factory Honda to Red Bull KTM might be that extreme jump he needed. Reports have him putting in fast times and he certainly seems confident about the new team and the 350. Race winner at A1? Eh… But Short will rake in the fantasy points throughout the season. Also, if he can replicate his holeshot prowess from the Nationals, #29 will be earning those five-point bonuses with regularity.
Speaking of the holeshot bonus, now that Short is riding orange, KTM has the two best starters in the business. Mike Alessi (B rider) is still with the team though you’d hardly know it from the way he’s kept off the radar this year. That alone is amazing. Alessi and his camp have never been known to keep quiet, but after 2010 Mikey needs to get his poop together and regroup. We’ll chalk it up to a development year since he was shaking down the 350. Supercross has never been his strong point, so don’t hang your hat on #800.
James Stewart has won seven times in this stadium, that’s more than any other riders competing on Saturday night. Of course, he also has raw speed that no other rider can match, and most can’t even fathom. But, JS7 is under the gun. After a disappointing SX season last year and a serious wrist injury, Stewart didn’t bother with the outdoor season either. He made one appearance at Unadilla and proved he’s still fast, but his fitness wasn’t there. Anaheim will be a different story. He’s had the entire off-season to get ready and like Alessi, there hasn’t been much noise from his Florida-based camp. Stewart has been keeping his head down and doing work on his Yamaha. Bubba caught a lot of flak last season and the haters are stronger than ever, watch for him to come out and slap those whiny turds in the mouth this weekend. He’s also been swallowing all the Dungey hoopla for an entire year and that can’t taste very good. Stewart isn’t afraid of anyone, including a sandy haired Suzuki rider. He’s our pick to win.
Kyle Regal is the San Manuel Yamaha teammate. Stewart casts a big shadow, but there’s no denying that being around the fastest dude has to wear off at least some. Regal isn’t a race winner, but he’s a B rider that will earn points for your team if top guys start going down.
Davi Millsaps (B rider) has fallen from the factory superstar list. His Honda contract expired without producing the results expected, and he’s on the JGR Yamaha team in 2011. This is a great spot for Davi. Hopefully the family atmosphere and getting removed from his regular environment during the off-season has put some fire back in this whoop-master. Joe Gibbs Racing gives their riders everything needed to succeed, starting with a burly YZ450F. Watch for Millsaps to finish top-10 and scratch occasionally at the top-five. The same goes for his teammate, Justin Brayton (B rider).
Ryan Villopoto has had plenty of time to prepare and think about kicking butt. He was on pace last season for a title before his leg injury.
Kawasaki should have been sitting pretty with Ryan Villopoto (A rider) and Jake Weimer under the factory awning, but Weimer went down with an injury just recently and will sit out much, if not all, of the season. Fortunately, Villopoto is healthy and hauling. Now that he’s got some considerable 450 experience under his belt, RV2 is going to be a force to reckon with. He won multiple rounds last year before breaking his leg, and likely would have won the title if it weren’t for the injury. The KX450F rider has said that he’s back up to speed and very pleased with his current state. Without the Nationals to worry about, Ryan has had plenty of time to focus on the jump-riddled layouts. Barring a mishap, he’ll be on the podium, perhaps at the top step.
Hart and Huntington switched to green this year and they’ve got some talented riders as well. Ivan Tedesco (B rider) is the headliner and ‘ol Hot Sauce is sure to throw some spice in the Supercross class. This is a very deep field and a top-five would be great for the New Mexico-born rider. But, he’ll be battling for the points positions between sixth and 15th. Chris Blose is his B rider teammate and we expect to see him make some main events. Watch practice times and use him sparingly once your top picks are getting low.
There are more riders B riders we didn’t list, including Manuel Rivas who is filling in for Matt Goerke on the TiLube Kawasaki squad, but for this week the big names should definitely be getting the fantasy attention. These guys will all be the best prepared and as the season wears on the lower-profile guys will start really coming into play. Once the series is underway, long-term strategy will start to play a role. Some riders have more staying power than others, but they’ve all got to get through the madness of Anaheim 1. Good luck.