Ken Roczen won the opener at Anaheim and will push hard for another top result in Round 2 at Phoenix.
Ken Roczen and Jason Anderson gave KTM the second event sweep in the brand’s history last Saturday night at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., and this weekend the two points leaders hope to extend their respective points lead. FOX Sports 1 will air this weekend’s race live at 9:30 p.m. ET
Roczen, a rookie in the 450SX Class, took advantage of Ryan Villopoto’s crash on Lap 10 to take over the lead and rode to the first win of his career. Roczen joins Ryan Dungey as the only riders to win 450SX Class main Events for KTM.
“It was awesome to win my debut race in the 450SX Class last weekend,” said Roczen. “I know the big bike class is going to be tough and wins aren’t going to come easy going forward. My plan is to keep working the way that I have been and hopefully good things will continue to come.”
Roczen’s teammate Dungy followed him past the checkers with a second-place finish.
“I’m happy about starting the season off with a second place finish at the opening round,” said Dungey. “Traditionally my results aren’t so good at the opener but I get stronger as the season goes on. With 17 races in the season, it’s all about consistency and staying in the hunt all the way to the end. Next up is Phoenix. I’ve had some good results there in the past including getting my first win with KTM there so I’m looking forward to going back again this weekend.”
Villopoto rebounded after he crashed and finished fourth overall.
“Anaheim 1 didn’t go my way,” said Villopoto. “We showed we had the speed but had some bad luck. That said I’ll take fourth place because it’s a lot better than where we were last year leaving the opening race. We’re excited to head to Phoenix and return to the podium where we belong.”
Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia, who won two races last year, finished fifth overall after a lack-luster start.
“The day started out awesome, but I’m not really happy with how it ended,” explained Barcia. “I’ll take it, though. The bike was working awesome, and I felt good all day, just didn’t get the best start. My start wasn’t great in the heat race, but I was able to come out of the turn in second, and then made the pass into the lead. The win transferred me directly into the main, which was nice. I got a horrible start in the main and spent the whole race trying to make as many passes as possible. I ended up fifth, so now I just need to build on that.”
Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s James Stewart was truly in rare form at Saturday evening’s season-opening race at Angel Stadium. Although Stewart suffered a get-off and was unable to finish the race, the unfortunate incident occurred after he turned in 16 flawless laps and was preparing to take the lead on his Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450.
“This weekend was just the first round,” said Stewart. “Definitely, I didn’t want to go out like that, but at the same time, I felt like this was the best I’ve been riding in years and this was the best I’ve felt on a motorcycle in years. So I’m confident and healthy, and I feel good on the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450.”
In the 20-lap main event, Stewart overcame a poor start and worked his way through the field and into the top five. He moved into the number-three position and then shortly worked his way into the runner-up spot. Unfortunately, he went down in one of two whoop sections as he was about to make a bid for the lead with just four laps remaining.
“All day went pretty good and I was able to get second in my heat race,” added Stewart. “In the main event, I was late off the gate and I was pretty far back. But I made my way up on the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 and it got better and better as the race went on. I felt stronger and stronger and my lap times started going down. I could see that I was starting to pick it up and make time on the guys up front. I went to make a pass in the whoops – they’d been taking people out all night – and I kind of got caught out. But I’m happy, the Yoshimura Suzuki team stepped it up again and I’m really proud of my guys and where we are. And now we’re just going to continue to get better as we head to Phoenix.”
In his 450SX Class rookie campaign, GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn, the reigning Eastern Regional 250SX Class Champion, finished a disappointing 11th place as he adjusted to the premier class.
“I made a lot of little mistakes today,” said Hahn. “The semi was great because I got out front and was able to ride my lines, but when we got around to the main I just didn’t give myself a chance because my start was off. I stayed with it and started feeling stronger and faster as the race went along. I made some solid passes and got up to 11th. I’m not happy with that result, but I have some good things to build off.”
A 10th-place finish for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer is not where he would have liked to finished but looks forward to turning things around this weekend.
“I’m looking forward to heading the Chase Field and getting back behind the gate,” said Weimer. “Anaheim was a long night for me having to transfer through the LCQ, but I’m looking to turn things around in Phoenix.”
Eli Tomac injured his shoulder prior to the Main Event at Anaheim 1 and couldn’t compete. He’ll make a race-day decision whether to line up in Phoenix.
Former 250SX Class Champion Eli Tomac also made his 450SX Class debut Saturday night but a crash in the Heat Race forced him to sit out of the Main Event.
“The decision not to race was the hardest one I’ve ever had to make,” said Tomac. “I think I pinched a nerve and just had no strength in my arm and shoulder. I didn’t want to risk getting hurt more. The best thing to do is get some rest, keep this thing iced up to get the swelling down, and hope I can ride next weekend in Arizona. This certainly isn’t the way I wanted to start the year, but I guess it could have been worse.”
Zach Osborne showed incredible speed aboard his GEICO Honda CRF250R, bringing home a third-place podium finish at the opening race.
“I’m super happy with the way the day went,” stated Osborne. “I had a lot of fun riding, and that’s something I want to repeat throughout the season. It’s important to enjoy this journey, and starting the season on the podium is great for everyone on this team. I felt way faster than what I showed in the main. Dean (Wilson) and I had a really intense battle but I knew I needed to just be smart, get third, and secure these points.”
Teammate Zach Bell posted a solid fifth-place finish in his heat race, but didn’t have the same luck in the main. Bell struggled off the line and made a few mistakes, which landed him 15th overall.
“Today went okay. I made it through without any injuries, so that’s a positive step,” said Bell.
Troy Lee Designs/ Lucas Oil/ Honda’s Cole Seely finished second overall for the night after an exciting head-to-head battle with Anderson.
“It’s tough out there, especially when you get caught up with the lappers,” said Seely. “But I should have been more aggressive that last lap and not have let the gap simmer down to what it did. I think I showed I have the speed and I have been working really hard this year. The team has been working really hard and the moral is great so I am excited for the rest of the season. I hate losing but this is only the first round so hoping to get that top spot next weekend.”
Despite a crash prior to Anaheim, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson made the decision to race and walked away with a fourth-place finish and hopes to score his first win Saturday night.
“Phoenix will be a whole new race,” said Wilson. “I was close to not even racing last weekend after a nasty crash, but I toughed it out. We got some decent points and I’ll be looking to be back on the box this weekend.”
With a sixth place finish, Wilson’s teammate Justin Hill expects more this weekend.
“I really beat myself up after last weekend,” said Hill. “I know I have the speed to be up battling for the box and expect nothing less. I want to get good starts and ride up front for 15 laps. Hopefully in Phoenix we can make that happen.”
In his first-ever race at Angel Stadium, Darryn Durham followed Hill to secure a seventh-place finish.
“This is my first year racing the West Coast,” said Durham. “I learned a lot in Anaheim how the west coast dirt develops as the night goes on so I’ll be more comfortable in Phoenix. It had been almost two years since I’ve raced supercross so now that the first race is out of the way I feel like I’ll be more relaxed and ride like myself.”
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