Three rounds, three points leaders, Triple Crown up next


1/17/2019

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To say the 450SX field is deep with talent this season is an understatement. Of course coming into the season opener in Anaheim a couple of weeks ago it was defending champion Jason Anderson who ran the red leader's plate by default. After his disastrous start to the season and the outstanding performance put in by Yamaha's Justin Barcia, it was the No. 51 that came into last weekend's Glendale round with the coveted red background. Heading into Round 3 this Saturday night in Anaheim, it'll be Ken Roczen with the target on his bike, as the No. 94 has had consistent two or three finishes thus far, giving him a single point lead over Barcia.

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But Round 2 was all about Blake Baggett and his first win in the premier class after many years of trying. Everyone felt like Blake could win but there were probably very few who actually would have put their money where their mouth is - not because the former motocross champion wasn't capable of it, but because there are so many other riders equally capable of pulling it off. 

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It's a deep field of talent, no doubt, and so far nearly everyone is at full health and speed. There are so many rivalries, so many former champs, and the field is literally packed with deserving factory racers, it really is anyone's guess as to who will rise to the top every weekend. Adding to the excitement in Glendale was a re-start of the 450SX main event due to a red flag incident that necessitated a staggered re-start on Lap 6. Roczen's three second lead went to nil as all of the riders started right behind one another, leveling the playing field. Kenny wasn't able to stay ahead of Anderson or Baggett, ending up third at the end.

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For the second Anaheim round (and third round for the season), we'll add even more excitement to the mix as the first of three Triple Crown Races will debut with revised rules and format. This year, each of the three main events will be the same length - 10 minutes plus a lap for the 250SX Class, 12 +1 for 450SX Class. Via Olympic-style scoring, the overall winner will be based upon each "moto" finish, lowest sum of finishes wins. The points awarded are based only on the overall finish position. RacerX did a great job of illustrating the rule changes here.

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Surprise performances this season just never cease, either, as it was Justin Hill who was fastest in qualifying. There are many who will say that's not a surprise at all, but the fact is he'd never done it before, and with this field of talent, it really is quite remarkable. What this means is that, given a great start, this guy is also fast enough to win. He's had great success in the 250SX Class having won the 250 West region only a couple of years ago, so it's time to take this guy seriously. Unfortunately Hill's luck ran out in the main event as he went down in the first turn, climbed all the way to ninth, then fell to 13th at the checkers.

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Justin Barcia continues to ride strong, although things didn't fare as well for him in Glendale as he was never quite on the leader's pace. He's only one point out of the points lead heading into round 3, but then again the top five are all within ten points and the top three within four of one another. With this weekend's Triple Crown format, look for further shake-ups in the points as consistency will pay throughout the three main events.

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Baggett's Glendale win marked not only his first career victory in the 450SX Class, but that of his team - Rocky Mountain ATV/MC - a satellite squad of KTM Factory Racing. Managed by former racer Michael Byrne, the team has been improving and acquiring better funding for the past few years and, with this win, must be considered another legitimate force in the premier class.The win also marks the first in recent memory for a satellite team in the 450SX Class.

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Nary a word has been mentioned here yet about the 250SX West Regional Class racing that's accompanied the 450s thus far. While not quite as talent-laden as the 450 class, the front-runners are no less accomplished. 

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Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's superstar Adam Cianciarulo has long been touted as a 'next big thing' but has thus far failed to deliver on his promise. With flashes of brilliance throughout his career, AC92's been plagued with injuries and simple mistakes that have prevented wins recently. That all changed in Glendale, where he stamped dominance on the field, riding an absolutely flawless (and very fast) main event to win easily over points leader Colt Nichols. When he's on, he's on, and this win will certainly boost his confidence as he enters Anaheim 2 sitting second in points only five points out of the lead.

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Behind Cianciarulo, the racing was intense as Nichols ran the red plate from the back to the front, going around Jimmy Decotis (above) in the process after a heated exchange. Nichols is riding strong this season and thus far is exceeding most expectations, overshadowing even his highly-touted French teammate Dylan Ferrandis, who has struggled with untimely crashes.

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The track for this weekend's Triple Crown event is... interesting, to say the least. With a large sand sweeper, unusual layout with jumps within kinked S-turns and generally unusual obstacles all around, this weekend's race will be as good as the previous two. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and right here for live timing and Scoring all day long!


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