The 30-second board is up for 2016 AMA Supercross!


1/8/2016

Story and photos by Jeff Kardas

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It's the weekend all AMA Supercross fans have been waiting for since about this time last year -- opening night of the 2016 AMA Supercross Series. This weekend at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, the sport's best and brightest stars, legends and heroes will begin the 17 weekend race series, and this year's lineup is one of the best in history.

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The 450SX Class is highlighted by returning champion Ryan Dungey, who had one of the most successful seasons in the history of the sport last year, winning the championship early before heading to the outdoor series and winning there as well. To top it off, his long-time sponsor Wheaties/General Mills put Dungey on the box of Wheaties as the featured athlete, which is a first for the sport of Supercross or motocross. This adds to the ESPY award that Dungey also received, completing a nearly perfect year, which all makes Dungey the favorite going into the 2016 season.

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Fan favorite and multi-time former champion James Stewart makes his return to racing after serving a long suspension period for a doping violation. Stewart appears fit and ready and to race and by all accounts should be threatening for wins right out of the gate beginning in Anaheim. The familiar #7 has been missed by the sport and it's with great enthusiasm that he returns.

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Of course, the line up doesn't end there, as several others are fully capable of pulling off wins on any give night and have the potential to take home the title. Heading the list is certainly Monster Energy Kawasaki's new recruit Eli Tomac, who's shown time and again that he's often the fastest rider on any track at any point in time, but consistency while running his torrid pace often ends in crashes and injury. Anaheim will mark his first race on the KX450F after spending his entire professional career aboard Hondas.

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After making a great run at the title last year before an injury put a damper on his efforts, Soaring Eagle/RCH Suzuki rider Ken Roczen appears fully fit and healthy heading into 2016. After pulling off the win at the Monster Energy Cup in October, Roczen showed he's still got the Supercross skills to pay the bills, and he is certainly one of the primary favorites for wins and the title this season.

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Chad Reed finally announced his plans for the new year, as the multi-time champ returns to his roots with the Yamaha factory team. This move also marks Yamaha's return to racing as a factory team, which is also a welcomed development. Reed, while certainly on the tail end of a long and storied career, proved to any naysayers last year that he's still got what it takes as he managed to snag a main event win in convincing manner. Ending the season in fourth, it certainly was an impressive reminder of his skill and race prowess and there's no reason to think this year will be any different.

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As if these five riders aren't enough to show the level of depth this year, take a look at the next tier (admittedly any of these could be in the top tier as well): Team Honda's Trey Canard and Cole Seely (both former winners); Red Bull KTM's Marvin Musquin (making his 450SX class debut), and Dean Wilson (former 250SX champ); JGR/Toyota/Yamaha's Justin Barcia (former 250SX champ) and Weston Peick; Rockstar Husqvarna's former 250SX champ Jason Anderson and his teammate (and two-time 250SX champ) Christophe Pourcel; Geico Honda's former 250SX champ Justin Bogle; BTO Sports KTM's Davi Millsaps (former 250SX champ and multi-race winner in the 450SX class), and Justin Brayton (recent winner of several European Supercross races); and finally Tomac's Monster Kawasaki teammate Wil Hahn, himself a former 250SX champ.

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The 250SX West Regional series also promises to be a barn-burner, with several former winners and the returning champ to keep things interesting. Star Racing Yamaha's #1W Cooper Webb scrapped his plans to race the East Region, instead deciding to defend the championship he so convincingly won last year. While there are other outstanding 250SX class racers in the west region this year, Webb is certainly the favorite heading into Anaheim.

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Jessy Nelson and Joey Savatgy must be considered the "best of the rest," particularly after their outstanding 2015 seasons. Now the official factory KTM 250 team, the Troy Lee Designs/GoPro group must feel very comfortable with Nelson heading into this year, as his entire pro career has been spent there. Savatgy, on the venerable Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki squad, is no stranger to the podium either, and will be a threat for the title from the first gate drop.

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The rest of the 250SX west field is also strong, with a few standing out from the rest. The Geico Honda squad will of course be strongly represented, headed up by Christian Craig and Jordon Smith. Craig makes his return to Supercross after coming back from retirement full-time after riding as a fill-in last season. The Rockstar Husqvarna team has all their 250 West eggs in one basket with veteran Zach Osborne, who's always a threat for a win and has the consistency to be a threat for the title. Of course, one can never count out Webb's Star Racing teammate Alex Martin, as the #26 rider makes his return to a major satellite team this year after a great season last year as somewhat of a privateer on a much lower-profile team. 

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So, to summarize, 2016 is the year that, if you haven't been able to get out to an AMA Supercross in person, this is the year to do it! With the opener upon us, and a nearly complete field of competitors heading into round one, this is going to be one for the ages. Loads of former champs joined by a few outstanding rookies and the return of one of the sports' greatest ever leads to a very promising season ahead. To follow all of the action online or on the good ol' fashioned TV, check out our Facebook page, AMA Supercross Championship, our Instagram feed @AMASupercross, the AMASupercross.com website for Live Timing & Scoring as well as event schedules, results, and entry lists and of course the television schedule over at SupercrossOnline.com


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