Round 5 in Glendale: New venue, new track design


2/4/2016

Story and photos by Jeff Kardas


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Glendale, Ariz.'s University of Phoenix Stadium plays host to Round 5 of AMA Supercross this Saturday night. The stadium, being used in lieu of the former home of Supercross Chase Field in the heart of downtown, is unique in a number of ways. Not only does it have a retractable roof, but a retractable natural grass playing field. For Supercross, the stadium simply slides the playing field outside into the sun to make way for a smooth surface on which to build the track. Completed in 2006, the stadium's design also allows for an interesting track alteration that's reminiscent of the old U.S. Open of Supercross at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas -- the track takes a trip outside of the stadium and re-enters on the opposite side. 

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In other words, the new facility should be a perfect venue for Ryan Dungey to continue his winning streak. In fact, it seems it wouldn't matter where the race was held, as Dungey's dominance surprises even him this season, as several of his pre-season competitors either haven't stepped up to his level or have been suffering through nagging or new injuries since the season began. In Oakland last weekend, Dungey once again moved into the front right at the beginning and, despite being pursued by the likes of Ken Roczen, was able to pull out a decisive victory -- his third in a row. There's certainly no reason to expect anything different in Arizona for Round 5, as the defending champ continually reminds everyone why he's got the big #1 plate on his factory KTM.

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It wasn't only Roczen who was keeping an eye on the champ though, as his teammate Marvin Musquin was finally able to get the start he's been looking for all season. Once at the front of the pack, Marvin proved he has what it takes to run with the best in the world and, after holding back Roczen for much of the 450SX Main Event, was able to pull off his first-ever 450 podium in just his fourth career appearance in the premier class. Impressive, and look for Musquin to roll with his newfound confidence again this weekend.

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Now for the list of competitors who were pre-season favorites for the title but are yet to make even a single podium appearance this season. We'll start with Trey Canard who, even before a hand injury the previous weekend in Anaheim, hasn't been on pace (at least consistently) all year. Certainly the nasty cut on his hand sustained in the Anaheim heat race crash didn't help him in Oakland, as Canard pulled out of the night show after struggling through practice. It looks to be turning into another disappointing AMA Supercross season for the incredibly talented and popular Oklahoman.

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The fact that superstar Eli Tomac hasn't made a single podium in four rounds of racing would have been unthinkable before the season began. It's not because he's crashing out of position; it's because he simply isn't on Dungey's pace. He has managed to win a heat race or two along the way, as well as set fast laps, but the checkered flag flies to the first guy to complete 20 laps, and Tomac still simply isn't in the same zip code as Dungey at this stage of the game. 

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For many fans, the most disappointing start to the 2016 season must be that of James Stewart. Looking fast and almost like his old championship-winning self at points this year, a disastrous start at Anaheim 1, no-shows at the next couple of rounds, then pulling off with blurry vision and dizziness last weekend, things can only get better for Stewart, right? Wrong. This week he announced he is out "indefinitely" due to his head injury from Round 1, which was a huge blow to fans of the sport world-wide. We all look forward to Stewart getting back on the track sooner rather than later.

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The 250SX Regional class continues to provide the great and somewhat less predictable results it's always been known for. The resurgence of veterans like Christian Craig to the front of the pack, followed by the near dominance of defending champ Cooper Webb has been entertaining. Webb's three wins leading into Oakland have been exciting come-from-behind affairs with great battles to get to the front. Last weekend, the wheels came off the train, though, as after making his way to the lead, Webb suffered a mechanical issue with his Yamaha and was unable to re-start it. Thanks to that, the race was all Joey Savatgy's to win (after Craig had crashed). Savatgy's first career victory was no less impressive, though, and with Webb's problems that led to only a single point being paid his way, Savatgy's green Kawasaki will have red number plate backgrounds for Glendale as he takes over the points lead.

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It goes without saying that this season's ups and downs for various riders is all part of "The Show", and if it were completely predictable every weekend then we wouldn't have races to begin with. This season's results in both classes, while not much of a surprise on paper with regard to actual winners, is really played out by who's coming in just behind the top dog. Like Jason Anderson's new-found 450SX class success, or Craig's revival as a top gun, or Musquin finally coming around and showing his real speed, or newcomer Colt Nichols nailing a remarkable first-ever podium finish in the 250 class. It's all part of the drama and is the reason this sport is loved the world over.

Round 5 of the 2016 AMA Supercross Series should see further "character development" of the top riders as they sort out their positions for the long haul to Las Vegas in May. Look for complete coverage on our Facebook page AMA Supercross Championship, Instagram @AMASupercross and AMASupercross.com for Live Timing & Scoring. If you're a SUPER Supercross fan, download our $0.99 smartphone app: "AMA SX" on iTunes and the Google Play store. TV schedules are available at Supercrossonline.com

 


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