Following the only off-weekend in the entire 17 race series, the 2016 AMA Supercross Championship drops the gate again tomorrow at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Located squarely in the heart of tech center Silicone Valley, the stadium played host to this year's Super Bowl and is the new home of the San Francisco 49'ers NFL team. Last year was the series' first visit to the impressive venue. The racing this weekend should be worthy of its stature as not only will the 450SX class pick back up for their 12th round, but the 250SX West Region will also hit the track after several weeks off.
With a nearly insurmountable 39-point lead over Ken Roczen, Ryan Dungey just needs to show up and not make any major mistakes in order to continue his march to the title. Of course, that's not what he'll do, as he could've been doing that for the past several rounds. And if Detroit was any indication of just how motivated he is to increase his lead (and income), the rest of the field is certainly in trouble.
Ken Roczen's trouble seems to be his inconsistency, which certainly is directly related to his starts. With such a strong field of very experienced competition, not getting good starts this season makes life much tougher coming through the pack. When Kenny starts up front, he always ends up there. But when he doesn't then... Well, that's when the inconsistent finishes stack up. Inconsistency vs. Ryan Dungey will never result in a championship. At this point, his biggest concern is maintaining the delicate 14 point lead he has over Jason Anderson in third.
If any rider (other than the defending champ Dungey) is on a hot streak, it must be his teammate Marvin Musquin. His rookie 450SX season started off arguably somewhat slowly, but the train is on the tracks now and is rolling right along. With four podiums in a row, Musquin narrowly missed a win twice, and is hungry to prove he can win. He's never raced in Santa Clara before, but that shouldn't matter as he's adapted to other first-time locations this season with no issue. Look for Musquin's first win this weekend.
Making his return along with the rest of the west region superstars is points leader and defending champ Cooper Webb. After a long break in the series, it's tough to say if his win at the previous west round in Arlington will help him carry any added confidence, but then again confidence has never been an issue with Webb. Double-digits ahed of Joey Savatgy, Webb will certainly be at the front, if not in the lead, and really only needs to podium in Santa Clara. We all know he'll be gunning for the win though, as he truly believes he's a step above his competition.
Joey Savatgy wants to prove that he's on the same level as Webb, and has certainly shown that he can 'hang' most of the time. He was the points leader going into Arlington but had a horrible night, turning a double digit lead into an equally big deficit, and that's either left him very hungry or very bummed heading into this weekend. Since the riders have spent a bunch of time doing their outdoor MX testing over the break, it's almost a question of who will be the least rusty at getting back on the Supercross track.
Last but not least in our summary of who to welcome back in the west region, Christian Craig has been the surprise of the series thus far. Pushing Webb hard just about every time they get on the track together, the two have had epic battles in their heats and main events at several rounds already. To say Craig is enjoying a resurgence in his confidence and racing this year would be a massive understatement. He's come on as a genuine title favorite for the future, and he'll be trying his best to remind everyone of that in Santa Clara.
Speaking of riders returning to the track this weekend, let's hit on a few other BIG names who will be back on the track tomorrow. Names in this sport don't get much bigger than James Stewart, and everyone will surely be happy to see the #7 making laps again. Coming back from a lingering concussion and general malaise, Stewart took his time recovering (since Daytona's big crash in the heat race) and felt no pressure to return prematurely like he may have the first time(s). While it doesn't seem likely to expect him on the podium or even the top five in Santa Clara, with Stewart one simply never knows what he has up his sleeve. Thus far this season, though, it seems his racecraft has a few cobwebs in it, and he'll probably be happy just to get on the line for the main event - and make it to the checkered flag.
Another huge name making his comeback is Justin Barcia, who's not ridden injury-free yet this season. There were a lot of questions in the first couple of rounds why the #51 wasn't up front where he was expected to be, but it turns out he was struggling with a hand/wrist injury that has taken nine weeks to get straightened out. Based on his social media updates, we know he's as fit as ever and his mindset won't allow a 'roll over and give up' approach to racing. Expect Barcia to be absolutely chomping at the bit to show everyone he hasn't missed a beat.
Last but not least, Josh Grant's addition to the Factory Kawasaki team in Detroit was very much welcomed by fans everywhere. A veteran and fantastically stylish rider to watch every time he hits the track, it's great having him back.
That should catch everyone up on what to look forward to in Santa Clara tomorrow. Round 12 of the 2016 AMA Supercross Championship looks again to provide a great night of racing in Detroit. Look for complete coverage on our Instagram account - @AMASupercross
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