Believe it or not, we're at the end of the 2016 AMA Supercross season. This coming Saturday night marks the final night of the 17-round series, and despite giving out the 450SX title to Ryan Dungey last weekend, we still have a couple more No. 1 plates to hand out. Both regional 250SX titles are still up for grabs and have thus far produced plenty of amazing racing. This year, just to make things even more interesting, a new (revived) format will pit the best of the best against one another for the points-paying "super" main event of the 250SX season. The riders who qualify from each region out of their respective heat races will advance to battle head-to-head for the last chance to earn points. Points are paid for overall finish, irregardless of the rider's region, so every position counts.
West Region: Back in early January at Angel Stadium, the west kicked off for their first of eight rounds. Right away a few riders distanced themselves from the pack, and all three are still in the title hunt heading into Vegas. For each region, we've narrowed the field of riders down to three that are capable or likely of winning the title.
West Favorite: Cooper Webb. Coming into the series, Webb was coming off a very productive off-season and started off winning right out of the gate. With decisive wins (often following great battles) in the first three rounds, it was clear that Webb was in it to win it and defend his title. Then disaster struck with a mechanical near-DNF at Round 4 in Oakland, which instantly put any hope of a perfect season to rest. With just a single point scored, things suddenly got very interesting.
Spoiler: Joey Savatgy is the one who made things interesting. Taking full advantage of Webb's misfortune, Savatgy kicked it up and won in Oakland, gaining 24 points on Webb and catapulting himself into the points lead. Following that up with another win in at San Diego II, while Webb wasn't able to win another until Rounds 7 and 8 in Arlington. The points stayed tight, but an off-weekend for Savatgy in Arlington had him lose 14 points to Webb, which is about the gap we have going into Vegas: 16. What are the chances that Savatgy can make up those points in one night of racing? Well, the RUMOR of a wrist injury sustained by Webb in the past couple of weeks makes him possibly weaker than usual and, assuming Savatgy is closer to 100 percent, definitely opens the door for a bad night by Webb, which is exactly what Savatgy and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki need for a title.
Wildcard: Christian Craig was somewhat of a revelation in the West Region this year. Making his comeback to professional racing after starting a family, Craig's outstanding skill and style were finally on center stage and his results expressed what many had always believed matched his potential. He pulled off his first career win in Glendale after a heated battle with Webb, and landed on the podium four other times. Most impressive were his race-long battles with Webb, pushing the defending champ to his limits on several occasions. While Craig is a long-shot for the title with a 23 point deficit, it would take a very bad night for Webb but only a fairly bad one for Savatgy and a chance for Craig to make up 8 points for him to win it all. Crazier things have happened.
East Region: This year the East Region debuted in Atlanta at Round 8 of the season. The class was somewhat stacked, although the 2015 champ Marvin Musquin wasn't present due to progressing up to the premier class. Taking his place were a couple of rookies and a few long-time veterans, not to mention a two-time 250cc national motocross champion.
Favorite: Malcolm Stewart was certainly considered one of the favorites for the title heading into the east opener, and he seemed to be living up to those expectations after a second place at the opener. A couple of very off weekends looked to spell the end of his title hopes, but luckily for him, his primary competition was also inconsistent and, by Round 4 in Detroit, Stewart got the first win of 2016 (second career win). With a total of five podiums through the series, Stewart kept the red plate after last weekend's win in East Rutherford and looks to have some momentum heading into the finale with a 14-point lead. All signs are that Stewart will be strong in Vegas, and it will take a big mistake (or some really bad luck) for him to lose it all now.
Spoiler: Aaron Plessinger entered the season as one of the contenders, although against the much more experienced Stewart and his superstar teammate Jeremy Martin, this second-year Supercross rider was a bit behind the 8-ball. That all changed with his second place in Detroit, which he followed-up with by winning in Indianapolis the following weekend. After another podium, things have gone somewhat downhill for Plessinger as the series heads to the finale (finishing off the podium the last two rounds), losing 9 points to Stewart in just two weekends. He's 14 points down, but is certainly hungry to do what he needs to do to nail down his first pro championship.
Wildcard: Jeremy Martin is a great motocross racer. Supercross? Maybe not so much, but what he lacks in consistency he makes up for in desire and occasional bursts of brilliance. Two really bad back-to-back weekends (Detroit and Indy added up to a grand total of 9 points) effectively removed him from the points chase, although he did pull off two wins in eight rounds. Now 19 points down, he is mathematically still in this thing and if Stewart has big trouble, Martin is only five points down from his teammate Plessinger, so look for a battle royale between those two if they detect a chink in Stewart.
Manufacturer's Points: Yes that's right, the AMA Supercross Championship also awards a Manufacturer's Points race, with points accumulating throughout all three classes (450SX and both 250SX regions). Not surprisingly, Yamaha is way out front in both regions with a 36-point gap in the east and 133 points in the west. Honda comes in second in both regions, while KTM and Kawasaki are third in each, respectively.
So if you were wondering if there was any good reason to watch the season finale in Vegas this Saturday night since Dungey already wrapped up the title, the answer is a resounding: YES! The Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout's new points-paying, combined main event will absolutely provide incredible racing as the best of the best from east coast get together to determine who walks away with a AMA Supercross No. 1 plate. Also, check out our 450SX class preview later in the week right here at AMAsupercross.com.