It’s time again for the Monster Energy Cup, the biggest “off-season” race of the year. Now in it’s sixth year, the MEC’s hybrid
motocross/supercross tracks have always been a testing ground for new concepts–whether it be the novel and not-so-successful split starting gate or the
joker lane–and this year is no different. Again, the star of the show is the
start, but this time designers have built on last year’s raised, downhill
starting straight and kicked it up–by about 40 feet–into the stands at the
end of Sam Boyd Stadium.
A full 60 feet above the stadium floor below, riders will tear 160 feet
down to the stadium floor and an additional 150 feet into the left first turn
before embarking on the high speed jump-filled circuit. The track was designed by five-time
AMA Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael and should make for brilliant racing
and non-stop excitement all night.
With three 10-lap main events, the format is unique,
as well, but, as many of the world’s top racers know, the real draw to the
Monster Energy Cup is the Monster Million. That’s right, $1 million
pre-tax dollars are up for grabs to any “Cup Class” rider who can win all three
main events on the night. It’s been done once, back in 2011, when Ryan
Villopoto was able to pull it off ahead of such other greats as Chad Reed and
James Stewart, No one has done it since.
This year, defending MEC champion Ken Roczen hopes to add
his name to that short list of achievers. Riding his new factory Honda
CRF450R for the first time in a race, Roczen certainly has plenty to prove. And,
even if he can’t win every main event, if he’s able to once again be the best
overall performer, he’ll still walk away with a cool $100,000 for his efforts.
returning champ, Roczen’s characteristic No.94 will be replaced with a big fat No.1, something he’ll also get to run when he returns to the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro
Motocross Championship this summer as defending 450MX Champion.
First in line to dethrone King Kenny is Monster Energy’s
own Eli Tomac, who’s also seen a fair bit of success at Sam Boyd Stadium. A
past main-event winner, Tomac is coming into Vegas with a full head
of steam and confidence after absolutely decimating the competition at the last
two rounds of the FIM U.S. MXGPs a couple of weeks back. Many believe that, with two full
seasons of racing under his belt on the Monster Kawasaki factory racing team,
Eli has finally found his stride. With their history together,
he and Roczen promise to either be at the front of the pack all night or very
quickly making their way there!
The fact that 2016 AMA Supercross Champion Ryan Dungey is
the third rider mentioned on this list just underlines how competitive this
eventwill be. Dungey, who took most of the summer off from racing due to
injury, was able last weekend to again prove himself as one of the best in the world.
At the inaugural Supermotocross Manufacturers Cup in Germany, Dungey was able
to put together three solid motos on a sandy, supercross/motocross hybrid track
against the likes of Jeffrey Herlings, Romain Febvre, and Tim Gajser to come
away the overall winner. Judging from that event, Dungey looks to not have last
one bit of his speed, endurance or tenacity.
The rest of the field at the Monster Energy Cup will no
doubt be chasing these three all day and night long. Heading up that group
has to be Roczen’s Honda teammate, Cole Seely. Also returning from an injury
sustained early in the summer, Seely has been putting in the time at the
practice tracks and is, by all accounts, on his A game coming into MEC.
Cooper Webb, while on the entry list, is a bit of a question
mark as he makes his debut not only with his new permanent No.2, but also in AMA
sanctioned racing aboard a 450cc factory Yamaha YZ450F. Webb’s coming off an emotional Motocross of
Nations, so it will be interesting to see how he’ll
Let’s not forget about Blake Baggett–making his debut on
the new Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM team–or Chad Reed (above) as Webb’s teammate on the
new factory Monster Energy/Chaparral Yamaha team.
It goes without saying that Dungey’s Red
Bull/KTM teammate Marvin Musquin–himself a former 250SX regional champ–will be in the battle, as well, as he comes off a great
performance last weekend in Germany. Rockstar Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne also put on quite a display last
weekend, although a hard get-off may have left him too bruised and battered to
race the MEC this time around. Add to this the likes of Shane McElrath, Jordon
Smith, Mike Alessi, Benny Bloss and several others and, well, you get the idea.
The 22-main “Cup Class” field is going to be stacked from one side of the gate
to the other.
As if that’s not enough, The Monster Energy Cup has also
been a showcase for up-and-coming talent through the years by way of two
additional classes: The Amateur All-Stars (young 250cc intermediate
national-level racers), and the Supermini class (top finishers in the Supermini
division at national-level events). Both of these amateur events take place on
the same track as the Cup Class races and in front of the same
sold-out crowd. With two six-lap main events, an overall winner is crowned in
each class and the racing is certainly not to be missed. It makes for an
incredible down-time between the Cup Class mains.
For those who can’t make it to Sam Boyd Stadium this Saturday
night, then there are plenty of options for viewing at home. Check out this link for all of the info you need: TV Listings
Also, check out a first-person virtual track lap
As usual, keep up with photos, info and live timing and scoring right here at AMASupercross.com, and on our social media outlets on Facebook and Instagram.