Rookie Roczen Takes Anaheim 2014 Supercross Opener as Stewart Throws it Away in Classic Stewart Style

Photo: Tom Seymour

Story: Jon Row and Lance Thruxton

Nothing at the Monster Energy Anaheim 1 Supercross round is ever predictable. That was certainly the case Saturday night when rookie 450 KTM rider Ken Roczen out focused, out smarted and out rode SX champs Ryan Villopoto, James Stewart, Chad Reed and his own team mate Ryan Dungey, for a shocking win. This year’s new crop of 450 rookies - Will Hahn, Eli Tomac and Roczen - all promised to bring more fire to the class but Roczen delivered, riding impressively and capitalizing on crashes by vets Stewart and Villopoto.

It was a similar story in the 250 class. Jeff Ward protégé Jayson Anderson on his first RockStar Energy KTM ride diced with veteran TLD Honda’s Cole Seely for 14.9 laps. The win looked to be Seely’s just yards from the finish line when Anderson used lapped traffic and a dive bomb block-pass to snatch the win. Zach Osborne on a Geico Honda, was a distant third eighteen seconds behind the leaders.
Notice served: The young lions are hungrier than ever this year.

Putting it in perspective
Last year, Davi Milsaps stunned the Anaheim opener with a dominate win followed by rookie Trey Canard. Neither rider was able to ride A-1 Saturday. Practice accidents left Milsaps with a tweaked knee and Canard knitting a broken arm.

Last year, 2012 Champion Ryan Villopoto limped away from A-1 in 16th place but recovered to win ten races and the 2013 crown. His feat seemed to taunt the rule that “You can’t win a championship at Anaheim but you can lose one there ”. Fighting an obvious head cold this week, Villopoto gave up a sure win after leading eight laps before sliding down and punting himself back to fourth. After Villopoto crashed, a healthy James Stewart turned up the wick and quickly challenged Roczen’s inherited lead. JS then bailed off spectacularly on the high-speed whoops carelessly pitching away an almost certain victory with five laps still left. Dungey meanwhile overcame a weak start and carved his way through the field to finish second. Chad Reed, riding a bit tight and tense in his first race back on a Kawasaki, brought it home with a safe and solid third.

Tougher than ever
Villopoto has a lot on the line this year besides his megabuck Kawasaki bonus. Though he’s only #5 on the all time win list, Villo’s three consecutive championships equal Bob Hannah, Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael. McGrath achieved four straight titles. RV claims he doesn’t care about records but his ego and drive say otherwise. The rest of the field is giving no leeway. Villopoto was on the ground in the first five minutes of A-1 after ever-feisty heat winner Mike Alessi blocked a finish line pass attempt. No respect indeed. Villopoto kept his motor running and was able to salvage the second place transfer to the main but it should have been a warning; nothing will be easy this year. Second year 450 rider Justin “Bam Bam” Barcia showed vets the fastest qualifying time then took a heat win away from James Stewart to drive home the point.

Making it more interesting
If you liked Anaheim’s action this weekend, Supercross and its sponsors are making sure you’ll want to see more this year. A newly configured 450 format has more elimination races and more opportunities for top guys to butt heads and handlebars. In its 8th year with Monster Energy sponsorship, SX 2014 is implementing new tactics and incentives to keep those race outcomes less predictable.

There will be blood
The 450-only format provides more intense racing in each heat and new five-lap Semi finals. Only four direct heat transfers vs. last year’s nine create tougher consequences for bad starts. It’s a given the top ten will battle each other more this year. There’ll be plenty of pushing and shoving in the heats to avoid riding a Semi. Temper flares should rival opening ceremony fireballs.

Making it tighter
A big 2014 rule change adds two more slots to each main event. Four transfers from the LCQs. Twenty two riders packed on the line tighter than the airline cheap seats. Explaining the term “venturi effect” to your kids will be easy now after watching 22 guys squeeze into first turns wide enough for about half that number. It means there’ll be plenty of chances for first lap mayhem to alter Championships right up to the last race of the year. Anaheim’s track denied fans some potential excitement. A-1’s first turn was so wide and gradual one might have thought it was an AMA half mile. Nonetheless, track layouts at the remaining venues are slated to be tighter and much less forgiving.

Show them the money
Screwing up and having to ride a Last Chance Qualifier this year could actually be rewarding. In a Monster-worthy twist, winning any LCQ and going on to win the main event earns a whopping $10,000 bonus from series sponsor DC shoes. Expect fireworks from this at least once during the season.

To help ensure none of the top guys pace themselves too much, Feld has let Toyota create a sub series within the series: The Toyota Triple Crown. A rider who can win three designated events: Anaheim III, East Rutherford and Arlington will take home $250,000. Points will be kept separately and the top dog, regardless of wins, drives off in a new Toyota Tundra pick up.

The new changes and format will keep the TV production folks happy. They also give Stewart, Reed and the others more shots at “the Ryan’s” Dungey and Villopoto, one of whom will likely win the series. A brash prediction? Not really. Last year, Bikeland accurately forecast the Series’ outcome half way through when neither rider was in the lead. And what about those new guys? Roczen and Villopoto are friends and training partners even though they’re on different teams… advantage: RV. Roczen’s KTM teammate is Ryan Dungey so not many secrets in that camp either. Like Roczen, fellow new kid Eli Tomac and second year rookie Justin Barcia are uber fast but history and the odds aren’t in their favor. Just seventeen Anaheim 1 winners have gone on to win the championship over the last 40 years.

What else to expect?
A new venue, Met Life stadium in East Rutherford New Jersey will host its first ever Supercross event giving East Coast fans a new destination.

Detroit is back. Ford field will pay homage to the Pontiac Silver dome SX days with a track actually running up into the stands.

Less sound: AMA rules have cut back maximum exhaust noise limits by 2 decibels. That’s a very good thing.

Not going to a live event this year? Too bad. Monster Energy girls (and boys) will miss you but Fox Sports Channels 1 & 2 and CBS are airing ALL the events and some one hour specials. Times and listings at:

Next event: January 11th at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Anaheim I 250 West Supercross results:
1 - 17 Jason Anderson KTM 250 SX-F
2 - 21 Cole Seely Honda CRF 250
3 - 16 Zach Osborne, Honda CRF 250
4 - 15 Dean Wilson Kawasaki KX 250F
5 - 37 Cooper Webb Yamaha YZ250F
6 - 35 Justin Hill Kawasaki KX 250F
7 - 45 Darryn Durham Kawasaki KX 250F
8 - 34 Malcolm Stewart Honda CRF 250
9 - 50 Jessy Nelson Honda CRF 250
10 - 61 Austin Politelli Yamaha YZ250F

Anaheim I 450 Supercross results:
1 - 94 Ken Roczen KTM 450 SX-F
2 - 5 Ryan Dungey KTM 450 SX-F
3 - 22 Chad Reed Kawasaki KX 450F
4 - 1 Ryan Villopoto Kawasaki KX 450F
5 - 51 Justin Barcia Honda CRF 450
6 - 10 Justin Brayton Yamaha YZ450F
7 - 33 Josh Grant Yamaha YZ450F
8 - 20 Broc Tickle Suzuki RM-Z450
9 - 29 Andrew Short KTM 450 SX-F
10 - 12 JakeWeimer Kawasaki KX 450F

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Tags: supercross, anaheim one