|Justin Barcia kicked off the 2021 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship 17-round series with a win in the 450SX Class inside Houston’s NRG Stadium, marking the third time in series history an opening round was hosted in the great state of Texas. A restricted-attendance audience of 10,830 race fans, clustered in pod seating by families and groups, cheered Barcia’s incredible third-consecutive opening round victory. Barcia fought off Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen for nearly the entire race while Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin returned to Supercross with a solid third place finish. In the Eastern Regional 250SX Class, a division that traditionally begins later in the season, Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Christian Craig started 2021 with his first victory in five years.|
It had been 25 years since the Monster Energy Supercross series kicked off outside of California, and coincidentally 25 years since a rider had won three consecutive opening rounds (Jeremy McGrath in Orlando), but in Texas Justin Barcia, in his 100th Monster Energy Supercross start, cemented a place in the history books by grabbing the victory of what was the debut race for the GASGAS team and GASGAS Supercross machine. At the gate drop Marvin Musquin holeshot the 22 rider field, but Barcia squeezed into the lead immediately. Honda’s Ken Roczen worked his way through the top five to reach second place with over seventeen minutes left on the race clock; Roczen stayed close, and with five minutes and one lap remaining launched three intense pass attempts. Barcia held his composure and track position, forcing Roczen to eventually settle for the runner-up spot.
Marvin Musquin rounded the first corner in the lead but found himself outside the top three in the early laps. At the Main Event’s midpoint he made his move on Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo to regain his place in a podium position. The three former champions in the field had a tough opening round. Defending champion Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac had a fall and an off track excursion that relegated him to thirteenth. 2019 champion Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb steadily recovered from a bad start to earn ninth. And 2018 champion Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson spent most of the race eighth place until lap 22 of the 28 lap Main Event when he dropped back to finish in fifteenth position.
It was a tough night for the Kawasaki team, especially Eli Tomac.
Eli Tomac: “Man, the first race of the season is always an interesting one. To be honest, I had a really great offseason with my entire Kawasaki team, and have just been loving riding my KX450 lately, but today was just not my day. I had a good flow throughout the qualifying sessions today, but in the heat race and main event tonight I got decent starts but got shuffled back in the first turn. With the way the track broke down tonight it became very one-lined and difficult to make passes. The competition this year is deeper than ever and what we learned last year is that you have to be consistent every race to be in the hunt at the end. The good thing about this new schedule is that we get to line up again in a few days, so we will regroup and come out swinging at Round 2 on Tuesday.”
Adam Cianciarulo: “There is a lot of good takeaways from today, one being that we are just back racing and in front of fans. There is no better feeling than coming out to see them during opening ceremonies or hearing them cheer during the races. I would be lying if I said that today I was really feeling it, but to come away with a fourth place is something I can live with. I am a student of the game and I know that even on your bad days, you still have to be good. I’ll spend the next couple of days with my trainer Nick (Wey) and the Monster Energy Kawasaki team going over some film and working on fine-tuning the areas I can improve on so that we can get back on that podium on Tuesday night.”
The Eastern Regional 250SX Class kicked its season off with great racing excitement. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s RJ Hampshire nabbed the holeshot but his time at the front lasted less than one minute before Christian Craig got past and pulled away to a comfortable lead. Behind, Hampshire battled hard to stay up front, but Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner got past just after the midway point, and Craig’s teammate Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha’s Colt Nichols made his way into a podium finish after rounding the first lap just inside the top five.
As the gate dropped on the 250SX Main Event, both Shimoda and Forkner were once again at the front of the pack jockeying for position with Shimoda inside the top three on the opening laps. Forkner wasted no time charging forward, spending much of the main event studying his competition and capitalizing on their mistakes to ultimately finish in second place. Shimoda found himself getting shuffled back to seventh place, but he never gave up, and created opportunities for himself late in the race to earn his career-best finish in fourth place.
Austin Forkner: “Honestly, I am pretty pumped with my riding today. Of course, I want to win, but it has been over 200 days since I have last lined up to race. My injury from the last round of supercross last year was pretty serious and took a big toll on my body, but I know that I put in the work to get back to this point. I am thankful to be back racing my dirt bike. In both the heat race and the main event, I didn’t do myself any favors with my starts and had to work my way towards the front. It was cool to see my teammate Jo (Shimoda) do well and fun to race in him in the heat race. In the main event, I had to work my way past some riders and then put on a charge towards the leader but at that point, it was a little too late. I know where I need to improve on and I am already looking forward to Tuesday’s race.”
Jo Shimoda: “Wow! Today was so much fun for me and I am just loving my KX250 right now. Tonight, I got my first career holeshot and led laps in the heat race and scored my best overall finish in supercross. I am just so excited right now and feel really comfortable on the bike. I am so thankful to the entire Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team and Mitch Payton for giving me this opportunity. I have been working hard these past few months and I think I was able to show that today. The competition is really strong, but I know that I belong competing with these guys and will look to improve even more on Tuesday.”
450SX Class Results1. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS2. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda3. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM4. Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Kawasaki5. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha6. Justin Brayton, Charlotte, N.C., Honda7. Dylan Ferrandis, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Yamaha8. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha9. Cooper Webb, Newport N.C., KTM10. Zach Osborne, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna
450SX Class Championship Standings1. Justin Barcia, Greenville, Fla., GASGAS (26)2. Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Honda (23)3. Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM (21)4. Adam Cianciarulo, New Smyrna Beach, Fla., Kawasaki (19)5. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha (18)6. Justin Brayton, Charlotte, N.C., Honda (17)7. Dylan Ferrandis, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Yamaha (16)8. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha (15)9. Cooper Webb, Newport N.C., KTM (14)10. Zach Osborne, Clermont, Fla., Husqvarna (13)
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Results1. Christian Craig, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha2. Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki3. Colt Nichols, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha4. Jo Shimoda, Menifee, Calif., Kawasaki5. RJ Hampshire, Minneola, Fla., Husqvarna6. Jett Lawrence, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Honda7. Michael Mosiman, Menifee, Calif., GASGAS8. Mitchell Oldenburg, Aledo, Tex., Honda9. Max Vohland, Granite Bay, Calif., KTM10. Joshua Osby, Valparaiso, Ind., Honda
Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship Standings1. Christian Craig, Temecula, Calif., Yamaha (26)2. Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki (23)3. Colt Nichols, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha (21)4. Jo Shimoda, Menifee, Calif., Kawasaki (19)5. RJ Hampshire, Minneola, Fla., Husqvarna (18)6. Jett Lawrence, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Honda (17)7. Michael Mosiman, Menifee, Calif., GASGAS (16)8. Mitchell Oldenburg, Aledo, Tex., Honda (15)9. Max Vohland, Granite Bay, Calif., KTM (14)10. Joshua Osby, Valparaiso, Ind., Honda (13)