Good, Bad, 'n Ugly: Anaheim 1

250 Class
The Good: Justin Cooper | 1st Place

I'm sure most of us expected Justin Cooper to win a race during the 250 East series last year. He clearly had the skills to do it, but it's so easy to forget that 2019 was essentially his rookie year in Supercross. He did line up for Supercross in 2018; however, he only lasted one round before exiting with an injury. So it's not a surprise that he seemed a little antsy at times and tried to bite off a bit more than he could chew in '19, especially when he was thrust into the championship battle with Chase Sexton after Austin Forkner went out with an injury. At the end of the day it was a learning year for him, and a damn good one at that. 

Coming into 2020, though, I'm sure his expectations were nothing short of claiming multiple race wins, regardless of which series he was assigned to race. He actually didn't even know he was going to race the West series until the night before Anaheim 1. Star Racing decided to bring both him and Shane McElrath to the race and made a last-minute decision on who would line up come race day. I think that this is an incredibly stupid game that some of the 250 teams choose to play, and frankly, I hope it's just for show and that everyone knows which series they will race at least a week before A1. I mean...c'mon now.

Anyway, Justin's Anaheim 1 was reasonably uneventful once it got going. He did have a run-in with Austin Forkner in their heat race that left Austin on the ground and clearly unhappy, but to me, it looked like a clear-cut racing incident and not a malicious takeout. The Main Event wasn't a total Sunday cruise, as he had to deal with Austin Forkner early on, and he was a little cautious around him for obvious reasons. Austin took the lead from him on lap one and led most of the race, but Austin eventually took himself out of the race by jumping into some Tuf-Blox, and it was all Justin Cooper from there. He led the rest of the race and maintained a nice cushion on Dylan Ferrandis until the checkered flag flew. It was a veteran-like performance from a guy who has only raced one full year of Supercross. I think Justin and Dylan have a lot of respect for each other, but we've seen teammates and training partners try to make this situation work before. All it takes is one incident between the two to change the dynamic. Will we see the two Star Racing boys go at it all season? Or will Austin Forkner gather himself up and spoil the party?

Justin Cooper.

The Good Bonus: Christian Craig | 3rd Place

Christian Craig is legitimately living out a sports film storyline at the moment. This man went through hell last year after he was informed that he'd failed a drug test at the 2018 Daytona Supercross. You read that right, he failed a drug test in March of 2018, and he wasn't informed until January of 2019. He continued to race as it wasn't an immediate suspension, but it clearly weighed heavily on him as he struggled to perform up to his potential and dealt with injuries throughout the year. Over the past few months, though, he went through the full appeals process and was ultimately given a date to meet with CAS (Court of Arbitration for Sport) in December. The meeting went about as well as could be expected, and he was cleared to race the West series.

Honestly, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from Christian when we kicked off the series on Saturday. I knew he would qualify well because there's no denying the insane amount of talent he has, but I was hoping that he'd keep it upright for the entirety of the Main Event. Not only did he do that, but he also secured a third-place finish after Austin Forkner was penalized for cutting the track. A podium on the official results sheet is the perfect way for the next chapter of Christian's career to begin. I hope he's able to grab a few more of them as the season goes on.

Christian Craig.

The Bad: Austin Forkner | 5th Place

The only person that could beat Austin Forkner during the 2019 East Coast series was Austin Forkner. He won five races before his 300th practice crash of the season took him out for good. It's looking like the same will be true for 2020, as he crashed hard in the whoops during practice and was down on the ground for quite a while. He has said he's just sore from the crash, but I'm sure he also has some bruises and road rash to deal with at the very least. And I think it would be silly to think that whatever he was dealing with from the crash didn't also affect him during the night show, as he seemed to have a more reserved riding style than normal. Nonetheless, he led for over half of the Main Event before making a mistake in a rhythm section and landing into some Tuf-Blox. He lost the lead to Justin Cooper immediately, and then he remounted and cut a sizable amount of the track to re-join the race. It looked like an odd choice to cut so much of the track when he could have turned his bike around and kept going from where he went off. But at the same time, I can't sit here and act like I know what I would do in that situation. The bike was being a little difficult, he was probably frustrated and still in pain from his crash earlier in the day, and Dylan Ferrandis was coming down that rhythm section towards him. Maybe I would make the same choice. In the end, though, it doesn't matter whether you think it was a justified cut or not because he was penalized two positions for the move. This puts him in an eight-point hole after the first round of the season, which is something he didn't have to deal with last year. How will he respond in St. Louis?

Austin Forkner.

The Bad Bonus: Alex Martin | 10th Place

This was a very Alex Martin-like performance to start off the year. He looked great early on in the day and qualified fourth, he looked great in his heat race and finished second, and then he looked great early on in the Main Event until he had some trouble, went off the track, and got stuck between lanes. After some trouble restarting, he slid back to 21st place. He had to fight his way back through the pack and ended up in tenth place on the night. That's actually a great comeback considering that this year's West lineup is fairly stacked with talent. Still, it continues the trend that Alex's finishes very rarely show his true potential in Supercross. It seems like JGR Suzuki has a solid engine package for the 250 this year, so hopefully, Alex can get a couple of more good starts and stay off the ground for the whole race. He could be a consistent top-five guy.

Alex Martin.

The Ugly: Penrite Honda

First of all, I think it is incredible that Penrite Honda has decided to come over here and race some of the U.S. Supercross series. Yarrive Konsky, who is the team owner, has to be one of the most dedicated people in our sport. He runs a great program over in Australia every year, and then he decides to come over here during his offseason to give Luke Clout a second shot at the U.S. scene and to help out Mitchell Oldenburg. Awesome stuff. 

Unfortunately, Anaheim 1 didn't end too well for the team. They had a great day leading up to the start of the Main Event. Mitchell qualified in seventh place, and Luke qualified in 11th place, and both of them transferred straight to the Main Event from their heat race. Both riders would go on to have issues in the Main Event, with Luke posting a DNF and Mitchell eventually finishing in 16th after running up front early. Not a great way to start off the season, but these two riders will deliver great results sooner or later. 

Luke Clout.

450 Class

The Good: Justin Barcia | 1st Place

The 450 class provided some huge surprises throughout the night, chief among them being the fact that Justin Barcia won the freaking Main Event. There wasn't any rain or mud like they had in 2019, either, Justin won this one straight up. He did give up the lead to Adam Cianciarulo at one point when he jumped into some Tuf-Blox, but a few laps later Adam made a similar mistake, and Justin took the lead right back. Yamaha did make some serious changes to the bike over the offseason in an attempt to not have a repeat of 2019's disappointing results. I believe they really tried to nail down an engine package that suits Justin's style well, and they also worked a lot on suspension. All of their work seems to be paying off, too, as Justin looked great in the European offseason races before coming to Anaheim and looking the best he has in years. I don't want to get too hyped about Justin after how his season went following A1 last year, but if he can make it through these next few races unscathed he may be a serious contender.

Justin Barcia.

The Good Bonus: Adam Cianciarulo | 2nd Place

Like a few others I know, I was trying not to completely give in to the hype that was building around Adam Cianciarulo during the offseason. He looked to have a great program going; he was "flying at the test track," and he won Monster Energy Cup. It was the trifecta of hype that made it seem like it was too good to be true. But here we are, and even though we're only one race into the season, I do think it's pretty apparent that the hype around Adam is justified. He's blazing fast, and he doesn't appear to be a crash magnet like some 450 rookies tend to be. He also nearly won the Main Event, and although he did make a mistake that almost led to a crash, he moved on from it as if nothing happened. If he can stay away from injury, I do not doubt that we see Adam claim his first 450 Supercross win (and maybe more) this season.

Adam Cianciarulo.

The Bad: Eli Tomac | 7th Place

Eli Tomac was in this week's race? Huh, I didn't even notice.

Seriously, though, he was basically invisible during the Main Event. He was shown on the broadcast a few times, but after moving up from 11th place to ninth place early in the race, he just hung out for a while. He spent a long time behind Vince Friese, and I'm not sure if he would have even been able to pass Justin Brayton if he had not been taken out by Jason Anderson. The official word from his camp is arm pump. If we allow ourselves to go down this path, though, we'll find ourselves in the same headspace as 2019. We'll all be convinced it's only a matter of time until he catches fire, and although he will inevitably win some races, May will come, and someone else will be crowned champion. It's the same story year after year, and we're at a point where he either has what it takes to win a Supercross title, or he doesn't. If he can't pull it together here within the next few races, I'm going to start to think it's the latter. 

Eli Tomac.

The Bad Bonus: Ken Roczen | 6th Place

Ken posted an explanation of his performance on Instagram, and it sounds like he didn't want to spend the entire day searching for the perfect bike setup, so he stuck with what he used in the offseason and powered through the day. I don't blame him for this strategy. He wanted to get through the first round safely and go from there, and a sixth-place finish isn't terrible for riding a bike set up that made him feel like he was on a BMX bike. Ultimately, I want to see what Ken can do when he can make it through a whole season healthy and progress at his own rate. I still expect for him to win a race or two this season, but I wouldn't say my pre-season expectations for him were as high as they were for Eli Tomac.

Ken Roczen (94).

The Ugly: JGR Suzuki

I was quite excited to see Jimmy Decotis and Fredrik Noren both make the Main Event for JGR, but their results were a bit of a bummer with Fredrik finishing in 21st and Jimmy in 22nd place. This isn't the end of the world for JGR, as it is a bit of a miracle that not only are they racing this year but that they have four riders under contract. Still, I'm sure they would like to score some finishes around the top ten while they wait for Joey Savatgy to return from injury. We'll see how they progress from here, but with any luck, I won't have to talk about them in this category again for a long time. 

Fredrik Noren crashed on the blind landing of the tunnel jump, and had to scramble out of the way to avoid oncoming traffic.

You can check out my personal Power Rankings here.

Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson

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