Tampa - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 2

Grant has his picks for thumbs up, sideways and down in Tampa. Agree? Disagree?

Tampa - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

450 Class

The Good: Justin Hill | 6th Place

I'd seen an Instagram clip of Justin Hill testing out the RM-Z450 early in the week before Tampa, and he'd looked very smooth. But that was at the practice track. I did not, in a million years, expect for him to qualify first, win his heat race, and challenge for the Main Event win! That was....well, something else entirely. He looked like he'd been riding the 450 all season, and his confidence seemed to be next level. And yeah, I know we saw shades of this at the Monster Energy Cup in 2014, but to see him pass Eli Tomac and nearly get the job done on Marvin Musquin was so unanticipated I didn't know what to think. If there were any goals that Justin had to meet before securing the 450 ride at JGR for next year, I think it's safe to say he's met them. I sincerely hope Jeremy Albrecht decides to let him stay on the 450 for the rest of the East Coast swing. There's really no reason not to.

The Good Bonus: Cooper Webb | 4th Place

Cooper has come to life over the past few rounds, and looks much more comfortable on the 450 Yamaha than he ever has. If he continues to make strides, we may finally see the 2015/2016 Cooper Webb in the big boy class. Does that mean a win is possible? Eh, maybe if everything goes his way, but with him getting better and the field becoming more and more depleted a podium by the end of the season is a damn near guarantee at this point. This would also be the perfect time for Cooper to finally break out in the 450 class, as everyone is looking for someone to dive into the current "Big 3" battle and add a little bit of spice to the series. You also have to wonder that if he has finally figured the YZ450F out, will he stay with Yamaha for 2019? Or will another manufacturer snatch him away?

The Bad: Benny Bloss | 22nd Place

This year has not been kind to Benny. He got hurt at the first round of the season and had to sit out for a couple of rounds, and apart from a decent finish in San Diego, he has not made it though most of Main Events he's been in without crashing. I'm not really sure what the team's expectations for him are this season, but I was expecting for him to finish between 10th-13th consistently with maybe a top ten thrown in on occasion, but so far he's only met that expectation once (with a 12th in San Diego). Now, obviously, he's not aiming to satisfy my expectations. I'm just a spectator, but I have to imagine that the team's expectations are at least somewhat similar, and it may be crucial for him to start racking up some solid finishes if he wants to secure a ride for next year. Hopefully Baby Giraffe figures it out.

The Ugly: Cole Seely | DNQ

Another blow to the 450 lineup came this past weekend when Cole Seely had a big crash that resulted in a fractured pelvis and tailbone. That leaves only a few top-level riders left (Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin, and Jason Anderson among them) with still half of the series to go! That is the definition of no bueno right there. Of course, we still might see some sweet battles between the three I just mentioned (plus Cooper Webb or Blake Baggett may poke their heads in every once and a while), but this is quickly becoming a very thin field. The finishing order of the top three in Tampa could very well be the finishing order for the rest of the season! Those three are just so far above everyone else it's more about which of them will get a better start than anything. 

Also, how about this year so far for Honda in general? Both of their 450 riders in the Supercross and MXGP series are hurt. When was the last time we've seen something like this? I'm not sure, but there's a monstrous, multi-celled storm hanging over Big Red right now, and it's not showing any signs of letting up.


250 Class

The Good: Austin Forkner | 1st Place

When Austin turned pro, everyone knew it was only a matter of time before we'd see him on the top step of the podium in Supercross. He was unbeatable when he competed in the amateur classes at the Monster Energy Cup, and it was pretty clear Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki expected big things from him. His first year didn't really go according to plan with a few setbacks here and there, and no wins, but he came into this season ready to fight for the title despite picking up an injury during the off-season. The first round in Arlington was pretty chaotic with a first turn crash and another issue a few sections later on the first lap, but he was able to salvage some decent points and keep himself in the title conversation. Then he goes out and wins Tampa, and just like that he's only five points out of the championship lead. Things are looking good right now, but he's going to have quite a war of attrition ahead of him if he wants to unseat Zach Osborne as the champion. Let the war begin.

The Bad: Colt Nichols | 9th Place

It was a very quiet day for Colt in Tampa. He didn't qualify very well (12th), and then he got a mediocre start in the Main Event and finished in a mediocre spot for a rider of his caliber. Granted, he did say that originally he wasn't even sure if he was going to make the start of this championship, so he may still be struggling a bit with recovering from his injury, but after last week a ninth is a bit of a disappointment. On the bright side, he should only get stronger as the season goes on and his body gets closer to 100%.

The Ugly: Jeremy Martin | 12th Place

New flash: Jeremy Martin and 250 Supercross do not get along. He has had the worst luck possible in the past few years of Supercross. Last year, he got bad starts all season and had uncharacteristic crashes that cost him any chance at the championship. This year it has been more of the same. He got caught up in the first turn pileup last week, and then this week he had two crashes during the Main Event, which resulted in a 12th-place finish. He could still win this season, but his championship hopes are already looking pretty grim for only being two rounds in. And with Honda's 450 team being riderless right now, you have to wonder if they're considering pulling Jeremy from the 250 series and bumping him up to the 450 for the rest of the season. I'd like to see him stay on the 250 for one more round, but if he has another rough week and finishes outside of the top five, they might as well throw him onto one of the idle 450s.


Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson

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