Top SX Riders Discuss #WhosNext Leading Into Opening Race in Anaheim
Feld Motor Sports hosted the top 450 SX Class riders at the pre-race press conference prior to the opening race at Angel Stadium in Anaheim. With reigning four-time champion Ryan Villopoto moving to Europe, riders and fans alike are asking the question #WhosNext as the gate gets ready to drop on perhaps the most anticipated Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, season in history.
One of the SX riders entering the season with arguably the most momentum is Monster Energy Cup winner Davi Millsaps. The new Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was sidelined the entire 2014 season, but didn’t show any signs of rust as he raced to his first Monster Energy Cup win back in October in Las Vegas, his first outing with the team. Millsaps will fill the vacant spot left by Villopoto at Kawasaki and the last time he competed in Monster Energy Supercross in 2013 he took the win at the opening race in Anaheim and ultimately finished second in the final championship standings, which bodes well for Kawasaki’s hope of continued success.
“Monster Energy Cup was good for me because it was three-gate drops I was able to have before the season started,” explained Millsaps. “It was really good to see how I felt and to get a good start with the team. After so long it was great to get that feeling back battling with the top guys. Obviously there are going to be nerves, but it’s a long season and I’m looking forward to getting behind the gate again for a full season.”
Ken Roczen, last year’s opening race winner in Anaheim, made the surprise switch to the RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/Suzuki Factory Racing effort during the off season and will line up for the very first time with his new team in Anaheim. Owned by five-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart, the addition of Roczen gives the budding team its best chance at victory in its third season of competition.
“Between my confidence on the bike and feeling the best I’ve felt, I’m ready to go out and race,” said Roczen. “I have been really happy with the team change. Last year I learned a lot [as a 450SX Class rookie], including that it’s a long season. I’m just planning on going out there and doing my best, and ride as aggressive and smart as I can. Overall I’ve been feeling really good and excited to go back to my roots with Suzuki.”
Also making a team switch during the offseason is AutoTrader.com/Toyota/Yamaha’s Justin Barcia. He made his debut with the team at Monster Energy Cup, showcasing his new Joe Gibbs Racing machine at the front of the pack. The 2014 season didn’t go quite as well as Barcia had hoped, but the change of scenery has the third-year rider rejuvenated for a run at the title.
“Learning a new team and a new bike is a process, but I’ve been really happy with the change,” said Barcia. “It’s nice not having to go to California in the offseason. I am enjoying the East Coast. I hired a new trainer and with everything we’ve done in the offseason I feel like we are ready for this weekend.”
Like Millsaps, Team Honda rider Trey Canard showcased the speed he is likely to bring to the opening race on Saturday night at the Monster Energy Cup. Canard narrowly missed the one million dollar prize in Las Vegas, but made it known he is ready to be a regular on the top step of the podium.
“I have been on Hondas my entire career and I haven’t seen the factory [in Japan] so involved,” said Canard. “They are really excited and it makes me excited. We are all working well together and are excited about the bike. I am healthy coming into the season so that is a good way to start.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey enters his sixth 450SX Class season as one of the most consistent competitors on the starting gate. He hasn’t finished worse than third overall since entering the premier class, making him a natural championship contender.
“He [Ryan Villopoto] made it hard on us the past few years, so it will be interesting with him gone,” said Dungey. “We’ve been right there with the championship stats, but there is a long list of guys that can make it tough on us. I do feel like I’m coming off one of my best off-seasons in my career, between the new bike, the team, and training. We’re excited to get things rolling.”
As arguably the most experienced rider on the track, Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed brings over a decade of success to the table. Despite giving as many as 12 years in age to his youngest competitor, Reed plans on using that expertise to chase his third 450SX championship.
“This offseason was some of the most fun I’ve had in a while,” said Reed. “Not changing bikes, or major sponsors or anything like that, and I was able to be home a lot and doing my thing back east. As for when I might retire, it’s no secret that my years are running out. To be in form last year and have a shot at the championship, then get hurt, took its toll emotionally. It took a lot to get back up and get myself in that position again. But I’m feeling good and would like to be there at the end in Las Vegas.”
Following a respectable 450 SX Class debut at the Monster Energy Cup, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson lines up for his first full season in the premier class. He had a breakout year in 2014, collecting his first Western Regional 250SX Class Championship, making him the leader of a talented crop of rookies making their way into the sport’s elite division.
“I had a good time training in Florida and think I’m ready to step up and do well in this class,” said Anderson. “I always felt like my speed was there and thought that maybe another piece of the puzzle was missing. So I’ve been training big time and think we’ve put it all together to be at my best coming into this year. As far as the switch to Husqvarna, I think people will be surprised to see how good the bike really is.”