Monster Energy Supercross kicks off 2015 Saturday night
'Parity-packed' lineup of the best motocross competitors.
This Saturday night inside Angel Stadium of Anaheim, in Anaheim, Calif., the stage will be set to determine #WhosNext as the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, unfolds with a parity-packed lineup of the world's top racers.
Saturday night's race will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 7:00 p.m. PST/10:00 p.m. EST.
Some key insights to watch heading into the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross Championship:
--The winner of the opening 450SX Class race of the year has gone on to win the championship in 17 of 41 seasons.
--For the first time in four seasons, a new 450SX Class champion will be crowned in 2015.
--Just two former titleholders will line up on the 450SX Class gate to start the 2015 season - Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey.
--A total of nine Main Event winners will highlight the 450SX Class field.
--Four former 250SX Class winners will embark on their rookie 450SX Class season in 2015 -- Jason Anderson, Blake Baggett, Cole Seely and Dean Wilson.
--A total of 13 of the most prominent competitors in the 450SX Class will compete on a new brand of motorcycle and/or with a new team in 2015.
--With Davi Millsaps missing all of 2014, can he build off of the success he enjoyed in Anaheim back in 2013 when he won the season opener?
--Can Ken Roczen give RCH Racing its first victory and establish it as a championship contender?
Will Justin Barcia be able to get back on top of the podium with JGRMX and give the team title aspirations?
--Fully healthy, can Trey Canard return to the level that helped him challenge for a title as a rookie in 2011 and end Honda's 11-season championship drought?
--At the age of 32 can Reed, the sport's oldest full-time competitor, rekindle the magic he had last season before a major injury ended his championship hopes?
--Will Dungey's impressive consistency as a 450SX Class competitor, top three championship finishes in each of his five seasons, lead him to a second career title and the first for KTM?
No Villopoto, no Stewart
The absence of reigning four-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto this season means the upcoming battle for the 2015 title will be arguably the most competitive in history thanks to one of the most talented field of competitors ever assembled.
In Villopoto's absence a trio of former Monster Energy Supercross champions - Dungey, Reed and James Stewart - were immediately seen as the heavy favorites for the 2015 title as a result of their past success. However, in mid December the landscape of the 2015 season changed again when Stewart was given a 16-month suspension by the FIM for failing a drug test at the Seattle stop of the 2014 season. As a result, the sport's two winningest riders over the past eight seasons, and winners of five of the past six championships, would not factor into the 2015 title fight at all.
The vacancies left by Villopoto and Stewart thrust the spotlight squarely on Dungey and Reed, who have considerably more championship experience than any of their fellow riders. Even as two of the most seasoned riders in the 450SX Class, the pair is flanked by a long list of former winners and budding talent that is sure to make each stop on the 17-race schedule as unpredictable as ever.
Change in the air in 450SX
Adding to the suspense that now surrounds the 2015 season are the signs of change littering the field of 450SX Class contenders. Of the most prominent and recognizable riders in the championship, 13 will either be racing for a brand new team and/or aboard a new brand of motorcycle.
Leading the way for this group is the rider selected to replace Villopoto at Monster Energy Kawasaki, Millsaps. For back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, Millsaps finished in the runner-up spot behind Villopoto in the final standings. He was considered a title contender a year ago but suffered a season-ending injury before the first gate dropped in Anaheim. Having not raced in over a year, the Millsaps signing was expected but also came with some uncertainty
. However, any concerns were quickly erased in his first race for the team at the Monster Energy Cup in October. Millsaps proved there was no rust and went on to win the event with an incredibly consistent effort, giving him bragging rights heading into the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross season. Another new addition that will line up alongside Millsaps at Kawasaki is Wil Hahn, who spent his rookie 450SX Class season a year ago aboard a Honda.
On the heels of a runner-up finish in the championship last season, Dungey will return to Red Bull KTM with virtually no changes to his program and could be considered the favorite to earn a second title. He will be joined by a new teammate in Wilson, who makes his anticipated move to the premier class in 2015 and will compete aboard something other than a Kawasaki for the first time in his career. The Scot made splashes as a part-time 450SX Class rider last season and is expected to succeed under the tutelage of both Dungey and team manager Roger DeCoster.
Dungey's former teammate at KTM, Roczen, is arguably the biggest name heading to a new team for the 2015 season, joining the factory-backed Team RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John's Suzuki effort of Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart. Roczen raced to a pair of wins during his first full season of 450SX Class competition a year ago and finished right behind Dungey in the final standings before going on to win his first career national championship in AMA Motocross. With past success on a Suzuki dating back to his early years as a pro in Europe, Roczen is confident he'll be able to put RCH Racing into the upper echelon of competition and build upon the solid foundation he built a year ago, despite entirely new surroundings.
Reed should be tough
Much like Dungey, little change will come to Reed's personal racing program and it's why he is also one of the preseason favorites. However, the Aussie will experience a major change in regards to the operation of his Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports effort, welcoming a second rider for the first time since starting the team in 2011. It's been Reed's long-term goal to hire a rider and veteran Josh Grant was the right fit. He's a former winner in Monster Energy Supercross and should provide a nice complement to Reed, who continues in the twilight of his career.
Seemingly a perennial underdog each season, Reed and his team has consistently notched big achievements despite not having all the resources of their factory-backed competitors, with Reed scoring a pair of wins over the course of three weeks before suffering a season-ending injury a year ago. With the title sitting vacant, Reed is healthy and more motivated than ever to prove he's still one of the fastest riders on the planet, and he'll be able to rely on the support of a teammate this time around.
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