The “30 second card” is up, and the gate is about to drop for the 2016 Supercross season! Now, we all say this every year, but I can’t think of a season that was so hotly anticipated as this one. As I type this, I’m currently listening to the press conference that features a whopping 13 riders, and you can argue there hasn’t been a larger pool of potential 450 race winners. The deep field has been much of the talk for the last month, however a new story line has quickly stolen the show this week: Rain. Ah yes, rain, the great equalizer, the true instigator of chaos and improbability. Whispers of weeklong rain began to trickle in the previous few weeks, and by now we’ve all likely seen the photos on Instagram of Angels Stadium flooded.
While some may feel rather gloomy about the soggy situation, praying for rain, rain to go away, we feel rather bright about the season opener. Let me explain.
We’d be lying if we truly thought all 13 riders at the press conference today had an equal shot at winning A1. Taking a quick look back to 2015, only six different riders stood atop the podium throughout the 17 round series. We’re not saying the other riders can’t win Anaheim, or even get a win later in the season. However early in the season, competition is at its peak and a win is very, very hard to come by.
With that said, precipitation is the ray of light (believe it or not) we’re desperately craving, bringing a season opener that really, anyone can win! Don’t believe us? Jumping into the time machine, there was a very similar season opener in 2005. Chad Reed was hot off his first 250 Supercross title, Ricky Carmichael was hungrier than ever due to missing the previous season to injury, and some young kid by the name of James Stewart was making his debut on the big bike. With too many race wins between the three to count, Anaheim was going to be won by one of those three riders. Or so we thought. Flying under the radar was fan favorite and mud specialist, Kevin Windham who passed a buried RC, on his way to the first checkered flag of the year.
Jumping back to this year, there are a staggering 17 riders in the 450 class who have previously won a race and/or championship. That’s a massive number we’ve never had before, and you can bet all 17 are licking their chops at splashing through the mud to a victory with the confidence of knowing that mud truly is the great equalizer.
Aside from the hysteria at the front of the pack, a rutted, deep Supercross track is not partial to anyone and it’s safe to assume every other spot in the running order is up for grabs-and that includes last. These type of races always spell trouble for at least a few of the championship hopefuls, from stuck bikes, to mechanical failures, to even making it through qualifying. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict at least one of the front runners has a disastrous race.
The moment of truth is upon us and there are so many unanswered questions like “who is going to feel the wrath of Mother Nature?” “Who will break through for a surprising finish or victory?” and “How will this affect the championship in the long run?” Luckily, none of us know, and to me, that’s what makes things exciting!
Live coverage of Anaheim 1 starts Saturday night at 7:00PM PST on Fox Sports 1
Watch practice live with the Race Day Live crew all year long here
Starts 1/9 at 12:30PM PST