Roczen Gets Back In The Groove

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Ken Roczen (Feld photo)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — With another emotional victory in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship racing, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen railed into the lead early in the main event and took the 450SX class victory in round 15 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

Red Bull KTM’s Cooper Webb, the winner of the previous round, took second, losing a spot in the championship points to Roczen. Point leader Eli Tomac of the Monster Energy Kawasaki team turned a first corner near-crash into a podium position; he retains a comfortable points lead with two rounds remaining.

In the second Utah-based round of Western Regional 250SX Class competition, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner battled past point leader Dylan Ferrandis of the Monster Energy/Star Yamaha Racing team to narrow the points gap to seven with only one round remaining in that division.

After Ken Roczen’s announcement earlier in the week that he’d been diagnosed with shingles, and how that compounds his other physical ailments, most were not expecting a strong ride from the German rider over the entire 20-minute plus one lap event.

When the gate dropped, Tomac reached the first corner ahead of the pack but Cooper had the inside line and gave Tomac a strong bump. Webb crossed the holeshot line first, with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson right on his wheel and Roczen right behind. In the second corner, Roczen cut under Anderson and took the line, forcing a mistake that had Anderson crash hard.

Early on it seemed to be a race in which Webb would sprint away while Tomac marched his way into the runner-up position and then hunted him, but Roczen hounded defending-champion Webb for three minutes then slingshot around a technical inside rut to grab the lead.

From there, the Honda rider was never contested, clicking off his first laps led in any of the Utah rounds of 2020 and nabbing a surprise win.

It was his fourth win of the season and the 15th of his career. Tomac reached third place just over six minutes into the race but could never make up the six to seven second gap to Roczen or the three second gap to Webb. With about four minutes left on the race clock he eased back to hold onto a podium finish.

With two rounds to go, Tomac has a 24-point lead over Roczen and a 25-point lead over Webb, which means Tomac could wrap up the title with a win – or by earning two points on Roczen and one on Webb – at this Wednesday’s penultimate round.

“It’s a big, big turnaround; obviously after the last couple of races that’s not easy to do,” Roczen said. “But I had fun out here. We got the bike dialed and my physical conditions were a lot better today. So, won the heat race and won the main; it was an awesome battle. I really gelled with the track out here today and with the bike, so I’m so happy with what Factory Honda Racing has been doing with me this year, we got the bike super good. And I want to say thank you to all my sponsors that have come along with me on this ride.”

The racing in the Western Regional 250SX class also defied expectations. A crash in his heat race put Dylan Ferrandis in a bad spot off the start; he still managed a holeshot around the slick, flat first corner just ahead of GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig, with Forkner in third.

Three and a half minutes into the 15-minute plus one lap event, Forkner cut under Craig for the runner-up position and started to work down the 1.6 second gap to leader Ferrandis. With four and a half minutes on the race clock, Forkner put an aggressive contact-pass on Ferrandis, sending the Yamaha rider temporarily off the track. Behind them, GEICO Honda’s Jett Lawrence, a 16-year old rookie, carved his way forward, using lappers to his advantage, and reached his first ever Monster Energy Supercross podium.