Ken Roczen beat Ryan Dungey straight up to claim his second supercross win of the year at AT&T Stadium near Dallas, Texas.
Prior to round seven of the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, the building consensus was that the only way to stop reigning series champion Ryan Dungey was to beat him out of the gate and then stay in front of him for all 20 laps of a main event. The Red Bull KTM rider had been unstoppable once he’d gotten into a main event lead thus far in 2016.
But tonight, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, near Dallas, RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki’s Ken Roczen put a stop to that.
Roczen, who scored his first supercross win of the season at the Phoenix Supercross two weeks ago, added a second win in Arlington, the sixth 450cc supercross win of his career. And he did it by going toe to toe with Dungey early in the main event and doing something no other rider had been able to do thus far in the season: He passed Dungey for the lead and went on to score a confidence-boosting victory.
“Man, we won it,” Roczen said. “We got the start. I think he [Dungey] was right behind me, and we battled the whole way. That’s what we wanted tonight. That’s what we needed. And we did it.”
Roczen actually set the table for his main event feast in the second heat race, when he beat Dungey straight up on the slick clay track. Roczen ran second and Dungey third, both behind Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Christophe Pourcel. Roczen would pass Pourcel for the heat win while the Frenchman would keep Dungey at bay to finish second, both men transferring directly to the main event. Pourcel’s teammate, Jason Anderson, won the first heat race, which started off the 450cc night program.
Roczen was quickest off the start when the gate fell for the 20-lap main event, but Dungey was right there with him, followed by a trio of Honda riders, including the Smartop/MotoConcepts’ Mike Alessi, GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle and Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely. Dungey wasted no time in trying to sneak under Roczen by cutting to the inside when Roczen went wide in the left-hander before the whoop section, but Roczen held onto the lead. The two riders ran elbow to elbow during a frantic first lap, with Dungey making a successful bid for the lead in the step-on/step-off rhythm section two turns before the finish line jump. If recent history is any indication, that should have been about it—this would be the part where Dungey rides off into the sunset and collects another win.
Except that it didn’t happen that way. Instead, Roczen stayed aggressive and pinched Dungey off in the left-hand corner just before the whoop section to retake the lead on lap two, and the German rider immediately began to carve out a lead of 1.5 seconds over Dungey.
The battle behind them was just as intense, as Bogle tried to stave off Seely, Anderson and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac for third place after Alessi dropped back. Seely got by Bogle on lap four, and Anderson followed suit.
Back up front, Dungey put in one of his patented late-race charges to pull back up to Roczen’s rear wheel with five laps remaining. Dungey drew alongside Roczen in the whoops and also over one of the rhythm lanes, but Roczen was setting a fast pace, and he was able to hang onto the lead. Roczen gained a little breathing room when Dungey made a mistake and doubled a set of jumps that he had been tripling. Dungey was able to close right back up on Roczen, but although Dungey could run within a bike length of Roczen, he could not find a way to pass for the lead. In a swift final lap, Roczen crossed the finish line 1.4 seconds ahead of Dungey for the win.
“Everything is still in,” Roczen said. “The championship is still good. We only made up three points, but we are going to keep fighting until Vegas. That’s for sure.”
Dungey didn’t appear to be upset about finishing second, knowing that he still has a lead of over 20 points in the 2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series standings. And it is worth pointing out again that Dungey has yet to finish worse than second so far this season.
“Second is respectable,” Dungey said. “We put on a good, hard fight. I’ve won races and got second and so forth, but that’s why you can’t underestimate the guys out there. They are good. We’ve just got to be better in areas and do our homework. I got off to good start actually. Ken was in front of me, I made the pass [for the lead], and then he got me back. Ten laps in, I fell off the back, made a mistake, and then I was able to catch back up to him. It was just very hard to make a pass. When a guy is riding that good, it’s tough.”
Seely may have been wishing the same was true for Anderson, but as has happened so often when the two former AMA 250SX West rivals find themselves on the track together, Anderson was able to pass Seely and snatch the final podium spot.
“Getting the starts, I did way better tonight,” Anderson said. “In the heat race I kind of pulled the holeshot, and in the main I was probably fifth or so. If I had started in the back, this track was very tough to pass on. The win [at Anaheim] was cool, but I really just want to build and stay consistently up here on the podium. It has been a real good year so far. Just trying to keep getting better, and I want to be battling for a championship. I’m not saying it’s out of my grasp right now, but these guys are riding so good, and it is going to take holeshots and riding 20 solid laps with them.”
With seven rounds now in the books, Dungey leads Roczen, 166-143. Anderson is third with 131, followed by Seely with 123 and Tomac with 119. Incidentally, all of these riders landed in the top five tonight.
2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series
Results: February 20, 2016 (Round 7 of 17)
450 Main Event
1. Ken Roczen-Suz
2. Ryan Dungey-KTM
3. Jason Anderson-Hus
4. Cole Seely-Hon
5. Eli Tomac-Kaw
6. Marvin Muzsquin-KTM
7. Davi Millsaps-KTM
8. Christophe Pourcel-Hus
9. Trey Canard-Hon
10. Jake Weimer-Suz
11. Justin Brayton-KTM
12. Chad Reed-Yam
13. Andrew Short-KTM
14. Wil Hahn-Kaw
15. Phil Nicoletti-Yam
16. Mike Alessi-Hon
17. Vince Friese-Hon
18. Justin Bogle-Hon
19. Nicholas Schmidt-Suz
20. Deven Raper-Kaw
21. Weston Peick-Yam
22. Alex Ray-Hon
2016 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Points Standings (after 7 of 17 rounds)
1. Ryan Dungey-166/4 wins
2. Ken Roczen-143-/2 wins
3. Jason Andeson-131/1 win
4. Cole Seely-123
5. Eli Tomac-119
6. Chad Reed-112
7. Marvin Musquin-92
8. Davi Millsaps-85
9. Justin Brayton-82
10. Jake Weimer-73