On Saturday, the city of Nashville played host to its first AMA Supercross race, and Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely and Ken Roczen fought through a hectic main event to finish seventh and eighth, respectively. Roczen had a decent start to the main event but was pinched off in the first corner and was shuffled back to eighth, while Seely was just behind in ninth. The German quickly began working his way toward the front, climbing to third on lap three. One lap later, while Roczen was preparing to attempt a pass on Joey Savatgy for second, Savatgy went down, and with nowhere to go, Roczen hit Savatgy’s bike and tumbled over the berm. Thwarted by oncoming traffic from quickly reaching his bike, Roczen eventually remounted in 21st place.
As for Seely, he put in a notable ride, advancing to fifth on lap six and maintaining the position for much of the race before late fatigue caused him to relinquish two positions and take the checkered flag in seventh. Meanwhile, Roczen had mounted a strong come-from-behind ride aboard his CRF450R to salvage an eighth-place finish.
- The Seely name is well known not only in the field of supercross racing, but also in country music circles. In fact, Cole Seely’s great aunt Jeannie Seely is a country legend as a singer, songwriter, Grammy winner and longtime member of the Grand Ole Opry. That being the case, last week was a busy one in Nashville for the two, as they interviewed with local media including Nashville Entertainment Weekly, Think Country, The Country Note, WSM650 Country Radio and Today in Nashville. On Friday evening, Cole and his Team Honda HRC cohort Ken Roczen got a special opportunity to be introduced by Jeannie onstage at the Opry, where they spoke about the city’s inaugural race. Then on race day, Jeannie and the band Exile kicked off the evening by singing the national anthem.
- Similar to Seattle, the Nashville track’s dirt contained large pieces of rock and debris, so following track walk, Roczen requested his mechanic mount Cycra handguards on his CRF450R. Seely opted not to run them.
- For the second consecutive weekend, Roczen was strong during daytime qualifying, posting the fastest time of 48.376” in the second session. Seely also looked solid, but with competition close, he landed ninth via a 49.596” lap.
- With the American MotoGP round coming up next weekend in Austin, Texas, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez and his crew—all huge fans of supercross—were in the U.S. early to attend the Nashville round. Team Honda HRC was pleased to have the reigning world champion stop by their pits to check out the bikes and talk racing with Seely and Roczen.
- During the opening ceremonies, Roczen rode out in the jersey of Roman Josi, team captain and defenseman for the NHL’s Nashville Predators, who were playing right across the river. (Both athletes are with the Wasserman management agency.) Roczen then signed the jersey and tossed it into the crowd.
- When the gate dropped on 450SX heat 2, both Roczen and Seely got off the line to good starts, coming around the first turn third and fourth. By the second rhythm lane, Roczen had made the pass into the lead, and he never looked back, taking his fifth heat-race win of the season and setting the fastest lap time of 48.497”. Meanwhile, Seely had tucked into second behind his teammate on lap two and ridden strong throughout the remainder of the six-minute-plus-two-lap-race.
- Following a West region swing, the 250SX East class returned to action for a one-race stint, and GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton scored the top qualifying position and dominated his heat race. In the main event, Sexton got off to a second-place start and made a pass for the lead early. A few turns later, Justin Cooper attempted a pass and made contact, sending both riders to the ground. Sexton remounted his CRF250R in 15th place and began an extraordinary charge through the field, arriving in second on lap 13, and finishing only 3.5 seconds off the leader. Points leader Austin Forkner sat out the night with injury, so Sexton now sits a mere three points out of the championship lead, with 148 points.
- Nashville marks 14 rounds straight, and the riders still have one more race before getting a welcome weekend off before the final events. “I think it’s insane, honestly,” Seely said. “We’re definitely a bit overworked. We all have the same schedule but it’s just so tough. We were talking to [Marc] Marquez earlier, and the max they go [in MotoGP] is three weekends in a row and we’re going on 15. It’s a bit crazy. I think we’d all have a little longer careers if we raced a little less, but we all have to do it so I just need to focus on pushing through these last few rounds.”
- On Saturday, April 13, Team Honda HRC will be in action in Denver to contest another city’s inaugural Supercross, at Mile High Stadium. The night before the race, Roczen and Seely will make an appearance at Peak Honda World in Littleton, Colorado, beginning at 6 p.m.
Cole Seely 14
“Tonight was good but still not great. I’m still happy though. I was running really good for the first 14 minutes of the main event and then just got tired there toward the end. It’s kind of been the story of my season, unfortunately. I’ve been struggling with my fitness—more strength-wise than cardio. I’ve been working on it, but it’s hard to build during the season because you can’t work yourself so hard during the week then be flat on the weekends. It’s a fine line but I think I’m doing a good job in my routine. We’re just taking the positives away from tonight. I feel like I rode really well and rode with more confidence than I normally do when I line up.”
Ken Roczen 94
“I don’t even know what to say because nothing surprises me at this point. I feel like I just can’t catch a break. Things started out so great and I really felt like tonight could have been my night. Everything was flowing well in qualifying and I got another heat-race win. My bike was working great and I was having fun. I didn’t get the start that I wanted in the main event but was making passes quickly. Unfortunately, [Joey] Savatgy went down while I was right behind him and I hit his bike. There was nothing I could do; I had nowhere to go. By the time I got going again I was last, so I just tried to dig deep and do whatever I could to make up as many positions as possible. I’m not happy with eighth but it’s okay considering what happened. We’ve got a few more opportunities to make it happen, so on to Denver.”
“I really feel like tonight was Kenny’s night and it could have been his win; he looked strong all day and was happy with his bike. He was charging in the main event and unfortunately, he couldn’t avoid the crash so there was really nothing he could do. I know he’s getting frustrated, so I just don’t want him to let these last couple weekends get him down. Tonight was a decent night for Cole. He was riding strong in fifth for much of the main event but just ran out of steam and fight toward the end, losing those last two spots, which was a bummer. He still needs to work on his closing half of the race, but it’s hard to make gains fitness-wise during the season because you don’t want to work hard all week and come to the race fried. He just needs to focus on putting the whole race together and it’ll come to him.”