PR- The first round of AMA Supercross, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, was an exciting one for Team Honda HRC as it saw the return of Ken Roczen, who scored an impressive fourth-place finish after being sidelined for nearly a year. When the gate dropped for the main event, the German was slow off the line, leaving him outside the top 15 around the first turn. By the completion of the opening lap, Roczen had made his way into 12th. He continued his charge through the field, moving into sixth halfway through the 24-lap main event. Despite a mistake around the middle of the race, Roczen took the checkered flag in fourth.
Despite having to shake off some pre-race nerves, Cole Seely put together a solid performance to finish sixth on the night. The Californian got off the line to a less-than-desirable start but made quick passes on the opening lap, moving into seventh. He gained one more position after that before settling into sixth.
On Friday night, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Cole Seely were joined by GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin, Christian Craig, and Chase Sexton at Huntington Beach Honda for the first dealer appearance of the season, where they spent time signing autographs and hanging out with fans.
For the third consecutive year, American Honda welcomed fans in the Supercross Pit Party with a huge setup that included a children’s learn-to-ride center. Certified instructors were on hand to assist and give pointers to kids as they took to the small, oval course.
During daytime qualifying, Roczen impressed everyone in the second session, laying down a 52.409” lap to score the fastest time of the day, while teammate Seely was sixth-quickest with a 53.182”. MotoConcept Honda’s Justin Brayton secured seventh and GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin landed 10th.
The above results meant there were more CRF450Rs in the top 10 of daytime qualifying than any other brand, and the trend continued in the main event, with Hondas being the most popular choice overall and in the top 10.
After years of being stored outside near the stadium and being transported in and out for AMA Supercross and Monster Jam, the dirt used to build the track was filled with rocks and gravel. Prior to round 1, the dirt was sifted twice prior to loading into the stadium.
“The dirt was a lot nicer this year and the track didn’t break down quite as bad,” Seely said. “Normally in the past, the roost has really hurt here. You’d leave with torn-up knuckles and welts on your chest, so that was probably the best part of them sifting it. It still got down to that hard base, and as the night went on and the moisture came out, it got a little slick. The whoops stayed big and didn’t break down like I thought they would, so it stayed pretty good.”
For his return to racing, Roczen requested that Fox make him a butt patch that read “Bleed for This.” When asked, Roczen explained that it was inspired by the movie of the same name, about fighter Vinny Pazienza, who broke his neck. “Everyone said he could never fight again, but he pulled it off and basically came back to be the best,” Roczen said. “I just felt like it fit perfectly for my situation because so many people doubted me. I actually met the real guy who the movie is based on at a NASCAR race prior to the 2017 season, which is pretty cool.”
New for the 2018 season are metal starting-gate platforms, which are designed to provide consistent traction and conditions for everyone. “The new metal starting gate make it more consistent when lining up behind the gate but the dirt almost gets torn up worse out of the gate,” Seely said. “It’s like we have more wheel spin or something, and it really eats the dirt up, which is obviously new to all of us. In hindsight, I wish I had started three or four outside of the box because it was a better line and smoother. The one I was in was kind of rough.”
During Saturday’s race, Fox Sports 1 aired a feature covering Roczen’s return to racing after his horrific crash at Anaheim 2 nearly a year ago. With behind-the-scenes footage from the hospital and a candid interview with the German, fans got an incredible inside look at his journey back to Supercross.
With a unique change in the schedule, the Honda Red Riders head east to Houston for round two. On Friday, the riders will take part in a dealer appearance at Wild West Motoplex in Katy, Texas, from 6-7:30 p.m.
Ken Roczen 94
“Earlier, I said if I win, get third, or fifth, it doesn’t matter and I’ll be happy, but when I came off the track, it did matter to me. I really wanted to win. I was bummed because halfway through, I had the speed and was catching those guys, but I made a mistake where I scrubbed and dragged my boot on the ground and almost crashed. I was riding a little tight and tried to shake it off, but towards the end I tried to just keep it smart. I didn’t want to do anything stupid because there’s a lot of racing left. The more I think about it, fourth place isn’t too bad. We could’ve had a way worse night, and I really think without that mistake I would’ve been on the podium. There were some nerves on the line just due to lack of experience starting with 20 riders. I kind of messed up both times and just dumped the clutch, so I was pretty far back in the main event, which was a little sketchy. I think if I had gotten a better start, my night would’ve been even better. I’m happy to be here and excited to keep racing.”
Cole Seely 14
“It’s a typical thing to say after Anaheim 1, but it’s good to get the first one out of the way. I think nerves got the best of some of us. I wasn’t really stoked on how I rode. My bike felt good but I was pretty tight. I kind of let other riders dictate my pace, so I was kind of bummed. With it being the first one, I can take all these things in, learn from them, and move on to the next one.”
“Tonight was a good start to the season. It’s nice to get this first one out of the way and have everyone leaving safe with good, solid finishes. This first round, nobody really knows what to expect, especially Kenny after being off for such a long time, but he was impressive. A fourth is something he can build on to get some more confidence in a normal race situation. Cole learned some stuff and has a few things to work on. His fitness is at a different level this year, so he has the strength and speed but he still needs to work on his aggressiveness during the middle and end of the race.”
Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
“Tonight was awesome and a great start to the season. Before this we didn’t even know where we stood. Kenny followed the plan of staying out of trouble and I think he was just one mistake away from being on the podium. His starts weren’t good but that can almost be expected after not racing for almost a year. If someone would’ve said 11 months ago that he would be fourth today, we would’ve been super-stoked. We kind of lost track of how far he’s actually come though, after he qualified first in timed practice, and almost went back to our normal expectations! We changed the suspension throughout the day, and we still have some work to do with the settings, but overall I’m really happy.”
Mechanic (Cole Seely)
“Overall, tonight wasn’t bad. I just think there were a lot of nerves with it being the first race. I’ve seen Cole like this before but I’ve also seen him do really well here, so it’s just a mental thing that he needs to work on. He was aggressive in the heat race, which was good, and he rode well during the main, but if he was a few tenths-a-lap better, he probably would’ve gotten in front of [Weston] Peick and been with Kenny. He needs to just work on not falling into line with guys and either get around them quicker or move them out of the way—not by taking
Words: Honda Pic: Doug Turney