Roczen: I had to be a lot better in the whoops
One week after his emotional St. Louis win, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen turned in another impressive performance aboard his CRF450R. During round three of the AMA Supercross series, in its second and final stop to Anaheim’s Angel Stadium, he scored a strong second-place result and assumed an early lead in the title chase.
Once again, Roczen started the night on a strong note, battling to a win in his heat race. When the gate fell on the main event, the German impressed everyone, rocketing down the start straight with the holeshot and early lead. He opened a small gap on the rest of the field but as the race progressed his struggles in the whoops caused him to come under fire from Eli Tomac. At the 13-minute mark, Roczen relinquished the lead, but he continued to lay down solid laps and took the checkered flag in second.
Teammate Justin Brayton once again showed notable speed, finishing seventh. Brayton got off to a less-than-desirable start, sitting 11thafter the completion of the opening lap. He swiftly began working his way forward, progressing to eighth on lap three. He struggled to get around another rider for much of the race, but finally made a move on lap 11 to take over seventh, which is where he finished.
- On Friday evening, Del Amo Motorsports of Orange County hosted an open house, where fans spent time meeting and getting autographs from their favorite riders. The Red Riders were out in full force, with 13 athletes on hand including Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Justin Brayton, GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig and Jett Lawrence and Smartop/MotoConcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Malcolm Stewart, Vince Friese and Justin Hill. Also in attendance were Team BWR Honda’s Carlen Gardner, Penrite Honda’s Luke Clout and Mitchell Oldenburg and Honda Talon Off-Road Racing drivers Eliott Watson and Christopher Polvoorde.
- As the evening progressed, the track conditions became more challenging, as the dirt deteriorated and became very slick. Riders had to manage their races and work hard to minimize mistakes. “The track was really tough tonight,” Brayton said. “Honestly, the first three rounds have all been challenging during our races because the track deteriorates so much you really have to be willing to mix up your lines. These last two weeks, I didn’t really do that so that was kind of a goal going into tonight’s main, to really just have an open mind and search for new lines if one of mine isn’t working. I think that’s what really helped me in the second half of the race, was getting out of my comfort zone and mixing it up.”
- During Saturday’s daytime qualifying sessions, Roczen pushed himself to the third-quickest lap of the day with a 52.217” time, secured in the second session. Fellow Red Riders Malcolm Stewart and Justin Hill were seventh- and eighth-fastest aboard their Smartop/MotoConcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda CRF450R race machines, with 52.627” and 52.700” times, respectively. Brayton was 12that 53.285”.
- Following the day’s autograph session, Brayton and Roczen took some time to meet and take photos with a group of Honda dealers who had won a HondaCare sales contest. Two guests each from Poway Powersports, Clawson Motorsports and Factory Powersports had the opportunity to meet the riders, tour the Team Honda HRC technical truck and have dinner at the hospitality truck.
- Slotted in 450SX heat 1, Brayton tried to sneak through the inside in turn one but lost traction, low-sided and went down. He remounted and quickly began advancing, moving into ninth on lap two. He continued his charge forward, gaining two more positions before taking the checkers in seventh and transferring directly to the main. In heat two, Roczen scored a fourth-place start but made quick work of two riders in front of him to take over second. He set his sights on the leader, clicking off strong laps before closing in and making the pass into the lead on lap five. He continued to ride strong, taking his second heat-race win of the season.
- The night was filled with highs and lows for GEICO Honda, as glory turned to tragedy for both riders in the 250SX West main event. Both Christian Craig and Jett Lawrence showed incredible speed all day, qualifying well and finishing 1-2 in their heat race. As the gate fell for the main event, the duo launched their CRF250R machines to a 1-2 start, with Craig leading the way. Lawrence quickly began applying pressure on his teammate, making a pass and taking over the lead on lap two. With a clear track ahead of him, the Australian rookie began laying down incredible laps, exciting the crowd as he opened an 11-second gap on the field. Meanwhile, Craig was riding strong in second until lap nine when another rider took him down while trying to make a pass, bending up his bike and sidelining him for the race. In the closing laps of the race, Lawrence made a mistake and went down, but with such a large lead, he was able to remount and retain the top spot. Dylan Ferrandis closed in, and it came down to the final lap, with both riders pushing hard in a heated battle. Sadly, Lawrence made a disastrous error going through the final whoop section, going over the bars and crashing into the face of the next jump. Unable to finish the race, he was transported off the track by the Alpinestars Mobile Medical Unit and was subsequently diagnosed with a broken collarbone.
- It was a strong showing for the Penrite Honda team, as riders Luke Clout and Mitchell Oldenburg put together impressive 250SX West rides aboard their CRF250Rs, finishing 6-7, respectively.
- This Saturday, Team Honda HRC will campaign round 3 of the AMA Supercross series in Glendale, Arizona, which will also host the first Triple Crown race of the season. “I’m really looking forward to the triple crown race next weekend,” Brayton said. “These are some of my favorite events. It’s going to be fast-paced and more like sprints, which I’m normally strong at. Phoenix in general has also been really good for me. I really enjoy the track layout because the stadium floor is so big. They get to build some really long whoop and rhythm sections, so I’m excited for that.”
Ken Roczen 94
“My night was pretty good. I had a good battle with Adam [Cianciarulo] in the heat race, which was fun and good to come away with the win. That put me in a good position for the main event and to be able to pick a decent gate. Tonight though, pretty much every gate on the start was super rough and there were a lot of holes, so it was hard to decide which one to pick. But I hooked up really good and got my first holeshot of the year, so that was nice. We’ve been putting in a lot of work on my starts, so it’s been paying off. For me to be able to win tonight, I had to be a lot better in the whoops. I was just struggling there the entire race, so that didn’t help me out; I feel like I lost all my time there. I was trying to skim them, then went to jumping them, which was horrible too; I lost a lot of ground so went back to skimming and just was all over the place and that was where Eli [Tomac] made up a lot of time and closed in on me. We definitely have some work to do but don’t want to get too crazy. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing. We’re in a good spot right now and we just have to keep it up. First last weekend and second this weekend, plus the red plate is really great. I’m really happy.”
Justin Brayton 10
I’m pretty happy with how the race went tonight. A little bummed after the heat race after getting the holeshot but crashing in the first turn, which set me up for a bad gate pick for the main. That’s pretty crucial now with how bad the ruts get outside the gate, but I was able to start around 11th or 12th and pass my way up to seventh. At the middle of the race, I was actually one of the fastest guys on the track. With a better track position, I definitely think I could end up on the podium. Overall a really good night, and although the first three rounds have gone well, I’m looking forward to improving and getting into the top five.”
“There are a lot of positives to take away from tonight. Ken’s starts were solid and he was able to grab another heat-race win. He’s been putting a lot of work and emphasis on his starts during the week so I think it’s showing. He rode strong in the main, getting some more laps up front and then finishing second. To come away with red plate is great. It was also a solid night for Justin. He got a good start in his heat race but unfortunately went down in the first turn. He was still able to get up and get into a transfer spot. In the main, he also put together good laps to finish seventh. We’ve still got some work to do for both guys but I think we’re in a good spot overall.”
Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
“I’m really happy coming away with a second place tonight. Ken got a great start but was struggling a bit so fell back to second. It was really good to hold on to second because Cooper [Webb] was pushing hard there at the end, but Ken dug deep and finished strong. We ended up with the red plate too, so overall it’s good. Bike-wise, Ken was on the same setup from St. Louis. We did make some small adjustments throughout the day but nothing too drastic. He struggled in the whoops again but both these Anaheim tracks have been really tough. We’ll work on it and try to get him more comfortable there. It’s early but I think we’re in a good spot for the duration of the series. Ken had a ride tonight that he might not be super-pumped about, but in my mind it was a championship ride. He was struggling but still hunkered down and got it done. I think 10 weeks down the road, he’ll look back and be proud of this ride. If we can continue to be consistent and put in some good results, we’ll hopefully put a cushion on the lead.”
Mechanic (Justin Brayton)
“Today was a pretty good to us; we had a really good energy around the whole team after Ken’s success last week. Justin made a pretty big change to his shock this last week and I think it showed, as he was comfortable in practice, felt better in the whoops and just overall happier. He almost pulled the holeshot in his heat race but to crash and still be able to come back and qualify, that was great—not the way we’d like to do it but after last week it was nice to have that time to relax and get ready for the main event. In the main, Justin was able to work his way from outside the top 10 to seventh, so it was nice to see him work his way forward throughout the race, versus the past couple weekends where he’s started more toward the front and fallen back to eighth. It was also nice to see the speed he was able to put together during the middle of the race, when he was the fastest guy on the track at one point. It shows that all the steps we’re taking are in the right direction. We just need all the pieces of the puzzle to come together. Next weekend should be really good for us. Justin likes Phoenix and the triple crown format so it should be good.”
Words and Pic: Honda