Ken Roczen turned in a solid third-place finish in Saturday night’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, at Angel Stadium of Anaheim for the RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing team.
While Roczen struggled to get a good jump on the field when the starting gate dropped on the main event, the three-time Anaheim 450SX winner stayed focused throughout the 20-lap feature, picking up positions one at a time.
The top-three finish was Roczen’s best of the year on what was by far, the most demanding race course of the season. The strong ride also resulted in the 21-year-old German’s first podium of the year.
“The good thing is that we’re making steps forward,” stated Roczen, who currently sits sixth in points.
“I practiced a lot of starts [last week] and feel pretty comfortable. Obviously, it didn’t happen in the main but we’re going to keep working on that because I think that’s what is holding me back from being at the very top. Second half of the race, I feel like I put in a strong ride. I made a little mistake with about a lap to go. Otherwise, I think I could have brought the heat a little bit with Chad [Reed].
“It’s hard coming from the back. That’s the bottom line. The track was tough out there. The whoops were something else so you really had to keep your focus. We’re going to come back and we’re going to keep trying. That’s for sure.”
While the top-three finish fell two spots short of the ultimate goal, Roczen’s #94 Suzuki was fast all day – turning in the fastest speed during the day’s second qualifying session and won the holeshot during his heat race where he went on to finish second to current champion Ryan Dungey.
Unfortunately, when the gate dropped on the third main event of 2016, Roczen struggled to position himself among the leaders getting in the first turn and spent the first half of the race playing catch up.
On the flip side, the distance between him and the front-runners wasn’t insurmountable and by the second lap, he was already inside the top 10.
By the one-quarter mark, Roczen was up to seventh, sixth a lap later and fourth by halfway. Over the next 10 circuits, he gradually reeled in third-place Eli Tomac and second-place Chad Reed. As the battle between Roczen and Tomac heated up on the closing lap, Tomac lost the handle on his #3 Kawasaki, handing the position and spot on the podium to Roczen.
While Roczen was generally pleased with his overall effort, he knows where to put in the extra work to be a consistent fixture at the front of the field.
“Three rounds and I’ve just been getting bad starts,” Roczen explained. “My heat race start actually wasn’t bad. We’re just going to keep working it and working it. I’m doing everything I can to be the best that I can be. That’s all I can do. The speed is there. The fitness is there. Everything is solid so far. I’m really happy with the team. We’re working great together and we’ll come back and be at the very top.”
Roczen’s machine was the lone bike under the RCH team canopy for round three after his team-mate Broc Tickle was injured in a practice crash last week and ruled out for the next four to six weeks. Tickle was diagnosed with a fractured distal radius in his right forearm and underwent surgery to repair the fracture.
Following the race, RCH co-owner Carey Hart offered his perspective on the night’s action and was quick to point out that often times success in motorsports comes from being in the right place at the right time.
“We started off really strong with Ken being the top qualifier,” said Hart. “There’s no question how good Ken is riding. He had a great start in the heat race, it just didn’t work out according to plan in the main event. We had a gift handed to us when Eli [Tomac] washed out but that’s racing. It’s never good to see someone crash but Eli made a mistake, Ken capitalised and got on the box.”
Monster Energy AMA Supercross heads for the Bright Side of the Bay next weekend when the series returns to O.Co Coliseum in Oakland, Calif. The fourth of 17 races on the 2016 supercross schedule will be televised live on Fox Sports 1 Saturday, Jan. 30 beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 7 p.m. Pacific.
450SX Class Results
- Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
- Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
- Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki
- Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki
- Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna
- Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda
- Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
- Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., KTM
- Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM
- Jacob Weimer, Wildomar, Calif., Kawasaki
450SX Class Championship Standings
- Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 72
- Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha – 59
- Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., Husqvarna – 57
- Cole Seely, Sherman Oaks, Calif., Honda – 55
- Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 54
- Ken Roczen, Clermont, Fla., Suzuki – 51
- Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., KTM – 36
- Justin Brayton, Mint Hill, N.C., KTM – 35
- Jake Weimer, Wildomar, Calif., Kawasaki – 33
- Marvin Musquin, Corona, Calif., KTM – 31