Roczen Rides Wiseco Power to First Win of 2020

 With nearly three years and 50 rounds of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, since his last win, emotions were on full display Saturday night when Ken Roczen rolled his Wiseco-powered No. 94 Team Honda HRC Honda CRF450R onto the podium following the checkered flag at the St. Louis Supercross at The Dome of America’s Center. 

 Roczen led 23 of 24 laps and collected his 12th career Supercross victory before 51,000-plus energized fans, finally coming full circle since suffering what many speculated could have been a career-ending injury in 2017. 

 In a sweet bit of irony, Roczen’s win comes at Round two, the same round where he secured his last Supercross win, three seasons ago.

 “I felt pretty good,” explained an emotional Roczen who now sits second in points with 16 races left to contest. “I made a move pretty quick on Zach (Osborne) and then I had a clear track. I felt good on the bike and my bike worked really good this weekend. I think we got it dialed in. We were tinkering around with it throughout practice. I rode good in the heat race, so we left the bike alone and that paid off. The tower with timing and scoring was right at the start-finish line so you could always get a glance at it, which was terrible because it made the race feel super long, especially when you’re up there (leading). 

 “We were in a good position, though. I’ve messed it up in the past at the end and I was just charging. I had pretty solid speed for the whole race. It was fun. I took it all in … I just wanted to get the race over with. On the last lap, it felt like I was singling every jump. I just didn’t want to do anything stupid. It’s still surreal. It’s been a long time. It’s amazing right now.” 

 The 25-year-old German rider served notice to the competition throughout the afternoon and evening program, by making competitive strides during each timed qualifying session and winning his heat race. By the end of the 20-minute plus-one-lap 450SX Class main event, Roczen led all but one of the race’s 24 laps and beat last week’s winner and points leader Justin Barcia by just a tick under five seconds. 

 Roczen’s Team Honda HRC teammate Justin Brayton turned in a workman-like eighth-place performance to record his second straight top 10 of the season. 

 Brayton, the 2018 Daytona Supercross winner, made his 153rd career 450SX class start after being promoted to the factory Honda team for 2020. Despite suffering a mechanical issue during his heat race, the Fort Dodge, Iowa native raced his way into the main by winning the last chance qualifier (LCQ) and closed out the weekend with a spirited top-10 effort. 
“Definitely a wild night,” said Brayton. “I never want to go to the LCQ, but I actually enjoyed it a bit. Under those circumstances, you just try to make the best of it, and it was kind of nice to get out there and win it, plus get to ride the track so close to the main event. I hope I don’t have to go to another one though! I’m super proud of the team to be able to get me back out there. Main event-wise, I was still able to get a pretty good start from the far outside gate. I ran inside the top 10 for the whole race, finishing eighth, which isn’t where I would like to be by any means but still an overall good start to the season with the adversity both weekends. Hopefully another cleaner weekend next week at A2 (Anaheim). I’m really hoping to be in the top five, then build up to some podium finishes.”

 In Western Regional 250SX class action, Jett Lawrence carried the load for his Wiseco-supported GEICO Honda Team and was nothing short of impressive in just his second professional Supercross start. 

 Coming off a ninth-place finish in his debut last weekend, the Australian teenager backed up his openinground effort and flexed his Wiseco muscle by snaring the holeshot, racing in the top two for much of the 250SX Class main event, and eventually coming home fifth aboard his No. 83 Honda CRF250R. While Round 2 presented its share of challenges to the 16-year-old, and perhaps a missed opportunity, Lawrence came away from St. Louis with an optimistic eye toward the next race on the schedule. 

 “Weekend was up and down,” said Lawrence. “Qualified good with fifth fastest, but the heat race was a complete disaster, rode like a complete rookie. Thankfully I pulled it together somewhat in the main. I rode a good race and was ready to challenge for the win with three mins left before I clipped a Tuff Block, forcing me to come into the pits. Kind of a bummer to have that happen, but it’s okay because I learned a lot and am ready to battle at the front this weekend in Anaheim!”

 The top-five finish propelled Lawrence from ninth to a tie for fifth in points, with only a slim five-point gap separating him from the top three. 

 Lawrence’s GEICO Honda stablemate Christian Craig put in a solid ride until contact with a Tuff Block left him with a damaged motorcycle, sending him to the pits prior to the conclusion of the 250SX Class main event. Craig is knotted in a four-way tie for ninth in points, with just 10 markers separating him from the top five.  

 Monster Energy AMA Supercross returns to Anaheim, Calif., this weekend for the series’ second stop of the season at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. The third of 17 races on the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross schedule will be televised on NBCSN Sat., January 18 beginning at 10 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, 7 p.m. Pacific.

Adam Sinclair