Shut down since March, the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross series rises from the ashes of coronavirus to start what feels like the second half of a brand new season.
The unprecedented nature of running the final seven rounds begins Sunday at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT and ends three weeks later without ever leaving the state. Rice-Eccles Stadium, the location of the regularly scheduled series finale of the 2020 season, now hosts the remaining rounds as racing commences, without fans, every Sunday and Wednesday through June 21.
The 2020 Supercross season was suspended just days before the Round 11 gate drop on March 14 in Indianapolis leaving riders in limbo as the entire nation shut down to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. The week before? Eli Tomac came from behind in stunning fashion to pass Ken Roczen at Daytona to take a three point lead on the season putting him in position and posture to run away with the series for his first 450 class Supercross Championship.
But now, nearly three months later...
Eli Tomac celebrates his Daytona victory
Tomac retains his lead over Roczen, but within far different circumstances. Defending Champion Cooper Webb has healed from a nasty crash, the letdown from what looked like a sure win at Daytona and the series points lead has all but evaporated for Roczen, a mostly impotent racing atmosphere awaits and all riders have a new and invisible foe.
Riders will be tested for COVID-19 and those who leave the state in between rounds will be retested again. Officials will also conduct temperature checks, enforce social distancing and other sanitation methods to comply with all state, local and federal mandates. A positive test for COVID-19 doesn't necessary mean a rider cannot race as a 72 hour window opens after the positive test and if a rider's temperature does not reach 100.4 degrees within that window and a re-test comes back negative then the rider can race. A second positive test, however, means a 14 day quarantine effectively ending the rider's season.
So where did we leave off after March 7?
Don't expect any fist bumps by riders post race
Tomac leads Roczen by three points as the two have each held the Red Plate for four weeks this season. Tomac has five wins to Roczen's three and has won three of the last four rounds. Webb has one win but seven podiums and trails Tomac by 29 points. A crash that somersaulted Webb over his dirt bike at Arlington looked like a season ender but he returned the following week in Atlanta with a third-place and followed up with another third-place at Daytona to keep pace with Tomac and Roczen. Now fully healed, if Webb can get some wins along with a bad night or two from Tomac and Roczen (we've seen it before), repeating as Champion doesn't look too far-fetched.
Cooper Webb fought through pain and managed to stay in the Championship hunt
Elsewhere, Justin Barcia, who tangled with Tomac at Atlanta and had some choice words for him afterwards, sits just 31 points from the lead but his road to a first 450 class Championship needs to include far more than the opening round win and three total podiums he's grabbed for the season. Rookie Adam Cianciarulo derailed his season after breaking his collarbone in a crash during qualifying at Arlington but returns healthy and thanks to the suspended season only missed three rounds. Though not mathematically out of the Championship, Cianciarulo, Tomac's teammate, plays more of a spoiler role as he ran up front at the start of the season and finished in second-place twice.
Ken Roczen is only three points back from first-place
Jason Anderson, the 2018 450 class Champion, fills out the Top 5 and he made headlines during the long break when he parted ways with longtime trainer Aldon Baker in April. Baker has a storied history of building Champions with his training methods but those riders also tend to call it a career earlier than most. Anderson, was hurt most of last year, but has not won a Main Event since Atlanta 2018. He has three third-place finishes this year and sits 56 points behind Tomac.
Has Justin Barcia cooled off from his run-in with Eli Tomac at Atlanta?
250 East and West Classes
The 250 Class will continue as scheduled in terms of the East and West. Therefore, the 250 East class races on Sunday and the following two rounds before the 250 West class returns for rounds 14 (June 10) and 15 (June 14), the East picks up again for Round 16 (June 17) and the usual East/West showdown finishes the season on June 21.
Chase Sexton looks prime to repeat as 250 East Champion
Defending Champion Chase Sexton leads the East by 10 over Shane McElrath thanks to four Top 2 finishes including two wins. McElrath started out the gate hot with an opening round win but has slowly cooled off taking second, third and fifth place over the next three rounds, respectively. RJ Hampshire looms large in third-place but still looking for his first win while fourth-place Garrett Marchbanks got his first career Supercross win in a surprise victory at Daytona which put him into Championship contention as he sits just a point from third-place and 19 points from first. Jeremy Martin rounds out the Top 5 and the two-time 250 class Motocross Champion continues to look for the same success indoors but has shown resolve after returning from a broken back that left him sidelined all of last year.
Garrett Marchbanks celebrates his first career Supercross win at Daytona
Check out the track map for Round 11. And yes, the tracks for the remaining seven rounds will differ but don't expect drastic layout changes you get from city to city.
Our Podium Picks for Salt Lake City 1 aka Round 11:
- Eli Tomac
- Cooper Webb
- Justin Barcia
250 East Class
- Shane McElrath
- Chase Sexton
- Jeremy Martin
Salt Lake City 1, as it's being called for Round 11, broadcasts on NBC Sports Network from 12 to 1 p.m. (PST) then from 1 to 3 p.m. (PST) Sunday on NBC.
2020 Supercross Season Standings
- Eli Tomac (226)
- Ken Roczen (223)
- Cooper Webb (197)
- Justin Barcia (195)
- Jason Anderson (170)
- Malcolm Stewart (152)
- Justin Hill (141)
- Justin Brayton (129)
- Dean Wilson (129)
- Adam Cianciarulo (128)
250 East Class
- Chase Sexton (98)
- Shane McElrath (88)
- RJ Hampshire (80)
- Garrett Marchbanks (79)
- Jeremy Martin (65)
- Jo Shimoda (60)
- Enzo Lopes (51)
- Jordon Smith (48)
- Josh Hill (43)
- Jalek Swoll (42)