In an emotional evening in St. Louis, Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen put together an impeccable ride at round two of the AMA Supercross series, leading 23 of the 24 laps raced to score his first main-event victory since the January 14, 2017, San Diego race. Having overcome two nearly career-ending injuries, Roczen demonstrated his unrelenting drive as he returned to the top of the podium in dominant fashion. The German was strong throughout the entire night program, taking the win in his heat race before grabbing a second-place start in the main event. He made a strong pass for the lead on lap two and never looked back, riding unchallenged for the remainder of the 20-minute-plus-one-lap race.
It was a hectic evening for teammate Justin Brayton, who was forced to qualify into the main event via the Last Chance Qualifier. Despite having the far outside gate position, the veteran made the best of the situation, launching his CRF450R to a top-10 start and working his way into fifth, where he stayed for the early portion of the race. He ultimately relinquished three positions, taking the checkered flag in eighth.
- In the days following the Anaheim 1 opener, where Ken Roczen finished sixth, he and Team Honda HRC returned to the test track with an agenda; make the suspension softer and more comfortable. After two long days of testing, Roczen and his squad were satisfied and eager to try the setup in race conditions in St. Louis. “We put in a lot of work this week and today it really showed,” Roczen said. “We ended up softening the front end to a similar setting that Justin [Brayton] runs, then went back to a similar shock setup that I ran last year. I got the opportunity to ride it more on Friday during press day, which was really nice to see how the bike would work in the softer conditions prior to the race. We made a few adjustments throughout the day, but for the most part it was great. Now that I think we have a good setup, I can just start focusing on the riding and putting in laps.”
- Justin Brayton and mechanic Brent Duffe consider the St. Louis round their home race, as they both grew up in Iowa. They enjoyed a very supportive atmosphere throughout the day. “I love this race,” Brayton said. “I grew up about six hours away, so a lot of my family and friends come down to this one. My wife and daughter flew in to be here too. It’s also really special because my daughter loves seeing grandma and grandpa, who she only sees once or twice a year, so that was so great. It’s really nice to see them interact and enjoy their time together at the hotel, dinners and at the race. I love it.”
- Racing is a family affair for Brayton, as he’s not only an incredible racer and athlete but first and foremost a great dad. In St. Louis, he got to share a few special moments with his daughter Parker, who signed autographs with him between practices and then appeared with him during opening ceremonies. “That was so special,” Brayton said. “What was really cool was that I almost started tearing up while we were riding out because I told her, ‘When I was your age, this was daddy’s dream, to race in front of all these people, and now I’ve worked so hard and daddy’s living his dream.’ It was such a great teaching moment but also a moment that I’ll always look back on and cherish.”
- During daytime qualifying, Roczen notched the fourth-quickest time of 51.309”, with the next Red Rider being Smartop/MotoConcepts/Bullfrog Spas Honda’s Malcolm Stewart—sixth-fastest with a 51.492”. Stewart’s teammates Vince Friese and Justin Hill landed eighth- and ninth-fastest, respectively, while Brayton was 11thwith a 51.922” lap.
- Brayton experienced a mechanical issue during 450SX heat 2, and the crew decided to do a precautionary engine swap during the tight 30-minute window before the LCQ. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation, and the team completed the task in 21 minutes, 37 seconds. “It was a stressful situation for sure,” crew chief Lars Lindstrom admitted. “Going from heat 2 to the LCQ is probably the shortest amount of time you have in the night, and then to swap an engine was intense. It was also making that split-second decision, deciding if that was actually what we were going to do. We could’ve probably taken the risk and changed some parts and hoped for the best, but for our comfort and Justin’s, the only thing that was going to ease our minds was putting a new engine in. I was pretty confident we were going to be able to get it done, but it was high-stress. It’s that situation that you don’t want to be in but might have to be, so it was also a learning opportunity for everyone on the team.”
Throughout the main event, Roczen was consistently fast, continuously laying down lap times in the 52-second range for the first 14 laps. His fastest time—and the fastest of the race—was a 52.182” on lap five.
- Once again, Honda had the most machines in the 450SX main event, with a total of seven riders representing Team Honda HRC, MotoConcepts, FXR Chaparral, and Mountain Motorsports. The same was true of the 250SX West main event’s six Red Riders, representing GEICO Honda, Penrite Honda, Team BWR and a privateer effort from Cheyenne Harmon.
- Following his dominant performance, Roczen sits second in the championship standings with 43 points (six behind the leader), while Brayton is ninth with 30 points.
- The St. Louis Supercross marked round two of the 250SX West series, where GEICO Honda’s Jett Lawrence put in an impressive ride in the main event, finishing fifth aboard his CRF250R. It looked as though the rookie might secure his career-first podium finish, as he was running second for much of the 15-minute-plus-one-lap race, but unfortunately, a run-in with a Tuff Block bent his brake pedal, making it difficult for him to ride and prompting a quick visit to the mechanics’ area. Teammate Christian Craig also looked solid, winning his heat race and running in podium contention during the main event when he, too, hit a Tuff Block, causing him to crash and sidelining him for the remainder of the race.
- Next weekend, Team Honda HRC heads back to Southern California for their second and final 2020 stop at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. On Friday, the Honda Red Riders will attend an autograph signing at Del Amo of Orange County from 6 to 7:30 p.m.