Red Bull Straight Rhythm preview: James Stewart the favorite, but tough matchups await

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With motocross silly season in full swing, a field of active riders and retired legends will descend upon Southern California for the inaugural Red Bull Straight Rhythm event today.

Straight Rhythm is a first-of-its-kind event. The typical mix of rhythm sections, huge jumps, whoops and sand sections that you would see on a typical supercross track are all present, but the turns are not. Instead, the Straight Rhythm track is a half-mile long and built on a straightaway.

The competition format is unique too. Rather than sending 20 riders out on the track at once, the invite-only event pits two riders at a time head-to-head within a bracket. Each rider is required to stay in their lane as they race side-by-side down the track.

On Friday, all 16 riders in the Open Class hit the track to put down their fastest lap times and earn their seeds. All the riders were then placed into a bracket for today’s competition, with each matchup being a best-of-three.

Open Class Seeds and Qualifying Times (view the bracket)
1. James Stewart, 50.766
2
2. Dean Wilson, 50.926
3
3. Justin Brayton, 51.313
4
4. Malcolm Stewart, 51.424
5
5. Josh Hill, 51.533
6
6. Kyle Partridge, 51.638
7
7. Shane McElrath, 51.938
8
8. Travis Pastrana, 52.264
9
9. Josh Hansen, 52.271
10
10. Jake Canada, 52.840
11
11. Kyle Chisholm, 52.987
12
12. Vince Friese, 53.263
13
13. Brett Metcalfe, 53.496
14
14. Ryan Morais, 54.169
15
15. Grant Langston, 54.365
16
16. Scott Champion, 54.617

There’s plenty of intrigue around Travis Pastrana’s return to motocross racing, but he’ll be challenged right out of the gate. As the eight-seed, a first-round matchup with Josh Hansen is no lock, and a win would likely have him facing off with James Stewart – the fastest qualifier and the overwhelming favorite – in the quarterfinals.

While Stewart is expected to contend for victory, he knows how important it is to be flawless through the track on every run. “It’s hard to make up time when [you] make a mistake,” Stewart said. “If you make one mistake, you might as well turn around and go back to the start.”

James isn’t the only fast Stewart in the competition. Assuming he makes it past Scott Champion and the winner of the Pastrana/Hansen battle, James could be matched up with his brother Malcolm in the semifinals. The two raced together during qualifying yesterday, and while both were blazing through the course, James was getting the better of the sibling rivalry, repeatedly beating Malcolm to the finish line.

Should chalk hold up, a matchup between the top two seeds – James Stewart and Dean Wilson – would make for an electrifying final. Wilson made one of the biggest moves of the offseason, leaving Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki to jump up to the 450 Class with Red Bull KTM. This is only his fourth day on the KTM 450, but he seems to have adapted quickly. Wilson’s first event with the new ride could be a memorable one.

Another rider debuting a new bike this weekend is Justin Brayton, who switched from JGR Yamaha to BTO Sports KTM. He qualified third and also looked strong in Friday’s practice. Partnered with Pastrana throughout the day, Brayton was consistently finishing ahead of him.

The 250 Class will also have its own 16-rider main event today, with a pair of Red Bull KTM teammates – Marvin Musquin and newcomer Justin Hill – earning the top-two seeds in the division. You can view the full 250 Class bracket here.

To see how the brackets play out, watch Red Bull Straight Rhythm live online starting at 5:30 p.m. ET today on RedBull.tv.

NBC will also air television coverage of the event on December 20.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage