Riders attempt Supercross holeshot with Anaheim win

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The long wait is over as the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship gets underway at Angel Stadium in Anaheim on January 4 as 44 riders attempt to holeshot the season. Eight months to the day that Supercross hosted their last event of 2019 on May 4, the riders return to their seats in an effort to establish early dominance over the field.

It’s not as easy as putting in a fast, clean ride. In fact ‘clean’ was hard to come by in 2019.

Last year a muddy track in the first Anaheim race shuffled the standings early and gave surprise wins to Justin Barcia in the 450 class and Colt Nichols in 250 West. Barcia would go on to finish 13th in the standings; Nichols finished third, while the eventual champions Cooper Webb finished fifth in 450s and Dylan Ferrandis was second in the 250 class.

That should not be an issue this year as the forecast early in the week called for a 0% chance of rain.

A Supercross season is intense, comprising 16 races in consecutive weeks. There is no time to waste. An injury can wipe out the entire season. The last two championships have gone to riders no one predicted during in the opening round. And yet the season often has the same personality as an individual race. Getting the holeshot does not guarantee success, but it makes it easier to manage the rest of the year.

Webb scored his first 450 class win in Anaheim II. He would go on to win six more overalls, but the real key to his success was his ability to finish in the top five. He did that in all but two races.

Eli Tomac won six overalls last year – often in dramatic fashion – but was outside the top five three times. He lost most of his ground with one truly bad run in Dallas when he finished 12th.

For complete coverage of the 2020 Supercross season practices, heats and features, check out the Supercross Gold Pass.

Adam Cianciarulo will make a much anticipated debut in the 450 class after winning the Monster Energy Cup last October. He took the victory by winning the final moto in what became a winner-take-all scenario. Teammate Eli Tomac finished second overall in that race and the pair served notice before the season even began that they will be the team to beat in the opening rounds.

Max Anstie was scheduled to make his return to Supercross for the first time since 2013, but will miss the first part of the season with an ankle injury, according to the team.

In 250s, 42 riders were entered at the beginning of the week, headed by Ferrandis with the No. 1 plate on his Yamaha.

Nichols will be on hand to defend his 2019 victory as will Shane McElrath giving all three podium finishers a chance to get off to the same great start. Last year’s fourth-place finisher RJ Hampshire will run the 250 East division this year, but teammate Michael Mosiman will be on hand to compete for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna factory team.

More: Adam Cianciarulo enters 2020 as a lighter man
More: Jason Anderson rolls into 2020 with an agenda
More: Adam Enticknap paves the way for the ‘Other 19’

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Schedule:

Qualifying: 1 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold
Race: Live, 10 p.m. on NBC Sports, Gold and NBCSN

Last Race:

Eli Tomac won at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas May 4, 2019 over Marvin Musquin and the 2019 champion Cooper Webb.
In the 250 Showdown race, Dylan Ferrandis won over RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo

Last Year:

Justin Barcia won on a muddy track over Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac
In 250 West, Colt Nichols won over Dylan Ferrandis and Shane McElrath

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.