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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

NHRA to expand field sizes for 2020 Countdown playoffs

NHRA
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Field sizes for the NHRA’s Countdown to the Championship playoffs could substantially increase for the upcoming 2020 season, the sanctioning body announced Wednesday.

The previous standard to qualify for the playoffs was the top 10 ranked drivers following the last regular season race before the Countdown begins, the U.S. Nationals in suburban Indianapolis. That standard remains in place.

Now, in light of Wednesday’s announcement, additional drivers in both the Top Fuel and Funny Car “Nitro” classes will be eligible for the six-race Countdown playoffs if they compete in all 18 regular season events and run a minimum of two qualifying sessions at each of those 18 events.

Given that most of the 18 NHRA regular season events have as many as four qualifying sessions, the new expanded field could potentially add several Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars to the Countdown field. For example, if there are 16 full-time teams that compete in all 18 regular season races for the upcoming season, all 16 teams will likely qualify for the playoffs.

If those additional drivers meet the new standard, their point standings will also be reset after the U.S. Nationals, as has always been the case for the top 10 Countdown qualifiers.

Changes will also take place in Countdown qualifying for Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, which have smaller season schedules than their counterparts in Top Fuel and Funny Car.

In addition to those being ranked in the top 10 after the U.S. Nationals following the 13-race regular season, additional Pro Stock drivers who have competed in all 13 prior events as well as took part in a minimum of two qualifying sessions in each of those events will be eligible for the Countdown.

Because it contests only an 18-race overall season schedule, Pro Stock’s portion of the Countdown is only five races, rather than six as in Top Fuel and Funny Car.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle, which has a 16-race overall season schedule, in addition to those being ranked in the top 10 after the U.S. Nationals following the 11-race regular season, riders who have competed in all 11 regular season events and took part in a minimum of two qualifying sessions in each of those events will also be eligible for the Countdown.

As in Top Fuel and Funny Car, all Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle drivers/riders that qualify for the Countdown after the U.S. Nationals will have their points reset.

Speaking of points being reset, the NHRA also announced that heading into the Countdown, Top Fuel and Funny Car will see first and second place be separated by 20 points, while each subsequent position will be separated by a 10-point differential.

In Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, first and second place heading into the Countdown will be separated by 20 points, while second through fifth place will be separated by 10 points and all positions below fifth place will be separated by five points.

And has been the case in the past, all drivers/riders that reach the Auto Club Finals season-ending race will earn points-and-a-half for qualifying and each round run.

According to a NHRA media release, “NHRA officials made this change in order to better reward driver endurance and encourage participation in regular season events.”

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