Adam Cianciarulo addresses unfinished business in Supercross opener at Houston

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Adam Cianciarulo has unfinished business he hopes to take care of in the Supercross season opener at Houston, which kicks off Saturday, Jan. 16 at NRG Stadium.

Like nearly all persons making their living in or around sports, Cianciarulo had his share of difficulties in 2020. It’s just that his trouble started well before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic halted activity for two months in the spring.

“You can’t think too far into the future,” Cianciarulo told reporters in this year’s preseason press conference. “You’ve got to stay present-minded. That was my goal last year in my rookie season. … I just wanted to get the win out of the way, that way this year would be a little more just going after that title.”

He nearly achieved his goal of winning a 450 Supercross race the very first week.

In the season-opener in Anaheim, Calif. Cianciarulo served notice that he would be a threat to win. Finishing second in his debut behind a surprisingly strong Justin Barcia, he was ahead of the two most recent champions Cooper Webb in third and Jason Anderson in fifth.

The rider who would go on to win the 2020 championship, Eli Tomac was further back in seventh.

A tendency to occasionally push too hard caused and recurring problem of numbness in his wrists Cianciarulo to finish no better than fourth in the next four rounds until he nearly achieved his goal of winning in his rookie season once more in San Diego.  This time he was second to Webb.

MALCOLM STEWART HOOKS YAMAHA: ‘I’m in a really good spot’

Disaster struck for the rookie 450 class rider two weeks later.

Pressing hard on a Dragon’s Back in Arlington, Texas Cianciarulo’s season almost ended when he suffered a broken left collarbone in a practice crash. In fact it would have ended if the pandemic had not paused the season and gave him the opportunity for one more race in Salt Lake City before the outdoor season began.

Winning in Supercross is still a priority.

“I’m going after a race win for sure, just to knock that off the list – to get that monkey off my back,” Cianciarulo said. “I kind of did. That little bit of pressure of getting that first win on a 450 is gone now that I’ve got some wins in the outdoor season.”

Cianciarulo got his first 450 win at the Red Bud MX Nationals in Buchanan, Mich. last September. He didn’t have to wait long for his second. That came in the next race at Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minn.

The pandemic continues to make the task of hosting sporting events difficult. The number of active COVID cases in California makes it impractical to race there in 2021 so the Monster Energy Supercross schedule was announced earlier this year with a modification on last year’s strategy and races concentrated in the Midwest and East Coast.

Last year the series was the first to test out the bubble strategy in which all events were held in a single location. This was done to minimize travel and allow riders and teams to quarantine in pods. The 2021 schedule features mini-pods of three races each, beginning in Houston this Saturday, followed by Tuesday, Jan. 19 and Saturday, Jan. 23rd.

Now the sophomore rider gets the opportunity to experience some of the excitement he missed in his rookie season. Most importantly, fans will be in attendance in limited numbers.

“The fans are such a huge part of our sport,” Cianciarulo said. “It doesn’t feel like a complete Supercross event without them there. I didn’t get to race all of the Salt Lake City rounds, but going from Anaheim – those first few California races of 2020 – and then being there at Salt Lake for the first race (without fans).

“From that to the outdoor season when there weren’t that many fans. It’s very welcome to have the fans in the stands.

And for Cianciarulo a new season brings a few pre-race jitters no matter where the series races.

“It’s still the same kind of nerves I would feel lining up at Anaheim – maybe a little less because crowd is not going to be at full capacity,” Cianciarulo said. “It’s a little more of a chiller vibe, but when you get behind the gate and look to your right, look to your left and see all these amazing athletes next to you it’s still nerve-wracking.”

Most importantly, Cianciarulo will get to absorb some of the energy of NRG Stadium.

“I enjoy Houston,” Cianciarulo said. “The dirt’s really good. It’s my favorite football team as well, the Houston Texans. I’m excited to channel some Deshaun Watson energy.”

Houston Supercross by the numbers: Five riders begin to gap the field

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Chase Sexton stumbled in San Diego and Eli Tomac had a hard fall in Anaheim 2, but the Monster Energy Supercross numbers for Houston suggest they will continue to be the ones to beat in Houston. To do so, they will have to turn back challenges from another pair of riders who have swept the top five in the first three rounds and another with a worst finish of sixth.

Houston Supercross numbers
Cooper Webb’s ability to close races makes him a Houston favorite. – Feld Motor Sports

Despite an accident in his heat in San Diego that sent him to the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ), Sexton recovered to score a top-five that weekend. His podium finish in Anaheim 1 and overall win last week in Anaheim 2 makes him one of the three riders with a perfect top-five record. He is joined by Cooper Webb, who finished second in the first two rounds and fourth last week, and Ken Roczen, whose consistency in the first three races contributed to him grabbing the top spot in this week’s NBC Supercross Power Rankings.

There are reasons to believe Webb and Roczen can keep those streaks alive.

Webb is the only multiple winner at Supercross’ current Houston stadium. His pair of wins came in 2019 and 2021, the same year he won his two 450 championships.

Clinton Fowler points out this week, that Webb has carried that strength into 2023. Webb had a late surge in Anaheim 1, advancing from fifth to second in the final six laps. In San Diego, he set his ninth fastest lap with two to go and his eighth fastest on the final lap. He posted his fastest lap of Anaheim 2 on Lap 12 while the rest of the field did so on Lap 6 on average.

By comparison, Tomac set his 14th fastest lap on the final circuit in route to winning the Main at San Diego while he was trying to keep Webb at bay.

With a sixth at San Diego, Dylan Ferrandis barely missed sweeping the top five in his first three races as did Tomac with a sixth last week at Anaheim 2.

This will be the 46th year Supercross has visited Houston and with 55 races the city is tied for the second-most with Detroit.

Jim Pomeroy won the first race in the Astrodome during the inaugural season of 1974 on a 250, which was the premiere class at the time. Houston was one of three races held that year along with events at Daytona International Speedway and the Los Angeles Coliseum. All three venues return in 2023 with the first SuperMotocross championship finale returning to the famed LA Coliseum in September.

Webb won most recently in 2021 in the final race of three held there that year as the series executed a strategy of racing in residencies to limit travel during height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Tomac and Justin Barcia also won in Houston in 2021.

Two privateers have started the season on a high note.

Joshua Cartwright and Joshua Varize have each made the last two Mains. Cartwright finished 18th in San Diego and 21st last week in Anaheim 2 – all while working fulltime as a Business Intelligence Analyst at the University of Texas, Dallas. Varize earned a top-15 (12th) in San Diego and was 21st in Anaheim 2 in his third season on a 450.

Michael Mosiman scored his first 250 win last year in San Diego. – Feld Motor Sports

The numbers show none of the active 250 Supercross East riders have won in Houston, so no matter who steps on top of the box, there is going to be a fresh face. That is not surprising since most of the top competitors have not raced at this venue yet.

Michael Mosiman has a pair of top-fives there, however. His best finish was a second in the second 2021 race. Garrett Marchbanks scored a top-10 in his rookie season of 2019 in Houston.

In the 250 East division, Hunter Lawrence is one of the favorites to win the title now that Christian Craig has moved to 450s. Last year he had four wins and nine podiums, but failed to set a fast lap in a race.

The other 250 riders with 2022 wins this week are Mosiman, who earned his first Supercross win last year in San Diego, and Nate Thrasher, who became the fifth new class winner at Daytona.

Jeremy Martin will attempt to extend a record this week in Houston. His division leading SuperMotocross podiums number 65. He has 26 wins in the combined sessions, which ranks fourth all time.

Last Five Houston Winners

450s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Cooper Webb
2021, Race 2: Eli Tomac
2021, Race 1: Justin Barcia
2020, no race
2019, Cooper Webb
2018, Jason Anderson

250s
2022, no race
2021, Race 3: Colt Nichols
2021, Race 2: Jett Lawrence
2021, Race 1: Christian Craig
2020, no race
2019, Dylan Ferrandis
2018, Aaron Plessinger

By the Numbers

Anaheim 2
San Diego

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