Ken Roczen won Round 5 of the 2021 Supercross season, giving him back-to-back victories for the first time since his gruesome injury at Anaheim 2 in 2017.
In the more than four years that have passed, Roczen has been plagued by more injuries, fatigue and a bout with shingles that caused him to overheat in several races, but he entered entered 2020 with a new attitude, determined to enjoy himself and a new baby that arrived during the offseason.
“I haven’t gone back to back in a really long time,” Roczen said from the top of the podium. “I had a blast out there. Luckily I could just ride my own race. That was really key with this kind of track. I had some really creative lines.
“We’re currently just enjoying ourselves and at the same time working really hard to continue striving and thriving.”
Roczen’s last set of consecutive wins came in Rounds 1 and 2 of the 2017 season, but he was derailed from a championship chase quickly afterward. He shattered his arms in a crash that year in Round 3.
Since then he has been in the title hunt each season that he’s remained healthy, but watched as first time winners Jason Anderson, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac stole his thunder with recent championships.
POINTS, RESULTS: All the postrace statistics from Round 5 in Supercross
Roczen would like to be the fourth consecutive first-time champion at the end of Round 17 this year, but he knows that is a long way off.
“It’s super early, honestly,” Roczen said. “I’m taking it race by race. I know this is a very normal thing to say, but I feel like I have the right mindset this year to do that. It’s way too early to think about the championship. And even toward the end I don’t really want to think about it.
“I’m just out here having fun with my family. I really enjoy racing and training again – trying to get back to the top. I’m sure there will be nights that are going to be a little bit rougher, but it’s all about making the most and being your best.”
Hear from your 450SX Main Event winner, @KenRoczen94 🗣#SupercrossLIVE #DropTheGate pic.twitter.com/zTqZIRTgJr
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) February 3, 2021
Justin Barcia finished second after a spirited battle with Tomac in the closing laps of the race.
It wasn’t a win, but for a rider who has finished ninth and 13th in two of the last three rounds, it was a step in the right direction.
“(The last race) was really tough, but tonight I had a really good start,” Barcia said. “Kenny rode an amazing race. I tried to give him a little battle at the beginning but that was all I had tonight.”
Tomac scored his third podium on the season and his fourth straight top-five. That consistency has been enough to keep the leader in sight as he currently sits 14 points behind Roczen with 12 rounds remaining. He won Round 2 and finished in the runner-up spot last Saturday.
“I was a little buried there and was making my way through,” Tomac said. “I got to Justin and I was just kind of stuck. We were both riding the same pace and I swear every time he’d make a mistake, I’d make a mistake next to him and that would blow my chance to make a pass.
“At least I pushed up to the podium there. That was all we had tonight. Just have to be a little further up next time.”
Cooper Webb salvaged a fourth-place finish after getting mired in traffic with a slow start. Earning 19 points for the effort, he retained his second-place position in the standings.
Aaron Plessinger was another rider happy with his finish. Crossing under the checkers fifth, he scored his best result of the season. Plessinger was seventh in Houston 3 and while he hasn’t seriously challenged for the win, he has top-10s in four of the five rounds so far.
Adam Cianciarulo saw another great opportunity vanish. He rode with the top three for most of the first half of the race, but a bobble at the midway point allowed several riders to get around him. He settled for sixth.
.@EliTomac makes the pass on his teammate for third! 🚀 #SupercrossLIVE #DropTheGate pic.twitter.com/Lc31VqRC5E
— Supercross LIVE! (@SupercrossLIVE) February 3, 2021
In 250s, Colt Nichols continued to show dominance in a field that has been thinned drastically by injury.
Nichols got progressively better in the first three starts of the season with a third in Round 1, a runner-up finish in Round 2 and his first win of the season in Round 3. He didn’t have any further to improve, so he settled for winning the next two races and currently holds an 11-point advantage over teammate Christian Craig with just three races remaining in the 250 East schedule.
“That’s what you want,” Nichols said about winning three consecutive. “You train really hard to be able to do that. I believe in my ability a lot and I knew if I got through a healthy off season and came in ready and prepared then I could do that. I want to come in and win these races and this championship.
“It’s been fun battling Christian. It’s unfortunate Jett (Lawrence) didn’t get to line up – and there are a few other guys out – but I’ve had my fair share of that.”
Craig has barely put a wheel wrong this year. He won the opening round and stood on the podium each week since with the single exception of a fifth last week when he and Lawrence made contact on the final lap battling for second.
Even so, the championship may be slipping away. And to capture it, he will have to derail his teammate.
“First off I have to stop Colt from getting on this roll,” Craig said. “He is on a mission and he puts himself in a good spot. I need to out-start him and get in front of him.
“I got up onto him midway and with three laps to go I made a couple of mistakes and he got away. It’s going to come down to the wire no matter what.”
The 250 East series will race at Indianapolis this Saturday, at Orlando on February 13 and in the Salt Lake City finale for an East-West Showdown on May 1.
For the first half of the race, it appeared Michael Mosiman would spoil the Yamaha show.
He grabbed the holeshot and led seven laps. There is no such thing as a comfortable lead in Supercross, however, and when another rider went down in the whoops, it erased a sizeable margin.
“A guy went down in front of me in the rhythm section,” Mosiman said. “That was hectic – spooked me a little bit – I hit him pretty good and then lost a spot to Colt. Lost my mojo just a little bit there in the midway.
“I had such good lines out the gate, but as the track was breaking down I needed to move with it quicker.”
Jo Shimoda was the only other rider to finish on the lead lap Tuesday night. He got off to a terrible start when several riders crashed and collected the points contender. Remounting at the back of the pack, all he could do was keep the panic under control and refuse to lose the lead lap.
Notably the same thing happened in his heat race. After an early incident, Shimoda was forced to charge from the back to third.
Finishing fourth, Shimoda was able to leapfrog Lawrence on the strength of a perfect record of top-five finishes.
Lawrence made the highlight reel Tuesday for all the wrong reasons. He crashed hard in practice and was slapped in the face by his handlebars. He shook that off and lined up for his heat, only to crash twice more in that race. He failed to finish his heat, which sent him into the Last Chance Qualifier. He won by an easy margin after riding a very conservative race.
When Lawrence is not pushing hard, however, it is because something is wrong and he failed to line up for the Feature with an apparent injured shoulder. Missing the race caused him to fall to fifth in the standings.
ROUND 1, HOUSTON: Justin Barcia wins opener for third consecutive time
ROUND 2, HOUSTON: Eli Tomac rebounds, wins after Round 1 disappointment
ROUND 3, HOUSTON: Cooper Webb wins, Ken Roczen denied revenge
ROUND 4, INDIANAPOLIS: Ken Roczen makes it four winners in four races