The stage is set for a fantastic night of racing in Oakland, Northern California, as qualifying is now complete. Although the fastest qualifiers in both classes may not have come as too much of a surprise, there is still a lot to discuss and tackle before the gates drop for the first time this evening. Could another surprise winner emerge in the Oakland Coliseum?
Ken Roczen was the fastest qualifier in the premier division, thanks to the time that he recorded in the first session of the day, but was beat to the top in the final qualifying practice by Cole Seely. It is quite likely that Roczen would have landed on top in that session too though, as he was throwing down a blistering time at the end and was only stopped by a wall of slower riders in the rhythm section before the finish. What could have been? It is still remarkable that he finished on top of the combined results though, as it rarely works out for him. Even he has admitted that throwing down a single fast lap is not particularly a strength of his.
After riding off of the track at the end of the first session, he immediately referenced some tweaks that he made to his bike set-up this week and how much that is helping his comfort level on track. Roczen did allude to that in an exclusive MX Vice interview a week ago, of course, as he claimed that he was searching slightly and believed that he could make improvements. Now that those have evidently been made, what level will he reach on track this evening? It seems that his first main event victory in more than two years is not really that far away. Heck, it was at this venue last year that he almost got the job done.
When was the last time that Ken Roczen was the fastest qualifier in the premier division? It was at Anaheim 1 twelve months ago. Three hundred and eighty-six days have passed since then. It has been seven hundred and forty-three days since he last won a main. It would be an amazing story if he wins again, of course, but what about if there is another first-time winner? Dean Wilson has been good all day and so has Joey Savatgy on the Monster Energy Kawasaki. Are those guys potential winners? Who knows at this point? It seems like this is the season that anything can happen.
The rhythm sections that are laid out on the floor of the Oakland Coliseum do not offer that much variation and, bearing that in mind, a lot of riders have pointed to the whoops as a point on the circuit where passes will be made. Those are not huge but are breaking down significantly. It is really easy to picture the Oakland from years gone by, which was a sea of ruts and a game of survival, when talking about the conditions, but this is not like that all. There was no rain in Northern California this week and therefore the dirt is really no different to what one would find in Anaheim.
There is one line that is quite interesting: A handful of riders started to jump across the first turn, right out of the sand section, and then carry a lot of momentum into the second turn. It is undoubtedly quicker when the elite guys get it done, but it may not be possible in a race situation. Only the select few are truly capable of putting the power down and getting across that gap. Stepping on, off and then tripling right in the middle of the following section is the quickest line. Again, however, it is not quite possible for every 250SX guy to do that consistently.
What about the 250SX division? Dylan Ferrandis finished at the top of the charts, which has become normal at this point in the season. Shane McElrath followed him quite closely in the combined times. This is actually the first time this year that McElrath has featured at the front in timed qualifying, which reinforces the fact that he has rediscovered his mojo after that win at Anaheim 2. Is he going to take the red plate tonight? It is certainly possible, as the gap sits at just two points entering this event. Colt Nichols is not giving the guys much room to work with though.
Time is tight today and opening ceremonies are about to begin, so it is time to sign off. There are a lot more stories to discuss though. Tyler Bowers has been great all day, so could he break into the top ten and upset the established contenders? Can Eli Tomac jump back on top? Is Marvin Musquin at one hundred percent? Is Justin Brayton going to be figure out his starts? Will Justin Barcia salvage a decent number of points? The answers will be uncovered within the next four hours.
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: ConwayMX