Amongst a slew of other racing series that kicked off this past weekend was Monster Energy AMA Supercross, and the display of racing provided that night did not disappoint. Anaheim 1, the famed opening round, is always suspenseful as riders often change teams/brands in the off-season, return to settle the scores of years past, reignite old rivalries and spark new ones all the same.
The anticipation of the 2018 Supercross season debut has been one of the greatest the sport has ever seen, and the 45,000 fans that filled the sell-out crowd at Angel Stadium is a testament to that. As I mentioned in our 2018 AMA Supercross Season Preview, there were a number of big stories and questions that would be addressed and answered at the season opener.
Perhaps the most controversial was Ken Roczen’s return to racing after spending nearly a year on the road to recovery following not just a season-ending, but year-ending, crash that could have ended his entire racing career at Anaheim 2 last year. It required 11 surgeries to repair his shattered arm, a grueling rehabilitation regimen and a few months on the bike, but Kenny shocked the motorcycling world by qualifying first during the timed sessions – first!
As if that weren’t impressive enough, Kenny went on to place just one step off the podium, finishing the night in fourth overall. Roczen didn’t have the best start to the 450SX main event, coming off the gate and through the first few turns in the middle of the pack in 12th place. All eyes were on Kenny, and before long, he was slicing and dicing his way past riders in convincing fashion as he found his rhythm, until a near crash silenced the 45,000 fans in attendance as we gasped with relief to see him ride away unscathed. This bobble happened in the same exact double-double-triple section that claimed Dean Wilson earlier in the race.
As a result, Kenny lost a couple of positions to his teammates, Jeremy Martin and Cole Seely, but was able to fight his way back, passing them, and ultimately Weston Peick to a final fourth-place finish. As a multi-time world champion with competitive racing spirit, Roczen would prefer to have finished on the box, however, merely surviving the night was an incredible achievement on its own.
Roczen may not be totally healthy yet, but his return to racing and result at A1 is triumphant nonetheless. The Monster Energy AMA Supercross series heads to Houston for round two next weekend, where Kenny will aim for a better outcome as he continues to write the next chapter in his road to recovery and return to racing. Only 23 years old, Roczen has already cemented his name alongside legends of motorcycle racing.