The eighth round of the 2020 Monster Energy Supercross took place this past weekend at the monstrous AT&T Stadium in Arlington, home to the Dallas Cowboys. Considering the size of the venue, it regularly provides one of the most interesting track designs throughout the calendar as well as an extremely favorable dirt compound to sculpt the track. The terrain was a tricky combination of both slippery and soft which caught a lot of riders out over the course of the day, in addition to a whoop section over two-hundred feet in length that proved to be the most challenging obstacle on the track. The race in Arlington also marked the second of three Triple Crowns scheduled for the season, placing extra importance on qualifying practice as recording a lap time in the top eighteen would guarantee a spot in the night show. Cade Autenrieth returned to action in the 450SX class after making the trip from California, joined by the likes of Kyle Chisholm, Joan Cros, Bubba Pauli, Scotty Wennerstrom, and Josh Greco. In the 250SX East class, Zane Merrett and Parker Fleming continued their campaign from the opening round of action in Tampa.
The Triple Crown format certainly made the various daytime qualifying sessions extremely intense for the riders on the cusp of the top eighteen, unfortunately pushing Fleming to the limit in the last session where he sustained a broken wrist. Meanwhile, Merrett shaved a little bit of time off of his fastest lap from session to session, eventually improving to a 50.358 which was good enough for 34th position overall. The Texas native earned a spot on the starting gate for the LCQ and gave himself a shot at his first Monster Energy Supercross Main Event gate drop. Lots of natural light shined through the windows of AT&T Stadium during the 250SX East LCQ, providing a fairly unfamiliar challenge for the riders as they dealt with the blinding golden hue of the setting sun blocking their vision. Merrett executed a solid jump out of the gate and put himself within striking distance of the final transfer position, crossing the timing stripe in 6th position on the opening lap. He fought valiantly for track position in the early stages of the race, pushing forward towards the top four but a couple of mistakes forced him to lose too much time and he had to settle for a 14th place finish.
Merrett commented “It was my home race so I got to ride press on Friday and learned the track, just testing some new suspension. I got ready for free practice on Saturday morning and it went good, I just didn’t feel comfortable with the suspension we switched the shocks. I got all set for the first qualifying session and finished 6th in the B group but I still didn’t like the suspension so we swapped the forks with my practice bike, got ready for the second qualifying session, and set a better lap time. I had to go to the LCQ since it was a Triple Crown and got an awesome start. I was running in 3rd place and stalled after the whoops and my night was over after that. The track was super tight and one lined which made it hard for passing and racing, but the dirt was good and soft. I’m getting better and better each weekend, we’ll be ready for Atlanta!”
In the 450SX class, Chisholm continued the regular pattern that he has demonstrated throughout the season thus far, qualifying as the fastest LS2 athlete after the conclusion of both sessions. But he still narrowly missed out on a direct transfer to the night show due to the Triple Crown format, missing out on the top eighteen by three positions with his fastest lap time being a 48.424. Autenrieth picked up right where he left off in terms of pace, finishing up both qualifying sessions in 23rd place by way of a 48.777. Cros was next in line after setting the 34th fastest lap time in the 450SX class, clocking a 50.576 while his teammate Pauli trailed him a total of four positions, sitting in 38th place overall with a 50.898 under his belt. Wennerstrom scraped his way into the LCQ as he finished with the 40th fastest overall time in the form of a 51.190, claiming the very last available spot on the gate. Meanwhile, Greco was forced to pack up early after finishing in 43rd position with a 51.970, switching his focus to next weekend in Atlanta.
The 450 Last Chance Qualifier was about as intense as it gets, pitting twenty-two riders against one another in a seven-lap dash to the checkered flag in order to determine the final four riders joining the night show. Chisholm, Cros, and Autenrieth all started in the top ten and aimed to work their way towards the front of the pack while the rest of the LS2 team was buried near the back of the pack on the opening lap, heavily lessening their chances of earning a spot in the three Triple Crown races. Chisholm gradually worked his way forward and settled into 3rd position with a couple of laps to go, securing his place in the night show. Cros wasn’t able to make the necessary progress, although he still managed a result inside the top ten, and Autenrieth logged a strong 6th place finish, barely missing out on a transfer position. Pauli rode well as he pushed forward each and every lap, advancing from 13th place to an eventual 9th place finish at the checkered flag while Wennerstrom wrapped up the seven-lapper in 20th place.
Pauli said “I really enjoyed the dirt and atmosphere in Dallas. The competition was super tight but we came through with a better ride in the LCQ than we did in Tampa, so I can’t complain too much. I’m ready to keep improving this weekend in Atlanta!”
“Good dirt, good vibes, and a lot of whoops awaited me for my home race at AT&T stadium! It’s always one of the best races of the year to race in front of so many family and friends. After figuring out some fast lines early, I was poised to get a good qualifying time in with the Triple Crown format. But once I really started to push hard, small mistakes cost me the qualifying position I was looking for. A bad gate pick and sub-par riding in the LCQ ended all chances of making the night show at my home race. But I felt when the riding was good it was the best all season in areas so I’m looking forward to improving on that in Atlanta for round nine,” commented Wennerstrom.
Cros added “We rode press day on Friday so that’s always a good thing to do before the race. The track was pretty gnarly, but I felt good all day. I qualified 34th so I had to go directly to the LCQ, finished 8th after some good battles but didn’t make the night show because of the Triple Crown. The Main Event is the goal so we need to keep pushing!”
“It was fun to get back behind the gate in Arlington. I felt good on the bike all day and qualified 23rd. Going into the LCQ I felt comfortable, but I missed the main by one spot. I made too many mistakes and wasn’t close enough to make a pass, but it was a good experience on the east coast dirt and I learned a lot,” said Autenrieth.
Chisholm was the only rider repping LS2 that made it into the night show, contesting all three of the Triple Crown Main Events with improvements shown on the track each time. He struggled a little bit in the first race after feeling the effects from a practice crash earlier in the day, managing a 19th place at the finish line as a result of the seventeen-lapper. Chisholm was able to make the necessary adjustments for the second race and performed much closer to his potential, finishing within arms reach of the top ten in 13th position. In the third and final Main Event, he started in relatively the same position as he finished in race two, keeping his sights set on the top ten. He was able to improve his pace and consistency in comparison to the two previous races and laid down his best performance of the night, riding smart and steady all the way to the finish line in order to secure his best finish of the season with a 12th place. As a result of all three races, Chisholm found himself in 15th position, demonstrating substantial improvements with each passing race weekend.
“The day started out a little rough as I had a pretty big crash just a few laps into the first free practice. I was lucky to walk away without any major injuries but I was definitely pretty sore and beat up all over. In the first Main Event, I didn’t ride my best which was disappointing, just rode tight and wasn’t comfortable. But the second and third Main Events I rode better and was happy with that. I ended up 15th overall which is the current goal. If I could’ve ridden like I’m capable in the first race, I think I could’ve had a better overall but I’m going to rest up this week and try to do just that in Atlanta next weekend,” commented Chisholm.
The ninth round of the 2020 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is set to take place on Saturday, February 29th at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia.