The 2020 AMA Supercross series’ seventh round and its first trip to the East Coast saw a return to the podium for Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen, who took a heat-race win before charging to a third-place finish in Tampa, Florida’s Raymond James Stadium.
Unable to replicate the strong starts that led to his early season success, Roczen struggled off the line in the main event and had to rely on well-timed passes to close in on the front-runners. A mid-race fall hindered progress but didn’t deter the German; after losing the front on the backside of a triple while chasing down Cooper Webb, Roczen put in a string of consistent laps to get back into podium contention. Following a mistake by Adam Cianciarulo and a pass on Malcolm Stewart, Roczen rode a smart race to bring home his fifth podium result of the season.
Justin Brayton’s race was also marred by a poor start, and though he fought hard to come within striking distance of a top-five finish, the Team Honda HRC rider struggled through the final four laps and settled for ninth place.
- On Friday night, Xtreme Powersports hosted an open house, where hundreds of fans showed up despite on-and-off rain showers. Attendees had the opportunity to meet and get autographs from their favorite Red Riders, including Ken Roczen and Justin Brayton. Alongside the Team Honda HRC duo were GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton, Jo Shimoda and Jeremy Martin. Team BWR was also in attendance, making it no fewer than eight Honda racers at the table.
- Roczen and Brayton showed a strong, consistent pace all day long, with Roczen qualifying second by way of a 48.052” lap time. Brayton was 10thquickest at 48.931”.
- While Roczen’s bike will no longer carry the red number plates that denote the series’ points leader, his podium finish helped to minimize the deficit. He now sits in second place, just four points from the lead. Brayton gained one position and now sits eighth.
- With the series now in the East Region, Roczen has transitioned from California to his home in Clermont, Florida, a move that simplified travel for this event. “This almost felt like an off weekend because on Friday I stayed home for quite some time and was able to do my stretching and all my stuff there,” he said. “It’s kind of nice having a whole lot less travel. I love it being here on the East coast.” Brayton has also switched back to his home in North Carolina.
- GEICO Honda moved on from its challenging 250SX West season to kick off the 250SX East series in excellent fashion. Quick all day, defending champ Chase Sexton and teammate Jeremy Martin finished second and third, respectively, while Jo Shimoda took 10thin his rookie debut.
- Having dominated the early part of the 2020 AMA Arenacross series, Phoenix Racing’s Kyle Peters and Jace Owen showed up for the 250SX East opener and rode within the top 10 for much of the day. Peters finished seventh in the main event, while Owen settled for 11th following a strong first half of the race.
- As has been the case at every race this year, there were more riders of Hondas than any other manufacturer in the 450SX main event, at six. Even more impressive, the same was true of the 250SX East opener, with no fewer than nine CRF250Rs entered in the main event.
- The supercross community showed its support for the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital through its “This Race Saves Lives” event, which teams acknowledged by running graphics and gear inspired by patients’ artwork. GEICO Honda’s race bikes wore white and black with a “Believe” graphic across the radiator shroud. Memorabilia is to be auctioned off, with all proceeds going to St. Jude.
- The Tampa round was the final race for Team Honda HRC Technical Director Takashi “Sam” Mishima, who is retiring after over 23 years with American Honda. To commemorate the occasion, everyone on the team (plus a few GEICO Honda members) presented Mishima with a cake and a special poster that they had all signed.
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Ken Roczen 94
“It’s a bummer to lose the points lead but there’s a whole lot of racing left, and overall I’m happy with how my day went. I was pretty consistent throughout the day – I just didn’t get the starts I needed. I lifted my body up too much, so I was a bit deeper in the pack and had to work my way up to the front. Then, ultimately, I tucked the front off the triple, which cost me a lot of time. I’m still happy to be back on the podium. I appreciate being up here because on weekends like last weekend, when I’m far away from it, it’s not so nice. No red plate for right now, but I’ll keep trying to fight back for it and keep a positive mindset. We’ll keep working during the week to get some consistency in and try to be up there from the beginning, because the lead guys were just too far gone by the time we got into fourth or fifth.”
Justin Brayton - 10
“Up until about four laps to go, it was looking like we could get a top-five finish, but right about then it kind of all unraveled and I ended up in ninth. I’m pretty disappointed with it to be honest. It’s been a challenging week for my family, with everyone kind of having the flu. Now my head has been pounding all day, so it’s been tough to focus. I kind of ran out of gas with four to go, but that’s racing and you end up ninth or 10th. The race was okay up until that, but the reality is that you get judged by your end result and it doesn’t matter how you rode through the middle.”
Erik Kehoe - Team Manager
“The goal has been to be on the podium every week, so it’s great for Kenny to get back up there this weekend. I think we’ve still got some things to work on, as we do every week. His starts weren’t as good as he had earlier this season, so we need to work on that a little bit. It’s a long season, so we’ve got to keep with that goal of being on the podium. It’s going to be a long series, so anything can happen.”
Jordan Troxell - Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
“It was a different night. We wanted the win and we wanted to extend the points lead, rather than give it up, but this is still a step in the right direction after San Diego. For where we were in the opening part of the main – and to have taken a fall – to still come out with a podium and only get beat by a few points, I think we can walk away with a few positives from the day. There’s still a lot of racing left, so we’ll just keep getting after it. We just have to get our starts back; they haven’t been the greatest these past two or three weekends, so we’ve got to fix that.”
Brent Duffe - Mechanic (Justin Brayton)
“The day started off well. Justin was feeling a good flow on the track and his starts were really good. Everything was actually coming together well until we had a bad start in the main event. Unfortunately, the pace is so fast right now that if you don’t start up front, by the time you get clear track ahead of you there’s no time to go anywhere. Fortunately, we’re far enough into the season now that the practice is there. Everything is working right. We just have to get that start and go from there.”