AMASX: Round #1 Race Preview - Anaheim (Video)

AMA Supercross race action shot

Supercross Media Press Release:

This Saturday night inside Angel Stadium of Anaheim, in Anaheim, Calif., the stage will be set to determine #WhosNext as the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, unfolds with a parity-packed lineup of the world's top racers.

The absence of reigning four-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto this season means the upcoming battle for the 2015 title will be arguably the most competitive in history thanks to one of the most talented field of competitors ever assembled.

In Villopoto's absence a trio of former Monster Energy Supercross champions - Dungey, Reed and James Stewart - were immediately seen as the heavy favorites for the 2015 title as a result of their past success. However, in mid December the landscape of the 2015 season changed again when Stewart was given a 16-month suspension by the FIM for failing a drug test at the Seattle stop of the 2014 season. As a result, the sport's two winning-est riders over the past eight seasons, and winners of five of the past six championships, would not factor into the 2015 title fight at all.

The vacancies left by Villopoto and Stewart thrust the spotlight squarely on Dungey and Reed, who have considerably more championship experience than any of their fellow riders. Even as two of the most seasoned riders in the 450SX Class, the pair is flanked by a long list of former winners and budding talent that is sure to make each stop on the 17-race schedule as unpredictable as ever.

Adding to the suspense that now surrounds the 2015 season are the signs of change littering the field of 450SX Class contenders. Of the most prominent and recognizable riders in the championship, 13 will either be racing for a brand new team and/or aboard a new brand of motorcycle.

Leading the way for this group is the rider selected to replace Villopoto at Monster Energy Kawasaki, Millsaps. For back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013, Millsaps finished in the runner-up spot behind Villopoto in the final standings. He was considered a title contender a year ago but suffered a season-ending injury before the first gate dropped in Anaheim. Having not raced in over a year, the Millsaps signing was expected but also came with some uncertainty. However, any concerns were quickly erased in his first race for the team at the Monster Energy Cup in October. Millsaps proved there was no rust and went on to win the event with an incredibly consistent effort, giving him bragging rights heading into the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross season. Another new addition that will line up alongside Millsaps at Kawasaki is Wil Hahn, who spent his rookie 450SX Class season a year ago aboard a Honda.

On the heels of a runner-up finish in the championship last season, Dungey will return to Red Bull KTM with virtually no changes to his program and could be considered the favorite to earn a second title. He will be joined by a new teammate in Wilson, who makes his anticipated move to the premier class in 2015 and will compete aboard something other than a Kawasaki for the first time in his career. The Scot made splashes as a part-time 450SX Class rider last season and is expected to succeed under the tutelage of both Dungey and team manager Roger DeCoster.

Dungey's former teammate at KTM, Roczen, is arguably the biggest name heading to a new team for the 2015 season, joining the factory-backed Team RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John's Suzuki effort of Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart. Roczen raced to a pair of wins during his first full season of 450SX Class competition a year ago and finished right behind Dungey in the final standings before going on to win his first career national championship in AMA Motocross. With past success on a Suzuki dating back to his early years as a pro in Europe, Roczen is confident he'll be able to put RCH Racing into the upper echelon of competition and build upon the solid foundation he built a year ago, despite entirely new surroundings.

Monster Energy Supercross 2015 Find out #WhosNext:

Much like Dungey, little change will come to Reed's personal racing program and it's why he is also one of the preseason favorites. However, the Aussie will experience a major change in regards to the operation of his Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports effort, welcoming a second rider for the first time since starting the team in 2011. It's been Reed's long-term goal to hire a rider and veteran Josh Grant was the right fit. He's a former winner in Monster Energy Supercross and should provide a nice complement to Reed, who continues in the twilight of his career. Seemingly a perennial underdog each season, Reed and his team has consistently notched big achievements despite not having all the resources of their factory-backed competitors, with Reed scoring a pair of wins over the course of three weeks before suffering a season-ending injury a year ago. With the title sitting vacant, Reed is healthy and more motivated than ever to prove he's still one of the fastest riders on the planet, and he'll be able to rely on the support of a teammate this time around.

Grant's departure from the Joe Gibbs Racing effort of Toyota/Yamaha/N-FAB/JGRMX allowed that squad to make another one of the biggest moves of the offseason by signing Barcia. The third-year rider suffered from a bit of a sophomore slump last season after a breakout rookie campaign, and in moving away from Honda for the first time in his professional career, Barcia believes the change of scenery will work in his favor. Many consider Barcia to be one of the top contenders for the title and his addition to JGRMX signifies the team's best shot at a championship since signing Stewart in 2012. Complementing Barcia will be Weston Peick, who gets the first factory opportunity of his career in 2015.

Barcia's new home now places Canard firmly in the number-one spot at Team Honda, where he will experience very little change coming into 2015. The veteran spent the majority of the 2014 season sidelined with an injury but was a factor immediately upon returning for the final five races. Since then, Canard has continued to get faster and he came mere laps away from claiming a million dollars at October's Monster Energy Cup before crashing. He's perhaps more confident than ever coming into the season and will look to end Honda's title drought that has now spanned 11 seasons, the longest ever for the brand. Canard's new teammate will be another 450SX Class rookie that has achieved success in the premier class before. Seely has been a staple at the front of the pack in the 250SX Class, but last year he enjoyed the first 450SX Class podium finish of his career while substituting for Canard. While a full season is sure to challenge Seely, he possesses the speed to be a threat on any given weekend.

Another Honda rider with something to prove in 2015 is GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac. The sophomore 450SX Class rider endured injuries throughout his rookie campaign but did manage to show his potential with a pair of runner-up finishes. Tomac is one of the fastest young riders in the sport but is also evidence of how difficult the transition to the premier class can be in supercross. Nevertheless, Tomac is used to winning and expects to be up front with his more experienced counterparts, which should make his role in the title fight an intriguing one.

Everything is new for reigning Western Regional 250SX Class Champion Anderson, who will not only make his move into the 450SX Class, but will also serve as the lead rider for Husqvarna's anticipated return to the sport with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing. After a breakout campaign a year ago en route to his first career title, Anderson will look to surprise people with his technical ability and raw speed, much like Roczen did last season. While the new team and new 450SX Class rider will likely need to find their way at times, Anderson isn't someone to count out.

Fellow rookie Baggett rounds out the field of top competitors this season. With Stewart unable to compete in 2015, Yoshimura Suzuki will lean on its newest addition, who is the first, second rider the team has had since the 2011 season. Baggett is a relative novice to the 450SX Class, having little supercross experience on the big bike, but he's been training alongside Stewart for the past year and that influence will no doubt become evident as soon as the season is underway.

As a whole, the lineup set to battle for the open Monster Energy Supercross championship is filled with veteran talent, youthful exuberance and a list of riders who know how to win. With no one standing in their way, each competitor will lay it all on the line to stake his claim for the title, which could make for one of the most parity-driven seasons of all time.

Some key insights to watch heading into the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross Championship:

- The winner of the opening 450SX Class race of the year has gone on to win the championship in 17 of 41 seasons.

- For the first time in four seasons, a new 450SX Class champion will be crowned in 2015.

- Just two former titleholders will line up on the 450SX Class gate to start the 2015 season - Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey.

- A total of nine Main Event winners will highlight the 450SX Class field.

- Four former 250SX Class winners will embark on their rookie 450SX Class season in 2015 - Jason Anderson, Blake Baggett, Cole Seely and Dean Wilson.

- A total of 13 of the most prominent competitors in the 450SX Class will compete on a new brand of motorcycle and/or with a new team in 2015.

- With Davi Millsaps missing all of 2014, can he build off of the success he enjoyed in Anaheim back in 2013 when he won the season opener?

- Can Ken Roczen give RCH Racing its first victory and establish it as a championship contender?

- Will Justin Barcia be able to get back on top of the podium with JGRMX and give the team title aspirations?

- Fully healthy, can Trey Canard return to the level that helped him challenge for a title as a rookie in 2011 and end Honda's 11-season championship drought?

- At the age of 32 can Reed, the sport's oldest full-time competitor, rekindle the magic he had last season before a major injury ended his championship hopes?

- Will Dungey's impressive consistency as a 450SX Class competitor, top three championship finishes in each of his five seasons, lead him to a second career title and the first for KTM?

Kawasaki Track Map Anaheim Path TV:

Headlining the 2015 Monster Energy Supercross television package will be the first-ever live FOX network broadcast from MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, April 25 at 3pm E.T. FOX Sports 1 will broadcast 12 races live and FOX Sports 2 will broadcast 3 races live. Each race will include a next-day re-air on FOX Sports 1.

As a precursor to the live television, don't forget to catch all of the pre-race coverage with Supercross Race Day Live, which will stream HERE from 12:50 - 4:30 p.m. local race time each Saturday during the season.  Practice, qualifying, behind the scenes features, and key rider interviews will all be highlighted on the Supercross Race Day Live webcast.

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