Jason Anderson begins the defense of his 2018 Monster Energy Supercross 450 title tonight at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, as the series’ 17-event championship kicks the 2019 action motorsport season into high gear. Behind him, fellow stars like Marvin Musquin, Eli Tomac, and Ken Roczen will each start the chase for their first indoor 450 titles, as this new batch of stars moves the sport into a fresh and exciting new era after the dominance of Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey over the past decade.
The gate on the 2019 season finally drops tonight, with TV coverage starting at 10PM ET/7PM PT on the NBC Sports Network and all-day streaming on NBC Sports Gold. As we’re waiting for the world’s top riders to start chasing victory, here are three storylines we’ll be excited to monitor tonight:
Is this the year that Eli Tomac finally puts it all together?
After Dungey retired, 2018 looked like Tomac’s best shot yet to claim his first Supercross 450 title. Then, he crashed out of the lead in the Anaheim opener and missed the next race with a shoulder injury. Now, the two-time defending Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 champion has a clean sheet in front of him, and the opportunity to once again showcase the form that led him to eight wins and 12 podiums last year. But can he avoid the freak incidents that have plagued him throughout his career?
Which of this year’s 450 rookie riders will set themselves apart in Anaheim?
Both of last year’s 250 champions, West winner Aaron Plessinger and East winner Zach Osborne, have stepped up into factory 450 rides (with Yamaha and Husqvarna, respectively). So has Joey Savatgy, who had a strong debut as Tomac’s new Kawasaki partner in the Monster Energy Cup, and Justin Hill, who rode a handful of 450 events for Suzuki last season as well. Each rider is paired with a top veteran talent on their respective teams, which should only help them all progress to the front faster.
Who will step up to take the vacant 250 West title?
With the past two defending champions (Plessinger and Hill) and Savatgy gone, Adam Cianciarulo and Shane McElrath are the top two remaining riders from last year’s 250 West division. Cianciarulo actually came within just two points of Plessinger for last year’s title, but it was McElrath who stood out in both Anaheim races last season, earning first and second place finishes. Will we see a familiar face from last year’s championship battle take the mantle, or could somebody else step up in a big way?