It may be an exhibition event, but it never hurts to be the king of anything—and that’s exactly what Shane McElrath is to Red Bull Straight Rhythm.
McElrath, who won the Lites class in last year’s event, took his second straight win in Saturday night’s shootout at Pomona Fairplex after stepping up to a 250cc two-stroke. After qualifying third on a new course built on the venue’s horse racing track, McElrath took down Red Bull KTM teammate Jordon Smith in the semifinals to set up a showdown with Ryan Dungey in the final. Ryan Villopoto defeated Smith in the trophy races for third.
“I just had to be like Jordon, get a little angry and know that a good run wasn’t gonna win. (Dungey and Villopoto) aren’t four time champs for nothing. It’s 40 seconds in a straight line but this really teaches you a lot of technique. I was very nervous coming into this, I only put about 30 minutes worth of riding on this ever. Thursday at practice I didn’t feel very good at all, but this morning at practice every run was getting better and better.”
The big story of the weekend was the potential showdown between Dungey and Villopoto, two four-time Monster Energy Supercross champions making a comeback for this event. After qualifying first and fourth, respectively, they’d post fairly even times in the first two rounds of the event. When they met in the semifinals, Dungey would win the first two races in the best-of-three format to advance. Villopoto crossed into Dungey’s lane in the second race, ending his hopes of an event win.
The finals themselves were three of the fastest races of the night as McElrath and Dungey faced off. McElrath won the first race by just .03 seconds with a wheelie over the line, but Dungey took off in the second to hold a large gap across the line. However, for the second round in a row, McElrath won the rubber match, this time to take the event victory.
The 125 races were similarly compelling, as they included a semifinal matchup between two popular tribute bikes: Luke Renzland’s Jeremy McGrath tribute bike (complete with an authentic McGrath chestplate) and AJ Catanzaro’s James “Bubba” Stewart ride. Catanzaro would win that matchup, prompting him to do the worm in front of an adoring crowd. However, it was Carson Brown who would beat Catanzaro in the finals for the overall victory.
Defending two-stroke champion Gared Steinke planned to compete in both the 250 and 125 classes, but crashed in the first round of 250 action after losing to Ryan Morias. A shaken up Steinke would be replaced in the 125 bracket. Similarly, Ronnie Mac was not even included in the 16-rider bracket; in character, he claimed to host Sal Masekala on the broadcast that it was because he refused to ride practice, but comments on the broadcast suggested an injury-related withdrawal.
The next major event for motocross’ top stars will be down under at the Monster Energy AUS-X Open in Sydney on November 9-10. Villopoto is set to join defending Supercross champion Jason Anderson, Australian-born Supercross legend Chad Reed, Justin Barcia, and numerous others in the race.