James Stewart captures first Monster Energy Supercross win of the season. (Photo: Monster Energy Supercross / Hoppenworld)

captures first win of the season. (Photo: Supercross / Hoppenworld)

The Military Appreciation Race set the tone for an incredible night of action in San Diego last Saturday as the entire industry honored the millions of service men and women who are willing to risk their lives in defense of our country. It was one of the most heartwarming nights in Monster Energy Supercross history and the racing provided a fitting display of the world’s best riders. It was a great way for these men to show their gratitude to the military.

Each week, The Holeshot will provide 22 takeaways – a full starting gate – from the most recent round of action.

1. It was a great visual overload in the pits and on the track in San Diego as many bikes and riders were adorned in camouflage and other military-themed designs and colors for the event.

2. Monster Energy Kawasaki, GEICO Honda, Joe Gibbs Racing, and RCH Racing all showcased camo print on its motorcycles in green, white, blue, and yellow. They definitely stood out amongst the pack.

3. Essentially all of the big name riders were also decked out in military colors – James Stewart, , , , , , , and more looked sharp and it only added to the excitement of the race theme. Stewart’s digital camo Seven gear was arguably the standout set, all the way down to the boots, and it was fitting he came away with the win.

4. The track was just as challenging as the others this season, but on a cool night next to the ocean it became increasingly difficult as the night wore on. There were a lot of spills, near spills, and close calls all night long.

5. Stewart was on his game and has been pretty much all season, but he was able to get the start he needed and never looked back. Villopoto was right there the whole way, but Stewart was never fazed. It was the kind of performance that has made Stewart the sport’s most dynamic athlete ever.

6. Villopoto continues to be patient and it’s paying off huge. He’s established a knack for winning often over the last three seasons, but he’s really leaned on the consistency this season and it has him in relatively comfortable control of the standings.

7. Villopoto’s consistency is attributed to how much tighter the competition has become this season. With the staple guys like Dungey and Stewart continuing to be Villopoto’s most familiar threats, Chad Reed’s return to prominence, the surprising consistency and confidence of Ken Roczen, and the surge of Justin Brayton have added incredible depth, making winning that much more difficult this year.

8. Many say that by the time the series hits San Diego, most riders are yearning for the chance to head east where conditions are regulated in the many domes that lie east of the Rockies. With less variables from Mother Nature, you can only imagine the potential there is for competition to get even more intense.

9. Nothing but a gutted feeling seeing Reed clearly in pain on the ground after the race ended. It’s been so great to see him back up front and winning, but now his future is in serious doubt as he continues work through the early stages of his injuries – broken scapula, broken collarbone, and fractured T1 vertebrae. While he’s hopeful to be on the gate Saturday, it’s hard to imagine how he’ll be able to do that. But if anyone could, it’s definitely Reed.

10. The incident between Roczen and Reed was just hard racing. Both riders moved almost simultaneously into one another going for their own lines in a battle for the podium. Reed bucked slightly which caused him to move, while Roczen also jerked slightly while navigating a lapper. The end result was extremely unfortunate not just for Reed, but this championship, which definitely is aided by his presence.

11. Roczen showed how much of a classy rider he is by checking on Reed once the checkers fell. He had a hunch he had a role in what happened and did all he could by likely apologizing to Reed for it. Roczen’s tremendous respect for his more experienced counterparts has made him an instant favorite amongst fans and riders. You can tell he feels honored to have the chance to battle alongside the all time greats and wants to earn his place up front.

12. Ever since his spill in Anaheim 2 that very well could have cost him a victory, Ryan Dungey appears to still be searching for that consistency that has defined his career. He’s been around, but he hasn’t been in the mix. It looked like that might change early in San Diego, but he made a mistake that almost launched him off the track. His fourth-place finish was more impressive than it seemed, so clearly the fire is there for Dungey. Things just haven’t come together completely yet.

13. Dungey’s sixth-place standing is the lowest he’s ever been. That’s how consistent he’s been throughout his 450 career.

14. I thought we might see Justin Barcia mix it up with the lead group on Saturday. He was great in his heat race and he was making a push forward until he went down. After quickly getting back on the bike, Barcia’s energy just looked like it had been zapped. Still, a sixth-place result isn’t bad for Barcia to build from.

15. Eli Tomac finally got a main event under his belt this season and it ended with a respectable seventh-place finish. Given how far behind Eli is just in track time with these guys that’s a great ride. He can officially move on from the hard luck he had to start the season and look to build some momentum. He could be another name to add to the mix pretty soon.

16. I’ve had a gut feeling all year that Justin Hill was going to come close to winning one of these if not actually doing so and of course he goes out and takes care of business on Saturday night. He just looks really comfortable on the bike and is riding with an “I can do anything” mentality that has paid off huge. It will be interesting to see what getting a win out of the way does for him.

17. I don’t think any rider this season has had to deal with more emotions than Dean Wilson. He’s literally had to go through just about everything this year and it’s a huge bummer to think he’s very likely out of this championship after that crash. Wilson has never seemed to have much luck in supercross but is clearly one of the most talented riders in the sport. His best redemption would be to win out and just see what happens.

18. Wilson’s misfortune works heavily in the favor of Jason Anderson. I think many sensed Dean would eventually challenge Anderson for the title with how well he was riding, but now Anderson’s got to be feeling more comfortable because he likely believes he should be able to beat Seely and Hill each week. As long as he can keep his nose clean and avoid a catastrophe like he did Saturday in his heat race after crashing in the first 50 feet, he should be in good shape.

19. Malcolm Stewart’s first podium result at Anaheim 2 was a little bittersweet since it came after the race was completed and he ended up missing out on the podium festivities. In San Diego he made up for it by landing on the podium again and having the chance to celebrate alongside his friend Hill.

20. Collectively, San Diego was the best outing for the entire Troy Lee Designs Honda squad as all four riders finished inside the top six. That’s incredible. The legendary Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad had returned to prominence in recent weeks, but TLD made a big statement with that effort last Saturday.

21. Now that the 250SX West Region is on hiatus for about a month, my biggest question for the East Region is how it will compare to the competition we’ve seen thus far. There are some intriguing players for the East Region that could make it one of the most wide open title fights we’ve seen in a long time.

22. Although Military Appreciation night is over, fans can still give back and be a part of it all by bidding on some of the race worn gear from the top riders last Saturday. All proceeds go to Operation Homefront and its efforts and fans have until February 20th to bid. Just log on to the SupercrossMilitaryAppreciation Ebay store.