Excitement, suspense, and the thrill of uncertainty. There were plenty of reasons to believe the 2016 season of Monster Energy AMA Supercross would deliver all three in bulk. Eli Tomac, who’d finished second overall the previous year with GEICO Honda, was set to make a much-anticipated debut with Monster Energy Kawasaki. The reliably fast Chad Reed had reunited with Yamaha and its recently resurrected in-house factory race team. And two-time AMA Supercross Champion James Stewart was making his return to racing after missing 2015 due to a WADA suspension for testing positive for a banned substance (thought to be Adderall, for which Stewart was later granted a therapeutic use exemption). On top of that, usual suspects Ken Roczen, Jason Anderson, Cole Seely, Trey Canard, Justin Barcia, and more were looking to come back stronger than ever on the same teams as the year before.
Of course, there was that little vexing detail of Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey to contend with, and it wasn’t long before everyone realized the road to the championship would be heavily guarded by the reigning champ.
After Anderson won the season opener, Dungey took over the points lead at the second round by winning in San Diego and didn’t look back, winning nine races—it would have been ten if Dungey hadn’t been docked two spots for jumping on a red cross flag in Detroit—scoring 391 points (92 percent of the available total), and winning the title by 60 points over Roczen. It was an incredibly strong performance, which many called the best of the Red Bull KTM rider’s career.
Others didn’t fare nearly as well, as Tomac struggled to jell with his new Kawasaki, winning only at Daytona. Roczen had some strong performances, winning five races, but he struggled with setup. The team made a chassis change late in the season that saw Roczen’s results improve, but it was far too late to make a difference in the championship. And Stewart? He crashed out of the opener and endured a disastrous season of DNFs and missed races, ending the year in a dismal 32nd place.
In 250SX West Region, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb came out of the gate hard, dominating the first three rounds before a mechanical problem in Oakland resulted in a 21st-place finish, which handed the points lead over to Joey Savatgy. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider would go on to win another race in San Diego, but a collision with Christian Craig a week later would all but ruin Savatgy’s shot at a 250SX title. Savatgy won the Dave Coombs East-West Shootout in Las Vegas, but the title still went to Webb, who gutted out the finale with a broken wrist suffered in practice several weeks prior. Over in the East Region, GEICO Honda’s Malcolm Stewart would finally take his first career title, but it didn’t come without serious competition from Aaron Plessinger, Jeremy Martin, and Ecuador’s Martin Davalos. Rockstar Husqvarna’s Davalos won the first race of the year only to watch his points lead evaporate after missing the Toronto round, reportedly due to visa complications. Stewart, who started winning at the fourth round (Detroit), took the reins and ended up with a solid points lead, although it nearly slipped away in St. Louis after the GEICO Honda rider crashed three times in the main event. Stewart rebounded nicely, taking another win in East Rutherford and winning the championship by 16 points over Plessinger.
When Lucas Oil Pro Motocross kicked off in May with the Hangtown Motocross Classic, Roczen, who’d solved his setup issues, exploded out of the gate, rocking the competition by recording obscene margins of victory in both motos at the opener. Unfortunately for the competition, it wasn’t a fluke. A mechanical problem that caused Roczen’s air forks to lose pressure relegated him to fourth in a moto at Glen Helen, but it was the only problem he’d encounter all season. Other than the suspension hiccup, his worst moto finish was second, and he won an astounding 20 of 24 motos, taking the title by 86 points over Tomac. It’s tough to say whether defending champ Dungey would have been able to stop Roczen’s rampage; that’s a bench-racing argument for the ages. Dungey crashed at the third round in Colorado, fracturing a vertebra in the process, and didn’t see another gate drop all season. No one might have guessed at the time that they’d just seen the future AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer’s last Pro Motocross event.
In the 250 ranks, it was a brawl for the title between defending champ Jeremy Martin, Webb, Savatgy, and Alex Martin. Savatgy came into the season looking like the man to beat after a perfect 1-1 showing at the opener, while rival Webb struggled slightly at first due to the wrist injury he was still dealing with. Star Racing’s Jeremy Martin wasn’t at his best either—the Yamaha rider said he felt drained all year and never consistently regained the championship form that earned him back-to-back titles in 2014 and ’15. He also dealt with an engine meltdown at High Point, as did his brother and teammate, Alex—shockingly, on the same day. Webb, on the other hand, got his groove back and started clicking off wins, while Savatgy seemed to fall off the pace after his early-season surge. The result was a second-half romp for Webb, who sealed the championship deal over yet another Star Racing rider, Alex Martin, by 73 points. It couldn’t have gone much better for Webb. After coming into the season still feeling the effects of a broken wrist, he ended up winning the Lucas Oil 250 Pro Motocross Championship in convincing fashion in what would be his final season in the class.