For the second straight year, creative scheduling was needed in order to successfully complete the 17-round Monster Energy Supercross season. An innovative approach to the championship calendar saw a collection of week-long residencies in Texas, Indiana, Florida, Georgia, and Utah, which featured several weekday showcases in addition to the cornerstone Saturday spectacles.
The end result of this unique schedule was a heightened sense of urgency to an already tense series that typically has a single off weekend over the course of its 17 rounds. The Tuesday night races provided an exciting change of pace and ultimately played a key role in how the championships unfolded, as any hiccup became much more magnified due to such short turnarounds between events. When all was said and done inside Salt Lake City’s Rice-Eccles Stadium on May 1, Monster Energy celebrated a sweep of the 250SX Class titles with Justin Cooper (250SX West) and Colt Nichols (250SX East) hoisting the number one plates for the first time.
While the championship sweep from Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing was the season’s banner achievement, signifying the first time a team won both the East and West region since 2012, it also put the finishing touch on a breakthrough season for Monster Energy’s entire lineup of talented 250cc riders. From an experience standpoint, the veterans of the group stepped up to the plate and set the standard for the whole division. Teammates Nichols and Christian Craig came out of the gate swinging and grabbed early wins, which quickly established them as the riders to beat in the East Region. They continued to trade blows until Craig’s untimely and heartbreaking injury at the penultimate round. In the West Region, Cooper made the first statement and withstood a myriad of challenges along the way to prove his championship mettle. In some ways it was championship or bust for the newly crowned titleholders, and it wasn’t a surprise to anyone to see them on top at the season's end.
As the sport’s more established names took care of business, a surge of young talent also took turns in the spotlight, including four Monster Energy athletes who appear to have a bright future ahead of them. While few would consider him to be a young gun, the nomadic journey of Cameron McAdoo finally secured some stability as the ambitious rider fully embraced his role as a leader on Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki squad. McAdoo is about as fearless as they come, and he proved that over and over in his quest to beat out Cooper for the West Region crown. A long-overdue first win at Daytona vaulted McAdoo into possession of the red plate and while the remainder of his 2021 season was anything but incident free, no rider showed more heart, bravery, and utter dedication to accomplishing the goal. While third in the championships wasn’t what he’d hoped for, McAdoo personified what it means to never give up this past season, which earned him a ton of respect and a wave of new fans.
Up until the 2021 season, Jo Shimoda’s career had been as quiet and unassuming as the Japanese rider himself. However, under the guidance of Payton at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki Shimoda saw his riding and personality blossom into one of tremendous potential during the East Region campaign, where he got better and better as the season wore on. His growth culminated at the first Salt Lake City round when Shimoda became the first native of Japan to win a Supercross Main Event. Thanks to his regular presence on the podium, he also came out of his shell to display an understated confidence that ultimately allowed him to finish runner-up to Nichols in the final standings.
That quiet confidence was also shared by Shimoda’s rookie teammate at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, Seth Hammaker. When the West Region got underway no one paid any attention to the Pennsylvania rider. After all, he moved into the pro ranks with little fanfare coming off an injury-plagued finish to his amateur career and, at 20 years old, was quite older than most Supercross rookies. Perhaps that worked in Hammaker’s favor as he adapted quickly to the pace of the division and looked comfortable on the bike almost immediately. His triumph at Arlington in just his third start was one of many shocks during the season as it seemingly came out of nowhere, but it vaulted him to fourth in the championship and earned him coveted Rookie of the Year honors.
Over at Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing, while all the focus and attention centered on the trio of Cooper, Nichols, and Craig as the front-runners of the division, rookie Nate Thrasher was able to acclimate at his own pace in the West Region. Things didn’t start smoothly for the Tennessean, with far too many trips to the LCQ, but he managed to defy the odds in Atlanta, twice. After fighting tooth and nail just to earn a top-10 finish, Thrasher did the unthinkable and turned a pair of transfers out of the LCQ into two dominant wins. It was a historic accomplishment and those two performances were undeniably the biggest surprises of the season, which helped Thrasher turn things around and finish seventh in the championship.
Since its inception, the 250SX Class has served as a proving ground for aspiring talent, where its mix of veteran experience and youthful exuberance often leads to the kind of memorable moments that unfolded during the 2021 season. Fortunately for Monster Energy, the lineup of athletes across the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki stables were not only the dominant force of the 2021 season, amassing a total of 13 wins in 17 Main Events in addition to each regional title, they’re poised to continue that reign for years to come with a collection of proven winners and future stars. It’s certainly good to be a part of the green machine.