Red Bull KTM rider Ken Roczen won Saturday night’s season opener in front of a sold-out crowd at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Roczen managed to lead 12 of the 20 laps and keep several championship-winning riders at bay to capture his first career 450SX Main Event win.
“This is insane,” Roczen said. “I got off to a good start and was holding on really tight. When there were four laps to go, I realized that I could win.”
The 19-year-old rookie assumed the lead when Ryan Villopoto crashed on entry to the sand section on Lap 9. The three-time defending Champion slid back to fifth as Roczen, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey and James Stewart slipped past him.
Villopoto’s crash seemed to ignite a fire under James Stewart, who pinned the throttle and powered through the field. The two-time series Champion made quick work of Reed and Dungey before catching Roczen with five to go.
Stewart was clearly faster than Roczen and was setting up a pass for the lead on Lap 16, but would lose control of his Suzuki and crash through the whoop section. Stewart managed to walk away under his own power, but was forced to retire from the race. He finished 17th.
The crash handed Roczen’s teammate Ryan Dungey second position where he would finish, giving the Red Bull KTM squad their first ever 450 one-two sweep. Chad Reed, who made the switch from Honda to Kawasaki, finished third. Villopoto and Justin Barcia rounded out the top five.
“I felt good,” said Dungey. “It definitely is cool the first Anaheim 1 me and Kenny going one-two and his first 450 victory. That’s a sweet feeling, I’ve been there.
“The offseason is a long one, we’ve waited for this race to come. It’s exciting to get this one done and move forward.”
Round 2 of the 450SX Championship kicks off Jan. 11 from Chase Field in Phoenix, Ariz. You can watch the action unfold live on FOX Sports 1 at 9:30 p.m. ET.