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    After taking Supercross standings lead, Aaron Plessinger intends to hold onto it
    • January 26, 2024

    Red. It’s a color that represents many different things. Passion. Anger. Stress.

    For Aaron Plessinger, however, it serves as a badge of his hard work and dedication.

    When he pulls into the starting gate on Saturday at Angel Stadium, a big red number plate will be on the front of his KTM.

    He earned it by moving into first place of the 450cc Supercross rider standings last weekend in San Diego. Plessinger holds a one-point lead over his teammate Chase Sexton.

    This marks the first time in his career that Plessinger has been No. 1 in the premier class in dirt bike racing.

    “It (the red plate) means everyone is chasing me now, and it feels good,” he said. “It means confidence. It means I got to go out and keep the color red on my bike.”

    Battling for a championship is nothing new for him. He won the 250cc West title in 2018. But since he moved up to the big bikes the following season, it has been a struggle. Broken bones and disappointment have been easier to come by than victories.

    He broke his wrist training in the summer of 2020 and missed the majority of the 2022 Supercross season with a broken arm.

    But it was the broken wrist, he said, that seemed to put the brakes on any momentum that he built on his 250, saying it was “a really, really hard … hard thing” to overcome.

    “I just had to keep working. I just put my head down and keep myself on the straight and narrow,” he said, “I just had to really listen to the people around me, saying you will be there again. Self belief and hard work. Look what it has done for me now.”

    Last Saturday at Snap Dragon Stadium marked the 68th start of Plessinger’s 450cc career. When he flew over Ken Roczen as he tumbled to the mud, Plessinger took over the lead and paced the final 15 laps to win the first main event of his career.

    Plessinger has been among the most consistently fast riders this season in some of the most trying conditions a rider can face. The last two events in San Francisco and San Deigo have been waterlogged, turning the tracks into treacherously slick mud bogs.

    Yet Plessinger was the fastest qualifier in San Francisco, and he won his heat race in San Diego to earn a starting spot in his historic main event.

    His worst finish in the first three races is fifth.

    San Diego, though, could have and probably really should have been victory number two.

    Last season, Plessinger dominated in Detroit, leading 20 of the 22 laps until his bike wobbled and he face planted on jump, leaving him with a broken helmet and spirit.  But in the end, that crash might have been fortunate in a way.

    That devastating loss, he said, just might have set him up for the breakthrough triumph in San Diego.

    “That race put into perspective how good I am on a dirt bike, and I can beat anyone with what I got going on,” he said. “That race really showed me that I was one of the heavy hitters. Everyone thinks that race was detrimental, but no one could touch me.”

    Plessinger said the ghosts from his past went through his mind when he was leading in San Diego, but he said they “went in and out” quickly. Dwelling on the past, he knew, would likely result in another disaster, so the rest of the race, he said, “I just clicked off laps and didn’t let anything else distract me.”

    He will need to be focused once again this weekend.

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    Saturday’s race in Anaheim poses a unique challenge for Plessinger. This is one of the three triple crown events on the 17-race schedule. Rather than competing in a 20-minute main event, riders will race in three 12-minute races, accumulating points based on their finishing position to determine an overall champion.

    While he is not a huge fan of this format, he feels quite confident, heading into Saturday’s race.

    “I think I’m in people’s heads now that I have the red plate, and I am looking forward to keeping it,” he said. “I feel confident … confident in my starts … confident in my body. Overall feeling good about it. I am going to do everything I can to hold on to this red plate for as long as I can and put myself in a good position to win this championship. I am ready to go.”


    Rookie Jett Lawrence wins 450 Supercross debut race

    Chase Sexton expects competition as Supercross opens a new season at Angel Stadium

    ​ Orange County Register