Austin Forkner: When hyperbole simply isn’t enough
There are times when hyperbole is simply not enough.
Austin Forkner was perfect through the first two rounds of the Supercross 250 East schedule, winning every heat and feature he entered, and it was quickly noted that no one had ever gotten off to as strong a start.
The rush to proclaim his perfection was because a Triple Crown at Ford Field in Detroit lurked next on the schedule.
Since the debut of the Triple Crown in 2018 - an event in which three Main Events are averaged to provide an overall winner - no one had managed to sweep all three races. Surely that would put an end to Forkner’s perfection. This format had not been particularly kind to him in 2018.
Forkner gave the field a glimmer of hope in qualification when he allowed Chase Sexton to post a faster time in the second session. Then, he let Jordon Smith lead the first lap of Main 1. It would turn out to be the only lap another rider would lead all evening. Forkner took the lead from Smith on Lap 2 and stretched his advantage to more than 10 seconds at the checkers.
Forkner led the next two Mains flag-to-flag to add another first to his record. One week after being hailed as the first rider to be perfect in the opening two rounds of a 250 Supercross season, he became the first rider ever to sweep a Triple Crown - and in the process, extended his perfection to three rounds.
Forkner’s success fits in the context of the Supercross season as a whole. In the 450 class, Cooper Webb seemingly came from nowhere to lead the division after finishing ninth in the standings last year. Forkner was fourth in the East standings in 2018, but nearly 60 points (the equivalent of about 2.5 races) behind the champion Zach Osborne
What are the odds of Forkner extending his winning streak to four? That depends on exactly what statistic one credits most.
Forkner and the Supercross East riders head to Atlanta this weekend. Last year, this was Round 3 of their season and it was a Triple Crown event. Forkner won his second consecutive race ahead of Zach Osborne. While he took the overall victory, Forkner failed to win any of the mains with a best of second in Main 2. By comparison, Osborne won Main 1 and tied in points, but Forkner won the tiebreaker because he had the best finish - a third to Osborne’s fifth - in the final main.
Atlanta is the first of two Showdown events pitting the best East rider against the best of the West. Last year, Forkner finished sixth in a Showdown race at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. He missed the second Showdown at Las Vegas after sustaining an injury at Minneapolis in another Triple Crown event, so it is unclear how he will fare against that group of riders.
There’s a great thing about records, however; no matter how Round 4 plays out, no one can take away Forkner’s achievement. He remains the most perfect rider this deep into a season even if he struggles in Atlanta. At least until a more perfect rider comes along in the future.