Heading into the 2019 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, Factory Kawasaki looked no further than their powerhouse sister team in the lites division – Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit squad – and attained the highly talented Joey Savatgy’s signature as their newest recruit on the decorated 450 team.
Savatgy had proved to be one of the best 250cc riders of the last three years, having made his debut for the now defunct JDR Motorsports KTM team at the beginning of 2013. During the years that followed, Savatgy held red plates in both indoor and outdoor disciplines, notching multiple race wins and overalls throughout the seasons. However, when entering the premier 450cc ranks, Savatgy was met with some difficulties.
The echelon of rookies who were to make the step up to the premier class for season 2019 proved extremely talented, with dual 250cc champions Zach Osborne and Aaron Plessinger both gaining number one plates indoors and out in the lites division. Throw in the freaky fast Justin Hill with his West region lites title in 2017, and all of a sudden there were some hired guns entering the ranks.
The thing that those three rookies held in common was that they were able to secure a title in the lites division; Savatgy was not. In fact, Savatgy could go down in history as the rider who came closest to being a two time East Coast supercross lites champion, however it just wasn’t to be. Cooper Webb captured the crown by one point over Savatgy in ’16, and Osborne snatched the title from him in the second last corner in ’17.
Caption: Red plates on Savatgy’s Kawasaki weren’t uncommon, however a championship eluded his grasp.
The point of this is that when Savatgy inked his deal for ’19, many people scorned and scrutinized the #17 and labeled him as undeserving of the ride, whereas the three other rookies received no such scrutiny. And perhaps they had a point. Monster Energy Kawasaki had a difficult decision to make entering this season, deciding whether they keep the services of the trusty veteran Josh Grant, who delivered the desired results for them over the last couple seasons, or enlist the services of the freshman Joey Savatgy and take a gamble. In the end, it was Savatgy they went with, and boy did their investment pay dividends.
In retrospect, season ’19 saw Savatgy consistently outperform his fellow rookies, with Hill underwhelming and struggling to make the top ten, Osborne injuring his collarbone and subsequently sitting out half the season, and Plessinger breaking his heel in Daytona and sitting out the last seven rounds. With these inconsistencies, who was there week in, week out – capturing heat race wins, posting up top five finishes and eventually claiming a very respectable eighth place in the season standings? Joey Savatgy. Points wise, when compared to his fellow rookies, he finished 46 points ahead of the 11th place Hill.
Caption: Joey Savatgy leads Dylan Long (35) en route to the 2009 125cc Australian title. Image: Fullnoise.com.au
Now, the Floridian heads down under for what’ll be his fourth time, as Savatgy competed in Australia’s junior nationals and won titles in 2009 and 2010; edging out Australian professionals Dylan Long, Jay Wilson and Jackson Richardson to name a few. During that period, Savatgy was deep within the MTF stable of fast amateurs trained under Colleen Millsaps alongside fellow amateurs Kyle Peters, Dakota Alix and Anthony Rodriguez.
The American also made an appearance at the first round of the Australian Supercross Championship in 2011, where he finished runner up to Errol Willis in a rain soaked Melbourne round.
Caption: Savatgy returned to Aus in ’10 to claim two more junior championships.
Savatgy will enter his sophomore year in the 450cc Class next year, and despite a great run with Kawasaki in 2019, no contract has been signed as of yet to continue on at Team Green. The rumor mill is swirling that Adam Cianciarulo is a done deal for the second spot, with frontman Eli Tomac having recently extended his contract on a multi year level. Two potential places for Savatgy could be at Team Honda HRC, which would see him slot into Cole Seely’s spot should management decide on Savatgy over Seely. Or perhaps the seat Justin Hill is expected to vacate at the Joe Gibbs Racing Factory Suzuki Team, which would tie in nicely as Savatgy’s home base is at the GOAT farm in Florida, and North Carolina would be a shorter distance to cover to test with the team than California.
One thing is for certain; a good performance against the World Class talent at the 2019 Monster Energy AUS-X Open in Melbourne would bolster his stock and provide him with even more leverage when it comes to negotiation time.