Bench Racing Ammo: Up-and-Comers

June 20, 2006 10:55am

Veterans like Ryan Hughes and Mike Brown used to be atop the 125 (er, 250F) class
When you really sit back and take a good look at this year’s 2006 Toyota AMA Motocross Series, nothing really stands out, does it? I mean, Makita Suzuki’s Ricky Carmichael leading the series in the 450F class by 20 points over Yamaha’s Chad Reed isn’t really a surprise, nor is last year’s 250F class runner-up, Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi, leading the 250F class.

But if you take a closer look at the 250F class, there is something that jumps out: This class is finally back to serving its purpose as a class for the young, up-and-coming racers. At High Point, I overheard someone saying, “Isn’t it cool that the up-and-coming class actually has up-and-comers?”

A few years ago, this class was basically a battle of veterans. Aside from the domination of James Stewart, I’m sure many of you remember the Ryan Hughes and Mike Brown era—two 30-something motocross veterans who were ruling the then-125cc class. And then you have Grant Langston, a former World Champion who took a championship in 2003. And although he and Brown are still in the 250F class, they’re not factors so far in 2006.

Young up-and-comers Ryan Villopoto and Josh Grant jockey for position at Budds Creek. Happy Birthday, Josh!
The podium from Budds Creek this past weekend contained Ryan Villopoto, Broc Hepler, and Josh Grant. “Villopodium” is 17, Hepler is 19, and Grant turns 20 today! So all three riders on the podium were teenagers. And the title battle for at moment has shaped up between the rookie Villopoto and the sophomore Alessi, with Andrew Short, Grant, and Brett Metcalfe—who are all looking for their first major pro titles—behind them.

 The 2005 Budds Creek National podium featured Mike Brown, Ivan Tedesco, and Grant. In 2004 it was Stewart, Hepler, and Brown, and in 2003 it was Stewart, Langston, and Tedesco. So there’s usually at least one championship-proven veteran on the podium, if not more.

19-year-old Broc Hepler returned at Budds Creek with a strong second-place showing
While we’re seeing the 450F class dominated by veterans, the 250F class this year has been a proving ground for the younger racers—the way it was intended to be.