Ig*ni"tion\, n. [Cf. F. ignition.]
1. The act of igniting, kindling, or setting on fire.
2. The state of being ignited or kindled
Well, folks, get ready to look at outdoor motocross from a different angle and under a different light. The Coombs family has taken over the reigns and they have some of the strongest partners in all of motorsports behind them. What's more, the level of competition is blowing out the top of the thermometer. More on all of that business in a minute...
Right now, it's time to get fired up. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2009 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is here. The series is pulling an army of gladiators that have a like mindset: vanquish and conquer. It's time for fourth- and fifth-gear speed, and tests of fortitude and courage that no other motorsport can touch. Make no mistake, motocross is one of the most dangerous trades in the world. There are no “safer barriers” or roll cages. There's no offensive line protecting you, and there are no timeouts. There is a drop of the gate, a white flag and checkered flag. What you do in the 30-minute-plus-two-laps in between those moments separates the men from the champions. There are no "boys" out there grabbing gears and dragging bars. A rider can dance across a supercross track, but if he wants to win in outdoor motocross, he has to scratch, claw, and fight - and never, ever, give up. There can be no mercy.
It's summer time, my friends. We have 12 Saturday afternoons with four motos of pure rock and roll coming our way. Up first is the gnarliest track in the country, perhaps the world: Glen Helen. Time for ignition, son. Let's cut some holes in that jersey, drill out the chest protector, and throw on the vented front numberplate for the first Rev Up of the Great Outdoors!
How nice is it to simply call it the 250 class? Not as nice as it is to look down the rider entry list with these animals. I'm going to call this the most stacked and evenly matched line up of tiddler riders ever. I'm predicting we'll see at least 10 different names on the podium this season. Of course, as is the nature of motocross, an alpha male will rise up and win the lion's share, but which one will it be? The odds-on favorite for the title is Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey. If Ryan can keep it on two wheels and be consistent, it's his title to lose. His 2009 West Coast SX crown showed he's matured.
Then again, the mighty Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team is loaded for bear. Tyla Rattray, Jake Weimer, Ryan Morais, Christophe Pourcel, and Austin Stroupe will be riding the fastest and best handling bikes on the track, not that they needed anything extra. I think Stroupe will have the fastest lap times at most of the tracks all season, but he has to get on the podium 10 times if he wants to challenge for the title. Song remains the same for Weimer. Jake is super fast, fit, and hungry for wins. What about Rattray? A lot of hype behind this dude. He'll be fast at Glen Helen and the "GP style" tracks, but he may struggle at places like High Point that don't flow. Bottom line, it's awesome to have him here racing with the best.
Pourcel? Wow, who knows? Too much talent to count out of wins and even the title.
Then comes team GEICO Powersports Honda team and a whole lot of youth and raw speed. Look for Trey Canard to carry his late-season supercross momentum to the nationals. I see a couple wins and a shot at the title for Ice Trey. Blake Wharton should podium half the time, and may steal a moto. It's time for "Bretcalfe" to win as well. If he can pull it together, he can land himself a 450 ride for 2010.
Another team poised to perform is the Muscle Milk KTM squad. Wil Hahn said his outdoor bikes are ridiculously fast. If they can make those pumpkins handle I think he and Tommy Searle have some holeshots and top fives up their sleeves. Perhaps a little more from Searle...
What about Max Anstie, Daryn Durham, Matt Lemoine, Kyle Cunningham, and Jake Moss? What about Chris Blose, AMA #77 Steven Clarke, and... See a pattern here?
Want a dark horse? Three words, Barcia, Barcia, Barcia. He really is that fast.
We've wondered what the world look like without Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart for a long time. Who knows how many times #7, er, I mean #1 will race, but he's out of the chase for the title. This leaves us with a beautiful mess of rivalries and parody. Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto and Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Mike Alessi have a rivalry that I believe to be the most steadfast in all of motocross history. And if you go back to their 85cc days, Mike still has the most wins, by far. But he hasn't beaten Ryan since 2005.
Make no mistake, this is the series Mike Alessi has trained his whole life for. He's been out of the pre-season spotlight the last few weeks. Where has he been? Chopping wood, doctor. Chopping wood. If he wins Glen Helen, look out.
There is a chance that Villopoto can seriously maul Alessi, and everyone else. He's gnarly.
That said, Alessi's biggest threat could come by way of a teammate.
So Chad Reed is riding the nationals, huh? Good. Can he beat those kids? If he does it will be because he will place on the podium 12 times. Reedy should win Budds Creek, Millville, and maybe a couple more. Chad is one of the most prolific "championship" riders ever. Fast, smart, and tougher than brass on a stripper pole. How are he and #800 getting along? It could be hell on Roger's ulcer this summer.
When will Honda Red Bull Racing win again? Andrew Short was close to the title two years ago and this may be his best chance to wear the title belt before the next generation swallows him up. I think he'll be very surprising and will win at least once. Lest you forget, he owes #800 one from Vegas too...
An interesting cog in the Alessi/RV rivalry is Davi Millsaps. No love lost between those guys, and if one thing will motivate a rider, it's seeing a childhood nemesis win.
It appears Jason Lawrence will race. Is it a matter of time before he gets suspended, or wins a race? We'll see. Everyone (almost) hopes for the latter.
The Toyota/JGR/Yamaha group commands respect as well. J-Grant has some holeshots coming, and if he can refrain from crashing, he'll podium a lot. Cody Cooper was the surprise of 2008 and almost won Unadilla.
What does Timmy Ferry have left in the chamber? Only a fool would count him out. What will guys like Michael Byrne, Brandon Jessemen, and Jimmy Albertson bring to the table?
This is an important time for outdoor motocross. Be that as it may, this is an amazing opportunity to shine. How much do you know about the Lucas Oil family? I can tell you that everything they touch in the motorsports world turns to gold. They wouldn't be here if they didn't see the potential. I'm sure the track record of the Coombs family in promoting motocross races aided their decision to jump on board. Don't forget, Loretta Lynn's is the biggest motocross race in the WORLD. The GNCC series is long-standing and strong. What they touch in the off-road world turns to gold. The culmination of the Lucas Oil, the Coombs and Ayers families, fueled by the most awesome contingent of racers ever assembled will equate for a summer to remember. It can't be any other way.
Everyone in motocross can feel this intense buzz of anticipation and anxiousness right now. Let's get set for ignition and get ready for the firestorm to come.
Thanks for reading, see you next week.