10 Things to Watch: Hangtown

10 Things To Watch Hangtown

May 18, 2012 11:15am

By Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo

Champ’s Challenge
Reigning Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 250 Champion Dean Wilson was looking good to defend his national title several weeks ago, until a run-in with Eli Tomac in Seattle, as well as a couple of hard crashes a week later in Salt Lake City, left him with an injured shoulder. For several days his status was questionable, and although Wilson has been declared healthy enough to race, will his shoulder hold up for two brutal motos at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic, one of the roughest races on the entire circuit?

We’ve seen plenty of raw, blazing speed from Ken Roczen in supercross, both this year and last, but we have yet to see him compete in American Motocross. Well, come Hangtown, the wait is finally over, as the MX2 title holder will be making his outdoor debut in America. With the world champ going up against guys like Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia, Dean Wilson, Marvin Musquin, Blake Baggett, Justin Bogle, Kyle Cunningham, Wil Hahn, Blake Wharton, Ivan Tedesco, and more, this year’s group of 250 riders is sure to deliver the bar-banging, block-passing, heart-stopping action we’ve come to expect and love from the class.

James Stewart makes his return to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship at Hangtown.
Simon Cudby photo

If you aren’t excited about the return of James Stewart, you’re either not a fan of motocross, or you’ve got no pulse. The former champ hasn’t raced outdoors (unless you count a one-time race at Unadilla in 2010) since his perfect 24-0 season in 2008, and it’s going to be interesting to see how he stacks up after sitting the series out for three straight years. If you aren’t a Stewart fan, you’re excited about the prospect of him getting smoked. If you love the guy, you’re excited about his potential return to glory and dominance. Either way, his presence is sure to shake things up a bit, on the track and on message boards across the internet.

The Alumni
James Stewart isn’t the only one making his return to racing this year, both Ivan Tedesco and Ryan Hughes will be lining up to do battle this weekend at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic. Hughes has a one-time deal set up to race a 450 with Rock River/Moto Star, while Tedesco, the 2005 250 national champion, is set to race the whole series aboard a Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki. How will these veterans fair in their respective classes?

Making the Jump. Again.
Star/Valli Yamaha rider Ryan Sipes is no stranger to a 450. In fact, he even spent the entire 2010 outdoor season aboard one with the MotoConcepts Team, ending the year eighth in points. Sipes dropped back down to a 250 for 2011, but thanks in part to illness, finished the season in 21st. This weekend at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic, Sipes will once again throw a leg over a big bike, as he will be competing in the 450 class all year long. Will Sipes fall victim to more strange luck, or will he get a taste of some of the success he experienced in 2010?

Ashley Fiolek and Jessica Patterson begin their duel for WMX supremacy at Hangtown.
Simon Cudby photo

Starting Over
After losing her WMX crown to Ashley Fiolek last year, Jessica Patterson is starting 2012 completely fresh. In fact, she’s even switched teams, and will be riding an RMZ250 with the Rockstar Energy Drink Suzuki squad. This is the first time the team has ever supported a WMX racer; will Patterson gel with her new team and draw first blood at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic?

Two-Stroke; Pulp Edition
Racer X colleague Steve Matthes, and notorious two-stroke hater, has turned cheek and decided to throw his hat in the two-stroke ring. All kidding aside, Matthes is a great journalist, turning what started as a side project, PulpMX, into a place besides this site to go for moto news. This weekend PulpMX and privateer Chris Blose will join the two-stroke revolution. Although the two-stroke has been sited at a professional event as recently as this supercross season, with privateers Ricky Renner and Ryan Smith each giving it a run, no one with the resume of Blose has given the two-stroke a go this side of the pond in quite some time. (Ken Roczen raced the KTM two-stroke at a GP round last year). Can Blose overcome the odds and contend on the two-smoke this weekend at Hangtown?

Changes are a Coming
In the every revolving 24-hour news cycle sometimes it’s easy to miss a thing or two. But don’t worry we are here to catch you up. Let’s start with in-season signings; James Stewart left JRG Yamaha to sign with Yoshimura Suzuki. JGR quickly responded by picking up Kyle Regal. Muscle Milk Honda made an official announcement yesterday that Tommy Hahn would replace the injured Trey Canard for the remainder of 2012. And in a bizarre twist of fate Ivan Tedesco will make a return to the 250 class aboard the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, replacing the departed Tyla Rattray who will fill-in for the injured Ryan Villopoto. And last be not least Troy Lee Designs tabbed Billy Laninovich to fill-in for the first five rounds, while Ohlins Langston Motorsports signed rookie Zack Freeberg for the remainder of 2012.

A slew of riders will be making the switch to the 450 outdoors. The Star/Valli Yamaha duo of Nico Izzi and Ryan Sipes will be contesting the 450 class. As will Tyla Rattray who is filling-in for defending champion Ryan Villopoto aboard the Monster Energy Kawasaki team. Also making the jump to the 450 class will be HRT Racing’s Matt Lemoine, Troy Lee Designs Billy Laninovich, MotoConcepts’ Vince Friese and Ohlins Langston Motorsports KTMs Les Smith.

And just in case you missed this one. After Ben Townley suffered a season ending injury TwoTwo Motorsports will NOT have a fill-in rider for the 2012 Nationals.

Rattray will make his 450 debut at Hangtown, filling in for the injured Ryan Villopoto.
Simon Cudby photo

Welcome to the Big Leagues
Long time Troy Lee Designs amateur standout Jessy Nelson, who wasn’t expect to turn pro until after Loretta’s, will now make his pro debut at Hangtown as previously reported by our own David Pingree. The multi-time amateur champion, along with Jeremy Martin, headline a stacked 2012 graduating class. Can Nelson, like Barcia, Tomac, and Bogle in recent years, hit the ground running in the pro ranks and make a splash at the opener?

Rockstar Revival?
All the hype and headlines entering the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic have surrounded GEICO Honda and Pro Circuit Kawasaki in the 250 class. And justifiably so. These two teams have made the 250 class their own personal playground. But keep an eye out on the rising Rockstar Energy Suzuki squad this year. Blake Wharton returns to the Nationals after missing all of last season and should contend for podiums. And let’s not forget about the red-hot Jason Anderson and Martin Davalos, who ended the Supercross season with podium finishes. Will Rockstar Energy Suzuki be able to make the 250 class a three-team dance or will GEICO and Pro Circuit continue their dominance?