Bench Racing Ammo:  The Oddities of Round One

Bench Racing Ammo: The Oddities of Round One

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Following the first round of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross opener at the FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic in Rancho Cordova, California, the famous golf cliché, “It’s not how you drive but the way you arrive” immediately came to mind. Put in layman’s terms, "it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish." And as history shows us, the cliché couldn’t ring truer in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.

For this week's Bench Racing Ammo we take a look back at the past three years (both 450 and 250s) in an attempt to pinpoint how much of an affect the season opener can have on a rider, both good and bad. First, a few charts.

[The number in parentheses beside the riders under Top-10 Final Pts. is the riders overall finishing position at the first round of the series.]

 

450 Class 2011

Rider Opening Rd Finish Final Points Top-10 Final Pts.
Chad Reed 1 3 Ryan Villopoto (3)
Ryan Dungey 2 2 Ryan Dungey (2)
Ryan Villopoto 3 1 Chad Reed (1)
Kevin Windham 4 9 Brett Metcalfe (5)
Brett Metcalfe 5 4 Mike Alessi (DNS)
Davi Millsaps 6 10 Jake Weimer (12)
Tommy Hahn 7 13 Justin Brayton (DNS)
Christophe Pourcel 8 34 Andrew Short (17)
Ricky Dietrich 9 14 Kevin Windham (4)
Christian Craig 10 15 Davi Millsaps (6)

The 450 class in 2011 provided a variety of examples of how much bearing the season opener does and does not influence the riders overall season. Both Mike Alessi and Justin Brayton missed the season opener with injuries (Brayton missed the first four races in 2011, Alessi missed the first two) but managed to claw their way back inside the top-ten in points before the season was over. While Andrew Short and Jake Weimer both overcame rough openers to end the season inside the top-ten. On the other end of the spectrum eventual champion Ryan Villopoto struggled with an illness and was well off the pace of race winner Chad Reed and runner-up Ryan Dungey. But RV came back strong and won the title.

450 Class 2010

Rider Opening Rd Finish Final Points Top-10 Final Pts.
Chad Reed 1 11 Ryan Dungey (8)
Mike Alessi 2 5 Brett Metcalfe (4)
Davi Millsaps 3 19 Andrew Short (10)
Brett Metcalfe 4 2 Ben Townley (6)
Josh Grant 5 7 Mike Alessi (2)
Ben Townley 6 4 Kyle Chisholm (16)
Ryan Sipes 7 8 Josh Grant (5)
Ryan Dungey 8 1 Ryan Sipes (7)
Ken de Dycker 9 33 Kyle Regal (14)
Andrew Short 10 3 Nick Wey (19)

The 2010 season provided even further proof that you don't have to set the world on fire in the opener to log a strong seson. Three riders (Kyle Chisholm, Kyle Regal and Nick Wey) all struggled to make the top-20 at the opener yet finished in the top ten in the final standings. And eventual champion Ryan Dungey? Well he finished a dissapointing 8th at the opener, but won the title, while Hangtown race winner Chad Reed eventually had to pull out of the championship due to an illness. Least we forget who also took home a moto win at Hangtown that day, Mike Alessi aboard the KTM 350. The KTM 350 that has yet to win another moto in America since that day. Alessi would finish the 2010 season fifth in points.

 

450 Class 2009

Rider Opening Rd Finish Final Points Top-10 Final Pts.
Ryan Villopoto 1 24 Chad Reed (4)
Mike Alessi 2 13 Andrew Short (10)
Josh Grant 3 6 Ivan Tedesco (35)
Chad Reed 4 1 Michael Byrne (12)
Davi Millsaps 5 11 Tommy Hahn (6)
Tommy Hahn 6 5 Josh Grant (3)
Michael Brown 7
Justin Brayton (13)
Cody Cooper 8 9 Nick Wey (14)
Weston Peick 9 22 Cody Cooper (8)
Andrew Short 10 2 Jimmy Albertson (20)

The 2009 season may provide the most evidence in to how much validity the opener holds. Five riders that failed to make the top-ten at the opener found themselves inside the top-ten at season end. Putting the icing on the cake was Ivan Tedesco. Hot Sauce finished the season opener a disappointing 35th but managed to work his way all the way back to third in points before the season was over. Continuing with the "win the season opener, lose the championship" trend, eventual champion Chad Reed finished fourth while the opening round winner, Ryan Villopoto, pulled out of the championship with a knee injury.

250 Class 2011

Rider Opening Rd Finish Final Points Top-10 Final Pts.
Blake Baggett 1 3 Dean Wilson (2)
Dean Wilson 2 1 Tyla Rattray (3)
Tyla Rattray 3 2 Blake Baggett (1)
Eli Tomac 4 4 Eli Tomac (4)
Marvin Musquin 5 13 Kyle Cunningham (7)
Gareth Swanepoel 6 6 Gareth Swanepoel (6)
Kyle Cunningham 7 5 Broc Tickle (9)
Darryn Durham 8 10 Alex Martin (17)
Broc Tickle 9 7 Martin Davalos (11)
Cole Seely 10 14 Darryn Durham (8)

While the opener in the 450 class doesn't hold much bearing, the opener in the 250 does seem to project the top-ten at a higher rate. Only two riders (Alex Martin and Martin Davalos) that finished outside the top-ten at the season opener in 2011 managed to climb back inside the top-ten at seasons end. But the constant remained the same in 2011: Opening round winners failing to capture the title. In 2011 Blake Baggett won the Hangtown overall, while champion Dean Wilson finished second.

250 Class 2010

Rider Opening Rd Finish Final Points Top-10 Final Pts.
Eli Tomac 1 6 Trey Canard (3)
Christophe Pourcel 2 3 Tyla Rattray (10)
Trey Canard 3 1 Christophe Pourcel (2)
Jake Weimer 4 11 Dean Wilson (6)
Justin Barcia 5 5 Justin Barcia (5)
Dean Wilson 6 4 Eli Tomac (1)
Broc Tickle 7 7 Broc Tickle (7)
Wil Hahn 8 10 Blake Wharton (16)
Tommy Searle 9 14 Martin Davalos (12)
Tyla Rattray 10 2 Wil Hahn (8)

Once again 2010 proved it's essential (in the 250 class) to have a good opening round if you want to contend for a top-ten at seasons end, as only two riders (Blake Wharton and Martin Davalos) fought back to finish inside the top-ten. Meanwhile, race winner Eli Tomac failed to win the title. Noticing a trend? Eventual champion Trey Canard took home third overall at the opener, but it wasn't a ride that indicated Canard would go on the win the title. In the first moto of the year, he pulled the holeshot and faded back to seventh. Surely that one wasn't an indicator of the season to come for Canard, but we're noticing that it rarely does.

250 Class 2009

Rider Opening Rd Finish Final Points Top-10 Final Pts.
Ryan Dungey 1 1 Ryan Dungey (1)
Christophe Pourcel 2 2 Christophe Pourcel (2)
Tyla Rattray 3 9 Brett Metcalfe (7)
Tommy Searle 4 6 Jake Weimer (8)
Trey Canard 5 13 Justin Barcia (6)
Justin Barcia 6 5 Tommy Searle (4)
Brett Metcalfe 7 3 Broc Tickle (12)
Jake Weimer 8 4 Blake Wharton (10)
Austin Stroupe 9 17 Tyla Rattray (3)
Blake Wharton 10 8 Matt Lemoine (20)

The 2009 season marked the only time in the past three seasons (from either the 250 and 450 classes) that the opening round winner also tasted championship glory at seasons end. Ryan Dungy won round one and the championship. But Matt Lemoine and Broc Tickle again drove home the consisting theme as both came back from disappointing openers to sneak inside the top-ten.

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Ryan Dungey is the last rider to win the opening round and the overall championship.
Simon Cudby photo

After pulling out the calculators and pocket protectors and number crunching the past three seasons there are a couple of trends that have become a common theme. The opening round race winner, in either class, rarely wins the championship. Only one time in the past three seasons has the opening round winner won the championship.

The 250 opener has much more of an impact on the rest of the season than does the 450 opener. During the past three seasons only six riders in the 250 class have began the opening round outside the top-ten and come back to finished inside the top-ten. In contrast the 450 class has seen twelve riders finish the opener outside the top-ten and claw their way back.

Last but not least, the most common tend of all is that the opener doesn't really tell us all that much. Sure, Justin Brayton, along with a number of contenders struggled at the opening round but does that mean they are out of contention for a top-ten finish? According to history, they aren't. Sure, James Stewart and Blake Baggett rode fantastic at Hangtown, but does it mean that they will end the season as champions? According to history, they won't. But in the end they are just numbers, right?

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