We didn’t see this one coming. Even after Eli Tomac made the pass on Ken Roczen for the lead in the second moto of the Built Ford Tough Utah National, he didn’t have enough points to wrap up the 250 title. Kenny’s second would have been enough, by a single point, to stave off elimination until this weekend’s finale in California.
But then came Blake Baggett, which changed the picture completely. Kind of the same way that Utah dust storm did.
“I knew he was coming,” said Roczen. “I kind of had a couple of bad laps right when Eli passed me. I was slacking; I don’t know why. Just kind of like a hole I had … then after I got going a little bit better again.”
At one point, Roczen was running 2:08 lap times, but he dropped into the 2:11s on the final three laps. Baggett, meanwhile, lit the afterburners, dropping all the way into the 2:06s on lap 15 and 16! With that, Baggett quickly gobbled up the lead Roczen had on him. “If I wouldn’t have had that hole I think I could have kept him behind me,” said Roczen, honest as always. “But it is the way it is. I got beat again, so have to work forward.”
Blake Baggett's last lap pass on Ken Roczen (above) cost the German one final chance at his first 250 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross title.
Simon Cudby photo
Baggett spent most of the race, as did the other riders, thinking more about the super windy and dusty conditions. But he kept charging, too. “It was like jet skiing in mud and dust, to be honest,” said Baggett. “You couldn’t see a thing. I know it had to have been bad standing there because Bones [PC suspension man Jim Bacon] was rooting me on for a while then all of a sudden he wasn’t there. He’s there; he’s a die-hard. All day he’ll be there no matter what. So when I knew Bones wasn’t rooting for me when I went by, I was like, ‘It’s got to be bad conditions. It’s not just me; it’s got to be bad.’ It was good. It was fun. I felt like it was one of those rides where I deserved it. I came from the back and did what I can. It was kind of a bummer for Kenny to get passed on the last lap and not be able to fight for it like he said going into Elsinore. But I just do what I can each weekend and pass as many guys as I can.”
The battle got crazy, with Baggett even cutting inside of a course marker at one point, and then Roczen stuffing him in the next corner to get him back for second. “I tried not to get too close to him,” said Roczen. Right after that, Baggett cleared a double cleaner than Kenny did, got a drive, and blasted back past. Then they battled all the way down to the line, with Baggett getting the spot by just a few hundredths of a second.
Although Baggett was already out of the championship chase, his goal was still to "pass as many guys as I can".
Simon Cudby photo
Baggett wasn’t penalized in the results for the off-track infraction, because he didn’t make the final pass on Roczen there. He made the last move after the next turn, when he was back on the track. It’s possible that a different penalty could be coming for Baggett, like a fine, but the results will stand, and both battled as hard as they could.“It was the last lap and right before the finish so I had to do everything I can to try to keep him behind me,” said Roczen. “But it was a really close finish.”
It was, and that’s why even Tomac didn’t know what had happened as he crossed the line. The watch says Baggett beat Roczen by five hundredths of a second. To Tomac, that meant everything.