Dean Wilson’s win on Saturday night at Anaheim 3 was a much-needed success for a mostly beleaguered team—at least as far as January goes. Lately, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki has been a lesser version of its usual self, thanks to injuries and bad luck (not to mention the growing confidence and competitiveness of Rockstar Energy KTM, Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda, and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha). Mitch’s men are working overtime to get things right, and by the looks of Wilson’s performance on Saturday, they’re back on the right track.
But there’s another recent trend I find equally puzzling: the recent curse that seems to follow the riders who win the Lucas Oil AMA 250 Pro Motocross Championship. Going back to 2010, when Trey Canard won, and counting Wilson (2011), Blake Baggett (2012), and now Eli Tomac (2013), we’ve seen some real bum luck follow these fledgling superstars.
Canard’s battles with injuries over the last three years have cost him more track time than practically any other factory rider. Wilson didn’t get to wear his #1 plate for more than half a moto in 2012, as he’s had his share of injuries (and trouble finding the right home for a 450 campaign). Baggett’s wrist has been a big problem the last year and a half, and even now he’s just coming off an ankle injury. And Tomac’s 450 career has gotten off to a terrible start, with a crash in the ’14 opener costing him the rest of January.
Is it a coincidence that our past four AMA 250 Motocross Champions have all struggled to stay on the fast track? Almost certainly. But what a weird and unfortunate turn of events for four straight #1 250 Class riders. You have to go back to 2009 AMA 250 Champion Ryan Dungey to find good results in the years following that first major success in professional racing … though now that I think of it, 2014 hasn’t exactly been his year either.