Hello, everyone, and welcome to the Rev Up. Round five of the 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship heads south to Muddy Creek raceway near Bristol, Tennessee, this Saturday. For years the industry has been screaming for a southern national, and the inaugural event in 2013 was a mammoth success. It was one of the largest crowds I’ve ever seen at an outdoor and four motos saw four different winners, plus one of the most frantic, eyebrow raising, come-from-behind rides ever by Ryan Villopoto.
There was a lot of chatter and debate as to whether or not this is “The South”. No, it isn’t Florida, or even Georgia, but Tennessee is definitely as southern as it gets. Home of “Old No. 7” sippin’ whiskey, The Great Smoky Mountains, and Bristol Motor Speedway this state embodies everything of the southern genre. So, what will the second trip to the venue be like? Well, I don’t think there could be anymore hype, drama and excitement surrounding two divisions as they enter the middle portion of the championship. From Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart’s return to winning form and subsequent industry-shaking banned substance failure, to a swinging of momentum in the 250 Class where Blake Baggett has rattled off a three-moto win streak, its going to be downright awesome to see how the motos unfold.
And don’t look now, but things may really, really be shaken up as Muddy Creek could very well see rain on Saturday. I don’t know about you guys, but I would actually like to see a bit of a mudder. A good mud race is typically a part of every outdoor championship, and an aspect that makes becoming a national champion all the more cherished.
After a week off, everyone is ready to get back to business, so let’s go!
It took him a while to get the train on the tracks, but my pre-season title pick, Blake Baggett, has hit his stride. His Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki organization has had a roller coaster year to say the least. At times they were dominating and sweeping podiums, then fell almost out of the picture and were speculated about their machines. This has happened twice this season, and each time they have bounced back. That shows fortitude and toughness for a race team.
Live to fight another day, and never give up. That’s how Baggett is. He’s had a broken wrist, a blasted eye socket and a bike failure, but with three straight moto wins he is still very much in the title fight. He’ll need the next two races to keep it rolling and get closer to Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin.
The tiddler division has seen some amazing comebacks, though. Jeff Emig came from way back to over take Mike LaRocco in 1991, then Steve Lamson was way out of the title hunt in ‘95 and got it done, Trey Canard pulled it off at the final round in 2010. Nothing is over in this division.
However, Martin has a commanding lead. His early five-moto dominance ripped off the early advantage and while he didn’t win in High Point, he was still a beast. That was a stealthy ride that saw him attack every second of both motos. I don’t expect him to go anywhere throughout the summer, he just needs to keep luck on his side. GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle will be the next guy to win, in my opinion. He’s right there, but just needs to close the deal.
Meanwhile, Justin Hill, Christophe Pourcel, Jason Anderson, Jessy Nelson, Cooper Webb, Cole Seely, and last year’s Muddy Creek winner Marvin Musquin are all on the gas making this class just amazing to watch. It’s a crazy all out sprint for the entire moto.
There are two things that can manifest from James Stewart’s situation: He’ll let it detract his focus, or it will channel his desire to just go out and repeat his winning demeanor we saw at High Point. From his words, his bike is finally how he wants it and he really made it look easy in that 1-1 sweep. If it rains, he is a heck of a mud rider and it’s just going to be interesting to see how he handles the pressure. Personally, I think when he pulls on his goggles all of that will go away and he’ll win. He was my other pre-season pick and just like Baggett he can climb right into the title picture with two winning weekends.
Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen has been the guy in the 450 Class to this point. He hasn’t shown any weaknesses that I see, and his line choices and overall decisions he makes throughout the motos are savvy. A muddy track will not deter the German at all, and simply put he is just going to be there every moto of every weekend. His teammate, and last year’s Muddy Creek winner, Ryan Dungey is only 16 points behind, though. Dungey is riding smart, fast and steady like he always does and if Roczen makes one mistake he’ll be there. Just like he always is.
And don’t look now, but look who’s back. “The Thunder,” as I’ve always called him has somehow made it back to winning form. He had a crack at the front of the pack at High Point, but his steam isn’t there for a full moto yet. If there was a guy that needed the week off, it was Chad Reed and I’m entering him as my dark horse pick for the W this Saturday afternoon. Can you imagine the sound of the crowd if he goes out and wins the first moto? Talk about toughness. The man obliterated his shoulder a few months ago, and he’s back again. What an absolute badass. There have been athletes throughout history that have inspired us, but just typing the words “return,” “win,” and “Chad Reed” sends goose bumps up my arms.
Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard falls into the same category. He’s right there as well. It’s clear he has his sails at full mast again, and if you’re going to win a moto in the 450 Class this weekend you’re going to have to go through him.
With JGR Yamaha’s Josh Grant healthy, and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Brett Metcalfe winning motos and leading laps, it just makes this class amazing to watch.
In closing, I want to put a flourish on the theme for this week. Being tough doesn’t mean you simply have a high pain tolerance or you aren’t emotionally sensitive. True toughness comes from facing adversity and doing your best with the cards you’re dealt. Whether you’re at your job sweating out 12-hour days, or facing whatever challenge that is breaking you down, think about these guys. Think about their courage to come back from injury, and shove away the fact that every time they throw a leg over it can put them right back in the hospital. Being tough is a choice you make for yourself. Life throws adversity at us from blind angles, and we all get hit with haymakers that knock us flat on our backs. Get back up. Chose to be tough and take it. Life is like motocross. Focus on what lays in front of you, don't worry about what's behind you. Use your tear-off's to clear mud that affects your vision. Stay aggressive, breathe and never give up.
Now, let’s go racing.
Thanks for reading, see you next week.