There was great racing at Muddy Creek. Before we head to RedBud, we grabbed three staffers and asked them three questions. Add your thoughts on these topics below.
1. What's changed for Jeremy Martin?
Jason Thomas: In a word, starts. At the first two events of the year, Martin’s starts were absolutely stellar. He put himself in position to get an early lead and stayed out of trouble. His speed was undeniable, of course, but the starts allowed him to ride his own race. Since those two rounds, he has been very inconsistent off the line, and that led to him lying on the ground in turn one this weekend. He still looks good on the bike, and although he doesn’t seem quite as dominant in terms of speed, I still think he can win races with a hole-shot. But first things first, he needs to start first, and he will finish first.
Jason Weigandt: It’s pretty obvious that Martin and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha had a huge head start on the field in terms of outdoor prep. Martin is a great rider, but he’s not 30-seconds-per-moto better over their 39 guys every time—that’s rare RC/Stew/RV air. He can win races, but a lot of the gap came from just being on his game while others were still figuring things out. Remember this the next time the outdoors begin—expect the unexpected! Now that more riders have their bikes where they need them and have recovered from supercross hangovers, the gap is much closer. Can he still win? Yes. But I don’t think he’ll be gone and out of sight on the first lap anymore.
David Pingree: Jeremy’s starts have been the big problem, but the rest of the field is just catching up. I usually rant about how riding the West Region 250 SX series is an advantage because you get additional time to prep for motocross during the break. However, Martin turned his focus to mx early after a poor supercross start, and it seemed to build momentum for him, so much so that he won the Las Vegas finale and then stomped everyone for the first five motos. Martin will win more, but the wins aren’t going to come as easy as they did early on.
2. The 450 battle at High Point was close, but the KTM boys stretched it way back out at Muddy Creek. What's the difference?
Thomas: I think the track was the biggest factor at Muddy Creek. The long ruts and treacherous surfaces seemed to cause a huge gap in the pecking order. KTM’s steel frames and stable handling traits shined through in my opinion. Those two were head and shoulders better than everyone in the second half of both motos, and it showed on the laptimes.
Weigandt: I agree it was the track. I think Roczen/Dungey are still the cream of the crop right now, outside of Stewart, who we really can’t measure against them from Muddy Creek because he went down in turn one both times. But they rolled away from everyone else, like Trey Canard, who was right with them at High Point. I think Muddy Creek was so rutted and technical that they couldn’t make it up by pushing harder. At High Point, Canard, and Chad Reed for a few laps, could only make up a little extra ground and stay with them by pushing harder and hanging it out more. They couldn’t do that at Muddy Creek. Kind of like how mud races rarely result in close battles, the harder the track, the more separation you’ll see.
Pingree: James Stewart had two crashes, or he would have been in the mix; he had the speed. Tomac was in the mix. He just couldn’t maintain the intensity for that long. Also, the more technical the track, the more the cream rises to the top, and Muddy Creek was an incredibly difficult track. It had insane ruts, off-cambers, mud, and hard pack, and the two best riders in the series showed why they are the top in points. Some tracks are easier to ride than others, so the gap will be less in future motos, but more technical tracks will spread the lap times out like Muddy Creek.
3. Eli Tomac was fast but didn't quite have the stuff to match the KTM-ers late in the moto. How quickly can he make that up?
Thomas: I look for him to regain his full moto fitness quickly. As long as he rests enough during the week, his race endurance will show up soon. He has an incredible base level, so, the next two weeks we will see a big improvement in the last few laps. Everyone, climb aboard because the Tomac train is coming.
Weigandt: I think it will happen quickly—maybe even RedBud quickly. Eli’s been in-and-out of the races all season, so that’s hurt him a bit, but the dude trains and works hard (dad is gnarly, too). I don’t think this will take months of work to build his base. It is just general comfort being back, being up front, and feeling the race’s intensity. He’ll be right there battling for wins soon.
Pingree: I think it will take a few rounds. Fitness isn’t the issue here; it’s comfort and mental endurance. Eli can ride 40-minute motos around his home track with his eyes closed and his brain on auto pilot. You can’t do that at a national with Ken and Ryan on you like Weege on a two-for-one special. Once Eli gets more comfortable racing with others riders and maintaining that focus for the whole moto, he will be a threat to win. By Unadilla, start adding him to your fantasy picks for moto wins.