Observations: Muddy Creek

Observations: Muddy Creek

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Round five of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships came to Muddy Creek, which marked the second year of a national at this track. MX Sports wanted to expand the series into the Southeast, and although you can argue Muddy Creek is not South enough, hey it’s close enough in my books.

Last year I was blown away by how many people came out to support this event. It was pretty cool to see. The fans were back this year, and, lucky for them, it’s a great spectator-viewing track. Everything is laid out in a valley so fans can see most of the race. I was surprised that the track concerns from last year (width, first turn, perhaps a bit too short) weren’t really addressed at all as it all looked basically the same as last year.

Our own ex-pro David Pingree was on the Pulpmx Show earlier this week and he asked Jason Thomas, another ex-pro who works for us, if the Muddy Creek track made him want to go out there and race. And both ex-riders agreed that nope, the Muddy Creek track did NOT look fun. This track was a man’s track for sure with never-ending ruts, mud, rocks and not very many fun obstacles. And I think those conditions were part of the reason why we saw some clear separation from the leaders to the dudes in the back of the pack.

No one I spoke to was a fan of Muddy Creek (then again, I didn’t talk to Cooper Webb) as, again, its width and first turn (three out of the four motos saw crashes with big names down) cited as evidence A and B. Weston Peick tweeted out that it was the “worst track I ever rode.” That’s an exaggeration on Weston’s part but Muddy Creek is falling into the Freestone MX category of tracks where the riders can take it or leave it.

This is what .08 looks like.  Photo: Simon Cudby
This is what .08 looks like.  Photo: Simon Cudby

I would have been bummed for Yamalube/Star Yamaha’s Cooper Webb if he had not gotten a win this year. He finished second four times behind his teammate Jeremy Martin already and was then nipped for the win at the line in moto one at Muddy Creek by Blake Baggett. What is a nip? A nip is .08 of a second gap between the two riders! That’s amazing and poor Webb. That was now his fifth second place finish of the year.

But Webb was like Elvis in the second moto as he TCOB (took care of business!) to grab his first ever moto win and with it, his first ever national overall win. Webb has spun a lot of laps at Muddy Creek and I’m sure that helped him a lot (last year he got one of his two podiums on the season at Muddy Creek) but he’s been great this year anyways. I do think the home track advantage helped him a teeny bit but not all that much. And guess what? He’s moved to within eight points of the lead on Martin!

I wrote after Lakewood that if I were Steve Lamson (manager of Star Racing) or Bobby Reagan (owner of Star) I would sit down with Martin and Webb and explain that although they don’t have to be buddies, they need to stop slowing each other down. We were seeing the guys try to park each other out there. We haven’t seen them really get together since then so we’re not sure if WWIII will erupt if they’re in a battle, but I’ve been told that both riders were told to cool it from here on out.

I wasn’t sold on Blake Baggett being, you know, Blake “EFFING” Baggett after his win at High Point. We saw 2012 Baggett AND 2013 Baggett in the two motos at Lakewood and we saw the 2012 Baggett all day at High Point. You know who I’m talking about with the 2012 Baggett: the bad ass, the “I’m in great shape and I will NEVER stop charging” guy. Even though that Baggett was back at High Point, I wasn’t totally sold because we saw Baggett ride great at Budds Creek last year and but then he couldn’t repeat that again. Well, he didn’t win Muddy Creek but he rode tremendous to go 1-3 on the day and I’m ALL IN on Baggett now. He still had his High Point speed, he seems to be his usual self and if his starts stay where they are (top ten is all he needs) then I would name him as the guy who’s going to win this title.

Meanwhile in the 450MX class it continues to be a KTM “Klean Up.” Yeah, James Stewart rode fantastic at High Point to sweep the motos but there’s been no doubt who the two best riders have been week in and week out. Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey split the moto wins with Roczen taking the overall with some nice riding in the second moto. As I said, the track was difficult so the leaders ran into lappers quickly. I thought Roczen in the second moto (as the leader) did an amazing job of getting by them quickly and efficiently, all while Dungey was breathing down his neck. The German was superb on Saturday.

Ken Roczen (above) and Ryan Dungey left little to be imagined at Muddy Creek.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Ken Roczen (above) and Ryan Dungey left little to be imagined at Muddy Creek.  Photo: Simon Cudby

In the first moto Dungey rode an amazing race, maybe the best one since that second moto at the opener. He was helped a bit with Roczen falling twice but he was generally faster each lap than Kenny (although on the very first lap Roczen was over a second faster than anyone else did all day long…which is a WOW stat, right?). The second moto it had to be REALLY frustrating for Ryan as he was so, so, so close to Kenny but the 94 just didn’t make a mistake even while slicing through the lappers. Dungey’s trying to get this points gap down and needed that moto win, but he wasn’t able to get it done. Got to be frustrating for a machine like Dungey.

Heard anything new on James Stewart lately? Yes, I bet you have. With WADA provisionally suspending the #7 Suzuki rider because of a positive test for amphetamines, it had to be tough for Stew to remain, uhh, focused out there. No, I’m being serious here. His future in the supercross series for 2015 is up in the air and pending the Lakewood test results, his future in the motocross series could be as well. And of course he just came off his incredible ride at High Point. Being a James Stewart fan must be akin to riding a rollercoaster with no brakes.

What happened this weekend? Two first turn crashes for Stew and two come-from-behind rides. All the stuff swirling around Stewart didn’t seem to matter much as he ripped through the field in the first moto and almost passed Trey Canard for fourth at the line. He was on his way to the front again in moto two when he went down. As I watched him blow by riders—just basically being on another level—I wondered how he does it all, and whether or not someone is going to stop him from displaying this talent at the races soon. (Insert sad face here).

Eli Tomac was back and back in a big way. The GEICO Honda kid made his 450 outdoor debut one to remember as he qualified fastest, led some laps and went 3-3 on the day. Yeah he was a minute back in the second moto of the KTM guys but still, it was a nice performance. Tomac’s done pretty well on tracks that are beat up and rutty. Think the Indianapolis, Seattle and New Jersey supercrosses this year, Daytona last year and now Muddy Creek. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise? And let’s not forget he’s the reigning 250MX champion so the guy can ride all types of tracks.

Muddy Creek saw the return of the ToMAC.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Muddy Creek saw the return of the ToMAC.  Photo: Simon Cudby

I was impressed with Tomac’s speed and endurance considering the other dudes had been racing for four weeks, but in talking to Eli afterwards, he explained that this is where he should be. More Tomac bike set-up talk as I noticed he’s gone to the spring fork with the works Honda chassis. Nice to know Eli’s eternal search for comfort continues on…

Let’s take a look at the results shall we?

250MX Results

1 37 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ 250F 2 1- Webb’s win was “cool as crap.”  

2 4 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA Kawasaki KX 250F 1 3- I’m currently looking for some Blake Baggett stock, I know it’s been going up (Jason Thomas bought when it was low) but I need to get in on some like RIGHT NOW.

3 32 Justin Bogle Cushing, OK Honda CRF250R 4 2- The Bogle Monster caught a break when Baggett went down on the next-to-last lap in the ruts. Either way, Justin was on the gas at Muddy Creek. He’s really found a new gear here lately and next year he’s going to win a lot of races.  

4 377 Christophe Pourcel France Yamaha YZ 250F 3 4 38- Ze Frenchman has led a lot of laps this year but can’t seem to finish the deal. He’s a tick off the top guys (don’t get me wrong, his comeback has been good—not great, though) and I don’t think he has the top guys’ aggressiveness or endurance.  Not yet, anyways.

5 25 Marvin Musquin France KTM 250 SX-F 5 5- Marvin won this race last year and qualified well so you know he was feeling it. Unfortunately while up front in the first moto he went off the track, then hit Jason Anderson and went down. Oh what could have been for Moving Marvin! Ruined his whole day right there. Second moto he was ALL OVER Pourcel on the last two laps for top Frenchman but wasn’t able to make the pass.  

6 21 Cole Seely Newbury Park, CA Honda CRF250R 6 8- Nice ride by Cole on a tough track and he’s now gotten eighth in four out of the last six motos. He was the leader of the next group of guys after the front pack and there’s nothing wrong with that.  

7 19 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 10 6- A crash in the first turn and a so-so second moto for Martin has caused his points lead to dwindle. He NEEDS a big race this weekend at RedBud to show the competition that he’s still the guy. And you know what? I think he has a good day this Saturday. Stamp it, actually.

8 50 Jessy Nelson Paso Robles, CA Honda CRF250R 7 10- Nelson is down in Florida with the Roczen and Cianciarulo Show and I asked Adam about having him there. “He really wants to get better, pushes hard the whole time and is a nice guy,” said AC. “And he’s able to joke around with us. What I don’t like about him is he has a baby blue road bike kit and we normally run red so we need to get him matching.”

9 15 Dean Wilson Scotland Kawasaki KX 250F 14 7- More on this wee lad below.  

10 30 Kyle Cunningham Aledo, TX Honda CRF250R 8 13- Good ride for Kyle in the first moto, he was strong and overall he gets his first top ten of the year. After the race he was a bit worried that he might be docked for riding on the inside of the track markers and he still might be fined but if so, I saw A LOT of riders that will be paying fines in the coming weeks.  

11 267 Anthony Rodriguez Venezuela Yamaha YZ 250F 13 9 – This was A-Rod’s first race since getting weeded up at Glen Helen. Whether it’s supercross or this finish right here, we’ve seen speed from Anthony but, like Zach Bell, he’s got to keep it on two wheels. A second moto ninth in basically your third professional moto is solid.

12 43 Joseph Savatgy Thomasville, GA KTM 250 SX-F 15 11- “4 Phones” was yet another rider that fell victim to the Muddy Creek first turn.

13 55 Alex Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 12 14- Alex told me after the race that he was “an embarrassment to my team” and then proceeded to give me an interview as Phil Nicoletti where “Phil" blamed his poor second moto performance on the fact he ate too much cake during the week.

14 17 Jason Anderson Rio Rancho, NM KTM 250 SX-F 9 35- Not a great day for “El Hombre 17” as a banner got caught up in his wheel in the second moto while he was in eighth. I said earlier that Anderson is going to win a national this year and I’m sticking to that prediction dammit!  

15 35 Justin Hill Yoncalla, OR Kawasaki KX 250F 11 40- Hill had a strong ride going in the first moto until something happened to his wrist. He started losing grip strength and dropped back. He couldn’t start the second moto.

16 71 Zachary Bell Cairo, GA Honda CRF250R 38 12- Bell crashed in practice. He was up there in the first moto, fell and then was working his way back up when pain in his shoulder became too much for him. Second moto he was once again up front before … something must have happened.

17 371 Dakota Alix Jay, VT KTM 250 SX-F 19 15- After scoring no points in four out of his first six motos as a pro, Alix has now scored points and put in decent rides the last four motos in a row.  

18 62 Mitchell Oldenburg Alvord, TX Honda CRF250R 40 16- I bet Chase Stallo was happy with this ride.

19 78 Matthew Lemoine Baton Rouge, LA Kawasaki KX 250F 16 34

20 91 Jacob Baumert Buckner, KY Kawasaki KX 250F 23 17- Crosley Radio is the title sponsor of Baumert and one of their big products is record players. Record players are back? I had no idea. That’s pretty cool though.

Josh Grant came from way, way back in the first moto to capture 11th. Photo: Simon Cudby
Josh Grant came from way, way back in the first moto to capture 11th. Photo: Simon Cudby

450MX Results

1 94 Ken Roczen Germany KTM 450 SX-F FE 2 1- You know who saw this Kenny-Roczen-being-the-guy stuff happening? David Vuillemin two weeks before Glen Helen, that’s who.  

2 5 Ryan Dungey Waconia, MN KTM 450 SX-F FE 1 2

3 3 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Honda CRF450R 3 3-The number 3 goes 3-3 for 3rd overall. It all seems to make so much sense.  

4 41 Trey Canard Edmond, OK Honda CRF450R 4 4- Canard was coming off a fantastic race at High Point and had to be bummed at being up front in the first moto and finishing a distant fourth. Second moto he seemed to be more “accepting” that fourth was his spot on the day. His High Point ride makes one think that this was just an off day on a track he didn’t enjoy and he’ll be back closer to the front this weekend.  

5 29 Andrew Short Colorado Springs, CO KTM 450 SX-F FE 6 8- Shorty with a very solid fifth overall. He had a typical Andrew Short day where he passed eight guys in the first moto, started up front in the second and was solid. Before you know it he’s fifth overall and other riders are telling people that they’re better than Andrew but yet once again, they just couldn’t beat him.  

6 40 Weston Peick Wildomar, CA Suzuki RMZ 450 10 5- Since Peick bolts right after his moto and doesn’t stick around much to hang out (something tells me he’s not a “hanging out” type of guy) I always have to ask his team what they thought of his race. And this week they were saying that they’ve got to figure out a way to get off the line consistently and work on breaking this one good moto/one bad moto thing. Peick’s second moto was awesome so there is that…

7 24 Brett Metcalfe Australia Kawasaki KX 450F 9 7- Quiet day for Metcalfe who I read on social media is battling a sore back or something like that. Remember, this was Metty’s first visit to the Muddy Creek track so I would think he would be at a bit of a disadvantage.  

8 7 James Stewart Jr. Haines City, FL Suzuki RMZ 450 5 11

9 33 Josh Grant Riverside, CA Yamaha YZ 450F 11 6- Grant got caught up in a first turn crash and rode well to finish 11th in the first moto.  

10 10 Justin Brayton Fort Dodge, IA Yamaha YZ 450F 8 15- Hey, look who’s back! Brayton rode well in the first moto and like his JGR teammates, he got good starts. Second moto he looked to be a bit winded but that’s to be expected. He’ll get better from here.  

11 34 Malcolm Stewart Haines City, FL Honda CRF450R 14 10- Mookie, Grant, Reed and James Stewart all went down in the first turn in the first moto. Career earnings lying on the ground were equal to the GNP of Sweden.

12 11 Kyle Chisholm Clearwater, FL Yamaha YZ 450F 12 12 18 The sponsor list says: Jeff Ward Racing | DNA | Kawasaki Hey AMA! Kyle is no longer with Jeff Ward Racing nor does he ride a Kawasaki! That was two years ago. Thanks for paying attention. Anyways, privateer Chiz did pretty well!

13 22 Chad Reed Australia Kawasaki KX 450F 16 9- When do we start being alarmed at Chad’s finishes? We all gave him the benefit of the doubt because of his late start due to injury but the week off didn’t see him get much better from High Point. I’m not saying sound the alarm but we’re almost halfway through this thing. I’ll have to ask JT.

14 44 Matthew Goerke Sun City, CA KTM 450 SX-F FE 7 36- Matt had a nice first moto and to me, the 6-12 range is where he should be all the time. He’s a very fast motocross rider. He was sick so he pulled out of the second moto.

15 48 Ben LaMay Wasilla, AK Yamaha YZ 450F 15 14- LaMay and Noren are battling it out for top privateer in the 450MX series. Muddy Creek went to the Alaskan … can the Swede strike back at The Bud?

16 38 Phillip Nicoletti Bethel, NY Yamaha YZ 450F 17 13- Phil’s first moto was epic. He ran up front and was going to get sixth until he crashed on the last lap and couldn’t start his bike. And just like that-POOF- went a career finish for Filthy. He asked me to not write about his second moto so I won’t.

17 77 Jimmy Albertson Shawnee, OK Honda CRF450R 13 17- Albertson missed High Point while adapting to his new KTMs. Often,  a rider switching bikes in the middle of a series is grasping at straws. But with Top Jimmy, he qualified pretty good on orange and his thirteenth in the first moto could’ve easily been a tenth. He basically doubled the best finish he had on a Honda. In talking to Jimmy, he really likes the way the KTM turns compared to his twitchy Honda.

18 80 Fredrik Noren Sweden KTM 450 SX-F 18 16- Noren went down in the first moto while working his way up towards that top ten….SCRATCH THAT! NOREN JUST GOT BARCIA’S FACTORY HONDA FOR THE REST OF THE SUMMER! As I always like to say in times like these—Lycka till Fred på Honda!

19 92 Kellian Rusk Durango, CO Yamaha YZ 450F 40 18- Rusk made it one lap in the first moto before I assume he crashed out. Hey, at least he was fresh for moto two!

20 761 Cade Clason Chesterfield, SC Honda CRF450R 35 19- Cade qualified sixteenth which was awesome and I’m guessing that, since he’s from South Carolina, he’s got some laps under his belt at Muddy Creek. No matter though, solid ride for the rider who has the name most like a movie action hero.

Dean Wilson made his return at Muddy Creek.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Dean Wilson made his return at Muddy Creek.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Some other news and notes:

- In talking to some people behind the scenes it seems that there isn’t a huge appetite for a Team USA to go over to Latvia and ride the Motocross des Nations. Ryan Villopoto and Justin Barcia are hurt, James Stewart has FIM issues (and team manager Roger Decoster isn’t exactly a fan of JS7), and sources say Ryan Dungey has informed Roger he doesn’t want to go this year because he’s getting married. So there’s not a big desire to head over there and try to get the trophy back. Trey Canard has been talked to by someone (not Roger) about going over, one would think Eli Tomac would go for sure and in the 250 class either Blake Baggett or Jeremy Martin would be logical choices. Youthstream’s decision to move the race date back a couple of years ago combined with MX Sports decision to move the national series up equals a month off for the U.S. teams and riders to get ready for the MXDN. And it’s very expensive to go, as well. With all due respect to the riders named above, I’m not sure there’s a huge desire to send a “B” team over there. I do live in Vegas so I would put the odds at 50/50 that there will be a Team USA in Latvia.

- Dean Wilson came back this week from the bad cut he got at Glen Helen and how does he get welcomed back? By crashing in the first turn in the first moto! Sometimes I think that Dean perhaps kicked some black cats while he was under a ladder because it has not been a very kind year and a half/two years for Wilson. Second moto he battled with the points leader and Jason Anderson to finish a respectable seventh. He’ll be up there before too long but sweet Jesus what does this guy got to do to deserve a break?

- I love the fact that the TV show for the outdoor nationals (and to some extent the supercross show as well) have been taking viewers behind the scenes and interviewing some of the people that make it happen. This week they ran a feature on CycleTrader.com Rock River Yamaha’s Christina Denny. We’re not a big enough sport to just keep talking about the top riders and teams and those smaller teams and needs some incentive to keep pouring money into the sport. Also, the privateers getting interviewed more and more is a great thing. This is something I’ve been ranting and raving on for a few years now. Nice to see it happening.

Thanks for reading this week, good times indeed. Onto RedBud we go and I myself can’t wait to check out the Parking Lot Jump. Email me at matthes@racerxonline.com if you want to talk about this column, media contracts or really anything else.

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