This season has been a peculiar roller coaster of ups and downs for many of the elite riders of the 450 Class. The first few rounds of the series saw the two KTM riders of Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey stealing the show. They seemed to be markedly better than the field, and it wasn't until High Point that we saw a bit of variance as James Stewart came roaring back to the front with a 1-1 performance. The dueling KTMs were still in the mix, but Trey Canard also made his presence known with a second in moto two. It was the first real sign that there could be a weekly shake up in the results. Roczen and the Dunge had pulled a decent lead in the points by then, but at least there would be suspense for the race wins… Or so we thought.
Just as quickly as the pack had evened out, the two KTMs absolutely dominated the next weekend in Tennessee. We were back to the status quo. At RedBud, Roczen absolutely decimated everyone and looked to have this series firmly in hand. I say he looked to because it has not unfolded that way in the days since. Moving onto Budds Creek, it was more of the same with the two taking the top two spots, but this time Dungey turned it around and topped Roczen. Also, the #3 of Eli Tomac looked to be regaining his form in his third race back. He chased down Roczen in the second moto in a foreshadowing of good days to come.
Not only has Dungey elevated his game significantly, but also Tomac and Trey Canard are now firing on all cylinders. In the last six motos, Tomac has won two, and Dungey has won three, and Canard won the final moto this past weekend at Unadilla. Roczen simply hasn't been the same rider in the second half of this season, but we have seen this before. (For more on that click HERE) Still, though, he is the points leader, and with four motos to go, he controls his own destiny for this championship. He has struggled in the second motos as of late, and if he wants to hold off Ryan Dungey, that has to improve.
The interesting question is how will the recent improvements by Canard and Tomac play out in regards to the points chase. If Roczen and Dungey were still running away with the motos, it would be a much clearer picture as to how this could end. The two Hondas can play the ultimate spoiler for someone if they continue their ways.
With just a 7-point differential between the top two, the point swings can vary wildly, making this a mathematical nightmare as we come down to the wire. Not only do Dungey and Roczen need to be concerned with each other; they now must contend with the point spreads and be mindful of who finishes in between them regardless of their position. It has thrown a major wrench into the scenarios that everyone predicted.
For the fans, however, this is great news. The four riders at the front are making for incredible racing, and Saturday's second moto was the best battle of the year. All four of them seem to be on a fairly level plane at the moment, and picking a winner is tougher than I can remember it being in years. Uncertainty as to who will win is a great problem to have.
Over the last decade and a half, we have been almost absolute in who we expected to win. Sure, there have been exceptions with Grant Langston's 2007 title, Chad Reed's 2009 title, and the battle of 2011, but overall, there has been a clear-cut favorite coming down the stretch. This year we are treated to the debating and bench racing of who will beat whom each and every time that thirty-second board turns sideways. Years like this don't come around very often. Going into that final moto in Utah, we probably won't have any clue who this title will belong to. The Hondas will be fighting for their own pride and success, the KTMs will be fighting for a national championship, and we will be the luckiest of them all, as we get to sit back and enjoy.