Back when I was a kid, long before the Internet and live television, I had a cheat sheet for results. My dad worked for Bel-Ray Oil, and the company would get results faxed to the office from the AMA. He didn’t work in the racing department, but he’d make a copy and bring it home so I could get a look. I remember when he came home with a sheet of paper from the 1991 Hangtown National, when unknown privateers John Dowd and Doug Henry won the overalls. It was just a sheet with results, no explanation. But seeing how crazy those results looked, I knew the cause immediately and said, “Must have been a mud race.”
It was. In fact, that Hangtown was maybe the worst mud race ever. We’ve always known that crazy things can happen in mudders, but we needed a little reminder since it’s been years since we had one. Last good outdoor mud race I can remember was Budds Creek in 2009, when it rained so much the track started to flood, and hay bales began to float across the track. Brett Metcalfe led that rainy second 250 moto for most of the day, until Jake Weimer passed him before the race was red flagged. Poor Metty never had a chance to fight back!
But even that one was more of a rain race than mud. The Thor Indiana National had that worst-case scenario where the track started to dry, and the clay and dirt became sticky and heavy. Mud clung to the bikes and goggles, The track crew pushed some off to the side of the track, which made things better (look at the lap times—just three 250 riders logged laps under three minutes in moto one, twelve ran laps under three minutes in moto two),,but with giant mud piles on the side, anyone who made a mistake was into the goop and getting stuck or going down. (Poor Jason Anderson hit a wall of mud trying to take the lead in the second moto. It wasn’t even a mistake).
Those cruddy conditions, then, led to the standard mud racing fare, which we had not seen in awhile. Mud is an equal opportunist. For every great moment it creates, it makes for a frustrating one, as well. Let’s identify a few of these highs and lows:.
- Trey Canard and Ken Roczen had nearly mirror image motos, with Rocczen edging Canard on the start of moto one, and Trey crashing into the muck while running a close second. In moto two the story was exactly the same if you just reverse the names.
- Christophe Pourcel went 9-2 in the 250s. He was literally in the pits on the very first lap of the first 250 moto, in last place. On the very last lap of the second 250 moto, he was going for the lead.
- Privateers had moments of glory and moments of heartbreak. We saw riders from the B group of 450 qualifying take six of the top ten spots. Later, there is no doubt that tons of them completely destroyed engines, bikes, and their budget.
- Mitch Oldenburg nearly got the first moto holeshot, ran third for awhile, then looked set for a career-best eighth in moto one before he engine blew with a few laps to go. He ended up fortieth overall with double DNFs.
- Weston Peick didn’t ride any laps in practice, relying on his top-ten spot in points to get a provisional gate spot. He had a shot at glory in the second moto, trying like crazy to pass Ryan Sipes and get into third and grab his first career pro podium. He’d end up crashing back to seventh. (As for Sipes’ awesome ride, we’ll have more on that later).
- Blake Baggett got lapped in moto one. Jeremy Martin nearly got lapped in moto two.
- RJ Hampshire qualified an impressive fourth overall in the 250s, but got stuck a bunch of times and finished thirty-sixth overall with 32-26 scores.
Even predicting who would do well was difficult. Yes, rudimentary motocross geography says two Europeans with Grand Prix titles would win, and they did, but who predicted California’s Jessy Nelson having a breakout? Heck, Savatgy and Nelson dueling for the overall win? California’s Josh Grant going 12-5 along with a huge comeback ride in the first moto? Chad Reed, who already has sights set on 2015, digging deep and having his best race of the year?
It was the kind of an up-and-down-anything-can-happen day that only happens in a mud race. It’s good to get a reminder of how it works sometimes.