Observations: Utah Observations Utah

August 27, 2014 3:45pm

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Yeah, Utah! Well, maybe not “yeah!” But I have some enthusiasm because the finish of the Utah National this weekend brings the off-season. And after hitting all the races this year (plus a Canadian National where I was accosted by a crazy man), it’s time for a bit of a break. It’s with that knowledge that I was pumped to go to Utah and was even more pumped to head home AFTER Utah.

Here’s the nitty and gritty from round twelve of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships…

The track was better than last year (unless you ask Eli Tomac), but it was pretty short. Thanks to a monsoon on Friday we had super muddy practices that produced decent moto conditions, but we still had dust by the second set of motos. The elimination of some switchback corners and a sweeper (It also wasn’t as sandy as last year for some reason—maybe because they were pushing the muddy top layer off) made the track really short. Like running-into-lappers-on-lap-five short. You always see it turn out this way when you have a difficult track. When it’s crappy, rutty, and choppy, the real good riders seem to be a lot better than the guys from twentieth on back.

Heavy rains on Friday made for wet conditions during practice on Saturday.
Heavy rains on Friday made for wet conditions during practice on Saturday. Photo: Simon Cudby

And this just in, the riders twentieth on back, the ones being lapped who you may think suck? Yeah, uh, those guys are AMAZING riders and can probably kick your ass on a dirt bike. It’s just, compared to the best riders in the world they look slow. And the gnarlier the track is, the more we see this.

I get what MX Sports (the promoters of the outdoor series and a sister company of this website) is trying to do. They’re trying to build a track around a place that has great facilities and is close to a city center. I’m okay with this. It can be done (I thought the Donnington Park Motocross of Nations track was pretty good), but I’m not sure Utah is the answer. The biggest issues are the viewing and native dirt. Gimme another year to try and figure this out.

One thing that I think I might do different next year is venture out of the press box and treat it like a normal national. Sitting in the press box without the ability to see or hear much is weird. You saw the riders go by and then looked up and watched TV. As any reader of this column knows, watching on TV is only half the story of the race. You have to see it all. Next year I’m going to try and do just that. I’m going to give up the seat, air conditioning, and nice washrooms of the pressroom and get on out there. Wish me luck!

Well, the inevitable happened when Red Bull KTM’s Kenny Roczen crossed the finish line in the second moto with a cautious fourth. With his finish the German clinched the 450 title to go with his MX2 World Championship from a few years ago. He does have that West Region 250SX title, but Roczen’s earned a place on top of the motocross world and may be a better motocross rider than supercross. But don’t worry. As we saw this year, Roczen’s adaptation to supercross is going just well and he’ll be even better next year on the RCH Soaring Eagle Suzuki bike.

Ryan Dungey gave him a run, but Ken Roczen prevailed in the end. 
Ryan Dungey gave him a run, but Ken Roczen prevailed in the end.  Photo: Simon Cudby

His teammate Ryan Dungey gave him a hell of a run in the second half of the series, but truthfully, this title deserves to go to Roczen. He won more overalls than Dungey, won more motos than Dungey, and led about twice as many laps as Dungey. At Glen Helen the two Red Bull KTM kids were pretty even, but I think Roczen has proven himself to be a better rider since then. All hail Kenny Roczen. Get used to him winning a whole lot more.

One thing that is strange is Roczen leaving KTM to go to RCH Soaring Eagle Suzuki next year. He’s from Germany and riding for an Austrian OEM that’s shown to be more than capable of winning. And oh yeah, the Austrian energy drink, Red Bull, is his personal sponsor and the team’s sponsor as well. But he thinks Suzuki is a better bike, and I hope he’s right, because from here the KTMs that he and Dungey race look pretty good.

Oh, and by the way, Trey Canard dominated Utah, going 1-1 to win his first ever 450 overall. It wasn’t hard to see this coming, as Canard had won two out of the last four motos. Since switching to KYB suspension at Unadilla he’s been a different guy. We wondered if the new suspension was the reason for his newfound success, but we had a mudder in Indiana and didn’t get to see for certain. But Canard won a moto there anyway just to show us what was up. This weekend he got great starts (which help a lot), and just slowly pulled away from everyone else. Look, Ryan Dungey was right there in both motos and needed to desperately pass Canard to have any chance at the title, but he couldn’t do it. In fact, Canard just worked him and the other thirty-eight dudes as well. Dungey’s motivation couldn’t have been any higher and Canard beat ’em. Clearly, Canard was on it.

Trey Canard was hot down the stretch, winning four of the last six motos.
Trey Canard was hot down the stretch, winning four of the last six motos. Photo: Simon Cudby

The change in suspension isn’t going to help Canard’s starts, but those have also been a lot better the last few weeks. And you want to know why? Because he is confident that his bike is awesome and he’s awesome, and therefore he can get the start. Once again, I don’t have to tell you guys that riders are head cases, do I?

Honda’s testing supercross this week, and one of the things they’re doing to trying to lock down is their suspension component supplier for 2015. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that Kayaba suspension WILL be on the Hondas in 2015.

Jeremy Martin was awesome in Utah. He dominated with 1-1 finishes. The 250 race left no doubt that he was the best rider in the class, and he captured his fifth overall win out of twelve races. Martin seemed to never make a mistake in either moto and looked smooth as silk on a rough track

I spoke with Martin’s team manager Steve Lamson after the races. He mentioned he helped Martin this year by essentially forcing him to leave his comfort zone of Florida and come out to California. It’s funny that for years one of the things you had to do as a young motocrosser was live in California and learn the ropes of testing and riding with your team. But now with amateur kids having “programs” and all these riding facilities all across the country, young riders are doing everything they can to NOT go to California where the tracks aren’t great and the weather kind of sucks in the summer.

Jeremy Martin put his stamp on the 2014 series with another 1-1 performance. 
Jeremy Martin put his stamp on the 2014 series with another 1-1 performance.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Anyway, Martin’s stay in California was, for Lamson anyway, one of the reasons he was able to come out at Glen Helen and Hangtown and lay wood to the field. Mitch Payton at Pro Circuit has long demanded his riders live in California, and only the select few can get away with doing their own thing. Maybe looking at Martin’s title and Lamson’s thoughts more riders will try to be around their teams in the future to test and be pushed a bit harder?

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

250 Results

1. 19 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 1-1 - Yamaha and MSR gear won a 250 title this year. Yamaha and MSR won a 250 title this year. Next you’re going to tell me the moon is made out of cheese.

2. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Kawasaki KX250F; 3-3 - Good day for Baggett, who shockingly had to come from the back to get these two finishes although he was inside the top ten in each moto, and for Blake that may as well be a holeshot. Yoshimura Suzuki ride for Baggett perhaps?

3. 37 Cooper Webb; Newport, NC; Yamaha YZ250F; 2-4 - When Baggett caught and passed Webb in the second moto I knew that was it for second overall in the 250 Class. And knowing that Webb told me last weekend that it did matter to him to get the runner-up position, I was surprised when he seemed to just let Baggett get by and pull away. I suppose he just wasn’t riding as well as Baggett, but I thought Webb was going to find some extra reserve.

4. 32 Justin Bogle; Cushing, OK; Honda CRF250R; 6-2 - Bogle had a great second moto, and I was sort of hoping for Martin to wash out and for Bogle to get by for the win. Not because I don’t like Martin or anything like that, but because I’ve been saying that Bogle was going to win a moto this year. Well, chalk that up to another failed prediction by moi.  

5. 25 Marvin Musquin; France; KTM 250 SX-F; 4-5 - Good day for Musquin, who has shown some very nice speed in the second half of the year. If he stays healthy, there’s a very real chance Marvin Musquin can be a 250SX AND MX champion next year. He’s that good.

6. 188 Chris Alldredge; Powell Butte, OR; Kawasaki KX250F; 5-8 - I’m super impressed with this kid. I knew nothing about him really…I’m ashamed to admit that when I was baffled when I heard he was going straight into the Pro Circuit truck after Loretta’s. I interviewed him after the race, and he seems like a real cool kid as well. Nice three-race showing for Alldredge.  

7. 43 Joseph Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; KTM 250 SX-F; 8-7 - Joe-Dawg’s been very good the last half of the nationals and still had a nice showing at Utah even though he faded in each moto. Strong word in the pits is that he’ll be in the Pro Circuit truck next year.  

8. 15 Dean Wilson; Scotland; Kawasaki KX250F; 10-6 - Wilson’s done with 250s now and going to Red Bull KTM on the 450s, but he had a successful last run on the 250 in the second moto. He also came into the press box between motos in nothing but underwear and a towel and watched the second 450 moto with me. And then, when he left, he sweated all over another media guy’s laptop. Good times!  

9. 16 Zach Osborne; Abingdon, VA; Honda CRF250R; 7-9 - Osborne’s race was so-so. He literally ate Savatgy’s roost for thirty minutes in the first moto before finally making the pass with two turns to go. He’ll be on a Rockstar Energy Husqvarna next year replacing—wait for it—Savatgy. Here’s an idea of how Osborne’s year has been: I tweeted out some of the numbers that Jeremy Martin was thinking of taking for a career number when someone hit me back and said that #16 was available. Which is Osborne’s number. So, uhhhh, yeah. Good to see you back at the races Osborne!

10. 621 RJ Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R; 9-11 - The hotshot kid’s best race of the three he made this year, he said he had a bit of difficulty adjusting to his race bike. He’s not the greatest tester, so he’ll be fine if he learns learn how to do that and spends more time on his bike. He’s got speed and endurance.

11; 87 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; Honda CRF250R; 12-10 - McElrath missed a lot of races recently, but he showed that there is something here in the second half of the season.

12. 21 Cole Seely; Newbury Park, CA; Honda CRF250R; 14-12 - Seely was eighth in the first moto and then crashed with one lap left and ended up in fourteenth. That was the bad part. The good was securing ninth in the series points and also getting a career number, which will be his #21. We talked about Seely needing to step up in his outdoor motocross skills to be a well-rounded 450 guy next year for factory Honda, and while I don’t think he made a huge jump up, he was better than ever this year in motocross.

13. 55 Alex Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 13-13 - Martin lost out on his battle for tenth overall in the points to Wilson and was passed by Savatgy for eleventh in the points. That sucks because a 13-13 day for Martin is pretty good on this type of track. He’s going to the MXdN once again to ride for Puerto Rico, which is also pretty good for him.  

14. 50 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; Honda CRF250R; 11-17 - Nelson, the big surprise last week in the mud after winning a moto, didn’t do great this weekend, but like I wrote last weekend about him, if you do it once, you can do it again.

15. 425 Nick Gaines; Ringgold, GA; Kawasaki KX250F; 17-14 - I had never heard of Nick Gaines before Indiana, and considering the his privateer team and bike, he’s shown something in his four motos.

16. 71 Zachary Bell; Cairo, GA; Honda CRF250R; 16-15 – It will be interesting to see what Bell does next year since he won’t be going back to GEICO Honda. He hasn’t been as wildly inconsistent this summer and crashing as much, but guess what? He’s also not showing hella-speed either.

17. 17 Jason Anderson; Rio Rancho, NM; KTM 250 SX-F; 15-40 - The muddy race in Indiana went well for Anderson, but just like last year he sort of fell apart late in the year. The last six motos last year Anderson scored 22 points total, and this year, taking away the mud, he scored 13 points in six dry race motos. Watching him go backwards in the fist moto was weird. I think he’s hooking up with Aldon Baker next year, so that’s definitely something they’re going to have to work on.

18. 343 Luke Renzland; Hewitt, NJ; Yamaha YZ250F; 36-16

19. 874 Zack Williams; Elko, MN; Honda CRF250R; 21-18 – There are Minnesota guys everywhere you look these days.  

20. 253 John Short; Pilot Point, TX; Yamaha YZ250F; 18-22 - A guy named Short who lives in Texas put two consistent motos together? You don’t say…

Blake Baggett came up shy of his second career title.
Blake Baggett came up shy of his second career title. Photo: Simon Cudby 

450 Results

1. 41 Trey Canard; Edmond, OK; Honda CRF450R; 1-1

2. 5 Ryan Dungey; Waconia, MN; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 2-2 – Yeah, Ryan Dungey didn’t win his third 450 title, but he gave it a good run. Hey, he’s Ryan Dungey—he’ll be alright.  

3. 3 Eli Tomac; Cortez, CO; Honda CRF450R; 4-3 - Tomac was just ok; he fell in the first moto while right on the KTM guys and made small mistakes that held him back. Still, he’s been very good this outdoor season. I just wish he would somehow get into therapy with his bike and learn to love it. You’ll never, ever get the perfect motorcycle, and it just jacks you up in the head thinking about it. Seeing how well Canard did with a new suspension, does Eli get to try it even though he’s “technically” on a different team? Lots of politics in this sport.  

4. 94 Ken Roczen; Germany KTM 450 SX-F FE; 3-4 - Roczen didn’t have his usual flash and dash, but to me he still ran hard out there and probably took risks that I wouldn’t have taken if I were in his position and needed to just get an easy fourth to win over a million dollars. But that’s why I’m on the couch and Kenny Roczen rules the motocross world.

5. 24 Brett Metcalfe; Australia; Kawasaki KX 450F; 7-5 - Fifth overall on the day for Metty and fourth overall in the series points. Great, great return to American motocross for the eternally underrated Aussie rider. I don’t know what he’s going to do next year, but I heard he’s got no interest in racing supercross and will be happy to head back to Canada to contest that series, or even do what he did this year. I haven’t spoken to Metcalfe about this, but it’s just what I heard from reliable sources.

6. 39 Ryan Sipes; Flaherty, KY; KTM 450 SX-F; 9-6 - Great job by Sipes once again. I was worried that the Kentucky Kid had lost his flare for motocross after he didn’t do that well when he first came back out of the woods for Bobby Hewitt’s team. But the last couple of weeks have been good. We may see him in the 250SX East Region because he’s somehow still eligible for that class.

7. 29 Andrew Short; Colorado Springs, CO; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 6-12 - Short went down with Reed and Noren right out of the gate in the second moto and still did pretty well. Andrew Short is just so, so, so solid, earning sixth overall in the points despite scoring only 9 points in the first three motos of the year.  

8. 80 Fredrik Noren; Sweden; Honda CRF450R; 10-9 - Noren passed 836 riders as he came back from crashes early in both motos to his finish. He was stupendous. Really, really impressive. And he finished tenth overall in the points. Freddie Noren, we salute you for your summer.  

9. 40 Weston Peick; Wildomar, CA; Suzuki RMZ-450; 13-7 - And another fill-in rider right here with Peick, and he finishes the series in seventh on the RCH Soaring Eagle Suzuki. Peick just never, ever stops moving forward out there. I would bet the number of times he’s been passed this summer (without crashing) in his motos would be in the single digits.

10. 10 Justin Brayton; Fort Dodge, IA; Yamaha YZ450F; 12-8 - Brayton’s leaving Toyota/JGR Yamaha for BTOSports KTM, but don’t be sad for him; he once left for Honda before returning to the Yamaha guys. Will there for a third reunion down the road?

11. 48 Ben Lamay; Wasilla, AK; Yamaha YZ450F; 11-11 - Great job by Lamay. He put together his best race of the season, which was good to see. He’s going to ride the MXdN for Puerto Rico, which has to be pretty cool for a guy like Lamay.

12. 33 Josh Grant; Riverside, CA; Yamaha YZ450F; 5-39 - The fact that people saw Grant moving his stuff into the TwoTwo rig after the race seems to indicate that he’ll be over there next year on a Kawasaki. As far as the race itself, Grant was out of the second moto with shoulder problems or a bike issue depending on whom you talked to.

13. 77 Jimmy Albertson; Shawnee, OK; KTM 450 SX-F; 14-15 - Let’s be honest here…Top Jimmy’s outdoor season had been going pretty crappy for a while. It’s been a rough summer for him, as he and his brother Gregg lived on the road and tried to do it privateer style. So, with all that said, it’s nice to see that his last two motos this summer were the best ones he’d had all year.

14. 22 Chad Reed; Australia; Kawasaki KX450F; 8-30 – A bike came down on Reed when he went down right out of the gate in the second moto. Then he worked all the way to nineteenth before he pulled in with bike issues.  

15. 62 Mitchell Oldenburg; Alvord, TX; Honda CRF450R; 40-10- Look at that…a tenth! Great job for Freckle out there. Remember he was in position for a top-ten last week before his bike blew up.

16. 92 Kellian Rusk; Durango, CO; Yamaha YZ450F; 21-13 - A nice second moto for Rusk, who finished as the top privateer in the series with a nineteenth. Ben Lamay asked me if I thought he was a privateer and I don’t, but I could get where someone would think he was. A solution to the war in the Middle East and the definition of a privateer: two things that might never get solved.  

17; 131 Noah McConahy; Spokane, WA; Honda CRF450R; 38-14 - I got nothing for this guy, but I hope he visits Moser Heating in Spokane if he ever needs heated floors.

18. 606 Ronnie Stewart; Easton, PA; Suzuki RMZ-450; 19-16 - Ronnie Stewart is as privateer as it comes nowadays. “Real” privateers in trucks and vans don’t do all the races. I hate to break it to you, but it’s not 1984 anymore. Anyway, the Candyman did every single race this year as a privateer. Every. Single. Race. Good job Ronnie!  

19. 977 Paul Coates; United Kingdom; Yamaha YZ450F; 15-32 - The Queen Mum would be proud.  

20. 285 Tony Archer; Waldorf, MD; Kawasaki KX450F; 20-17 - Hawkeye with a good day in Utah.

It was a great season for privateers, like Killy Rusk (above).
It was a great season for privateers, like Killy Rusk (above). Photo: Simon Cudby

Some more news and notes:

- Christophe Pourcel had a miserable Utah National after setting yet another fast qualifying time and collecting his ninth Oakley Bomb award for that honor. He was almost three seconds faster than anyone in his class AND faster than any of the 450 guys on what should theoretically be a rougher track. His motos didn’t go well, and at some point in the first one he collided with Dean Wilson and was too sore to go on or start the second moto, which sucks for him. He should just wear a giant foam Rubik’s Cube as his gear because he’s a mystery man. I can’t get whether this return to the outdoors was good or not. He was fast, he holeshot, he led laps, and he won one race, yet I think many people at Yamaha were left wanting more.

- With Mookie Stewart out again the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Honda team tabbed Canadian champion Colton Facciotti to fill in for this race. The Canuck did pretty well. He qualified decently and got the RC Hard Charger award for his from-way-back-to-sixteenth ride in the first moto. Then he had to get checked out at the hospital for chest pains, which is fitting seeing as he did a huge endo on the first lap. Anyway, once again Canadian motocross gets kicked in the nuts and we don’t get to see what our hero can do out there. But it was fun while it lasted, and thanks to Tyler Keefe for making it happen. It’s the least he can do after effing Facciotti over a few years back.

- From now on all fill-in rides that involve plucking a privateer and giving him a factory bike will be judged on the “Noren scale.” It was an unbelievable pick by Honda, and Fast Freddie really showed a lot of speed and determination. Great, great story indeed. We all kind of forget that Metcalfe is also a fill-in rider this summer and finished fourth in the points, but he’s Brett Metcalfe. He’s a former national winner. He didn’t live in his van like Noren did. Anyway, this was it for Noren—his factory dream is over. I told him that after the second moto he should quickly ride into the pits and swap number plates with a privateer Honda dude and then bring Honda back that bike. They’ll never know, and Noren would be able to keep the works bike!

-In the 450 Class we had qualifying times by an American, a German, an American, a Swede, an American, an Aussie, another Aussie, some more Americans, whatever Matt Goerke is, and then a Canadian. These times just made me think about what a melting pot American motocross is. Pretty cool methinks.

- After the race Tony Berluti, perhaps the longest serving mechanic on the circuit, was let go by the RCH guys after a few years there and a long run at factory Suzuki. Berluti did a great job, but he’s located in Las Vegas and isn’t able to go into the shop each and every day, so they had to let him go and that sucks. Berluti’s not really bitter; he gets it. Let’s hope another team snatches up this very good guy and great mechanic for next year.

Thanks for reading this column all year. Thirty races (don’t forget the Canadian national!) and thirty columns of my thoughts and musings. It’s not always easy to come up with a fresh take on the races, but I try to entertain, educate, and make people think with these things. We’ll be back here and there with Observations columns for your enjoyment. Thanks again and see ya soon!

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