Sign of the (Lap) Times: Glen Helen

Sign of the (Lap) Times Glen Helen

May 26, 2015 4:05pm

By Chase Stallo and Jason Weigandt

If you watched Hangtown, you know defending 450MX champion Ken Roczen, is dealing with a back issue. He told us late last week that the back was much better heading into round two of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. While we didn’t quite see the same Ken Roczen that nearly won both motos at Glen Helen a year ago, we did see a remarkably improved rider compared to Hangtown. Roczen won the Bud Light fastest qualifier award in practice. In the first moto he tangled with Jason Anderson off the start, but came from nearly dead last to finish eighth in the first moto. He showed impressive speed behind Ryan Dungey in moto two before a small crash set him back, and he settled for third. “The track was really gnarly out there. I made a bunch of mistakes,” he told Racer X. “I think if I could have cleaned up some places, it would have made my lap times quite a bit better. But we’ll build from here.” Roczen is 49 points behind Eli Tomac in the 450MX standings. 

While Roczen was charging to eighth, Jason Anderson was left picking up the bike a second time in the first moto after visiting the Fram mechanics’ area for brief repairs. After a podium overall finish the last time out, Anderson took thirty-eighth in the first Glen Helen moto. He rebounded for fifth in the second moto but wasn’t able to crack the overall top ten, finishing eleventh. “My day here at Glen Helen was kind of weird,” Anderson said in a statement. “I rode good all day, but I had two things happen in the first moto that were out of my control. I feel like I would have been top five overall, which is good. I got a decent start in the second moto and fell back a little, then made a charge in the end and got up to fifth. I was battling for fourth. All in all it was a step in the right direction and I feel good.” 

AutoTrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha claimed three of the first five positions in moto one, with Justin Barcia and Phil Nicoletti taking second and third, and Weston Peick trailing in fifth. Barcia and Peick maintained their speed in the second moto, finishing fourth and sixth respectively, with Peick surviving a near-devastating crash, while Nicoletti could only manage twenty-first after a hard crash early in the race. Nicoletti was still pleased with his day, which included his first career moto podium. “There are plenty of positives to take out of today and into next weekend,” he said. “I’m happy.”

Pourcel finished eighth overall on the Husky on Saturday.
Pourcel finished eighth overall on the Husky on Saturday. Photo: Cudby

Cole Seely’s 450MX career finally got started at Glen Helen. A week after a first-turn crash in moto one sidelined him for the day, Seely managed tenth overall in his debut after 14-9 finishes. For Seely, though, his goals are about getting his outdoor skills on par with supercross. “Obviously I’m a good supercross rider, but I really want to be a good outdoor rider as well,” he told Racer X. “It’s what I try for every year, to get faster outdoors. I feel like I’m getting better and stronger, and am picking up things where I need to. It’s all just coming together a little slower than I’d like it to.” 

In just his second race with the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna team, Christophe Pourcel managed a second straight top-ten overall. We talked to Pourcel before practice and he said he thinks it will take around five races to truly be dialed in with his new machine, because off-season testing at smooth practice tracks can only teach so much. In the second half of the year he hopes to be a consistent top-five guy. For now he’s been hovering in the top ten. Among the significant changes to his bike since Hangtown, he was sporting triple clamps with a different off set to improve stability. Pourcel said in a team statement that he felt better than last week. “Overall my speed was in the top ten today,” he said. “I got a decent start and tried to do my motos. The track was pretty rough, and this is only my second race back, so it’s a lot to take. It’s good just to be in the top ten and keep pushing until the end of the motos. I feel like I’m progressing and taking steps forward, and I feel a lot better than last week so that’s good.”

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Wil Hahn still didn’t have a great day at Glen Helen, but his 11-18 was better than his 17-26 from Hangtown. Hahn told us his bike was way too soft for Hangtown and they made major changes to stiffen it up, and the team also changed engine settings via EFI mapping. “The set up was off [at Hangtown], but that’s not on the team or the bike; it’s on me because I picked those settings,” he told us. Hahn says his arm, which he re-broke in a crash at Anaheim 1, is pain free and actually feels better than it did before he broke it for the second time (the second surgery allowed doctors to fix some troubles dating back to his first break last season). He’s still struggling with strength though.

Hahn is steadily improving after returning from injury.
Hahn is steadily improving after returning from injury. Photo: Cudby

Blake Baggett and the Yoshimura Suzuki team was another squad making big changes to the bike for round two. “Forks, shock, and linkage,” said team manager Mike Webb. “We keep moving same direction we were headed in going to Hangtown.” Baggett felt his bike worked well on the big stuff at Hangtown but wanted a plusher feel on the small bumps. One of the biggest keys this season for the team is making the bike easy to ride for Blake, who is one of the smaller pilots in the 450 Class.

450 Class Moto 1

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 1 2:21.120  2:23.942  Eli Tomac
2 2:22.165  2:27.369  Ryan Dungey 
3 2:23.860  2:26.856  Justin Barcia 
4 2:24.513  2:26.843  Blake Baggett
5 2:25.392  2:26.813  Weston Peick 
6 2:25.409  2:28.070  Ken Roczen 
7 2:25.632  2:27.168  Phil Nicoletti 
8 2:25.691  2:27.113  Chad Reed 
9 27  2:26.187  2:31.022  Josh Grant 
10 38  2:26.164  2:31.649  Jason Anderson 

In general a lot of the 450 riders were better at Glen Helen than Hangtown—Barcia, Dungey, Reed, Roczen, Nicoletti—but these times still show everyone has a long way to go to match Eli.

450 Class Moto 2

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 1 2:21.519  2:24.688  Eli Tomac 
2 2:21.821  2:27.281  Ken Roczen 
3 2:22.387  2:26.229  Ryan Dungey 
4 2:25.912 2:28.325  Weston Peick 
5 10  2:26.908  2:30.451  Christophe Pourcel
6 2:27.100  2:28.547  Jason Anderson 
7 2:27.136  2:28.686  Justin Barcia 
8 2:27.147  2:30.398  Chad Reed 
9 2:27.331  2:29.254  Blake Baggett 
9 2:27.331  2:30.370  Cole Seely 
10 11 2:27.750 5 2:31.480 Brett Metcalfe

Well, look at that. In pure speed, best lap, Ken Roczen wasn't so far behind Tomac, and he won the Bud Light fastest qualifier award in the morning. Signs of life from the champ. Also, note that in the first moto most riders put in their best time around the range of laps 6-7, but the peak came earlier in the rougher second moto.

250 Class Moto 1

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 2:23.242  2:26.041  Justin Hill
2 2:23.553  2:25.969  Marvin Musquin
3 2:23.804  2:26.805  Jessy Nelson 
4 2:24.064  2:26.557  Jeremy Martin 
5 2:24.143  2:26.501  Joey Savatgy 
6 11 2:24.530   4 2:27.338  Alex Martin 
7 2:25.255  2:29.228  Kyle Peters 
8 2:25.547  2:28.306  Matt Bisceglia 
9 21  2:25.560  2:28.679  Chris Alldredge 
10 14  2:25.624  2:31.754  Jordon Smith 

Much, much needed strong performance from Justin Hill. A rough supercross campaign could yield to a solid summer based at least on this Glen Helen performance. The Martin brothers were both way back early in this one and logged these times in traffic. Clearly it took J-Mart a few extra laps to get clean enough track to really drop the hammer.

250 Class Moto 2

Lap Rank Finish Best Lap In Lap Avg Lap Time Rider
1 2:24.683  2:28.670  Marvin Musquin 
2 2:25.326  2:28.158  Jeremy Martin 
3 2:26.627  2:29.203  Alex Martin 
4 2:27.230  2:30.682  Chris Alldredge 
5 2:27.268  2:29.536  Jessy Nelson
6 2:27.549  2:29.330  Shane McElrath 
7 2:27.740  15  2:28.903  Justin Hill 
8 2:27.930  2:30.883  Zach Osborne 
9 2:28.241  2:30.344  Joey Savatgy 
10 11  2:28.610  2:31.070  Matt Bisceglia 

The last lap McElrath/Nelson/Hill/J-Mart fight was impressive. Look at Justin Hill's late charge, with his best lap on the last lap of the race. He was almost three seconds quicker than Nelson and a second quicker than McElrath on the last lap. But on that last lap, Jeremy Martin was even two seconds faster than Hill!

More News and Notes:

A sea of orange flooded the Glen Helen 250MX podium, marking a banner day for the Austrian brand. KTM swept the 250 overall podium (Marvin Musquin, Justin Hill, and Jessy Nelson) and staked claim to four of six moto podiums (Shane McElrath joining the aforementioned). For Hill and McElrath, it was the first time either has stood on a podium outdoors. 

“It was great to see three KTMs on the podium today,” stated Red Bull KTM team manager Roger DeCoster. “We can’t ask for too much better of a day than that. We are proud of our two Red Bull KTM riders and it is great to see the progress of the TLD riders as well.” 

“Each race I’m feeling better and better,” said McElrath in a statement. “I had a good second moto but need to start out the day putting myself into a good position when we go line up for moto two. We’ll get it dialed, and I’m looking forward to Thunder Valley.” 

Also, credit to the newest member of the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM team, Mitchell Oldenburg, who went 10-15 for twelfth overall, making for a solid day.

Mitchell Oldenburg put in a solid performance in Glen Helen. 
Mitchell Oldenburg put in a solid performance in Glen Helen.  Photo: Cudby

Privateer power! We don’t normally see true privateers break into the top ten in the super deep 250 Class of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross, but Kyle Peters nailed a seventh in the first moto on his MotoSport.com/GPI Honda in moto one, and followed it with a twelfth in moto two for ninth overall. Peters’ previous best was an eleventh overall at RedBud in 2012. 

You know what they say about rookies, right? Inconsistent? Well, it was true on this day for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Chris Alldredge and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger. Alldredge, who was third overall at Hangtown, was fast again but crashed on a downhill in the first moto and took forever to get his bike pointed the right way. He rebounded in moto two for 21-8 scores and fourteenth overall. Plessinger went 8-23 for fifteenth overall. 

Plessinger’s teammate Anthony Rodriguez had a great run at Hangtown with 7-6 scores, but a crash during the week knocked him out of Glen Helen. 

Alex Martin returned to the podium for the first time since trudging to a third in a moto at a rain-soaked Southwick in 2011 with Eleven10 Mods. Alex, a notoriously slow starter out west—his previous best a sixteenth and eleventh at the first two rounds in 2014—is off to a career-best start, sitting third in points after a second in moto two. Alex stalled while running fifth in the first moto and worked back to eleventh (from fortieth), and that mistake kept him off the overall podium. “Oh, for sure. I was mad!” he told Racer X following the race. “Eleventh isn’t really going to get me a good overall unless I get a podium, which is what I did, and I ended up fifth overall. I was mad because I knew I blew the overall for the day. I just took that anger into the second moto.” 

A year after sweeping Glen Helen in dominant fashion last year, Alex’s younger brother, Jeremy, had to charge from dead last in both motos to salvage seventh overall. In a scene reminiscent to Ryan Dungey at the same Southwick race where his brother last made the podium, Jeremy’s bike failed to start on the line of the first moto. His team, working feverishly, got the bike running as the moto started, and Jeremy was able to work to fifth. “They know the bike inside and out, so they knew what was wrong right away,” Martin told Racer X. “I just was glad I could make it. They were in the first turn by the time I got going, but I just put my head down and started charging forward.”

Peters had his best outdoor performance of his career over the weekend.
Peters had his best outdoor performance of his career over the weekend. Photo: Cudby

Martin got a great start in the second moto but clipped Jessy Nelson and again had to work back from nearly dead last. He managed to make his way to sixth but was disappointed he couldn’t find the podium. “I was just frustrated I couldn’t close the gap earlier and get it done sooner,” he said. “I work hard, and no matter if I start last or not, I still want to be on the podium. I felt like I could have still got the podium.” 

Veteran Zach Osborne had a big crash in the second moto and popped his shoulder out, according to a team press release. Osborne, who finished the moto thirty-third and seventeenth overall, said he’s “optimistic” for Thunder Valley Saturday. “In the second moto I got maybe a tenth-place start and charged up to fifth,” he said in a statement. “I was catching up to third and fourth and had a small tip-over. I got up and was still ninth or tenth and started to come back a bit. I had a big crash with two laps to go and popped my shoulder out…” Osborne was 13th in the first moto.

Osborne’s teammate Zach Bell was a late scratch for Glen Helen due to injuries sustained at Hangtown, the team said in a press release. Bell sustained a bruised elbow and suffered a partially collapsed lung while practicing at Milestone late in the supercross season. He returned for the SX finale in Vegas and raced the opening round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross last weekend. After crashing in Hangtown, Bell is expected to miss a few rounds. We will update his status for Thunder Valley later in the week.