BTOSports.com Observations: Tennessee

BTOSports.com Observations Tennessee

June 10, 2015 1:30pm

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Yeah, Muddy Creek! Round four of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship took place at the still-new national track in Tennessee under the threat of rain all week, but it turned out to be a beautiful day. Although it did shower for about ten minutes in the middle of the second 450 moto, it was still a great day of racing. The crowd was into it as well.

This is the third year of the Tennessee National, and I think it was by far the best track we’ve seen there. The track was primo. There was some rain in the area leading up to the event—not too much though. The ruts that formed weren’t too deep. Traction was good. Even though there were some narrow spots and a sketchy first turn, the track proved great. An acceptable national track should always be a bit muddy in the morning for the first practice and then form from there. Muddy Creek was, in my opinion, almost perfect.

I’ve been hearing rumblings that some riders feel the first tracks were more difficult than they should have been. Yes, the first three tracks were gnarly, but they were that way because rains that came into the area for two of the three (Glen Helen and Lakewood) made the ground soft, and, also, the 450s were back to racing second at the first three rounds, which is probably a shock to the system for those riders after going first the last few years. Muddy Creek was excellent, and the promoters shouldn’t listen to the riders too carefully when it comes to tracks. Yes, rider votes sound like the best idea, but you’ll have thirty different opinions depending on how the rider is doing. This is motocross—it’s supposed to be tough.

Ryan Dungey has emerged as the favorite in the 450 Class. 
Ryan Dungey has emerged as the favorite in the 450 Class.  Photo: Cudby

According to Marvin Musquin, he and teammate Ryan Dungey got some new parts or settings on their KTM factory-edition bikes, and it made a difference for both of them. There were whispers during the “Eli Tomac” era (which took place from 5-16-2015 AD to 5-30-2015 AD) that Dungey wasn’t happy with the performance of his machine. I also imagine he wasn’t happy when it cut out twice on him at Glen Helen. Anyway, Dungey won Muddy Creek with 1-2 rides and put 2 more points on Kenny Roczen in the 450 Class title chase. He got into second in the second moto and was closing in on Roczen when he dumped it. It was amazing to see—Ryan Dungey actually crashed!

Had he not crashed, he might have made it interesting and, if he had gotten by Roczen, it could have been series turning. If you’re Ryan Dungey and you have a nice lead in the series after only four races, you just need to maintain a gap and limit damage to the fewest points possible. If your main competition is out front, make sure you’re able to finish right behind him. Don’t let some guy beat you and get some confidence (Editor’s note: Exactly. This is why I hate the dumb “Just back it down and take a 2-2 every weekend when you have a big points lead” garbage. These aren’t robots, they’re humans, and confidence matters. – Weege.)

What happened to Kenny Roczen? Well, he let Jason Anderson get between him and Dungey in moto one. Anderson rode a terrific Muddy Creek (more on him in a moment) to finish second behind Dungey in moto one, and allowed Dungey to put 5 points on the German. Roczen was catching Anderson at one point, and I thought it was only a matter of time before the #1 got the #21. After all, as good as Anderson is, he’s not the defending champion.

But to Anderson’s credit, he kept hammering away while Roczen had a bad lap and lost sight of the Husky rider. With the start of the series that he had, Roczen cannot allow Dungey to keep making points on him. Dungey’s a machine (Editor’s note: but not a robot), and the margin of error for Roczen is getting smaller and smaller. He’s got to at least finish behind Dungey if he can’t beat him. Allowing Anderson to beat him isn’t good. And, as the series goes on and Dungey needs a spot or two if Anderson is ahead of him, I wouldn’t be surprised if Anderson (Dungey’s training partner) makes it easy for him to pass him. It was nice to see Roczen get the second-moto win, but that first moto really hurts the Suzuki rider.

As far as Anderson goes, though, I don’t know what was more impressive: his second in moto one or blitzing through the pack in moto two. Through the first three rounds, Anderson would be good in the one moto and struggle in the other. But after this ride, scratch any questions you may have had about him—he was on fire in Muddy Creek. He was well outside the top twenty and got back to fourth in the second moto. It was eye opening, for sure.

Anderson put on a hard charge in the second moto. 
Anderson put on a hard charge in the second moto.  Photo: Cudby

We make jokes about Filthy Phil Nicoletti and Alex Martin making podiums because they’ve always been the working man’s motocrossers. But these guys are better than ever! And this weekend Filthy led a couple of laps after his teammate Justin Barcia kissed the dirt after the start. And while he was up front, Phillip looked good. He actually looked great! He rode like he’s been leading 450 Class motos his whole life. Phil eventually dropped back a bit in that moto, but still got fourth, and in the second moto he also faded a bit to ninth, but fifth overall and top ten in the points is great. And he’ll only get better from here; he’s getting stronger and more confident, and he prefers the East Coast tracks. The money he’s getting paid is definitely not equal to his results. He’s a bargain.

Marvin Musquin has four moto wins. Jeremy Martin has four moto wins and a 6-point lead after eight motos. In short, there hasn’t been much to separate these two. Musquin has an almost two-moto lead on third-place Jessy Nelson. It’s the M&M show this summer in the 250 Class. I talked last week about who has the edge between these two, and I think we’re basically in a tie situation. Marvin was incredible in coming through the pack after a second-moto crash (is it me or between Marvin, Anderson, Zach Osborne, A-Mart, Jordon Smith, and Ryan Sipes, we had a lot of dudes on it from the back this weekend?) to get a fourth in the second moto and limit the damage done by J-Mart. This track’s not easy to pass on, so Marvin did some hero work to come from about last to fourth.

Like Ryan Dungey, Jeremy Martin’s a bit of a robot (Editor’s note: No!!!). He’s a smaller guy and doesn’t move around on the bike much, and he’s in phenomenal shape. He’s not going to stop charging until the checkers, and if you manage to beat him, you’ve really done something. The juxtaposition between Martin and his now-injured teammate, Cooper Webb, is something to see.

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

250 Class Results

1. 1 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 2-1 – Please, ten-pound baby Jesus, with an FMF shirt on, give us the Martin/Musquin dice of death in an upcoming moto real soon. I’m dying to see it. 

2. 25 Marvin Musquin; France KTM 250 SX-F; 1-4 – They left Hangtown tied, and then Marvin took the red plate after Glen Helen. Martin got it back after Lakewood. Marvin got it back after the first moto in Tennessee, and Martin snatched it back after the second moto. Why do I have a feeling this is going to keep happening?

3. 28 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; KTM 250 SX-F; 3-2 – Remember how I had said that Nelson’s fitness hadn’t been there for whole motos and that it would get better? Well, judging by his race at Muddy Creek, he’s back! Nelson was strong both motos, and I look forward to him and Adam Cianciarulo going at it the rest of the year for third place. 

4. 50 Adam Cianciarulo; Port Orange, FL; Kawasaki KX 250F; 5-3 – We had a question on the Pulpmx Show about whether AC is living up to the hype, but I don’t see much hype around AC now. The 2013 Nationals were a long time ago. What he’s doing though is slowly getting it—he was second in the first moto before crashing. He probably would’ve gone 3-3 without the tumble. I stand by my prediction that he’ll get a win.

5. 37 Joseph Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; Kawasaki KX 250F; 4-11 – Joe-Dog was fifth in the second moto before crashing. Still, fifth overall with a 4-11 score is generous.

6. 157 Aaron Plessinger; Hamilton, OH; Yamaha YZ250F; 8-7 – Plessinger led the second moto until about halfway. He dropped pretty hard after losing the lead, but just the fact he had to speed to lead that long is a positive thing. You watch—Plessinger will be better from here on out. Confidence is a powerful thing, and he’s got to have more of it now.

7. 66 Christopher Alldredge; Powell Butte, OR; Kawasaki KX 250F; 7-8 – The impressive thing about Alldredge this past weekend was, like Jordon Smith, he set his fastest lap of the moto on his last lap. He did a 1:57.4 and his next-best  lap was a 1:59.0. How does a guy find 1.6 seconds on the last lap of the moto? Weird, man. 

8. 80 RJ Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R; 11-5 – If you had to pick between Hampshire or Smith to start a team with, which guy would you pick? Smith was sketchy in SX while RJ was consistently pretty good; outdoors I’d give the edge to Smith for raw speed. Either way, GEICO is just reloading for 2016 with these two kids.

9. 16 Zachary Osborne; Abingdon, VA; Husqvarna FC250; 9-9 – Osborne told me he figured he’s raced Muddy Creek fifteen times a year for twenty years. I’m pretty sure he was serious. Wacko Zacho went from twenty-fifth to ninth in the first moto after a crash, and eighteenth to ninth after a poor start in the second moto. His 9-9 scores on paper were way worse than how he looked on the track.

10. 38 Matthew Bisceglia; Tualatin, OR; Honda CRF250R; 6-13 – Nice first moto for Matt. Second moto, he was basically dead last and rode great to get that thirteenth. He had basically the same race as Smith, but just flip-flop the motos. 

11. 126 Jordon Smith; Belmont, NC; Honda CRF250R; 14-6 – Smith’s first moto was great, from basically last to fourteenth, and second moto he was strong the whole time, coming from behind to get sixth. Last week he was also strong. Methinks the light switch has been flipped with this kid and he’s figuring it out.

12. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 250 SX-F; 10-10 – A 10-10 for twelfth overall? McElrath got screwed, bro. In the 250s a 10-10 can usually get you a sixth overall with all the wacky kids pinning it and crashing. 

13. 450 Hayden Mellross; Australia; Honda CRF250R; 15-15 – This Aussie kid trains with Tim Ferry, he broke his leg twice trying to race supercross this year, and he’s finally getting a chance to show what he can do. And he absolutely killed it for my fantasy moto team as well.

14. 55 Kyle Peters; Greensboro, NC; Honda CRF250R; 12-18 – Peters is Peters, bro. He’s not able to rip through the pack with blazing speed, but he can run the pace of wherever he starts. He can get fifth if he starts there, or he can get eleventh if he starts there.   

15. 31 Alex Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 19-12 – Martin crashed in the first turn in both motos. For four straight motos, he’s been dead last. He’s been very fast, but that and five bucks get you a Starbucks, right? By my count, he’s passed roughly eighty-eight riders in four motos, and that’s good but not good. After Glen Helen he was third in the points, but he’s now twelfth. I’m  sure his buddy Filthy Phil is probably not helping the situation.

16. 343 Luke Renzland; Hewitt, NJ; Yamaha YZ250F; 17-14 – Luke’s finished between thirteenth and seventeenth in every single moto this year. He’s technically still a rookie, so that’s pretty solid.  

17. 52 Mitchell Oldenburg; Alvord, TX; KTM 250 SX-F; 13-40 – Oldenburg’s bike gave up the ghost in the second moto early on.

18. 88 Dakota Alix; Jay, VT; KTM 250 SX-F; 18-17 – The two California rounds weren’t kind to Alix, but he’s rebounded with four decent motos since then. Maybe he’s back on my fantasy list after BURNING ME TWO STRAIGHT WEEKS. Not bitter at all…

19. 79 Jace Owen; Mattoon, IL; Honda CRF250R; 20-16 – This was Owen’s first national of the year. Nothing wrong with this finish.

20. 57 Jackson Richardson; Australia; Honda CRF250R; 16-20 – Nice ride for Richardson. He ended up with a couple of solid motos.

Mellross scored a thirteenth overall via 15-15 moto scores. 
Mellross scored a thirteenth overall via 15-15 moto scores.  Photo: Cudby

450 Class Results 

1. 5 Ryan Dungey; Waconia, MN; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 1-2 – Carlos Rivera, Dungey’s mechanic, is a quiet dude and doesn’t look for the spotlight like some mechanics, but he’s been a superb mechanic for a long time now, with Davi Millsaps and now Dungey. He’s meticulous and someone that Roger DeCoster leans on for help.

2. 1 Ken Roczen; Germany; Suzuki RMZ-450; 3-1 – You know how I know that Roczen is a good dude? Because he posts a ton of photos of his dog Rocky on IG. Yeah, that’s right, I said it. 

3. 21 Jason Anderson; Rio Rancho, NM; Husqvarna FC450; 2-4 – Anderson’s still pretty young, so if you’re Rockstar Energy Racing Husky, you hope he can figure out how to be excellent week in and week out, because that’s a hard thing to do. Hiring trainer Aldon Baker before the season was a sign that he wants to do the right thing. It’s just that he sometimes does things that make you shake your head. 

4. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RMZ-450; 5-3 – Baggett got the start in the first moto and dropped back a couple of spots. Second moto, he was buried and rode hard to get all the way up to third. He was impressive for sure. 

5. 46 Phillip Nicoletti; Cohocton, NY; Yamaha YZ450F; 4-9 – Filthy had a huge crash in practice and really hurt his bum. He tripled into this section, landed in the mud, and stuck, which threw him over the bars. This kind of crash could only happen to Filthy Phil, who his team calls “Positive Phil” for his always-sunny disposition.   

6. 14 Cole Seely; Laguna Beach, CA; Honda CRF450R; 8-5 – Solid day for Seely. With Trey Canard not coming back anytime soon and Eli Tomac out for the year, Cole Seely is Honda.  

7. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RMZ-450; 7-7 – Tickle rode amazing in Lakewood, and although he didn’t get the same scores in Muddy Creek, he may have ridden just as well. In typical Broc Tickle fashion, he had to come from the back to get these scores. 

8. 51 Justin Barcia; Monroe, NY; Yamaha YZ450F; 9-6 – Barcia was yet another guy that had to come from way back when he crashed after getting a great start. Second moto, he again started up front but couldn’t stay there. I would think his first moto ride was a lot of work.

9. 23 Weston Peick; Wildomar, CA; Yamaha YZ450F; 6-11 – Peick was angry at the end of the day, but that’s normal. You couldn’t really tell whether it was because of his result, talking to me, or just being alive. 

10. 10 Justin Brayton; Fort Dodge, IA; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 11-8 – After a shaky start at the California rounds—nothing new for him there—he’s rebounded with some good rides.  

11. 54 Ryan Sipes; Flaherty, KY; Husqvarna FC450; 12-10 – Late in the second moto, Sipes was amazing. The GNCC racer was on fire as he picked off rider after rider and worked his way up to a tenth. And then, after the race, he jumped on a plane, flew to Ohio, and placed second in the GNCC. Impressive! He’s also racing High Point this weekend. 

12. 39 Fredrik Noren; Sweden; Honda CRF450R; 10-12 – Freddie’s battling a knee issue that he aggravated in one moto. He was still pretty good out there. I’d look for him to stay on the factory Honda for another three races at least.   

13. 11 Kyle Chisholm; Valrico, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F; 15-13 – Chiz is like his buddy Tickle—he’s 10–14 every week, and then a bunch of injuries strike or whatever and he’s still 10-14. Weird how he always seems to find his level.   

14. 48 William Hahn; Decatur, TX; Kawasaki KX 450F; 13-16 – I know Wilbur’s been working hard off the bike, but man, does it ever look like he’s just hanging onto his bike at times, like he’s a kid who won a contest to race a KX450F. Got to be hard work for him.

15. 43 Matthew Lemoine; Collinsville, TX; Kawasaki KX 450F; 14-17 – Lemoine got a great start for the first time I can remember this outdoor season and settled into tenth. Then he tipped over and that was all she wrote for chances of having a great moto.   

16. 377 Christophe Pourcel; Groveland, FL; Husqvarna FC450; 38-14 – Pourcel crashed in the first moto and was way back. He just never got it going like he would have hoped in the second moto and basically finished about where he started.   

17. 58 Killian Rusk; Durango, CO; Yamaha YZ450F; 24-15 – Bike issues and crashes have hurt Rusk’s tenure with the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha team, and that’s got to be frustrating for both sides. The second moto finish is much needed for Killy and the team to start building on. 

18. 285 Tony Archer; Waldorf, MD; Kawasaki KX 450F; 16-25 

19. 73 Gannon Audette; Tallahassee, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F; 17-21- Audette showed up for his first national of the year and just did his usual thing—he was solid both motos and no one noticed him. 

20. 84 Jesse Wentland; Elk River, MN; Honda CRF450R; 25-18 – Wentland didn’t do as well as he did last week, but the twenty-fifth was more impressive than it looked because he actually had to stop and get mud out of his shifter, which left him dead last.

Fredrik Noren is filling in for the injured Trey Canard on the Honda HRC team.
Fredrik Noren is filling in for the injured Trey Canard on the Honda HRC team. Photo: Cudby

Some other news and notes: 

Chad Reed isn’t in a good place right now. He followed up his depressing ride at Lakewood with an even more depressing Muddy Creek. He crashed in the first turn and pulled off the track for no reason in the second moto. Of course, we all know his thoughts on not being able to run his helmet camera. Let’s face it, though, the last three seasons in motocross haven’t been great for the legend. In fact, ever since he flew through the air at Millville while leading the series, it’s been downhill. 

It sucks for him and his team that he’s riding poorly and doesn’t seem to be into it. One of two things will happen: Either he starts riding better and finishing inside the top ten, or he pulls out of the series altogether. What happened at Muddy Creek cannot keep happening. Also, teammate Josh Grant was out for the weekend with a knee injury from Thunder Valley, so that didn’t help matters. 

Thanks for reading—I appreciate it. Leave me a message at matthes@racerxonline.com and we can chat about Muddy Creek or really anything that’s on your mind.