BTOSports.com Observations: Ironman

BTOSports.com Observations Ironman

August 26, 2015 1:15pm

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Annnd that’s a wrap! The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship came to a conclusion at the still-new Ironman track at Crawfordsville, Indiana, about forty-five minutes outside of Indianapolis. Last year, the track’s debut was promptly ruined by a monsoon the morning of the race, so we never really saw the true potential. This year, moved to the last race on the schedule and with perfect weather, we saw the track and facility in all its glory.

And seriously, the Ironman track is pretty epic. It’s got some hills, great dirt, good viewing, and a few signature jumps. There were a few complaints from riders that the track crew went a little heavy on the water, which created long ruts and tough conditions. This was a rough track, one where you saw lap times swing two to three seconds a lap from some riders. Regardless of where you stood on the watering, it’s a great track, and in my eyes, when you talk about track, viewing, and access, this round immediately jumps up into the top tier of races on the circuit. 

Going into the race, just 2 points separated Jeremy Martin and Marvin Musquin, so the promoters moved the 250 Class to the second and fourth motos of the day to showcase the drama. We were all set for a great day of amazing racing as this title came down to the wire. These two riders had been going at it all year long, back and forth, and I couldn’t wait to watch the race for the 250MX title. 

Jeremy Martin will wear the #1 again next year.
Jeremy Martin will wear the #1 again next year. photo: Cudby

Except it wasn’t a race at all. Two laps into the first moto, Musquin’s KTM 250 SX-F coughed and sputtered to a halt (after Marvin had made a miraculous save on the first lap where his leg came right off his bike) with an apparent fuel-pump issue. What heartbreak for Marvin and the KTM guys—it was unbelievable really. The KTM team, including Musquin’s mechanic Frankie Latham, are top-notch dudes, and having a mechanical at the most important and crucial race of the season is bizarre. It took the wind right out of the sails, not just for Marvin and his team, but everyone who was looking forward to this epic battle.

Marvin’s DNF and Martin’s fourth made the second moto very anti-climatic even with an early race fall by Martin. The situation was reminiscent of another KTM 250 rider (then 125) named Grant Langston, who, although closer to the title than Marvin was, had a wheel break and lose a national title. We don’t see these things happen much, and to have two mechanical DNFs at the last race cost a chance at a title is a bummer for KTM. Of course, there was no guarantee that Marvin was going to win the title—far from it, actually—but it was surprising and very disappointing to see his title chances end like that. And now Marv moves up into the 450 Class, so he won’t be able to avenge this defeat in the small-bike class.

Jeremy Martin is now champion two years running after finishing sixth in his first full year with six moto podiums. He finished last year with seventeen podiums after walking to the title. This year he collected fifteen podiums and squeaked out the title at the last race. He wasn’t as dominant as last year, but he faced some real adversity in 2015 that he didn’t see in 2014. There were the numerous bad starts, the clutch bolt falling out at Millville, and, of course, Glen Helen, when the team’s own fuel issue caused him to miss the start of the first moto. Last year he reeled off five straight moto wins and managed it from there; this year was a street brawl with Marvin every week. Congrats to Jeremy and the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team on a season that showed us his character and speed all wrapped up into one.

The 250MX title fight overshadowed Martin’s teammate Aaron Plessinger winning his first-ever national (he joins Joey Savatgy as first-time winners this year) with a couple of amazing rides. Plessinger was good at Washougal in the mud and also on the rutty and drunk-uncle-at-Thanksgiving-sloppy track this week. You have to think there’s something to his skills when the track is hammered. It looked like someone just hit the nitro button on Plessinger (like the old Ivan Stewart truck-racing game in the arcades) in the first moto, as he came from around tenth to second around halfway and he reeled in Cooper Webb. Seriously, no one reels in Cooper Webb, right? Well, Aaron did and just about won. 

Aaron Plessinger joined Joey Savatgy on Saturday as a first-time winner this season.
Aaron Plessinger joined Joey Savatgy on Saturday as a first-time winner this season. photo: Cudby

In the second moto, he was going to the front and no one was stopping him. He passed early leaders Jessy Nelson (who crashed) and then Joey Savatgy and rode away. Plessinger carried speed everywhere, took wide and weird lines, and hung off the back of his bike like a giant praying mantis. Congrats to Aaron on the first win of many—it was awesome to watch.

As most of you know, Ken Roczen’s dad did an interview with a German magazine called CROSS that basically blew open what we in then pits have known all year: there is a giant disconnect between Kenny, the dad, and the RCH team. The interview wasn’t what you would call “mild criticism”—it was a full-on bomb drop. Thanks, Dad! Just Google it if you want to know what was said, but what I’m getting at is in no way do I believe it’s as bad as Ken’s dad made it out to be, but to also deny that there aren’t issues would be untrue.

Seeing as how I know a thing or two about how magazines work, I’m betting this interview was done at least a month to month and a half ago when things were at their worst with Roczen and the team. And since then the team has tested some more, worked with the Yoshimura Suzuki guys, and gotten a spring fork for Kenny, and he’s ridden better the last few races. Someone told me on Twitter that the interview was the beginning of the end of the Roczen/RCH partnership, and I replied that it’s nothing that one win couldn’t fix. 

Roczen got a spring fork for his RMZ, and as we’ve seen with other riders like Chad Reed and Eli Tomac over the years, his comfort level with his bike went up and he went faster. Props to team manager Kyle Bentley for pushing hard to make this spring fork switch happen, because, as is the case with high-level motorcycle racing, there are a lot of politics at play here. Suzuki sells their production RMZ-450 with air forks, and PR-wise, I guess they don’t think it looks good for their star rider to go to something they don’t use on their production bikes. I think it’s silly to believe the public actually thinks the bike they buy at the dealership is one that Roczen wins on. Like, give it up. In other news, Joey Logano is not driving a real Camry out there in NASCAR world. 

No doubt, Ken Roczen had a rough year, but he finished strong.
No doubt, Ken Roczen had a rough year, but he finished strong. photo: Cudby

Anyway, Roczen won the last moto of the year, which was good for him and the team. Last week he led a ton of laps and ran close to Ryan Dungey, which was fine. The week before, he shadowed Dungey in the second moto and rode well. Basically, the last six motos of the year he was the “old” Kenny Roczen and seemed to figure things out from his low point of what I would say was Millville. I predict the RCH guys do some restructuring within their team next year (with Kenny’s mechanic Kelly going back to KTM and Roczen getting Oscar Wirdeman as a wrench for 2016. Oscar, previously with TwoTwo Motorsports and Chad Reed’s mechanic for the 2008 supercross title, has already been helping out RCH at the races—the transformation has begun) and we see a more direct line of communication between the riders and team members. Any good organization should take a look at itself once in a while and see what it can do to improve. 

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

250MX Results

1. 157 Aaron Plessinger; Hamilton, OH; Yamaha YZ250F; 2-1 – I see Kevin Windham out there when I watch Aaron, but JT told me I’m crazy. Wouldn’t be the first time I was off about a rider and won’t be the last.

2. 37 Joseph Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; Kawasaki KX250F; 5-2 – Joe Dog almost won his first moto at Indiana coming off his almost wins at Unadilla, but he came up a bit short to Plessinger, who was amazing. Joey mentioned after the race that he’s going to have some surgery of some sort, and I would bet this rules him out for the USGP. Next year could be the year of the dude with the weird beard. 

3. 28 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; KTM 250 SX-F; 3-6 – Good motos for Jessy, and he rebounded from a bit of a mid-season slump to have four good motos in a row. In Indiana, he led some laps in the second moto before crashing, but still a nice ride. 

4. 80 RJ Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R; 8-4 – The light switch has gone on for RJ. He’s been running up front, leading laps, and, this weekend, coming from the back to a nice finish. He’ll be a guy in 2016 who can win races. Now, his teammate Jordon Smith didn’t end the year on quite as positive a note, but he might be okay too because you can’t teach speed…

5. 38 Matthew Bisceglia; Tualatin, OR; Honda CRF250R; 6-5 – Matt ended the season with a few nice races and slid into ninth in the final standings, but GEICO Honda has to wonder why he couldn’t put it together and be consistent all year long. 

6. 1 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 4-9 – Martin had a rough day by his standards, but he knew Musquin was out in the first moto, and in the second moto knew he needed to just finish in the top fifteen (if Marvin won) to clinch the title. He’ll be back in 2016 to try and join Broc Glover, Mark Barnett, Ricky Carmichael and Ryan Villopoto with three 125MX/250MX national titles in a row. 

7. 16 Zachary Osborne; Abingdon, VA; Husqvarna TC250; 10-7 – Osborne just didn’t have the same kind of results the last month of the season that he had at the beginning, and I have to wonder if he just got a bit worn down from the long year. Next year, maybe he’ll learn that sometimes less is more when it comes to training and resting, and be better prepared. He was third in the standings at one point and looked good to hold onto that, but couldn’t make it happen the last few races. 

8. 68 Christian Craig; Plymouth, MN; Honda CRF250R; 9-8 – Craig’s comeback to racing was a nice surprise. And watching him ride is like sitting front row to Sammy Hagar and Eddie Van Halen make music together (IE: it’s beautiful), but now the work starts for Christian. As in, he’s got to work hard in the off-season, and he’s going to have the pressure of getting podiums and wins in 250SX next year. 

9. 17 Cooper Webb; Newport, NC; Yamaha YZ250F; 1-37 – Why do I have this feeling that Coop’s Motocross of Nations appearance on the 450 is going to look something like this—blazing fast, a win, pissed-off competitors on the podium, and then a massive crash and DNF in another moto? I hope I’m wrong.

10. 25 Marvin Musquin; France; KTM 250 SX-F; 40-3 – Props to Musquin for coming out after the race and doing interviews. He handled the defeat with grace and explained that he had a nice life and it will go on. And knowing Marvin, I didn’t expect anything different from him. 

11. 47 Martin Davalos; Ecuador; Husqvarna TC250; 12-10 – Good day for Marty. No, I’m being serious and not sarcastic at all. It was a good day! 

12. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 250 SX-F; 11-11 – I think Shane will win supercrosses next year. Yeah, I said it. 

13. 450 Hayden Mellross; Australia; Honda CRF250R; 13-14 – Last week we saw the Australian get back into collecting good results like these after weeks of frustrating times. And he did it again at the last race. It’s nice to end the year on a high note. 

14. 66 Christopher Alldredge; Powell Butte, OR; Kawasaki KX250F; 7-31 – This pretty much sums up Alldredge’s entire rookie year—some speed, a good finish, and then a crash out of the second moto.

15. 434 Daniel Baker; Crittenden, KY; KTM 250 SX-F; 17-12 – Thank you, Daniel Baker, for just putting the icing on the fantasy poop cake for me. I picked you every week that you did poorly, and when I got scared and skipped you, you get a twelfth-place moto finish. Thanks a lot. 

16. 857 Darian Sanayei; Washington, SC; Kawasaki KX250F; 15-15 – It was Darian’s first race, and a solid one at that. Last week he raced Walton in Canada and finished 4-4 for fifth overall. We all know that the Canadian National competition prepared him for this week’s race. As a matter of fact, Indiana was probably a walk in the park for him after facing the Canadians.

17. 232 Marshal Weltin; Ubly, MI; Yamaha YZ250F; 14-16 – I know nothing about this dude, but I read that he’s getting help from Barcia and may even be running “Justinbarcia.com” stickers on his bike. I like that move.

18. 79 Jace Owen; Mattoon, IL; Honda CRF250R; 18-13

19. 95 Nick Gaines; Ringgold, GA; Kawasaki KX250F; 16-19 – Who is this new consistent, steady Nick Gaines, and what have you done with the balls-out fast, out-of-control, Nick Gaines we saw in supercross?

20. 128 Alex Frye; Huntingtown, MD; KTM 250 SX-F; 21-17 – JT said that Frye’s going to Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs KTM next year, so this makes him the seventy-third rider I’ve heard going to that team next year. Big team for Tyler Keefe, bro.

It was a solid day for the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna rider.
It was a solid day for the Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna rider. photo: Cudby

450MX Results

1. 5 Ryan Dungey; Waconia, MN; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 1-2 – Dungey just about ate poop hard in the first moto on his way to the win. In the second moto, he did crash (so weird to see Dunge on the ground) and that was all Roczen needed to win the moto. Still, the overall goes to the 2015 450MX champion, and with twenty-two podiums in twenty-four motos, good luck getting that #1 off the bike next year!

2. 1 Ken Roczen; Germany; Suzuki RMZ-450; 3-1 – Roczen got a poor start in moto one and wasn’t able to get up as far as he would’ve liked, but as I said, moto two was a nice win for him and the team. And again, I can’t stress enough that if I’m Kenny, I’m really angry at pops for this interview.

3. 21 Jason Anderson; Rio Rancho, NM; Husqvarna FC450; 2-6 – Anderson’s first moto was awesome, but he looked to have gotten tired in the second moto. Not sure what was up. Still, third overall on the day with four podiums and sixth overall on the year is solid. And at times, he was just balls-out fast, bro. That counts for something in my eyes.

4. 51 Justin Barcia; Madison, FL; Yamaha YZ450F; 7-3 – Barcia crashed in practice and hit his head, hence the (for him) subpar results. He dropped pretty fast in moto one, and although moto two was better, when you led laps like he did, finishing third doesn’t make you happy. In other Barcia news, he sprayed me with a pressure washer, said, “what’s up?” to me, and gave me a post-race interview, so maybe the hit to the head made him forget that he doesn’t like me for some reason. I like Justin and I’ve never held his anger toward me against him. I’ve been going to these dirt bike races since 1996 and I know how this game is played.

5. 377 Christophe Pourcel; Dade City, FL; Husqvarna FC450; 4-7 – After an uninspiring Utah, Pourcel got some starts this week and actually led the first moto for a bit before settling for fourth. In the second moto he was again up there, but it looked like the roughness of the track caught up to him. Going to be interesting to see what the #377 can do with a full off-season of him knowing what bike and team he’ll be on.

6. 41 Trey Canard; Edmond, OK; Honda CRF450R; 8-5 – Canard had an okay day, and after the race he had some mild criticism of the prep of the track. Here are his words: “It was nasty. I don’t want to be the guy that’s complaining, but I don’t think it’s good that they do it that way. I really think racing would be a lot better if… Basically it comes to the point where there are so many lines that it becomes one line. I don’t know if that makes sense. Everything is so deep you just try to find the one that’s not deep, and it ends up being one or two that are good. It makes racing…kind of everyone’s kind of stuck.

“…The thing is they’ve been prepping it and watering it in between every practice and it’s like they’re just watering mud today. I just think there’s been years prior where tracks were way too smooth. There are just tractor berms. I just think we can get away with a little less water and a little less deep loam. All the tracks are the same now. You don’t really go to a hard-pack track; you don’t go to a sandy track. They’re all loam.”

7. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RMZ-450; 6-9 – Baggett was, at times, one of the fastest dudes on the track. Problem was his starts did him in. Imagine that? The BB Gun ended up a solid fourth overall in his rookie season.

8. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RMZ-450; 15-4 – The Tick crashed in the first lap of the first moto and was way, way, way back. To even get fifteenth was good. In the second moto the dude fought hard to get into third and was on it before finishing just off the box. Great ride for him regardless. And he’s been very good the last couple of weeks. I used to build Broc’s goggles, but after “goggle gate” at Washougal (just listen to the Pulpmx Show), he got mad at me for airing the issue out on the show, so I don’t build his stuff anymore. #hurtfeelings

9. 33 Joshua Grant; Riverside, CA; Kawasaki KX450F; 10-8 – I don’t think Monster Energy Kawasaki is going to a three-man team (Eli Tomac and Wil Hahn are locked in there), so JG only has one more race on the team (the USGP), and then he joins the list of free agents looking for rides. I thought he was solid, although not spectacular, in his fill-in shot.

10. 46 Phillip Nicoletti; Cohocton, NY; Yamaha YZ450F; 11-10 – Oh, how I wished the Canadian champion Colton Facciotti would’ve hunted Phil down and made the pass in both motos. He was a bit behind Filthy, but if he had been able to do it, I would never have let Phil forget about it.

11. 495 Colton Facciotti; Canada; Honda CRF450R; 13-11 – Facciotti, fresh off a runner-up finish in the Canadian MX1 series, showed up at Ironman and logged a couple of good finishes. He was right up there in the first moto! Oh, Canada indeed. He was battling a bit of a back problem, so I got him hooked up with a chiropractor there at the track who helped him a bit. Just doing my part for my country, bro.

12. 29 Andrew Short; Colorado Springs, CO; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 12-12 – A quiet day for Shorty. I spoke to him a bit before practice, but other than that, didn’t really get to the bottom of his day. He’s another guy I’m sure is pumped that this outdoor season is over. After coming back from his supercross injury, he never really found his old groove as much as I would’ve thought.

13. 19 Justin Bogle; Cushing, OK; Honda CRF450R; 5-30 – Nice first moto for Bogle, and he would’ve backed that up with another top-ten in the second moto, but I guess his bike broke and then he crashed.

14. 15 Dean Wilson; United Kingdom; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 9-35 – Wilson has a decent first moto and then crashed out of the second. Afterward he was joking with us about his fall and telling us about how pumped he is to be a member of Team Great Britain in the MXoN. Remember when he rode for Canada? That was awesome.

15. 934 Benny Bloss; Oak Grove, MO; Yamaha YZ450F; 17-15 – Too bad for Benny (Eddie Ray’s favorite male rider by the way) that he couldn’t make his debut right after Loretta’s due to injury. He came out at Indiana and did a pretty good job for his first national. He told me after the race he was surprised at the pace and how tired he got. Don’t worry, Benny—you’re only the 894th guy making his pro debut who has said that. He rode for the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha team, but I know MotoConcepts is talking to him for 2016. The guy’s really tall, by the way.

16. 903 Tyler Medaglia; Canada; Husqvarna FC450; 20-13 – Another Canadian! T-Dags got a bad start and was caught in a crash in the first moto. At one point I saw him thirty-fourth, so to get twentieth is solid for him. And the second moto was even better, as he used fitness and speed to get himself a solid thirteenth. Good day for Dags on the Husky. I think he’s going to be doing more GNCCs here shortly.

17. 54 Ryan Sipes; Flaherty, KY; Husqvarna FC450; 18-16 – I think pretty highly of Sipes and his skills although he’s not a motocross guy anymore. Yes, it was muddy, but he made the podium at this race a year ago. I picked him to kill it in fantasy moto and he did the opposite. I still like Ryan, though.

18. 42 Ben LaMay; Wasilla, AK; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 21-14 – LaMay got a shot on the BTOSports.com KTM this week and did just about exactly the same as he did on the Munn Husky. Go figure.

19. 35 Kyle Cunningham; Willow Park, TX; Suzuki RMZ-450; 14-38 – Kyle had a nice first moto, but hurt his wrist at some point and couldn’t line up for the second moto.

20. 926 Kaven Benoit; Canada; KTM 450 SX-F; 19-18 – OH MY GOD ANOTHER CANADIAN!!! The MX2 champ normally rides a 250 two-stroke, so jumping up from that to a 450 for an American national must’ve been tough. A couple of top-twenty finishes for a dude at his first national is nothing to be ashamed of.

Props to MX Sports for organizing the Legends Race at Indiana, where guys like Jeff Stanton, Guy Cooper, Kevin Windham, Ricky Carmichael, Jeff Emig, Robbie Reynard, and my personal hero, Tim Ferry, among others, showed up to race. It was a four-lap race before the first motos of the day and the fans were into it. At 53 years old, Cooper aired out the massive uphill triple on his second lap of practice on Friday. It was so awesome on so many levels. And Cooper and Stanton were in some original gear from when they raced! This thing really drew the attention of the fans; there was tangible buzz about this race. In the end, RC won, Robbie Reynard was second, and Ferry was third. As I said a few times, I had serious flashbacks to my mechanic career with Ferry, as he got a bad start, worked his way up to third, and lost to RC. That was about what happened in 89 percent of the races in the four years I worked for him. 

I hope the powers that be consider doing this again and are able to lock in riders, maybe pay them a bit for their effort and expenses, make a two- or three-race series of it, and travel to each part of the country. This event worked. It really, really worked. 

That’s all I got, folks! We’ve made it; we’ve done twenty-nine of these things this year. Thanks for reading all year long, and I’ll be back with more OBS columns after the Monster Energy Cup, Red Bull Straight Rhythm, and MXoN. I love doing these each week, and if you want to send some feedback, hit me up at matthes@racerxonline.com and we can chat.