After Blake Wharton's solid performance at Millville this year, we decided to look back at other recent rookie debuts.
In perhaps the highest-profile pro debut of all time, Mike Alessi came to Millville in 2004 saying he would get two holeshots in the 450 class and finish on the podium. Those bold words bred the infamous Believe The Hype t-shirts, and the entire industry locked in on Mike's Millville ride. The result? A 27-25 performance and a near explosion of the motocross internet. But two weeks later, he returned at Steel City and indeed scored podium finish. photo : Simon Cudby Oklahoma's Trey Canard collected the AMA Horizon Award after claiming two titles at Loretta Lynn's. Then he crashed out of his first pro national moto at Millville. But in moto two, Canard grabbed the holeshot and held on to an impressive fourth-place finish. photo: Simon Cudby Suzuki raised eyebrows when they promoted B class support rider Ryan Dungey all the way into the factory semi for Millville 2006. On his home track, the Minnesota native went 8-8 for seventh overall in his debut. Two years later, he won the Millville overall. photo: Simon Cudby Florida's Matt Goerke chose the sandy Southwick, Massachusetts circuit to make his pro debut in 2004. He showed impressive speed, and even after a few crashes was able to go 16-10 for 13th overall. photo: Simon Cudby Honda prospect Josh Grant made his pro debut at the start of the 2004 AMA National Motocross Season. Relatively unknown, Grant promptly grabbed the holeshot in the first moto of the season and started checking out! A few laps later he stalled his bike and couldn't get it restarted, dropping out of a points-paying position. Want some amazing trivia? Grant holeshot the first 125/Lites moto at Hangtown in '05, '06 and '07 as well! photo: Simon Cudby 2006 AMA Horizon Award Winner Josh Hill made his highly-anticipated pro debut at Millville. Since the Factory Yamaha team had not raced in the Lites division in years, Hill suffered through some bad luck and mechanical issues en route to 19-18 moto scores and 22nd overall. A week later, he went 2-5 for third overall at Broome-Tioga. photo: Simon Cudby Kentucky's Ryan Sipes had only moderate success and support as an amateur, so he decided to turn pro for the High Point National in Pennsylvania. Sipes had turned plenty of laps on that track as an amateur, and he promptly finished seventh in his very first moto. Although he was too tired to do any better than 34th in moto two, the ride put Sipes on the pro map. photo: Simon Cudby A big kid, Tyler Bowers took a different route to the pros by racing the BooKoo Arenacross Series instead of piling up amateur titles. Scheduled to make his pro debut on a 450 at Unadilla, a broken wrist kept him off the track until Steel City. But his debut was a sour one, as Bowers, still struggling with the wrist, failed to qualify for the main motos. photo: Carl Stone North Carolina's Austin Stroupe chose to skip the traditional Millville debut spot for an extra week of testing and practice. He ended up with a high-profile debut at Steel City. Under instructions from new boss Mitch Payton to "not let off no matter what" Stroupe pulled the holeshot in the first moto and clipped teammate Ryan Villopoto while doing it, taking Villo down. Stroupe finished an amazing second in that moto, then followed with a 12th to claim fourth overall. photo: Matt Ware Suzuki standout Nico Izzi jumped into the frey with Trey Canard at Millville last year, and he quitely finished an impressive fifth overall with 7-7 moto scores. photo: Simon Cudby Jason Lawrence sealed his reputation when he was spotted eating candy on the starting line of his first pro national at Southwick in 2005, and then went out and turned some of the fastest laps of the entire Lites class. J-Law's 7-28 finishes didn't explain just how fast he went, or how much attention he would soon garner. photo: Simon Cudby 2005 AMA Horizon Award winner Ryan Villopoto skipped Millville to have more time to test with his pro team, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Bad starts held him to 14-16 scores and 15th overall, but two weeks later he went 2-2 for second overall at Glen Helen. photo: Matt Ware Texan Tyler Wharton straddled a KTM 450SX for his pro debut at last year's Freestone National in his home state. Wharton clocked the 11th fastest practice time on Sunday morning before crashing and breaking his collarbone, preventing him from racing in either of the main motos. photo: Simon Cudby Blake Wharton carried the flag for this year's amateur class with a strong debut at Millville. A first lap crash in his first moto set him up for a charge through the pack, and despite a second crash, he finished tenth. In moto two he started second and finished fourth, good enough for fifth overall. photo: Simon Cudby