Everything you need to know about the 450s for Hangtown
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season opener from Hangtown is on the horizon. Defending champion Ken Roczen is returning from an ankle injury sustained in Monster Energy Supercross, Ryan Dungey is coming off his second 450SX title, and Eli Tomac is also considered a favorite for the 450 crown outdoors. But there are many players and lots of talent in this field. Check out our 450MX preview for more.
RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki
#1 Ken Roczen
Obviously one of the favorites, Roczen won the 2014 450MX Championship, and he won that title in his rookie year. He raced for Red Bull KTM in 2014; this will be his 450MX debut on a Suzuki. The question is if his bothersome ankle, which cost him the second half of supercross, will hold him back early. He usually dominates Hangtown though (winning both 250 motos in ’13 and both 450 motos in ’14), so the opener will tell quite a story.
#20 Broc Tickle
Tickle is solid, but he missed all of outdoors last year with a broken back. His supercross season was okay. At one point he seemed poised to be a podium threat, but he never sealed the deal. When he last raced 450MX, in 2013, he finished seventh in the final standings.
#3 Eli Tomac
Tomac won the 2013 250MX title, but missed the first four rounds of his 450MX debut with a broken collarbone. He won Millville mid-season and showed the speed to challenge anybody throughout—he’s right at the top of the title favorites list. Bad starts and strange crashes thwarted Tomac’s 450SX title hopes this year; he’s hoping that doesn’t happen again outside.
Red Bull KTM
#5 Ryan Dungey
Dungey was just edged by Roczen in last year’s close 450MX title fight. Now he has a new and improved KTM 450SX-F Factory Edition and training from Aldon Baker. He’s also coming off his best supercross season ever, where he claimed the title and eight race wins. The two-time 450MX champ is always a contender outdoors.
#15 Dean Wilson
Wilson is out for the summer with a knee injury.
#4 Blake Baggett
Baggett was the 2012 250MX Champion and finished second in 250MX last year. He’s also particularly fast at Hangtown. This is his first go on a 450 outdoors, but his supercross season was surprisingly good, and he’s usually better outdoors. This is a solid dark-horse pick.
#7 James Stewart
Stewart is not eligible to race due to a drug test result dating back to 2014. He becomes legal to race again just before the final two rounds, but his team has indicated he’ll wait until the off-season supercross races to return.
Team Honda HRC
#14 Cole Seely
Seely just finished a superb rookie 450SX season with a win and third in points, but he’s always excelled in supercross compared to motocross. He has a few 250MX podium finishes, but has never won an outdoor moto or overall. Still, if his style works so well on a 450, there’s a chance he can make some noise here.
#41 Trey Canard
Canard ended last summer in a flurry, winning the final round with 1-1 scores. But he broke his arm in a supercross crash last month and isn’t expected back by the opener.
#10 Justin Brayton
Brayton normally does better in supercross, but he missed the middle of supercross this year with injuries. Now he’s back to 100 percent and promising to have more focus on outdoors. Normally the two California races are his weakest, so they’ll tell the story here.
#29 Andrew Short
Short would be a borderline podium guy and a threat to holeshot any moto, but he’s out for a few rounds with a broken kneecap.
Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna
#21 Jason Anderson
Anderson is a rookie who had an up-and-down supercross season this year. Last year he won the 250SX West Championship but didn’t perform as well outdoors—he did grab one moto win at Budds Creek though.
#377 Christophe Pourcel
Pourcel is the ultimate wild card. Twice he had the 250MX title in his grasp, and his style might work even better on a 450. He had a decent comeback to American racing last year on a Yamaha 250, winning Unadilla and taking most of the qualifying fast lap awards. He’s mercurial—if he puts in the effort and he gels with the team and bike, look out. If not, look away.
#23 Weston Peick
Peick was a Cinderella story last summer, as he was finally upgraded from privateer status to a spot with RCH Suzuki, and he was pretty solid most of the summer. He continued to make gains this year in supercross with JGR. If he keeps going at this level, he’ll podium in some motos.
#51 Justin Barcia
Make or break time for Barcia, who was a big-money signing in the offseason but failed to make the podium in an injury-ravaged supercross campaign. He has talent and speed outdoors but needs to find it again. He missed all but two rounds of last year’s outdoor campaign with an ankle injury.
#46 Phil Nicoletti
Phil is no longer the Phil-In at JGR, he’s contesting the entire 12-round series regardless of how Barcia and Peick do. He’s a capable rider who hovered around the top ten in just about every moto he competed in last year. A great starter with better skills outdoors than in, could take another step with a full schedule this summer.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
#48 Wil Hahn
Hahn missed all of last year outdoors with injuries and will make his 450MX debut at Hangtown. He broke his upper arm again at the start of supercross and probably won’t be 100 percent at the opener. Davi Millsaps has been terminated from this team and they are not expected to announce a replacement.
Discount Tire/TwoTwo Motorsports
#22 Chad Reed
Reed is a crowd favorite, but his best years outdoors might be behind him—the last few campaigns have been physically tough on him. We hear he’s been putting in the work, though, so, as always, never count the veteran (and 2009 450MX Champion) out.
#33 Josh Grant
Grant is a real dark horse. When all is right, he has lethal speed in motocross, and for once he’s actually coming off of a strong and healthy finish in supercross. Don’t be surprised if Grant wins some this summer.
Team Chiz Kawasaki
#11 Kyle Chisholm
Chiz returns to the Nationals in the US after a few seasons in Canada (he won an overall up there last year). In his last full tour through the US in 450MX in 2012, he finished 8th in the series. After a solid ending to supercross he’s picked up additional help from Kawasaki for the summer.
#39 Fredrik Noren
Fast Freddie was the feel good story of last summer when Team Honda picked up the Swedish privateer and he fought to tenth in the final standings. The factory squad liked him so much that they moved him to this team—known internally as Crossland Racing—and funneled some factory parts his way. Noren tried a few supercrosses and then helped Honda’s outdoor testing before tearing his meniscus. He says he’ll be back and ready for Hangtown.
#130 Tommy Hahn
Hahn comes out of retirement for a full shot outdoors on a 450, which was the class and bike that worked best for him in the past (he won the Steel City National on the 450 in 2009). He tried a few races here and there the last two summers, but this is a true comeback. His supercross foray in 250SX West was okay. It’s hard to predict how this summer will go.
CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha
#58 Killian Rusk
The Rock River team started the year with Ben LaMay in this spot. Then he was dismissed and replaced by Josh Hill, who was injured at Daytona. So now Rusk inherits a prime position. Last year his best overall finish was a fourteenth, but he showed signs of improvement in supercross this year, making seven of the last eight mains. Top-ten finishes are a possibility.
Nick Wey is at least partially heading down the road to retirement, he will not be racing this summer…Jake Weimer is still hurting after a huge supercross crash, he might be back for a few late rounds…Davi Millsaps is rumored to be building his own deal to race a Suzuki RM-Z450 at the last few races…Mike Alessi and Vince Friese and the SmarTop Motoconcepts team have announced they’ll race a few selected nationals…Privateer Matt Lemoine is expected to race a 450 after spending the last few years as a 250 rider…Kyle Cunningham is expected to jump from 250SX to a 450 outdoors…