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We’re halfway through the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, and I kind of can’t believe it. Where is the summer going? Weren’t we just at Hangtown? Super weird, bro. Time flies when you’re having fun.
Let’s get right into this Budds Creek stuff and dissect it the best way we can, heck, the only way we know how.
First off, props to the track crew for recognizing that all week long the weather was projected to be 100 percent rain. Not 80 percent or 90 percent—100 percent every day. Knowing that, the Budds track was not ripped and torn deep like most of the national tracks are. If you’ve ever ridden Budds on a non-national weekend or on a practice day, then you know how it usually is. It’s got a pretty hard base with some loose dirt on top. And that’s exactly how it was when we showed up on Saturday (and yes, it was raining).
There was also an effort to make sure the corners and different obstacles had adequate drainage. Leaving the hard base prevented the rain from soaking in as badly as it could have, which made the track more than passable as the rains came and went. That forward thinking made the day the best it could be.
During staging for the second 450MX moto, the decision was made to delay the start due to inclement weather. And then the rains came. And came. And didn’t stop for a long time. It was some serious rain. I seriously didn’t know how they were going to get this moto started; I was prepared for them to call it. Since live TV wasn’t happening anyway (and if it had, the time slot was over because we waited over an hour while it rained), the decision was an easy one. When the call was first made there were some grumblings, but about five minutes into when the moto would have run (if it had started) this Amazon jungle-type monsoon came around.
Then it stopped. And it actually got sunny! And the track wasn’t that bad. With the amount of rain that had fallen, I thought it was going to be like High Point 1997, but I think preparation before the event had prevented the track from giving in to the weather. Granted, I wasn’t the dude out there getting hammered with mud, but you should have seen this rain coming down. It was incredible!
Budds Creek is a tough track to pass on when it’s dry. There are some off-cambers that don’t help, and riders can never really set a guy up to pass before the next turn. And with the mud in the second 450MX moto being pushed to the outsides, it was dangerous to stray off the main line. It struck me in the middle of that second 450MX moto that we hadn’t really seen too much passing. In fact, I was thinking that perhaps we hadn’t seen any at all.
Points leader and all-world rider Ryan Dungey crashed pretty hard right after the start and made some serious passes, but as great as he is, he could only get up to twelfth.
Looking at the lap sheets, there were only five riders (Dungey, Justin Brayton, Wil Hahn, Dusty Pipes, and Freddie Noren) who passed into the top twenty by the end of the moto. Of those five riders that were displaced out of the top twenty after lap one, one was Weston Peick, whose bike broke, one was Heath Harrison, who crashed out, and the other three were three-digit privateers who were seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth, respectively, and had never scored in the top twenty in their careers. So if you were a national-number guy, started in the top twenty, and didn’t have a bike break, you finished in the top twenty.
Taking the running order from the end of lap one to the end of the race, Broc Tickle moved up three spots, Blake Baggett moved up one spot, Gannon Audette fell and lost six spots, and then those guys I mentioned moved into the top twenty. That’s about all that was going on. Most of the riders finished where they started. The entire race basically boiled down to the start, and I have to say that I’ve never really seen so little action other than the Ryan Dungey crash, but even he was already up to twenty-first after lap one, as he passed seventeen riders on the first lap.
Justin Barcia won his first 450MX overall with great 3-1 rides. It was his first career 450MX overall win and it caps the “mx quad trick”, as he now has overall wins in 250SX and MX as well as 450SX and MX. In recent weeks, he’s been riding better and becoming more of the guy that JGR thought they were getting when they signed him—which is a rider that can win on any given weekend. Yeah, he won this race because it was a mudder, and yeah, Ryan Dungey crashed hard and Kenny Roczen was sick, but watching him in the second moto, he was on another level. It was a riding clinic by Justin Barcia. He was terrific and worked everyone to take the win. It was muddy, but riders are temperamental little flowers, this could be the push he needs to get the confidence to be “Bam-Bam” again—the dude who gets great starts, fights like hell to stay up front, and has his desire to win connected to his right wrist.
There are plenty of people who have watched Barcia since the move up to 450s who don’t think his riding style can work on the bigger bike. Guys like David Vuillemin have been vocal that he’s got to smooth things out to go faster on the bigger bike, and you can’t get away with revving a 450 to the moon and grabbing handfuls of throttle like you can on a 250.
Barcia has also recognized that and has been working with former factory rider turned riding coach Buddy Antunez on his technique. I spoke with Bud Man about his work with Justin.
Racer X: Buddy, how’s it been going working with Justin?
Buddy Antunez: It’s been going great. It came together this weekend. The main thing is his over-rev of the bike is completely backwards to how you would ride a four-stroke. That was a big thing with working with him, getting him to shift it. The next thing is to stay off the clutch. Those are two key things we started working on, and those things seem to be better and have produced some better results.
Once I started working with him, I couldn’t believe what a sponge he was. And he was open to changing everything. He can do it all on a bike, but the proper technique has just been overlooked a bit. If anyone was to watch the second moto, he was shifting and using the torque. He’s been able to do it in practice, but it’s hard in the race to remember to do it.
All during the rain delay we were talking about riding the right way, shifting, and letting the bike do the work. And you could see about four laps in he started pulling away and riding the bike really well. I think what we’re working on is great, but I also don’t want to take the “Bam-Bam” away!
An arenacross expert who was a bit of a 125 specialist is teaching Justin Barcia to not rev a bike so much. Makes perfect sense, right?
We’ve been going on and on about Alex Martin this year, so I’m not going to tell you jerkies again about how great this story is, how his rise to prominence is out of left field, or that he’s in line for a nice salary bump next year. But his rise to the top stopped this weekend because he got as high as a rider can go—he won a moto and tied for the overall win! This guy is on some sort of roll right now. He lost his goggles and his rear brake, which allowed his brother Jeremy to get by, but then Jeremy stalled it with two turns to go, and Alex, who had led basically the entire moto, motored on by for his first career win as a professional.
In the second moto, he needed one more pass to get the overall, but his brother was the one spot. That wasn’t going to be easy. As the series winds down, Alex might find himself in a position where he can help his brother defend his 250MX title, which would be very interesting. There’s zero chance Alex ever thought he would be able to race with his brother for the moto wins, but each week he’s getting closer and closer.
Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?
1. 25 Marvin Musquin; France; KTM 250 SX-F; 7-1 – Marvin told me after the race he had no idea he was in line for the overall and was just hoping that he could get on the box with his second-moto win. The moto gods are smiling on you when you go 7-1 and get the overall.
2. 31 Alex Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 1-7
3. 37 Joseph Savatgy; Thomasville, GA; Kawasaki KX 250F; 4-3 – Savatgy’s other podium outdoors came in the mud in Indiana last year. He, like Alex and others, just needed one more pass for the overall win in either moto. The top six guys were separated by just 4 points.
4. 1 Jeremy Martin; Millville, MN; Yamaha YZ250F; 2-6 – J-Mart was third in the second moto and looking great when he tipped it over. It was a costly crash that took him from the overall to losing a few more points to Marvin. The gap in points is 10, and he needs to come out of the next four motos being closer than that if he wants to win this title.
5. 16 Zachary Osborne; Abingdon, VA; Husqvarna FC250; 3-5 – I had a Honda guy tell me that since Eli Tomac’s injury, John’s been working with Zach more and more in Colorado, and is very happy with his work ethic and skills. And he’s starting to show more consistency from week to week, which is what he’s always lacked.
6. 50 Adam Cianciarulo; Port Orange, FL; Kawasaki KX 250F; 8-2 – I’d like to have been a fly on the wall earlier this week when training buddies Marvin and AC spoke about Adam’s move on Marvin in the first moto on the off-camber. Adam admitted after the race that he was a tad aggressive and thought Marvin would back out of the rut. He didn’t and both guys went down while in the top ten. AC told me that he gave Marv a huge bruise on his leg from the move. Oh, yeah, Adam’s second moto was great and he’s going to win a race real soon.
7. 68 Christian Craig; Plymouth, MN; Honda CRF250R; 5-10 – Good ride from Craig. The San Diego born and raised kid must’ve picked up some mud skills from his time up in Minnesota. The rumors are that Craig’s going to ride at GEICO next year in 250SX and MX, and also that Justin Bogle will jump on Eli Tomac’s vacated CRF450 once he’s healed up.
8. 17 Cooper Webb; Newport, NC; Yamaha YZ250F; 6-14 – Webb returned to the Nationals, and I’m sure he was wishing he would’ve held off one more week. These weren’t great conditions! But, anyway, first moto was fine. During the second moto he caught fire and was moving into the top five when he crashed, and from there it was downhill the rest of the moto. Look for Webb to be winning real soon.
9. 38 Matthew Bisceglia; Tualatin, OR; Honda CRF250R; 21–4 Nice rebound for Bisceglia in the second moto, as he ran up front and held the pace the whole time. He needs to do a lot more of this if he wants to stay at GEICO next year.
10. 28 Jessy Nelson; Paso Robles, CA; KTM 250 SX-F; 12-12 – Nelson won a moto last year in the mud in Indiana, so one would think he would be on track to do well at Budds. But, unfortunately, he didn’t do that well and was held back from a crash in the first moto while he was charging. Nelson needs to turn this ship back in the right direction.
11. 126 Jordon Smith; Belmont, NC; Honda CRF250R; 17-8
12. 95 Nick Gaines; Ringgold, GA; Kawasaki KX 250F; 13-16 – Watching Gaines this year is like watching a grenade with the pin pulled. It’s just a matter of time before it goes boom. This dude has killed so many fantasy teams he should just wear a goalie mask instead of a helmet. At Budds, he finally put in two great motos. I actually picked him in one league and then got scared and switched him out. Thanks, Gaines—thanks a lot.
13. 40 Shane McElrath; Canton, NC; KTM 250 SX-F; 22-9
14. 66 Christopher Alldredge; Powell Butte, OR; Kawasaki KX 250F; 9-21 – On the Pulpmx Show this past Monday, Mitch Payton said his lineup for 2016 will be exactly the same as this year, so that’s good news for Alldredge.
15. 434 Daniel Baker; Crittenden, KY; KTM 250 SX-F; 14-17 – It makes sense in this weird moto world that Baker, a rookie who shows flashes of great speed but also can’t seem to keep it on two wheels, keeps it on two wheels and is consistent in the deep mud of Budds Creek. Next, you’re going to tell me that bears like jumping into pools. Oh, wait…
16. 77 Justin Starling; DeLand, FL; Kawasaki KX 250F; 11-20 – Starling was way up front in the first moto for a long time. Sure, he didn’t finish there, but an eleventh is by far his best finish this year and solid. Also, who knew he switched to the Traders Kawasaki team?
17. 52 Mitchell Oldenburg; Alvord, TX; KTM 250 SX-F; 10-22 – We saw Mitchell be really fast in the mud last year in Indiana until his bike broke. So, I definitely thought he’d be great at Budds, and he was in the first moto. The second one… Not so much.
18. 157 Aaron Plessinger; Hamilton, OH; Yamaha YZ250F; 40-11 – The way Plessinger was bent over and in pain after a first-turn crash in the first moto, I was surprised to see him lining up for moto two. Props to him.
19. 55 Kyle Peters; Greensboro, NC; Honda CRF250R; 20-13 – I would think in a mudder Peters would be solid because he’s in shape, he can go the same speed all moto, and he’s not a really erratic rider. So, in the mud he can just trudge along and pick off all these dudes that go flying past him and end up in the weeds two turns later. Looks like I thought wrong.
20. 80 RJ Hampshire; Hudson, FL; Honda CRF250R; 15-19 – Oh, how Hampshire’s day could’ve been so much better if he hadn’t crashed while leading in moto one. He’s going to think about that one for a while.
1. 51 Justin Barcia; Madison, FL; Yamaha YZ450F; 3-1 – Good for the JGR guys to get a win. Barcia went through three motors (new one after practice and for each moto), Nicoletti had a motor swap, and Peick ended up breaking one motor, so to do all that work and not get a solid result would have really sucked.
2. 377 Christophe Pourcel; Groveland, FL; Husqvarna FC450; 2-3 – Hey, look at what we have here. Pourcel put another couple of motos together, and again, it was in mud. But again CP showed he can run up there with the leaders, and it’s funny since his worst race of the series at Muddy Creek, Pourcel has rebounded with three podiums out of four motos.
3. 4 Blake Baggett; Grand Terrace, CA; Suzuki RMZ-450; 4-2 – Baggett rode well. He was at times the second-fastest rider on the track in both motos, and in the second moto he battled with Pourcel hard. It was probably the only exciting thing to happen out there in the second moto.
4. 1 Ken Roczen; Germany; Suzuki RMZ-450; 5-4 – We knew it was going to be a mudder when we woke up Saturday morning, and I’ll be honest, after Indiana last year and knowing Kenny’s background, I thought he’d go 1-1 and make up some big points on Dungey. But he said he’s been sick, and he rode just so-so at Budds. Huge opportunity for Roczen here, but he couldn’t come through.
5. 5 Ryan Dungey; Waconia, MN; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 1-12 –Ryan Dungey has got to be pumped to come from last after an endo with no front fender and not lose one point to your main rival in the championship.
6. 21 Jason Anderson; Rio Rancho, NM; Husqvarna FC450; 7-7 – The first 450 moto Anderson was on fire, coming from twentieth or so into the top seven, and he might’ve gotten even higher if he hadn’t fallen.
7. 20 Broc Tickle; Holly, MI; Suzuki RMZ-450; 6-9 – Tickle ran the two-goggle technique that we saw from Trey Canard last year for the first few laps of the second moto. It kind of worked, but he got water in his roll-offs later on and was forced to pull in for a third goggle change in the moto. Still, he rode well and was one of the few guys making some passes in both motos.
8. 46 Phillip Nicoletti; Cohocton, NY; Yamaha YZ450F; 11-5 – Phil had a goggle issue in moto one (as did many riders), but he got the start in the second moto and rode solidly from there. One of my good sources told me that Nicoletti is talking to some GP teams for next year. He won’t confirm that with me because he knows I’ll go spread it all over the Internet, but it’s true.
9. 130 Thomas Hahn; Great Bend, KS; Honda CRF450R; 12-6
10. 48 William Hahn; Decatur, TX; Kawasaki KX 450F; 8-14 – We won’t talk about the second moto, but Wil’s first moto, man, he crushed that eighth.
11. 10 Justin Brayton; Fort Dodge, IA; KTM 450 SX-F FE; 9-17 – In the second moto, Brayton fell in the first turn and was so far back. It took him thirty minutes just to get into the top twenty to get a few points. At least it was better than doing all that and getting twenty-first.
12. 35 Kyle Cunningham; Willow Park, TX; Suzuki RMZ-450; 17-10 – Cunningham’s been riding pretty well lately as he gets used to his Suzuki. Oh, and he didn’t think his bike would make it one more lap in the second moto, as it overheated and started to make funny noises.
13. 285 Tony Archer; Waldorf, MD; Kawasaki KX 450F; 40-8 – On behalf of fantasy motocross owners everywhere who picked Tony because this was his home track, thanks for not making us hate you, Tony, because of your great second-moto performance.
14. 23 Weston Peick; Wildomar, CA; Yamaha YZ450F; 10-34 – Weston’s first-moto woes sort of continued at Budds. He was in the top five in the second moto in the slop when his bike started acting up. After the race, I said to him that I heard his bike was fine and that he quit because his feet were wet. That drew exactly zero laughs from Weston.
15. 39 Fredrik Noren; Sweden; Honda CRF450R; 38-11 – With Cole Seely not qualifying (more on that below), Fast Freddie was the Honda factory rider at Budds. Put some money on that a few years ago… Anyway, his bike broke in the first moto, and he crashed in the second moto after the first turn and came from last to eleventh. Oh, and he also ran two goggles for the second moto.
16. 298 Cody Gragg; Lenoir, NC; Yamaha YZ250; 22-13 – Gragg was on a YZ250 two-stroke, and it took Ryan Dungey forever to catch up to him in the second moto. It was that kind of day at the Creek.
17. 73 Gannon Audette; Tallahassee, FL; Kawasaki KX 450F; 14-20 – Audette could have had an amazing day. He was up there early in the 450 second moto. But too bad for him he went down at some point and salvaged 1 point.
18. 123 Kevin Rookstool; Medford, OR; Suzuki RMZ-450; 13-37 – The former pro motocrosser turned off-road dude scored a fine thirteenth in the first moto—the first of the season for him.
19. 301 Nick Ferrell; Townsend, DE; Yamaha YZ450F; 33-15
20. 253 John Short; Pilot Point, TX; Yamaha YZ450F; 15-32 – I don’t know anything about this Short dude, but he’s been pretty good lately on his Yamaha.
Some other news and notes:
-In the shocker of the day, Honda’s Cole Seely didn’t qualify for the race after going down earlier in the week and tweaking something in his lower body. There was just one practice, so even if he had recovered in time after practice, he was out. He never really got a clean lap in before the crash.
In other Cole Seely news, he’s switched to the KYB suspension after being on Showa all year long. It’s a bit weird. Cole expressed to me that he preferred Showa and rode on it when he was on 250’s.
Well, now it’s clear he prefers the KYB stuff, and we’ve all seen the KYB work magic for Honda riders like Trey Canard and Eli Tomac. It’s not all the suspension change that propelled Eli and Trey to better results, but you’d have to be a fool to not think the switch did something, right? Let’s see if Cole can log some better finishes from here on out assuming he’s healthy.
-Gared Steinke was back out there running his YZ125 two-stroke, and like High Point, he did pretty well, going 28-30. “Stank Dog” has long hair out the back of his helmet, and with that two-stroke sound, it had me flashing back to 1990s motocross! He’s a trendsetter, too, as there were two more 250 two-strokes in the 450 Class, with Gragg getting that thirteenth in the second moto. You smell that, folks? That’s the sound of pre-mix at the Nationals.
I appreciate the kind words and the time you put into reading this. I’ll be at the new Terminator if anyone asks. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat.