By Chase Stallo and Jason Weigandt
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey continues to chug along toward a third 450SX title, winning his sixth race of the year on Saturday. Over the next five rounds, Dungey needs two more wins to tie his career-high of eight wins set in 2015. Now 42-points clear of Ken Roczen, a third title seems like a forgone conclusion. “Any win is great. Kenny [Roczen] was putting the pressure on and that made it tough. It wasn’t the kind of track where you could gain anywhere—you would just lose if you made mistakes and lost the rear,” he said after the race. Dungey will need to gain eight points on Roczen over the next three rounds to clinch after Foxborough. That would give Dungey a 50-point lead with two rounds remaining, which would eliminate Roczen. Oh, and in case you stopped counting, Dungey’s podium streak has reached twenty-eight straight dating back to Round 2 at Phoenix last year.
As always, Honda HRC’s Trey Canard showed the required speed to win a main event in Santa Clara. Canard qualified second (with a 43.563), set the fastest time of the night in his semi race (43.053), and was one of only three riders—Ryan Dungey and Ken Roczen being the other two—to drop into the 43s in the main event. Canard’s, like Eli Tomac’s, undoing came early in the race. “My start was actually okay, but then I got shuffled back in the beginning,” Canard said in a team statement. “Overall, I just need to get a better start, which I keep saying, but if I can figure it out I know I can run with those guys.”
[Update: Roczen set the fastest time of the night with a 42.7 in his heat race.]
As you can see, Canard was in okay position heading into the first turn, but wasn’t able to get through the first rhythm section quick enough to open a gap and rounded the first lap tenth.
“I sound like a broken record, but we were solid all through the day again and just didn’t have the start in the main event,” said team manager Dan Betley. “Trey ended up turning the fastest lap of the entire day in his semi race, which was awesome, but another bad start left him fighting from the back. I felt like he was more aggressive during the day than he’s been all season and was racing like the old Trey. He has the speed, so there’s no question there; we just need to put it all together.” Canard worked his way to fifth, tying a season-high set back at San Diego II.
Although the team doesn’t have a definitive timetable on his return, they do hope to have Cole Seely back in two to four weeks. Seely chipped off a piece of his C7 vertebra in a practice crash last Thursday at Milestone. He missed Santa Clara and will also be sidelined for this weekend in Indianapolis.
GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle caught Ryan Dungey a little off-guard as the two fought for the holeshot on Saturday. “I saw his front fender and I was like, ‘I better open this turn a little bit more.’ He was fighting for it! I was surprised,” Dungey told Racer X after the race. Bogle said in a team statement that he got tight in the first few laps, which allowed a few riders to make their way around, but he regrouped and held on for a career-high sixth. “I had a couple of really bad laps there at the beginning,” he said. “I got back to sixth, and once I was in sixth I kind of mailed it in from there and brought it in. Best finish of the year, so we’ll take it, it’s progress and we’ll keep it moving.”
At the beginning of the year, it would have been hard to imagine going eleven rounds into the season without the Yoshimura Suzuki team even cracking the top ten. With Blake Baggett (thirteen top tens last year) and James Stewart (50 career wins) under the tent, wins and podiums are the goal, not the top ten. But Baggett (seven) and Stewart (eight) have combined to miss fifteen races, and haven’t found a rhythm. Santa Clara brought more bad luck in the form of a mechanical for James Stewart, who completed just five laps of the main event. “I was coming through the pack, feeling really good, probably the best since 2014 and that was nice,” he said in a statement. “And then we started to have some sort of issue with the bike. It just started cutting out, so who knows. It’s no one’s fault. We all work hard to keep things together and we’re a team.”
There was a ray of light for the team, though, as Baggett finally finished inside the top ten for the first time this year with a tenth. “It’s taken awhile, but with the injury and making bike changes, trying to get more comfortable, we started halfway through the season and we’re coming along,” said Baggett. “So a top ten tonight and we’re going to keep looking forward.”
Jason Anderson was credited with the 450 holeshot on Saturday night, but Justin Brayton came from way outside to nearly take the top spot, turned into Anderson too quickly and went down. That also slowed Anderson enough for him to give up the lead. Brayton had no regrets about going for the move, though. “I honestly felt like I had the holeshot and I glanced left and didn’t really see anyone, so I went in there like I had the holeshot and me and Anderson just connected,” he told resident Pulpmx reporter Moser. “I wouldn’t change anything …. You’ve got to go for it in those situations and I’ll do the same thing next week.” Brayton would come from dead last to finish thirteenth.
Jake Weimer had his best finish since an eighth at Round 4 in Oakland Saturday night. Weimer, who wasn’t even sure if he would race due to a shoulder injury sustained in Detroit, said he was happy with a top ten. “Overall, to end the night with a top 10 is a positive, especially with the last couple of weeks that I’ve had,” he said in a team statement. “I’ve been dealing with my shoulder and there was the question if I’d be able to show up in Santa Clara and race. It was good to have the break when we did but it was hectic with everything that was going on. I didn’t have the best day in practice but I’m happy to be able to come out of here with a top 10. I’m just going to keep working.”
Team Autotrader.com/Monster Energy Yamaha (JGR) finally had their full squad competing in Santa Clara, with Justin Barcia returning from injury and Weston Peick beginning to improve after an arm injury suffered in Oakland. Up until this 12th round, Barcia and Peick had not competed in a main event together on the same night. So attendance was good for the team, but the results were mediocre. Peick was eighth, stretching his run of top tens to three-straight races. Barcia was 16th, and also had a good get off in practice.
Josh Hansen was back racing for the first time since Las Vegas last year, when he raced the 250 Class. With help from Nut Up Industries and Shift, among others, Hansen raced the 450 Class for the first time since 2012, finishing fourteenth. Hansen told Racer X’s Steve Matthes after the race that he “chased bike setup a lot,” and “just getting the intensity—I got arm pump insanely bad and that’s something, you can’t ride in your comfort zone [with].” Hansen said he currently doesn’t have plans to travel east to race East Coast rounds.
|Lap Rank||Finish||Best Lap||In Lap||Avg Lap Time||Rider|
Roczen didn't win the race but he did notch a slightly quicker best lap than Dungey. How did the two really compare? Let's check out their laps side by side.
Dungey Versus Roczen
|Lap||Ryan Dungey||Ken Roczen|
This race really heated up around lap six, when both riders put in their best times. Roczen kept charging and was ever-so-slightly quicker the next two laps, but then Dungey found a groove and got away slightly on the next two laps. The defending champion was very efficient from there. Dungey did have one bad lap with a 46.1, and Roczen made a late bid with three fast laps to end it, but Dungey hung on to win by 1.3 seconds. This one really was a game of inches.
250SX West Region
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*Did not complete one lap.
Pretty incredible what a start can do. While contenders like Webb, Savatgy and Craig were in the back, Osborne was riding his own race up front. In the end, Zacho only had the sixth-fastest lap time, but he nearly won the race and recorded a solid second.
More news and notes
Through three rounds on the West Region, Mitchell Oldenburg looked like the same rider we saw last year: tons of speed, but an inability to keep it all together. And his results showed it, as he averaged an eleventh place finish through three rounds. Then something clicked. Since Anaheim II, Oldenburg has four top fives in five rounds and is averaging a 4.8 finish. Oldenburg found the top five again in Santa Clara after the West Region returned from a six-week break. “It’s a little strange coming back for one race after so long away from racing, but we made it work and came away with a good result,” said Oldenburg in a team release. “I’m looking forward to focusing on some outdoor riding and then coming back strong in [Las] Vegas.” The West Region is now off for four weeks before the season finale in Las Vegas. Strange schedule this year.
GEICO Honda’s Christian Craig is technically still alive for his first career title, but it will take small miracle. Craig finished off the podium for the first time since San Diego I in Santa Clara and now trails Cooper Webb by 23 points heading into season finale in Las Vegas. Like Savatgy and Webb, Craig was buried off the start and could only make it to fourth. “Got second in the heat, but got off to a terrible start in the main—toward the tail of the whole field,” he said in a statement. “I tried to make as many passes as I could. I was aggressive. Got up to fourth, third was pretty far ahead by then. I tried to close the gap, but unfortunately I got pretty tight toward the end and couldn’t close it enough. Obviously we want more, but I’ll take a fourth, it could have been much worse.”
Through eight rounds of the 250SX West Region, only three riders have top tens in every round and it’s not the ones you may think. You won’t find factory riders like Webb (21st in Oakland), Craig (17th in Anaheim 1), Osborne (22nd in Glendale), Oldenburg (15th in San Diego I), Decotis (11th in Santa Clara) or Smith (11th at Oakland, 19th at San Diego II) on the list. Or veterans like Cunningham or Leib. The first name isn’t a surprise, as Joey Savatgy has made every top ten this year. The other two may come as a surprise—Colt Nichols and Kyle Peters. In his second year, Nichols has had a breakout season with CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha, and it continued with a sixth in Santa Clara. Peters, who wasn’t even sure he had a ride this year, has been stellar in his return to Crossland Racing (now called RIDE365.com Honda), finishing eighth or better in four of eight rounds including Santa Clara.
Cooper Webb told us that he and his Yamalube/Star Racing teammate Alex Martin have been training together and that Martin has showed a lot of speed. Previously, AMart was hooked up with his brother Jeremy to train with Johnny O’Mara, but we’ve recently heard that O’Mara and JMart’s ridiculous training schedule might have left Alex a little tired going into the season (with O’Mara explaining that Jeremy is just a freak of nature when it comes to sustaining an incredible training load). Now Alex has hooked up with Webb’s trainer Gareth Swanepoel, and he looked good in Santa Clara. Martin is fond of the NorCal dirt, having podiumed in Oakland and Santa Clara last year and running third in Oakland this year before a crash. He was fast again on Saturday, qualifying third overall and was running second before he crashed. He would rebound to finish ninth, but was much quicker than his results showed.
Webb and Martin’s rookie teammate Mitchell Harrison was also running up front early in the race, as he, Martin and Webb sat 2-3-4 at one point. Harrison was shuffled back to fourth by his teammates and then was taken high by Christian Craig and went down and was stuck under his bike. He managed to come back to eighteenth.
[Go to 58 second mark to watch the move]
- BLUE Buffalo/Slate Skins Yamaha’s Michael Leib found the top ten for the second time this season with a tenth in Santa Clara. The veteran sits a comfortable twelfth in 250SX West Region points.
- Noah McConahy finished a career-high thirteenth Saturday night. For more on the kid from Washington, check out last week’s Privateer Profile.
- Cool story from the YP.com/Nuclear Blast/Slaton Racing KTM team. With Cole Thompson out for the weekend due to a crash the week prior, the team recruited Blake Lilly from the parking lot, slapped some graphics and parts on his bike and Lilly went out and made his first main event of the season. He finished twentieth on the night.