RRRREEEEDDDDDBUUUUUDDDDDDD!!! Round six of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship took place at the famed Michigan track and I can’t believe we’re halfway through this thing already. Crazy, right? The weather was fantastic, the track was prepped awesome (it’s nuts to look back at old videos of this track and see how hard pack it used to be) and overall we saw a great day of racing. Although by the end of the day, we’re more confused about the 250 class than ever before.
But the 450s? Well, this is getting a bit ridiculous. Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/RCH Suzuki’s Ken Roczen walked to another 1-1 finish and stretched his points lead to 53 over Eli Tomac and an astounding 126 over Marvin Musquin, who now finds himself third in the points.
Roczen was involved in a close fight with Tomac last week but squashed any hopes of another battle this week by logging some unreal opening laps. Roczen’s sprint speed, something he told me after the race is just normal and the way his dad taught him, was the key to him going 1-1. Tomac actually led the first lap of the second moto and I was thinking we were set up for an awesome battle—but nope, the 94 didn’t want none of that.
“Yeah, I feel like it was important to because I feel like he got a little bit of hope last week,” Roczen told me after the race about his close racing with Tomac last week. “But I struggled from the first lap I did on that track. I freaking hated it, honestly. I struggled really bad.” So as you can see Roczen was not a fan of Muddy Creek and so when you can go 1-1 on your “bad” day, that’s not too bad.
Roczen passed Tomac over LaRocco’s Leap in the second moto. Eli wasn’t comfy doing the jump, telling me afterwards that the acceleration bumps coming up the face were big and the risk wasn’t worth it. Roczen basically quit jumping it after making the pass on Tomac, but out of both motos it seemed that Roczen jumped it probably ten times* more than Tomac and that made a difference. (* VERY unscientific number.) When I asked the injured Trey Canard, who was up in the tower watching the race with me, why Tomac wouldn’t jump it as much, he laughed at me. So I didn’t really get an answer. Not jumping the Leap didn’t cost Tomac the win by any means but it was a reason why Roczen’s lead in both motos was so big.
Broc Tickle is stuck in this nether world of motocross stars. He’s a bona fide top ten rider that doesn’t do anything spectacular. He doesn’t have a nut-job dad around, he doesn’t fight with his teams, he’s not a dirty rider. What he does is work hard and put in good results, all in a quiet, soft-spoken manner. The biggest news he’s ever had was when Mike Alessi’s throttle “stuck” and he cleaned Tickle out in a supercross. Or maybe the time he thanked his dog on the podium and Larry Brooks lost his mind over it. Maybe he needs to flip some people off or show up in a dress like Dennis Rodman to stand out more.
The knock on Tickle over the years is that when the field is stacked with upper echelon riders, he rides well and gets fifth to tenth. When the upper echelon riders get hurt and the field thins out, Tickle gets fifth to tenth. This doesn’t always happen, of course, because he’s gotten podiums before, but it’s basically how it goes in a general sense. Well, don’t look now but the #20 RCH rider has caught fire with two podiums in a row. This time he really has upped his game. At Redbud he got very good starts, rode great and ran third for the entire second moto.
Justin Barcia, who finished third in the first moto, was right there and knew he needed to get Broc to get third overall and probably some good bonus money, but he just couldn’t do it. As a matter of fact Tickle broke Barcia with about three laps left and showed his stamina is on point as well as speed. Great couple of weeks for Tickle and with his deal up for 2017, along with about 1000 other riders, he can let these results speak for him and allow him to stand out from the crowd.
I was speaking with a team manager who has a spot open (it’s a good team) and he told me he’s got Tickle, Weston Peick, Justin Bogle, Justin Brayton, Dean Wilson and Blake Baggett all inquiring about riding for him. That’s a lot of guys! I told him that he should call them all up and say he has 125K for the first guy to say he’s in. I guarantee you someone would take the pay cut to have good equipment.
There are too many great riders and not enough good rides in the 450 class right now and that’s a shame. The 250 class has way more rides, and that’s not right in my opinion. The 450 class is where everyone should strive to be and where the majority of the money should be, but it’s the opposite in our sport. In our sport, win a 250SX title with about a great hour of half of riding total (eight mains at roughly 12 minutes a main) and you’re set. You can even skip the outdoors, and do whatever you can to not move up and you get rewarded like a great Sultan or something. Meanwhile, dudes like Tickle, Noren, Chisholm are out there for 29 races, against the very best in the world, putting in top ten to fifteen results and in the case of Noren and Chiz, making no money. Think about that for a minute…
In the 250 class, Cooper Webb went 1-1 with a couple of great rides to win his second race in a row and coupled with Joey Savatgy’s bad day, now has the points lead. None of us “experts” thought that Webb would race this summer due to a wrist injury and a multi-million dollar contract in his back pocket for 2017 in the 450 class. But I was told behind the scenes from some people that know him well that he really wanted to get the one 250 title he hasn’t been able to yet. After Lakewood I caught up to Coop (ironically at a race he didn’t make the podium, yet was still there long after the post-race press conference!) and this is what he told me: “…overall I’m happy and we’re in one piece and my wrist is healing. It’s almost healed. I’m just glad to be here racing. I thought I’d be sitting out all summer. So I’m just stoked to be in the hunt.”
Well, he’s more than in the hunt now. He’s leading! He’s nursed this wrist injury along, didn’t practice much during the week early on in the season and now he’s the man in the class. Anyone want to bet on him losing this points lead? Savatgy and the Martin brothers have all had some bad stuff happen to them so maybe that DNF or big crash is waiting for Webb, but right now he looks great. I’ve always said, even when he was a rookie, that Webb’s a special talent that’s got that bit of edge to him, that chip right there on his shoulder (which has hurt him at times). It’s the same thing that guys like Reed and Carmichael have had that made them special, too. If he wins this title, that really will be something indeed.
Let’s take a look at the results shall we?
1 17 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ 250F 1 1- Webb’s pass on Forkner in the first moto should be framed and put in the motocross Smithsonian under “the perfect pass”
2 26 Alex Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 3 3- Alex has led the second most laps in the class and has yet to get a moto win. He’s been oh-so-close a few times and at Redbud he got passed by Webb with three laps to go after leading nine laps. The moto win will come, but he’s got to stop these late race little lapses. It’s an interesting dynamic that, as of right now, he’s riding better than his much more celebrated brother.
3 16 Zachary Osborne Abingdon, VA Husqvarna FC250 5 2- Osborne’s first moto start wasn’t the kind you need to get in order to win motos. He came around the first lap in 12th and I can vouch for the fact he was way further back than that around the first two corners. Second moto was better, he got A-Mart late and caught Webb at the end but, this just in, his starts aren’t good enough.
4 1 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 4 4- I know he’s got two moto wins, but this week J-Mart crashed in a moto again and was passed by his brother. The 4-4 score is not something you should be suicidal about, but again, he wasn’t his usual JEREMY MARTIN self. He’s also 36 points down to Webb and breaking news: the gap is growing. He’s putting on a brave face and being professional about everything but from what I hear behind the scenes, he’s worn out and tired from some intensive training with Johnny O’Mara before they parted ways. He’s tried to rest and do nothing but that’s not working so well either. Whatever it is, he’s not the same guy we’ve seen the last two summers.
5 30 Shane McElrath Canton, NC KTM 250 SX-F FE 9 5- As I’ve said before, riders are delicate little flowers subject to the ebbs and flows of that funny thing called confidence. Well, Sugar Shane almost won his first moto ever last week and landed on the podium. This week, on a track he doesn’t know nearly as well as Muddy Creek, he holeshot a moto, again led some laps and put in a great ride. McElrath’s ready to bloom, folks.
6 44 Adam Cianciarulo Port Orange, FL Kawasaki KX 250F 7 8- Hooray for AC! I think this was the first two motos of the year that he didn’t crash in. Seriously. Not so good starts doomed him but he rode hard in both motos and was fastest qualifier on the day. He’s got the third best average qualifying position in the class, he’s got the most holeshots in the class, so raw speed and starts are there. He just hasn’t been able to put everything together on one day so far.
7 37 Joseph Savatgy Thomasville, GA Kawasaki KX 250F 2 16- Savatgy was very good in the first moto. Sure, Webb beat him but not by much and they both gapped third pretty good. Second moto he got the holie, Webb was about five spots back of him and he looked great to go 2-1 and capture the overall. Then he tipped over followed by a massive crash that looked to have knocked him out for the day. He even pulled into the mechanic’s area at one point. His sixteenth was impressive. Those five points might be huge by the end of the year. Nice gutty effort by the #37.
8 214 Austin Forkner Richards, MO Kawasaki KX 250F 6 10- Forkner led for a bit in the first moto and ran up front for most of the moto before slipping back a bit. Second moto he didn’t get a great start and worked up to a top ten. Good day for the rookie.
9 66 Arnaud Tonus Switzerland Kawasaki KX 250F 11 6- Tonus’s second moto was very good—he caught and passed Cianciarulo and was riding well all moto. It’s not enough to help him stay at PC next year but last week in Europe I was asking around about Tonus’s return and no one really had heard anything. So maybe he’s trying to stay here in 2017.
10 42 Mitchell Oldenburg Alvord, TX KTM 250 SX-F FE 8 9- I was talking to TLD manager Tyler Keefe and he’s been happy with “Freckle’s” rides this year. Mitch was on sort of a week-to-week ride until injuries struck the team so he’s on all year. Is it just me or has Oldenburg smoothed out a bit from last year? Oh and Keefe expects Justin Hill (remember him?) to be back by Millville, which should help things out. Let’s not stamp this though.
11 23 Aaron Plessinger Hamilton, OH Yamaha YZ 250F 10 11- Aaron, outside of one race, hasn’t been nearly as good as “we” all thought. He ran as high as fourth in the first moto before dropping back. Sometimes when dudes are in supercross title hunts they forego MX riding to focus on indoor stuff and then the motocross series kinds of sneaks up on them. I don’t know if this is the case with Plessinger or not but it’s a theory I have.
12 49 Martin Davalos Ecuador Husqvarna FC250 15 7- In four years Marty’s raced ninteen nationals for an average of four races a year. So I’d like to take this moment to congratulate Marty for making his sixth motocross race in a row (most since 2013).
13 45 Kyle Cunningham Aledo, TX Suzuki RMZ 250 13 13- This was by far Cunningham’s best ride of the season and I know the team’s been looking everywhere they can for some more horsepower out of the RM-Z250’s. Last week in Italy I was talking to an insider about Jeremy Seewer’s bike (which sounds and looks pretty good) and was informed that his bike is about as different as you could get from a stock Suzuki platform. Kyle should get that motor ASAP.
14 46 Luke Renzland Hewitt, NJ Yamaha YZ 250F 14 14- Well, there appears to be hope for Luke after all. He’s starting to pick it up after a horrible start to the outdoor series.
15 31 RJ Hampshire Hudson, FL Honda CRF250R 20 12- Hampshire crashed in the first moto and that set him back for the rest of the day. His day wasn’t very good, but hey, it could have been worse—his teammate, Jordon Smith, who was coming off a great weekend in Muddy Creek, crashed early and often in both motos.
16 89 Marshal Weltin Ubly, MI Yamaha YZ 250F 17 15- Weltin’s 16th overall is the top position for a true privateer, which is cool because the next true “privateer” was Jackson Richardson in 22nd. Anytime you can make the top 20 in the 250 class out of your van is pretty good work.
17 289 Mitchell Harrison Brighton, MI Yamaha YZ 250F 12 24
18 48 Anthony Rodriguez Venezuela Kawasaki KX 250F 16 35
19 492 Luke Clout Australia Suzuki RMZ 250 27 17- Oi!! Oi!!! Oi!!!!
20 69 Colt Nichols Muskogee, OK Yamaha YZ 250F 19 19- Nichols’ recent rides make you wonder more and more about how he caught fire in the second moto at High Point where he rode great.
1 94 Ken Roczen Germany Suzuki RMZ 450 1 1- Shades of 2014 when Kenny was whipping everyone on the KTM yet had already signed his RCH Suzuki deal for the following year and all of us were like “Why you leaving, bro?” Now Roczen’s going to Honda next year. What we have yet to see is if he has a second half swoon like in 2014 that almost cost him the title. I’m betting he doesn’t.
2 3 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Kawasaki KX 450F 2 2- Tomac told me that The Bud was the roughest track of the year so far, which was a bit surprising to me as I would think Glen Helen or Hangtown would’ve taken the crown there. “It was just kind of a struggle for getting a good feel and getting a good balance and me being comfortable,” he said. “Tried some different things between the motos and kind of got some of the same feedback. This was a rough track, really rough. Lots of big bumps. Lots of bumps after one another.” There’s no doubt that Eli rode well but at his level, with his paycheck, he was bummed afterwards.
3 20 Broc Tickle Holly, MI Suzuki RMZ 450 4 3- The new Showa hybrid air fork that I believe has a very light spring in it to mix with air is working well for Tickle. He’s a fan. At least that’s what I heard.
4 51 Justin Barcia Madison, FL Yamaha YZ 450F 3 4- A few things stuck out for me in the second moto. One is that Barcia had Tickle in his sights for the whole moto, knew he needed Tick for third overall and couldn’t catch him. And Justin looked to be really trying hard. So it was impressive that Broc was able to match him, impressive that Justin rode well, but as hard as they were pushing, Roczen had almost a minute lead on Justin in fourth. Somehow all three of those things were impressive at the same time.
5 25 Marvin Musquin France KTM 450 SX-F FE 5 6- A hard earned 5-6 for Marvin. Mid-pack starts and great rides to get these finishes. His speed on some outside lines trying to get through traffic was bananas.
6 4 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA Suzuki RMZ 450 7 5- Blake’s day was a lot like Marv’s in that his starts weren’t the greatest and he was dueling with the KTM rider throughout the day. You can tell dudes like Marv and Blake are solid because if you see them outside the top ten halfway through the moto, they’ll always move up by the end because, simply put, they can put in 30 minutes plus two at a high rate of speed.
7 377 Christophe Pourcel Dade City, FL Husqvarna FC450 6 7- Good day for Pourcel although in both motos his fellow countryman Musquin was just a little bit better than him. CP’s the type of guy to look up at the amount of missing riders (Dungey, Canard, Seely, Grant, Anderson) and decide that now is probably the time to try a tad harder as some good results would be easier to get.
8 32 Matthew Bisceglia Tualatin, OR Suzuki RMZ 450 8 8- This is a real cool story. A privateer kid gets yanked up onto factory Suzuki in the premier class and starts putting in some great results. Where have we seen this before? Oh, that’s right, Sean Hamblin back in the day. Matt’s been very good and the best part for Yosh is that he’s free!
9 19 Justin Bogle Cushing, OK Honda CRF450R 10 9- The good news? Two holeshots (a Honda has holeshot six out of the twelve motos so far this year. Who knew?) propelled Bogle to the front in both motos. The bad news? He dropped back pretty quickly in both motos.
10 167 Benny Bloss Oak Grove, MO KTM 450 SX-F FE 11 10- Bloss’s best ride of the year by far. He rode awesome in beating both of his veteran teammates (passing both of them at one point) and it was even sweeter when he told me he’d never raced RedBud before. Benji’s ride definitely raised some eyebrows out there. Great work. I think Benny should stick with 450’s for next year. Someone like CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha or Traders Kawasaki should pick him up.
11 29 Andrew Short Colorado Springs, CO KTM 450 SX-F FE 9 12- Short’s first top ten of the year and it feels weird even typing that. Andrew’s in his last season of pro racing and I think he’s taking some time to smell the roses a bit but knowing him, he’s probably not happy with his finishes. I just can’t come down on him asking where the old Shorty is out on the track, I just can’t. He can go 40-40 and in my eyes, he’s doing just fine.
12 10 Justin Brayton Fort Dodge, IA KTM 450 SX-F FE 12 13- What about Brayton going back to JGR Yamaha next year for a THIRD time in a SX-only ride with Nicoletti riding the outdoors for the team and they both fill in for each other if injuries strike? Don’t laugh, it’s been thrown out there.
13 43 Fredrik Noren Sweden Honda CRF450R 15 14- Dan Betley at Honda wouldn’t crack (he won’t even crack at the Roczen signing with Honda for next year—he’s an iron wall people!) but I would bet that Fast Freddie finds himself on Seely’s factory bike very soon.
14 99 Heath Harrison Silverhill, AL KTM 450 SX-F FE 14 17- I wasn’t at Muddy Creek but I asked around about Harrison’s great ride there and was assured by people that it was his home track, he rides there all the time and he won’t be able to back that ride up. Well, he didn’t quite back it up, but he was still very good. Heath’s #99 looks good on a bike—reminds me of Wayne Gretzky.
15 28 Weston Peick Menifee, CA Yamaha YZ 450F 33 11- Barcia’s bike broke last week and this week Nicoletti and Peick’s bikes broke in the first moto within, I think, about five minutes of each other. Not a good day for the JGR crew. On a positive note, I had some delicious ke-bobs for lunch over there!
16 52 Ben LaMay Wasilla, AK Yamaha YZ 450F 17 16- LaMay put together two consistent motos for the first time since Thunder Valley, which has to be nice for him and his team. Do the Slater Skins he runs make the bike get hotter in the summer? I’m not sure, but that’s one theory that’s out there about some of Ben’s DNF’s.
17 40 Kyle Peters Greensboro, NC Husqvarna FC450 13 38- Nice first moto for Peters, who is now riding a Husky as a privateer.
18 34 Phillip Nicoletti Cohocton, NY Yamaha YZ 450F 32 15- As I mentioned, in the first moto Filthy’s bike broke (Ed. Note: We've found out that Phil had rear brake problems; it didn't break.) when he was right up there with only two laps to go. What a kick in the nuts. In the second moto, he was again inside the top ten before he himself broke and dropped back big time by the end of the race.
19 68 Cole Martinez Rimrock, AZ Yamaha YZ 450F 18 18
20 53 Tyler Bowers Danville, KY Kawasaki KX 450F 16 20- Hey, look who’s back! The Bear raced his first national since 2009 and not so shabby really for the first time out. I wonder how sore Tyler got after the race? This ain’t no supercross or arenacross, that’s for sure.
Thanks for reading, onto Southwick this week, which should be awesome. Can’t wait! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this race, the ‘Wick, Timmy Ferry or anything else you have on your mind.