Round 10 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship was held at the famed Unadilla Sports Center out in the middle of nowhere south of Utica, New York. We returned from two weeks off in the series after six consecutive rounds and, I don’t know, but something was up with our return to racing because this race was as weird as it gets.
When I first started going to Unadilla, it wasn’t very good. I was stoked to see the place in 1996 because, well, it’s Unadilla. But what I saw wasn’t “Unadilla.” It was a blown out, silty, rock strewn track that kind of sucked. And no one, whether it was RC or Stewart or whomever, really liked it. But in the last five to six years the track has not been raced on as much, I think some rocks have been removed and soil has been added, the tracks been re-routed here and there and overall it’s much improved.
This year it rained in the days before the race and the track was really soft. This caused some massive, deep ruts and made the bumps get really big. It was going to be a very tough track no matter what, but then it got hot and humid—like, really humid!—and a lot of riders had problems and struggled with the track and temps.
Like I was saying, it was a bit of a weird weekend. First up, the BTOSports.com-WPS-KTM trailer went up in flames Friday night. Yes, you read that right. Andrew Short’s bike was a disaster and between the TLD, Red Bull KTM and Rockstar Husky guys (wait, how did any of the Husky parts work on the KTM because I’ve been told they’re totally separate bikes???) working all night long, the three race bikes were all fixed up and ready to race. The BTO guys all pitted out of the KTM hospitality semi on Saturday. We’ve covered the fire pretty good on the site (nice work, Kyle!) so I don’t need to get into it that much.
Then there was a red flag in the first 250MX moto when privateer Coty Schock went down. That’s bad. Then there was another red flag about 24 minutes into the second 250MX moto when Jessy Nelson crashed. That was really bad. And about 30 minutes after the 450 race was done, the skies opened up with some biblical rains, thunder and lightning. The storm was so bad that it surely would have caused the 450 moto to be cut short if it had hit any earlier. I’m talking serious rain and wind. Between all this stuff, the race had some bad ju-ju or whatever you want to call it.
The worst of all of this is Nelson’s injury. Hard to say whether he’ll walk again at this point, never mind race a motorcycle. It seems like he’ll be able to walk (this is my uneducated opinion from what I know) but it’s so early there’s no way to tell, and as far as racing again, that’s way, way down the road. Nelson’s one of those guys in the pits that no one has a bad word about. He’s always in a good mood, he’s friends with everyone, he’s really fast and he’s had a terrible 2016 season. I had him as a title favorite in 250SX though. He’s that good. Let’s all hope for the best for him. If you want to read more on his current condition, Jason Weigandt caught up with him yesterday.
I’m not one of those guys that stereotypes riders because of their background or whatever, but there’s no denying that whether it’s Stefan Everts, Greg Albertyn, Christophe Pourcel, Marvin Musquin or Ken Roczen, European-trained riders have always done well at Unadilla. Over the last few years, I feel like GP-based riders have started to surpass American riders when it comes to motocross (have you seen the Motocross des Nations results lately?) and so when it comes to a European-ish track like ‘Dilla, look for the Euros to shine.
And the Euro rider known as Ken Roczen shines everywhere so why wouldn’t he shine even brighter when it comes to ‘Dilla? Roczen laid waste to everyone in New York with a 1-1 ride and massive leads in both motos. This one was over before it began. Remember when Eli Tomac ran Roczen down and won two weeks ago? Yeah, neither does Kenny. On a rough track with ruts and pretty good dirt, Roczen was at home in ‘Dilla like a bear with a jar of honey (my childhood cartoons told me this is true). He was stupendous, amazing, dominant and fantastic all in one day. His style of standing and keeping his momentum up was perfect for this track. He’s going to clinch his second 450MX title this weekend in Budds Creek.
Cooper Webb won both motos at a track where he’s never even made the podium before. That’s how good this kid has been this year. Webb passed rookie Austin Forkner late in the second moto and then the red flag came out. He didn’t need Forkner for the overall but he was still machine-like in his lap times while probably thinking that the kid was going to tire. And Forkner admitted afterwards that he was spent. I’ve talked about Webb’s decision to race outdoors with a bad wrist and it’s amazing this thing has worked out as well as it has.
The problem Aaron Plessinger has is that he shows these absolute balls-on-fire laps where he’s riding so fast you think he’s… well, just read this from my High Point column earlier this year.
“Remember a couple of weeks ago I talked about Plessinger’s ability to go so fast for a few laps you think he’s cutting the track somewhere? He did it again at High Point where he logged a couple of 2:03’s where everyone else was 2:05 or worse.”
He did it again at Unadilla, where he was going three to four seconds faster than the leaders at different points! He was doing his thing, going so fast you’d think he was cutting the track. In the first moto he came from sixteenth to third, and he was blowing by dudes like they were standing still. He even got Joey Savatgy for second before getting slowed by a lapper and Joey got him back. It was an amazing ride and he backed it up in the second moto with another third.
Here’s the problem for Aaron: why can’t he do this more often? After challenging for the 250SX East Region title (but seemingly riding worse when he was close to the points lead) Plessinger has now had an up and down outdoors (High Point was a good one) which includes some races where you don’t notice him all that much. But then you get these races where he’s amazing! So maybe he’s the new Robbie Reynard? To me, if you can do it once, you can do it again. What a couple of rides by Plessinger.
Let’s take a look at the results, shall we?
1 17 Cooper Webb Newport, NC Yamaha YZ 250F 1 1- The only question left is what permanent number is Webb going to pick when he wins this title. Stays with 17? Goes with amateur number of 75? Picks a single digit number of 2, 8 or 9? I’d go with number 2 but that’s just me.
2 23 Aaron Plessinger Hamilton, OH Yamaha YZ 250F 3 3- News flash: I think we’re going to see this Unadilla-fast Aaron Plessinger over the next two rounds.
3 214 Austin Forkner Richards, MO Kawasaki KX 250F 7 2- Forkner was leading the very first moto before the red flag and on the re-start he got into a tangle so he was pretty far back. I’ve been impressed with this kid’s riding style (he rides off the back a bit like RV), the way he deals with the media and seemingly how he deals with the team, as I have spent some time under the PC tent. I hope he never becomes a crusty old vet sick of everyone!
4 36 Justin Hill Yoncalla, OR KTM 250 SX-F FE 5 4- Hill comes back for Washougal and rides great but you’re kind of like “Ehhhh I don’t know, it’s his home track” but Unadilla is far, far from Washington and he rode very good again. Nice to see him back on the track after missing most of the year with injury.
5 31 RJ Hampshire Hudson, FL Honda CRF250R 9 6- Getting fifth overall via 9-6 scores is a bit fortunate but Hampshire will take it. It’s been a rough few weeks for RJ (in fact this was his best race since Muddy Creek!) so to have a couple of good rides was paramount for his confidence. I just don’t know about Hampshire, sometimes I’m like “He’s going to be great” and other times I’m, like, “Why can’t he hold it together?”
6 42 Mitchell Oldenburg Alvord, TX KTM 250 SX-F FE 8 9
7 26 Alex Martin Millville, MN Yamaha YZ 250F 13 5- AMart gets the most passing points on the day with a last to thirteenth ride in the first moto. Second moto he was good and told me after his stomach didn’t feel right all day for some reason. Then later on Saturday, AMart bought me dinner!
8 49 Martin Davalos Ecuador Husqvarna FC250 11 8
9 403 Tristan Charboneau Tenino, WA Honda CRF250R 10 10- With Smith’s departure (see below) does this leave Tristan with a chance to stay at GEICO next year?
10 37 Joseph Savatgy Thomasville, GA Kawasaki KX 250F 2 32- I don’t know what happened to Savatgy in the second moto but he just pulled off. He appeared to be fine and we know that he’s in shape based on, I don’t know, just about every race this season. So to see him pull off was jarring to say the least. Great first moto where he got Plessinger back on the last lap after getting passed and I know he’s dealing with some “stuff” that he won’t tell me about and whatever it was, it got the best of him in Unadilla.
11 44 Adam Cianciarulo Port Orange, FL Kawasaki KX 250F 4 33- AC led some laps and just missed his first podium of the season in the first moto. Second moto he fell, got light headed (not necessarily in the that order) and dropped back before pulling off. Pro Circuit was incredible in the first moto, but the second? Not so much outside of Forkner. Tough day! I’ve said this before about Adam, I really believe he’s holding back a bit because he just wants to finish a series after a few rough years.
12 45 Kyle Cunningham Aledo, TX Suzuki RMZ 250 14 11
13 46 Luke Renzland Hewitt, NJ Yamaha YZ 250F 12 13- New Jersey’s own Luke Renzland comes back to ‘Dilla and conquers the beast! Well, not quite, but these are good finishes, right? With CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha already announcing its 2017 team with Luke not being on it, I always think how that’s kind of weird for a team and a rider. I’ve been on some teams where that has happened and it’s a fine line of weirdness.
14 13 Jessy Nelson Paso Robles, CA KTM 250 SX-F FE 6 24- As I wrote above, Nelson had a hard crash late in the second moto and we’re not sure if he’ll ever race again. I hope he does because he’s one of the nicest dudes in the pits.
15 39 Jordon Smith Belmont, NC Honda CRF250R 39 7- Smith came back from injury and had a mechanical in his first moto then rebounded with a nice second moto. He’s hasn't been happy with his bike on the GEICO team (team manager Mike LaRocco has a big say in set-up) and decided to get out of his deal next year. And truthfully, the team was probably fine with it because the results haven’t been there. Unhappy riders usually lead to these sort of things. Smith’s going to TLD KTM next year and I’ll be watching for sure because as an ex-mechanic I have a hard time believing that a team like GEICO Honda can’t give you whatever you want in testing to make you happy. Not every team is perfect but generally speaking teams at the level of GEICO will bend over backwards to test and make you happy.
16 84 Jimmy Albertson Shawnee, OK Suzuki RMZ 250 15 15- Top Jimmy is, like, good again. Millville seemed to be the race he needed to get some confidence and at least start getting in the top twenty again, which, in my opinion, he should never be out of barring some sort of disaster.
17 89 Marshal Weltin Ubly, MI Yamaha YZ 250F 18 14- Weltin is, once again, the top real privateer in the 250MX group with these rides. Also his best two motos of the year.
18 296 Bradley Taft Nixa, MO Yamaha YZ 250F 26 12- Taft’s first-ever national and early on in the second moto he was up to around sixth before dropping back after a crash. All told, I think he crashed four times. Welcome to the big leagues, kid!
19 61 Gannon Audette Tallahassee, FL Kawasaki KX 250F 34 16
20 66 Arnaud Tonus Switzerland Kawasaki KX 250F 16 38- Tonus was, I think, just worked badly by the weather, as he dropped from sixth to sixteenth in just two laps! It was an amazing fade and I’m sure it was heat related because he got an IV before the second moto and therefore couldn’t race. Maybe there was a bike issue but I don’t think so.
1 94 Ken Roczen Germany Suzuki RMZ 450 1 1- A real shame that because he’s switching to Honda, Roczen isn’t racing the MXDN for the third straight year. He missed last year because of injury and the year before because he switched to Suzuki. Before that he was so, so amazing at that event.
2 25 Marvin Musquin France KTM 450 SX-F FE 3 2- As I said, Marv’s good at Unadilla so when you add in the fact that he’s, just, you know, good anyways and you get another podium and another second overall at that. He was second in the second moto, fell down, dropped back to seventh, then almost went over the bars and STILL charged up to second. That my friends, is superb. Question: WTF was the French team thinking picking Dylan Ferrandis over Marv? Maybe Musquin told them to pound sand? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t think so.
3 3 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Kawasaki KX 450F 2 3- Tomac tried like hell to catch Marv (who picked up his bike maybe a spot in front of him in the second moto) but he just couldn’t make up time on the #25 as they ripped through a bunch of really good riders. Finally on the eleventh lap, Tomac made some mistakes and lost five seconds and the battle was over.
4 167 Benny Bloss Oak Grove, MO KTM 450 SX-F FE 7 4- Wow. Look at this dude. He got by "Filthy" Phil and ran second in the second moto for five laps. We all had a Roczen, Bloss and Nicoletti podium, right? Like Forkner in the 250 Class, this rookie is gaining confidence each week against the vets that are perhaps a little beat down at this point of the season. Bloss is going to stay with BTO KTM next year with a 250SX and 450MX ride.
5 51 Justin Barcia Madison, FL Yamaha YZ 450F 4 7- Nice charge for Barcia in the second moto from way, way back.
6 43 Fredrik Noren Sweden Honda CRF450R 6 6- Fast Freddie got the “factory Honda” bump to sixth overall and I saw a PR that said it was a career-best finish for Fred. Don’t you feel like he would’ve gotten some sixths before? I don’t know, 6-6 for Freddie seems like he would’ve done it before, right? [Ed note: This is his best overall finish in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.]
7 28 Weston Peick Menifee, CA Yamaha YZ 450F 5 9- Weston should’ve backed up his fine Washougal ride with a 5-5 on the day but he said he nearly had a huge get-off at the bottom of Gravity Cavity (which he referred to as “the drop off”. Sigh. Kids.) and almost died. So he said he had to literally just cruise the last few laps and there went his 5-5. Still, Peick was fast at ‘Dilla.
8 15 Dean Wilson United Kingdom KTM 450 SX-F FE 11 5- Nice work for Dean in the second moto to get a start and then stay up there the whole time. Some guys passed him and faded or crashed but he stayed calm and rode it out for a strong fifth.
9 34 Phillip Nicoletti Cohocton, NY Yamaha YZ 450F 8 8- Phil ran up front in both motos but crashed in the first one and then something happened to him in the second moto. He was fifth for halfway and I suppose the humidity got to him. He didn’t mention anything on Twitter about crashing. His buddy Alex Martin said he was (back) on suicide watch afterwards so that’s not good. #PoorPhil
10 32 Matthew Bisceglia Tualatin, OR Suzuki RMZ 450 9 10- Matt was back for his first race since Southwick and showed that he’s still very fast in the 450 Class. His Southwick crash in the LCQ seemed like it was pretty bad. If Yosh goes to an all-250 team like I think they will, you’d have to think Bisceglia gets a spot, right?
11 10 Justin Brayton Fort Dodge, IA KTM 450 SX-F FE 10 11- Brayton admitted after the race that he’s still not feeling great from his crash at Washougal where he was KO’d. These things take time and he’s a guy that’s hit his head a few times now.
12 48 Anthony Rodriguez Venezuela Kawasaki KX 450F 14 12- A-Rod switched bikes with his teammate Tony Archer and this was a bad move for Tony. The 250 Class is one where factory machinery has a big edge and Traders Kawi, as good as they are, isn’t a factory bike. Meanwhile A-Rod grabbed a 450 and did very good first time out.
13 11 Kyle Chisholm Valrico, FL Honda CRF450R 13 14- Chiz is riding a lot better than he was earlier this outdoor season. Yeah, guys are hurt, but he’s still, like, way better. Imagine that, a guys shoulder injury heals up and he rides better!
14 68 Cole Martinez Rimrock, AZ Yamaha YZ 450F 12 15
15 292 Austin Howell Red Bluff, CA Suzuki RMZ 450 15 18- Howell got a promotion off privateer island onto a privateer raft of Blue Buffalo/Slater Skins Yamaha and had his best finish of the season. That’s impressive because he was on a Suzuki RM-Z450 previously and there probably aren’t two bikes that are more different than a Yamaha and a Suzuki.
16 29 Andrew Short Colorado Springs, CO KTM 450 SX-F FE 38 13-Everytime I talk to Shorty, I get the impression that he’s COMPLETELY okay with retiring. I think he’s over the work it takes to be one of the best. He’s told me that he’ll still be at the races next year but won’t tell me doing what. Maybe a Fly Racing guy? A riding coach for someone? Maybe he’s got a concession stand business lined up?
17 72 Hayden Mellross Australia Yamaha YZ 450F 18 16- Mellross raced his first-ever 450 American race and set his fastest lap on the last lap of moto one, which is cool, but the flip side is: “Why couldn’t you go faster when you were fresh?” Right? Anyways, solid finishes for the Aussie.
18 90 John Short Pilot Point, TX Yamaha YZ 450F 20 17
19 987 Matthew Babbitt Cayuga, NY KTM 450 SX-F FE 16 33
20 95 Dustin Pipes Madera, CA Suzuki RMZ 450 17 30- Yeah, look at Pipes! Thirteen straight motos with no points and then two seventeenths in a row (second moto at Washougal), which only means one thing: the Pipes are no longer plugged!
Thanks for reading, appreciate it. Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this race or whatever really. I’m around, bro.