YEAH! HANGTOWN! The opening round of the 2019 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship took place this past weekend in Northern California and it’s weird to me that we’re just, like, over supercross now. Seventeen races in 18 weekends, months of prep beforehand, and for Cooper Webb, Chase Sexton, and Dylan Ferrandis it’s just “Take a few days to soak in your accomplishments boys and then start grinding out motos!!!” I don’t know, it just strikes me as weird but that’s the schedule we have in the U.S.
Anyway, it’s quite a shock to the system after watching supercross to see the guys just pinned up and down hills. Then you add in the rain and the mud and you know you’re in the outdoors. Well, actually with all the rain we had in supercross this year, maybe it was just more of the same.
Before we get to the race, just know that I was a little busy at Hangtown with me being the team manager of the SmarTop/BullFrog Spas/MotoConcepts Honda team. No, you aren’t drunk, and you read that correctly. My buddy Kris Keefer, at the spry age of 42, decided that he wanted to line up for a national again. And the team gave him a full race bike, Showa gave him factory suspension because, well, they’re nice guys? I mean seriously, team owner Mike Genova probably spent a grip of cash for a mechanic and truck driver to head up there because he thought it would be good PR for the team and a cool story. Somehow, the guy that got banned from the truck (that would be me) was picked to “manage” the whole deal. Ain’t life weird?
I’ll be honest here and tell you that it didn’t go well. Keefer is very fast on a motorcycle and I thought he’d be touch and go to make the motos but I didn’t think he’d qualify 55th out of 73. The guy I watched ride out there wasn’t the same guy I’ve seen ride a ton. He looked uncomfortable, battled arm pump, didn’t appear to get into a groove at any time. And this just in, the two practices at nationals aren’t long enough for any rider to get into a groove. It’s pretty much balls out the whole time.
Maybe it was the pressure of the whole semi truck and deal being there for him. Maybe it was the 12 ruts in every corner, maybe the manager (IE: me) sucked, I don’t know but he’s better than what he showed at Hangtown, that’s for sure. This weekend he’ll try again at Pala only this time we’ll be out of the MCR truck and trailer—not sure if my managerial moves got us the semi truck yanked or not?
I tried to organize some stuff before and at the race, I pointed out a couple things to his mechanic Aaron to pass on, I didn’t say much to Keefer because he knew that he wasn’t riding up to his usual level. What can you really do at that point, you know? The LCQ appeared to be decent with his start but it didn’t happen there either. I’m stoked at Kris and the work he put into this whole ordeal, he really grinded for weeks, and I hope Pala goes well and it should go better, he knows the track somewhat.
Everyone I saw out there on the track just laughed when they saw me with a team shirt and headset on which pissed me off. I wished I was taken more seriously! I had a headset, everyone!
Thanks to Mike Genova, Tony Alessi, Cooler, and Aaron for being so awesome to myself and the Keefer family. They didn’t have to do this and it was cool to just be there.
Ken Roczen won the overall and that was great. Roczen’s overall win marked his first one since his accident (he had won a couple of motos in 2018 and no 450SX wins) and it’s a bit surprising. He hasn’t been feeling well lately, trying to figure out what’s been going on, but he told me that he “I kind of surprisingly felt pretty damn good today” and proved it. Fastest qualifier, a dominant first moto, and a second in moto two got it done.
It was awesome to see him out here, a gear higher than everyone else just riding around, keeping his momentum up, perfect body position and crushing it. Very 2016-ish for me standing at the side of the track watching him. I don’t know how he can be a factor week in and week out if he’s not 100 percent physically but we had Kenny on the PulpMX Show on Monday and he sounded like he’s got a mental attitude about this thing figured out, he’s flipped a switch, monitoring himself better, and was very upbeat. If this “thing” in SX that dragged him down (there were days he told us that he would do half a lap on a SX track then pack it in) is gone or doesn’t affect him much, well then we’ll see much more of the Hangtown Kenny Roczen. And that is awesome.
Another thing that happened with Roczen’s win was, and thanks to Clay at Fox for pointing this out, it broke a premier class winless streak for the brand. Incredibly, Fox hadn’t won in the premier class since East Rutherford Supercross in 2017 with Ryan Dungey. That’s over two years for Fox, who have had Roczen and Chad Reed in the gear this whole time. Going through the archives, it looks to me that the last time Fox didn’t grab a win indoors or out in was 1994.
2010-2017: Dungey, Reed, Roczen
2009: Ivan Tedesco
2005-2008: James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael
2000-2004: Ricky Carmichael
1999: Ezra Lusk
1995-1998: Jeremy McGrath, Doug Henry, John Dowd, Kevin Windham
1991-1994: No winner
1990: Damon Bradshaw, Jeff Matiasevich
1989: No winner
1985-1988: Rick Johnson, Rick Ryan
1984: No winner
1980-1983: Mark Barnett
As far as I can tell, one of Fox’s longest winless streaks in the premier class has just ended. If I missed someone, let me know in the comments below.
Congrats to the guys at Honda also for this win, that had to feel very nice for all of them as well. They, along with Roczen, have been through a lot in the past couple of years. This had to feel good.
Let’s discuss Jason Anderson and Zach Osborne. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna guys both surprised at the opener with some serious speed and endurance. Well, in Anderson’s case the endurance was a surprise because from what I understand (we don’t talk much) was that he didn’t have a ton of time to prep after his injury. He was very much a surprise in passing Eli Tomac back and catching Cooper Webb in moto one. Looked great out there and although the second moto didn’t go his way with a fifth, he’s not a mudder, so we’ll let that pass. Strong start for the #21.
As far as Osborne, not many people will be talking about him this week with his 5-3 moto scores but he was low-key perhaps the second most impressive guy in the 450 Class. First moto he was way back before getting on his train and getting Eli Tomac. That was impressive. Second moto he came from way back to a third in the mud. Yes, it was the mud but seeing as how there wasn’t much passing going on out there by anyone not on a #16 bike, it was excellent for Zacho. He and Anderson were better than I thought they’d be, no doubt about it.
How riders work 101: Eli Tomac on Osborne catching and passing him in the first moto: “I was disappointed because I was even given fourth because Zach fell there at the end. So fifth, I would have been really pissed. But we rebounded good.” Basically because Zach fell and Eli got him back, things were all rosy! That’s how you work as a rider, it’s a bottom line business and he beat Osborne.
ET3’s day was just okay, he won moto two in the mud which was great but his past domination at Hangtown was just a distant memory in moto one when he never really got going. I mean, I was expecting it, right? Still, second overall on the day and we move on, but it was more up and down from Tomac at the opener. Dare we say… SX-ish?
Like Ken Roczen, Adam Cianciarulo was a somewhat surprising winner at Hangtown seeing as how the kid A.) Only has one national win to his credit and B.) Came off that thing in Vegas that we all saw. Cianciarulo has been eligible for 72 nationals and only lined up for 36 due to injury so it’s not like he’s a seasoned motocross warrior. But the kid (man?) showed at Hangtown that he put Vegas behind him and looked to be setting up Justin Cooper in moto one for a late race pass before settling for second. Second moto he got the start in crappy conditions and was gone.
We all wondered how Adam would do this year, his last 250 series before he moves to 450 in 2020 (at least I believe this will happen). Look, motocross is hard and he’s never been as good at it as SX. And he’s got a deal locked up and yeah, motocross is really hard. If Adam can pull this series off, what an amazing accomplishment that will be, right? The ultimate sign off to his 250 career and a championship that no one would have predicted.
We’ve seen some weirdo results at Anaheim 1 and the opening round of Pro Motocross (wherever it is held) over the years so perhaps Roczen and AC winning will be looked at after Indiana as just another example of that. There’s certainly a possibility of that, yeah?
I think we’re just going to see an ass-load of Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s this summer and I don’t know which guy will be at the front of the pack but it’s going to a Blu wave at a lot of races. Dylan Ferrandis, Justin Cooper, and Colt Nichols were constant forces up front in both motos and will be there all summer I would bet. I don’t know which guy is better, I guess Ferrandis would be the slight favorite because of his experience, but either way, get ready for Yamaha’s everywhere up front this summer. Besides the riders being great, man they’re fast!
Speaking of Star Yamaha, Ty Masterpool made his pro debut at Hangtown and it surprised a lot of people that follow the amateur circuit. Don’t ask me, I’m not one of them, but people who do say that he’s never ridden “A” class and it seemed a bit of a sudden move. Especially when you add in that when Mitchell Oldenburg comes back, the team will have five guys which is never ideal for motocross. I asked team manager Wil Hahn about it and he says it was always in the plan and was a mutual decision by the team and the family that he would turn pro Hangtown. Either way, surprise or not the kid did all right with 12-14 finishes along with another rookie on the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM team in Derek Drake who was 10th in moto one. Second moto in the mud wasn’t ideal for him but that 10th was strong.
Looking at the results from moto one at Hangtown in 250MX:
1st #32 Justin Cooper | YAM YZ250F 15 Laps
2nd #92 Adam Cianciarulo | KAW KX250 +01.891
3rd #34 Dylan Ferrandis | YAM YZ250F +03.504
4th #23 Chase Sexton | HON CRF250R +04.320
5th #39 Colt Nichols | YAM YZ250F +25.115
6th #31 RJ Hampshire | HON CRF250R +39.024
That number there is the gap from first (Cooper) and Hampshire, insixth, was almost 40 seconds. RJ will have his moments here and there but I think these five guys (maybe sub out Nichols with Alex Martin or definitely add Martin in there) will be our contenders from here on out. It’ll be interesting to see at Ironman which of these five or six are left standing but I can’t see anyone other than Martin getting into this group. Funny how that works, huh?
Speaking of Martin, he had a horrible first moto that he attributed to a couple of crashes and some bike set-up issues, (first of all he told me he went out with a paddle tire for qualifying which was a bit bizarre because, yes the track was soupy and soft at press day but did no one walk out for first practice? It was a freeway!) but he rebounded nicely in the mud for a second place that salvaged his day. It was good to see him show that he’s okay because qualifying and first moto were terrible.
Martin’s second was the first podium for Suzuki in the 250 Class in Pro Motocross since, wait for it, Jason Anderson at Millville in 2013. Yes, you read that right. SIX YEARS! Wow. Anderson also got an overall podium there so when Troll Train gets his first overall podium, he’ll also match that for Suzuki.
I hear no talk about Martin winning this title. Seriously. Well, outside of my house that is. Why can’t he win this thing? He got second two out of the last three years in the championship and the year he didn’t, he was second in the points late in the year before being hurt.
TROLL TRAIN COULD BE YOUR 2019 250 NATIONAL CHAMPION AND I DON’T WANT TO HEAR ANY DIFFERENTLY!!!
Some quick hit thoughts:
-Speaking of Masterpools, how about Jake coming out yet again and running strong in the 450 Class as a privateer? Eleventh overall for Jake and a ton of PulpMX fantasy points at that! Great ride for sure.
-I saw a stat that Ben LaMay had the most career starts in the 450 Class of anyone that lined up at Hangtown with 86. Wow, who knew? I don’t care what Weege says in our review show, there was low-key LaMay hype coming out of amateurs. Once again, LaMay put in solid results in both motos.
-Tough day for the Cycle Trader/Rock River Yamaha guys as both Jacob Hayes and Brandon Hartranft had bike issues and didn’t do very well. Things are rough right now over there with both guys, it’s just stuff small budget teams have to go through. Outdoors is hard on equipment for sure and both riders need to shine here for rides next year.
-Justin Barcia’s banged up pretty good with injuries to both wrists and he didn’t have much prep for Hangtown. Near the end of SX he was basically like a human piñata each week before finally calling it and getting some rest. So he’s not where he needs to be and hopefully can get right soon enough here.
-Some pit rumors. We know RJ Hampshire is going to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna for 2020 but there’s also rumors out there that Jordon Smith will be heading to Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki.
-Dean Ferris is over here for the entire summer for the Monster Energy Factory Yamaha guys and I think did pretty well all things considered. He got a late start on the bike, he’s been hurt, he’s been riding a KTM when he’s been healthy so a top ten at the opener is a good start.
-It’s taken a little while but Michael Mosiman is starting to figure things out. A strong second half in SX followed by a good start at Hangtown is something to build on. As far as his teammate Thomas Covington, well yeah, take everything I said about Mosiman and just take the opposite. That was not a good start for the veteran. I am speechless at how bad his SX and now MX opener has gone. He’s too good for this to happen and you have to feel for the guy.
Thanks for reading OBS from the opener! Appreciate all the time you put in today, let’s do this next week, yeah? Email me at email@example.com if you want to chat about this race or anything else.