Whether it’s race to race, moto to moto, or season to season, ups and downs are always a constant in racing. That was especially true today, on several levels. Plenty of riders saw their fortune reversed from the first moto to the second, some changed the initial course they’d set last week at Hangtown, while others continued putting together positive results following supercross seasons they’d likely rather forget.
In the 250 Class the day belonged to Adam Cianciarulo, although it didn’t come easy. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider battled hard with RJ Hampshire in the first moto for second before ending up third, and found himself embroiled in a slugfest with another GEICO Honda rider, Hunter Lawrence, in the second moto. Lawrence appeared to be the quicker rider, and he passed Cianciarulo for the lead at one point before going down and handing the spot back. With dogged determination on full display, Lawrence remounted and continued to fight, once again closing on Cianciarulo, but Cianciarulo would not be denied on this day, eventually winning the moto and edging out Justin Cooper for the overall. It was Cianciarulo’s second straight National win, which had to do wonders to help erase the sting of crashing away a supercross championship just a few weeks ago.
“It was a really good race,” Cianciarulo said later. “I’ve been out in California this year and I’ve seen Hunter [Lawrence] ride out here and he rides the bike really well, so it didn’t surprise me to see him up there. I know he had a crash in the first moto, so obviously he made due with a poor gate choice in the second moto. But he had a couple spots where he was getting me. That first step down, he was getting me and before the finish line too. He had a couple lines on me. When he got by me I tried not to freak out and just tried to learn and see what I could do so I could make a charge at the end. Then he had a little bit of a tip-over and I thought he was farther back than he was so I started laying up a little bit. With two laps to go my mechanic put ‘Push’ on the pit board, and he was really waving his towel hard. I was like, ‘Wow, this guy must be close,’ so I kind of had to empty the tank in the energy department and was able to get away a little bit. I got it done but he rode great.”
As heartbreaking as the second moto must have been for Lawrence, it was a whole lot better for him than the first. After getting together with Jordon Smith and crashing while running well in the first moto, Lawrence remounted and got back in it, only to hit a rock on the track just wrong and tear a hole in his oil filter cover. With the lifeblood of his engine flowing freely into the Pala dust, Lawrence was left with no choice but to retire. Afterward team manager Dan Betley told us that if the rock had hit something else the leak likely would have been slow enough that Lawrence could have finished the race. Not an ideal day, but if you’re Lawrence you’ve got to be coming into Thunder Valley next week happy knowing you passed the points leader and led the race, albeit briefly, in Pala.
Second place in the first moto belonged to Lawrence’s teammate, RJ Hampshire, who rode an outstanding race under immense pressure from Cianciarulo in the closing stages. Unfortunately for Hampshire, he and Alex Martin had a collision in the second moto that caused major damage to Hampshire’s radiator and put a hole in one of his radiator hoses. Just like that, Hampshire’s brilliant day overheated and turned sour.
In second overall was Justin Cooper, who after winning the first moto, ended up fourth in the second. Late in the second moto Cooper held off a charge from Chase Sexton and then went after Dylan Ferrandis for third, but fell just short.
“I was riding defensively for a little bit,” Cooper said in the post-race press conference. “I had Dylan behind me and he was putting some pressure on me for a little bit. I kind of got my mind off going forward and got mixed up in the first half of the race. I thought I had to get going for the overall and I really tried to make it happen in the last couple laps and got really close. I found my flow toward the end but it was just a little bit too late.”
Despite finishing seventh after going down early in the first moto, Ferrandis’ 7-3 moto scores earned him third overall. Afterward he was visibly unhappy with how things played out.
“I’m for sure not happy,” Ferrandis confirmed when asked about his day. “At the end of the day you want to be 1-1. I crashed in the beginning of the moto and came back from way behind and charged to the end. I managed a seventh, which is not so bad. We’ll see next week. I crashed in the first corner. I tried to give everything I had and it was enough for a podium, but my goal is to win motos, to win races. I won’t be happy until that happens.”
Ferrandis was also unhappy about going down in the first moto after Cianciarulo made contact with him, and mentioned he wasn’t sure if it was on purpose or not.
“From my point of view, a guy in front of me slowed down and I slowed down too to try to take the corner. Adam [Cianciarulo] came from the inside and hit me and I crashed. I haven’t seen any video. He told me after the moto he didn’t try to take me out. I don’t know. After supercross and everything that happened, maybe he liked it. I don’t know if he wanted to or not.”
Cianciarulo responded by stating that intentionally taking out Ferrandis wasn’t in his playbook.
“The first laps are obviously super hectic. Guys are everywhere going from one side of the track to the other. I came in a little bit farther outside than him and he got hung up with another guy and stood his bike up a little bit. When he stood his bike up I was kind of cutting under him at the same time. I definitely shot the gap. Obviously there’s going to be a chance that he recommits to the corner and we collide. With that being said, it’s never my intent to put somebody on the ground. It’s racing, there’s going to be a little bit of rubbing and that’s what I told him after the race. My team told me he crashed, I didn’t even know I took him out. I thought he was right behind me still. I’ll never be the guy that races like that, to take someone out. If you have to make an aggressive move, any one of these guys is going to move you out of the way if they have to. We take this stuff seriously. It’s unfortunate that he crashed, that’s not the way I like to race, but I’m sure he’ll get me back at some point.”
Both Cianciarulo and Ferrandis, as well as everyone present in the post-race press conference, enjoyed a chuckle when Cianciarulo mentioned he was sure Ferrandis would be paying him back sooner or later.
In final 250 news from Fox Raceway, there was a bit of drama regarding the start of the second 250 moto. Several riders thought the gate flinched, but a video later surfaced showing it was actually a rider jumping early, which triggered a chain reaction.
“We all thought it was going to be red flagged,” Cooper said. “But obviously you don’t want to let up on the first lap in case that doesn’t happen, and I saw the green flag waving and knew the race was on. I was kind of mind blown by it, honestly. I saw it happen on the sight lap too. It looked like it stumbled, then it dropped like two seconds later on what looked like the second attempt to drop it. That’s exactly what happened again. It looked like he tried to drop it and it flinched and the second attempt after that it went. It was hard to get a good start at that point, but I knew it happened to everyone else so I just did the best I could.”
Added Cianciarulo, “Halfway down the start straight I was like, ‘They gotta red flag this thing.’ I hit the gate a little bit, pulled back, and I was super late. The gate was fully on the ground before I left. Somehow I got a good drive, but the whole first lap, at the back of my mind I was like, ‘Okay, don’t get crazy and get the heart rate up to 190 right away.’ But I came by the finish line and it was like, ‘All right, I guess we’re doing it!’ But it was the same for everyone.”
Pala (Fox Raceway) - 250
Fox Raceway at Pala - Pala, CA
|1||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL||3 - 1||Kawasaki KX250F|
|2||Justin Cooper||Cold Spring Harbor, NY||1 - 4||Yamaha YZ250F|
|3||Dylan Ferrandis||Avignon, France||7 - 3||Yamaha YZ250F|
|4||Chase Sexton||La Moille, IL||5 - 5||Honda CRF250|
|5||Colt Nichols||Muskogee, OK||4 - 7||Yamaha YZ250F|
In 450 action it was all Eli Tomac, who let a torrent of speed loose in the first moto to catch and pass Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen, who held a large lead at one point. It wasn’t totally unlike some of the legendary races last year in which he suddenly increased his race pace to astounding velocities, seemingly with the flip of a mental switch.
“The first moto kind of reminded me of Hangtown. All the good guys were up front and I was kind of hanging out in fifth or sixth, whatever it was,” Tomac said. “I don’t know what it was, but I kind of got angry in my head and started pinning it. But I felt a lot better today. I don’t know what it was last week. I just had overall better riding today.”
Marvin Musquin was second overall, although after the first moto he wasn’t happy that he’d lost an opportunity to get around Roczen.
“I felt decent and wanted to be consistent all day. My starts were good and I put myself in pretty good condition in the first moto. I was right there and kind of got lucky when the guys in front of me made mistakes and I went to second pretty quickly. I charged and tried to catch Kenny [Roczen], and that’s what I did. Unfortunately I never made it happen, I never passed him, and I got third in that moto. The second moto, I had a great start and got second. It was a very consistent moto. I’m happy to be back on the podium, and the riding was pretty good.”
Musquin’s second overall follows a Hangtown he’d most likely like to forget, where he went 7-4 for sixth overall after crashing hard during practice.
“I thought I was going to just skip one day of riding, but I missed pretty much the whole week. Kenny was right behind me in practice when I crashed and he came up to me and he was like, ‘Dude, are you okay?’ But it happened and you have to deal with it. I tried my best to try to salvage some points on the weekend, and this weekend I tried to get better and get as good as I could and be competitive. That’s what happened. I’m looking forward to a good week of training and moving forward.”
After winning his first race since 2016 last week at Hangtown, Roczen put in another great ride to secure third overall at Fox Raceway, although at one point he held a large lead in the first moto.
"I was definitely fighting the bike a little bit,” Roczen said. “In the beginning you can kind of manage, but a track like today, it’s not really one of my favorites in general. And I made a couple of mistakes that cost me big time where I slid out and almost crashed. I had to make a couple of bike adjustments for the second moto I wish I maybe would have had for the first moto. We grabbed a good start and I just tried to do the best I could. I wasn’t feeling ideal on the track, but we managed. It’s a long season and I’m happy with it.”
Blake Baggett had a day that won’t register as a positive memory in the future. Baggett was doing great in the opening laps of the first moto after nabbing the holeshot, but ended up having a big crash and bending his front wheel. He pulled into the mechanics area to have it replaced but the damage was done. The damage was also done to his wrist, which Baggett jammed in the crash. He was dealing with a lot of pain the second moto too, and after running as high as second Baggett ended up back in fourteenth. Baggett was sixteenth overall via 33-14 moto scores.
Justin Hill had a pretty good day in Pala. After going 16-21 for twenty-first at Hangtown, Hill logged an 8-7 for a much improved seventh overall at Fox Raceway. Afterward he credited regrouping, and changing his mindset, for his improvement.
“Last weekend was such a disappointment, and I just didn’t stop grinding,” Hill said. “I went back out and kept riding. I didn’t want to sit at home and reflect on how bad it really was. I just wanted to get back out, put work in, and do my best to improve. I rode, rode, and rode. I only took Wednesday off from riding, and it helped get my mind right, along with other things, like encouragement from the people who’ve been helping me. This is just a step, but it’s finally a step toward what I want. I could be out here doing this, risking myself for nothing, to be in the back, where I’m not a happy person because I’m failing, or I can put my best foot forward, improve, and get to where I’m happy with me. It’s just an internal thing.”
Pala (Fox Raceway) - 450
Fox Raceway at Pala - Pala, CA
|1||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO||1 - 1||Kawasaki KX450|
|2||Marvin Musquin||La Reole, France||3 - 2||KTM 450 SX-F FE|
|3||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt, Germany||2 - 3||Honda CRF450|
|4||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA||5 - 4||Husqvarna FC 450|
|5||Jason Anderson||Edgewood, NM||4 - 5||Husqvarna FC 450|