Hey, a new national! Yeah! The WW Ranch Motocross Park was added to the schedule this year and Muddy Creek Raceway went away. In my opinion this was a good move . We saw this track a couple of years ago when it hosted a U.S. MXGP round (what happened to those by the way?) and I went to that race. The rains made the pits a disaster but other than that, it was a good round. I was excited to see what WW Ranch could do with a Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship round.
First the bad: it’s Florida so it’s flat. Therefore the viewing isn’t ideal. Great national tracks should have hills, that’s not up for debate. But what can you do with WW Ranch? There’s a man made hill in the center of the track I guess? Anyways, everything else was pretty good in my opinion outside of that. I was up in the announcers tower most of the day watching and still couldn’t see crap. So I did what a lot of you did and watched the TV screens and live timing, which is crazy because I was there!
The track was good though, it was deep sand (I think it’s sandier than Southwick now that the ‘Wick has lost a lot of its base and I was met with probably 50/50 agreement on this theory), wide (something Muddy Creek was not), rough, had fun jumps, and was a real challenge for the riders. Good track for sure and a worthy addition to the series. Some quotes I got from riders on it:
Alex Martin (7-6 for sixth overall in 250 Class): “I absolutely love this track. It was fun. This was maybe one of my favorite tracks on the circuit. I was pretty pumped on it. I know I didn’t win or podium, but I still was pretty pumped on the track. First moto I think I passed eleven or twelve dudes. It was easy to pass. It was good passing points. Second moto I maybe didn’t pass quite as many people, but it just felt like a fun racetrack. It was gnarly. It just felt like a true national.”
Jacob Hayes (13-8 for tenth overall in 250 Class): “I’ve never been here before. This place is awesome, here at WW Ranch. The track was sick, got rough…First practice not so much. It was a highway. But then once it started getting beat in it was really good. Like I said, I’m ecstatic.”
Brandon Hartranft (31-9 for 14th overall in 250 Class): “I think it was pretty badass. This is honestly the most well-prepped race I think ever we’ve been to. The track is by far the gnarliest track. The ruts are so deep. They did an awesome job.”
Marvin Musquin (1-3 for first overall in 450 Class): “If you watch all the lines, all the jumps, the bumps, the ruts, that’s awesome racing. That’s an awesome racetrack. Obviously it was hot, very demanding, but great racing. To me, that was a great track.”
Zach Osborne (5-2 for third overall in 450 Class): “I think it was a proper racetrack. A lot of options. Some of the tracks get one liney as far as passing goes, but there was a lot of opportunity out there. The insides and outsides, they did a good job with the insides and whatnot, evening them out, so there was a lot of options. I thought it was a great racetrack.”
As you may have heard, it was hot. Like, Florida hot. Plenty of riders were affected by the heat and humidity, the likes we haven’t seen since Freestone a few years ago, or some of the other races that can occasionally get hot just because it’s summer. The organizers were monitoring the heat index all day and if it reached a certain level then the motos would be shortened. We didn’t get to that part but we did have some riders that suffered. Well, all riders suffered for sure but when guys like Chase Sexton or Cameron McAdoo aren’t able to ride the second motos, you know it’s a tough one.
Here’s the thing though…I’ve been to plenty of races that in my memory were worse. I was hearing a lot of “hottest race ever” and “they should cancel it” and “never put a national in Florida in June” but I’ve been at races in Minnesota, Michigan and Maryland (maybe it’s the states that start w “M”?) that were, to me, hotter. Never mind Freestone that I’m sure was hotter. Maybe because I was a mechanic at some of these races so therefore I was actually working that my memory says they were worse but this race probably doesn’t even make my top seven or ten of hottest races I’ve been to. (Editor’s note: Matthes was sitting in air conditioning all day).
I started doing this column and realized that I was thousands of words deep and had only touched on the 250 Class so because we’re down an editor right now (EFF YOU CHASE STALLO FOR LEAVING RACER X), I’ll just focus on that class because I don’t want this thing to be silly long.
First though, here’s a quick 450 Class rundown: Marv is back, we got good and bad Eli Tomac, heat looked like it got to Kenny like we thought it might, Osborne’s second moto was all heart, Justin Barcia was finally good, Chiz’s start in the second moto was amazing, and I still don’t know which Blake Baggett is going to show up each week.
Okay, now onto the 250s…
Well it finally happened. No, not me embracing amateur racing but Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Justin Cooper won his first pro race. Of course, he didn’t actually win a moto on Saturday but his 2-2 score was enough to bring home the overall win. By the way, did you know that Tim Ferry won his four nationals all by 2-2 scores? Whenever he won a moto he never managed to get the overall. Ironic that the 2-2 got him his national wins and then also he never won a race in his 1997 125SX title season right? Anyways, enough about Tim Ferry. Wait, can you ever have enough.
Anyway, great race and nice rebound for Justin from High Point, where he told me that he didn’t use his practice time smartly enough and a crash there affected him all day. He gained some of those lost points at High Point back from AC92. He told me he was pretty spent late in the second moto and really had to focus to hold it together out there.
Cooper’s raced 30 total pro races between supercross and motocross in his career and has made 13 podiums total. That’s an almost 50 percent podium ratio which is pretty impressive right? He’s finished third (in 2018 Pro Motocross) and second (in 2019 supercross) in his first full series that he’s raced. Quietly, Justin Cooper has been pretty much amazing to start his pro career. I don’t feel like we’re making a big enough deal about this start for the him.
As far as that Cianciarulo kid, well the perfect season is over. LOL. He salvaged third overall on a day when he didn’t feel that good and sand is not his forte. Remember the last time he raced WW Ranch for the USGP he crashed out so not exactly warm and fuzzy feelings coming back here. Adam admitted that in the past he might’ve thrown it all away from frustration but he made the best out of everything with a podium. Not too shabby and exactly the kind of ride champions have.
Hey, don’t look now but this weekend is big for AC. Despite growing up in Florida, his three finishes at Southwick have been a ninth, 14th, and tenth overall, respectively. Granted, those are going back a few years because he’s not always made the race. As his coach Nick Wey told us on Monday’s PulpMX Show, he’s never felt at home on a track like WW Ranch or The ‘Wick. So they’re worked hard at trying to be better on the soft stuff. Cooper told us he loves the sand and grew up riding on it and AC’s not done well in it so this weekend could be a real game changer either way for the 250 Class title.
I got some very honest talk from Dylan Ferrandis after the race about his slow start to the 250 Class nationals. He hasn’t gotten great starts for sure but he also hasn’t shown the speed he had last year quite yet. He won his first moto of the year though at WW Ranch and anyone want to bet against him doing it again this weekend? Ferrandis rips at the ‘Wick bro!
Anyways, he spoke about it HERE and basically told me that it’s hard to get up for another championship after he met his lifetime goal of winning a 250SX title. Interesting stuff from Dylan but he just got a moto win, he might get two more this weekend and close up that 35-point deficit rather quickly. He could be right back in this soon.
The good: Chase Sexton won his first professional MX moto in a great ride in moto one. He chased down Cooper, got by him, and then put on a clinic to win. The bad: He was so spent from that effort he couldn’t start moto two. So, yeah, that sucks. Here’s the thing though, Sexton is in great shape so I don’t want to hear you guys tell me about Bob Hannah over and over. Heat affects people differently and what kind of shape you’re in as an athlete doesn’t really matter, this isn’t just a training and fitness thing.
So bummer for Sexton but I guess you take the good (moto win) and build on it from there. Remember when Eli Tomac overheated at Freestone all those years ago on the GEICO Honda? It affected him for a long time so it’ll be something to see if Chase is feeling the effects this weekend or longer.
It is interesting that the top two guys (Cooper and Ferrandis) train and ride in Southern California while the guys that are there all the time (Sexton, AC, Hampshire, etc) didn’t have the days they wanted. Not sure what that says (then again, a Florida based guy, Musquin, did win the 450s) but Cooper thought the fact that he wasn’t worn out from training in humidity everyday might have helped (insert shrugging shoulder emoji here).
You hear that? It’s a ways off but if you’re quiet it’s there. Put your ear down on the track maybe. That’s right jerkies, it’s the sound of the TROLL TRAIN COMING DOWN THE TRACKS BABY!!!! Alex Martin had his best race of the year at WW Ranch and he also loves Southwick! YOU WATCH!!!! “We’re” 107 points down on AC right now with seven races to go but “we’re” just warming up! Sweep the ‘Wick, sweep Millville (of course), and maybe we’ve got a shot.
Okay fine, we have no shot but Martin rode well this past weekend and it offered some of us some hope, okay?
A-Mart also lost his fender in the second moto. How weird does this look?
It’s been a rough MX season for the Cycle Trader/Rock River Yamaha guys (and girl) but it almost all came together for them at the hottest, toughest race of the year. In the first moto, Brandon Hartranft was 13th with two laps to go when he ate crap. Then, according to him, when he realized his bike was toast he ran to the fans and asked them to pour water on him. Which I would’ve loved to have seen! Anyways his DNF gave teammate Jacob Hayes the 13th spot. In the second moto, both guys rode well with Hayes catching Brandon late in the moto to grab eighth to Hartranft’s ninth. Hayes got a season-best 10th overall and Hartranft was that close to a top ten as well until the crash. But his ninth was a season high. Good job to both guys and the team as well…they needed it.
Poor Tyler Keefe. The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM guys had a great year last year but 2019 has been poop for them. They had Jordon Smith start supercross great but then got hurt and now he’s probably out for the year after trying to ride with a wrist injury. Oh yeah, he’s leaving for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki next year. Shane McElrath didn’t have the season he would’ve liked to, the team benched him so he didn’t point out of 250SX (he was also dealing with a back injury) and his so-so season continues this MX season. Oh and he might be leaving to go to Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha next year, and it he does he’ll be beating up on the team that helped him stay down in that class another year. Sean Cantrell hasn’t worked out on many levels and is hurt now. Mitchell Falk has had a tough rookie year and is also hurt. Derek Drake made his pro debut at Hangtown and has done just okay but it’s too early to judge either way just yet. The riders haven’t been happy with their bikes despite them killing it last year on close to the same motorcycle.
So, Keefe gets Cameron McAdoo off the replacement rider scrap heap and the kid turns in a great ride at High Point—a career best overall, in fact. This weekend he again was riding well, fell in the last turn and lost a bunch of spots then couldn’t race moto two from the heat. Drake holeshots moto one, goes balls out, and then eats crap bad. He’s DNF-DNF on the day. McElrath just does okay again and Keefe is so desperate he puts Pierce Brown on the bike (still an amateur but allowed to race some nationals…ridiculous rule by the way). But here’s the thing…Brown does pretty well. His second moto ride was impressive so maybe there’s something here. But then again, Brown can’t ride too many of these before he’s not eligible for Loretta Lynn’s so he won’t be racing much longer. Keefe has just been forced to juggle his line-up all year long and nothing much is working. Or when it does work, it doesn’t last long. In our sport, sometimes you’re the hammer, sometimes you’re the nail. Tyler Keefe is the currently the nail.
Some other 250 Class news and notes:
-No one will notice or care years from now but RJ Hampshire and Marty Davalos (he talked to me in the PC truck and was actually nice to me BTW) were involved in a crash on the first lap of the second moto. Both guys were WAY back (Hampshire crashed again) and again, no one will notice it or care but I did. It was hot as balls and there was nothing to race for but RJ made it up to 11th and Marty 17th. Just quietly it was pretty cool to watch both guys fight to get as far as they could in tough conditions. That’s all.
Davalos and Hampshire in the start of the second moto.
Hampshire saved what could have been ugly in moto one.
-Christian Craig’s got this ridiculous FIM suspension possibly hanging over his head ( it’s affected him all year long, according to people close to him) and then he crashed at High Point and his head. Which caused him to not be able to line up for either moto at WW Ranch. At this point, just bench him to heal up and get his mind straight on this appeal he’s doing for the prohibited substance they found in his system. At Daytona last year! What he’s been doing this year isn’t working for him, the team, the sponsors, or anyone. Just get it all straight and come back when he’s ready.
-Thomas Covington’s season was somewhat explained when he revealed that he’s got the Epstein-Barr Virus but somehow he showed up this weekend to try and race a sand track in the middle of the summer in Florida, in the extreme heat? I’m so confused, I have so many questions. People I talked to said that TC said he wanted to come out and see what he could do, others told me Husqvarna in Austria told him he’s got to race. Either way, this was a bad idea and I’m far from a doctor, but, like seriously, why even waste everyone’s time? Covington rode one practice and called it a day. SMH at this move for sure. We’ll never know the true story behind this whole debacle by the way.
-Speaking of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, they’ve got something in this Michael Mosiman kid…it’s take a while but he’s been riding too well for too long for this to be some sort of fluke. He’s very legit right now and I’d sign him up for 2020 if I was the team.
I know, I know I said that this OBS edition was all 250 based but I can’t help it…there’s one hero out there in 450s that needs mentioning.
As hot as it was at the race…it makes Fredrik “Fast Freddie” Noren’s day even more remarkable. He didn’t have a mechanic there so his wife Amy ran the pit board while Freddie did all the work on the bike! So, yeah, no resting for Freddie in-between motos. What an animal! He had a great day in finishing top ten overall, passing Tomac back in moto one, and generally looking like one of the best riders in the world. Word is he’s going to be trying the JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing bike this week as a possible addition to the team in the 450 Class.
Here’s the thing though, if I was Freddie I would absolutely make sure that Honda HRC doesn’t want him for Cole Seely’s vacated spot. That’s the one I would go for if I was Freddie because he’s so comfortable with the bike and even though a lot of people have changed over there since he last rode for factory Honda, he still knows most of them. Might be tough for Noren to jump from a privateer Honda to a JGR Suzuki and expect the same results. Then again, at least he’ll have a mechanic!
Noren’s finally healthy after a rough 2018 where he missed most of the year getting his body fixed up. He never lost his speed or work ethic, he just needed to get healthy from years of crashes. It’s awesome to see him get up into the mix just about every weekend. I’m Team Fast Freddie always and forever—he’s a good dude and tries hard. Perhaps not the most technical rider in SX though.
Ok that’s it, thanks for reading! Next week we’ll focus on the 450 Class I think. Who knows? We’re going to the ‘Wick! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can chat about this race or anything else. #480Phil