We’re once again firing off questions at long-time pro Jason Thomas for some opinions on the seventh round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
The RedBud track kept the start from the 2018 the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. Is this new start better?
The new start is a big improvement for my money. I was always fearful of the old start in my racing days and we have seen some big first turn crashes in years since. As a general rule, I am not in favor of 40 riders turning while also holding their throttles wide open. The inside guys end up drifting into the outside guys and the outside guys end up off the track or worse.
The new first turn is much safer, slower, and seems to be pretty fair for every starting spot. If there is a crash now, it’s more likely to be in the braking zone instead of a high speed get-off.
Thoughts on the Adam Cianciarulo ruling in the first moto?
I agree with Adam’s assessment that this was a carry-over ruling from Thunder Valley. There was a long, heated debate about Thunder Valley’s decision and while I believe they got it right that day, I also think his margin for error was zero based on that incident. If there is such a thing as a super-secret, off-track excursion probation, Adam was on it. If the Colorado incident hadn’t happened, I think Adam gets off without any sort of penalty. With the prior no-call going his way, I think AMA/MX Sports felt compelled to act. Right or wrong, I think that was a big motivating factor.
Cianciarulo over the finish line jump in the first 250 Class moto at RedBud.
The interesting thing is Adam isn’t the only one who has been off the track. His closest competitors have both been off the track in recent weeks, most notably Dylan Ferrandis’ adventure in Southwick. Regardless of the decision, one side of this coin is going to be upset (blue or green). We have a precedent now so watch for anything relevant moving forward. There will be big pressure for action if anyone leaves the race course for any reason.
Ferrandis in the first 250 Class moto at Southwick.
We saw several bike issues throughout the day (including Lorenzo Locurcio running out of gas and pushing his bike over the live timing part of the finish line jump; Justin Barcia's bike locking up in the first moto; and Alex Martin's bike blowing up only three turns from a second-place finish in the first moto). What's it like to have that happen to you? What's going through your mind when that happens?
Listen, motorcycles break. There are so many moving parts and mechanics rushing to get the bikes prepped, I am surprised we don’t see issues more often. Mechanical issues have always been a factor for a national series and probably always will be. Luckily, none of these guys have a title on the line so it didn’t cripple their season. It still sucks, though. For Alex Martin, especially, he needed that moto finish to turn this season around.
I have had so many things break over the years, they are all a bit different. Most times, I didn’t really know anything was wrong until the bike stopped running. Running out of gas would sometimes give you a warning, bogging a few times as the carburetor was starving for fuel. With fuel injection, that might not be the case these days. With every manufacturer trying to save weight and build a sleeker chassis, many fuel tanks simply won’t finish a 35-plus minute moto in the sand. Riders need bigger tanks to even finish some races. My 2012 RM-Z450 would make it around 29-31 minutes on a deep sand track with a stock tank. Brett Metcalfe knows this all too well as he had a nasty get off late in a practice moto due to a fuel tank mix-up.
One of the tell-tale signs that you are about to DNF a moto is when a crank/main bearing is about to let go. On deceleration, the bike makes a very distinct sound and has a very unique feel. Anyone who has ever had this happen will know exactly what I mean. At Troy, Ohio, in 1999, I was in ninth place and this happened on the last lap of the first moto. I had about a quarter of a lap to go and tried to nurse it back to the finish but didn’t make it. Similar to A-Mart last Saturday, it’s a gut-wrenching feeling to lose a good finish on the last lap after fighting all moto.
Although Marvin Musquin didn't win the overall after his crash on the first lap of the first moto, it seems like Musquin and Dylan Ferrandis always seem to win/excel on the same days. Is this a coincidence or just an oddity? And how much does the track build/layout contribute to this, if at all?
I don’t think there is really anything to them being French and doing well on the same day. I think Ferrandis is just finding his stride after an emotional supercross season. Marvin has been pretty good all season, going back to Fox Raceway. I think he is benefitting from the Baker’s Factory boys all working together to improve, much like Zach Osborne was, too.
Jason Anderson seems like he absolutely hates being passed by Eli Tomac. How is he able to do this? Both mentally and physically. Why can't other people do this to Tomac?
I think Anderson hates being passed by anyone but he definitely has Tomac’s number in the cat-and-mouse game. Anderson is an expert at aggressive riding and also knows where likely passing zones are. I think Tomac is very cautious around Anderson because he knows an ill-timed move could leave him on the ground. He has surely seen Anderson lower the boom on Blake Baggett and Cole Seely over the years and I doubt he wants anything to do with that. It has to be incredibly frustrating to follow Anderson around at times but he’s also avoided a worst-case scenario incident, too. Some riders are able to be trusted and some aren’t. That’s not a new concept and most riders know the score. I don’t consider Anderson to be a rider that most are willing to trust, same with Justin Barcia, Vince Friese, etc.
Does Anderson pushing so hard to hold off Tomac mess up the rest of his moto? How much does it change his approach to a moto, for example pushing harder than usual in the opening laps while he knows Tomac is behind him?
I don’t think there is specifically any bad blood there. I haven’t seen Anderson go for any deliberate move on Tomac (a la Baggett). I think Tomac being the two-time defending champ, as well as winning dozens of supercross races, adds another level of urgency. Beating Tomac carries more weight than any other rider these days so to think he would try harder is only logical.
He mentioned in his podium interview that the early moto intensity is wearing him out but he has to ride that hard to go with the pace. The good news is that the more often he does this, the longer he will be able to stay up there. I can guarantee this is a relentless mantra from Aldon Baker so look for that group to get better and better.
I know it's a topic we've covered profusely over the last few weeks, but how important is this weekend off? What do you think an appropriate plan for the week would be?
It will be a much-needed break for everyone. There were three races in a row, but more importantly, three very difficult races in a row. The hottest race was followed by the roughest race and then RedBud followed that to cap it off.
Contrary to what most would believe, I think many riders will have a tough week this week. If there is any time available to work hard and still recover for Millville on July 20, it will be this week. I bet there are several motos being done as we speak, hard work up until the weekend. Most will take the weekend off and try to avoid dirt bikes entirely. Next week will be a lighter week, technique practice, start practice, and maintenance type riding.
It’s almost counter intuitive to think this first “off-week” would be the time to rest but most will keep the work rolling and then rest leading up to Millville, hoping to be 100 percent strong and ready for the second half of the season.
Fantasy killers? Fantasy winners?
Joey Savatgy absolutely decimated the league. With a 42 percent pick trend, most expected a solid day. His DNF-DNF score [Editor’s note: officially 38-34 for 38th overall] triggered a few harsh comments, methinks.
There were a few bright spots if you were willing to gamble. Parker Mashburn scored a perfect 100 points in his pro debut. Ty Masterpool bounced back after a few up-and-down races. In the 450 Class, Isaac Teasdale was the high scorer, while Coty Schock kept his momentum rolling with 84 points.
Cianciarulo still has a healthy points lead, but should he worry about Ferrandis building momentum?
In a word, yes. Ferrandis is on fire right now. The gap is still a full moto worth of points but there are still ten motos to go. That cushion is a great weapon if wielded correctly, though. Much like Cooper Webb’s supercross title run, Adam doesn’t have to win every race or do anything crazy. He just needs to counter with a win here and there to neutralize the point swings. If he can stay on the podium (like he has been) and just win a few times down the stretch, Ferrandis will have a tough time making up 25 points. Cianciarulo can force Ferrandis to be absolutely perfect, suffocating his chances with consistency and well-timed aggression.
Ken Roczen didn't fade as badly late in the races (sans a moment where he actually threw up in moto one) but he also didn't show his usual first lap insane speed. Do you think he resorted to pacing himself throughout the day?
I don’t think he did anything differently. I think the conditions were a little easier than the previous two races so it didn’t zap him as intensely. He was still very fast, angling to pass Baggett for the lead in moto two. Pacing himself isn’t going to help in my opinion, he will just be slower at the beginning in that scenario. If he was having cardio issues, maybe I could see that being a strategy but if it’s an energy problem, I don’t think going slower at the beginning will help. I could be wrong, though, it’s happened before.
The last time I remember seeing the intensity in the 450 Class like this, Chad Reed ended up with a jump named after him. What's up with the sudden intensity lately? Is it a product of there being so many legit dudes in the mix up front moto after moto? Is it a new era in the 450 Class? Am I just making all this up in my head? What's the deal!?
I think we are just fortunate to have so many competent elite racers right now. Even with Tomac going for his third consecutive title, it doesn’t “feel” like he is going to win every single time like it did with Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey, etc. Having parity in moto is very important for keeping audiences engaged. If I know what’s going to happen at the end of a book, I am not likely to read it. Same thing goes for moto. If there is great racing and unpredictability, everyone wins.