"Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven."
Chances are you’ve heard the famous line quoted by LeBron James in the summer of 2010. The superstar packed up his family and belongings before heading South with hopes of winning championships—a lot of them—when he teamed up with friends Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh to play for the Miami Heat. James would play for the Heat from 2011 to 2014 and the team would add two championship banners to the rafters at American Airlines Arena but after setting the bar so high going into it, the “super team” seemed like a bust and the quote was just talk.
The same quote could have been said about the expectation of Adam Cianciarulo’s professional racing career. The 11-time Loretta Lynn’s champion (ten of which were on Kawasakis) was the next big thing. Mitch Payton, team owner of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, made sure to lock Cianciarulo in with Team Green because he knew the potential the youngster had. The #292 made his professional debut on June 22, 2013, at the Budds Creek National, where he finished 16th overall. He won the first supercross race he entered on February 15, 2014, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. His next four supercross finishes were 2-1-2-1. He had a 17-point lead over his teammate Marvin Davalos and it seemed he would continue to do what he had at Loretta’s—win races and titles. But then he suffered a setback—a dislocated shoulder at the sixth round—the first of what would be followed by more. Like James going to the Heat, Cianciarulo moving into the pro ranks with such an established team was supposed to be dominating performances that brought "Not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven” #1 plates to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki trailer. Okay, maybe seven championships is too many, but still you get the point. But that’s just not how it worked out.
Cianciarulo entered the day with a 30-point lead and although he could possibly clinch the title at the completion of the first moto, with 50 total points available on the weekend it was possible rival Dylan Ferrandis could leave Indiana with the Gary Jones Cup.
Ferrandis, Cianciarulo, and Justin Cooper battled in the first moto and a lot took place. First, Ferrandis made his way around Kyle Peters about a lap and a half into the moto, and the #34 but right behind him was Cooper and Cianciarulo. In that running order, Ferrandis could survive to a second moto. A DNF by AC and Ferrandis winning could result in another #1 plate on Ferrandis’ YZ250F in 2020. (Side note: Following the racing, I was in the media tent until about 8:15 p.m. and due to the fact that I constantly heard AC’s KX250 on the rev limiter, I can say that had AC suffered a DNF on the day, it would NOT have been because of a motor issue. VitalMX’s Guy B told me the reason the revs stopped momentarily during the celebrating was because the bike ran out of gas. So they fueled ‘er back up and went back to holding ‘er wide! And yes, even Payton mounted the bike to give it a few revs of his own! On back to the racing).
Then Cooper put in a charge that kept him side-by-side with his teammate. Cooper looked to be faster but unable to find a line where he could make a pass. The two came close to bumping one another several times and Cooper was able to pull of the pass. As they ran, Cooper, Ferrandis, AC, Ferrandis would be eliminated from the title. Ferrandis must’ve realized this because he started riding like a possessed man. He caught his teammate and retook the lead, not letting it go. At the end of the moto, Cianciarulo finished what he started by passing Cooper for second place. This pass officially gave Cianciarulo the title. When the checkered flag waived, Ferrandis won the moto but the championship was over. Adam Cianciarulo had done it. He finally put a #1 plate on the team truck.
On August 24, 2019, 2,254 days after entering his first race in the class, Cianciarulo competed in his last race in the 250 Class and won his first professional title.
“It kind of changed a little bit when I saw Justin,” he said on his plan for the moto. “I knew Justin, from practice, was going to be up there. Obviously, he’s teammates with Dylan, so I didn’t really want to get in-between them when they were battling. I was right around Justin big time behind him, watching him battle. He passed Dylan. He seemed to be pulling a gap and I was like, Looks good for me back here. I’m solid. It didn’t turn out that way. Then I saw Dylan obviously passing him and [the points] change.”
Cianciarulo said after the moto that he was cheering for Justin to take the win so the title would be over at the end of the first moto.
Cooper said in the post-race press conference that while Ferrandis was mathematically in the hunt for the title, that wasn’t going to stop him from taking the moto win if he was able to.
“I mean, 30 points. If we’re being realistic here, Adam hasn’t ever finished off the podium,” Cooper said. “So I knew he was right there behind me and I was getting pressure from him. I could do what I had to do. I was sandwiched between the guys. I’m here to win. I’m not here to help anyone out, really. If it’s close enough where I can do something about it, yeah. That’s different. But Adam has been really consistent this year and it’s pretty inevitable. He managed his season really good. Congrats to him for the championship. But I came into this race wanting to win. I left it all out there. It was a good day for me. I was in the battle the whole time. It was honestly pretty fun, just glad with the feeling the whole day. I enjoyed it.”
Luckily for Ferrandis, Cooper lost focus and the French rider was able to make up ground on his teammate.
Ferrandis commented on it in the press conference as well.
“It’s kind of a tough question,” Ferrandis said about relying on Cooper to help him out and vice versa. “We’re teammates, for sure. We share the same area in the truck. …But when it’s racing, there is no teammate, no friend. We always give everything we have and try to win. So I think we both have the same mentality and try to win. But nothing else to say.”
While Ferrandis came up short of the title, he said he has no regrets on the season.
"It’s not regret because I always give everything I have every moto," Ferrandis said. "I have no regrets at all for that. Just mistakes, stupid mistakes I made [at] a couple rounds."
After going at it with Cianciarulo all year, Ferrandis gave props to his competitor on his championship.
"I just have respect for the work," he said. "I work pretty hard. If he beats me this year, I know he’s working as hard as me, maybe more. So I just respect that. There is no way to mistake for that. I’m not friends with Adam because I don’t know him. I really don’t know him at all. I just respect the work."
Entering the weekend, a total of 21 points on the weekend would have resulted in AC still getting the championship but he said that it would be more difficult to ride holding back trying to play it safe than it would be to staying aggressive.
“You have to go out there and ride, do what’s gotten you to the point that you’re at,” Cianciarulo said. "You can’t go out there and lower your expectations. I could have gone out there and gotten 9-9 and won the title, but it’s not the way I wanted to do it. I wanted to be aggressive. That’s when I’m at my best.”
“The road to this championship has been a journey,” said Cianciarulo. “As a kid I always knew I would be in this position, but then it seemed like that was taken from me (with injuries). In the end, I would rather wait to Year 6 and get it this way, knowing how much I’ve learned and grown as a person. It’s just amazing what you can do if you put your mind to it. I couldn’t do this without my incredible support system behind me. There are so many people that have made this happen. I’m just so proud of my team.”
In 2020, Cianciarulo will join Eli Tomac in the 450 Class. After just completing the biggest accomplishment of his life, Cianciarulo will face an even steeper challenge next years as he moves into the premier division. He said he’s going to approach it like he has with everything else and just do his best.
“Obviously, it’s a big step,” he said. “It’s been said a thousand times, it’s a different world up there. I don’t know the world yet. So I need to get in there and just do the best I can. That’s all I know how to do. I think it’s going to be a big learning curve, but I believe in myself. I’m certainly in a good spot to get it done with the team and the bike and everybody I have around me. Just do the best I can and take it day by day.”
“We’re going to both be podium guys,” Tomac said on his expectations for next year. “I’m excited to have Adam join the team. Looking forward to it.”
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity, for one, and to be teammates with Eli obviously a proven champion,” Cianciarulo said sitting next to his soon-to-be teammate. “Obviously proved that he can get it done indoors and out. Just try to learn as much stuff as I can from him. Honestly just glad everybody believes in me. Glad I’m headed to a good spot where I feel like I can learn a lot and have some good results.”
|Avignon||1 - 1||Yamaha YZ250F|
|Cold Spring Harbor, NY||3 - 2||Yamaha YZ250F|
|Port Orange, FL||2 - 4||Kawasaki KX250F|
|La Moille, IL||4 - 3||Honda CRF250R|
|Sebastopol, CA||5 - 5||Husqvarna FC 250|
For the first time in the last three years, Tomac has had the championship wrapped up before the final round. On Friday during media day, he told our Jason Weigandt he only rode one day leading into the last round. He said it was weird not having to worry about finishing the deal at the final round but he was not complaining about it. While it was expected he would come out and compete as hard as he had every other weekend, some people were thinking he would just roll around in the top ten. But that’s not the kind of attitude the three-time champion has.
“It’s almost harder to ride when you’re not in your zone,” Tomac said in the post-race press conference. “So, I was just racing. You’re not going to go out and do something really crazy and out of control, but it’s easier just to be in your zone.”
In the first moto he battled with Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin in what is arguably one of the best battles we’ve seen from the three of them. They each had their chance at the win and they continued to trade positions and drop faster lap times. It was some really exciting racing to watch.
Unfortunately for Musquin, his day was cut short after a crash on the third turn of the second moto. With Musquin’s 1-DNF moto finishes, Roczen took second place in the points standings. The Honda HRC rider talked about his season in the post-race press conference.
“Overall I’m just stoked I finished in second,” Roczen said. “[Our] Goal was always the championship. The biggest goal I think was racing 29 rounds. We achieved that this year. That’s huge. That’s going to be a huge setup for the next season already.”
Roczen hadn’t raced all 29 rounds of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship (17) and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship (12) since 2016, when he finished second in the 450SX and won his second 450 Class National Championship. With the season officially over, Roczen will look to improve his health and the issues he’s been dealing with this summer. If he is able to do that, coming off the runs he had in both championships this year, look for him return as a key contender in 2020.
Musquin entered the day five points ahead of Roczen in the championship standings but only earned 25 points on the day compared to Roczen’s 42. Roczen would finish second with 463 points to Musquin’s 451 points.
“In the first moto, I charged hard to get around [Eli] Tomac and the lap after I passed [Ken] Roczen and it was just awesome,” Musquin said. “To me, it was the best moto of the year. In the second moto, I was maybe charging too hard off the start and I came into that left-hander too hot and couldn’t slow down enough. Zach [Osborne] was ahead of me and I couldn’t avoid him and I basically landed on him in that little turn and I couldn’t avoid that. Unfortunately, I crashed and tweaked my knee so I couldn’t keep going. It was a bummer, I wanted to finish on a high note and also secure my second place in the championship, but unfortunately, I lost that. Right now, there’s nothing we can do for it but we’ve got some time off.”
It was a bummer to see Musquin go down after watching him come from behind at the end of the first moto. Who knows, we could have been in for another great battle in the second moto. Roczen said having competitors got out with injuries isn’t how he wants to gain positions in the points standings.
“It’s unfortunately part of the whole sport, part of the deal,” he said. “It’s a bummer to win [the spot] that way with somebody crashing and getting hurt and DNF’ing, but at the same time, like I said I’ve had a lot of crap thrown at me in the last three years as well, and that’s just part of the whole deal.”
After a fifth in the first moto, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne was going at it with Tomac and Roczen in the final moto of the season. The 450cc rookie finished in second in the moto for third overall on the day. He finished four points behind teammate Jason Anderson in the title chase. Throughout the season he improved his starting positions early on and it paid off but a shoulder injury towards the end slowed him up a little bit.
“Pre-shoulder injury it was just mainly my starts,” he said. “Then after I got hurt and missed RedBud, it was more how the track played into my favor or away from me. Washougal was super tough for me, just the speed. Then these sort of slot car tracks are a lot easier for me and they come more natural to me. So I think I’m going to have about ten days off the bike and I think I can make some big gains and improvements on my shoulder before I start to ride for [the motocross of] nations.
“All in all, I was in the top five 21 times out of the 22 motos I raced,” Osborne continued. “I think for my rookie season, I didn’t have any major flub ups. So I’m pretty happy with the way things went, as far as even you could really say consistency because there were battles most of the time.”
For Osborne and Anderson, their work isn’t done just yet. As we’ve covered before, the two will join Cooper to represent Team USA at the 2019 the Monster Energy FIM Motocross of Nations. The team will head over early to train, adapt, and prepare for the event.
“It’s super nice to end on a high with the last race of the season and carry some decent momentum into the Motocross of Nations,” Osborne said. “I’m on a bike that I feel really, really good about and I think that Jason [Anderson] and I have a really good plan to go over there and continue our success from the season. All-in-all, a really good rookie 450 season.”
|1||Eli Tomac||Cortez, CO||3 - 1||Kawasaki KX450|
|2||Ken Roczen||Mattstedt||2 - 3||Honda CRF450R|
|3||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA||5 - 2||Husqvarna FC 450|
|4||Joey Savatgy||Thomasville, GA||4 - 6||Kawasaki KX450|
|5||Justin Barcia||Monroe, NY||7 - 4||Yamaha YZ450F|