The 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship is only about three weeks away so we’re going to start pushing out preview content as the first gate drop (at the Loretta Lynn Ranch!) gets closer and closer.
Here are some early storylines for the 250 Class of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship.
Moved On: Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo and GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton are two riders who made the jump from the small bore class to the big bikes this year. Cianciarulo, the 2019 250 Class Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Champion, signed with Monster Energy Kawasaki last August moving to the 450 Class full time and therefore will not be defending his #1 plate this summer. GEICO Honda’s back-to-back 250SX East Region Champion Chase Sexton has made the jump to the 450 Class with a ride on a Honda HRC CRF450R. Sexton finished fifth in the 2019 250 Class standings. For more on how these two 450 Class rookies will fare this summer, read our full 450 Class preview.
Bumped Up: We are also hearing that GEICO Honda has supplied Christian Craig with a CRF450R that he will be racing in the 450 Class this summer. With Craig on a 450, it’s expected the GEICO team will still have five riders in the 250 Class: Jeremy Martin, Hunter and Jett Lawrence, Jo Shimoda, and Carson Mumford. We don’t expect Craig’s time in the 250 Class to be over but we do anticipate him to be competing in the premier class this summer.
The Return: Jeremy Martin is going to get the nod on being the first name mentioned here since he is the only current rider in the class with a Pro Motocross title. While Martin enters the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship as a two-time champ (2014 and 2015), he will also be behind the gates for an outdoor event for the first time since his brutal crash at the Muddy Creek National on June 23, 2018. A broken back that resulted in a second operation in January 2019 to fix some issues from the first surgery sidelined him for the entire AMA Supercross and Motocross schedule. We saw Jeremy make his comeback earlier this year during the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship—which he eventually pulled out of early in order to remain eligible for the 250SX Class in 2021—and he fared well with five of his finishes inside the top five of the 250SX East Region. But a Pro Motocross national is a different animal. After leaving the Salt Lake City “bubble,” Martin got to work on his outdoors testing with the team. There’s no doubt Martin enters this year’s Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship with a chip on his shoulder as he starts the bout for his third title. A return to full physical form could brew trouble for the rest of the field.
Fast Ferrandis:Dylan Ferrandis is the strong title favorite entering this season. The French native finished second to Cianciarulo last year and rode exceptionally well in his third year. Ferrandis started a little slow, later saying the “hangover” he experienced from the 2019 250SX West Region title is what led to his slow start. But he caught fire and rattled off six podium finishes (including four overall wins) in the final eight races of the year. And he was able to beat Cianciarulo several times as they battled together all summer long. Through the first four rounds of the 2019 championship, Ferrandis’ average finish was 4.1. Then, once he got the ball rolling by rattling off a few podiums and then wins, he ended the year with a 2.8 average finish.
Cianciarulo and Ferrandis had some memorable races last summer. One that really stands out is their battle at the Washougal National. Ferrandis stayed cool and held on to go 1-1 despite Cianciarulo throwing in everything he had while fighting for the win. Cianciarulo went full-send mode on the final lap but it wasn’t enough. Expect Ferrandis to come out swinging early this year after having a better grasp on 250SX West title to immediately back to work at the opening round. Like in 2019, watch for Ferrandis to be up front a majority of the summer.
The Ferrandis-Cianciarulo battles gave the fans quite a show!
Bright Star:Justin Cooper is just hitting his stride. In 2018 and in 2019, Cooper finished third in the 250 Class standings and you know he’s hungry to improve that number. There’s a good chance he does so this year. Unlike Ferrandis, Cooper got off to a great start in the championship last summer as he won the first moto at the first three rounds. While those days didn’t end with the overall win, Cooper was able to pick up his first professional 250 Class overall in the heat at WW Ranch Motocross Park during the Florida National. Sexton took the first moto checkered flag at the 2019 Florida National but was unable to compete come the gate drop for moto two, so Cooper’s 2-2 results edged out Ferrandis’ 4-1 for the win.
But as the season progressed, Ferrandis and Cianciarulo started to find their groove and Cooper’s results tallied off slightly. He recorded several moto finishes outside of the top five that cost him greatly to the two out front who seemed to always be on the podium. The key for Cooper this year will be to finish those days where he starts on fire. If he can continue to put himself out front in the first moto but bring the same result in the second moto, he’ll improve his finish in the overall standings come the season finale.
Last Chance: Another Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha rider looking to add a #1 plate to his resume is Shane McElrath. Similar to his teammate Ferrandis, he’ll have one final crack at doing just that before he moves to the premier class in 2021. McElrath recorded a dozen top-ten moto finishes in 2019 and his highlight of the championship was a 1-1 day at Budds Creek Motocross Park for his second career overall win. But a team/bike change at the end of the 2019 calendar year will see McElrath on his Yamaha YZ250F for his final year in the small bore class, as opposed to the KTM 250 SX-F he had been riding since 2015. McElrath came up short of the 2020 250SX East Region title but really turned things on with his new team/bike when the 250SX East Region got underway. If he can translate it to outdoors this summer, watch out for another Star YZ250F out front.
The Aussie(s): When the gate drops, we’ll get to see another fast import in GEICO Honda’s Hunter Lawrence. Coming off a solid rookie year in 2019, Lawrence is expected to join the Martin, Ferrandis, Cooper gang on the podium this summer. He had a few bumps in the year but it’s the potential he showed that got all the fans up out of their seats. At Fox Raceway, he battled Cianciarulo for the lead in the second moto; he won the first moto at the High Point National then finished third for second overall (his first overall podium finish here in the U.S.); and showed some freestyle skills by doing a no footer when he took a moto win at the mud fest, swampy Spring Creek National (where he would finish 1-6 for third overall). His season was hindered by a few crashes and injuries sidelined him for a few rounds but he will be another year stronger and another name atop results pages.
Another Australian rider we expect to see atop results pages is Hunter’s little brother Jett who will be entering his first full year in the championship. Jett turned pro at the final three nationals but he’ll be another year stronger mentally and physically. We all saw what Jett can do during Monster Energy AMA Supercross but it seems Hunter has the edge when it comes to outdoors—at least for the time being. Let’s see if Jett proves us wrong this summer.
The Veteran: Another sibling rivalry we’ll get to witness this year will be between the Martin bros: Jeremy and JGRMX/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing’s Alex Martin. Alex had an alright year on the Suzuki RM-Z250 but it wasn’t the 2018 Alex Martin. It was a bummer when he was off to his best start of the season at the RedBud National until the last lap, when his Suzuki died out on him ahead of LaRocco’s Leap…while running in third.
Martin was able to rebound at his home track (Spring Creek MX Park) to finished 2-3 for his lone overall podium of 2019. Another year with the team and bike could pay dividends for Martin.
Fully Healed: Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s RJ Hampshire underwent knee surgery back when the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship was postponed since the expectation was for the championship to be resumed in September. Well, unfortunately for Hampshire that wasn’t the case. But now it will be almost September and Hampshire will be ready for the start of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Since his surgery at the beginning of April, he’s been recovering at an unbelievable pace. At the end of June he told our Aaron Hansel:
“The knee is solid. I believe tomorrow is 13 weeks from surgery and I started riding three weeks ago. Today is my third week. It’s kind of unreal, just the mental side of things.”
If I remember correctly he posted a video of him on a stationary bike maybe two weeks out of surgery and then apparently he was riding again already ten weeks post-surgery. That’s insane! Hampshire is looking to take the next step to becoming a podium contender each week. Can he do so?
The Other Guys: While the focus will be on the Martin and Lawrence brothers, Ferrandis, Cooper, McElrath, and Hampshire, there’s a few other guys in this class to note. These guys might sneak in and steal podiums at any given moment. Michael Mosiman earned his first overall podium finish and he was in a good position to learn the pace at the front of the pack last year. Look for him to continue progressing in his career.
Brandon Hartranft earned a factory ride with the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM team after his efforts in 2019. Similar to Mosiman, Hartranft put in a strong 2020 SX season and will want to carry the momentum into outdoors come the Loretta Lynn National.
Colt Nichols suffered a broken hand at the supercross finale and was originally expected to miss the first two rounds of Pro Motocross scheduled in July. With the schedule change and more time to heal, it’s likely Nichols will be healthy for the August 15 opener. Entering his fifth year, he’s a veteran of the 250 Class. Although he was slightly off the pace of the Cianciarulo-Ferrandis-Cooper group last year he is capable of putting himself in a great position from the get-go and can steal podium finishes at any given round.
Cameron Mcadoo bounced around last year before earning his spot with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team in 2020. He’s a solid top-ten finisher but as of now he’s the only confirmed rider for the team that will lineup for the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship opener. Jordon Smith is out with a torn ACL suffered at the Daytona Supercross and both Garrett Marchbanks and Austin Forkner are out and focused on recovering fully for 2021, leaving three empty bikes in the team pits. But we’ve heard rumors the team has given one of the spots to Mitchell Harrison, who rode for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna in 2018 before going overseas last year. Steve Matthes confirmed with team owner Mitch Payton that Harrison has taken one of the team’s spots and we hear Darian Sanayei might have another one. More on the team later.
Take Two:Jo Shimoda, Jalek Swoll, Ty Masterpool, Peirce Brown, Derek Drake, Jo Shimoda, Carson Mumford, and the aforementioned Lawrence brothers are all going to have their second go at Pro Motocross. Drake, Masterpool, and Hunter Lawrence got a taste of the full championship while the other riders all debuted following the 2019 Loretta Lynn AMA Amateur National Championship. Masterpool suffered a broken leg in June while training but Drake and Hunter Lawrence are fully healthy anticipating their second go at the outdoor season. With only a quick glimpse at the guys who races Loretta Lynn’s before turning pro, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will have the better full rookie year.
Rookie Riders:Jarrett Frye and Seth Hammaker are two amateur riders who have said they expected to race professionally in the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Frye (of Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha) told our Sam Nicolini in April he was going to turn pro for the Hangtown National but an injury in February screwed up those plans.
“I was supposed to go pro at Hangtown this year, but I got hurt. I tore my ACL so I won’t be going pro at Hangtown or whatever the first round of outdoors ends up being!”
We haven’t heard much on Frye’s condition and whether or not he will still be making the jump to the pro ranks this summer or not. He could be the team’s sixth 250 Class rider for the summer.
For Hammaker (of Team Green Kawasaki), he said in March he would compete at Loretta Lynn’s before turning pro at the following Pro Motocross events.
“So, after Loretta’s I will do the last three Pro Motocross nationals and then in 2021 I will make my pro supercross debut on Mitch Payton’s Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.”
With the news that Harrison is filling a spot and now Loretta Lynn’s taking place before the start of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, it’s interesting to see if Hammaker will fill one of the remaining two spots on the roster. But again, this situation could have changed since March.