This has been a grueling start to the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, with both of the first two rounds held at the Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. Rain, mud, and more rain and mud, have meant the riders have been slogging through deep ruts and water in most of their races. I mean, 2020 kind of sucks so why not keep it going to start the nationals, right?
We were back at the ranch after the original round two of Washougal didn’t work out and it was muddier than last week by quite a bit. Round one saw a pretty decent but tough track for the second set of motos, but this week was a slogfest. Some guys were jumping some things in the second 450 Class moto but man, it did not look fun out there.
Put it this way, the two first moto winners both DNF’d the second motos with bike problems (Justin Barcia and RJ Hampshire) and Eli Tomac’s bike broke both times! We had almost half the field in both classes fail to cross the finish line in the second set of motos. I’ve been in these as a mechanic and trust me, they are NO fun. So much work, so much effort and without some luck, your bike could be pushed back to the truck to in effect ruin all that work and effort you’ve put in.
Think about these bikes at the factory level. The money poured into them and the super smart people who are standing around trying to help you succeed. And so many of THOSE guy’s bikes failed to finish. Tomac’s Kawasaki? POOF! Barcia’s Monster Energy Yamaha? The only Monster I saw was a scary bike that wouldn’t move. GEICO Honda had two guys pushing back in the second motos (TOUGH day for the GEICO Honda PR guy BTW). RJ Hampshire? His Rockstar Energy Husqvarna was dead in the water like a rock in the second moto. Fredrik Noren’s RM-Army was AWOL in his second moto. Alex Ray DNF’d both motos but wait, he also DNF’d both motos last weekend soooooo maybe don’t use him as an example.
In the case of these DNFs, I saw Eli Tomac throw his bike down and I get it, he’s pissed. Shorter series this year and points are going to be even more precious than usual. So he’s mad, I totally understand it. But I can’t condone a guy throwing his bike down like that. A rider has to take some responsibility for the bike blowing up in conditions like those. Not always, as a guy CAN be careful with his bike and it might still give up the ghost, so again I get it. But when shit goes sideways and you know people are watching, I hate to see a rider do what Eli did. He’s not the first guy to do that and won’t be the last but as a mechanic, I’ve worked 80 hours a week to get stuff ready to go racing and when my rider tips over in a corner or stalls it, I don’t just throw down the tool belt and stomp off. Shit happens in racing and the rider, the mechanic, the suspension guy, the manager, the motor guy, the truck driver, etc. are all PART of the team. A bike blowing up in a total mudder isn’t that weird. Especially as we’ve seen with Eli having a constant stream of smoke from his bike in dry conditions—he’s a clutch abuser.
Here are some random thoughts on the day:
-I don’t think we can take away too much from a race like this. I mean, it was pretty bad. Not High Point ’97 bad, heck not even High Point 2000 bad (K SMITH/MATTHES COMBO FOR THE WIN!) but it was tough. So therefore, I’m not going to make some grand assumptions from Loretta Lynn’s 2 and run around thinking I got it handled. But there are things, with four motos down, that I think we can start thinking about:
- Zach Osborne is podium potential every single moto and is now the favorite for the 450 Class title.
-Marvin Musquin’s multiple knee ligament replacement surgery went well and he looks to be back to his old form. After almost a year off between races, we weren’t quite sure right? Everyone calm down, he’s fine.
-Dylan Ferrandis and Jeremy Martin were the two favorites for the 250 Class title going into the outdoors and they’re still 1A and 1B to capture this title. They both have a win through two rounds so all good there.
-On that note, I guess none of us realized how badly Justin Cooper got hurt in SX because he’s not the same guy and is already out of the championship fight.
And that’s about it, I think. I have a lot of questions still about the series but only the above things am I ready to chisel into some sort of granite.
-Zach Osborne, wow, maybe this is his year? Last week’s winner missed his practice (only one set of practices by the way, no LCQ’s either) with bike issues but got into the unseeded practice (on a worse track) and qualified tenth overall. The rulebook says you can’t switch practices, but this situation was different because two of the three paths to qualify had been cancelled by the race directors (the first practice and the LCQ) so they didn’t enforce the rule that said you can’t switch practices. Not ideal but hey, it looked like his team wouldn’t be able to get his bike going. Strange that it obviously ran from the truck down to the starting gate and then acted up. Probably a fuel pump and I had said on the review show that it seemed after the tank was swapped (that’s where the fuel pump is), the team realized there was no fuel in it (because the bike wouldn’t fire) and had to take it off again to fill it. I got a text from someone from the team saying no, they had some fuel in it but there was something they had forgot to plug in, hence the tank coming off again.
Okay, now that we got that settled, Osborne’s ride in moto one from way back to fifth might’ve been better than his second moto, stalk-Max-Anstie-for-a-while-before-winning ride. It was seriously impressive and as RC used to say, you win your championships on your bad days. And this could’ve been a really bad day for Wacko and instead, he went 5-1 for the overall win! When it’s your year, it’s your year and we might be witnessing that right now.
-Good for Jeremy Martin to get the overall win, his first since June 2018, this weekend. I didn’t think it was going to happen with his bike pouring smoke very early in the moto. Pouring smoke isn’t a huge issue until it actually stops. It can be oil or antifreeze and neither is good, in case you’re wondering. Once it stops that means the liquid is gone and then the bike goes boom. Anyhoo, Jer made it all the way and of course he told big brother Alex that he noticed the smoke and backed it down to be safe. INSERT EYE ROLL EMOJI HERE. I mentioned that week that he had to work on his starts to be at least even with “Fernandez” to give himself a fighting chance. This week he did.
-Despite SOME people (cough, JT, cough) not thinking so, I really think his brother Alex “Troll Train” Martin could’ve went 1-1 on the day. I mean, he was in the lead in moto one when he went down. When he had the lead again in moto two, he smoked the field for his first moto win since Colorado 2017. Like Osborne, Martin’s first moto ride when he came from outside the top 30 to seventh was impressive. So, yeah, Martin was great and I, for one, couldn’t be any happier. “We” are 19 points back and not the favorites for this title but so far he’s looked very good on the Suzuki. By the way, that’s Suzuki’s first moto win since 2009 in the 250 class (it was not Mark Barnett in 1983 like I had tweeted, WHICH WAS A JOKE). Wow, 2009. That’s a very long time ago.
-Speaking of RM Army, between Troll and his Pirelli scoop tire, “Fast Freddie” Noren, Joey Savatgy and HEP rider Max Anstie, we’ve seen the yellow bikes pull some starts. We all, including me at times, like to sh*t on Suzuki but good job to both those teams to start the year.
-Speaking of HEP, Max Anstie led the majority of the second moto and ended up on the podium when it was all said and done. I know people aren’t like, huge historians of the sport or anything, but I’m about to lose it on these people who seem to think he’s brand new to the USA scene. He raced indoors and out over here before, people! He even raced Loretta’s as an amateur! Anyway, perfect conditions for Mad Max and he’s a wild card in the series going forward from here. And yes, he told us on the PulpMX Show that he’s never had a teammate like the 722.
-As some people know, I think Team USA shouldn’t go back to the FIM Motocross of Nations until there are some inequalities addressed for the team that sells tickets and attracts interest to the race. This isn’t the column for that but I did love Max’s answer when we asked him what’s up with Team USA at this race the past half decade:
“I went 1-1 at the MXDN and won, like, six hundred dollars. The week after I was in Vegas and saw Tomac win a million dollars. Seeing that, it's no wonder on what the American riders focus on.” So yeah, Anstie whupping up on the world’s best riders in front of, I dunno, 40 thousand people paying hundreds of dollars to watch and he gets $600 bucks? You can only wrap yourself in your flag so much.
-Adam Cianciarulo told us before the day started that he wanted to go “8-8 and not be on TV once” to which Weege and I just laughed. Like, that’s not possible for AC! He’s just gonna do something, anything, that will get attention. Well, he did come together with Tomac in moto two out of the first turn (not his fault) and he also was in the overall win spot in the second moto when he was in third. His 3-3 was looking strong before he lost a few spots but still, second overall is great. Sorry Adam, you were on TV and you didn’t go 8-8. Better luck this weekend!
-Also in more Adam news, he’s now riding during the week at, wait for it, the Stewart compound! He and Chase Sexton are over there in Haines City (yes, Stew is still working with Sexton as his coach and yes, this is still weird to me) and they have left Troll Train behind. Adam is not being coached by Stew, he’s just riding there. Anyway, I get it, as AC told us he’s been at the Sandbox facility since he was on Super Mini’s and you do want to change it up once in a while. I need to see Stew wind-milling Adam on at some point.
-I’m saying it here right now. Eli Tomac’s title hopes are basically over. Like, I’m not ready to call last rites on them but I can’t see with Cooper Webb out how Osborne can’t just get a bunch of podiums even IF Tomac is basically perfect from here on out.
[Editor’s note: Oh so you’re already playing the “If Eli goes 1-1 every weekend and Osborne goes 2-2 every weekend” game? Really? After two races? Did you see Osborne’s bike NOT START FOR PRACTICE? Anything can happen. – Weege]
-Good for Christian Craig to get some results this weekend. He would’ve done even better if he hadn’t fallen in the first moto. With the mud everywhere, Craig looked like he was trying even less than he usually does and was still going fast. It’s like the most Christian Craig of things to look like you’re cruising while going fast. He’s got to be relieved by his two motos.
-I don’t know much about Justin Rodbell but he’s shown speed here and there (mostly he’s been a PulpMX Fantasy disappointment) but late in the SLC SX series he looked better than ever before and now he got tenth overall. Great work for him!
-No, I don’t know what’s going on with Dean Wilson either. Usually he’s good in the muddy, rutty stuff. Not a good start to the outdoors for Wilson.
-I think Carson Mumford has been good to start the year, he’s not on a level of some other guys that have stepped out of amateur racing and really opened some eyes, but he’s been solid. Mumford’s stock has been all over the place. Huge bidding war with Kawasaki and Honda when he was an amateur (insert massive eye rolling by me here) with Honda winning (stock: high), then injuries and getting passed over by some other GEICO Honda guys (stock: low) and now, a solid four nationals to his credit. Seems like he’s improved on some things people said were his weaknesses (like fitness). So far, I like what I’ve seen even, with him grenading his CRF250R in the second moto.
-I can’t believe that one of the “sendiest” riders out there, Cameron “RAM IT” McAdoo, seemed to stay somewhat upright in the mud to get fourth overall. I mean, I’m sure he did fall at some point but the kid kept it together! Kudos to him, this was his best ever MX finish so, yeah, who knew? Two thousand twenty is weird.
-So yeah, after winning some races in the MX2 class over in Europe, GEICO Honda’s Hunter Lawrence moved to the U.S. but missed all of 2019 SX due to an injury. He then debuted for 2019 MX but missed a couple of races with injury. He did show some good speed and much was hoped for in 2020. The he got hurt again and missed most of 2020 SX. No worries, outdoors racing is his thing right? Well, he had a rough start last week with a bike issue in one moto and this week he rode off the track in the first moto with a shoulder injury, which, from what I understand, was not crash related. I heard he may not miss any races but this isn’t good for Hunter, who’s a cool kid. The sport could use guys like Hunter and his brother The Jett.
-More on 2020 is weird department. Stank Dog just crushed it. Like, it was amazing. He was top ten overall before, yes, his bike broke in the second moto. Still, he was tenth in moto one! It was such a standout ride that I got a text from someone that knows him telling me that he would bet Stank just thought he was in front of his hometown fans in Washougal, hence the great ride. ALL HAIL THE STANK.
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to chat about this race or anything else. Onto Indiana and let’s hope for some dry dirt!