Round three takes us to Crawfordsville, Indiana, and the Guaranteed Rate Ironman National! After a record long stint at the Loretta Lynn’s Dude Ranch, I would bet that teams, riders, and MX Sports staff are ready for a change in scenery. The weather has been a little uncooperative, too, making for a tough week if you’re a mechanic. This weekend is going to get a little dicey on that front, as well, with Hurricane Laura making her way into America’s heartland this week. All eyes will be on that storm and the effect is has on Saturday’s weather.
Dirty Little Secrets
The Ironman event is no stranger to inclement weather, seeing mudfests in 2015 and 2018. On a dry day, this track can present incredible dirt and conditions. The loamy dirt will be rutty and technical but also provides ample passing opportunities. The Ironman track also boasts a few of the larger jumps on the series calendar. These jumps center around the only real elevation changes which also add to the grandeur of these jumps. I participated in the Legends exhibition in 2015 and can tell you firsthand that these jumps are nothing to sneeze at (are we still allowed to make sneezing jokes in the time of COVID-19?).
Another interesting aspect to note is the tire choice for Saturday. In softer conditions (read: mud), riders will gravitate towards a very aggressive “scoop” tire. The tire is built just like it sounds and is right on the limit for what is allowed in racing (there are rules disallowing a paddle tire). That “scoop” is designed to displace as much mud and water as possible, propelling riders forward. That scoop also lessens the size and scope of a side knob. Those side knobs provide corner stability. When the motorcycle is leaned over, that side knob is what provides grip and confidence. The conversation about whether to use the “scoop” tire or something a step less aggressive is a common one. Riders know that the more aggressive the tire profile, more straight-line acceleration comes along with it and a better start. Once on the track, though, if the track has a hard base or flat corners requiring aggressive lean angle, that “scoop” tire can become a liability. Losing that side grip becomes incredibly difficult to manage, even if it provided a better start. With weather growing iffier by the hour, this tire choice could be the talk of Saturday morning. If the rain comes, the “scoop” tire will be a no-brainer. If it’s in that grey area of soft spots but a drying base, that’s where the tough decision comes in.
The most important factor for this weekend’s PulpMX Fantasy lineup will be the weather. If we can avoid Hurricane Laura’s rain, we will be able to raise our level of trust for qualifying lap times and the mechanical failure likelihood drops significantly. We will also be able to draw on several years of Ironman data which is a personal favorite in my own research. Past results are very good indicators of future trends. While there is always variance due to crashes and mechanical gremlins, a rider’s propensity for success can be gauged with enough historical data.
With that data in hand, I will lean on it heavily this weekend (assuming it’s dry). Fantasy outliers are where the rubber meets the road and this weekend will be no different. All eyes will be on the privateers. Their high handicaps bring the most value but also can bring heartbreak. I am a believer that high risk/high reward is still the way to win in this game. Let’s take a look at a few prospects for Ironman.
Austin Root: In prior seasons, picking Austin Root was a very scary proposition. His DNF likelihood was way too high for my taste. This year, though, he has improved on that front. I still would wade into those waters carefully but it’s at least a potential pick now.
Hardy Munoz: In his second national, he really picked up the pace. After a so-so debut, he improved several spots and looked more able to hold the pace, a huge jump up the points column.
Pierce Brown: The first two rounds have not gone well. Many had PB pegged as a breakout star in this series, but it hasn’t panned out as of yet. His handicap is creeping into huge potential territory.
Lance Kobusch: Mud looked to be Kobusch’s bag as he improved from zero championship points to 18 in round two. My only question with Kobusch is his fitness for a high paced 35-minute moto.
Jett Lawrence: While he doesn’t fit into the privateer category, Jett will be a hot pick on Saturday. His DNF-DNF day at round two will put him into rare air as far as Ironman potential.
Benny Bloss: Speed is not an issue for the lanky lad. Putting together complete motos for a good overall result has been thus far, though. He will see his highest handicap in a long while on Saturday so buckle up, it could be a wild ride.
Jake Masterpool: Jake has DNF’d at least one moto each weekend so far, both pleasing and torturing his team owners. I have picked him several times in the past without much luck. I think I will stay away if for nothing else, just to extend my life expectancy.
Justin Bogle: The likable rapper put in a decent second moto Sunday but there is still plenty of value there if he breaks out. I haven’t seen quite enough yet to trust him with a pick but keep an eye on him.
Fredrik Noren: The Swede finally paid dividends in the first moto at Loretta Lynn’s 2 but his second moto DNF soured a positive day. He was 10th overall at Ironman in 2019 so he might be worth a look.
Jason Weigandt continues to roon the sport.
Dylan Ferrandis has been placed in charge of all motorcycle settings.
Steve Matthes is approved to join Alex Martin’s 250 via sidecar. A-Mart’s starts suffer but the mid-moto morale boosting is incalculable.
Marvin Musquin’s podium speech carries on well into the night.
Adam Cianciarulo holeshots moto one.
Jeremy Martin rides both motos with a CamelBak of engine coolant.