Round six of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship went off this weekend at Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minnesota. With cooler temperatures, a fast racetrack, and a shift in the championship dynamic of both classes, we fired off questions to long time pro Jason Thomas to get his thoughts on everything that happened.
We saw a lot of close racing at Spring Creek, but it also appeared riders were struggling to make passes. What were some factors that led to this?
Regardless of how the track is prepped, someone will find fault with it. It’s either too smooth, too rough, too narrow, too muddy, too dusty, too one-lined, etc. I thought it looked amazing, even if it may have been hard to find separation in lap times and passing opportunities. The track was relatively smooth which was the main catalyst for difficult passing. Without big bumps to force riders to take caution as well as get tired at the end of motos, riders were riding flat out the entire race. That can be frustrating but also makes for epic battles. It’s all about perspective with these things. If you got a bad start and were counting on passing through the field, I could understand the challenges of a racetrack like we saw. It was picture perfect but also a bit on the easy, less challenging side of a typical national race day.
Explain the challenge of having to ride a national track with a flat front tire and is it a safety hazard?
This plan is not advisable! Imagine your front end being completely unpredictable, washing out when pressured, trying to roll off the rim, and causing you to swerve when it is wallowing on the side of a rut. For Zach Osborne, this had to be full mental meltdown. He had way too much time left in the moto to feel comfortable limping to the finish, and changing a front wheel is a time-consuming process if he chose to pull into the pits. There was no real solution and every scenario seemed like a lost cause. Fortunately, he was able to stay upright and salvage a few points. My biggest fear was a big crash due to the tire coming off the rim or simply losing traction.
Riders spoke about the track not being ripped deep again, which is somewhat of a theme this year. Do you like this type of track prep and how much does it affect bike setup?
I think it’s better, yes. It’s really just a by-product of cooler temperatures, in my opinion. With a hotter day, track crews are forced to overwater the track and then rip it deep to allow the moisture to penetrate the dirt. With a cooler day, the track is more manageable. The track can be more easily kept in a very narrow zone of traction perfection. The hot summer sun usually makes this impossible and the track varies from muddy to dusty all within a short timeframe.
As far as bike setup, it shouldn’t be too much of a change. Riders may be able to go a little softer on their settings, but it would only be a clicker change, not some major internal adjustment. Zach Osborne, for example, hasn’t really changed his bike at all from the 2019 outdoor season. Once he found his range of what worked, he is simply making the most of what he’s comfortable with.
Has the momentum of the series fully shifted at this point or will we see first half ZachO at WW Ranch Motocross Park?
No, I don’t see that at all. A flat tire doesn’t change momentum for me. Zacho was riding well and everything was fine until that happened. AC is riding incredibly well, too, and is going to make this interesting but to think Zach somehow lost his edge because of a flat tire would be silly. If nothing else, we might be watching the final development of AC and putting him squarely in 2021 title contention.
Dylan Ferrandis appeared to have Jeremy Martin covered in the first half of the track during the second moto while Martin would catch him in the second half. How hard is it during the heat of the battle to see where your competitor is doing something better than you and try to adapt those changes into your lap?
It’s really difficult unless it’s simply one bad line you’re taking. It appeared to me that Ferrandis was making time in the sand whoops and that J-Mart would have to work the entire rest of the lap to offset that time loss. Spring Creek is notorious for that specific dynamic. I have had motos where I would pass a rider each lap and he would pass me right back in the sand whoops, lap after lap. It gets to be frustrating but sometimes there isn’t much that can be done. Riders have strengths and weaknesses that can be exploited on a track like Spring Creek.
Explain the current Eli Tomac we are witnessing.
I think it’s pretty simple. He is coming off the most elusive professional achievement he ever pursued, the Monster Energy AMA Supercross title. He also just had his first child in the last few months. The collective exhale of those two events resulted in a little more time off and less focus on this championship. I think it’s a fair thing to expect, too. He has won this Lucas Oil Pro Motocross title three years in a row so I don’t think he entered the series with a do-or-die sentiment that he may have felt in the past. Two thousand and twenty being a successful season is a certainty with the SX title in hand. I think we will see him come back in 2021 with a vengeance but this summer is just a bit less fervent than normal. He’s earned it.
Fantasy killers and winners.
I think most fantasy teams had a good day on Saturday. There weren’t too many heartbreakers to be had. Even A-Ray finished both motos! Jerry Robin did well, Derek Kelley maxed out, and newcomers like Jesse Flock and Jarrett Frye paid off. The only real trouble spot was Coty Schock’s second moto but overall, it was a fairly positive day for most. I think the reasons were pretty simple. The track was perfect, and the temperatures were low. The load on the engine was much less due to a harder based track and overheating wasn’t an issue for man or machine. WW Ranch might be a much different story.