And then there was one. The final round of the 2020 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship goes off this weekend in Pala, California. Unarguably the mecca of moto, southern California seems like a must for this series. Located on a native American reservation, it’s a unique setting for a professional motocross race. It’s also a staple in the pro-rider practice track rotation, giving a comfortable feeling to most of the riders on Saturday.
Dirty Little Secrets
As far as the layout, it’s very typical for this part of the world. The SoCal dirt can be tacky and rutty but it can also quickly turn to blown-out desert dust, too. With temperatures cooling for the weekend, we are getting lucky on that front. Last weekend was well above 100 degrees and would have been a nightmare for everyone involved. With conditions being manageable, I expect ideal track conditions. The corners will be rutty on the insides and then offer smoother, yet longer, outside options. Last year’s layout was full of roller jumps so look for that trend to continue in an effort to slow the track down. Finding a rhythm through those sections will be paramount to setting fast lap times as well as conserving energy.
I don’t see this track being a huge advantage for anyone outside of the Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha squad. They ride here as a team consistently and with their starting dominance, set themselves up for a blue wave come Saturday. Most of the other riders have tested at Pala and will not have a lot of learning to do as some other tracks might require. One other upside for this round is that many of the riders will be able to sleep in their own beds on Friday night. While it probably won’t show up in the results column, that’s a nice change for the traveling circus that is this industry.
This round is all about the local edge. Riders that may not have attended any other round of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross could shine at Pala. They have a million laps around this track and could take their high handicaps to fantasy glory. The difficult part is ciphering through the deceiving lap times to figure out who can do 35 minutes twice. There will be more than a few riders that pump fake fantasy teams with one good lap but aren’t able to replicate that for the afternoon’s racing.
In the 250 Class, I will be looking for a few privateers, pondering Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha riders for value, as well as Hunter Lawrence’s recent upswing as an anchor of the team. If I do go the privateer route, I will want riders from the local area but that also have national experience. A rider like Derek Kelley makes sense in that regard. Another flyer could be taken on Kai Aiello, sharing the same local knowledge. One last tidbit for the 250s, GEICO Honda utilizes Pala quite a bit for testing so riders like Carson Mumford and Jo Shimoda, while maybe having a lower upside, could still present value on factory equipment (see: reliable).
In the 450 Class, there is a chance to get more frisky. The this class has been absolutely decimated outside of the top ten. It’s only getting worse for Pala as Ben LaMay and Benny Bloss both have called it a series. With Blake Baggett a question mark for Saturday (with a hand issue) and Joey Savatgy battered and bruised, the privateers will move everyone up even further. Riders like Alex Ray, Robbie Wageman, Justin Hoeft, Richard Taylor, Grant Harlan, Jared Lesher, Felix Lopez III, and Adam Enticknap all jump off the page as potential picks. They aren’t the marquee riders you might normally highlight but that’s where we are in this series. As riders drop out, the fringe riders’ value begins to emerge. We have seen it at times already this season but I believe it to be heading towards an all-time high opportunity for Pala.
Sensing a social green light after Justin Cooper’s podium guest, Steve Matthes carries his dog Rocky around Pala the entire afternoon.
I carry on my tradition of referring to this round as Pala as many times as humanly possible.
Broc Tickle’s dog is reportedly outraged at this outright marketing plagiarism.
Jason Weigandt boycotts Pala because of the dog revolution underway. This is not the first time he has missed the start of an event, anyway.