The MAVTV+ 50-Day Countdown to the 2022 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship hits 2017, one of the wildest years of AMA competition from beginning to end. A reigning champion was challenged in ways he’d never seen before, incredible drama played out all the way to the final lap in both the 450 Class and the 250SX East region, and a pair of new champions were crowned in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross.
In Supercross the 250SX East Region was anything but predictable. In fact, several weeks in a row, guys found themselves banging, block-passing, and throwing shade during afternoon qualifying like it was the main event. And the main events themselves were fiery, too, producing four different winners in just the first six races. At the Las Vegas finale, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM’s Jordon Smith, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy were all in strong contention, with Savatgy’s teammate Adam Cianciarulo having an outside shot at title glory. When the gate dropped, Osborne went down in the first turn and was way back. Both Smith and Savatgy were looking good early on, but then both crashed in two separate incidents. Savatgy was quick to remount but started dropping spots as the race progressed. Smith would crash once more—at high speed this time—ultimately ending his night. Osborne, meanwhile, was ripping and somehow caught Savatgy two turns from the end and put a huge block-pass on him (a move so aggressive Osborne was later fined) to take the title.
The situation wasn’t quite as raucous in the 250SX West, but things did start out pretty exciting when Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM’s Shane McElrath kicked the series off by winning the first two rounds. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Justin Hill responded by sweeping the next four! McElrath stayed firmly in the hunt, but a mechanical problem in Arlington, where he only notched a single point, all but ended his title hopes. Despite a late-season injury, McElrath would win another race in Salt Lake City—ironically, on the same night Justin Hill clinched the title.
In the premier class, it looked as though a new generation might finally be busting through. Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto had retired at the close of 2014, and Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey had won the last two years in a row. How many more times could Dungey hold off elite talents like Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac and new HRC Honda factory pilot Ken Roczen? Unfortunately, Roczen, who easily won the first two rounds, had a spectacular crash at Anaheim 2 and was sidelined for the rest of the year. This put Dungey in the points lead, which many thought marked the beginning of the end of the title chase. But Tomac had other ideas and ripped off wins in Phoenix and Oakland before taking a lowly 15th in Arlington due to front-brake problems. This put him in a big points hole against Dungey, one of the most consistent riders in the sport’s history. Undeterred, Tomac put his head down and started reeling off race wins and slowly cutting into Dungey’s lead. The drama was high as Tomac started closing in and following a victory in Salt Lake City—his ninth and final of the season—Tomac took sole possession of the points lead. (He and Dungey were tied following Seattle the week prior.) Then Tomac had an off night in East Rutherford, and the plot thickened even more when, on the same night, Marvin Musquin appeared to pull over while leading to allow his teammate, Dungey, to take the win and gain additional championship points.
The next week in Las Vegas featured one of the most interesting nights in supercross history as Tomac found himself ahead of Dungey in the 450SX main. Knowing that simply beating Dungey wouldn’t be enough to erase the points gap between them, Tomac employed an unorthodox strategy. He rode in front of Dungey at a slower pace than he was capable of, hoping more riders would get into the mix—and ultimately between himself and Dungey. It almost worked, too, as Chad Reed, Jason Anderson, and Josh Grant all got in on the fun as the race progressed. It didn’t work out in Tomac’s favor, however, and the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider watched Dungey claim his third consecutive 450SX championship by just five points. One week later, Dungey announced his retirement from professional racing. This officially marked the end of the “Ryan” era, as Villopoto and Dungey were the only riders to win the Monster Energy 450SX Championship since James Stewart won it in 2009.
When the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship fired up two weeks later, Tomac appeared more than ready to unleash some vengeance, destroying the field by large margins at the Hangtown Motocross Classic. But a week later, he developed another front-brake problem and, after his mechanic cut his front brake line, ended up 19th in the second moto. Once again, Tomac found himself facing a huge points deficit early in the season, this time to Musquin. But it was a different KTM rider, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC’s Blake Baggett, who emerged as a dominant force at round three in Colorado, putting in a jaw-dropping ride to win the first 450 national of his career. In the week that followed, Baggett made waves with what could be viewed as inflammatory remarks, saying his goal was to break Tomac, among other things. Unfortunately, the war never played out on the track, as Baggett would tear a ligament in his thumb after colliding with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Jason Anderson at RedBud, which prevented him from running Tomac’s pace for the rest of the season.
Musquin had issues, too, tearing his MCL before High Point, which temporarily slowed him and allowed Tomac to stretch a lead back out. Tomac would need it, too, as Musquin was able to heal up and come roaring back in the second half of the season. Tomac maintained a decent points lead, but the championship still came down to the final moto. Jeffrey Herlings, who was in town early for the MXGP of USA in Florida, shocked the crowd at the finale by going 1-1 in his first AMA race, while Tomac, who had a scary moment when he crashed in the first moto, did what he needed to do to bring the championship home. It was no doubt a rough loss for Musquin, but he went on to win all three races at the Monster Energy Cup later that year to bring home a whopping million-dollar paycheck. He padded his wallet even more by winning at Red Bull Straight Rhythm a week later.
In 250 action, Zach Osborne was the man to beat from the very beginning, winning Hangtown and riding strong the entire season. He did it the hard way, too, often overcoming bad starts. He even had an issue at Spring Creek when his bike started leaking oil and smoking, but it held together, and Osborne somehow even managed to snag third overall that same day. It was just that kind of season for Osborne, who before 2017 had considered retiring and enrolling in school.
Other title contenders, while displaying moments of speed, simply weren’t able to match Osborne’s performance and consistency. GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin had problems right away with his bike letting go in the first moto of the season at Hangtown, and he had a few races late in the season where he just seemed to hang around in the top five or so. Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull KTM’s Alex Martin was good but incurred a scapula and collarbone injury late in the season that benched him for the final four rounds. Joey Savatgy, considered a title contender before the season, won three races but also wasn’t quite himself the whole time and experienced slight midseason slump. He ended up exiting the championship two rounds early due to an injured foot. Austin Forkner, Aaron Plessinger, Adam Cianciarulo, and more all put in some good rides, but none was able to do it regularly enough to challenge Osborne—though Cianciarulo got his first career outdoor win at Budds Creek.
The Las Vegas Supercross night might be the wildest in supercross ever, and the pro motocross tour followed it with a great tilt, with the 450 title ultimately going to Tomac. With the Ryans retired, it was Tomac’s time to take the mantle and start making championship history of his own.
2017 250 Class Overall Results
|1||Zach Osborne||Abingdon, VA||501|
|3||Adam Cianciarulo||Port Orange, FL||374|
|4||Aaron Plessinger||Hamilton, OH||337|
|5||Joey Savatgy||Thomasville, GA||324|
2017 450 Class Overall Results
|La Reole, France||453|
|3||Blake Baggett||Grand Terrace, CA||451|
|4||Dean Wilson||Scotland, United Kingdom||340|
|5||Cole Seely||Newbury Park, CA||330|
The 2017 edition of the FIM Motocross of Nations was initially scheduled to be held at Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, but MXoN promoters Youthstream announced the cancellation of the Glen Helen event due to low fan attendance experienced at the MXGP round in 2016 at Glen Helen. With the cancellation coming late in 2016, it was quickly moved to Matterley Basin in Great Britain for the 2017 event.
Newly crowned Lucas Oil Pro Motocross champion Eli Tomac would not attend the 2017 Motocross of Nations after Kawasaki USA announced they would not go. Cole Seely, who finished fifth in the 450 class, was then tipped to take the reins of the MXGP class for Team USA alongside Zach Osborne in the MX2 class. The third rider also was a bit of a surprise as MX2 Factory Husqvarna rider Thomas Covington was announced to the team in the Open class. Things went poorly for the Americans in the muddy conditions of Great Britain as Seely broke a shock on his Honda twice and Covington suffered a torn ACL that he gritted through on race day. Team USA could only muster ninth place on the day while Team France took home the Chamberlain Trophy for a fourth consecutive year on the shoulders of Gautier Paulin, Christophe Charlier, and Romain Febvre. Charlier was even called up rather late after injuries to both Dylan Ferrandis and Benoit Paturel sidelined the leading 250 class Frenchmen. Even so, France mostly controlled the whole day, eventually winning by 11 points over The Netherlands.
2017 Motocross of Nations Results
Motocross of Nations - NationsOctober 1, 2017
|Romain Febvre||2||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||Open||Yamaha|
|Gautier Paulin||3||Race 1 (MXGP + MX2)||MXGP||Husqvarna|
|Romain Febvre||3||Race 3 (MXGP + Open)||Open||Yamaha|
|Gautier Paulin||6||Race 3 (MXGP + Open)||MXGP||Husqvarna|
|Christophe Charlier||6||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||MX2||Husqvarna|
|Christophe Charlier||14||Race 1 (MXGP + MX2)||MX2||Husqvarna|
|Jeffrey Herlings||1||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||Open||KTM|
|Jeffrey Herlings||2||Race 3 (MXGP + Open)||Open||KTM|
|Glenn Coldenhoff||8||Race 1 (MXGP + MX2)||MXGP||KTM|
|Brian Bogers||9||Race 2 (MX2 + Open)||MX2||KTM|
|Glenn Coldenhoff||11||Race 3 (MXGP + Open)||MXGP||KTM|
|Brian Bogers||12||Race 1 (MXGP + MX2)||MX2||KTM|