Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey has home-field advantage in Round 7 of the 2011 Motocross Championship as it enters Minnesota.
The AMA Pro Motocross series is hardly coming down the home stretch, but the 250 and 450 riders are officially past the halfway point. Round 7 at Millville should represent a little light at the end of the tunnel so it’s all downhill from here. Well, not exactly. It might be that way for some, but the championship battles in each division are only going to get harder. The race circuit enjoyed a week off and riders used that time to heal up, rest and re-energize for a late-season push.
The week off also provided a time for the racing community to pay respects to Josh Lichtle and his family. Lichtle died after the first moto at Red Bud. I’m sure we’ll be seeing plenty of stickers on bikes and helmets for the rest of the season in memory of this hard-working racer.
As for Millville, it’s going to be another brutal round. Weather reports are calling for temps in the low 90s with possible rain. It’s going to be humid as hell and the air will be thick with more than just moisture. The 450 class is like a hot-barreled revolver with three bullets. Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed and Ryan Villopoto are all running on the rev limiter. The racing between this trio has been cutthroat and savvy thus far, but can they keep it up? It seems like only a matter of time before something drastic happens to one of them. Let’s hope not, but this season is due for a DNF of some kind that will break the championship race wide open.
TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed won at Millville two years ago and is currently 16 points ahead in the series.
Dungey won this race in 2010 and Reed won it two years ago during his title run. Once again those two men are fighting for the top position and currently it’s the Australian TwoTwo Motorsports rider who leads the series. Reed has been blowing the socks off everyone this season with his speed, consistency, race strategy and determination. He currently enjoys a 16-point advantage over Villopoto, who is another six points ahead of RD. This is Dungey’s home track, so he’s primed to put on a show for the fans.
“We’re coming from an off week where we were able to work on a few things on the bike. I was able to improve physically and mentally as well,” he said. “Millville is a great track and a fun race. It’s my hometown race, and the fans are great. It’s one of my favorite tracks in the series.”
The big news for this weekend is definitely the return of Honda’s Trey Canard. Ice-Trey has been sidelined with a broken femur since late in the Supercross season. Even though he seems like a 450 regular, this will actually be his big-bike outdoor debut. Hopefully his return goes better than his factory teammate, Josh Grant.
“Knowing that I’m only days away from racing again and to be racing my first-ever 450-class Motocross event feels awesome,” said Canard. “Since getting back on my bike and training for motos, everything has gone smoothly. I love riding the CRF450R and can’t wait to race it outdoors. I’ve been riding a lot at home in Oklahoma, and I’ve spent time in Southern California testing with the Honda team. I feel really good and the team has given me a lot of support. However, I expect it will take a little while to get up to full race speed.”
Honda’s Trey Canard will finally return at Sping Creek after being sidelined for the first half of the season with a broken femur.
Team Manager, Erik Kehoe must be hoping for a miracle. Honda’s 450 program has basically relied on Kevin Windham (not a bad thing, necessarily) since being plagued by leg injuries. Both rider and manager seem realistic about working back into the swing of things.
“We are excited to see what Trey can do at the remaining six rounds in the Motocross series,” he said. “Trey has made a lot of progress in a short period of time since getting back on his bike. He’s an incredibly focused and determined racer, and I think that within a few races he will be mixing it up with the front-runners.”
Brett Metcalfe has been quietly going about his business in typical Metty fashion. This guy is working hard to prove he’s worthy of riding Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s factory bikes and his 4-5 from Red Bud has him solidly in fourth overall. Metcalfe would be an even bigger stud if he could put a second RM-Z450 on the podium for Suzuki. Regardless of his teammate being there with him, finding the box is the next step for the Australian, but he’s got a few guys like Davi Millsaps, Windham and Grant (as long as his pain meds hold out) to contend with. Another recent face to contend with is Justin Brayton, who finished sixth overall in his second race of the year at Red Bud. Regardless, Metcalfe is keeping his nose to the grindstone and worrying about himself.
“I’m looking forward to Millville,” he assured. “It’s a great track and similar to Red Bud, so our bike setup should be pretty good. I’ll look to try to be up front and sneak in for our first podium of the year.”
Last year KTM’s Andrew Short (above) grabbed two podiums at Millville. Teammate Mike Alessi (below) is expected to be a strong contender for holeshots thanks to Millville’s long starting straight.
Andrew Short is another guy scrapping for top-fives and he needs to get his late summer charge into full swing. The Red Bull KTM rider went 3-3 for second overall at this track last year. Of course, that’s when his can of Red Bull had an extra 100cc of Honda juice in it. Millville was the site of Shorty’s first career victory back in 2005 so it might just be what he needs to get back in the hunt.
If anyone on the KTM squad is likely to do well it’s probably going to be Mike Alessi. The #800 bike has a full 450 underneath him and Millville has the series’ longest start straight. Mikey just might have the horsepower and reflexes to get out front in both motos. With a few races under his belt after sitting out the early rounds, Alessi should be up to speed. He held off Reed marvelously in the second Red Bud moto so he’s becoming accustomed to running with the leaders. Alessi is tough to pass, so get the holeshot, get wide and keep it on two wheels. He could be the first orange bike to land a podium if he plays his cards right.
As for the 250 riders, historically Kawasaki has been the dominant force here with 11 wins since 1983. That makes plenty of sense with Mitch Payton’s Monster Pro Circuit squad developing into a powerhouse over the years. It’s the PC boys that are killing it this season also with three teammates leading the standings. Between them they’ve won every race so far and it’s not a matter of if one of them will take the victory in Spring Creek, but who?
Dean Wilson has a nice lead over Blake Baggett and Tyla Rattray. With 14 points underneath him, the Scotsman has a bit of breathing room, but his main concern has to be Baggett’s ability to run away. BB raked in a sweep at Red Bud and has shown the greatest speed of the season. He’s currently only two points ahead of the veteran, Rattray with and his steady-Eddy approach, but the #57 bike is going nowhere except the front. Baggett has reeled off seven moto wins, Wilson has three and Rattray has two, but only Baggett and Rattray have claimed overalls (four and two, respectively). Wilson intends to change that this weekend.
“I feel like it could be a good weekend,” he said. “It was nice to get a weekend off and get rested. I’m ready to start the second half of the season, and hopefully I can add more to the points lead.”
Dean Wilson: “It was nice to get a weekend off and get rested. I’m ready to start the second half of the season, and hopefully I can add more to the points lead.”
Baggett, meanwhile, is trying to overcome a couple bad results from the first half of the season. It’s checkers or nothing for him.
“I just have to stay focused on winning and gaining points each week to have a chance at the championship,” said the Californian. “I had a bad race at the second round and have been playing catch up. Things are starting to come around, so I’m hoping I can keep closing the gap.”
As for the South African, Rattray knows he isn’t likely to chase down the young guns and is counting on his KX250F to put him out front from the beginning.
“If I get a good start, I know I can be up there the whole moto. It’s definitely not easy coming through the pack, and if I start off at the front, it will be a lot easier to go for the win,” he said. “I would love to take back second in the points. We’ll see how it goes.”
It’s tough to even look away from the PC squad for all the butt kicking they do, but Geico Honda has some highlights so far that they’re clinging to. Justin Barcia has been the holeshot master with six to his credit. Nobody else has more than one. Unfortunately, the rev-happy kid from Georgia hasn’t converted that into a win. Crashes have been his nemesis this season, and the same goes for teammate Eli Tomac. Canard used his Geico Honda to win Millville last year. Maybe the team can dust off some bike settings or mojo or something and put an end to the green streak.
With four overall wins this season Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett is 14 points behind Wilson.
Kyle Cunningham and Gareth Swanepoel have been on the gas as well. Cunningham went 4-4-4 at the last round, and while the European had more of an off weekend, he’s shown flashes of speed as well.
Don’t forget about the ladies. WMX is headed for its fifth round of 2011 and it’s no less of a dog fight than the men. Ashley Fiolek has been on a tear with a 1-1 overall at Red Bud. She’s eight points ahead of defending champion, Jessica Patterson. JP$ went 2-2 in Michigan but has been pretty equal with the factory Honda rider.
Tarah Geiger holds down third but is starting to feel the heat from Vicki Golden who is finally finding her rhythm with the MotoUSA.com Langston Motorsports Kawasaki. Golden is back in the overall standings, but she’s ready to fight for podium spots in the individual motos.
Watch live coverage of the opening motos for the 450 and 250 classes on FUEL TV. It begins at 2 p.m. SPEED has same-day coverage of the final 450 moto at 11 p.m. The 250 Moto 2 will air on SPEED on Sunday at 6 p.m. (all times EST).