After a three-week break, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series returns on August 11th with riders facing-off in Southwick, Massachusetts for the Moto-X 338 National, Round 9 of the 2012 season. The sandy track at Southwick has been cited as a favorite among a number of legends in the sport, including the “GOAT” Ricky Carmichael and “Junk Yard Dog” John Dowd. Carmichael earned nine consecutive wins at the track starting in 1999 and Dowd, who will be 47 years old at the upcoming round, returns every year in order to take points for the season and keep hold of his national number. Expect to see Dowd charging though the sand again this year. It was just a few years ago he nearly won at his home track.
This year’s favorite for the 450 title, Red Bull KTM rider Ryan Dungey, comes to the round with an 80-point lead over MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi. The two clashed in a memorable Moto 1 during the previous round at Washougal with Alessi holding the KTM rider to second for the first time in 10 motos. Dungey had a few uncharacteristic moments during where he bobbled just enough to give Alessi the edge, but the privateer rode like a man possessed and earned his first win of the season in the face of intense pressure. Dungey maintained his composure through Moto 2 and took the win by an impressive margin, earning his sixth overall victory of the season. Dungey was third overall at Southwick in 2011, going 1-7, and Alessi placed fifth with his 4-6 finish. In 2010, Dungey swept the round in the 450 class.
Mike Alessi and Ryan Dungey battling in front of a captivated crowd at Washougal where Dungey’s moto win streak ended.
Apart from Alessi, the only other rider to give Dungey a real challenge out front has been Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart. He opened the season with his new team and grabbed four consecutive moto wins before crashing in the third round and injuring his wrist. After the accident, Stewart posted mixed results in the few times he attempted to return and missed a number of rounds to rehabilitate the injury. Before the round at Millville, JS7 announced he would sit out two more rounds and make a return at Southwick. Since his official contract with Yoshimura Suzuki doesn’t officially start until the 2013 Supercross season, he opted for more time to recover than to push through the Nationals at less-than-peak performance and risk more serious injury. At 100% Stewart is a definite threat to Dungey’s dominance.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer will need to up his pace at Southwick if he hopes to close the points gap between himself and Alessi. Just 23 points behind the Suzuki rider, Weimer has a real chance of contending for second overall but he’s struggled at times to keep up with Alessi and Dungey, who regularly distance themselves from the rest of the field. The Kawasaki rider was sixth overall at Southwick in 2011, going 6-5, and currently has six third-place and three second-place finishes to his credit in 2012.
Moving down the points list, those with podium finishes this year becomes a bit more scattered. Fourth overall, L&MC’s Andrew Short has just two, a second and third, and Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle, fifth overall, has three, a third and two seconds. Short has been the more consistent rider of the two, placing outside the top-10 just once in Moto 1 at RedBud. Tickle has two motos in which he failed to score points: Moto 2 at Freestone where he crashed out and Moto 1 at Thunder Valley where a mechanical issue took him out of the running. Before and after those two incidents though, the Kawasaki rider has finished regularly inside the top-10.
250s charging for the holeshot at Washougal. Blake Baggett will need a few good starts and no mistakes at Southwick to protect his points lead from Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac.
Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Brayton had a disappointing start to the season but was able to pick things up and post results in sight of a podium finish. Things took a turn for the worse at Washougal in Moto 2 where he failed to earn points after exiting the race. He finished fourth overall at Southwick in 2011, taking a podium in Moto 2 in third. Jeff Ward Racing’s Josh Grant sits behind Brayton overall and will be looking to score his first top-three finish of the year in Massachusetts.
In the 250 class, Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett holds a tenuous lead of just 11 points over Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia. The battles out front have been epic this season with Baggett standing out as a master of the come-from-behind moto win. Barcia and teammate Eli Tomac have both been just as tenacious, each posting a handful wins resulting from a final lap, or final turn, pass.
Barcia earned the overall win at Washougal after going 1-2. Pursued all the while by Tomac, Barcia got the lead after 20 minutes had passed in which Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin maintained the front. Tomac followed soon after and the two Honda riders finished with just over one second separating them. Baggett crashed twice during Moto 1 and held to sixth, but bounced back in Moto 2 and brought home the win with a late race pass on Barcia. Of the four 250 riders mentioned above, Baggett finished highest overall at Southwick in 2011, placing fifth. Musquin followed in sixth and Tomac in 19th. Barcia contested the 450 class in 2011 and finished seventh overall, earning the win in Moto 2.
Musquin and teammate Ken Roczen continue to reach for their first moto wins in the class. Roczen has earned a number of second- and third-place finishes, and Musquin got his first podium of the year in Moto 1 at Washougal. Consistently running in the top-10, if not top-five, both riders will be pushing hard for the top step at Southwick. As former World GP champions, the Europeans should have a strong showing on the sandy course.
Wil Hahn, also of Geico Honda, is sixth in points and Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki’s Blake Wharton follows in seventh. Wharton took third in Moto 2 at Freestone, but has since missed the podium in every contest. Hahn has yet to post a podium finish this season.
Southwick is the penultimate round for the Women’s class and the race for the points lead is heated between Rockstar Energy Suzuki’s Jessica Patterson, Lucas Oil TLD
Tarah Gieger is just two points behind current leader Jessica Patterson. Ashley Fiolek is just 11 off the lead in third.
Honda’s Tarah Gieger and Muscle Milk Honda’s Ashley Fiolek. Patterson holds the lead, but Gieger is just two points back in second. Fiolek is just 11 short of Patterson’s total in third.
Fiolek swept the round at Washougal, keeping in sight of the championship despite missing High Point to recover from an injury. Gieger went 3-2 in the same event and took second overall, both riders bolstered by the fact that Patterson was just three weeks from breaking her wrist. JP$ didn’t lag too far behind though, taking second in Moto 1 and eighth in Moto 2 for a fourth place finish overall. The lengthy break coming into Southwick should play to her favor. With just two rounds remaining, the outcome at Southwick will be a huge factor in who will come out of the 2012 season on top.