After two rounds of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross
Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, the title contenders in the 450 and 250 Classes are beginning to emerge. This weekend, the series makes its annual visit to the Rocky Mountain State of Colorado for the Toyota Thunder Valley National.
Thunder Valley MX Park presents one of the most unique challenges on the schedule thanks to its mile-high elevation, which could very well pay into the outcome of tomorrow afternoon’s action.
James Stewart seems unstoppable after sweeping both motocross rounds so far this season.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki
Through two rounds, James Stewart remains undefeated aboard his new Suzuki. The former champion once again swept the day’s motos in Texas, this time fending off fierce competition from Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey. Stewart holds a 14-point lead in the standings coming into Thunder Valley, where he was victorious during his championship run in the 2008 season.
“It was a good race (in Texas),” said Stewart. “It was warm, but I was able to get two good starts and I actually led every lap. The Yoshimura Suzuki team is just gelling. Now, we’re going to Colorado, and Lakewood is not one of my better tracks. Also, it’s at high altitude so it will be another tough race, but the team has a really good set-up for me with the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450, and we’ll do our best to put it on the podium.”
Brett Metcalfe’s season has gotten off to a slower start than he hoped, but the Australian rider continues to put in the work to make necessary improvements. Last weekend, a poor finish in the opening moto hurt his chances at a strong overall, but he still managed to fight his way to 13-10 moto scores and finish eighth overall. He enters Colorado seventh in the standings.
“I felt like I rode really well in Texas,” said Metcalfe. “It was just a tough track to come from behind on. In the first moto, I got a good start, but then I spun it out and had to come from behind to 13th. In the second moto, I got a really good start but went way too wide in the first corner and dropped back a little. I tried to force something on a tough braking section and got sideways and went down, so it was a tough break. Now, I’m looking forward to Colorado and getting up front and staying up there.”
Red Bull KTM
Dungey gave Stewart all he could handle one week ago. The former champion pressured his rival throughout each moto, but was unable to find a way past Stewart, despite posting faster lap times on several occasions. He accepted the hard-fought runner-up effort and will look towards tomorrow afternoon, entering Colorado as the defending race winner.
For the second consecutive weekend, Mike Alessi landed on the overall podium behind Stewart and Dungey. The veteran rider has shown impressive speed and even more impressive starts this season, which has allowed him to position himself at the front of the field in the early portion of the season.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Jake Weimer earned his first ever win at Thunder Valley. The Kawasaki rider is hoping to find his way back to the podium.
Jake Weimer came on strong in Texas and appeared to be in position to finish on the overall podium. Following a strong third-place effort in the opening moto, Weimer found himself in a first-turn pileup in Moto 2, hindering his chances at backing up his initial effort. Despite having to come from the back of the field, Weimer worked his way from 28th to 6th in the final moto, finishing fourth overall and missing out on the podium by a single point. He comes into Thunder Valley sitting fourth in the championship. The venue was the sight of Weimer’s first-career win in Lucas Oil Motocross back in 2009, so he’s hoping for good results.
“I got my first ever win at Thunder Valley,” said Weimer. “It’s a fun track and I’ve done well there, so we’ll give it our best shot to be up on the podium again.”
Team Chaparral Honda
Andrew Short has helped the L&Mc Racing team start the Nationals well, setting a solid foundation for the summer. A current Texas resident, Short was arguably more familiar to the conditions last weekend than anyone, and it helped him finish sixth overall (10-5) despite getting a tough start in the opening moto. This weekend, Short returns to his home state of Colorado, where he always seems to step up in front of the hometown crowd. Last year he finished fifth at Thunder Valley.
Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki
In Texas, Josh Grant showed the speed and tenacity that earned him an overall victory back during the 2009 season. Following nagging injuries that have forced him in-and-out of competition for the past couple years, Grant appears to be back in full health and is proving it out on the track. In Texas, he relied on 6-4 moto results to grab fifth overall and now heads to Colorado, where he won a moto back in 2010.
Grant’s JWR teammate Kyle Chisholm had an up-and-down day in Texas, posting 30-12 moto scores to finish outside the top 10 in 19th. He’ll look to bounce back tomorrow afternoon.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
2012 marks Broc Tickle's rookie season in the 450 Class.
Broc Tickle’s rookie season in the 450 Class has been impressive through the first two rounds. After a strong showing at Hangtown, Tickle was battling up front yet again in Freestone, beginning his day with a seventh-place finish. In Moto 2, Tickle looked to back up his efforts with another strong showing, but misfortune struck early and relegated Tickle to the pits. His last place finish dropped him to 14th overall and he’s looking to bounce back tomorrow.
“I’m feeling really good on the bike,” said Tickle. “Last weekend I felt really strong and I’m excited to get on the track in Colorado. I’m looking forward to putting two motos together and be up there battling for podiums.”
Team Honda Muscle Milk
Tommy Hahn had the privilege of racing in front of his hometown crowd in Texas, and the extra motivation helped him grab a strong top-10 finish, despite a couple bouts of misfortune. Hahn’s 9-7 moto scores were enough to land him seventh overall and now he heads to Thunder Valley feeling more confident on the Honda.
“Overall, I think today was another good day for me,” said Hahn. “Since I am from Texas, I am pretty used to the heat, so that wasn’t a huge factor for me. I tried to just focus on getting good starts and riding solid through both motos, which I think I did. Each race I get more and more comfortable with the bike and I’m looking forward to the rest of the season.”
The start of the 2012 season hasn’t gone exactly the way Justin Brayton had hoped. The first-year American Honda rider is working hard both on and off the track, but he hasn’t seen the results to show it. In Texas, he posted a pair of 14th-place moto finishes to land 13th overall. While the effort helped him climb up the 450 Class standings, he’ll be looking for even more tomorrow.
Nico Izzi put forth the best effort of his young 450 Class career in the opening moto from Freestone. The Yamaha rider finished fourth to start the day on a high note and found himself at the front of the field again in Moto 2. Unfortunately, he went down, dropping him to 25th for the moto. Despite the misfortune, Izzi’s strong first moto effort helped him finish inside the top 10 overall, in ninth.
“I had a great first moto,” said Izzi. “I got an awesome start and was running third for about 20 minutes. I got a solid fourth and was happy with that. That’s a big improvement for me. In the second moto, I again got a good start and was running fourth. We got past the halfway mark and I was pushing hard, but ended up going down. I got back into it and still finished in the top 10. Now, we go to Colorado and I love that track. Hopefully this weekend we’ll have two great motos.”
Ryan Sipes fought his way to a 10th-place finish overall in Texas, posting 8-17 moto scores. Sipes continues to acclimate to the 450 Class after making the switch for the summer and appears to be showing consistent progression forward.
“My first moto was pretty good,” said Sipes. “I ended up eighth. In the second moto, I just got hot. Heat has always been my Achilles heel; I don’t know why, but I’ve always had trouble in the heat. So, I went from about ninth to 17th (in the second moto). Now, I’m working hard to get ready for Colorado and give it all I’ve got.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Blake Baggett hopes to keep his points lead and will be pushing hard to take a victory, or two, at Thunder Valley.
Blake Baggett was hoping to start the 2012 season with back-to-back victories, but the points leader was unable to replicate his efforts from the opening round in Texas. While he didn’t take the checkered flag, Baggett was still exceptionally fast at Freestone and had virtually all eyes on him thanks to his all out effort on the track. Baggett’s 2-2 moto scores garnered him a runner-up effort and, more importantly, kept him in possession of the red number plate. He holds a 14-point lead in the 250 Class standings and is also the defending race winner at Thunder Valley.
“I really like Thunder Valley,” said Baggett. “Hopefully it’ll have lots of ruts and get super rough. That’s what separates guys. The plan is to take it one moto at a time and look to keep the red plate in my hands.”
After an impressive return to competition in the 250 Class at Hangtown, Ivan Tedesco didn’t fare as well in Texas. The former class champion was forced to come from the back in both motos, ultimately posting 11-22 moto scores to land 19th overall. While he has dropped to 10th in the points, Tedesco returns to the site of his inaugural 450 and 250 Class victories tomorrow, for what would be considered a home race for the New Mexico native.
“I’m looking forward to Colorado,” said Tedesco. “I’ve got a win there in the 250 Class (in 2005) and the 450 Class (in 2009), so obviously the track suits me. I’m just looking to get two good starts and make it happen.”
Eli Tomac will head to his home state, Colorado, to continue to build on what could be he best motocross season ever.
It took 24 races, but Eli Tomac finally returned to the top step of the podium at Freestone, posting a dominant day. Tomac swept the day’s motos for the first time in his career and vaulted himself into title contention by virtue of his exceptional effort. Now, Tomac heads to his home state of Colorado looking for big things at Thunder Valley.
“It was such an awesome feeling,” said Tomac. “Even though it’s taken longer than I’d like, I’m glad to finally get it together and come out on top (again). Taking the win (in Texas) really makes it feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’ve gotten podiums here and there since my first win at Hangtown in 2010, but to not get another win since has been really frustrating. I feel like the rest of the season will continue to be successful like we were (at Freestone).”
Justin Barcia may not have been battling up front for the overall win in Texas, but he still put forth a very consistent effort to keep him in the championship battle. Barcia relied on 4-5 moto results to capture fifth overall and now he heads to Thunder Valley with hopes of his second career win.
“Texas was super tough and I really had to work for that top-five finish,” said Barcia. “I got a bad jump in Moto 1 and then went down in the first turn of Moto 2, so I had to work my way through everyone in both races. It definitely isn’t the finish I was looking for, but I am happy I was able to finish in the top five and salvage valuable points.”
Wil Hahn had an up-and-down day at his home race in Texas, but he showed an impressive tenacity en route to an eighth-place finish (12-6). In the opening moto, Hahn worked his way from dead last to pass 28 riders and finish 12th, garnering the Ricky Carmichael Hard Charger Award. This weekend, he hopes for better luck.
"I went down a couple of times in the first moto, once was my fault and once wasn't," said Hahn. "I got back as high as 10th, but one of those crashes knocked me back to 12th. In the second moto, I got a really good start, ran third for a while, but just didn't make passes happen. It took me until the 15- or 20-minute mark to put my head down and go, which helped me make some passes at the end.”
Red Bull KTM
Marvin Musquin will visit Thunder Valley for the first time, after having to miss last year's round at the venue due to injury. He currently sits sixth in overall points.
After two races on U.S. soil, German rookie Ken Roczen has a pair of third-place overall finishes to show for it. Unlike most of his competitors, Roczen is visiting nearly every track on the schedule for the first time, learning throughout the day. In Texas, he posted 3-4 moto scores to finish third overall and cement himself into second in the championship standings. Thunder Valley is a familiar track for Roczen, having raced there at the 2010 Motocross of Nations where he took the individual win in the MX2 class.
Despite a lingering injury, Marvin Musquin is riding well this season. In Texas, Musquin posted 5-8 moto results to finish sixth overall. This weekend, he visits Colorado for the first time after being forced to miss this round last season due to injury.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki
Blake Wharton was hoping for big things at his home race in Freestone last weekend and thanks to an incredible ride in the second moto, he was able to garner his best finish of the season. The Texas native finished just off the podium in fourth, posting 6-3 moto results. He’s looking to carry the momentum into Thunder Valley.
“I rode kind of tight and not my best (in the first moto),” said Wharton. “But, it was my second race back at the Nationals and I’m making progress. In the second moto, I got a better start and made my way to the lead. I led some laps in Texas, which is cool because it’s my home crowd. I had a problem on the last lap, so I ended up third and (finished) fourth overall. Now, we’ll keep building for Colorado. It will be tough, with the elevation and ruts, but I like the track and I’m looking forward to it.”
Kyle Cunningham was looking to take advantage of racing in front of his hometown crowd in Texas as well. After finishing on the overall podium a year prior, Cunningham was hoping to challenge up front again, but the veteran rider has been fighting through a lingering injury to start the season. Cunningham posted 13-12 moto scores to finish 10th overall, and hopes to continue to move forward this weekend.
“I felt all right (in Texas),” said Cunningham. “I twisted my ankle last week and I got the swelling down, but it still hurts pretty bad. I rode conservatively and salvaged points for a decent overall. Now, I’m focused on this weekend. It’s still early in the season and there are a lot of motos left. I just need to keep working at it and the results will come.”
Perennial WMX Class rivals Jessica Patterson and Ashley Fiolek have already traded wins to start the 2012 season. Fiolek emerged victorious last weekend aboard her Team Honda Muscle Milk machine despite battling some food poisoning. Patterson, who rides for Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki, followed closely in second, overcoming a fall in the final moto. Just three points separate the duo in the championship standings, with Patterson holding the edge. Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green’s Meghan Rutledge isn’t far behind in third.
Television coverage for tomorrow’s Toyota Thunder Valley National begins with live coverage of the opening motos for both the 450 and 250 Classes on FUEL TV, as well as online at www.AlliSports.com
, beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern. Live second moto coverage of the 450 Class can be seen on NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. Eastern, while same-day coverage of the final 250 Class moto can also be seen on NBC Sports Network, beginning at 12 a.m. Eastern.
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