The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
is set to kick off on May 24 at a venue not seen on the Nationals schedule since 2009, Glen Helen Raceway. The longtime season-opening stop at Hangtown comes second in 2014, followed by some of the most renowned outdoor courses in the country, as well as a new round in Crawfordsville, Indiana, for the penultimate showdown of the year.
MX Sports Pro Racing President Davey Coombs offered this statement regarding this year’s schedule, “In 2013 we presented new rounds in Tennessee and Utah, both performed even better than we hoped. Now we look forward to yet another new venue in Indiana, as well as the return of the iconic Glen Helen Raceway in Southern California as the 2014 opener. Adding those events in with such premier motocross tracks as RedBud, Unadilla, Washougal, Hangtown and more, and you have the makings of an exciting summer of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross for fans all over the country."
The big news heading into the 2014 opener is MX Sports Pro Racing’s agreement with the United States Anti-Doping Agency
(USADA) to conduct anti-doping tests. Announced in early May 2014, the USADA will screen MX competitors for performance enhancing drugs. The conspicuous absence of anti-doping tests in the MX series has been the subject of much rumor and innuendo in recent years.
While it’s uncertain whether USADA enforcement will directly change the outcome of this year’s title battle, one bit of post-Supercross news surely will: Ryan Villopoto’s absence from the 2014 Nationals
. The 2013 450 MX champion, Villopoto secured his fourth-consecutive Supercross title earlier this year. Following the SX finale in Las Vegas, Monster Energy Kawasaki announced that RV would undergo knee surgery to address a “lingering injury” which plagued him throughout the 2014 SX campaign.
With the guarantee of a new premier-class title winner in 2014 and a handful of young guns in the 250 ranks coming into their own this year, the upcoming Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will be one to remember.
With Villopoto sidelined, one major contender for crown this year is Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey. The Minnesota native has 450 titles from 2010 and 2012 (both years Villopoto was absent) and a 250 Class championship from 2009. In 2011 and 2013 when competing against RV, Dungey finished second overall. He’s been one of the few riders to avoid serious injury throughout recent years and is doggedly consistent on track, making him a favorite for the 2014 titles.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart, however, has what it takes to get the best of the KTM ace, as long as he stays healthy and consistent. Stewart looked better than he has in a number of years during the 2014 Supercross season until an unfortunate accident in the latter rounds saw him injure his knee. Bubba’s last Nationals title came in 2008, winning every moto of the year in a perfect season. When he first made the jump to his current Yoshimura Suzuki squad in 2012, Stewart swept the opening four motos, though a crash and injury in the third round squashed his hopes for the title. At 28 Stewart’s a little older, and a little wiser (judging by his relatively calm demeanor when handling recent set-backs) and if he rides with the big picture in mind the Yoshimura ace should be a potent threat for the top-step all summer. Stewart’s brother Malcom will be on the 450 moto starting line as well, riding for Troy Lee Designs Honda.
Another veteran of the class, TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed, displayed renewed strength during the initial rounds of the 2014 Supercross season. Switching from Honda to Kawasaki for 2014 appeared to give Reed the juice he needed to mount a comeback after a few off seasons. He scored his first SX win in nearly two years during the third round of the series, and notched another in the fifth. A big crash in San Diego ended Reed’s season though, leaving him with a broken scapula, collarbone and T1 vertebra. Reed spent the subsequent months rehabbing the injury and training for the Nationals and if his fitness is back, expect the 32year-old Aussie should come out swinging at Glen Helen.
Dungey’s factory KTM teammate, Ken Roczen, may also make his home atop the podium in 2014, coming off a stellar rookie season in the 450 Supercross ranks. Roczen finished second overall behind Eli Tomac in the 2013 250 Nationals and is a forceful competitor in the outdoors.
Tomac is not one to take lightly either. The GEICO Honda rider stumbled in his debut 450 Supercross season after an opening round injury, but was a commanding presence in the 250 Nationals in 2013. He took 14 moto wins in total, running perfectly through four consecutive rounds late in the season, and only missed the podium three times on his way to the title.
Team Honda Muscle Milk is looking strong as well, with riders Trey Canard and Justin Barcia poised for battle. Both finished inside the top-five at the conclusion of the 2013 Motocross season, with Barcia third and Canard fourth. While neither rider was able to make the top-step during last year’s campaign, both earned multiple podium results and numerous top-five finishes.
Despite Villlopoto’s absence, Monster Energy Kawasaki should still make a respectable campaign, with returning rider Jake Weimer joined by RV’s replacement, Brett Metcalfe. Weimer finished sixth overall in 2013 and Metcalfe, who only raced in three rounds all year as a wildcard entry, scored 10th-place or better in all six motos. Metcalfe kept in shape in 2013 racing the Canadian National Championship, where he took the title in the MX1 class.
RCH Racing Suzuki brings Weston Peick, a standout privateer in Supercross this season, onto its team for the 2014 Nationals as well as Ivan Tedesco, the 2005 250 class champion.
JGRMX’s Justin Brayton returns from injury to line up for the opener at Glen Helen, joined by teammate Josh Grant. Both Yamaha riders had a difficult run in Supercross and will be looking to improve their lot in the Nationals. Both riders are capable of surprising results during the Outdoors with Grant scoring two podium results in 2013 while Brayton amassed a number to top-10 results.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps is set to return to action in the 2014 Nationals after missing all of Supercross with a knee injury. Also competing aboard KTMs will be BTO Sports’ Andrew Short and Matt Goerke. Short finished seventh overall in the 2013 Nationals and took a second-place result at Southwick in Moto 1.
Smartop/MotoConcepts’ Mike Alessi will reportedly race the AMA opener at Glen Helen but then head to Canada, like Metcalf last year, to make a bid for the MX title up north.
Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett plans to be back in the mix for the 250 opener at Glen Helen, as does his teammate, Dean Wilson. Fellow Pro Circuit riders Martin Davalos and Adam Cianciarulo are still recovering from injuries sustained during the recent Supercross season and aren’t likely to be on the starting line for Round 1. However, Darryn Durham and Justin Hill will represent the forceful Pro Circuit squad in 2014 and fight to improve on their 14th and 12th overall results, respectively, from 2013.
Two riders to watch will be Rockstar KTM’s Jason Anderson and GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle, the respective 2014 West and East 250 SX champions. Neither rider did amazingly well in the Nationals in 2013, with Anderson finishing eighth overall behind Bogle. Anderson did, however, earn one podium result last year, a third-place in Moto 1 at Spring Creek. Bogle was more consistent than Anderson, taking zero points in just one moto compared to Anderson’s four point-less showings. Both have gained steam since the 2013 season however, especially Anderson, who notched four wins of nine rounds in the ’14 West SX division. It will be interesting to see if these two are able to maintain the momentum in the outdoors.
Bogle’s teammates, Zach Osborne and Matt Bisceglia, have the skill to contend for podiums as well. Osborne finished fifth in the 2013 Nationals and was a top-three finisher in the opening rounds of the 2014 SX series, though mid-season injuries put a damper on his chance to contend for the West division title. Bisceglia took ninth overall in his rookie SX season earlier in the year, earning a podium result in the final round of the season. He contested the final three rounds of the 2013 Nationals and will be looking to put in a strong full season in 2014.
Several returning 250 riders are certain to mix things up too, including Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin. The French rider tore his ACL in December of 2013 while training for Supercross and has since been recovering and rehabbing the injury. He’s reportedly ready to go though and has been a strong Nationals competitor in the past, finishing third overall in 2013.
Valli Motorsports and Yamaha are bringing Christophe Pourcel to the game in 2014. The 2009 and 2010 250 East Supercross champion came close to the outdoor title both years he raced in America, but fell short each time. He’s coming into the 2014 Nationals with the drive to add another championship to his resume and will likely be a formidable competitor.
Yamaha may also achieve some success at the hands of Cooper Webb and Jeremy Martin, both younger riders improving their results in the class.
The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship starts May 24 in Southern California at Glen Helen Raceway. As thank you to military veterans and their families, MX Sports Pro Racing and the National Promoter’s Group are offering free general admission tickets to Glen Helen and Hangtown to military veterans, active-duty members and their families through VetTix.org.
Viewing options have increased for 2014 as well
, as NBC and NBCSN will return to broadcast live coverage of all 12 rounds of the Campionship. A new partner television partner, MAVTV, is also slated to air one set of motos from each of the rounds during the 2014 series.
You can get more information at MX Sports Pro Racing