Well, we all thought we might get a snow race in Denver this weekend! As it turns out, the track crew was expecting the cold weather and the snow that fell on the track earlier this week was actually just on the cover tarps, which protected the track. Now that the weather has subsided, the tarps are off the track and the track is 100% free of snow. However, although there won’t be any snow on the track, racers will still have to deal with the elevation and currently-forecasted temperatures in the 30s and 40s, which can still have major championship implications.
After an error-stricken night in Nashville for Marvin Musquin, points leader Cooper Webb was able to extend his series lead to 21 points over both Eli Tomac and Musquin who are now tied for second. Webb was easily the luckiest rider on the track in Nashville – a red-flagged heat race meant Webb didn’t suffer any consequences of cross-jumping Mike Alessi and crashing early in the race, and Musquin’s crash in the main event while charging up toward Webb meant that Webb didn’t have to potentially deal with the consequences of running his teammate off the track in the previous week in Houston. What could have been a disastrous night for Webb’s championship campaign turned into a points-extending night for the Red Bull KTM rider. With just three races remaining, Musquin and Tomac need lady lucky to be on their side from here on out.
It’s hard to say what could happen this weekend in Denver. It is obvious that both Musquin and Tomac need to win the race and they need Webb to have a bad night. However, Webb has shown consistency and smart decision-making in recent weeks, so it seems that Musquin and Tomac may need a miracle for Webb to finish poorly. That being said, it is clear that Tomac has the upper hand this weekend, as he is from Cortez, Colorado and has a great deal of experience riding at elevation. Musquin doesn’t have a history of riding poorly in Colorado (from looking at his results in Motocross), so he could still challenge for the win. It could be interesting to see Webb out there though. He has experience racing at elevation on a 250, but in the 450 class, his experience is limited and he has yet to ride in Colorado on his KTM. Although we don’t expect Webb to have much issue with the elevation, there is that possibility.
Another possibility that we’ll be looking out for is an aggressive move by either Tomac or Musquin. We know Tomac isn’t afraid to be aggressive when there are championship implications – if you don’t know what we’re referring to, go watch the main event from Las Vegas in 2017. Could we possibly see Tomac make an aggressive move on Webb to try and gain some extra points? Then there’s Musquin. While Musquin doesn’t necessarily have a history of making aggressive moves, he has made a couple in the past and after being shoved off the track by Webb in Houston, we wouldn’t be surprised at all for Musquin to return the favor. None of these three riders should be considered overly aggressive or dirty riders by any means, but with the championship on the line, their riding could get slightly more confrontational.
We can’t count out Ken Roczen to grab the win either. Last weekend, it seemed that Roczen was on his way to his first win of the season after setting the fastest qualifying time, winning his heat race, and getting a great start in the main. However, whatever luck Cooper Webb had that night, he took from Roczen as Joey Savatgy went down right in front of Roczen, collecting the Honda rider in the crash and ending his chances of taking the win. Roczen may be (all but mathematically) out of the championship hunt, but that doesn’t mean he can’t grab a win in the late stages of the season.
After seeing the 250 East class race Nashville last week, we are back to the West region riders this week. Adam Cianciarulo is still leading the standings, but his lead has narrowed to just five points over Dylan Ferrandis. As discussed in previous Gate Drop articles, it is now a two-horse race because the riders in third, fourth, and fifth are over forty points back with only two West Region races to go. The last West Region race at Houston was less than desirable for Cianciarulo, who managed just a fourth-place finish at the end of the Triple Crown night. With Dylan Ferrandis taking the overall win after going 2-1-2 (finishing behind Cianciarulo in just the first race), the momentum seems to be on the Frenchman’s side. Ferrandis needs to continue to finish ahead of Cianciarulo to tighten the gap even more and take the championship fight to Vegas. With both riders having a podium finish in Denver, we would likely see a “better finish wins” scenario in Las Vegas for the title. Although the 450 class seems to have more heated battles for the championship, you do not want to miss this 250 class championship fight!
Racing is racing, and anything can happen. The championship isn’t over yet and no one has been crowned. Three more weeks to decide our winners! Bring on Denver!