We are already a quarter of the way through the 2019 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and it’s shaping up to be a great summer of racing. We have already seen past Champions return to form, dominant moto victories, and down to the wire races in the three short weeks of this season. We have only seen four different moto winners across the two classes with defending Champion Eli Tomac taking four moto victories to Ken Roczen’s two moto victories.
We have also seen Adam Cianciarulo bounce back from a rough ending to his Supercross campaign to go on to win the first three overalls of the 250-class season. Justin Cooper has shown he is a worthy competitor in the class with consistent starts and moto 1 victories at all three rounds thus far. It’s hard to ask for a better start to the season with the points lead changing hands three times to start the 450-class season, and just two points separating Roczen and Tomac. In the 250 class, the three moto victories for both Cianciarulo and Cooper have left us with just six-point gap heading into the first off-week of the season.
Class of the 450 Field
Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac have both started off their seasons strong with Roczen leading the series standings with two overall victories, while Tomac has been the only rider to go 1-1 at any round thus far at Fox Raceway. Roczen got his season off to a great start at Hangtown, taking his first overall win since Ironman in 2016, where he won his second 450-class Championship after an impressive season. Roczen won 20 out of 24 motos that year, and it is well known that he excels outdoors. Roczen looked like he struggled to keep the pace of Tomac at the high-speed Fox Raceway during round two but bounced back this past weekend, taking the overall win and reclaiming the red plate at round three in Thunder Valley. Tomac has won both Championships since Roczen was injured at the beginning of the 2017 Supercross season.
In 2017 Tomac had to fend off a late season charge from Marvin Musquin to clinch the title, and last year he defended his title in mostly dominant fashion, as he won 15 out of 24 motos and only finished off the podium at two rounds. Tomac had a somewhat lackluster opening moto at Hangtown but has since bounced back to win four motos and now sits just two points back from Roczen and the red plate. We have seen Tomac struggle at times to stay consistent, losing the 2017 Supercross title to a consistent Ryan Dungey by just five points after winning nine of the 17 rounds. Can Roczen stay consistent enough to dethrone the defending Champion and take the 450 outdoor crown for the third time? Will Tomac go on a moto winning streak like he has in the past? Can anyone else claw their way back into this title fight?
Can Anyone Else Step Up?
Last year Marvin Musquin kept Eli Tomac honest all season by logging just six motos with finishes outside of the top three, with his worst finish being a fifth at Muddy Creek. Musquin is very capable of winning races and overalls in this series. Musquin had a crash in practice before Hangtown and was a little banged up for that round but has bounced back the last couple of weeks, outside of a tough first moto at Thunder Valley where he fought back to finish eighth after an opening lap crash after making contact with Justin Barcia while running inside the top five. He already finds himself in a 29-point hole to start the season but there is plenty of time to battle back if he can find a little pace to run with these two lead riders for a full 30 minutes.
450 class rookie Zach Osborne has also shown speed to start the season and if he can improve his starts a little to become more consistent, he will be a podium threat throughout the season. After finishing third overall at Thunder Valley, he finds himself sitting third in points as well. The question for Osborne going forward will be can he maintain this pace throughout the season, and can he steal some moto victories in the process? If so, he will find himself in a solid position in the title chase toward the end of the year.
Supercross Champion Cooper Webb has gotten some good starts in the opening rounds and that has set him up for some solid finishes early on, but Webb had a rough second moto at Thunder Valley, finishing in eighth after starting up front. Can Webb build up his stamina to compete with these top riders for the full 30 minutes? Was this just an instance of the altitude getting to the KTM rider? Webb has been a solid top five contender thus far with a couple of podium finishes in motos, but can he begin to battle for overall podiums going forward?
One last surprise to open the season in the 450 class has been Jason Anderson. The Husqvarna rider has not finished worse than fifth in a moto all season and found himself on the overall podium at round one in Hangtown. After his injuries suffered during the Supercross season, Anderson has come out swinging and seems to be recovered from these injuries. We will see if he can pick up his pace a little to fight for some moto wins here and there as well.
Cianciarulo vs Star Racing Yamaha
The start of the 250 season has mostly been a tale of two motos as Justin Cooper has won the first moto of every round so far, while Adam Cianciarulo has won every second moto and the overall at all three rounds. The Pro Circuit rider finds himself leading the points as a result of good damage control in a few motos and some solid performances against his competition in others. When Cianciarulo has gotten poor starts, he has been able to pick his way through the field and finish on the podium, leaving himself a chance to win the overall with a moto two victory.
The moto two victories have been a plenty for the Kawasaki rider, as he has not always been the fastest but has made the fewest mistakes when the pressure has been on. At Fox Raceway, Adam found himself in a battle with Hunter Lawrence for the moto two victory and after taking the lead from Cianciarulo, Lawrence made a mistake and gave the lead back to the points leader, who hung on for the win. This past week at Thunder Valley, Justin Cooper looked primed to end the second moto streak and go 1-1 on the day before going down while being challenged for the lead by Cianciarulo. Cooper would remount and make a late charge at Adam but was unable to get close enough before time ran out.
Cooper finds himself just six points back from the points leader thanks to a couple of fourth place moto finishes at Hangtown and Fox Raceway. Cooper looked ready to leave his moto two problems behind him at Thunder valley, and did in one sense, finishing second and tying Cianciarulo on points for the day. It is clear however, that Cooper is tired of finishing in second and is ready to take that final step to the top of the podium for an overall victory.
Cooper’s teammates Dylan Ferrandis and Colt Nichols find themselves in third and fourth in the Championship standings after three rounds, but they will need to log some moto wins in order to work their way into the fight. Ferrandis sits 33 points back already as his best finish is third. It’s no secret that Ferrandis could benefit from some decent starts as the Frenchman frequently finds himself buried in the pack at the start of each moto. Nichols on the other hand has had mostly solid starts but has had a few rough motos including moto one at Thunder Valley where he was only able to score eight points. If Colt can keep his pace for the length of the moto, he should be able to find himself battling for a few moto wins before the season is finished.
Other Potential Challengers
250 East Supercross Champion Chase Sexton finds himself tied with Colt Nichols for fourth in the standings. Chase has not quite been able to crack the podium in any moto, but his worst finish is only a seventh. He just needs to find a little more speed to work his way onto the podium. It seems likely that he will be there several times by seasons end.
Michael Mosiman finishing third overall this past week was quite the surprise. The Husqvarna rider has run near the front during these first three rounds and he finds himself sixth in points because of it. Hunter Lawrence, Alex Martin, and RJ Hampshire have also snagged podium finishes in a few motos. Can these riders gain a little consistency and move themselves up in the standings going forward? Only time will tell.
These two Championship battles are still young, but we look to be in for a competitive summer of racing at the top of each class. Round four will take place on June 15th at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, PA.