Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Notes: Miller Electric Freestone National, presented by Yamaha
NEWS May 26, 2012
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (May 24, 2012) – The opening round of the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, did not disappoint as the world’s best riders put on a thrilling show for the fans at Hangtown. This weekend, the series heads to the Lone Star State, Texas, for the Miller Electric Freestone National, presented by Yamaha, which will commence at 2 p.m. Eastern from Freestone Raceway in Wortham.
Freestone is known for being one of the hardest rounds of the championship, consistently challenging a rider’s physical and mental toughness. On Saturday, riders can expect more of the same, which should make for high drama and captivating competition.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki
Last weekend, James Stewart made a memorable return to the Nationals, winning his first race since August of 2010 and kicking off his new relationship with Factory Suzuki effort on a high note. The perfect 1-1 moto scores gave Stewart his 17th career win in the 450 Class, while also giving him possession of the red number plate this weekend as series points leader.
“Texas is going to be tough,” said Stewart. “But, we have to take it week by week. I get to ride the red plate on the Suzuki and that’s pretty cool. This will be the first time I’ve ever had it, at (the Nationals) or in Supercross, so that should be pretty special.”
Brett Metcalfe got his 2012 season off to a strong start at Hangtown as well. The second-year Suzuki rider ran at the front portion of the field throughout the day and was one of three riders who tied for third. While tiebreakers ultimately resulted in a fifth-place finish for Metcalfe, he enters Freestone as one of the top contenders.
“I’m looking forward to Texas,” said Metcalfe. “That’s always a physically-demanding track, so the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 will work well there. We’ve got to go in confident, get the appropriate rest, and work hard this week so we can come out stronger for Texas and build from there.”
Red Bull KTM
Despite being the lone rider for KTM in the 450 Class, Ryan Dungey represented the brand well at Hangtown. Despite a tough start in the opening moto, Dungey refused to quit and battled his way from outside the top 10 and into third. In the second moto, Dungey took advantage of a much stronger start and kept Stewart within his sights throughout the moto. He ultimately settled for the runner-up effort and now heads to the site of his first career win in the 450 Class.
Mike Alessi turned heads at Hangtown, posting an overall podium finish in his first National race for MotoConcepts. Alessi has been known to perform well at the track and he didn’t disappoint, grabbing the holeshot in the second moto and battling with both Stewart and Dungey early on. Now, Alessi heads to Freestone where he captured the overall win back in 2009, looking to keep his strong start to the season going.
Team Chaparral Honda
Andrew Short was another rider making his Lucas Oil Motocross debut for a new team at Hangtown. The veteran rider gave the L&Mc Racing team a lot to smile about after a strong fourth-place effort. Short battled with Stewart throughout the early portion of the opening moto and backed up his fifth-place finish with a fourth-place result in the final moto. He enters Freestone tied for third in the standings with Alessi and Metcalfe.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Broc Tickle’s inaugural race in the 450 Class was one to remember for both him and the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. Like Tickle, Pro Circuit had never competed in the premier class at the Nationals and thanks to his strong 6-7 moto scores, the team finished sixth overall, giving them considerable momentum coming into Freestone.
“I got my feet wet at the (Nationals) on my KX450F and now I know where I need to go from here to continue to progress,” said Tickle. “I’m leaving Hangtown with two good moto finishes and achieved my goal for the first round of the (Nationals), which was to finish inside the top 10. I just want to continue building at Freestone and get on the podium.”
Davi Millsaps started his day off at Hangtown with an impressive runner-up effort behind Stewart in the opening moto. However, in Moto 2 Millsaps experienced some misfortune and was forced to settle for a 14th-place finish, ultimately resulting in seventh overall. He’ll look to bounce back in Texas.
Kyle Regal’s debut for the JGR team didn’t go as well as he would have hoped, but this weekend he heads to a track where he has posted impressive results in the past.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Jake Weimer assumed the lead role under the Factory Kawasaki rig in the absence of Ryan Villopoto. At Hangtown, Weimer proved he’s ready to lead the way for the team by posting a hard-fought eighth-place finish. In the opening moto, hard luck forced Weimer to fight from dead last, from which he battled all the way to 10th by motos end, resulting in the RC Hard Charger Award. In Moto 2, Weimer battled for a top-five finish, putting him for sixth on the day. The positive turnaround has him looking forward to Freestone.
“It wasn’t a bad start to the season,” said Weimer. “The track was pretty rough at Hangtown and it kind of wore me out. I have been working hard this week with Aldon Baker to improve my fitness before we head to the Freestone National. It gets really hot out there so physical endurance is especially crucial for that race.”
For Tyla Rattray, the 2012 season has ended before it even got started. Rattray was running inside the top 10 during the opening moto at Hangtown, but suffered a severe hand injury when an errant rock hit him. As a result, Rattray will be sidelined indefinitely.
“I was pretty disappointed about having to pull out of the race early,” said Rattray. “In the first moto I got a decent start and began making passes. I got around a few people, but then I got drilled in the hand with a rock. I tried to keep riding, but every time I pulled the clutch lever my hand was really hurting so I pulled off to get it checked out. I went to Asterisk and when they x-rayed my hand they found a fracture in a bone behind my knuckle, kind of like a boxer’s fracture. I got it fixed on Monday, so unfortunately I won’t be able to compete in the next few rounds until this heals up.”
Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki
Josh Grant helped the Jeff Ward Racing effort land a top-10 overall finish in its debut Lucas Oil Motocross race. The former 450 Class race winner posted 9-8 moto scored to land ninth overall and get the season off to a strong start.
Grant’s JWR teammate Kyle Chisholm just missed out on an overall finish inside the top 10, posting 13-9 moto results to finish 11th overall.
Nico Izzi led the way for the Star/Valli team at Hangtown, posting 11-10 moto scores to grab 10th overall. Izzi has shown consistent improvement since making the move into the 450 Class earlier this season and will look for even better results at Freestone.
“Hangtown was a little rough on me,” said Izzi of his first-ever 450 race at the Nationals. “I rode well, but I went down in both motos. In the first, I went down on the first lap but I rode hard and came back to 11th. In the second moto, I was in seventh but I went off the track and got t-boned trying to come back and went down again. But, I ended up 10th, so I know I’ve got the speed. I just need to be a little smarter. Texas is going to be tough, we’ll have to prepare ourselves and come out with our guns loaded and hope for the best. That’s all you can do.”
Bobby Kiniry wasn’t far off his teammate’s pace at Hangtown, landing just outside the overall top 10 with a 12th-place effort on the heels of 12-13 moto results.
Team Honda Muscle Milk
Following a strong Supercross season, Justin Brayton had high hopes coming into Hangtown. Unfortunately, his Nationals debut for American Honda didn’t go as well as he’d hoped with bad luck forcing him to record 24-16 moto scores, landing him just inside the top 20 in 19th overall.
Tommy Hahn’s debut for American Honda fared better than his teammate’s, but still wasn’t the results he was hoping for. Hahn got the day off to a strong start by finishing eighth in the first moto, however, misfortune hindered his efforts in Moto 2, forcing him to finish 27th and dropping him to 14th overall.
“I am really happy to have this first race out of the way, and I’m pleased with the results,” said Hahn. “Apart from going down in the second moto, I felt good and was having fun. I am looking forward to building off this and improving my results throughout the rest of the season."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Blake Baggett’s second consecutive victory at Hangtown came on the heels of an impressive performance in each of the day’s motos. Baggett battled his way from a fifth-place starting spot in the opening moto to make a last-lap pass for the win and put forth a dominant effort in Moto 2 to give notice that he is one of the top contenders for the 250 Class title. He will carry the red number plate into Freestone this weekend as the points leader.
“Everything went great at Hangtown,” said Baggett. “It was nice to get the (Nationals) started off on the right foot. I have always liked the track at Hangtown. Even though it gets pretty rough, you can get into a good flow if you find the right lines. The first moto was a super intense race and by far one of the gnarliest battles I’ve ever had. You really have to watch it on television to even understand it. I am heading into Freestone with the red plate and will be working hard to keep it on my KX250F.”
Ivan Tedesco’s return to the 250 Class was impressive as well. Despite not competing in the smaller displacement since 2005, Tedesco was a constant inside the top 10 and ultimately posted 6-5 moto scores to finish fourth overall. He is looking forward to keeping the momentum going at Freestone.
“I came out of the first round with fourth so I’m happy with that,” said Tedesco. “I have something to build off now. Everything is really what I expected coming back to compete in the 250 Class. These kids are fast. These are the future champions coming up and the 250 Class is almost as hard as the 450 Class. It’s a little different being back on the KX250F, but I’m having fun with it. Hopefully I can keep the ball rolling in Freestone and continue to give these kids a run for their money.”
Defending 250 Class Champion Dean Wilson will unfortunately miss the Freestone round. During the opening moto at Hangtown, Wilson pulled off the track while running seventh due to a lingering shoulder injury suffered during the Supercross season. He will undergo surgery to repair the problem, sidelining him from competition indefinitely.
“I came off an okay start in the first moto at Hangtown and was working my way through the pack when my shoulder came out again,” said Wilson. “That was the last straw for me. I really want to be out there defending my title, so it was a bummer to have to pull out. I know this is something that I just have to take care of now or it’s going to keep causing me problems. The goal is to get this fixed quickly, heal up, and come back strong in 2013.”
Justin Barcia’s start to the 2012 season was a strong one, resulting in a runner-up effort for the former race winner. Barcia was a fixture behind the leader in each of the motos and ultimately relied on 3-2 moto scored to land second overall. He enters Freestone ready to take his shot at the points lead.
“As much as I want to win, it was a great weekend overall and a good way to start the season,” said Barcia. “I got the holeshot in both motos and led for multiple laps in each race. I told myself coming into the season that I wanted to be top five in every moto, so being on the podium is awesome.”
Eli Tomac rode to a solid fifth-place finish at the opening round and is in good position coming into Texas. Tomac’s strong first moto finish of fourth at Hangtown was accompanied by a 10th-place finish in the final moto, but he’s eager to show what he has on Saturday.
“We just finished Supercross and this is the first race of the (Nationals) so I am still trying to make that transition,” said Tomac. “Although today could have gone better, it also could have gone worse. I am grateful to have finished top five overall and I am ready to head to Texas.”
Wil Hahn proved he has what it takes to be a consistent threat inside the top 10 at Hangtown, posting 7-13 moto results to finish 10th overall. He enters his home race at Freestone with high hopes.
Justin Bogle’s first full season of Lucas Oil Motocross competition was hindered with bad luck at Hangtown. After finishing 21st in the opening moto, Bogle rebounded to finish seventh in Moto 2, ultimately landing him 15th overall. He looks forward to rebounding at Freestone.
Red Bull KTM
Ken Roczen’s official debut in Lucas Oil Motocross was one that showed that despite being the youngest rider in the championship, he is ready to battle for the title. Roczen was on the receiving end of Baggett’s last-lap pass in the first moto at Hangtown, though finishing second, he gained valuable experience by leading most of the race. In Moto 2, Roczen was forced to fight back from an early fall and did so, finishing third to secure third overall for the day and put him in the thick of the title fight early on.
Marvin Musquin continued to battle through an injury as the 2012 season got underway last weekend. However, the French rider refuses to let it slow him down, posting a fifth-place finish in the opening moto. In Moto 2, Musquin had to deal with some adversity, finishing 14th and dropping to ninth overall.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki
Martin Davalos led the way for Rockstar Suzuki at Hangtown. The veteran rider got off to a slow start with a 14th-place finish in Moto 1, but rebounded with an impressive fourth-place effort in Moto 2 to capture sixth overall and start the season on a high note.
“Hangtown started out a little rough,” said Davalos. “We didn’t qualify well, I got a horrible start in the first moto, and then I couldn’t find any momentum. But in the second moto, I got a good start and rode solid to finish fourth. It was a good way to start the season and now I’m looking forward to Freestone.”
Jason Anderson showed he’s ready to be a contender this season by relying on a pair of consistent moto performances. The sophomore rider’s 8-9 moto scores landed him eighth overall, giving him momentum coming into Freestone.
“My first moto was kind of mediocre,” said Anderson. “I got eighth. In my second moto, I was ripping up front and a guy got by me, then I stalled my bike. It was a good weekend overall, though, and I’m looking forward to racing in Texas.”
Blake Wharton’s tough first moto hindered his chances at a strong finish in the overall standings at Hangtown, but despite finishing 16th to start the day, Wharton bounced back to finish sixth in Moto 2 and land 12th overall. Freestone signifies Wharton’s home race and he is eager to perform well in front of the hometown crowd.
“I had some technical difficulties in the first moto,” said Wharton. “The second moto was a lot better. I didn’t get to race motocross last year, so it’s been a long time for me, but the track was really gnarly. But, I learned some things that I’m going to build off of and I’m going to Texas next weekend, which should be nothing but good for me.”
Fellow Texas native Hunter Hewitt finished 18th overall at Hangtown on the heels of 17-16 moto scores, and like Wharton, is looking for big things this weekend at his hometown round.
“I got a good start in the first moto, but I could have been more aggressive,” said Hewitt. “I kept a solid pace and ended up 17th. In the second moto, I was a little fatigued but I got a better start. I was more aggressive but maintained my pace, and ended up 16th. I haven’t raced motocross in over a year, so I’m happy with this. We’ll go to Texas and set realistic goals, and try to match them every weekend.”
Kyle Cunningham posted a seventh-place finish overall to lead the way for Star/Valli. The veteran rider’s 9-8 moto scores set a solid foundation to start the season and now Cunningham heads to the site of his best finish one year ago at his home race from Freestone.
“I didn’t get a good start in the first moto, but I rode a decent race,” said Cunningham. “In the second moto, I was feeling good, but I caught my foot in a rut and I struggled through the last half of the race. We got two top-10 finishes and we’re still in the hunt with a lot of races to go. Now we go to Texas, which is where I live, and it’s going to be a hot one. The track is pretty difficult too, so it should make for some good racing.”
Gareth Swanepoel experienced some adversity in both motos at Hangtown, posting 12-15 moto scores to finish 14th overall.