For any red-blooded American motocross fan, the Fourth of July weekend is a big one, for sure. For nearly four decades this weekend has been one when patriotism and motocross come together in perhaps the biggest motocross extravaganza in the world: the RedBud National.
RedBud is more than just a race, however, it’s a celebration. And this year’s edition, which marked the halfway point of the Lucas Oil AMA National Motocross Series, saw plenty of great racing as well as a great festive atmosphere, topped off by a post race fireworks display.
Adding to this year’s intrigue, James Stewart made his return to the series after a short hiatus due to a wrist injury suffered earlier in the year at Thunder Valley. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider indicated that he had the speed to win the race by posting a morning qualifying time that was within .2 of a second off Dungey’s best mark. However, when it came down to actual racing, Stewart still has a ways to go to get to where he was at the start of the season. Bubba eventually went 6-3 for third overall.
Like last year, the temperature was a factor, as a 100-degree heat wave moved in over the Midwest over a four-day period surrounding the event, making the race extremely challenging for the racers and crews. But even the gut-wrenching conditions didn’t deter the thousands of fans who lined the fences for one of the best weekends in American motocross.
Ryan Dungey is getting up a head of steam and now has eight-straight moto wins en route to
four-straight overall wins after going 1-1 at RedBud, which leaves the Red Bull KTM rider with a commanding 72-point lead in the series standings over Mike Alessi. At RedBud, Dungey seemed to welcome the return of Stewart and got off to great starts in both motos, which he parlayed into huge victories. “Once we found out James was coming back for this race, I think the game plan was to just get the start and then see how things work out. I didn’t want to underestimate James just because he’s been hurt. James can push the envelope and when you’ve got a heated battle a lot can happen, so I was glad we just got out front early and got a big lead. Having James back was good, not only for myself and the challenge it brings, but also for the sport.”
Justin Brayton grabbed his first podium finish of the outdoor series with a 3-4 tally. The Muscle Milk Honda rider capitalized on good starts, something that has eluded him in the series so far this year. Brayton was obviously unaffected by the extreme heat, thanks to his superb conditioning. “It’s been crazy hot the last two weeks where I live near Charlotte and I think just knowing I’d been riding in those conditions help me mentally,” said Brayton. “Towards the end of the motos I was still feeling good and the heat didn’t really bug me, so that was a big benefit for me.”
Stewart ran in second behind Dungey in the opening moto, but dropped off the pace after a couple of small slip-ups during the early going. “I had one slide-out, and then later I stalled the motor,” said the Yoshimura Suzuki rider. “For sure, I’m not where I was at the start of the season, but I would rather come out here and race than not race. I haven’t been able to ride that much, but it’s alright. We’re not all the way there yet; I think the bike is working great, we made some changes at the house before the race and again after the first moto. But for sure, I’m not where I was at the start of the season, but I’m not too bummed because I know I’ve got a lot left.”
Stewart admitted after the race that the goal all along for the motocross season was to build a base and get ready for the 2013 season.
Mike Alessi had a frustrating first moto, the MotoConcepts Suzuki rider having to work his way through the pack to an eventual 11th after going down in the first turn. In moto two, however, he grabbed the holeshot and led two laps before settling into second behind Dungey. His 11-2 performance was good enough for fifth overall. “It was just a racing incident, but we all bunched up in the first turn and a bunch of us came together and unfortunately I went down and got ran over by three or four guys,” said Alessi. “In the second moto I got a great start and led for a few laps. Dungey was going pretty fast and he finally got by me. He’s just in that zone where no one can stop him right now. I tried to stick with him, but at about half way he started to pull away. I saw James behind me and I just kept my head down. Overall, it was a good weekend, except for the first turn of the first moto.”
Tyla Rattray turned in an impressive performance at RedBud, considering it was his first race back since breaking his hand at the series opener at Hangtown. Despite getting off to sub-par starts in both motos, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider worked his way into fourth in the opening moto behind Dungey, Jake Weimer, and Brayton. In moto two, the South African finished fifth after another impressive run through the pack. Rattray’s 4-5 was good enough for fourth overall. “It was tough, for sure,” said Rattray. “It’s my first race back and I still don’t have much time on the 450; it came such late notice and then I was hurt at Hangtown. It’s a totally different machine out there, compared to the 250, and I’ve got some work to do. Obviously, my starts are making it hard on myself to get up to the front. If I’m starting 15th, to come back to top three is almost impossible. So I need to work on my starts. But overall, I’m just happy to be back racing. All in all, it was a good day, fourth overall, I can’t complain about that just coming back. I’ll go back to Florida this week and do some riding and try to get ready for Millville.”
Jake Weimer was second in the first moto.
Jake Weimer was not a happy camper after getting taken out in the first turn of the second moto, especially since he had just turned in a stellar performance to finish second in moto one. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider still salvaged a few points on the day and maintains third overall in the series standings. “I had a decent start, maybe fourth or fifth, and then Short came underneath me and put me down,” said Weimer. “I was working my way back through the pack and Vince Friese blasted me for the umpteenth time. I was laying on the ground and my bike was all twisted, and I knew I wasn’t going to do any good like that.
“My first moto was alright; I got a good start and got into second and just started putting some laps down. I’m definitely not happy with the day, if I could have backed up that first moto finish with a decent second moto and got on the podium, then I would have been pleased. But I’m pissed the way things turned out.”
Michael Brown made a rear motocross appearance, racing the 450 class at RedBud. The Red Bull KTM rider looked good in the first moto but ran out of gas near the end of the race. Unfortunately, he did the same thing in the second moto. Interestingly, Brownie was running the same fuel tank as Dungey, but his go-for-it style just used more fuel. Just one week before, Brown won the Gold Medal at the X-Games Enduro-X in Los Angeles. Even though he turned 40 this year, Brownie shows no signs of slowing down. “I like riding different types of races, that’s what keeps me young,” said Brown. “We have a break before the next EnduroCross race, so I asked KTM to hook me up with a few motocross rounds.”
The 250 class is still the most entertaining class of the series, with no less than five riders vying for the win on any given weekend. However, at RedBud, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett was not to be denied, and he came from behind in each moto to take impressive wins to retain the coveted red number plate. The victory was Baggett’s third of the series, and it leaves him with a 19-point lead in the standings over GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia. Interestingly, Baggett jumped LaRocco’s leap on the very first lap of moto one, and he made a crucial pass just before the jump in the second moto to take the eventual win over Barcia. “I just went as fast as I could go and hoped I could make it,” said Baggett. “The first time was scary because I thought I was going to over-shoot it but I barely even made it. I maybe second-guessed myself a bit on that one. So I just sent it on the second lap.”
Justin Barcia led a lot of laps at RedBud, unfortunately none of them were the laps that counted. The newly crowned Supercross East Regional Lites Champ gave Baggett a good run, but in the end couldn’t run the incredible pace that Baggett ran all day. “Honestly, I just did what I could do, but that’s all I had today,” said Barcia. “I was trying to hold Baggett off, and I did my best, but it wasn’t enough. My whole career, I’ve never really done well in outdoors, but we’re getting there and I’m happy with where we are right now. We’ll get up there.”
Barcia’s GEICO Powersports Honda teammate Eli Tomac put on a late charge in moto two to steal away the final podium spot from KTM’s Marvin Musquin. “My first moto was not too good,” said Tomac. “I tried to settle into a rhythm and not blow myself up in that heat, but I ended up spending the moto eating the KTM guy’s roost and I finally hit neutral in a corner and just dumped it over. At that point I was 10 seconds back and it was just too late to do anything. The second moto was better, I had to work from the back a little bit, but I rode solid and rode like I should, I thought.” Tomac went 5-3 for third overall.
Red Bud Notes:
JGRMX Yamaha’s Davi Millsaps missed the RedBud event due to an ankle injury he suffered while practicing at the JGR facility in North Carolina. According to team manager Jeremy Albrecht, Millsaps will likely be out two to three weeks.
Broc Tickle has really picked up his game in the outdoor series, and the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider credits that success to confidence. “It’s all confidence,” said Tickle. “I have a lot more confidence in outdoors. I know I belong up front and my goal for the rest of the season is to get on the podium. There are a lot of tough competitors up there, but I’ve been working really hard all season and I just need to get good starts and I can be up there.”
Mike Alessi talked after the race about the difficulties for a privateer team competing with the factory teams. “The team is doing a great job and we’re all working hard,” said Alessi. “We’re a privateer team and we just don’t have the funding and the resources that the factory teams have. We just need to work on the suspension. Some races it’s good and some races we struggle. We seem to be chasing it, like a dog chasing it’s tail, trying to find those settings in practice. It’s tough competing against the factory boys, with all their factory components and suspension. I’m not going to sit here and complain, but it does make a difference.”
Christian Craig deserves some props for his impressive starts in both motos, the Troy Lee Designs rider running near the front in each moto in his first race of the year after sitting out all of 2012 with a wrist injury.