The biggest story leading up to the season opener of the Lucas Oil Motocross Championship circled around one James Stewart. Everyone asked, “Will he kick some butt, will he choke, was his problem with SX all in his head or has he landed on his head too many times, will the Suzuki be his saving grace, if he was so fond of the Suzuki starting last year, why did he ride for another team if he says he does not do it for the money,” and a slew of other questions. Many of those questions may never get answered but one thing is certain, Stewart showed up at Hangtown looking calm, cool, collected, kicked some butt and took names. He proved he made the proper call and forward is the only direction in his sights.
Images and Typos: Scott Hoffman
Side by side at the start of the season, we will have to see if Dungey and Stewart will be in the same position a the final in Elsinore?
Ryan Dungey and his KTM are contenders and KTM is possibly in a position to have their best outdoor premier class (250cc or 450cc) season in US motocross history.
With Ryan Villopoto unable to defend his title and Ryan Dungey looking and riding as expected (classic Dungey), the focus has been on JS, even though he kind of says he doesn’t want to be in the limelight, he just wants to race and have fun. Yes there are a few other go-fasters that showed some speed such as Davi Millsaps, Andrew Short, and Mike Alessi, but with the storm of what has transpired in the Stewart camp in the last few months, it is very atypical for the sport of motocross and fans are interested to see what is going to be printed on the last page of the story. This is why JS is under the scope and will be for some time or maybe until he retires.
OK, round 1 is in the books and the series is off to Texas to what is usually a very hot, very humid, and dangerous event with regard to the weather and how it wreaks havoc on the racers. It will be a testament to who is in shape and ready for this sort of abuse. Round 2 will also show if round 1 painted the picture for the entire series or is there speed in the field we are unaware of. It would be nice to see 4-6 winners in the 450 class for the 2012 Motocross Championship but this cynic predicts it will be a Dungey/Stewart season if both racers can stay focused and healthy. Maybe toss in a possible single win or moto wins by Alessi, Millsaps, Short, or Metcalfe. Heat could be a factor and it will determine if Stewie is in shape and not affected by the conks to his head during the supercross season.
At Hangtown, Dungey had a fighting chance to possibly win the second moto if not for lappers getting in the way during a pretty intense battle. Let’s just say the Dunge was not happy and it looked for a second like he was almost pissed, yet he grabbed his composure. Dungey’s classic late moto charge is still his ace in the hole and could determine the title. Dungey has that ability to maintain an amazing pace throughout the entire moto, especially during that crucial last 10 minutes of a race.
I am very glad Stewart stepped up and decided to race the outdoor series for no money, it does say a lot about him as a racer and his desire to ride. Plus if StewZuki was not on the gate, it could have been a one-rider series with the dominant figure being Dungey. Just image what it could have been if Supercross did not wreck the top talent–the battle royal with Villopoto, Chad Reed, Stewart, and Dungey going at it–that that would have been a season!
For now we have to be grateful for having a solid series and as time goes by the rest of the field in the 450 class should find their groove and make it to the front. It is kind of a bummer that Tyla Rattray was injured again at Hangtown and Ben Townley never even made it close to racing before re-injuring his hip. Those two could have helped mix it up a bit.
As for the 250 class it is anyone’s game. The talent pool is deep and the speed is incredible. Even after watching the opening round at Hangtown, I can’t predict who will win. I can say it probably won’t be defending title holder Dean Wilson, his day was over early at Hangtown with what is said to be a shoulder injury, or an extension to the injury he suffered during the SX season.
Pro Circuit’s Blake Baggett looked the strongest with his late race charge in the first moto at Hang, yet he did the same thing in 2011 and did not win the title. One must look at the SX title holders, Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac, as top contenders. But there is also deep talent and speed with KTM’s Ken Roczen, veteran Ivan Tedesco, or even riders from Rockstar Suzuki such as Martin Davalos, he took a 4th in moto 2 at the Hangtown Classic. It is going to take a few more rounds to discover who has the staying power and the desire to bring their A game each and every week.
So now the series is off to Texas for the Freestone National and it could be another cooker.
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