Wow! The Lakewood round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship was eventful to say the least. The 250 class saw its third winner in three races, while the 450 class witnessed a dramatic change at the top of the standings after James Stewart went down in the opening moto when a photographer broke his concentration when he attempted to cross the track in the face of oncoming traffic. The end result was that Stewart ended up spending the rest of the day in his motorhome with a sore arm, while Dungey claimed the coveted Red Plate after going 1-1 for the day.
Add to all of this a high powered thunderstorm that moved in after the first 250 race forcing the racing action to be put on hold until the high winds and lighting moved on.
Whew, what a day!
The Lakewood course rutted up as usual, with some of the deepest ruts forcing the riders to lift their feet of the pegs. Of course, altitude was a factor, as well, since the Thunder Valley venue sits at about 6100 feet in elevation. Teams ran special fuels and made adjustments to the ignitions to compensate, while riders still coped with anemic motors.
Yoshimura Suzuki’s Stewart and Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey were expected to resume their epic battle of a week ago, and at the start of the opening moto, the a storyline was starting to play out between the two title contenders, as Stewart took to the lead with a slight gap over Dungey.
On lap four, however, someone who should have been no factor in the race at all – a photographer – made a bad choice and Stewart ended up going down. He finished out the lap with his left arm hanging limp. After getting it evaluated, Stewart decided to sit the rest of the day out. That decision dropped Stewart from first to third in the championship standings and his status for the remainder of the season is uncertain, all that after entering the weekend with an undefeated record, winning all four motos through the first two rounds.
“It’s not what we wanted, but that’s racing. It wasn’t worth risking anything in the second moto. I’m going to go through the week and test out how my hand feels and hopefully we’re ready to go at High Point,” Stewart said after the race.
Of course, no one wants to win at another rider’s expense, and Dungey expressed that notion after the race. With Stewart sitting out the rest of the day, Dungey had little trouble going 1-1 for the overall win, which gave the Red Bull KTM rider the the lead in the series point standings.
“It was unfortunate what happened to James, it was shaping up to be a good race,” said Dungey. “I hate to win like that, I feel like me and James have been pushing each other to new levels. But hopefully he’s alright and will be back for High Point.”
“It’s still game plan as usual,” added Dungey. “There is so much racing left that you can’t really focus on the end result because anything can happen – we saw that today. For me, I like to come into the races and focus on myself and try and put myself in the best possible position and not underestimate anyone.”
Jake Weimer turned in his best-ever 450 outdoor performance with a second overall finish, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider going 2-4 in the two motos. And while his first moto was relatively uneventful, in the second one he had to battle with teammate Broc Tickle and crowd favorite Andrew Short.
“I got a pretty good start and I was second and Shorty and I were rubbing the entire first lap,” said Weimer. “He was in front of me and I was trying to make passes on him but he was obviously riding well and it seemed like everywhere I wanted to go, that’s where he was at. And at the same time, Tickle was there the whole time, right behind me. And after getting roosted by Shorty for 20 minutes I made a mistake and Tickle got around me and there was really nothing I could do.”
With the finish, Weimer now sits second overall in the series points.
Andrew Short gave Chaparral/L&Mc Racing its first outdoor podium with his third place overall. Shorty got off to a bad start in moto one and could only muster a seventh place finish, but his second moto ride was inspiring and the Colorado native kept the locals on their feet for the entire race as he rode to a very popular second for the moto and third overall. “I love coming to this track, I have good memories here from des Nations and I grew up riding a mini bike here and a lot of the people here I grew up racing with so this is a special place for me,” said Short.
Star Valli Yamaha’s Nico Izzi turned in another promising ride, going a very consistent 5-5 for fourth overall. “Today was really good,” said Izzi. “In the first moto, I was able 10th on the first lap, and then a few people went down, like Stewart, so I was able to capitalize on that and finish fifth for the moto. I was kind of buried on the start of the second moto, but I found a couple of holes and worked my way though and come out pretty good. I was maybe in the top 10 heading into the first lap, and I worked my way up to sixth and then got around Brayton for fifth. I was kind of running with Weimer and Tickle a little, and I think if I wanted to hang it out there I could have caught up to them, but today I just decided I wanted to finish two solid motos, and then move on from there.”
Mike Alessi was on his way to another solid finish when a mishap in the second moto left the MotoConcepts Suzuki rider coming from behind. “The first moto was good, but I didn’t get the best start,” said Alessi. “I made some quick passes and got up into fifth on the first lap. Stewart fell after that, which moved me up to fourth, and then I passed Hahn and moved into third. Late in the race, Metcalfe, who was riding a little better than me and had some better lines, got by me and that left me in fourth for the moto. In the second moto, I got a really bad start again, but I was able to come out of the first turn in fourth. After that, me and Kyle Regal came together and we went down. It was just a racing incident. I was able to charge back from 38th to ninth, which gave me sixth overall, so I was able to salvage a few points.”
After struggling with starts the week before in Texas, Justin Barcia got off the gate well in Colorado and led early in each moto. The GEICO Powersports Honda rider led all 16 laps of the first moto and took the win by seven seconds over Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen. In the second moto, Barcia held the lead from the opening lap, but developed a problem with his rear brake at the midway point of the race and gave way to Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett and Roczen. Barcia was able to overtake Roczen on the final lap of the moto to regain second place, which gave him first overall with a 1-2 tally. “Last weekend was pretty rough for me, I got some pretty bad starts, so coming in here my dad worked with me on starts and today was awesome. My starts in both motos were good,” said Barcia. “Part way into the second moto, I pushed on my rear brake and it was just mush,” said Barcia. “And it was rough riding this track with a squishy rear brake, coming into these ruts and stuff. It was so gnarly stopping in these deep ruts using all front brake, it was just so rough.”
Blake Baggett muffed the start in the opening moto when he shifted into neutral about five feet after the gate, leaving him in last. He was able to rebound to take third for the moto. In the second moto, Baggett passed Barcia on lap seven and pulled away to an impressive win, which gave him second overall and allowed him the maintain the 250 class series points lead.
“The first moto was completely my fault,” said Baggett. “This is the only track where we start in first gear and I got a great jump and about five feet out of the gate I went to shift into second and I put it in neutral. Everybody was gone and I was trying to figure out what just happened. After that I just made my way though the pack after getting off in about last and I was able to catch Roczen with two laps to go and we battled it out. He had just tipped over and I caught up with him and we were going at it and then I landed on some tuf-blocks and then going up the hill he pretty much shut down any opportunity I had.”
Ken Roczen is slowly coming to terms with the American series and is starting the match the speed of guys like Barcia and Baggett. At Lakewood, Roczen was in the hunt for the overall after taking second in the first moto, but a fall near the end of moto two left the Red Bull KTM rider standing on the final step of the podium at the end of the day. “We did some changes on the bike compared to weeks before and I can see improvements,” said Roczen. “That makes me feel a lot more comfortable and I started using less energy. I think we have things going good, so now it’s all about going back home and getting in some good laps.”
After leading the opening lap of the first 450 moto, Muscle Milk Honda’s Tommy Hahn got hit in the hand by a rock and had to drop out of the race. “I was coming through the mechanic’s area and I got hit in the hand with a rock and it broke my finger pretty good,” said Hahn. “It’s a clean break and it’s right next to the joint, so I can’t move my finger without the bone displacing, so I have to keep it still for a while. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to heal, but I can still do cardio and I’ll be back when this thing is healed.”
Davi Millsaps missed the Lakewood race for a combination of reasons. First up, he was still a little sore from the practice crash that forced him out of the Texas round. Second, he was celebrating the birth of his son, Dane Duke Millsaps, which took place on the Thursday before Lakewood. Congrats, Davi.