Dungey perfect, Tomac comes from behind, Stewart a second moto DNS
Words and photos by Shan Moore of Motocross.com
However, even though Stewart was unable to challenge Dungey at the latest round of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in Pennsylvania, the race was far from boring, with Mike Alessi posing a series threat to the Red Bull KTM rider in both motos. And there were serious fireworks in the 250 class, as well, with Eli Tomac making an unbelievable charge from way outside the top five in moto two to take a last lap win over Ken Roczen. The race was a nail biter and quite possibly the best of the year so far - in either class!
Here's the scoop on the High Point MX.
And while he posted the fastest time in morning qualifying at High Point, Stewart got pinched off in the first turn of moto one and came out of the fray in about 10th, while Alessi and Dungey went at it out front.
Stewart worked his way up to fifth by lap seven, but that's where his charge ended. In fact, on the final lap, he was almost passed by Monster Energy Pro Circuit's Broc Tickle.
When moto two rolled around, Stewart was still in his motor home, and his team issued the following response from him: "Halfway through the first moto I could barely hold on," said Stewart. "I was struggling a bit because I got a bad start, but I was working my way up. I was trying to do my best to hold on and I almost fell over a few times. At this point, I came out here and I tried. I knew I wasn't 100 percent and I felt like I at least needed to try and do that, but I couldn't. I was still going to try and give it another shot for the second moto, but the team knew about my riding. We'll see what we can do maybe next weekend or in a few weeks."
According to team manager Mike Webb, Stewart's hand started to tingle on lap three, and by lap seven he had no feeling at all, so he elected to sit out the final moto.
Look for Stewart tweets this week as the series heads to Budds Creek.
At High Point, "The Dunge" took his time getting around Mike Alessi, who had jumped into the lead in both motos. But once around, Dungey pulled a comfortable gap each time and only once, when he ran off the track late in moto two, did Dungey look out of control on the uncharacteristically hard-packed and rough High Point course.
At the end of the day, Dungey added to his massive points lead and now sits 42 points ahead of Alessi after just four rounds of the series.
It's worthy to note that Mike's mechanic is Chris Laredo, and Chris' wife, Holly, gave birth to a baby boy at 3am on the morning of the race. Congrats to Chris and Holly.
High Point Notes:
Despite finishing fourth overall, Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett retained the Red Plate and holds a seven point lead in the series standings over Barica, with Tomac another 11 points back.
In the Women's Motocross Championship, Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki's Jessica Patterson took the win following a tough battle with Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda's Tarah Gieger. After finishing second in the opening moto, Patterson came together with Gieger while battling for the lead in Moto two, as the two riders went down. However, Patterson rebounded to reclaim the top spot and secure the overall victory (2-1). Gieger overcame the incident to finish second (1-5), while Japanese rider Sayaka Kaneshiro posted a career best third-place finish (5-2) on her Team Honda Muscle Milk Honda.
Ashley Fiolek came to High Point prepared to race, but failed the mandatory concussion test required when a rider has suffered a concussion, which she did at the precious race in Colorado. Fiolek was forced to miss the race due to her failing the concussion test, losing considerable ground in the WMX standings.
May has been an eventful month for James Stewart. After a less than impressive 2012 Supercross season, Stewart severed ties with Joe Gibbs Racing to ride with the Yoshimura Suzuki team. The move was heavily scrutinized, but since his decision, it would be hard to argue with the results as Stewart dominated both Hangtown and Freestone-- the first two stops of the outdoor season.
To the delight of motocross fans, Stewart has decided to document his entire journey with a new show entitled Outsider, which is featured on the Red Bull YouTube channel.
The first episode airs June 1.
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
Story and photos by Shan Moore
Kyle Regal (36) grabs the holeshot as the first 450 moto gets underway.
The Freestone National in Wortham, Texas, was to be the race that would tell if James Stewart's runaway wins at Hangtown would be the norm for the season. And while the Yoshimura Suzuki rider led every lap in Texas en route to a 1-1 overall win, Ryan Dungey was in the hunt for the entire distance, the Red Bull KTM rider keeping heavy pressure on Stewart in both motos.
The 250 race, on the other hand, was an Eli Tomac benefit. The GEICO Powersports Honda rider made his way to the front of the pack in both motos and then separated himself from the competition. Hangtown double winner Blake Baggett suffered from poor starts in each race but still came away with a 2-2 runner-up finish, thanks in part to heroics on the giant wall jump that preceeded the 12-pack whoops section. But more about this later, let's drill down into the 450 class first...
James Stewart and Ryan Dungey were this close for most of the day.
As usual, it was hot in Texas, but not nearly as hot as it could have been, and certainly not as hot as it was at this race the past few years. Stewart was fast and smooth in practice, while Dungey seemed to struggle and ended the session some two seconds slower than Stewart. Another rider looking particularly good in practice was Jeff Ward Racing's Josh Grant, who ended qualifying with the third fastest time.
According to Dungey, his team made changes after practice, which paid huge dividends, and when the gate dropped on moto one, it was Dungey and Stewart out front, with Stewart making an early pass to take the lead with a few appropriate jerks and whips.
Moto two was especially tight, with Dungey pulling to within a wheel of Stewart, and a couple of times he look as though he might find a way around, however, Stewart always managed to be in the right line and never gave up his lead. Dungey was upbeat about the gains he had made since Hangtown, but obviously disappointed at not being able to make a pass.
"Sitting behind James, I was trying to make a pass happen, but I was just having a hard time getting it done," said Dungey. "At the end of the day, we made some good progress coming from Hangtown with the suspension and I felt comfortable really out there, I just came up a little short in both motos."
Stewart, remember, is still getting used to a bike that he has very little time on, but he seems to be quickly coming to grips with the Zook and with mechanic Lee McCollum.
"I'm out here every week learning," said Stewart. "As the race goes on, I'm still learning the motorcycle, which is a good thing because I know we can still improve. The cool part is - I was telling my dad - we haven't had the fork or the shock off since we've been here. I think we have a good base and I think we will just continue to get better and better as the year goes on."
"I'm definitely moving in the right direction, and it's better than I've felt in a long time outdoors," said Weimer. "The best race that I've had outdoors on a 450, but had I not fallen in the first turn in that second moto I think I could have been on the podium. I had a good, solid race, and I feel good about it, but it's kind of bittersweet. Dungey out-jumped me and he beat me to the first turn, and that first turn was so deep that it was hard to get through and I just got bumped and went down. "
Josh Grant went 6-4 for fifth.
After a stellar qualifying run, Josh Grant turned in a solid race to go 6-4 for fifth overall. The Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki rider was not pleased with his performance at Hangtown and convinced the team to make a few major changes to the bike, which he says made all the difference.
Andrew Short was sixth.
Normally a good starter, Andrew Short wheelied off the gate in the first moto and was around 15th exiting the first turn. The Chaparral L&Mc Racing Honda rider worked his way to an eventual 10th by the end of the moto. In the second moto, Shorty got a much better start and ran in the top five. His 10-5 tally was good enough for sixth overall.
Davi Millsaps fell while practicing on Thursday before the Texas race and bruised his stomach and chest. He rode the first practice session but the JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha rider was way to sore to ride the race, and ended up leaving the track early.
"My 2010 and 2011 outdoor seasons have been a rollercoaster, to say the least," said Tomac. "And this place in 2010 basically put the dagger in my season. And to come here this year and win the thing is a big confidence booster for me, to get through the heat and humidity."
"I didn't really know what to expect with the heat and all," said Roczen. "They tell me today wasn't as hot as it was last year, but this is definitely the hottest race I've ever been in.
"Those guys set a good pace, and Eli and Blake were going a couple of seconds faster than me, so it was good to finish third in that first moto. I just went back to the rig and tried to recover the best I could. But in the second moto, I didn't get a good start. I was trying to move up and I went down in a left-hander. I was kind of bummed because it took a while to get going again because I was kind of out of rhythm. But overall, I think I was stronger in that second moto. Me and the team we have some work to do, but it's a good challenge."
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Previous Round Results and Current Standings
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
FMF Hangtown Motocross Classic
Prairie City OHV Park - Sacramento
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