Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Returns To Action At Muddy Creek This Saturday
Following its first break in action for the 2014 season, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, will resume on Saturday for the fifth stop of the 12-round series. On June 28, Blountville, Tennessee's Muddy Creek Raceway will host the world's most prestigious motocross championship for just the second time with the Red Bull Tennessee National. The anticipated return to the Southeast also marks the championship's network television debut this season on NBC, with live second moto coverage of the 450 Class.
Live broadcast coverage from Tennessee begins Saturday, June 28, at 1 p.m. ET with the first motos of the 450 and 250 Classes on MAVTV, followed by the season debut on NBC with a showcase of the final 450 Class moto at 3 p.m. ET.
Tape-delayed coverage of the final 250 Class moto can be seen on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) at 6 p.m. ET.
The action throughout the championship was thrilling leading up to the first of two off-weekends on the 2014 schedule. In the 450 Class, three different riders captured an overall victory through the first four rounds, with each battle coming down to a four-rider showdown between the Red Bull KTM duo of Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey, Team Yoshimura Suzuki's James Stewart and Team Honda Muscle Milk's Trey Canard. While victory has put Roczen, Dungey, and Stewart at the forefront of the championship battle, Canard has been a consistent threat throughout and has the ability to add his name to the win column on any given weekend.
Roczen's impressive consistency (he's finished no worse than third in a single moto) and class-leading pair of wins have resulted in a double-digit margin in the championship standings, with the advantage over his teammate Dungey in second currently sitting at 16 points. On the heels of his first win of the season at the series' previous stop at High Point Raceway on June 14, Stewart has closed in to within just six points of Dungey and sits 22 markers behind Roczen. Canard securely holds down fourth place, 33 points out of the lead. Collectively, this foursome holds a 35-point gap over the rest of the 450 Class field and has emerged as the focal point of the championship as it unfolds.
Outside of the very first moto of the 2014 season in which Toyota/Yamaha/N-Fab/JGRMX's Josh Grant grabbed an impressive and unexpected win, each spot on the podium has been occupied by one of the top four riders in the seven motos since. Considering how well each of those riders has performed throughout the early point of the season, any edge in the championship has boiled down to the law of averages. Roczen's average moto finish of 1.75 is tops in the 450 Class, compared to 2.63 for Dungey, 3.25 for Stewart, and 3.75 for Canard. As a direct result of those figures, Roczen has possession of the red number plate and has set a standard that none of his fellow rivals have been able to keep up with thus far. However, Stewart's recent surge, capped off by a dominant 1-1 outing at High Point, has given him considerable momentum and could add even more intrigue to this developing title fight.
After an incredibly dominant start to the 250 Class season, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Jeremy Martin has been tested as the championship leader. Martin's hot 5-0 start in the motos also opened up a significant points lead in the early going, which has allowed the sophomore rider to still sit comfortably atop the standings despite having to fight valiantly for his results in recent weeks.
Since last taking the win in the opening moto at Thunder Valley, Martin has posted results of sixth, second, and sixth in the three motos that followed. While those results have still left Martin with a stellar 2.38 finishing average, it's his ability to fight through the field and overcome adversity that has been most impressive. For a rider young on championship experience, Martin has done well to keep possession of the red number plate and as a result still carries a comfortable 29-point lead into Muddy Creek, a full moto's worth of points ahead. While Martin still controls the championship, his momentum and status as the rider to beat in the division has been dwindled by a resurgent Blake Baggett at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki.
After an enduring season a year ago in which he fought through lingering injuries, Baggett has returned to the forefront of the 250 Class and looks to have his sights set on claiming a second national title in three years. An eye injury just prior to the start of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship hasn't made Baggett's path to the top any easier this season, nor did his slow start to the summer that included a DNF in the fourth moto of the year. Nevertheless, the veteran has fought through the misfortune and hard luck to rattle off three straight moto wins, back-to-back overall victories, and his most dominant ride since the 2012 season with a 1-1 effort at High Point.
As a result of his slow start, Baggett still faces an uphill battle to catch Martin atop the standings, with the deficit currently sitting at 36 points. Sitting between Martin and Baggett in the points is Martin's sophomore counterpart at Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha, Cooper Webb. After a blistering start to the season in which he finished second to Martin in the first four motos, Webb has had to endure the depth of talent in the division recently, with a best result of third over the last four motos and three finishes outside the top five. Despite his recent battles, Webb is still in the thick of the title hunt and is motivated by his desire to finish ahead of his teammate for the first time this season.
With three riders all inspired and driven by their own respective goals and achievements, it makes for a captivating dynamic in the 250 Class that is sure to play out dramatically as the championship begins to unfold.
The return of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to the Southeast region of the United States one year ago was a significant moment in the history of the sport. With a well known venue in Muddy Creek and an incredibly large fan base throughout the region, last season's Tennessee National ended a nearly 20-year absence and was arguably one of the most well-attended races in the four decades the championship has been in existence. It instantly became one of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship's marquee events and with a year of experience under its belt, Muddy Creek Raceway is ready to add to its already memorable legacy.
At the inaugural Red Bull Tennessee National last season, drama surrounded the battle for the overall win in each class. In the 450 Class, a crash by Ryan Villopoto in the second moto left the battle for victory between Dungey and Team Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Barcia. The pair put on a show for the fans, with Dungey ultimately breaking through for his first win of the season. In the 250 Class, Red Bull KTM's Marvin Musquin captured the second win of his U.S. career when his consistent runner-up finishes in each moto outscored both Eli Tomac and Roczen. While Tomac and Roczen traded moto wins for the afternoon, both riders complemented their victories with fourth-place results that ultimately dropped them from contention for the overall win.
One of the many storylines surrounding the series' anticipated return to Muddy Creek on Saturday pertains to recent off-track news with Stewart. Mere days following his dominant 20th career 450 Class win at High Point, the Suzuki rider was notified that his test results from a World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) drug test at the Seattle stop of the FIM/AMA Supercross season in April tested positive for amphetamine, a banned substance. While the FIM provisionally suspended Stewart from competition at its sanctioned events, his status for the non-FIM affiliated Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship has been uncertain. MX Sports Pro Racing, organizers of the championship, have issued the following statement confirming Stewart's eligibility at this weekend's Red Bull Tennessee National:
"The provisional suspension of James Stewart by the FIM as a result of an alleged anti-doping violation on April 12, 2014, does not at this time involve MX Sports Pro Racing or the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. At this stage in the results management process, the decision to compete at a National level remains with the athlete, FIM and WADA, as MX Sports Pro Racing is not a Signatory to the WADA Code and does not have the authority to impose a provisional suspension. Our sanctioning body, AMA Pro Racing, has indicated that it will not restrict Stewart from competing in the upcoming Tennessee National and will reevaluate its position pending the final decision of the FIM International Disciplinary Court (CDI). If this position changes we will be notified accordingly. Until then, Mr. Stewart is free to compete without restriction."
Action for the Red Bull Tennessee National this Saturday, June 28, begins at 8:30 a.m. ET with timed practice. Opening ceremonies get underway at 12:25 p.m. ET, with the first gate drop scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Previous Round Results
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
UPMC Sports Medicine High Point National - Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania
June 14, 2014
Round 4 of 12
450 Class (Moto Finish)
James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki (1-1)
Ken Roczen, Germany, KTM (2-3)
Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda (4-2)
Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (3-4)
Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Yamaha (6-6)
Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki (10-5)
Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., KTM (7-8)
Chad Reed, Australia, Kawasaki (5-10)
Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Kawasaki (9-7)
Phil Nicoletti, Bethel, N.Y., Yamaha (8-12)
450 Class Championship Standings
Ken Roczen, Germany, KTM, 183
Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 167
James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 161
Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 150
Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Kawasaki, 115
Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Yamaha, 104
Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki, 104
Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 90
Chad Reed, Australia, Kawasaki, 88
Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., KTM, 74
Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki, 74
250 Class (Moto Finish)
Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., Kawasaki (1-1)
Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha (2-6)
Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., KTM (7-2)
Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda (4-4)
Christophe Pourcel, France, Yamaha (6-3)
Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha (3-7)
Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (5-8)
Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki (9-5)
Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda (8-9)
Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha (10-10)
250 Class Championship Standings
Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha, 177
Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha, 148
Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., Kawasaki, 141
Christophe Pourcel, France, Yamaha, 128
Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda, 126
Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., KTM, 117
Marvin Musquin, France, KTM, 111
Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki, 93
Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda, 91
Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda, 87