The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, hosted its third round of the season on Saturday with the 10th Annual Toyota Thunder Valley National from Thunder Valley MX Park in Lakewood, Colorado.
For the second straight week, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen claimed the overall victory in the 450 Class thanks to a victory in the final moto of the afternoon. In the 250 Class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett broke through for his first win of the season, becoming just the second winner this season in the division.
In the opening 450 Class moto, Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s Josh Grant raced to the Motosport.com Holeshot Award but his spot at the front of the field was short lived as Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart assumed the lead just a short time later. Stewart set a fast pace in the opening laps to open a small margin while Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey worked his way into second and set his sights on catching the Suzuki rider out front. Behind them, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard and Roczen also made their way past Grant to take over third and fourth, respectively.
A short time later, a four-rider breakaway put the battle for the moto win amongst Stewart, Dungey, Canard and Roczen. Dungey pressured Stewart throughout the first half of the moto, even making a brief pass for the lead, but was unable to take control of the position. As the battle continued out front, Roczen passed Canard for third and was soon putting pressure on the lead duo. While looking for a way around Stewart, Dungey was passed by Roczen for second on Lap 13. On the following lap, Dungey fell while chasing Stewart and Roczen, losing a position to Canard and slotting into fourth. Out front, Roczen put the pressure on Stewart coming to the white flag but the former champion held him at bay to lead the entire moto and capture his first win of the 2014 season. Roczen followed in second, with Canard third, Dungey fourth, and Grant fifth.
As the gate dropped for the second moto, it was Canard who made the first move by grabbing the Motosport.com Holeshot Award with Dungey, Grant, Roczen, and Stewart in tow. Canard and Dungey took control early on, but Roczen was able to surge past his teammate into second by the end of the opening lap and proceeded to battle with Canard for the lead the next couple laps before ultimately taking control of the moto on Lap 3. Canard then fell into the clutches of Dungey, who eventually made the pass for second and attempted to reel in Roczen. Dungey closed in to just about 2 seconds at the halfway point of the moto, but lapped riders ultimately kept the distance between the two KTM riders consistent throughout the remainder of the race. Roczen crossed the finish just over six seconds ahead of Dungey, while Stewart passed Canard halfway through the moto to finish third.
In the overall classification Roczen’s 2-1 moto results helped him edge out Stewart (1-3) for the win by just two points. Dungey’s strong second moto effort helped secure third overall (4-2). Canard (3-4) and Grant (5-6) rounded out the top five.
“It’s early to really say anything [about the championship],” said Roczen, who won his first career 450 Class race one week ago. “I feel like I’m riding good right now and I feel strong. I got a good jump [in the first moto] but didn’t get up the hill well and had to fight my way through. I made some adjustments to the bike [in between motos] to make it easier to ride and it paid off. I just want to keep clicking [races] away like I’ve been doing and stay healthy.”
Roczen extended his lead in the 450 Class standings and now holds a 12-point lead over Dungey. Stewart moved into third, 30 points behind Roczen, while Canard sits fourth, 31 points out of the lead.
The start of the first 250 Class moto featured a surprise early leader as Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Jessy Nelson captured the Motosport.com Holeshot Award and proceeded to open a multi-second gap over the field, with GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle and the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha duo of Cooper Webb and Jeremy Martin in chase. Nelson maintained a comfortable gap until Martin and Webb took over second and third, respectively, on Lap 4 and closed down the deficit to the lead. Nelson paced the field for the first 20 minutes of the moto but went off the track, allowing Martin to take first on Lap 8. Webb then took over second from Nelson on Lap 9.
The battle for victory appeared it would come down to the Star Yamaha duo as they were separated by mere bike lengths, but as he pushed for the lead Webb crashed and lost several positions. With his teammate no longer a threat, Martin rode comfortably out front for the remainder of the moto to keep his undefeated streak intact. Nelson held on for a career-best second-place finish, while Bogle secured the third spot. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett was fourth with Rockstar Energy Racing KTM’s Jason Anderson in fifth. Webb dropped to ninth following his crash.
As the second moto got underway, all eyes were on Martin to see if he could continue his unbeaten start to the season. Out of the first corner Martin had his work cut out for him as GEICO Honda’s Zach Bell claimed the Motosport.com Holeshot Award, with Anderson and Valli Motorsports Yamaha’s Christophe Pourcel alongside. Martin started outside the top five.
Bell’s time out front didn’t last long as Pourcel took over the lead on the opening lap. On the ensuing lap Baggett began his push towards the front, eventually taking over second and setting his sights on Pourcel out front. After a couple laps of pressure Baggett made the pass and never looked back, leaving Pourcel to battle with a hard-charging Bogle. As Baggett pulled away, Martin tracked down Pourcel and Bogle, needing a podium finish to secure his third straight overall win. At the halfway point Martin crashed while chasing third place and fell deep inside the top 10. That misfortune allowed Baggett to solidify the overall with a win in the second moto. Bogle fought to finish second, while Pourcel finished third. Martin rebounded to finish sixth.
Baggett’s 4-1 results gave him a one-point edge on Bogle (3-2) for the overall win, while Martin’s resiliency after his crash ensured third overall (1-6).
“I wasn’t prepared coming into the season due to an injury right before the opening round, but we’ve been testing and getting to where we want to be,” said Baggett, who last won at the fifth round of the championship last season. “When you haven’t won in a while it starts eating at you and I wanted to stop [Martin’s] dominance, so I just went for it. We’re headed in the right direction and there’s still 18 motos left, so anything can happen.”
Martin retained control of the 250 Class standings, holding a 26-point lead over teammate Webb. Pourcel sits third, 47 points behind, while Baggett moved into fourth, facing a 49-point deficit. Bogle rounds out the top five, 50 points behind Martin.
“I really had to work hard for [the podium] today,” said Martin, who has won five of the first six motos. “I didn’t get off to the best start [in Moto 1], but I knew I just needed to start clicking off the laps. Nelson went off the track and made it easy on me, so it was a good first moto. I was trying to hunt those guys down [up front] in the second moto and switched my line up, and it just didn’t work out for me. I’m where I expected to be coming into the season, but it just took a little bit for everyone else to get up to speed. Clearly, after today, they’re there.”
The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship continues next weekend with the fourth round of the season. High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, will host the UPMC Sports Medicine High Point National on Saturday, June 14. Action begins at 1 p.m. ET.