The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, came to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday as heavy rain throughout the morning resulted in the most challenging track conditions of the entire summer at Ironman Raceway.
The fifth running of the Ironman National was headlined by a showdown for the 450 Class title between Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac, the defending National Champion, and Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing’s Marvin Musquin. In the end, after a pair of gruelling motos in the mud, Tomac emerged triumphant to hoist the Edison Dye Cup as the 450 Class Champion for back-to-back seasons.
The battle for victory in the 450 Class saw Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia earn his first overall win of the season, while Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha’s Aaron Plessinger capped off his 250 Class title with another dominant victory.
The opening 450 Class moto saw TPJ Racing’s Dylan Merriam nab his second Motosport.com Holeshot, narrowly edging out Autotrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Chad Reed, who made his first Pro Motocross start since the 2015 season. Barcia started third and was able to battle through the mud to grab the lead just before the completion of the opening lap. Tomac got a solid start in fifth, while Musquin slotted into eighth.
As Barcia looked to put some distance between he and the field, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Phil Nicoletti was able to battle his way forward into second. He then took advantage of a mistake by Barcia to make a pass for the lead on Lap 2. As this unfolded, Tomac made his way around Reed for third and immediately put on a charge to catch Barcia, who took off his goggles. Tomac’s increased pace forced Barcia to do the same, which brought both riders back to Nicoletti’s rear fender.
Barcia’s determined charge carried him back into the lead and Tomac followed into second, quickly dropping Nicoletti from first to third. In his pursuit of Barcia, Tomac crashed on Lap 6. He took his time getting back on the bike and lost the spot to Nicoletti, but remounted in third. That gave Barcia an insurmountable lead of more than 20 seconds. It didn’t take long for Tomac to rebound from his crash to re-pass Nicoletti for second on Lap 7, and then Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen made the pass for third one lap later. Nicoletti continued to lose considerable ground and with two laps to go he helped keep the battle for the championship going by giving up fourth to Musquin.
Despite racing the majority of the moto without goggles, Barcia prevailed with his first moto win of the season by 21.3 seconds over Tomac. Roczen finished in a distant third, with Musquin fourth and Reed fifth. The result left Tomac one point shy of clinching the title before the second moto.
The final 450 Class moto stormed out the gate with Reed emerging with the Motosport.com Holeshot, to the delight of the crowd. Barcia was right behind in second, with Roczen third. Both riders quickly got around Reed, with Barcia moving into the lead. Behind them, Musquin took advantage of starting alongside Tomac to slide over on his championship rival and halt his momentum. Musquin was able to come out of the first turn in fourth, while Tomac was mired outside the top 20.
Reed encountered misfortune on the opening lap and dropped deep in the top 10, which allowed Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cooper Webb to take over third. As Musquin continued his fight to break into podium position, Tomac made quick work to climb into the top 10 by Lap 3.
Barcia and Roczen’s torrid pace allowed them to open a double-digit gap on Webb, with the lead duo remaining just over a second apart halfway through the moto. Behind them the battle for third intensified between Webb and Musquin. After relentless pressure for multiple laps Musquin was able to find his way around the Yamaha rider on Lap 8 with an aggressive pass. However, he gave the spot back just a short time later after he made contact with a downed lapped rider. Musquin remounted a challenge, caught Webb again, and made another aggressive pass on Lap 9.
Out front, Barcia incrementally added to his lead and rode to the first 1-1 finish of his 450 Class career by 15.3 seconds over Roczen. Musquin finished well back in third. Tomac managed the moto with the championship in mind and soldiered home to an uneventful ninth-place finish.
It was the first win for Barcia since 2015, and the third of his career.
“It’s crazy to think where I started the year [without a ride]. It was difficult times and I had to revamp my whole career, basically,” said Barcia. “I was given an opportunity [at Yamaha] and my never give up attitude paid off. To end it here with a 1-1 is awesome and we’ve come a long way. I’m just so happy with how the season ended up.”
Roczen finished in the runner-up spot (3-2) for the fifth time in the last six races, while Musquin rounded out the overall podium in third (4-3).
Tomac’s fourth-place finish (2-9) clinched the championship by 16 points, making him the first rider since Ricky Carmichael in 2005-2006 to successfully defend the title. Roczen edged out Barcia for third in the final standings by just a single point.
“We missed the [championship] clinch in the first moto by one point again [like last year], so it kind of gets your head spinning,” said Tomac. “I knew we could do it, and once we got through the first turn I felt like I was at least in control of my own race. This season put us to the test and we were really challenged, so even though we won twice as many races it was still tough. It feels great to get it done.”
The first 250 Class moto of the afternoon saw Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha’s Justin Cooper easily grab the Motosport.com Holeshot, while GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton followed in second. Given the conditions, it became a crucial advantage for the lead duo as they quickly separated themselves from the field on the opening lap as Plessinger slotted into third.
As the top three began to further distance themselves from the rest of the field, the gap between each of them remained at about a second apiece. They stayed within reach of one another until Lap 6 when Sexton took advantage of some misfortune with Cooper to move into the lead. That dropped Cooper into the clutches of his teammate, who soon took over second. Once into the runner-up spot, Plessinger started to close in on Sexton. They both battled through the muddy conditions, and against one another, moving all over the track, but eventually Plessinger prevailed and grabbed the top spot.
A mistake by Plessinger allowed Sexton to apply pressure, but the champ withstood the brief challenge and pulled out to a lead of more than seven seconds, which he continued to build on. Sexton then dropped back to Cooper and his teammate Dylan Ferrandis, who were in a battle for third. Ferrandis was able to move into podium position and gave chase to Sexton for second. In his pursuit of the spot, with two laps to go, Ferrandis’ bike lost power, moving Cooper back into third. Sexton went down one lap later, but was able to get back on track just ahead of the Yamaha rider.
Out front, Plessinger ditched his goggles after taking the white flag and endured through a tip over on the final lap, but thanks to a lead of more than 20 seconds he was able to soldier home to a moto win, crossing the line just 4.9 seconds ahead of Sexton at the end. Cooper followed in third, with GEICO Honda’s RJ Hampshire fourth and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM’s Shane McElrath in fifth. Just eight riders finished on the lead lap.
The last 250 Class moto of the season saw the GEICO Honda tandem of Hampshire and Sexton lead the field out of the gate, with Hampshire narrowly earning the Motosport.com Holeshot. Sexton attempted to provide some immediate pressure, but instead it opened the door for Plessinger, who started third, to make the pass for second. He then attacked Hampshire for the lead and successfully seized control of the moto before the completion of the opening lap.
The Yamaha rider opened up a lead of over three seconds as the lead trio settled in, and as the moto neared the halfway point Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha’s Colt Nichols closed in on Sexton from fourth. On Lap 5 Hampshire went down and dropped out of the top three, moving Sexton into second and Nichols into third. Hampshire continued in fourth with Ferrandis right behind him.
Plessinger was able to extend his lead to more than 17 seconds late in the moto as Sexton encountered misfortune on Lap 7 and crashed out of second. Nichols inherited the position as Sexton lost even more ground with another crash and dropped to fifth, moving Hampshire up to third and Ferrandis into fourth. Out front it was smooth sailing for Plessinger the rest of the way as the 250 Class Champion wrapped up his fifth 1-1 performance of the year by 12.6 seconds over Nichols, with Hampshire in third. Plessinger became the first two-time winner in the 250 Class at Ironman Raceway.
The champ capped off his breakthrough season by winning six of 12 rounds, which is the most wins in a single season since 2013 when Eli Tomac won seven times en route to the championship. Plessinger brings his 250 Class career to a close with eight career victories.
“The whole day went really smooth. The [GEICO Honda] guys were riding great,” said Plessinger. “I just got two great starts and made my way into the lead both motos, and then I just tried to be consistent and ride my own race. Everything worked out according to plan and now we’re up here on top of the podium. I’m pretty pumped at how we ended the season.”
Hampshire followed up his first career win at the previous round with a runner-up effort (4-3), while Sexton wrapped up the season with back-to-back overall podium results (2-6).
Plessinger finished the season with a 110-point lead over championship runner-up Alex Martin, while Cooper finished the season in third.
Results: Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Ironman National, Ironman Raceway – Crawfordsville, Indiana
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
- Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Yamaha (1-1)
- Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda (3-2)
- Marvin Musquin, France, KTM (4-3)
- Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (2-9)
- Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha (9-4)
- Tyler Medaglia, Canada, Kawasaki (7-6)
- Phil Nicoletti, Cohocton, N.Y., Husqvarna (6-7)
- Chad Reed, Australia, Suzuki (5-8)
- Valentin Teillet, France, Husqvarna (8-10)
- Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM (16-5)
450 Class Championship Standings
- Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 527
- Marvin Musquin, France, KTM – 511
- Ken Roczen, Germany, Honda – 445
- Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Yamaha – 444
- Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM – 391
- Phil Nicoletti, Cohocton, N.Y., Husqvarna – 311
- Benny Bloss, Oak Grove, Mo., KTM – 298
- Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki – 291
- Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha – 186
- Kyle Cunningham, Willow Park, Texas, Suzuki – 169
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
- Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha (1-1)
- RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Honda (4-3)
- Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (2-6)
- Colt Nichols, Muskogee, Okla., Yamaha (8-2)
- Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha (3-7)
- Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki (7-5)
- Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha (10-4)
- Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM (5-10)
- Michael Mosiman, Sebastopol, Calif., Husqvarna (6-11)
- Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., KTM (9-9)
250 Class Championship Standings
- Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha – 500
- Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., KTM – 390
- Justin Cooper, Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y., Yamaha – 352
- RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Honda – 337
- Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM – 332
- Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda – 324
- Austin Forkner, Richards, Mo., Kawasaki – 314
- Dylan Ferrandis, France, Yamaha – 310
- Joey Savatgy, Tallahassee, Fla., Kawasaki – 275
- Jordon Smith, Belmont, N.C., KTM – 259