450 US National’s preview
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (May 12, 2015) – This Saturday the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, will begin its summer-long journey to crown a 450 Class champion with the 47th edition of the GoPro Hangtown Motocross Classic, in the shadow of the California State Capital of Sacramento. Leading the premier class into action and carrying the number one plate for the first time in his U.S. career will be Ken Roczen, the series’ first ever German champion in 43 years, aboard his new RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy Johns/Suzuki Factory Racing machine.
One year ago, Roczen engaged in a spirited and captivating battle with his then Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Dungey that went all the way down to the final lap of the season. Roczen outlasted his more experienced, multiple title-winning rival to earn a historic championship. During the offseason, he made a surprise departure from KTM to join the budding RCH Racing effort co-owned by 10-time Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champion Ricky Carmichael and freestyle motocross pioneer Carey Hart. A full factory-backed team, RCH Racing had made consistent gains since its inception in 2013 but the addition of Roczen gives it the bona fide star it needs in order to establish itself as a title contender. With five overall wins to his credit last season, Roczen brings tremendous accolades to the team and was able to earn a pair of wins with RCH during this past supercross season before bowing out with injury and focusing on his title defense this summer.
While Roczen enters the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship with a strong chance at repeating, he’ll be up against what is one of the deepest and most talented 450 Class fields in series history. Sitting atop Roczen’s list of threats to take away his title is a familiar foe in Dungey. Following his third runner-up finish in five seasons of premier class competition, with titles coming in the remaining to years, Dungey brings in added momentum to the 2015 Pro Motocross season thanks to his second career supercross title. He’s established himself as one of the most consistent riders to ever throw a leg over a bike and he already sits second both on the all-time wins list (31) and all-time career podiums (55). Never finishing worse than second in a 450 Class season, Dungey should be right there yet again when the season draws to a close.
Another rider expected to make his presence felt in the battle for the championship is second-year premier class rider Eli Tomac. The GEICO Honda rider showed impressive speed last season despite missing the first four rounds with an injury and was able break through for victory at Spring Creek en route to a fifth-place finish in the final standings. For 2015 Tomac is at full health heading into the Nationals and is coming off a breakout supercross campaign in which he earned three wins and finished second in the championship. Confidence is high for the Colorado native and he looks to have every bit of speed and endurance to challenge Roczen and Dungey on a weekly basis.
A third former 450 Class titleholder that enters the 2015 season a little under the radar is Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed. The Australian veteran is the most successful international rider of all time and is one of three former premier class champions in the field. As a result of being the oldest rider in the field, at age 33, Reed seemingly always enters any championship as a bit of an underdog. And almost always, Reed responds in a successful manner. This past supercross season, the veteran took a convincing win just prior to turning 33 and although he hasn’t won a Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race since 2011, Reed is as confident as ever that he’ll be a factor in the title fight. Adding to his title hopes is the addition of a teammate for the first time under Reed’s own TwoTwo Motorsports banner in Josh Grant. The California native won the season opening moto a year ago and is a 450 Class winner, back in 2009. He looks poised for a strong season alongside his owner/teammate.
The Joe Gibbs Racing owned Autotrader.com/Toyota/Yamaha effort brings perhaps its most formidable effort into the 2015 season. Since bursting onto the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship scene in 2009, Justin Barcia has proven to be one of the most exciting riders in the sport. His fearless and aggressive approach will always result in thrilling competition and after enduring a lengthy injury in supercross, Barcia and JGRMX have high hopes for a memorable summer. Complementing Barcia is Weston Peick, perhaps the most improved rider in the premier class thus far in 2015. Peick’s first opportunity aboard a factory motorcycle resulted in his most successful supercross season and now he has his sights set squarely on making his presence felt at the Nationals. The competitiveness of each of its two riders could be beneficial to the overall success of JGRMX this summer.
Justin Brayton was forced to miss some time during supercross but is completely healthy coming into the Pro Motocross season for BTOsports.com KTM. His presence will be important for the team, which will begin the summer without veteran Andrew Short, who suffered a knee injury late in supercross and hopes to return a few rounds in. Another rider under similar circumstances is Trey Canard, a title contender for Team Honda HRC. Last season Canard broke through to become a consistent front-runner and even took the first win of his career at the season finale in Utah to solidify third in the final standings. A broken arm suffered in supercross has put Canard in an uncertain position as the Nationals get underway, but his return appears to be imminent.
Lining up alongside Roczen under the RCH Racing tent is Broc Tickle. Just a few years ago Tickle enjoyed a career season in the 450 Class, finishing fifth, and he remains one of many riders that are expected to be a fixture inside the top 10 each week. Last season the Michigan native was forced to miss the summer with a serious back injury that left his future in uncertainty. Fortunately, Tickle has fully recovered and hasn’t appeared to lose any of the speed that has made him one of the premier class’ most dependable riders. The added confidence surrounding RCH has already benefitted Tickle’s efforts and he’ll be a strong complement to Roczen throughout the season.
While the collection of experienced 450 Class riders is as deep as ever, the addition of the strongest rookie class in recent memory is adding to the anticipation heading into Hangtown. Former 250 Class champion Dean Wilson will unfortunately miss the summer for Red Bull KTM with a knee injury, but three other riders are each capable of challenging for wins. Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s Blake Baggett is a former 250 Class titleholder in his own right, and his penchant for the motocross discipline has some considering what he might be able to accomplish this season. The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is no stranger to rookie 450 Class riders finding success and Baggett could be the next in line.
Additionally, Team Honda HRC’s Cole Seely will bring the most momentum of any rookie into the season thanks to a stellar supercross campaign in which he won one race and finished third at season’s end. Although he’s still in search of his first career Nationals win, Seely is already comfortable aboard the big bike. Completing the rookie trio is Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson, who will be the lead rider for the manufacturer’s anticipated return to the series. Anderson has shown impressive speed aboard the new motorcycle and has plenty of talent to put Husqvarna back onto the Pro Motocross podium.
Even though the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season has yet to begin, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing has already made the biggest splash with the signing of Frenchman veteran Christophe Pourcel. While he’s never raced a full season of 450 Class competition, Pourcel has considerable experience in the 250 Class and has made a name for himself with his unique European style and innate ability to lay down a fast lap. He’s one of the most intriguing players for what is shaping up to be a memorable 2015 season.
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship begins on May 16 with the Hangtown Motocross Classic near Sacramento, California. Tickets for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship are available at www.ProMotocross.com.
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Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, features the world’s fastest outdoor motocross racers, racing aboard the best bikes each factory offers, on the roughest, toughest tracks in the world. The 12-rounds series begins at Hangtown in May and ends at Indiana’s Ironman Raceway in August. It includes stops at the premier motocross racing facilities in America, with events in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan, Maryland, Minnesota, Washington, New York, Indiana and Utah. The pro riders race on Saturday afternoon, with competition divided into two classes: one for 250cc machines, and one for 450cc machines. The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is televised on NBC, NBCSN and MAVTV and streamed live on NBC Sports Live Extra. Series partners include Lucas Oil (series title sponsor), Red Bull, GoPro, Bud Light, WPS, Fly Racing, GEICO Motorcycle, Kawasaki, MotoSport, Utah Sports Commission, FRAM, KTM, Oakley, FMF, Deltran Battery Tender, Dunlop, Suzuki, Husqvarna, Pivot Works, Vertex and MotionPro. More information can be found at www.ProMotocross.com.
MX Sports Pro Racing
MX Sports Pro Racing manages and produces the world’s most prestigious professional motocross series – the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing. The industry leader in off road power sport event production and management, its mission is to showcase the sport of professional motocross competition at events throughout the United States. Through its various racing properties, partnerships and affiliates, MX Sports Pro Racing organizes events for thousands of action sports athletes each year and attracts millions of motorsports spectators. Visitwww.mxsportsproracing.com.
AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.