AMA Motocross teams preview Steel City
The penultimate round of the 2009 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship produced some of the most memorable racing in recent memory in addition to a pair of first-time winners in the 450 and 250 classes. While the focus centered on newly-crowned 450 Class champion Chad Reed and the heated battle atop the 250 Class between Christophe Pourcel and Ryan Dungey, it was Factory Yamaha’s Matt Goerke and GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia who stole the spotlight with their inaugural victories. GEICO Powersports Honda’s Jessica Patterson took the win in the WMX Class, keeping Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ashley Fiolek from claiming her second straight championship for one more week.
Last week’s race in Southwick, Mass. saw some of the most memorable racing in recent memory in addition to a pair of first-time winners in the 450 and 250 classes. While the focus centered on newly-crowned 450 Class champion Chad Reed and the heated battle atop the 250 Class between Christophe Pourcel and Ryan Dungey, it was Factory Yamaha’s Matt Goerke and GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia who stole the spotlight, as both were first time winners. GEICO Powersports Honda’s Jessica Patterson took the win in the WMX Class, keeping Honda Red Bull Racing’s Ashley Fiolek from claiming her second straight championship for one more week.
While Barcia shook things up within the 250 Class by putting on an impressive display of speed and tenacity in extremely difficult conditions, a considerable turnaround within the championship has left Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki’s Dungey in control entering this weekend’s American Motocross Festival, the 2009 season finale from Steel City Raceway in Delmont, Pa. While Pourcel entered Southwick with a 13-point advantage, he suffered his worst outing of the season, including a first moto DNF that has left him at a 17-point deficit. Last weekend’s round was an indication that anything can happen in motocross and the 250 Class title, as well as Saturday’s overall victory, is still up for grabs.
This weekend, the series makes its annual visit to Western Pennsylvania where the season will come to a dramatic conclusion and three champions will be awarded the coveted trophies. Supporting the second annual American Motocross Classic will be the Race to Cure Breast Cancer. Teams and fans are encouraged to get into the spirit of PINK and in addition to several other fundraising opportunities, the Mystery Rider Auction will showcase some highly desired and exclusive pieces of memorabilia for fans to bid on. Same-day coverage of the race will feature the 250 Class on SPEED beginning at midnight ET.
Reed’s scary incident should not have any effect on Reed’s performance this weekend as the Australian rider has proven in the past that he is capable of performing through pain. Undoubtedly upset about missing out on his fifth consecutive win, he will be adamant about finishing the season on a high note. Teammate Michael Byrne just missed out on his first career victory last week and was vocal about his disappointment. With arguably more motivation than he has all season, Byrne will leave it all out on the track on Saturday.
"We got the title wrapped up Budds Creek but I still want to win races," said Reed. "I’m having a blast out here and all this is just icing on the cake for me. I’m a little sore from that get-off at Southwick, but other than that, I’m fine and looking forward to racing at Steel City."
"I’ve gotten some good results lately and that’s been a real confidence booster for me," explained Byrne. "I’m feeling healthy and the Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki RM-Z450 is running great, so hopefully we can go to Steel City and get a win at the last race of the year and end the season on a high note."
Honda Red Bull Racing
The closing part of the season has been tough on the entire Honda team. Despite some hard luck, the duo of Andrew Short and Ivan Tedesco still sit second and third in the standings and will likely give the red riders two of the three positions on the final podium, making for an outstanding 2009 season. Third team member Davi Millsaps hoped to build off of his first career moto win at Budds Creek, but the tough conditions last weekend resulted in some misfortune and 18th overall.
"I’m really looking forward to Steel City," boasted Short. "I enjoy riding this track and as it’s the final race in the series, the riders lay it all on the line; makes for great racing. My goal is to put the Honda Red Bull Racing team on the overall podium this weekend and ultimately finish the championship second overall. The whole teams worked tirelessly all season long and I want to repay them with a win this weekend."
"Southwick Motocross was a tough weekend of racing for me and it didn’t go quite as I had hoped," explained Tedesco. "I will be out to make amends at Steel City and my goal is to finish both motos on the podium. Points are vital in deciding who gets second in the series so my aim is to finish on both boxes."
While 2009 has not been the season they had hoped for, Joe Gibbs Racing has had several bright spots throughout the summer. Last weekend, newcomer Christian Craig showed outstanding speed, but was one of the many victims of the treacherous Southwick conditions, hampering his overall finish. Despite a 29th in moto one, he bounced back in moto two for eighth, giving him 13th overall. Teammate Cody Cooper will look to end his roller coaster season on a high note and further strengthen his hold on eighth place in the season standings.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Kawasaki’s latest addition Jake Moss has worked out well through two rounds. The Australian rider has run up front consistently and was awarded with a career best second place finish in the first moto at Southwick. However, he found trouble in moto two, dropping to 30th which resulted in ninth overall. If he can put together a pair of strong motos, the replacement rider could be in the hunt to win an overall of his own and possibly become the seventh different winner this season. Timmy Ferry had a weekend to forget in Massachusetts and hopes to rebound in Steel City where he finished second overall last season.
"I think I can win a moto," said Moss. "My bike is amazing and I know I have the speed to be up front. I’m going to work hard on staying focused and bringing home a good finish."
"I know I can get a podium this year," stated Ferry. "Knowing that we don’t have another race for a few months, I’m going to let it all go and try to finish the year on the box."
Justin Brayton was yet another one of the long list of riders with completely contrasting results at Moto-X 338. The rookie 450 rider started strong, finishing eighth in the opening moto, but dropped to 24th in moto two for 16th overall. He is eager to retain the outstanding speed that helped him to a pair of fourth place results just a few rounds ago.
Ryan Dungey entered Southwick knowing he needed to win if he still wanted a chance to win the 2009 title. However, the conditions presented a whole new challenge for the entire field and by day’s end, it became a race of survival. Dungey stayed consistent, even overcoming a bad start in the final moto to bring home fourth overall. The effort paid off and now Dungey sits in control of his own destiny heading into Steel City. Last season, the Minnesota native dominated in Western Pennsylvania, sweeping both motos to end the season the best way possible. He hopes to replicate that performance, which would result in a hard-earned championship.
"It’s great to be back in the points lead going into Steel City," stated Dungey. "You just have to have faith and hope and courage, and know that anything is possible if you believe in it. We have just two more motos left, but that’s still a lot of racing, so we’ll try to carry the momentum into the last round and enjoy it."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
It was an all around tough weekend for the Pro Circuit team at Moto-X 338, highlighted by a valiant second moto ride by Tyla Rattray who captured his first career moto victory and a career best second overall. Jake Weimer secured ninth overall for the team, overcoming adversity in each moto. Last season at Steel City, a motivated Weimer put forth arguably his best performance of the season to finish third overall and with a few wins under his belt in 2009, he will look to return to the top step of the podium. Austin Stroupe garnered 13thth. For Pourcel, Moto-X 338 was a race to forget. An uncharacteristic mechanical issue set the tone for the day, and the hard luck continued in the final moto as the Frenchman found trouble right out of the gate. He now faces the biggest deficit of the season, but there is no doubting the rookie’s resiliency and he knows that the championship is still in reach and will lay it all on the line on Saturday. overall at Southwick, starting strong with a fifth place finish in moto one, but he hit some bad luck in moto two, finishing 29
"Things are starting to come together since my injury," said Rattray. "Last week was good for me and now I want to keep riding up front and finish the season on a high note."
"I want to build some momentum heading into the Motocross of Nations," explained Weimer. "Steel City is a good track and I know I can ride well here. I’m just going to keep my program going even after the season finishes out."
"There are still two motos left," stated Pourcel. "I’m going to do everything I can to win both of them and then hope for a little luck to claim the title. It has been a very good season and a lot of crazy things have happened."
GEICO Powersports Honda
It was a dream weekend for Justin Barcia who is a familiar face at Southwick. His first career moto victory set things off in the best way possible and the confidence he achieved from that first moto carried over into moto two where he overcame a bad start to work his way through the field and into third, securing the well-earned overall victory. Teammate Brett Metcalfe found himself at the front of the field again, finishing third overall and opening up a comfortable 30-point margin over Jake Weimer in the series standings in his quest to finish third overall. A difficult past couple rounds for Blake Wharton made a turn for the better last weekend when the rookie finished seventh overall. While he felt a little disappointment in coming up short of backing up his opening moto result of third, the race as a whole was a step in the right direction for Wharton who will look to finish the season on the podium.
Tommy Searle’s sixth place finish was a much needed turnaround for the British rider who has had some misfortune over the past few weeks. He led the way for the KTM squad and hopes to keep up the momentum this weekend. Wil Hahn continues to work his way into top form after recent shoulder surgery. He finished 19th overall on the day and will look to break into the top 10 on Saturday.
"With only one more round it is important to get a great result," said Searle. "I plan to finish on the podium this weekend."
Jessica Patterson’s opportunity with GEICO Powersports Honda is something she is determined not to let go to waste. She lived up to her own high expectations last weekend during her first time out with the team, effectively dominating the entire weekend and forcing rival Ashley Fiolek to race for the title this weekend. Fiolek still holds a comfortable 41-point lead and with a conservative ride should claim her second title after the first moto. However, Patterson knows she has nothing to lose and will be all out on Saturday.
"It’s been a great season for me as I feel I’ve put in solid performances every round," stated Fiolek. "Being a part of the Honda Red Bull Racing team has been a massive learning experience which I’m most grateful for. I want to wrap-up the championship this weekend at Steel City not only for myself but the whole team. I really want to win back-to-back Women’s Motocross titles and I’m ready to win at Steel City."