Late August in Indiana. The yearly trip to Crawfordsville is one we always enjoy, as it’s when the Midwest is in the middle of its transition from summer to fall and we’re a bit worn down after three months on the road. Although this year’s race landed on roughly the same date, the 2020 Ironman Motocross was far different than any visit. Instead of being the last date on the schedule, this time it was was the third race of the season and the first at a venue not named after a country singer.
Everyone welcomed the change of scenery, the challenges of a fast and full-size track, excellent dry weather, and some confirmation that there will be some more movement around the country between now and October. With riders still motivated to score big results, many with hopes of impressing a team and landing a contract, there were dozens of battles to watch on track and lots of things to take note of in the results sheet.
And just like that, we’re one-third of the way through the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Here’s Kickstart…
Race bike in the morning light.
No, this isn’t a leftover image from Loretta’s Two. A heavy storm hit the track at 4 AM on race day and heavy equipment pushed some of the sludge off to the side, but it was still a bit of a quagmire for the first Timed Qualifying sessions.
How do race teams make subtle changes to their motorcycles? They pop a hole in it. Alex Martin’s /Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing bikes has additional small openings in the airbox, which helps flow more air into the RM-Z250’s engine, while the engine hangers have three circles of different sizes to change the flex characteristic of the chassis.
Helmets are always fair game for a rider’s personal sponsor. Alex Martin has added a new partner to his program, Split Nutrition, which is a start-up nutrition brand that pairs all-natural nut butter and fruit spreads for on the go servings. Think peanut butter and jelly without the bread, with an emphasis on fat and carbs for fuel. You can find Split pouches at grocery stores including Whole Foods and Walmart, plus their website, Splitnutrition.com
View from the doghouse.
Green machines. The different riding styles of Adam Cianciarulo and Eli Tomac was a popular topic in public conversation between LL2 and Ironman. It’s a bit much to draw a complete set of conclusions based on a single race, especially a mudder that’ll someday be remembered as a strange and expensive day at the track, but it will certainly be a determining factor to the whole 2020 season.
We noticed two more new parts that Chase Sexton has gotten access to in his move to Team Honda HRC: the new Renthal FatBar 36 handlebar and HRC’s hydraulic clutch assembly made by Nissin. The handlebar was debuted earlier this year by Ken Roczen during the SX season, while the clutch has long been a factory part offered to the top 450 Class riders. We’ve heard that Team Honda HRC allows riders to find what they like from a wide variety of levers made by ARC and from what we can see, Sexton likes a flatter-style blade.
Adam Cianciarulo is trying not to get too excited on the bike. During the post-race press conference, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider said his outlook is now about “trying to be more consistency-based, just kind of doing what’s repeatable and not try to do any miracles out there and go crazy, out-of-control fast or anything like that,” a strategy that’s helped him already earn a pair of podium finishes in his 450 Class rookie season. He also stated that he’s still on the comeback from his Salt Lake City Supercross injury and feels that, “physically I’m probably not where I was at this time last year,” but will get better as the summer continues.
If you want to attend a National in the future, consider the Ironman Motocross. Located about an hour away from downtown Indy/airport, the Crawfordsville spread is an exciting layout that’s very fan friendly, thanks to the ample viewing spots, mellow hillsides, and well-maintained facilities. Although it was roughly the same date as always, I thought about how we we’re just one-third of the way through the season when it was time to leave.
Spray & Wash.
There’s a lot of back and forth going on between the Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing team and the Star Racing team when it comes to the current setup of the YZ450F. Both Barcia and Tickle spend their time between races in Southern California, which allows them the chance to test directly with the factory and to get input from Star’s staff, including team manager-test rider Wil Hahn and team manager-technical guru Brad Hoffman. After the race was over on Saturday, Barcia spent a considerable amount of time in a meeting with the Star guys. What they all learn now will be very important during the transition year that 2021 will be.
This could be a very good-looking bike with red plastics. It’s all but been announced that the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM team will be the official factory operation for GasGas in 2021, but details about the change-up are starting to get talked about in the pits. From what we hear, the discussed plan is to have one 450 rider and two 250 riders; the 450 spot has been filled while the 250 spots will be sorted out in the next few weeks. KTM is said to be bringing their 250 Class program back under the factory tent, but they also need to figure out with which riders.
Hunter Lawrence was a question mark coming into the weekend due to the dislocated shoulder he suffered the race prior and he made the decision to line up for Ironman late in the week. We paid close attention to the GEICO Honda rider during the day, knowing that he’d be far from full strength but high on determination, and came away impressed with the 11th place finish in Moto Two and 16th overall. It’s not the result that he wants, but considering the circumstances, it’s much better than being on the sidelines.
Comfortable lawn chairs? Check. Well-stocked cooler? Check. Umbrella to block the sun or rain? Check. Moto-modified dolly to get all of it to the side of the track? Check. We respected this fan’s raceday setup.
After finishing sixth in the LCQ, Zack Williams went to the staging area as an alternate for and hoped he’d get the last-minute call to get on the starting line. The Minnesota rider wasn’t needed in 250 Moto One, but tried his luck again before 250 Moto Two, was granted a spot on the gate, and rode it home for a 24th place finish in the moto. We like the simple paint job on the helmet, too.
Battles. We enjoyed the back and forth that Mitchell Harrison and Shane McElrath had during 250 Moto One.
Custom tread. Star Racing is one of the few teams we know of that uses a tire groover on their Dunlop rubber, as their hot blade will take a line from the center knobs of the rear rubber and create a different traction characteristic on the dirt. It’s essentially the same theory as the “block within a block” design that Dunlop uses on the angled squares.
There’s no “one size fits all” spare wheel on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing pit cart. Instead, the cargo area contains a personalized backup for each rider that is marked with their race number and rear sprocket size.
Marketing 101. Twisted Tea, the new title sponsor to the HEP Motorsports team, passed out branded yellow terry cloths to fans by the fences and encouraged them to rally riders as they went by. Drop a few of TTs into the cooler for your Labor Day celebration and support the sport.
The crew of guys that we put in Kickstart from LL2 found their photo online, so here’s hoping these guys do the same and become newfound fans of SML. If you a reading this, do us a solid and share the word about our work to your moto buddies.
We spotted some Hurly mesh covers over the radiator louvers of Adam Cianciarulo’s Monster Energy Kawasaki. Essentially high-end panty hose, the screen prevents mud from packing into the gaps of the plastic guards and blocking airflow over the radiators. These have become a very common accessory in pro racing over the last few summers.
We snapped this pre-race shot of Blake Baggett before we noticed the thin strip of plastic over his forehead. This is likely a barrier to keep sweat from running down his forehead and into the goggle foam/eyes, because as you can see it’s only on the front of his head, not all the way around.
Obligatory carbon fiber disc cover photos.
The weather was very pleasant at Ironman, with temperatures in the low 80s and a steady breeze, but riders still took the usual measures to keep cool pre-race with fans, ice vests, and umbrellas (we tried to get a shot of Jade Dungey that showed him moving the umbrella up and down to whip up airflow). Pushing the schedule so far back into the summer avoided the brutally hot days of July and August, and personally, we really like it. Of the many things that MX Sports may adopt from the 2020 season, we’d be okay seeing a series run later into the year if it meant less 100-plus degree days.
If you need a privateer to cheer for, then John Short should be your guy. The Texan has become a contender for top-15 finishes in the 450 Class and is in the mix with factory-backed more often than not. Short’s Honda CRF450R is built with parts anyone could buy, which says a lot about his skills outdoors and the quality of those components. Short went 13-16 for 13th overall.
The true definition of “pit bike.” The Alpinestars rider service reps brought a Honda CRF50 with them on the road for the summer, complete with a classic Alpinestars/ONE Industries graphic set.
With contact between those in different work groups limited, the gear guys are now working out of their own places in the pit area. The Alpinestars rider services guys have their own portable cleaning bay on-site with some water barrels, battery-powered pressure washer wands, brushes, and soaps.
Justin Cooper's ride in Moto Two might get overshadowed by his teammate, but it was a big result for the Star Racing rider. He had leader Jeremy Martin in his sights for much of the race and the second-place finish was his first podium/top-five of the 2020 summer.
Do you buy a 20-foot tall monster or rent it? If you rent it, what happens if the car dealer in town wants it on the same weekend? If you buy it, do you use it for other things throughout the year, like Halloween or Christmas?
Stilez Robertson is finishing about where we expected of the rookie. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider went 39-17-12-7-16-13 through the first six motos, which is a good amount of points scored for a guy that wasn’t really sure if he was going to race this summer, and he’s 14th in the standings. Robertson put in 10 Motos over three weeks at The Ranch, so it was probably really nice to go someplace new.
Yeah, you heard a two-stroke on your TV. Cody Williams held his own against the valve and cam competition on his Husqvarna TC125 and went 26-24 for 25th overall. Respect.
What was more impressive from Dylan Ferrandis: his 26-second win in Moto One or his run from last to third in Moto Two? Both proved that the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider is the top talent in the 250 Class this summer, his last on the small-bore bike. Ferrandis told us that Moto Two charge was probably the biggest ride of his career, as he remounted from a first-turn crash long after the rest of the riders had pulled and was within the top-10 by Lap Seven.
Here’s a back to school math problem for you students: If there are three rows of Marvin Musquin stickers on this fuel bottle, with six stickers in each row, how many stickers did Frankie Latham use? Answer in the comments.
The synchronized split-second head-drop that every rider on the starting line does when after the starting girl walks off the track is one of the coolest things in racing.
Coty Schock is on getting better. The Chaparral/FXR/Honda rider will run the whole season in the 450 Class and has scored points in four of the six Motos run so far. Schock’s 15-18 finishes put him 17th overall. No guard on the right fork leg? Good thing Race Tech is a big supporter of the team.
The fight for highest-finishing privateer is something we always follow at the races. Henry Miller got into the mix at Ironman aboard and with 12-14 finishes, claimed 12th overall in the 450 Class.
This man is going to be a dad. Congrats to Benny Bloss and his wife on their recent baby announcement. Will the kid get the Bloss family genes and be six-foot-plus?
If there was a Best Whip competition at Ironman, Lance Kobusch would have been in the running for most style. The Missouri racer threw his KTM 250 SX-F around over the big infield tabletop, even during a few mid-moto battles (search Mike Vizer’s Instagram for a photo). Kobusch finished 22nd in Moto One and 33rd in Moto Two.
It’s good to see Gage Scherer on the track. The California racer sustained a long list of internal injuries in his 2019 Seattle Supercross crash, some of which were very serious, and he’s gotten back into shape for another go at the 250 Class this summer.
Scrub jump or deep rut. Cameron McAdoo will hang off the side of his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki KX250 in either one.
This fill-in ride at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki is a big opportunity for Mitchell Harrison, as a good summer could earn him an offer of some sort in 2021. A rider that has been bounced around between different teams and a season in Europe over the course of his career, he’s doing what he can to make the most of it and was more in the mix at Ironman. Harrison’s 11-8 finishes put him ninth overall on the day.
4-5 Moto scores, but an overall finish outside of the top-five. Chase Sexton’s results at Ironman were excellent, further proof that the Team Honda HRC rider already has the speed and consistent necessary in the premier class, but things like two Moto winners (Musquin/Barcia) and five different finishers in the top-five (Tomac/Musquin/Cianciarulo/Barcia/Osborne) pushed the rookie to sixth place overall.
Did you catch our post-race interview with Mason Gonzales? The Rock River Yamaha rider has been the top-finishing rider of recent LL graduates, something that very few expected. Normally based at MTF, Gonzales has spent the past month in Tennessee racing the week-long amateur event and back-to-back Nationals. This was his first-ever visit to Ironman, and he told us, “Going to a complete new track, a real outdoor track, is cool and different. It’s a learning experience and I learned a lot today, racing with those guys.” Gonzales aims to be in the top-10 as the series continues.
After a bad day at Loretta Lynn’s Two, Jett Lawrence bounced back with a solid fifth-place day at Ironman. Fast and steady, with 4-5 finishes in the set of motos, this was the GEICO Honda rider’s first big score outdoors. If he continues this improvement, he’ll be more likely to score podium hardware this summer.
Scrubbing the face of Godzilla. We’ll leave that to dudes like RJ Hampshire. A rough second moto took a toll on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider’s final score, and his 5-17 finishes put him 12th overall on the day. With 90 points scored so far this season, Hampshire’s fifth overall in the point standings.
Brandon Hartranft was solid on Saturday. The Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM rider had a terrible day at LL2, but came to Indiana with a clear head and rode the best motos of his career thus far.
The 3-4 finishes put Hartranft third overall for the season, his first outdoor podium and third of 2020. Hartranft is on a one-year contract with TLD KTM and with more rides like this, could be one of the guys on a GasGas or factory KTM in 2021.
Earlier this year we did an interview with Troy Lee about his new relationship with Justin Barcia and the inspiration that went into a custom painted helmet. Fast-forward a few months, when Arai decided to mass-produce the design as Barcia’s signature graphic in their catalog. Now, we hear word that Barcia will move to the TLD-GasGas team in 2021. All that from a custom-painted helmet?
It was damn cool to see Marvin Musquin exit turn three, the spot where he injured his knee last year, at the front of the pack. The Red Bull KTM rider was at his best during 450 Moto One, as he hopped over braking bumps and pulled away from the field for a statement win.
Even with his extended time on the sidelines (he didn’t get back on the bike until May-June), Musquin’s fitness and results have him in the mix for the title, down 13-points to Osborne in the standings.
Knowing what we know now about GEICO stepping away as title sponsor for the Honda-supported squad for 2021, which was told to the team just before the race weekend, Jeremy Martin’s win and this podium shot become a little more important. The team has had its shares of high-profile partners in the past, from Jack in the Box to Napster, so they could soon fill the void. This is going to be an important thing to watch over the next few months.
Lot of talent in a single frame. How many of the season’s 18 motos will be won by these three? So far, they’ve led 39 total laps (Osborne – 22, Tomac – 6, Cianciarulo – 11) and claimed the checkered flag in three of the six motos run.
Remember how fired up and motivated Justin Barcia was at the Atlanta Supercross? (Yes, we know that was a lifetime ago). Well, he’s got the same mindset right now. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider has put everything into making a run at the 450 MX title this summer and that ride in Moto Two at Ironman reminded everyone that he can be the fastest man on track when things go his way. Currently third in the standings with 96 points and with a schedule of tracks that are mostly soft soils, he could make this summer interesting.
Joey Savatgy and Broc Tickle are two riders with plenty to prove this summer and their efforts in Moto Two at Ironman (ninth for Savatgy and tenth for Tickle, a battle that went all the way to the finish line) will remind everyone that they’re worthy of a ride in 2021.
Subtle sticker kit on Justin Bogle’s Alpinestars Super Vented Tech 10 boots. With a perforated bootie and lots of intake ports/exhaust vents, the boots are best suited for warm weather settings and not mud races. Search “Alpinestars Super Vented Tech 10” at the top of the page and watch Pat Foster’s review of the new kicks.
Rubber, metal, plastic, carbon fiber.
Justin Bogle is all-good after his run-in with a tree at the start of Moto One. After a few moments with the medics, the Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider rejoined the race and went the distance for a 34th place finish, regrouped, and posted an improved 15th place result in Moto Two.
Shots like this show us how hard Eli Tomac rides his Monster Energy Kawasaki. Yeah, that’s a small puff of smoke coming out from the bottom. Considering the point hole he’s currently in after a rough showing at Loretta Lynn’s Two, we weren’t surprised to see him charging around the track in his run to 2-1 finishes.
It wasn’t a dominant day for ET1, as he was outside the top-10 in qualifying, didn’t really track down Musquin in Moto One, and was under attack from Barcia in Moto Two, but did what was necessary to get his first overall victory of the season.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.