We don’t need to say how crazy this year has been again. You know it, we know it, and we’re all tired of talking about it. Thankfully, there was a return to some sense of normalcy over the weekend when we packed our camera gear, got in the car, and drove to the 2020 Loretta Lynn’s One Motocross, the opening round of the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee.
Like many, we never thought we’d see a 250-450 National at the country singer’s ranch. The property has always been reserved for select racing events like the AMA Amateur Motocross National we covered in last week’s Kickstart, but it was long considered to be too small and narrow to contain the power of Pro Motocross. But when COVID stomped a hole in the original plans for the outdoor tour, MX Sports and the Race Leadership Team decided that they could let it happen one time and one time only. Well, make that two times, because now that Washougal has been canceled, the series will return for a second visit next week.
How was it? Awesome. There were plenty of concerns going into the race, especially when rain late in the week turned the dark dirt into sticky wet mud, but by the time the gates dropped for the first set of Motos, everything seemed alright. The track, which is laid out over a mostly flat plot of land in the center of the property, was tuned up to suit the needs of the really fast guys with some slightly modified jumps, deeply tilled turns and straightaways, and wider lanes that allowed them to move around. Countless ruts were cut into the dirt during the races and that caused some of the best to struggle at times, which made the racing even closer.
Now that the series is going, we don’t expect it to stop. The second round next week will be the first of many running changes we’ll have to bear, but if that’s what it takes to go racing, that’s cool with us. Again, a massive tip of the visor goes to MX Sports and the teams for making this all possible. Thanks everyone, we all appreciate the effort and stress that you’ve had to endure.
At last, here’s Kickstart from round one…
ET1. Brian Kranz had Eli Tomac’s Monster Energy Kawasaki ready for round one with the well-earned number one and red backgrounds, a reward for their third consecutive 450 MX title. The little things about the KX450 that stand out are the full waffle grips (burly), carbon fiber covers on the clutch and front brake master cylinders (factory), the pop button that holes the strap of the front number (trick), and the perfectly applied graphics (impressive).
Get used to seeing this setup. During the downtime between Supercross and the Nationals, Monster Energy Kawasaki announced that Adam Cianciarulo had signed a contract extension that will keep him on the KX450 for a few more years. Before 2020 started, AC told us that he had only signed a one-year contract to carry him through his rookie year with hopes that a solid season would earn him a better extension.
Big red. Although the all-new 2021 Honda CRF450R is set to hit dealerships and it’s being raced in MXGP, we don’t plan to see the Team Honda HRC riders in the States on it anytime soon, as it’s yet to be homologated and all of the preseason testing has gone into the 2020 model. That’s not a bad thing, though, because the years of data and testing will be a help to Chase Sexton as he goes through his rookie season. A full-scale roll-out in Supercross 2021 with Roczen and Sexton, after a proper preseason of testing, would make a lot of sense.
Christian Craig is Team Honda HRC’s “guy” when they need a fill-in and he’ll spend the summer on Ken Roczen’s CRF450R. The deal came together sort of perfectly; Craig wanted to move up to the big bike with support from GEICO Honda and Roczen wanted to take the summer off amid all of the things that are going on in his life/the world so that he can rest and then prep for the 2021 Supercross season. CC and HRC put in a few practice days together prior to the final decision and they were able to get the proper parts loaded onto the race rig before it headed to Tennessee.
The HEP Motorsports Suzuki team debuted a new title sponsor at the Ranch. Twisted Tea, a HARD iced tea brewed by the Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams), has signed on with the Suzuki squad for the summer and will have prime placement on the side panels and team gear. This deal had been in the making for a while (there were some logos on jerseys during Supercross) and it’s good to bring new money into the sport. Could this kick off a new wave of alcohol sponsorship? Maybe, and we have Supercross’ sponsorship with Mike’s Hard Lemonade as proof. Currently, alcohol brands all agree to a self-regulatory agreement that the FTC states is “designed to limit targeting of teens. Among other provisions, these codes direct that no more than 28.4% of the audience for an ad may consist of people under 21, based on reliable audience data; and that ad content should not appeal primarily to people under 21.” And yes, the majority of motocross fans are older than 21.
It’s important to be on level ground when you set your sag. Ryo Okuda, WP suspension tech for Red Bull KTM, found a flat spot in the team’s pit area on Friday and marked it out for Saturday’s last-minute setup checks.
Good As New. Marvin Musquin is known for debuting a new OCD Red Bull-themed paint job on his Airoh helmets at big events and yeah, his first race in nearly a year is worthy of a fresh lid.
Check out the chrome paint, the splatter in the Airoh logo, how the designs stretched over the vent covers, the MM85 for brother Mika, and the name on the goggle gasket.
We can’t get as close to the factory bikes as before due to social distancing rules, but that didn’t stop us from seeing different engine hangers on Marvin Musquin’s Red Bull KTM. The KTM-Husqvarna crews had multiple options in Supercross, including solid pieces made from aluminum or carbon fiber, while the ones on Musquin’s bike had a hole in the center. This changes the flex character of the chassis and really has become the “go-to” mod for some riders.
Personal preference. Dylan Ferrandis prefers to leave the left side panel on his Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha off, which gives him a different contact point on his left leg. We have to wonder if this was influenced by his riding coach David Vuillemin…
Because DV is very, very particular about his rider’s setup. We spotted him eyeing up the handlebar and control placement on the YZ250F during a walk through the pits on Friday afternoon. Respect the attention to detail.
BT20 on blue. Everyone knows that Broc Tickle will spend the summer racing for Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing in place of the injured Aaron Plessinger, a move that caught a couple of people by surprise considering Tickle’s tie to JGRMX earlier in the year. Broc explained the details of his deal during a recent episode of the SML Show with swap, which you can find on our site. Simply put, at JGRMX Tickle was going to be responsible for covering the cost of his expenses for the summer, including paying for a mechanic, while the Yamaha rider was a full fill-in role that was too good to pass up. The future of the factory team being run-in house by Yamaha is in question, especially with the talk that Star Racing will grow substantially next year, but we’ve also heard a rumor that a good summer of results by Tickle and Barcia could merit it staying around for 2021. We’ll know more about that soon.
Bike, goggles, helmet.
No, there is no beef between Benny Bloss and Justin Bogle. Both have occupied the second spot at Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM in the last year, a very strange situation that we covered at length during the offseason, and Bogle’s return to action for the summer forced Bloss to put together a privateer effort. Despite the on-off deal, the two know there is more important things to their friendship than a ride.
The mood on Friday afternoon was not good, let’s just say that. The planned riding session was pushed back due to overnight rains and after the dozers scrapped the top layer of muck off, the skies opened again and soaked the track again, which forced the practice to be called off completely. Not that many riders wanted to put in laps and almost everyone agreed it wouldn’t be worth destroying their freshly built bikes for a short session. All that happened as we waited for confirmation of the Washougal race cancellation…
New threads. Chase Sexton showed up to Loretta’s with a head to toe kit from Alpinestars, a deal that was worked out over the last few weeks. With Sexton now under their athlete roster, Astars has four factory riders in the US (Barcia, Anderson, Tomac, Sexton) wearing gear, three factory riders in just the helmet (Tickle, Plessinger, Wilson), dozens in their boots, and an equally large list in the MXGP circuit.
The many hairstyles of GEICO Honda.
Brotherly love. Despite being a big family sport, there are only a handful of brothers that are currently racing professional motocross, with even fewer at the level to battle each other for top-five finishes. Jeremy and Alex are among the elite group and it’s been cool to see the two hype each other up, either through playful jabs in interviews or some battles at their home track of Spring Creek.
Dilan Schwartz was one of the few that stuck around after amateur week and used the National as his pro debut. Like we said in last week’s Kickstart, it’s impressive to see the BarX Suzuki outfit that Larry Brooks and company have put together and their equipment (Twisted Development engines, RG3 suspension, various aftermarket part providers) is proven on the yellow platform. Will Schwartz bounce to a team like JGR next year or will BarX continue their West Coast-only Supercross program?
Justin Cooper entered the summer far from full health. A boxer’s fracture during the break between SX and MX is something he only recently recovered from and his time on the bike was very limited going into the Tennessee race, all things that weren’t helped by a few crashes during the day, so 10-8 finishes and eighth overall for the day isn’t too bad. It’s not like Cooper is racing for a contract; Last week he stated that he had signed an extension with Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha to ride their bike for the rest of his time in the 250 Class. This is a big deal, because Cooper was a sought-after commodity, especially by KTM…
There’s no confusing Tomac with anyone else on the track.
After sitting out the SX season and dealing with a small hand injury, Ben LaMay is back for the summer and aboard a privateer KTM. When we talked to LaMay at the Paris Supercross, he was adamant that he was done racing unless he was able to get a deal with a team or if he could put together a more lucrative program, and we’re happy to see him on the track again. With support from a lot of his longtime sponsors (Race Tech, EKS Brand) and some new backers (UFO, which is making a big push in moto through their IL distributor), LaMay put in the work for 20-20 finishes in both motos, 24th overall, and important championship points.
We’re excited to see Max Anstie in the US this summer. One of the few riders that scored overall wins in the MXGP series last year, the Brit looks like he will make things interesting in his new ride with Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki. It hasn’t been an easy year for Anstie, he missed all of Supercross due to a torn Achille’s tendon from a practice crash, but he’s gotten back up to speed on the Suzuki. Don’t be surprised to see him dicing for a podium at some point this summer, especially when the series gets to the sands of Spring Creek. Seriously.
It was damn good to be back at the track. We missed the tension and excitement that only happens before the gate drops. Are we insinuating some sort of innuendo there?
We’re going to watch Hardy Munoz closely this summer. The Chilean made some waves for his all-out riding style and how he snagged some wins away from the well-known factory-supported talent a time or two when he was in amateur, so how he fares in the pro ranks will be interesting to chart. Are we suggesting him for all you fantasy players out there? No, but that’s because we don’t understand how fantasy picks work. We’re just saying that he could make things interesting during the Motos. Munoz went 22-21 at the Ranch and was 25th overall in the 250 Class.
This is going to be a big season for Mitchell Harrison. The pandemic put his plans in disarray, and it was going to be difficult if not impossible for him to get back to Europe for his MX2 ride with BUD Racing Kawasaki. All of that happened while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki saw their original roster sidelined due to injuries and needed two fill-in riders. That he is already very familiar with the KX250 and has made outdoor motocross his sole focus could lead to some success later in the year, because Harrison has podiumed and finished in the top-five outdoors before and is in need of a confirmed deal somewhere in 2021.
These two will have their share of duels this summer. Jeremy Martin and Shane McElrath exchanged some words after Martin pulled out of SX to save his 250 career, a move Martin compared to what McElrath did in 2019, but all is apparently good now. With that, expect to see heads-up battles between guys that really, really hate to concede a position to someone else.
Welcome to the big leagues, Carson Mumford. The GEICO Honda rider bypassed all of the amateur events this year so he could focus on turning pro during the Nationals, no matter when it was going to be. As the TV crew pointed out, despite being the newest addition to the field, Mumford was one of the most experienced riders on the entry list at the track, thanks to his many appearances at the amateur event. Mumford had the typical rookie ride with some bursts of speed and multiple mistakes, which led to 12-15 scores for 13th overall.
When Stilez Robertson wrapped up his first Pro Sport title during the amatuer race at Loretta's, he got confirmation from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team that he'd race the first three Nationals. This worked out well for Robertson and the Husky crew, who late last week announced Michael Mosiman will miss those same races due to a recent practice crash. Robertson had a very, very eventful day and was caught up in some chaos during Moto One and was penalized by the AMA for receiving outside assistance. Robertson fared much better in Moto Two and posted a 17th. He'll be eager for redemption at LL Two.
Who had Mason Gonzales as the top finishing LL Graduate at round one? Anyone? Don’t lie. We weren’t too familiar with the Rock River Yamaha rider prior to the amateur race, but his starts, line choices, and moto wins put him on our radar for the National. A very good start and intensity early in the races put Gonzales near the top half of the running order and he ended the day with 8-12 rides and ninth overall. Yes, he will be on the radar of team managers now.
We need more riders to flip off the camera, that was always funny. Alex Ray let us know we were number one before the gate dropped on Moto One. It was a tough day for the SGB/Maxxis/Babbitt’s rider and a smoking bike forced him to pull out of both races.
The rule says that you have to have a face covering; It never said what it had to look like. Cooper Webb rolled to the line with a full-face shield, much like what we’ve seen worn by both F1/MotoGP mechanics and drivers near the Diamond Jamboree complex in Irvine.
A creative line that caught our eye. Jason Anderson turned the tabletop near the scoring tower and a braking bump into a very tricky on-off jump that was quicker and easier on the body, a move that we saw Zach Osborne do moments later.
There are very few riders that can manhandle a bike like Tomac. Even in some of the deepest ruts and trickiest corners, he was able to stand up and keep his feet on the pegs of the Monster Energy Kawasaki. His slide through the running order in Moto One was a bit perplexing, which he caulked up to a poor setting, and he looked much better in Moto Two and was able to pursue Zach Osborne for the lead. Round two will be a better indication of his speed…
Benny Bloss told us he planned to run with the factory bikes on his Husqvarna at Loretta’s. The KT Tape/Truck Central/Donnell’s rider did just that during Moto One and scored a 10th place result, the highest of any independent rider in the pack. An issue with the bike in Moto Two forced Bloss to pull off early, but he was still the top finishing privateer with a 15th place overall. Kind of cool that his trainer Robbie Reynard did something similar in 2002, huh? If only his dad, Jeff, would work the pit board for race.
This track offered incredible racing. When The Ranch was first added to the schedule, we had our concerns that it’d be a too small for pro riders. But after a week of watching the amateur races, we started to think that the tighter layout and lower speeds would actually make for closer racing. The heavy rains turned it into a multi-line obstacle course and made some riders say it was the most challenging track they’d ever ridden. With more rain forecasted to hit Tennessee late in the week, we could be up for another excellent race.
Justin Barcia passed more riders than anyone at Loretta’s. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider tore through the pack in both motos, including a run to third place in Moto One and an impressive charge from far back in the field to seventh place in Moto Two. Recent management changes in Cypress have allowed Barcia to change some things in his setup and he told swap that he’s very, very comfortable on the bike. And yes, this is a contract year for Barcia.
This kit reminds us of Eddie Murphy in “Delirious.”
Jason Anderson downplayed his Moto One win, but that was a nice and timely result for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider. There are a lot of people that wonder how Anderson will fare away from the Baker’s Factory, something he is aware of but isn’t playing into. Everything went Anderson’s way during that race, as he aced the start, immediately put a gap between himself and the rest of the pack that no one was able to close, then cruised through the last half a lap and crossed the finish line. Anderson was on his way to a podium finish in Moto Two, but was held up by a lapper during the height of his battle with Chase Sexton and then dropped a few more positions late in the race. 1-6 scores for second overall.
Eventful day for Nick Gaines. The 3D Racing Yamaha rider got his bike stuck in the ooze during the second timed qualifier, to the point that the session had to be red flagged so that it could be pulled out, but then held his own against the riders that were on satellite bikes. 13-13 finishes for 11th overall.
Jordan Bailey has put together a small effort for the summer with help from his longtime sponsors like Seven and some business connections he's made on the links in Florida. The highlight of the day was a 15th place result in Moto One, the low point was a DNF in Moto Two.
Calm, solid day for Cameron McAdoo. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider was one of the top talents in the field, evident in his lap times during both Motos, and went 9-6 for sixth overall. If MaDo can stay out of trouble for a full race day, he has the speed and fitness to be a podium contender.
That new knee’s feeling pretty strong, huh, RJ? When the year went completely haywire, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider decided there was no better time than then to get the torn ligaments in his left knee repaired. When the start of the season was pushed back, Hampshire then did all he could to get on the bike and up to speed for round one of the Nationals. Four months from surgery to second place overall finish. Impressive.
It’s cool to see a local rider grow up, get support from an OEM, and then turn pro. Josh Varize was the local kid at Milestone MX Park that turned heads at events like the TWMX Race Series and big amateur nationals, earned a spot on the Orange Brigade KTM squad, lined up at Loretta’s last week, and then came back a week later for round one of Pro Motocross.
Loretta’s was a quiet, good day for Jett Lawrence. The GEICO Honda rider was fourth overall in the quailifying times, had a small tip over in Moto One but regroup to finish sixth, and then went from deep in the field to seventh place in Moto Two, and ended the day sixth overall. The teen sensation had his share of stylish moments on the track, but didn’t seem to be under the magnifying glass of the TV as much as he was in Utah.
Welcome back, Jeremy Martin. Loretta’s marked the first outdoor National for the GEICO Honda rider since June 2018 and the two-time 250 MX champion reminded everyone that he is still one of the best guys on a small-bore bike outdoors.
Martin went 2-3 for third overall, an indicator he’s ready for the season ahead.
When in Country Music Country…
If what we’ve heard is true, these two will be working together for a lot longer, like Ferrandis’ looming move to the 450 Class.
Tech 2. A handful of mechanics still make use of the pit bike-quad riding boot as their footwear of choice when working trackside, as it also them to pack in the gate like a rider would be able to more than a standard shoe. Yes, those are Honda-issue sneakers.
A sight we never thought we’d see.
10 Commandments. Although they aren’t big, the set of infield singles can be very tricky, even for 450 riders, and we saw a few sketchy moments through them during the races.
Blake Baggett put in a very Blake Baggett ride at Loretta’s. The Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM rider comes into every season as a complete unknown, capable of leading laps but prone to weird issues. The day started slow, with Baggett ranked 13th in Timed Qualifying, but he came to life in Moto One with an eighth-place finish and laps on par with those that were ahead of him. Moto Two was even better for Baggett, as he got in with Chase Sexton and Marvin Musquin and followed his way up to fourth place.
El Dozer with a dozer. Luke Renzland was the privateer star of Moto Two, thanks to the way he stayed on the rear wheel of Joey Savatgy and finished in 12th place. Renzland was supposed to spend his summer in racing in Canada, but issues exacerbated by the pandemic forced him to pull away from his team over the border and put together small team for the US Nationals.
Turndown on the small tabletop.
We’ve been looking forward to these two meeting up since our month in Salt Lake City. Zach Osborne and Eli Tomac are arguably the top riders of the 450 Class, thanks to Tomac’s standing as the defending MX champion and newly crowned SX champion, plus Osborne’s recent rise in the results that match his physical strength. Osborne got the lead early and held a sizeable gap over Tomac, something few have been able to do, to score the win in Moto Two and the day’s overall.
Decent day for Dean Wilson. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider was one of the many that said the track was rougher than any he’d ever spun a lap on and he slugged it out with Max Anstie in both motos to score 12-9 results and 10th overall.
Racing for The Queen. They didn’t show it on camera, but Dean Wilson-Max Anstie’s Moto Two fight for ninth place was incredible. Anstie was slightly faster, especially late in the race, but Wilson controlled the lines and blocked off every attack to get the better finish position, to the point the crossed the finish line within feet of each other.
You know you’ve done well when The Man meets you at the finish line. Roger DeCoster went to the side of the track as Zach Osborne came around to take the checkered flag, which capped off a statement ride by the Husqvarna rider.
This was the first 450 Class overall of Osborne’s career and much like his first 250 Class win at Budds Creek years ago, it came at a place that he and his wife have a long history at. He'll have the red plates at round two.
There was nothing amateur about this track...
Our post-race track walk showed ruts that were footpeg deep, some hooks and holes hidden in the turns, and that the bikes had dug deeper into the dirt than anything we had seen during the amatuer week.
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.
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