It’s fair to say that everyone was surprised when back-to-back races RedBud Motocross races were announced as part of the 2020 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship schedule. Located on the Michigan border, the track in Buchanan is known for its flowing layout, fun jumps, immaculate prep, and different varieties of dirt. If you asked riders which circuit of the usual 12-race tour they’d most like to hold multiple rounds at, the majority would say RedBud without hesitation.
But because of the regulations and advisors put in place by the state, there were doubts by some that the race would happen at all, almost up to the point it was time to leave for the long Labor Day weekend. Luckily, all of the worries proved to be for naught and the first of the two rounds ran on Friday without any sort of hiccup.
There were a lot of takeaways from Friday’s RedBud race, but with a return to the starting line scheduled for Monday morning, we’ll try to keep this quick and condensed.
– The track prep wasn’t the deep rip and heavy water everyone has come to expect of the Nationals. Although it was still soft and spongy in spots, many that we talked to said the bumps seemed more like a high-speed chatter, and not the massive curbs that come from hard braking. Some felt that faster and “smoother” track made for better racing because they were able to move around the track more, not get stuck in a slot-car style lane.
– How about the top-five in the opening lap of 250 Moto One? Masterpool, Sanayei, Jett Lawrence, Jeremy Martin, and Joey Crown. That’s a random order of fast riders.
– All of the hype about how fast and powerful the Star Racing Yamaha bikes are can be best defined by watching every one of the team’s riders hit LaRocco’s Leap during the race.
Morning in the pits.
RedBud is one of the tracks that makes tire choice tricky. The long track has very different soil types, from hard-packed jump faces to sand to loam, so riders have to decide what sort of tread on the rear wheel will give them the best traction in the most places. The scoop pattern is always a popular option at RedBud, as it churns through the soft stuff easily but gives up some grip on the firmer areas, and we noticed quite a few riders kept it on all day, including 450 winner Zach Osborne.
View from the doghouse, RedBud edition.
Jett Lawrence is now a steady top-five finisher in the 250 Class. Blazing speed and big crashes put the GEICO Honda racer on everyone’s radar, but the teenager told us he’s making an effort to ride with more consistency and control in an effort to avoid the mistakes. “I’m trying to ride smarter, not like a 17-year-old. I’m trying to think like a 25-year-old, an older and wiser rider, and make smarter decisions. With LaRocco’s Leap in the second moto, a lot of guys were hitting it and I felt like I could have hit it, but I was like, ‘I should play it safe because I don’t to case it, blow a front wheel out, and have my day be done.’ The last two laps, I made some sketchy moments trying to push. I could have kept on pushing and maybe would have gotten away with it and caught those guys. Or maybe I would have ended up on my head. It could work out or I could end up like an ostrich with my head in the dirt.” The boy has a way with words.
Obligatory Joey Crown at RedBud photo. After missing a large part of the year due to a concussion, the Michigan rider will run the rest of the Nationals with the Rock River Yamaha team in the 250 Class. Crown was up front early in Moto One, but DNF-DNF scores in both motos put him 38th overall.
Neon dream. We have to give the JGRMX/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team credit for their attention to detail when it comes to the bike-gear combos.
The Suzuki squad bolted on fluorescent yellow plastic from UFO with slightly altered graphics and added the neon ProTaper handlebar cover to the bike,
Then had the riders match up all the accents in the Answer Racing gear/Gaerne boots/Arai helmets/SCOTT goggles.
Done deals for Deano. On Friday, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing confirmed that Wilson had signed a one-year contract extension that’ll keep him on the factory equipment through 2021 (we heard about this back in July). On Saturday, Wilson announced that he’d signed a new agreement with O’Neal Racing to wear their gear through 2023, a long commitment for a rider-apparel company.
Getting a head start for 2021. Christian Craig’s move to the Star Racing squad for next year has all but been announced, but he’s already getting familiar with parts of their program, including a full-time training program with Gareth Swanepoel.
Father and son. With Cory Carsten racing the 450 Class this summer, his father Barry has been onsite at all of the races to make sure everything is in order on the Suzuki RM-Z450. Cory missed the cut in Timed Qualifying and the LCQ but was added to 450 Moto Two as an alternate and finished 32nd.
Factory mechanic tech tip. In the event of busted wheel, safety wire around the spokes will keep them together, and hopefully out of your brake rotor or sprocket. You don’t need much, just a quick twist where the two spokes overlap.
Raise it up.
Luke Renzland has had a rough run of luck lately. Mechanical woes struck the privateer at Ironman and an early crash in 450 Moto One at RedBud put him at the rear of the field and out of the points at the checkered flag. Things got way worse in Moto Two, as he had a hard slam in the uphill sand rollers and was knocked unconscious, which made for a tense few moments. Once Renzland came to, he walked off the track with some help from the medics, which was a sigh of relief. He’ll miss Monday’s race due to the concussion protocols.
Okay, it’s confirmed: Justin Rodbell is legit. We got to know the guy during the extended stay in Salt Lake City, thanks to his teammate Alex Ray, and were impressed by his work ethic, quick learning, and appreciation for whatever sort of support he gets (for instance Cooper Webb gave him a set of boots one time, so CW2 is his guy.) A full-time HVAC installer in the Northeast, Rodbell has made all eight motos this summer, scored points in five of them (26-23-12-12-21-20-16-15), and is 16th overall in the standings.
When we say that RedBud has a very diverse terrain, we mean it. This is in the hairpin section that’s in the middle of the track, where leaves and mulch were mixed in to make it even softer.
The other fast Masterpool, Jake.
Quiet, consistent day for Broc Tickle. The Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing rider continued a run of top-10 results on Friday with 8-9 finishes, which put him ninth overall. The long layoff that Tickle had from racing made it hard to say where he’d rank in the field, especially one as competitive as this, but he’s found his usual place in the thick of the action and is eighth in the point standings, only trailing riders that are capable of/have already won motos this summer. With more finishes like this, one has to assume he will land a ride somewhere in 2021.
Fender slap the Leap.
Custom painted helmets will always get some attention in Kickstart. New York racer Trevor Schmidt had Razor Image lay plenty of metal flake to his Bell Moto 9.
As much as riders like the grates used on the starting line in Supercross and MXGP, thanks to their consistency and somewhat level playing field, there’s something about the way Pro Motocross still requires a track to have a dirt grid that we like. Not only does it put more importance on a rider’s gate pick (plus their qualifying time and Moto One result), but it also rewards those who have the skills to assess what they feel is the right place on the line, and their ability to prepare it properly. Things like holeshot devices and ignition maps are what the technology of motocross forward, but gate pick-prep will always be the role of the rider.
Welcome back, Jalek Swoll. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider sat out Loretta’s Two and Ironman due to a concussion but was on the line at RedBud One and went 21-15 for 19th overall. We’ve said before that the era of young riders coming into the pro ranks and shaking up the results as rookies is over, especially as the average age of the 250 Class has gotten higher in the last few years, so a rider like Swoll should be graded over a longer curve than just the first year of his career (handful of MX rounds in 2019, SX and MX in 2020).
We were very surprised to see Darian Sanayei at RedBud. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider sat out two rounds with a shoulder injury and it sounded like there was no clear date for return at Ironman, but he was given the go-ahead to race after a mid-week check-up. Sanayei knows how important it is to put in good results on the PC bike, especially at this point in his career, and a 10th place finish in Moto One was a good effort after a few weeks on the sidelines.
– Yes, this is strange. We’re used to seeing these Michigan hillsides packed with people, so to look out on the track during 250 Moto One and see all of this grass was a reminder of the unpredictable year we’ve all endured. Here’s the thing: we’ve made it a point to never get political with the SML content, an effort to make this a reprieve from the the bullshit that’s getting discussed non-stop elsewhere. So, if you’re reading this, do us the same and keep the quips about masks, scams, politicians, and the like out of the comments on our content, especially the YouTube and social media channels.
The future of racing is starting to figure things out. As some of the elders in the 250 Class move onto the premier class, young guys like Derek Drake and Stilez Robertson are next in line to advance up the running order. Like we said with Swoll above, rookie and sophomore year riders aren’t expected to be race winners right now, but should instead aim to run in the top-10 as much as possible and string together top-15 finishes consistently, exactly like they did at RedBud (Drake went 12-11 for 11th, Robertson 13-14 for 13th).
Pick a line.
A close pack of fast riders in 250 Moto One. We can all agree that this has been one of the more unpredictable, competitive years of recent memory, right?
The Ty Masterpool-Jeremy Martin battle for the lead wasn’t something we expected to see on the drive to the track Friday morning, but when it happened in 250 Moto One, it was damn good.
Masterpool’s big holeshot and fast pace helped him build a decent gap over the rest of the field, but as the race continued on, Martin’s experience and fitness came into play. The two exchanged moves for a few laps, Masterpool blocked Martin’s repeated attempts, until a pass on Lap 10 put Martin ahead and on the way to the win.
How Dylan Ferrandis does on Monday could set the tone for the rest of the series. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider has been the fastest guy of the 250 Class by far (look at the lap times for confirmation) but repeat mistakes on the opening laps of races have been a negative mark on his record and now. His fall in 250 Moto One on Friday was particularly brutal, because his shoulder and head took the brunt of the impact, and he was admittedly uncomfortable and concerned through the rest of the race, despite a run to 7-3 scores and fourth overall. Second in the championship and down 12 points to Martin, he will need to finish up front in every race from here out to keep a shot at the title.
The many heights of motocross racers, as displayed by Benny Bloss, Robbie Wageman, and Adam Enticknap.
Max Anstie isn’t the only thing from the other side of the Atlantic on a Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki bike. Supported by the Japanese brand but not privy to all the factory parts offered, the HEP crew has developed a relationship with Noleen Racing and has swapped their fork and shock to components made by Ohlins. This was one of the many things that Anstie has had a hand in developing during the 2020 season (previously a SX-only team, they didn’t have an extensive book of settings for Anstie to build from), but he looks to be adapting well on the track.
While we’re on the topic of suspension swaps, here’s the KYB setup that Henry Miller has bolted onto his KTM 450 SX-F. Since KTM and WP are owned by the same parent company it’s rare to see riders veer away from the standard bike-suspension combo, but there are plenty of options out there to choose from, including the shock change made by Miller to conversion kits that drop KYB internals in the WP fork tubes. If you want to know more, copy and paste “ENZO Technica Front Fork WP/KYB Conversion | Track Tested” in our search bar.
A cooling fan on the backside of the radiator is something that the Red Bull KTM team has used for years, but we’re pretty sure this scoop that looks like it directs the air toward the engine looks new. Hmm. We’ll have to ask on Monday.
For reference, here is the fan and fuel tank used by the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team. Let’s look at some of the other trick parts we saw on our walk behind the starting line, because with social distancing rules, this is about as close as we can get to the race bikes this summer.
Monster Energy Yamaha Factory Racing has installed this carbon cover over the rear brake caliper for a few years, as it prevents the assembly from being hit by a boot/bike/roost and impairing its function.
Showa has made their mid-session suspension changes easier thanks to the large adjusters and dials on the fork caps, shown here on Christian Craig’s CRF450R.
Carbon fiber fuel and a machined metal cap. The tank is a little larger, due to the fuel consumption of the long motos and the lid screws in flush.
Aluminum frame with some traction tape, a titanium exhaust, the coated engine case, anodized plugs, a master cylinder with the sight glass removed, titanium fasteners. What other details about the Team Honda HRC bike catch your eye?
Custom parts aren’t only for the factory guys. We spotted these footpegs on John Short’s TPJ Racing Honda CRF450R, which have an extra row of teeth on the back for when he needs to get his weight over the back of the bike or experiences a hard landing.
Obligatory Derek Rankin-Slayer merch photo.
Yeah, we’re going to say that 11-13 results and 12th overall is an excellent result for a guy that was taken away in an ambulance six days prior.
After it was confirmed that Max Anstie’s jaw wasn’t broken after the slam to the face he suffered at the Ironman Motocross, the Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki rider stayed back in Indiana, rested up for the double-header at RedBud, and put in fair results at round four.
Is the 450 Class championship going to come down to these two? Zach Osborne and Marvin Musquin have proven to be the top guys in the premier division this summer and 450 Moto One on Friday was a nice match-up. No, it’d never came down to a head-to-head battle, but both riders showed they have the speed, skill, and endurance that are necessary to contend for wins. How long until people start to point out the possibility for tension at the Baker’s Factory during the week?
Hell on wheels.
Is it fair to put Eli Tomac’s 450 Moto One ride in the “So-So” category of his results file? After last week’s big win at Ironman, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider wasn’t in the mix as much as many expected, took a while to get going, was slow to get through lapped traffic, and was straight-up held off by Christian Craig (no disrespect to either, but that’s not something anyone would have predicted prior to the gate drop). Things like this have occurred multiple times in Tomac’s career, so while it’s not a complete shock, it’s a reminder that anything can happen when the gate drops. In the team PR Tomac said, “The way the moto scores fell was a little frustrating. Zach (Osborne) got the starts today and that seems to be where I fell behind. Everyone was really close in pace, so I wasn’t able to come up through the pack like I normally am able to. I was doing everything I could, and I would run up on the end of the train at the end of the moto, but that wasn’t good enough. I feel good for the next race, we’ll recover and be fresh for Monday.”
We could show you one of the many frames we captured of Chase Sexton that show the Team Honda HRC rider with near flawless-style, but felt this shot of his swap-out on the sand single said more about the rookie’s ability to shake off a mistake and still score a podium finish.
Sexton’s third place finish in 450 Moto One paired with a fourth in 450 Moto Two gave the rookie third place overall, the first podium of his big bike career. Has Sexton done enough to silence the critics that came when his deal with Factory Honda was announced? And how will he do come Supercross?
“It’s called, ‘Two Brothers.’ Two Brothers. It’s just called ‘Two Brothers?”
Mitchell Harrison had a rough run at the first RedBud. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider was part of the fast pack in Moto One and was shuffled back to 14th place, then crashed hard in Moto Two and was unable to rejoin the race on his badly damaged motorcycle. No worse for the wear, he’ll be back for Monday’s race.
That was a very important ride in Moto Two for Shane McElrath. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider got out front early, led lots of laps in the first half, and settled into a second-place result, that paired with his eighth place in Moto One, put him third overall on the day. A veteran of 250 Class, McElrath is slated to point out of the division unless the AMA-Feld-MX Sports go through with a proposed rule change due to the altered season, and how that ends up will determine the next step in his career.
Mason Gonzales continues to learn in his rookie year. After an 11th place rank in qualifying, the Rock River Yamaha rider looked to be a contender for top-10 finishes in the Motos, but had his share of problems during both races and went 18-16 for 17th overall.
Jeremy Martin never launched LaRocco’s Leap, but it didn’t seem to matter, because the GEICO Honda rider won both Motos by comfortable margins with moves like this scrub off of the landing. During the post-race press conference, Martin stated that his strength and fitness isn’t to the level he was in 2018 (which is expected) and said that he mindful of conserving his body and energy during the races.
Consistency has been Martin’s best trait this season and with a 1.9 average finish through eight motos, he’s taken control of the championship lead going into RedBud Two and has a 12-point lead over Dylan Ferrandis. Here are a few more Martin stats: his qualifying average is 3.0, he’s led 33 laps thus far this summer, and he’s scored three moto wins.
Move over carbon fiber, because JGR has a rapid prototype 3D printer. We’ve noticed some parts and pieces on the bikes the last few weeks, namely the front brake master cylinder covers and other handlebar accessories, and this week saw a special housing around the radiator’s cooling far.
Okay, Zach Osborne has won in every way this summer. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider was at the front of the field very early in Moto Two, starting here with this big holeshot, and put the hammer down to run away from the pack. Like Martin, Osborne indicated that he’s not looking to win races by unreal margins if it means pushing himself to the limit and risking a mistake or crash, and he looked to be in complete control of his pace on Friday afternoon. Osborne is quick to downplay title talk right now, and understandably so, but he did make it clear that he wants to be ahead just in case something is to happen that would cause the season to end abruptly.
We noticed something about Adam Cianciarulo’s riding from his GoPro footage at Ironman: he’s not revving as much as he used to. During our How Was Your Weekend interview after RedBud One, AC confirmed that he’s made a conscious decision to back down the revs on his Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450 as part of larger effort to be a smoother, more well-rounded rider.
That’s quite the podium. If someone told you at Anaheim One this year that this would be the top-three at RedBud, you’d have thought they were crazy. But the unpredictable ways of the world, plus the constant progression by all riders on the track, has made 2020 one of the best years of racing in recent memory and we wouldn’t be surprised if any of these three, or a few more top-talents, were on the podium come Monday afternoon.
Charge them up and get the ready for Monday. Thanks for reading Kickstart.
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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