As cliche as it sounds, we’ll never forget this year’s trip to Morgantown for the 2022 High Point Motocross, because excellent weather, an immaculately prepped track, and action through every lap made round four of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship feel like a perfect day at the races.
Notes from the weekend on the WV-PA border…
– Eli Tomac’s post-race comments are really, really good. The Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider told us that his run in Moto One came down to line choices and getting trapped behind guys, an explanation that notes the importance of starts against the current field. His push from sixth to first in Moto Two was impressive, as he hammered to catch-pass-drop all of his title rivals. Standing by the track made us think that wasn’t “all-out” Eli, though, which piques our interests ahead of RedBud and Southwick.
– Chase Sexton is a legit championship contender. The Team Honda HRC rider put any remaining talk of the Thunder Valley crash to rest when he got the holeshot and led every lap of 450 Moto One. His efforts to stay with Tomac in 450 Moto Two were admirable and the second place result kept him losing points to anyone. Sexton told us that these next four races will require a big push and more wins, but that he’s ready for the challenge.
– Full disclosure: we didn’t know Jason Anderson was in the mix for the podium until he pulled into the parc ferme area after 450 Moto Two. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was very fast at round four, as he again clicked off the quickest lap in the closing moments of the morning’s practice session and rallied to 3-5 finishes, but the Tomac-Sexton-Roczen-Dungey battle took our full attention. Anderson admitted that he had nothing for that group in our post-race talk, but a fourth-place rank in the championship keeps him in the thick of things.
The Country Club. We heard the moniker a dozen times during the weekend and have to say it's true about the PA track. Shoutout to High Point's property managers and heavy equipment operators, because their efforts in the pit area turned a two-level paddock into a perfectly level and well-rocked piece of ground.
After a few years of California, Justin Barcia has headed back to the East Coast and his Bamland Property. We're interested to see what the practice days in soft conditions does for the rider and the setup of his Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing motorcycle.
Ryan Dungey told us that maintaining a balance between racing, training, and his overall life is an important part of this second chapter. “I’m always a guy that wants to do more and more and more. But at this stage of my career, I’m 32, I’ve got to work hard but I’ve got to rest hard. I’m really trying to focus on that. I’ve got two kids and I want them to be a priority over racing, so spending time with them and having a life away from racing is important. I’m not doing the volume that I was doing back in the day. Overall, if I can focus on quality over quantity, then that’s where I need to be. There’s no since in running myself into the ground, trying harder and harder, to show up to these races tired and flat.” Staying in Minnesota is another big change to his training, but that shouldn’t be a problem, given his experiences and relationships with top coaches, including Aldon Baker. “I have to trust in my program and believe in myself, even if I’m doing my own program. I have a lot of good people that I can ask questions to, bounce stuff off, or ask for feedback.”
We’d love to know how many hours apdesigns has spent in the booth doing Monster Energy-commissioned paint jobs for Eli Tomac over the years. The move to Yamaha led to more blue and purple hues on the carbon fiber shells.
Christian Craig’s Father’s Day card from Jagger, Lennon, and Madden came with some help from Bell Helmets and apdesigns. This one won’t be a replica in the catalog.
Monster Energy Kawasaki is ready for the hottest days of the outdoor. This sort of high-capacity radiators and accessory fan setup has become common for factory teams over the past decade, a trend that was kicked off by Red Bull KTM and spurred on by the electrical starters-battery systems that are wired into four-stroke bikes.
Perfect form from the sport’s best during the sighting lap of Session One of practice for the 450 Class.
Justin Rodbell’s decision to jump to a Bud Builders/Blood Money/Husqvarna for the summer (before even riding it) raised a few eyebrows but it’s turned out to be a good move, as he’s scored points in six of the eight motos. The rider posted 14-18 finishes at High Point, which put him 16th overall in the 450 Class and put him 18th in the championship standings. We admire Rodbell’s travel budgeting more than anything, though, as he takes full advantage of UHaul’s “For 19.95 You Can Rent This” pricing.
What was the difference between doubling out of the hole or skying the triple? About six feet of height and 20 feet of distance. Chase Sexton and Ken Roczen demonstrate.
Did you see our Privateer Power video with Josiah Natzke? Hit the “Theater” tab at the top of the page later to find it. The Kiwi is driving to as as many rounds as he can to race in the 250 Class, an effort that’s being supported by Kawasaki New Zealand, sponsors, family, friends, and gracious fans. Natzke went 11-16 for 15th at High Point.
Are we back to pre-pandemic track prep? Through four rounds, we’ve noticed that the morning practices are watered heavier and ripped deeper than they were in 2020 or 2021, which has led to more lines-ruts in every lane and different passing opportunities later in the day. We’ll be sure to talk to racers about this more at RedBud, a track that may be the biggest indicator of all.
How long until the warm weather prompts one of these guys to shave their heads?
Better day for Benny Bloss. Things seemed bad after the BBMX rider twisted his knee and sat out Thunder Valley, but he bounced back with a quick lap in the morning practice, 11-13 finishes in the afternoon’s motos, and a 12th place overall rank. If you want another group of riders who will fight for position to follow to through the end of the summer, then chart Alex Martin-Brandon Hartranft-Benny Bloss-Marshal Weltin’s results. The guys have comparable equipment, are similar in speed-potential, and are split by 15 points in the championship.
Speaking of Alex Martin, we got a chance to talk about how the YZ450F’s “big bike feel” differs between SX and MX. “It’s a big learning curve on the 450 and I think me being a little guy makes it even harder,” he told us after a 14th place overall finish. “It’s a handful, and we’ve been making some small changes during the week. We’re trending in the right direction. I think I’ve de-tuned the bike every weekend, and Jamie at Twisted Development is shaking his head, but the thing has so much power. The more power you throw on the 450, the worse it handles. Every time that we’ve slowed it down, it’s come around a bit more.”
Another SKDA scheme for Jerry Robin. After a Sherriff contacted the privateer with an offer to pitch in, the design team came up with an all-over print on the white plastics.
“Directional front tire design that provides enhanced grip and steering feel.” That true, Ryan?
This shot says a lot about a moto fan’s buying habits. The Twisted Tea tallboy means he got it on the way to the track, which makes him an informed buyer, and that’s a current t-shirt in the FMF Racing catalog.
Hunter Lawrence’s day started with a contract extension that’ll see him stay at Team Honda HRC until at least 2024. The agreement will see Lawrence through the rest of his 250 Class eligibility and comes as he hits his stride on the CRF250R. Don’t expect to see the Lawrence’s on anything but red bikes soon, as Jett’s current deal goes through 2025 and Hunter already mentioned hopes of moving to the 450 Class with the factory team.
Mullet Watch, Hero Edition
29 & 30. Michael Mosiman and Jo Shimoda now seem to be the biggest “what-if” factors in the 250 Class each weekend, as the two young riders have shown they have the potential and speed to be the fastest on the track but are prone to poor starts or costly mistakes. Mosiman’s 2:03.584 lap was the quickest of 250 Moto One, while Shimoda’s 3-5 consistency in the chaotic class put him on the podium.
We saw two sides to Michael Mosiman’s riding at High Point. When the Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/GASGAS Factory Racing rider was charging forward in 250 Moto One, it looked smooth and effortless. Things changed after he went down, as he got much more aggressive to make up for the lost time. “Someone else made a comment about being very aggressive at the practice track. They said they’d never seen me ride so aggressive or scrub so hard. I have to think it’s some of that “want’ coming out. It’s getting in the way a little bit of riding my race or riding my laps, but when you want it so bad sometimes, it works backwards,” he replied when we mentioned it in HWYW. “I got up and thought I could go back to the front again. I wasn’t much further behind those guys than I was before, so I thought, ‘Why can’t I pass them again?’”
Hunter Lawrence’s feet-on-the-pegs riding style is something we all should try to emulate. We’ve watched the Team Honda HRC plot his way through tricky lanes at four different venues so far this summer and yeah, it works everywhere.
Justin Barcia and Joey Savatgy are like magnets to each other on the track. The two riders found each other and went at it during the opening laps of 450 Moto One, separated, then paired up again from lap seven to the finish line. It was a fun battle to watch, and although they weren’t always bar-to-bar, the 30-minute moto gave both guys plenty of time to show their strengths and weaknesses.
How long are the downhill rollers? Here’s a look at the section from the far side of the track, with Joey Savatgy-Jason Anderson-Eli Tomac-Justin Barcia within a few seconds of each other.
Checked out. Chase Sexton made the most of his start in 450 Moto One, as he went from 2.4 seconds up on lap one to 10.6 seconds ahead on lap six. The Team Honda HRC rider has led 59 laps so far this season.
Marshal Weltin is getting familiar with the RM-Z. Another week of testing in Southern California allowed him and Twisted Tea/HEP Motorsports/Suzuki to come up with a suspension setting that’s more to his liking, but a big gash on the collarbone kept him from being his best at High Point. Weltin went 16-14 for 15th.
Joey Savatgy was the big variable in the Roczen-Dungey Moto One battle. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was determined to make the most of an excellent start and fended off both riders for fifth place. Here’s what Savatgy said about the charge to the checkered flag: “I had no idea (who was behind) because I was just looking at the pit board, but unfortunately, yes because the announcers were yelling so loud that with my ear plugs, I could hear them yelling about Dungey and Ken Roczen going back and forth.”
Homestate holeshot with Seth Hammaker.
How about 250 Moto Two? The Lawrence brothers were no more than three seconds apart during a 17-lap run that saw them trade passes, run opposing-similar lines through the track’s valley, and stirred the crowd into a frenzy.
Although Hunter Lawrence wants to be known for going fast everywhere, the Team Honda HRC rider is really good at High Point. The off-chamber corners, hills, and intermediate terrain seems to bode well with the Team Honda HRC rider’s style, and he was at the front of the pack during both races. Lawrence put together a run of 2-2-4-2-4-1-1-2 finishes through opening stretch of the season.
You have to admire RJ Hampshire’s commitment. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna
Factory Racing rider is only a few weeks removed from a Hangtown crash that required a chest tube to keep his lung from collapsing and surgery to clean up a cut under his armpit, but told the team he was ready to be back on the bike. A lackluster time in the first practice session made it seem he’d rushed the return, but he rose to the challenge during the afternoon’s races, overcame some common mistakes, and went 7-7 for seventh overall.
It's funny to hear how Jett Lawrence recounts his race. The younger brother told us that was probably the hardest he and Hunter had ever raced each other, and as happy as he was to win, he could tell his brother was just as frustrated with second. "I had fun. I said, 'Dude, that was so much fun!' And he was obviously pissed that he got second, and said, 'That's because you won!'" he said of the cooldown with a chuckle. "Even if I got second, I'd still be bummed, but it was a lot of fun because we got close to each other but were always safe next to each other."
Justin Cooper hasn’t had the best start to the season but considering his recovery from an ankle injury and a general lack of seat time, the Monster Energy/Star Racing/Yamaha rider is in a good position. Cooper seems to have the most stock parts of anyone under the Star Racing rig (we noticed OE fork tubes, triple clamps, hubs, and sprockets), changes that will soften the “rigidness” of the YZ250F. Cooper was on during Timed Qualifying and 250 Moto Two, as he finished third in both, but an eighth-place ride in 250 Moto One held him to fifth overall.
What “0.553 seconds” looks like. We climbed the finish line hill before the last lap of 250 Moto Two, which turned out to be a perfect place to follow Hunter’s stunning 2:04.984 attempt to catch Jett and then hear the crowd’s reaction when they crested the uphill double just feet apart (photo in the below gallery).
High Point went wild when they saw Ryan Dungey leading the field over the tunnel double. The Red Bull KTM rider told us that he hasn’t been able to match the intensity of guys like Roczen, Tomac, and Sexton, but it’s getting better as the season goes along, and that was evident in his holeshot and lap led in 450 Moto Two. How will the weekend off and upcoming slate of tracks benefit the multi-time champion?
Never thought we’d appreciate a dead battery, but an exhausted pack is what prompted us to put the camera down and follow the Dungey-Roczen battle in 450 Moto One. We were ready for 450 Moto Two, when the two linked up and set the tempo for the early part of the race. Roczen told Weege and JT on Friday night’s Monster Energy Pre-Race Show that Dungey helped him guide him through recent points in his career, and their mutual respect was clear during their duels on Saturday afternoon.
Antonio Cairoli’s time in the US is done, for now at least. The Red Bull KTM rider made it a point to clear up the “KTM isn’t paying” buzz that took over after Thunder Valley, and instead explained that his ambassadorship contract with the brand always included two races, expenses covered, and that there was a bonus in place should he finish 1-2-3. That said, we’d expect to see Tony racing somewhere later in the summer as an effort to get ready for the Motocross of Nations. The people’s expectations of the Italian at High Point were lofty, as the PA track has some GP qualities, until a crash while trying to avoid a bigger incident with Christian Craig in Moto One caused an old knee injury to flare up and prompted the rider to go DNF-DNF.
Pop Quiz: Where are these guys from and how long have they been racing each other?
We’re all pretty sure that Shane McElrath is going to be on the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing bike for the rest of the summer, right? Yes, Dean Wilson is back on the bike and eyeing a return to competition, but it sounds like Malcolm Stewart will take as much time as possible to heal his knee injury and then fine-tune the FC 450. McElrath’s 13-9 ride at High Point put him 10th overall.
Surprise: Garrett Marchbanks is good on the big bike. The CLUBMX rider held his own against the experienced competition in the 450 Class at High Point, with 10-10 results that put him 10th overall. We watched Marchbanks and teammate Alex Martin go back and forth for a good part of Moto Two, a battle that Marchbanks came out ahead in. Another interesting contest to follow will be between Plessinger-Marchbanks-McElrath in the next few rounds, as the three riders are split by five points for spots eight-eleven (Cairoli’s absence will be factor, too).
Enjoy this summer people, because as we’ve said, it really might be a once in a lifetime season now that Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen have openly stated they’re interested in SX-only contracts (Tomac’s recent extension at Star Racing only goes through SX 2023).
Red Bull KTM is running their spool and wire data acquisition system on Ryan Dungey’s forks. It’s important the team gets as much info as possible about the new bike, especially with feedback from someone like RD5, who is very familiar with the technicians, the feel of a KTM, and is always searching for the “perfect” feel from the SX-F.
Twist. Rango told us that El Hombre’s preferred rubber compound, application, and riding style makes it impossible for the left side to stay in place during a moto.
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.