MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, is preparing to descend into its final month of competition this weekend as the world’s fastest riders make their anticipated return out west and the annual visit to the scenic Pacific Northwest. The Motosport.com Washougal National, presented by Peterson CAT, will serve as the ninth round of the season this Saturday, July 26, and in an effort to add to the excitement of the series’ anticipated return to Washougal MX Park, the Huffman family has introduced a “Celebrate Our Heroes” theme to the festivities, honoring all of our country’s service men and women.
In the spirit of the afternoon, fans, riders and teams are all expected to be adorned in their patriotic best, whether it’s camouflage or the iconic combination of red, white and blue. This atmosphere will only add to the excitement out on the track as the championship battles in both the 450 Class and 250 Class prepare to hit the home stretch. While both Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin both hold comfortable leads over their championship rivals in each respective title fight, with four rounds and eight motos still remaining, anything can still happen and neither championship is even close to being decided.
Last weekend at Spring Creek, Roczen knew he would have to fend off a significant challenge from his teammate Ryan Dungey who was returning to his home track with considerable momentum after a big win at Budds Creek the week prior. In the end Roczen weathered the storm and lost just two points to Dungey in the championship, but his unblemished record of finishing on the podium in every moto came to an end in his 16th attempt. Despite the addition of a season-worst result of fourth to Roczen’s totals this summer, he still maintains an incredible 1.75 average and carries a 24-point advantage into Washougal.
Considering Roczen’s worst outing of the season thus far swung just two points into Dungey’s favor, the former two-time series champ still has a tremendous amount of work to do if he’s to close in the deficit to his teammate. As a three time 450 Class winner at Washougal and winner in five of his last six attempts at the facility, Saturday could be another opportunity for Dungey to gain that ground he desperately needs.
While the focus on the title fight still remains, the emergence of a rising star not only stole the spotlight at Spring Creek, but will also me a major storyline coming into Washougal. GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac officially introduced himself as a future championship contender in the 450 Class after a convincing 1-1 outing in which he caught and passed Roczen, and also held off a hard-charging Dungey. Since making his debut following an injury four rounds ago, Tomac has been a staple up front and many felt it was only a matter of time before the world would witness the kind of performance he had at Spring Creek. Even more impressive is Tomac’s ninth-place standing in the championship despite missing eight motos this season. He’s finished on the overall podium in each of his starts thus far and will ultimately play a role in Roczen and Dungey’s continued battle for the championship. Tomac has cemented himself in the role of spoiler and following his first win, he’ll only become more of a factor as the season winds down.
Over in the 250 Class, Martin took care of a home track advantage last weekend at Spring Creek and made another huge step towards securing his first career title. His first career moto win and overall victory at his parents’ track was memorable in its own right for the sophomore rider, but adding to his points lead in the championship battle capped off a near-perfect day for Martin. With a class-leading four overall wins and seven moto wins to his credit, Martin brings a 43-point lead over his teammate Cooper Webb into Washougal, nearly one entire round of competition.
Despite having never been in such a high-pressure position before in his young career, Martin has handled the weight of leading the championship and carrying the red number plate like a veteran. Having a training partner like Dungey can go a long way in handling the load, but Martin has gotten the job done when it matters most, on the track. While he’s experienced some ups and downs along the way, his finishing average of 2.8 is as consistent as you’d expect from a title contender and his ability to come back from a midseason slump proves he’s more than ready to be in the position he’s in.
Martin has shown no issues in settling for second when a fellow competitor is riding exceptionally well and with a near two-moto advantage in the standings, don’t be surprised to see his patience increase even more from here on out.
With Martin’s comfortable lead, the pressure now rests squarely on Webb and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett to step up and make the championship interesting. Both riders have amassed similar stats this season and have proven on multiple occasions that they have the speed to climb through the field and make a charge to the front no matter where they start. However, their shared inconsistencies out of the gate have ultimately hindered their chances at even better results and more points. Whenever Webb and Baggett have started up front they’ve stayed there, but when forced to do battle against the incredibly deep field of talent in the 250 Class, the opportunity to encounter misfortune and adversity increases dramatically. As a result, both riders possess a mixed bag of results that have now forced them into somewhat of a “win at all costs” scenario for the remainder of the season. With Baggett serving as a former winner at Washougal, you can expect he’ll be looking to bounce back from a DNF suffered in the final moto last weekend, when he crashed out of the race while leading.
Washougal MX Park has hosted a round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship since 1980 and features arguably the most picturesque setting of any track in the sport. Nestled within thousands of fir trees and a stone throw from the Washougal River, Washougal is a favorite for enthusiasts because of its incredible location and is a destination event for any motocross fan. Its truly unique track layout winds in and out of the trees that line the circuit, and also sends riders up and down what it affectionately known as “Horsepower Hill.” The track surface is a mix of loam and hard pack, which results in a truly challenging task for riders to maintain control while also finding much needed speed.
Last year at Washougal, Ryan Villopoto won for the very first time at his home race in five attempts, outlasting Dungey in a thrilling battle for the win that ended up in a tie for the overall but weighed in Villopoto’s favor by virtue of his second moto victory. In the 250 Class, Tomac was dominant en route to a 1-1 effort and his first career win at the track.
Action for the Motosport.com Washougal National on Saturday, July 19, begins at 11:30 a.m. ET with timed practice. Opening ceremonies get underway at 3:25 p.m. ET, with the first gate drop scheduled for 4:05 p.m. ET.