The first round of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship was a repeat of the first round of the 2017 season—at least when it came to the winners. Eli Tomac and Zach Osborne both earned 1-1 sweeps at Hangtown for the second straight year and took the early points lead in their respective championship battles.
The question now is, will the rest of the 2018 season play out the same way as last year, with Tomac and Osborne both taking championships at the end of all 12 rounds?
Recency bias might suggest that Tomac and Osborne are unbeatable right now, but take a look back at what happened last year when both riders came to Glen Helen fresh off their 1-1 sweeps: Tomac went 2-19 (the result of a brake malfunction) and finished 19th overall; Osborne managed to win the overall but went just 4-2 and did not win either of the 250 motos (Jeremy Martin looked like he could have swept Glen Helen but threw away his shot by crashing into some track banners on the opening lap of Moto 2).
In other words, it’s too early to overreact and hand these titles over to Tomac and Osborne, but both riders are certainly on the right track. A down day at Glen Helen likely wouldn’t be the end of the world for either of them, but for the other competitors trying to take the red plates away from them, losing more ground in the championship battle could prove costly.
THE INJURY LIST
The list of who’s in and who’s out looks roughly the same as last week. One notable rider who picked up a new injury at Hangtown was Austin Forkner, who hurt his ribs at the start of Moto 2 and was unable to finish the race. Despite that, Forkner still plans to line up at Glen Helen.
GLEN HELEN GETS AN UPDATE
Fans might notice that the track, known for its steep hills, has a new layout this year. You can see this year’s layout by watching the animated track map below (for the sake of comparison, here’s the animated map from last year).
STORIES TO WATCH IN THE 450 CLASS
Can Musquin make his move?
For the second year in a row, Marvin Musquin started off his season by finishing 2-2 behind Tomac. But not only did Musquin win last year’s Glen Helen National, he also left Southern California with the points lead. Will history repeat itself this year?
Can anyone challenge the front two?
Tomac and Musquin were in a league of their own last weekend. Although he was unable to beat Tomac, Musquin still finished about 20 seconds ahead of the rest of the field in both motos. Podium results are nice, but if anyone else wants to be taken seriously as a title threat, they’ll need to prove capable of keeping pace with the two frontrunners. Justin Barcia came the closest at Hangtown with a pair of third-place moto results but was still far behind Tomac and Musquin; meanwhile Jason Anderson and Blake Baggett didn’t have their best days at Hangtown but were both podium finishers at Glen Helen last year.
How will Roczen fare in Round 2?
Coming off several gnarly injuries in the last year and a half, and with minimal time on the bike preparing for the outdoor season, two-time 450MX champion Ken Roczen didn’t have high expectations for himself at the season opener. He had good starts throughout the day but wasn’t able to stay at the front of the field for a full moto. Roczen ended the round with 6-16 moto finishes and was just outside of the top 10 overall for the day. He should improve as the season progresses though, so keep an eye on him in San Bernardino.
Will Bradley Taft continue his privateer power?
One of last weekend’s most impressive finishes in the 450 Class belonged to Bradley Taft, who powered his way to a top-10 finish as a privateer. Taft parted ways with the CycleTrader/Rock River Yamaha team after the supercross season, then went out and bought a Husqvarna the Tuesday before Hangtown. With only a few days of prep on the bike, all he did was go out and score 11-10 moto finishes for 10th overall. Taft will try to build on that at Glen Helen as he showcases himself for a potential fill-in ride. For more on Taft’s big performance, check out the interview he did with Racer X.
Alex Ray’s debut
With Cooper Webb still recovering from his broken leg, Alex Ray will have the opportunity to fill in with Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing. Ray did not race Hangtown last week as he instead continued testing with the bike, but he will make his factory debut at Glen Helen. After that, Ray will also race the next two rounds, and then the team will take it week-by-week until Webb is cleared to return. Ray has appeared in 13 Pro Motocross races since 2014, including two last year. His best overall finish so far is 25th, which he earned last season at Washougal with 22-28 moto finishes.
STORIES TO WATCH IN THE 250 CLASS
Can Jeremy Martin strike back?
J-Mart rode well at Glen Helen last year. He won the first moto and then grabbed the early lead in the second moto before crashing into the track banners and falling to the back of the pack. Coming off 2-2 finishes at Hangtown, Martin could certainly take the red plate from Osborne if he puts in a strong performance on Saturday.
Separating the contenders from the pretenders
One round into the season is too early to start making any definitive declarations about who is in and who is out of the title chase, but after this weekend’s race, we could start to see some separation. With the 250 Class as deep as it is, consistency will again be an important factor. Can riders like Aaron Plessinger and Alex Martin keep pace with Osborne and Jeremy Martin at Glen Helen and keep themselves in the championship conversation?
How high will Justin Cooper ascend?
Justin Cooper continues to impress. In just his fourth Lucas Oil Pro Motocross appearance, the Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha rider led the first four laps of Moto 1 and continued to be a factor throughout the race en route to a fifth-place result (both in that moto and overall) last week. The hype machine around Cooper was kicking into overdrive before the season even started, and he backed that up when it came time to race. Now we’ll wait and see what heights he’s able to hit this summer.
LINKS FOR ROUND 2