Out with the Indoors, in with the Outdoors.
The 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series starts on Saturday at Hangtown just outside Sacramento, CA and officially ushers in 50 years of Motocross in America.
The celebratory champagne sprayed just two weeks ago after the conclusion of the 2016 Monster Energy Supercross season is barely dry as riders prepare and test for a completely different setup on their bikes.
Of course, Ryan Dungey, the defending 450 class Motocross Champion, had an extra week to relish back-to-back Supercross Championship but it didn't keep him from leaving it all on the track in Las Vegas as he took the win and now looks to complete back-to-back Championships in Motocross. He is a heavy favorite to repeat as Champion but don't expect an easy time if he does.
Ryan Dungey finished runner-up to Eli Tomac last year at Hangtown
Dungey didn't blister out the gate to start the 2015 Outdoor season and got his first Moto win and overall of the year in Round 3 thanks to Eli Tomac's season ending injury in Moto 2. Until the thump heard 'round the Motocross world that ended his undefeated streak and ultimately his year, Tomac looked unstoppable demolishing the field, even Dungey, winning Moto 2 at Hangtown by 90 seconds.
Eli Tomac was on a whole nother level last year until his crash in Round 3
Tomac also enters the 2016 Motocross season as a heavy favorite especially now that he seems dialed in on his new bike, his new team, new shoulders and showed flashes of his 2015 brilliance on the more Motorcrossy tracks this year in Supercross. Tomac finished the year with three straight podiums and notched a win at the very Motocross-like track at Daytona.
But if Ken Roczen has anything to say his momentum and confidence entering the 2016 Motocross season could be enough to stop any talk about a Dungey repeat or Tomination. The mud in Las Vegas didn't stop Roczen but a mistake off a jump did which ended his night, a five race podium streak and his bid to end the year with three straight wins. But forget about that.
Roczen seemed to have finally figured out Dungey, though it was too little too late for a Supercross title, his wins in Foxborough and East Rutherford weren't even close. It looked more of the same in the final round until he hit the dirt and bowed out of the race giving way to Dungey's career best ninth win of the season.
Ken Roczen won't ride the #1 plate this year but he's ready to take it back
Roczen won the 2014 Motocross Championship by just 14 points over Dungey when the two were teammates. A rough outing for Dungey in Moto 2 of the penultimate round that year at the Ironman helped open the door for Roczen as the two battled all season trading wins.
Dungey, Tomac and Roczen behind the gates every round this summer could very well bring one of the most intense and exciting Motocross Championship contests in recent memory.
But don't even think about counting Trey Canard out. He's healthy after a Supercross season which he still managed a Top 10 finish despite missing essentially three rounds. Canard's injury in Supercross last year kept him out of Motocross until Round 9 but he didn't miss any rounds for the 2014 season and won four out of the final five Motos that year for a third-place finish. If he can finish the season without injury and grab solid starts, something that plagued him all year in Supercross, he might finally add a 450 Championship to his 250 class title from 2010.
Justin Barcia came within six points of finishing runner-up to Dungey last year and everything changed for him after stopping Dungey's ascension, in the mud, at Budds Creek. He got his first career win that day and followed it up with another overall win at Red Bud. Barcia's Supercross season did not go as planned after thumb surgery took him out of action for nine rounds and he didn't look sharp for the final six rounds of the season but as long as he's 100 percent he'll fight for podiums every week.
Jason Anderson finished third this year in Motocross and last year in his rookie 450 year took sixth-place in Motocross. A Moto win eluded him in 2015 but he took second twice and if his improvement from his rookie year of Supercross is any measure, expect Anderson to be in the mix.
Marvin Musquin ended his 450 rookie Supercross season with a whimper but until that crash in Santa Clara he looked battle primed to contest Anderson for third-place in the standings. If his wrist injury is healed he'll no doubt look to erase the memory of last year's bike malfunction in the final round that ended his chance to win the 250 Championship.
Now in the 450 class, Marvin Musquin finished second but tied in points last year with overall winner Jeremy Martin in the 250 class at Hangtown
Others to watch include Blake Baggett, who finished a solid fourth last year, Andrew Short is expected back for his swan song and Josh Grant has a ride so it'll be interesting to see what he can do all summer.
We won't be watching Davi Millsaps who is headed to Canada along with Mike Alessi and Vince Friese, which should make Weston Peick happy. Brett Metcalfe is also sticking with the Canadian Nationals, as well. So, good luck to them up north. Chad Reed is taking the summer off save for a few select MXGP rounds.
The 250 class might be the runaway usually reserved for the 450 class as Jeremy Martin attempts three straight Championships and doesn't have Musquin to battle this year. The next closest competitor to Martin and Musquin last year? Joey Savatgy who finished third, 131 points back from second place. The 250 Championship might be over by Southwick!
It could be a long season for the 250 class field if Jeremy Martin returns to form
Savatgy could make it interesting though now that he's proven to be a formidable competitor in Supercross and grabbed his first career overall win in Motocross last year. He's got the talent and certainly the confidence to prevent Martin from three-peating.
The wild card is Cooper Webb. He was injured last year to start the season then made a splash once he recovered and returned for Round 6. But Webb enters the 2016 season injured again, this time a broken wrist incurred during a practice crash several weeks before Supercross ended. The injury is similar to the one that forced Charlie Mullins into retirement. He toughed it out to win the 2016 250SX West title and plans on contesting the 250 class in Motocross but his effectiveness - to be determined.
Others to watch include last year's Rookie of the Year Aaron Plessinger who finished second in Supercross to Malcolm Stewart in the 250SX East class and ended last year's Motocross season with his first career win. Christian Craig found new life after emerging from retirement last year. He finished third in Supercross which included a win and a five race podium streak.
Everybody's favorite up-and-comer Austin Forkner makes his pro debut on Saturday and Tristan Charboneau is also making his pro debut. Both bring in some highly touted credentials from Loretta Lynn's.
We won't be watching the just-crowned 250SX East Supercross Champion Malcolm Stewart. He's opted to take the summer off and prepare for his first year in the 450 class next year in Supercross.
Who steps on the podium this round? We'll make our guess, leave us yours:
- Eli Tomac
- Jason Anderson
- Ryan Dungey
- Jeremy Martin
- Aaron Plessinger
- Austin Forkner
The 2016 Motocross season might pick up where the 2016 Supercross season left - in the mud. Forecast calls for wet weather which is probably better than the 97 degrees expected today. Gates drop for Round 1 on Saturday.