Riders won't pound sand but certainly expect to play in it as the halfway point to the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships series takes place Saturday in the sandy confines of the Southwick National in Southwick, MA.
And, while Southwick hasn't been too kind to Justin Barcia (a distant third overall in 2016 and 11th last year) in the past he just might bury a few riders like a cat handling business in the sandbox if he continues what he brought last week in Tennessee. Barcia needed to find the speed and speed he found taking second in both Motos finishing less than eight seconds behind Eli Tomac in Moto 1 and less than four behind Marvin Musquin in Moto 2. Compare that to the week prior when he finished third overall and rolled in 41 seconds behind Musquin in Moto 1 and nearly double that in Moto 2.
How about that pass on Weston Peick in Moto 1? It won't soon be forgotten and will highlight his career reel when it's all over.
Justin Barcia had his best round of the year at Tennessee
But that was then and this is now and right now Tomac fully controls this series having won every round thus far and eight of 10 Motos. The defending Champion looks well on his way to repeating and bad news for everyone else, he rips in the sand. He's swept the last two years at Southwick and won there in 2013 for the 250 class. By all accounts expect his current 32 point lead over Musquin to increase by a minimum of six when the final checkered flag drops.
Though Musquin has yet to land on the podium at Southwick - last year he was managing a knee injury - and missed it by one point in 2016, he's the only other rider in the 450 class this year to win a Moto and in the two he claimed he fully challenged Tomac. Last week's Moto 2 win forced Tomac to dial it back and settle for third.
Marvin Musquin is winning...but not enough
Ken Roczen probably represents Tomac's biggest threat on paper this weekend finishing second in 2016 and trading Moto wins in 2013. Roczen grabbed the holeshot twice last week (leads the 450 class with three) and led five laps in Moto 1 but so far his hand injury incurred during Supercross seems to prevent him from staying up front for 30+3. In fact, in terms of laps led, Roczen ties Musquin for second most number of laps led with 26, yes, far behind Tomac's 79. He's finished fourth overall the last two rounds but managed to take third in two of the last four Motos. If he picks good lines and rides a high gear he just might lead the field the whole way for one Moto.
Elsewhere, Blake Baggett has not found the magic that propelled him into last year's title fight before a thumb injury derailed his hopes. He has seven Top 5s including two third-place results but nothing yet upfront or anywhere near it. He finished second last year at Southwick riding with that bum thumb so a healthy Baggett just might find some retribution this year. The field gets a bit crowded this weekend too as Justin Bogle and Cooper Webb return to action for the first time. Justin Hill, who jumped from the 250 class to the 450 class at High Point, will remain a 450 rider for the duration of the season.
The Gold Standard - Eli Tomac is proving very hard to catch
The 250 class lost another contender as Jeremy Martin's season ended after a crash in Moto 2 last week resulted in a burst vertebrae. As it stands, the defending Champion Zach Osborne and two time Champion Martin both OUT.
That bodes well for Aaron Plessinger who keeps the Red Plate despite a seventh overall last week in Tennessee. Plessinger has swept twice this season but following both victories with subpar performances. His 20 point lead heading into Tennessee briefly shrunk to seven over Martin (midway through Round 5) who won that first Moto but then by day's end defaulted to 29 as Alex Martin, currently in third, should pass his injured brother for second after this weekend.
Alex Martin needs to ride like this and stay on two wheels this weekend
Speaking of brother Alex, two nasty get-offs ended a possible sweep for him last week as he led in both Motos before taking a dump. Any dumps this week should offer a softer cushion with the sand but he'll need to stay on two wheels all day to pinch off points from Plessinger and this week offers a solid chance. Martin took third last year and fourth the year before while Plessinger crashed out last year and finished fifth in 2016.
Elsewhere, Justin Cooper lost all sorts of momentum after taking second in Moto 1 last week but unable to grab points after crashing with Jeremy Martin in Moto 2 and finishing 28th. He's OK but missed a chance to pass Alex in the standings and remains in fourth-place. The no-point Moto allowed fifth-place Austin Forkner to gain some ground on Cooper, now 15 points back; the same for Shane McElrath who got his first career victory last week and jumped from ninth-place in the standings to sixth, just 10 points behind Forkner.
Can Shane McElrath follow-up his first career win with another overall?
Last week's overall podium featured all first-timers for the year as Dylan Ferrandis finished second overall along with his first Moto win of the season and Chase Sexton took third overall. Ferrandis, who returned just two rounds ago from an injury in Supercross, has a decent chance to gain some ground in the standings as he took second last year at Southwick losing the overall on a tie-breaker to Osborne.
Our Podium Picks for Southwick:
- Eli Tomac
- Ken Roczen
- Justin Barcia
- Alex Martin
- Dylan Ferrandis
- RJ Hampshire
Check out the track map for Round 6:
Hot and HUMID on Saturday. Have fun with that. Gate drop for the 250 class at 1 p.m. (EST) followed by the 450 class at 2 p.m. and Moto 2 starting at 3 p.m. (EST). MAVTV covers Moto 1 for both classes live and you'll have to wait on Moto 2 as NBCSN tape delays until 8 p.m. (EST).
2018 Motocross Season Standings
- Eli Tomac (242)
- Marvin Musquin (210)
- Justin Barcia (184)
- Ken Roczen (169)
- Blake Baggett (164)
- Weston Peick (148)
- Benny Bloss (126)
- Phil Nicoletti (118)
- Cody Cooper (80)
- Jason Anderson (73)
- Aaron Plessinger (199)
- Jeremy Martin (176)
- Alex Martin (170)
- Justin Cooper (158)
- Austin Forkner (143)
- Shane McElrath (133)
- Jordon Smith (133)
- RJ Hampshire (120)
- Chase Sexton (118)
- Joey Savatgy (112)