Eli Tomac effectively ripped the Red Plate off Marvin Musquin's bike last week and now Round 9 of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series has suddenly turned into the most anticipated National of the year with riders heading to the Pacific Northwest on Saturday to race among the evergreens at Washougal MX Park in Washougal, WA.

Tomac and Musquin again provided some epic racing last week at Spring Creek just a round after a 35 point swing gave Musquin the points lead for the first time all season. It didn't last for long as Tomac avenged a mechanical failure and some crashes resulting in an overall forgetful outing in Minnesota with methodical, aggressive racing that not only made a statement but put him back in the driver's seat with a seven point lead heading into Washougal. Tomac's pass on Musquin with a few laps remaining in Millville secured the sweep and helped further etch his name into Motocross lore:

To understand the impact of the pass you must go back to the Foxborough round in Supercross when Musquin laid Tomac out for the Round 15 win and then Tomac's own personal track demons setting the stage a few weeks ago for Musquin to turn this last half of the 2018 season into an actual series. Tomac, the defending Champion, at one time was riding away with the Championship but if RedBud proved anything, titles, much less back-to-back titles, don't come easy.

Eli Tomac has won 11 of 16 Motos so far this season

Now the two converge on a track that Musquin enjoys (he swept last year dominating Tomac by more than 10 seconds in both Motos; Musquin also swept in 2014 and took second on the tie-breaker in 2015 while in the 250 class) and one Tomac also brings success but yet to win outright in the 450 class. Indeed, he got the overall in 2016 after Ken Roczen settled back in Moto 2 and let Tomac by but did sweep in 2013 while in the 250 class.

So who shows up? It's a tale of two riders and with 200 points remaining on the season all indicators have these two battling to the end with Justin Barcia and Ken Roczen, separated by eight points, fighting for the final spot on the Championship podium. That's not to say neither one can win or get in the mix for individual races but it seems only mechanicals and crashes allow anyone to catch the two fastest riders.

Can Marvin Musquin get the red Plate back this weekend?

Roczen is the only other rider to win a Moto this year outside Tomac and Musquin and he appeared headed for a second Moto win last week until Tomac finally passed and pulled away in Moto 1. Roczen settled for second overall and his last four Motos look like this: 1-3-2-3. His best stretch of the year, matches Musquin in points the last two rounds and shaves 15 points off Barcia's hold on third. Of course that includes Tomac's bike failure which allowed Roczen to secure his first Moto win of the year. But Roczen rides consistently upfront these days, is third in laps led and can force others into mistakes. He too can win at Washougal.

Ken Roczen (right) needs just a little more to keep Eli Tomac (left) from passing

In the 250 class, Aaron Plessinger swept the last two rounds and boasts a commanding 49 point lead over Alex Martin, the only realistic rider who can contend for the 250 title. Justin Cooper, who finished second overall last week sits in third 94 points from first. Martin missed a chance to close the gap on Plessinger with a third-place overall at his home track in Millville.

If past success helps, Martin brings it to Washougal with a dominating win in 2016 while Plessinger reached the podium in a distant third-place three years ago. He placed outside the Top 5 the last two years though he won a Moto last year, finishing sixth overall on a tie-breaker to RJ Hampshire in a round highlighted by Joey Savatgy taking the overall by one point over Zach Osborne, Dylan Ferrandis and Adam Cianciarulo.

Aaron Plessinger has seen a lot of Checkers the last two rounds

Speaking of Ferrandis, a three-round podium streak ended at Spring Creek and he didn't finish in the Top 3 for one of the two Motos, something he's managed all season since returning from a Supercross injury at High Point. He took third overall last year at Washougal.

Our Podium Picks for Washougal:

450 Class

  1. Marvin Musquin
  2. Eli Tomac
  3. Ken Roczen

250 Class

  1. Dylan Ferrandis
  2. Alex Martin
  3. Joey Savatgy

Check out the track map for Round 9:

By the way, all of us at MotoSport consider Washougal our "home race" and this year comes the honor as title sponsor for Round 9. Expect a lot of #TheGuysThatRide milling about and feel free to come say "hi" under our tent near the triple. Bring your hats, glasses and sun screen. Expect blazing hot temperatures in the upper 90s with nary a cloud in sight.

Moto 1 for 250 class drops at 1:10 p.m. (PST) followed by the 450 class at 2:10 p.m. on Saturday at Washougal MX Park in Washougal, WA. Moto 2 drops at 3:10 and 4:10, respectively. MAVTV broadcasts Moto 1 for both classes live while Moto 2 gets tape-delayed on NBCSN airing at 8 p.m. (PST.)

2018 Motocross Season Standings

450 Class

  1. Eli Tomac (351)
  2. Marvin Musquin (344)
  3. Justin Barcia (296)
  4. Ken Roczen (288)
  5. Blake Baggett (270)
  6. Weston Peick (223)
  7. Benny Bloss (199)
  8. Phil Nicoletti (196)
  9. Justin Hill (114)
  10. Kyle Cunningham (107)

250 Class

  1. Aaron Plessinger (333)
  2. Alex Martin (284)
  3. Justin Cooper (239)
  4. Austin Forkner (216)
  5. Shane McElrath (214)
  6. RJ Hampshire (201)
  7. Jordon Smith (197)
  8. Chase Sexton (195)
  9. Joey Savatgy (177)
  10. Jeremy Martin (176)