Author: David Bulmer
Surprisingly it is now officially the halfway point in the 2011 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, I say surprisingly, because it already seems like so much has happened in the six rounds we've had so far.
In the 450s, Chad Reed has suddenly become the dominant force in outdoor motocross but is only one slip-up away from becoming runner-up in another championship this year. Remember Ryan Dungey running out of fuel? That was just four rounds ago?! And those 25 points he dropped, well add them to his tally and he'd be sitting pretty in the lead right now. It's been that kind of year.
Mike Alessi did a practice session, got injured, then returned and now sits 9th in points. Kevin Windham led some races, retired and then made his comeback, without actually missing any racing and sits 6th in points, just seven points out from 4th. Christophe Pourcel... well, long story short, he's back in Europe now and with fewer friends than he had before.
The 250s meanwhile has been dominated by the Pro Circuit team with all 12 motos so far being won by a Mitch Payton machine, and in particular Blake Baggett who's won 7 of 12 and the last four on the bounce. Wilson still leads him in points, but the gap is only 14 now and Baggett has a lot of momentum.
But this week is a week off and a chance for all the riders to grab a much needed break. These guys have only had three weekends off since the beginning of the year and I'm sure being able to sleep in this Saturday will come as a welcome relief, to some riders more than others.
One such rider who seems to need a change in fortune as much as anything is Geico Honda rider Justin Barcia. His last four results have been 9-12-DNF-DNF and for the current East Coast SX Lites Champion, that just isn't good enough. Rumors have been swirling about his wrist injury and him suffering from mono but the fact is for a lot of fans, if you're out on the track, you can race. Something that will have endeared him to the fans is that after the racing on Saturday, Barcia stayed behind to ride a 250 2-stroke on Amateur Day at Red Bud, even cranking out Larocco's Leap on the "old" beast. Hopefully this is a sign that Barcia will have a bit more fun in these upcoming races, something that I think will benefit everyone watching.
Another rider who will be hoping a rest will change his fortunes is the fourth member of the PC Kawasaki team. I say fourth member because at the moment, he's the only rider on the team not to have a won a moto and that would be Broc Tickle. It seems that winning a Lites title has been a curse because Broc hasn't shown his best form either so far outdoors in the first half of the year. There is definitely time for him to turn it around though and he'll be more determined than anyone to add his name to the moto wins list.
On the bigger bikes, the interesting thing will be whether Mike Alessi can break into the top 3 or not. So far only Davi Millsaps (three times) and Brett Metcalfe (once) have broken up the Reed, Villopoto, Dungey trifecta and finished on the podium. But Alessi, since coming back has come 4th three times and I'm sure he (and his KTM bosses) are dying to get on the box and receive some well-deserved recognition. It hasn't been a good year for KTM in America so far, and with Short struggling back from a bad start, they'll be praying that in the next six races, podiums and perhaps even a race win are in the orange bikes' future.
One rider who has received plenty of (well deserved) recognition is "veteran" rider Kevin Windham, who can finally get that break he promised his family earlier in the year. When news spread of his postponed retirement, every fan who was thinking about attending Millville, Washougal, Unadilla, Southwick, Steel City and Pala immediately changed their status to "definitely going". Any chance to see K-Dub is worth taking, especially this year when he's really stepped up his game, and with the threat of it being his last year hovering overhead. Still, as we've seen, six races can last a lifetime so there's still plenty of time to witness the #14 in action and you never know, he might be the one to break into the podium spot.
One rider who's been sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the chance to report for duty this summer is Windham's teammate, Trey Canard. Injury has meant the Honda rider has yet to twist the throttle and his return at Millville will certainly spice up proceedings at the top of the 450 class. As we've spoken about, breaking up Reed, Villopoto and Dungey has been a tough act to perform, but if there's one guy who can, it's Canard. The title is obviously long gone but the youngster from Oklahoma will be trying to prove that he's capable of challenging outdoors on the 450, just like he did indoors during his rookie 450 supercross season.
However, it will be another week before we see anyone in action and no matter how much anyone says they like a week off, we'd all much prefer to see some racing and if the next six rounds are as good as the first six, everyone will be happy.