Round two of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship was held in Lakewood, Colorado, at Thunder Valley over the Memorial Day Weekend. It was a long jump across several mountain ranges from the first round in Sacramento, and it was certainly also a long drive for teams and riders. At least the weather cooperated and it turned out to be a warm, mostly sunny day in the dirt. In other words, it was a good day for outdoor off-road racing.
This was only the second round of a twelve round series, but no one expected the Thunder Valley National to be anything other than grueling - riders need each and every point they can earn and all were ready for what it took to get them. Thus, no one had an easy weekend, and every team member worked diligently to get their rider to the front of every event.
The MotoSport.com supported riders entered the event as ready as anyone and this proved to be a very good plan indeed as every one of them qualified for their respective races. Privateers Derek Anderson and Nick Wey both did this for the second consecutive weekend. The Rockstar Energy Racing team also had their entire stable - Ryan Sipes, Jason Anderson, Nico Izzi and Blake Wharton - with a chance to earn Championship points. So, it turned out to be a trip full of potential for those wearing MotoSport.com badges.
Now that everyone has left Thunder Valley and is on the way to the next event, the Tennessee National, let us see what will be written in the history books under the MotoSport.com racers:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
Last week came out well for the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team with all riders making the grids in their assigned Moto classes. Even newly promoted rider Ryan Sipes impressed in his debut in the 450MX series with two top-ten finishes. The 250MX riders - Wharton, Anderson, Izzi - all earned points as well, each finishing well if not as high as we witnessed in the indoor series. This is all good for the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross season since no one left without earning something for their Championship, thus keeping Rockstar Energy Racing in the hunt for both crowns. Thunder Valley then was an opportunity to keep up the pace, with every team member from mechanics to managers working to improve these finishes. Time to look at each individual rider:
Rockstar Energy Racing's new premier class rider Ryan Sipes surprised many fans at the Hangtown Classic round by not only easily qualifying for the mains, but also coming home in the top ten in both of that round's races. It would be hard to have a better start given the level of competition on hand. With the arrival in Thunder Valley, Sipes needed to back up his previous results to demonstrate his consistency, and so the pressure was on. In his Qualifying Practice, Sipes lapped a bit higher up the order compared to the previous week. His first trip out had him in 5th overall, but his second trip saw a slightly slower fastest lap and one rider significantly improved over his first run. This gave Sipes the overall 6th quickest lap of the day thus handing him the sixth gate choice for Moto 1. Unfortunately, this high start did not figure into the results Sipes had in that first race. Even with the gift of position, Sipes could not get ahead of any other riders and he finished in 19th place in his first race. He thus found himself with the 19th gate selection for Moto 2.
Starting out that second race a little better than the first had Sipes gain some positions quickly, but shortly afterwards the race was in full swing. With some hard charging and well-crafted passes, Sipes moved up the order one by one. In the end, he had managed to overcome some hefty odds to finish up in 13th. The combined performance only netted Sipes 10 points for the weekend and dropped him a couple of places to 8th overall with a total of 37 points. He has to pick up 12 more points to move up to 7th. After debuting so well, the finishes which Sipes brought in for the Rockstar Energy Racing team this weekend were a little underwhelming. However, it is early days now and Sipes is showing solid signs of getting comfortable with his new mount. Hold on, the ride is sure to get even wilder and Sipes knows what he is doing.
Blake Wharton, riding for the Rockstar Energy Racing team in the 250MX series, also experienced some improvement during his time in the Thunder Valley dirt compared to his lap times in the Hangtown Classic. This was mostly seen in his improving speed and decreasing lap times. In his first Qualifying Practice run, he had the 16th fastest lap of 68 participating riders. Wharton's second ride in Qualifying was slightly better than that first lap; he pulled in with the 14th quickest loop. Combined, the two laps gave him 15th gate choice for the opening Moto. In Moto 1, Wharton came out of the gate hot but about mid-pack. He did battle with several riders in the opening laps and bested them as he moved up. However, Wharton could only make up some ground and, in the end, he moved up a few spots to finish in 14th position. Starting from that spot in the night's second Moto helped him somewhat.
At the start of Moto 2, Wharton shot out with the top group of riders, but it was a relatively large crowd. Like he did last week, Wharton managed a better second race than his first. When he came around for the checkered flag, he had moved up the chart handily and brought the Rockstar team an 8th place finish. The combined results earned Wharton a total of 20 points and moved him up two spots in the standings. Wharton now sits in 12th place in the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross 250MX Championship with 35 points, only two points behind 11th. Wharton's ride in Thunder Valley was worth five more points than Round 1, and does a fine job of demonstrating his continual progression. Perhaps next week we will be fortunate enough to see Wharton go even higher.
The Rockstar Energy Racing team's Jason Anderson, also riding in the 250MX class, had a somewhat different trip to Thunder Valley when compared to his teammates. After producing stellar lap times, which earned him the second quickest lap time in qualifying last week, Anderson had a much tougher time of it this weekend. His best time in the first Qualifying Practice session was 10th quickest. When Anderson returned for the second Qualifying session, though, his final time was better. Unfortunately, it did not do much to move him up on that list. His best in that run was in the same slot as his first, and with other riders also improving in their second attempt and the quickest of the two times being used to determine final placement, Anderson found himself with 13th gate selection for his first race that night.
When the gates dropped on Moto 1, Anderson pulled away with the top half of riders and went into the first lap within this top group. It would not stay like that for long, though, as Anderson began to reel in the leaders lap by lap. His continually improving lap times indicated that he may be having a better race than his practice. It turned out to be more than just an assumption when the first Moto was done as Anderson had moved his way into 5th overall by the time the flag fell. It was a brilliant ride and set him up with the fifth gate choice for Moto 2. The second Moto did not turn out as well for Anderson, as he was passed several times on his way around the track due to his lap times running a bit longer. At the flag, Anderson rode his Suzuki to a 12th place showing, somewhat under his Moto 1 performance. In the end, Anderson walked away earning 25 points for the day, exactly one more than he earned the week previous. That gives him a total of 49 points and 7th place overall in the 2013 running of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross 250MX Championship. He only has one point holding him back from the next slot, so pay close attention to Anderson next week - he could advance even more!
Dominic, AKA Nico, Izzi also rides for the Rockstar Energy Racing team in the 250MX class of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship and seems to be fully recovered from the injury he encountered early this year. His trip to Thunder Valley was a little better overall than his Hangtown Classic ride even if his practice times were slightly slower than last week. In this first Qualifying Practice session, Izzi actually placed right about where he did in the previous week's practice. That first run was good enough to be the 7th quickest overall lap time among all riders. His second ride in Qualifying, though, was where he lost some time. Izzi had the 11th quickest lap in that second session, and his fastest time placed him 10th overall. Of course, this means that he had the 10th gate choice for Moto 1. Being passed by a teammate is not something any rider wants to experience. Unfortunately for Izzi, this happened in Moto 1 when Jason Anderson managed to get by him in the early going. In the end, when the flag fell at the end of that first race, Izzi stepped back a little compared to his start and finished in the 11th slot.
In the second Moto, starting almost from the same place as in Moto 1, he could not get up to the same speed as he had in that first race. After dueling with his teammate and two other riders throughout much of the event, the best he could finish was right behind Jason Anderson in 13th. This finish combined with that of Moto 1 and earned Izzi a total of 18 points. That is enough to hold him in 16th place overall in the 2013 250MX Championship with 23 combined points - only three behind 15th - and it is a marked improvement over the mere 5 points he grabbed last week in Sacramento. Izzi is steadily rising up through the ranks, improving bit by bit. Next week it could get even better.
It was a trip of improving fortunes for most of the Rockstar Energy Racing team, with the majority of riders showing determined advances at the Thunder Valley National. Ryan Sipes was the only team member who slid a little this weekend, but he is on an all-new-to-him machine in an also new-to-him class. As the rounds pile up, Sipes should get more comfortable and, if his debut at Hangtown is any indication, he should move up the order quickly. The 250MX crew of Blake Wharton, Jason Anderson and Nico Izzi all earned more points at this round than last - a most telling fact. The next round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship will be the Tennessee National at Blountville on June 1. Get the schedule set and prepare to watch the Rockstar Energy Racing team duel in the dirt.
Nicholas "Nick" Wey, uncharacteristically, did not see his fortunes improve during his trip to the Thunder Valley National for the second round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. After last week at Hangtown witnessed him come back from a 29th gate selection in his first Moto to finish in 21st, and then place 19th in his second race, he was looking to find himself in that same range in Colorado. Unfortunately, in his first session in Qualifying Practice, the best he could muster was 27th position. The second trip was a bit slower and he finished in 29th. With one rider from another group getting a faster time, this gave Wey the 30th gate selection for the first Moto. When the gates dropped for Moto 1, Wey got away with the second half of riders going into the first corner. Riding hard and fighting for each position he gained, Wey crossed the Finish a little higher than he started in 27th.
Thus, in Moto 2, he found himself almost at the same spot where he took on the first race. This second race was a better result for Wey, though, as he managed to move up in the order and he took the checkered flag in 23rd position. Even with a performance which fell some from last week, Wey still managed to take away from Thunder Valley a well-earned 25th overall for the weekend. Unfortunately, that means he did not add to the 2 points he picked up last week and he now holds 27th in the overall points for the 450MX Championship. Nick Wey is a veteran, and the season has only just started, so watch this space because he will be ready to dice it up again next week - hopefully, higher up the charts!
Derek Anderson did see his results get better when he took to the track in round 2 of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at the Thunder Valley National. Last week in Hangtown, Anderson had to take his craft to the 450MX Consolation Race to qualify for the night's Moto events, but not this time. His first session of Qualifying Practice was far better than the position he earned in Round 1, and he brought his Kawasaki home with the 22nd quickest lap. The second trip, with the track settling in, Anderson only managed the 28th quickest, but that first time combined with it to produce for him the 24th gate selection in the first Moto. He must have felt good to pass on that Consolation hassle this weekend. It only got better in Moto 1. Starting in the back half makes it difficult to grab position, but Anderson handled it well. When the flag dropped at the end of the Moto, he had worked his way up to 17th. It sure made it look like it would be a better start in Moto 2. However, the second race was more of an effort for him. After fighting very hard, he was passed a few times, and he ended the night's final event in 22nd place. The overall position Anderson achieved was 19th and he earned 4 points for his work. With last week's results, this places Anderson in 24th overall for the 450MX Championship crown. This turned into a good night for the hometown hero (Anderson is from Arvada, Colorado), and Derek Anderson is gaining momentum. Next week in Tennessee, he might be even faster!
Overall Results 450
1. 2 Ryan Villopoto Seattle, WA Kawasaki
2. 1 Ryan Dungey Belle Plaine, MN KTM
3. 51 Justin Barcia Pinetta, FL Honda
4. 41 Trey Canard Oklahoma City, OK Honda
5. 800 Mike Alessi Canoga Park, CA Suzuki
6. 925 Clement Desalle Suzuki
7. 7 James Stewart Jr. Suzuki
8. 28 Tyla Rattray Wildomar, CA Kawasaki
9. 922 Kevin Strijbos Suzuki
10. 15 Dean Wilson Wesley Chapel, FL Kawasaki
11. 32 Malcolm Stewart Murrieta, Ca Honda
12. 33 Josh Grant Corona, CA Yamaha
13. 46 Weston Peick Wildomar, CA Suzuki
14. 12 Jake Weimer Rupert, ID Kawasaki
15. 20 Broc Tickle Holly, MI Suzuki
16. 35 Ryan Sipes Elizabethtown, KY Suzuki
17. 49 Phil Nicoletti Bethel, NY Yamaha
18. 29 Andrew Short Smithville, TX KTM
19. 63 Derek Anderson Arvada, CO Kawasaki KX 450F
20. 867 Fredrik Noren Suzuki
Overall Results 250
1. 17 Eli Tomac Cortez, CO Honda
2. 94 Ken Roczen Murrieta, CA KTM
3. 338 Zach Osborne Honda
4. 25 Marvin Musquin Corona, CA KTM
5. 1 Blake Baggett Grand Terrace, CA Kawasaki
6. 77 Jeremy Martin Millville, MN Yamaha
7. 40 Martin Davalos Cairo, GA Kawasaki
8. 21 Jason Anderson Edgewood, NM Suzuki
9. 175 Cooper Webb Yamaha
10. 34 Justin Bogle Cushing, OK Honda
11. 13 Blake Wharton Pilot Point, TX Suzuki
12. 317 Justin Hill Kawasaki
13. 30 Dominic Izzi Rochester, MI Suzuki
14. 43 Cole Seely Murrieta, CA Honda
15. 396 Dillan Epstein Kawasaki
16. 38 Kyle Cunningham Aledo, TX Yamaha
17. 194 Jackson Richardson Cairns, Australia Honda
18. 87 Lance Vincent Youngsville, LA KTM
19. 176 Joseph Savatgy KTM
20. 157 Jacob Baumert KawasakiRace Recap for Hangtown, here.