The fourth round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the High Point National, was held in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, at High Point Raceway on June 8. Though the event was preceded with two days of constant rainfall, Saturday dawned with sunshine and warmer temperatures. The track was another story, though, as the additional moisture made for a wet, severely rutted and rough circuit. A great day for racing usually leads to quicker lap times and better performances, but the High Point soil made it very difficult even if it presented fans with plenty of excitement.
A full third of the 2013 Championship season is now complete; only eight more stops remain for racers to earn points towards a crown. With points accruing unevenly as they do in most racing, those who finish at the top of the charts have began to pull away from those who are inconsistent or cannot get to the front. This does a very good job of making each successive weekend's racing ever more critical and important - all points count. High Point was, then, as any fan would expect it to be - crazy!
With the full set of MotoSport.com sponsored riders in action at the High Point National, there are several stories to cover from the event. The Rockstar Energy Racing team, consisting of Ryan Sipes in the 450MX Class and Jason Anderson, Nico Izzi, and Blake Wharton in the 250MX series, had the entire team up and racing. Nick Wey and Derek Anderson were in fine form and both qualified for the evening's races. And, with the return of WMX for this round, Jessie Wharton also ventured out to do battle amongst her rivals on the Pennsylvania dirt.
Another weekend done and another set of results, all in pursuit of the sport's most coveted prize - the Championship. With our favorite group of riders all doing their best to advance their cause and to bring entrainment and an unrivaled sense of determination to the series, we should all be happy simply to see them compete at this level. However, in reality, we very much want them to do well, to win races and, hopefully, that crown; and, if they give us a show while they are at it, so much the better. Let's take a quick look at where everyone finished and see just how wild the ride was for each one of the riders flying the MotoSport.com colors.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki
At the High Point National, the fourth round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, the Rockstar Energy Racing team had most of their riders see improvements in some areas here in Pennsylvania compared to last week's run at the Tennessee National. It was, however, a mixed weekend for the Rockstar crew. On the bright side, Ryan Sipes had a significantly better Qualifying run this week which led to a better finish in the Races. However, while 250MX riders Blake Wharton and Jason Anderson also had better practices, they had very different experiences in the Motos. And then, as if to really throw a wrench in the works, Nico Izzi experienced a season-ending injury. Of course, what counts is where they finished the races, so here goes:
Ryan Sipes has continued his impressive debut in the 450MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship through the first third of the season. His time there has not been without pitfalls and problems but, this being his first time racing against series veterans, he has done better than many expected. Last week, at the Tennessee National, saw Sipes finish in an uncharacteristic 21st spot in his second race, and that cost him position in the overall standings. Motivation is what he came away with, though, not desperation. In his first session of Qualifying Practice in Pennsylvania, Sipes had to deal with the rough track surface but still managed to pull off the 9th quickest lap. That was not what he wanted, so in the second session, Sipes pulled out the stops. When Qualifying wrapped up, he took away the 5th quickest lap and, even with the slow first session, 5th overall gate choice for the first Moto.
The first Moto was again a rough ride, but Sipes did not seem to have any more problems than those around him. After having to fight for position against at least two other riders at the front, Sipes brought his Suzuki through the Finish in 6th place; a good start to the racing. This provided for him about the same starting point for the second race. Sipes had to duel with almost the same set of riders he faced in the first Moto while racing in the second. Again, once the checkered flag was dropped at the finish, Sipes rounded the last bend and took 6th place. Those two identical results earned Sipes 7th overall for the High Point National weekend and a precious 30 points. This week he managed to move himself up two positions in the overall standings and Sipes is now in 8th place with 79 points, a mere 16 is needed for him to move up to 7th. Given that the track was a rutted mess, this performance is a good sign that Sipes can cope with changing conditions and serious competition at the same time. What this means for Rockstar Energy Racing in two weeks time is anyone's guess, but we'll keep looking for Ryan Sipes to move up the order and get even better!
In the 250MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, Rockstar Energy Racing rider Blake Wharton also managed to get ahead of his Tennessee National practice results. The track may have been rutted, but a look at Wharton's lap times would not demonstrate this very well. After his first session in Qualifying Practice, Wharton recorded the 4th quickest circuit of the track - an incredible result. In the second session of Qualifying, other riders also managed to get into the groove, so to speak, and Wharton came away with only the 17th swiftest lap. The best time of all sessions determined that Wharton had the 14th gate selection for the first Moto.
The gates dropped on Moto 1 and the riders took to the rutted track with a purpose. Wharton made it out with the first half of riders and ended up running in 16th to 15th for much of the first part of the race. However, with only two laps remaining, Wharton dropped back further and further and finally retired from the Moto. He was officially listed as 35th in that event, setting him up for that gate selection in the second Moto. Wharton's second race of the day went much better. Even with a start near the rear of the field, he pushed hard in the race, beating his lap times from the day's Qualifying as the track got better and better and he finished Moto 2 with a 12th place showing. This 23 position advance earned him 9 points and an overall finish for the High Point National of 15th. After four rounds, Wharton now holds 14th place overall - a slight drop from last week - with 66 total points, a mere 3 away from 13th. The weekend was tough on Wharton, and all we can do is trust that, two weeks from now, he will use this to propel him forward!
Jason Anderson appears to be working on becoming a consistent challenger in the 250MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. Last week he finished both Motos in the same spot, and he is always found at the front riding somewhere in the top ten once the gates drop. The trip to High Point in Pennsylvania seemed to continue this. In Anderson's first session of Qualifying, he appeared to be enjoying the damp and rutted track on his way to riding the 5th quickest lap out there. The second session was a repeat of the first, but everyone was quicker, and Anderson again was a solid 5th after shaving nearly four seconds from his best time to that point. The work there paid off for him in terms of Moto gate selection.
Once the first Moto got underway, Anderson was running high up the order challenging the race leaders. He was in a very tight 6th spot at about half way through when his race hit its biggest snag. While dueling with another rider, Anderson was knocked down and had to deal with handling a re-start on an uphill. Once he was moving again, his position had changed dramatically as other racers had passed him while he was down. He found that he was relegated to about mid-pack. He managed to move up a few slots on his way to finishing this first Moto in 12th. Thus, he did not get the same gate selection in the second Moto. In that race, however, Anderson fared better. He had to do battle with the essentially the same group of riders, but no one pushed him into the dirt this time. At the flag, Anderson had moved far enough ahead to bring home a 7th place finish. His two combined finishes netted him 10th overall for the weekend and a most useful 23 points. Anderson is now holding on to 6th place overall in the Championship standings, but he is 27 points back of 5th. Had Anderson not had the "encounter" in his first Moto, he would surely have earned more. What does this mean for him in two weeks? Stay tuned.
For 250MX rider Nico Izzi, the trip to the High Point National for the fourth round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship would be one he would like to do over. As anyone who watched either live or on video archive knows, the track had suffered through several days of heavy rain before the Pennsylvania track hosted this event. That led to damp conditions and an extremely rutted circuit. The weekend started out well enough for Izzi, as in his first Qualifying session, he was the third quickest rider out there. His second trip was a little slower as the other riders in his class began to come to grips with the track, but he still pulled in with the 9th most rapid ride.
Izzi's weekend came to an abrupt halt in that session, though. He caught his toe in one of the many ruts and twisted his leg severely in one of the faster corners. It was the very same leg which he injured earlier in the year that led to him sitting out the 2013 AMA Supercross season. Izzi must now return to surgery to repair a nasty tear to his ACL - again - and will be sitting out the remainder of the 2013 AMA Pro Motocross season. Bad luck? Maybe. However, this is the price to be paid when a rider pushes the limits of what the human body can do. We all wish Izzi a very successful repair and an extremely quick recovery!
Well, the Rockstar Energy Racing team had yet another tough weekend to work through. Losing Nico Izzi will be hard not only on the young rider, but on the team which supports him. You can be sure that they will be doing whatever they can to assure his quick return; it's just that it will likely not happen this season. Ryan Sipes pushed through the nasty conditions at High Point and came away earning more points than he did at the previous round. This is another good sign for the newbie 450MX competitor. Blake Wharton suffered from a series of issues which prevented him from making any progress, but he managed to earn points anyway. And, demonstrating one of the more important aspects of winning, consistency, Jason Anderson is holding steady and has shown evidence that he can move forward even more. It was as if the team experienced the entire spectrum of racing at the Pennsylvania round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross, with only one exception - victory. Maybe, in two weeks time, when the whole circus moves to the Budds Creek National in Maryland on June 22, we will have the pleasure of watching one of the Rockstar Energy Racing riders stand atop the podium. Much is possible in racing when you have a talented group of riders like this...
Last week, during a rough run at Muddy Creek in Tennessee, Nick Wey had to come back from a middling Qualifying performance to finish in the top 20. This run from behind showed promise and most fans were looking forward to watching what Wey could do when he took to the dirt in the High Point National. Fortunately, no one had to wait very long. In his first Qualifying session, Wey had already improved on what he did in Tennessee by riding the 19th quickest. However, Wey turned up the heat for the second session. Riding with the same group, he bested many of those faster than he was in the first practice with the 14th most rapid lap. His gate selection for the first Moto was then 11 places further up the order than what he had the week before!
Once the gates dropped on the first race, Wey got away with the front half as expected, but the track was seriously rutted and damp, so it was a test of endurance for everyone. Wey fought hard with many of the factory-supported riders, pushing himself and his bike for more, but could only manage to equal his results from last weekend's first Moto. He finished in 19th and earned 2 points. The second Moto was better. Lining up back of where he did in the first race, Wey had a steeper hill to climb. Climb he did, and when the checkered flag dropped on the second Moto, Wey had made his way up to 17th place. That meant another 4 points for a total of 6 and an overall 17th place for High Point. It was enough to move him up in the overall 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship standings to the 24th slot. He is in a virtual tie with 23rd, but he has 19 points between him and the top 20. Nick Wey is moving forward on that chart, though, and his results get better each successive round. Once again, keep your eyes on #27 on June 22 at the Budds Creek National in Maryland - he has the power to surprise!
Here, at the High Point National round of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, 450MX rider Derek Anderson had a weekend which did not see him move much from where he was at the last round. Back at the Tennessee National, he easily qualified for the Motos, but was unable to earn any points in the races. It did represent an improvement, though, and something on which Anderson could build. He probably would have continued this trajectory in Pennsylvania if the weather had not altered the track dramatically - it was rutted and damp. Those conditions often have different effects on different riders. For Anderson, it seems to have held him right where he was the previous week. In his first session of Qualifying Practice, Anderson really struggled and only could lap with the 35th quickest time. However, he made up for this in his second session with the 24th best lap. That gave him a far better start than he would have had otherwise. In the first Moto, Anderson found himself in a pitched battle for position with riders he had wrestled with in practice.
He came away from Moto 1 with a 24th place finish, thus landing him the same gate choice as he earned in Qualifying. When the gates dropped on the second race, Anderson got away from the Start a little higher up than he did in the first race. This had him dueling with a slightly different group and his results improved. Anderson finished in 21st place when the checkered flag fell on the final Moto. Unfortunately for him, though, both of his finishes were out of the points. He still has only 4 points presently and sits in 29th place in the overall standings. Hopefully, when the riding begins at the Budds Creek National on June 22nd, Derek Anderson will be hungry for more!
Finally! The second event of the WMX Class from the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross season was held at the High Point National in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania, and it was about time! Jessie Wharton, riding a Kawasaki KX-250F in the series, was more than likely waiting with serious anticipation to get back to work in the dirt - racers want to race. So, it was with this long break over that Wharton finally was able to compete again. In her first practice on the severely rutted track surface, Wharton could only pull off the 22nd quickest lap time. However, when she went out for the second Qualifying Practice, she went much faster and pulled herself up the order to finish with the 19th swiftest lap which gave her an overall of 20th place. So this is where she started for Moto 1.
Once the gates dropped and Wharton was off the line, she found even more speed. It was mostly from the track finally drying out as everyone seemed to ride better, but she had dropped her lap times by more than 30 seconds by the end of the race. She managed to grab a 17th place with that ride, earning her four more points and a better start in the second Moto. In a similar fashion to Moto 1, Wharton worked her way up through the crowd of riders in this race. She made passes and cut precious hundredths of a second from her lap times. When she finally came across the Finish for the final time at High Point, she registered a 14th place. That earned her seven more points, but it did little to her overall standings. With only one round remaining in the 2013 WMX Triple Crown Championship, Jessie Wharton now holds 16th place overall with 20 points. The next time we will see her in action in the WMX will be the Moto-X 338 National in Southwick, Massachusetts, on June 29th. It is such a shame that we will only get to watch Jessie Wharton do her job on the track three times in 2013, but it does make every WMX event that much more important and far more entertaining for fans!