Round seven of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship was held over the July 4th weekend in southwestern Michigan. It was the 40th trip to the Buchanan's Red Bull RedBud National for the series, and it was a packed house for this year's event. The second half of the season officially began with this stop, and thus the run to the crown has started in earnest.
The riders and teams at the top of the order cannot rest easy, nor can those who have little hope of a Championship this year. Each and every one of them is vying for the remaining points and the highest ranking which each can achieve. The results that come now are more important than those which came before - there are only five rounds remaining this year.
MotoSport.com, as always, will be along for that ride, and so will you.
The RedBud National was not terribly kind to some of the MotoSport.com supported riders, with several finishing below where we are accustomed to seeing them. It was the Rockstar Energy Racing team which was particularly hard hit. Not only did the team loose 250MX rider Blake Wharton to a nasty illness, both 450MX rider Ryan Sipes and their other 250MX competitor, Jason Anderson, experienced atypical finishes. Fortunately for the team, both were able to earn points at this round.
Derek Anderson, supported by MotoSport.com and taking on the 450cc series, also had a forgettable trip to the RedBud National. Unfortunately, he walked away with no points from either Moto at this round. Nick Wey, MotoSport.com rider also riding in the 450MX Class, on the other hand, had a great weekend. He managed to finish in the points in both of his races and moved up the Championship chart a couple of spots.
Fans of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship are quite familiar with how chaotic this sport can be during any given season. We are witnessing this firsthand at MotoSport.com this year. Keep in mind that there are five rounds - and ten more Motos for each class - left to contest in 2013, and anything may happen at those events. With this in mind, let's look at each individual rider's performance during the July 6th round.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
Riders on the Rockstar Energy Racing team have faced varying degrees of adversity all season long. Even so, for the first half of the season, everyone could be counted on for fairly consistent results. Lately, though, bad luck or just odd circumstance has reared its ugly mug too often for comfort. Ryan Sipes, who seems to have seen more of that than most, once again encountered problems during his races which he had to fight hard to overcome. Jason Anderson started out the weekend brilliantly, succumbed to his own on-track issues, and then recovered for a top-10 finish in his final Moto of the day. Before any of this, though, Blake Wharton was sidelined and there is no official word as to when he will be able to race again this year. A difficult weekend to be sure, but also one which proved just how hard the Rockstar Energy Racing team can push to achieve results even if Murphy's Law will not leave them alone.
Riding for the Rockstar Energy Racing team in the 450MX Class for the first time this year, Ryan Sipes has been dealing with tough competition all season and passing many along the way. However, Sipes came into the Buchanan's Red Bull RedBud National after having experienced his worst weekend so far in the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship at the Moto-X 338 National. That round saw him earn no points at all and he fell six slots due to that. His fortunes turned around a little in Michigan. It did not start out that way, though. In Sipes' first session of Qualifying Practice, the best he could do there was to bring in the 40th quickest lap, a time which would have relegated him to the 450 Consolation Race if he had not improved on it. In his second Qualifying outing, he did just that by shaving nearly four seconds from his lap times and taking in the 12th quickest circuit of the track. This ultimately put him in an overall 20th position for the 20th gate selection in his first Moto.
The first race began and Sipes pulled away from the Start in a high slot. It looked great until the eventual race winner, Kawasaki-mounted Ryan Villopoto, slowed unexpectedly in a corner and Sipes hit his rear; this stalled the Rockstar Suzuki and let several other riders past. At this point, Sipes was at the very rear of the action. Not wanting to hang around, Sipes launched into attack mode and quickly started picking of those in front of him. By the time the checkered flag fell on the race, Sipes had advanced all the way up to 12th position, a Herculean effort. This left him with a better starting slot for the second race, not to mention the impression his run had on his fans. In the second Moto, things were slightly different. There was no collision and Sipes turned in quicker lap times during the early part of the event, but he struggled in the later laps. This resulted in a finish just under his first result and Sipes came home in 14th place. Adding each race's totals put Sipes in 13th overall for the day and earned him 16 points. This week dropped Sipes one position to 14th overall with 111 points, a mere 5 points from advancing to where he was last week in 13th. With a two week break on right now, we all hope that Ryan Sipes will have some time to work on consistency so that the Washougal National, scheduled for July 20th in Washington State, will be another surprising weekend for the class rookie.
Riding for the Rockstar Energy Racing team in the 250MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, Blake Wharton has had a rough season. Last week, at the Moto-X 338 National, he had a vicious Moto 1 crash which led to a bad starting gate in the second race. He did recover and posted an admirable finish. Unfortunately, before Wharton could make the trip to Michigan for the RedBud National, he was diagnosed with a virus. This kept him out of contention and there is no prediction currently for when he will come back. We all wish Blake Wharton a very speedy recovery and a quick return. Perhaps, when the series gets to the next round - the Washougal National scheduled for July 20th in Washington State - he will be healthy, happy and ready to race!
Rockstar Energy Racing's Jason Anderson, riding in the 250MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, was the lone highlight of the team's trip to the Moto-X 338 National last week. He brought home a 5th place overall at that event and secured his place in 6th in the overall standings. At the RedBud National, though, he ran into trouble. Anderson's first session of Qualifying Practice was a little off compared to his previous finishes as the best lap he could turn in was 13th quickest. When he went out for the second session, though, he did much, much better. Riding with the same group, Anderson shaved more than two seconds from his earlier time and came around with the 2nd quickest lap, thus giving him 2nd overall for both sessions of Qualifying Practice. This set him up for a great gate selection for the first Moto as well as giving him a jolt of much-needed confidence. Unfortunately, this momentum could not carry him through what he faced in the race.
Starting out after the gates dropped, Anderson charged forward and was on the heels of the race leaders. It all seemed to be going well until he had a run-in with another rider. This hit damaged Anderson's front wheel, tearing out spokes, and even sending one of those small, sharp steel pieces into his rear tire. Anderson had no choice but to ride into the pits to have his wheels replaced. He then returned to the race, but could only achieve 34th position by the time he came around for the Finish. This put him in the rear for the beginning of Moto 2. He did not stay there for long. He jumped out of the gates when they were dropped and went into the lead group, but he was on the outside. Eventually, he ended up in 15th position, but again it did not last. Pushing through and passing rider after rider, Anderson rode all the way up to finish the race in 6th place, an incredible result given where he started. Overall, Anderson wrapped up the RedBud National with a 13th place showing, netting him 15 points. Jason Anderson now sits in 6th place on the 2013 AMA Pro 250MX Championship board with 176 points, thus staying where he was last week. He has a larger point gap between him and top-5, though, with 36 points now separating him from that slot. After all the misfortune, Anderson turned around a weekend which could have been much worse. It is best to stay tuned as the next round - the Washougal National scheduled for July 20th in Washington State - might just see Anderson impress us all again - this time without having to come from behind!
The Rockstar Energy Racing team did not have the best experience at the Buchanan's Red Bull RedBud National. First, there was the bad news about Blake Wharton being ill and unable to compete. After losing Nico Izzi earlier in the season, this has temporarily cut their field in half. Jason Anderson comes in doing so fine only to have mechanical issues hamper his first Moto - at least he recovered exceptionally well in his second race. Then an unfortunate bit of contact nearly knocked Ryan Sipes to the back in his race, forcing him to use his energy to make up for it. What a weekend it was. In two weeks, when the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship lands in Washington State for the Washougal National on July 20th, the Rockstar Energy Racing team will be ready to go out on the track and dig deep to make this round seem like a far distant memory.
Nick Wey, supported by MotoSport.com and riding in the 450MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, fought hard last week at the Moto-X 338 National to come back from a bad gate choice in his first Moto to make it into the points. However, even with this performance, he lost two slots on the overall chart. If Wey needed any more motivation, he simply had to look to where the season stands now - half way. At the Buchanan's Red Bull RedBud National, Wey arrived needing to find some reliable speed. It was in his first session of Qualifying Practice that he located it. That first go-round netted Wey the 14th best lap. In the next session, Wey slowed somewhat and could only get the 20th quickest lap, but the combined times allocated him the 15th gate selection for his first Moto.
That first race began and Wey had a slow start, but he picked it up and followed with the first half of the order. Throughout the competition, Wey remained consistent and worked to hold position. Once he came around for the final lap, he jumped past the checkered flag in 17th position. Thus, in Moto 2, he found himself a little further down at the start. It did nothing to hamper him, though. When the race started, Wey got a better start than in the first event and managed to get away with the front group. Turning laps slightly quicker than earlier, he held his spot and, when he again went through the Finish, Wey took 16th. His overall position for the weekend of racing was 17th and he earned a total of 9 points, his best all season. In the overall Championship standings, Nick Wey now holds 25th with 27 points; only 9 points hold him out of the top-20. With such an improvement coming from Mr. Wey, perhaps next week's ride at the Washougal National will see him go even further!
Riding in the 450MX Class of the 2013 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship, MotoSport.com supported rider Derek Anderson had an excellent trip to round six. At the Moto-X 338 National, he had his best results all year in the first Moto. He earned points and advanced up the Championship standings. Thus, when Anderson arrived in Michigan for the Buchanan's Red Bull RedBud National, he had some momentum. In his first Qualifying Practice session, Anderson was a bit off from his times at the earlier round, and his best lap in this outing was 34th quickest. He did not manage any more speed for the second session, only netting the 32nd quickest in a session which witnessed the overall times increase for everyone. When combined and compared, Anderson wound up with the 34th gate selection for the first Moto.
When the gates dropped on Moto 1, Anderson ran out and found his way through traffic and had his quickest lap of the race. He slowed slightly, but held his position for much of the competition. In the end, when he passed the checkered flag, Anderson finished in 27th. This at least provided him a better starting slot for the second race. Moto 2 saw even more improvement as Anderson launched well and worked himself into the top half. At the half-way point, though, he encountered some traffic and lost some time. This cost him, but not much. Passing the flag at the Finish in 21st position, Anderson had shaken the issues he faced in practice, but did not earn any points. So, even after pulling a "from-the-back" charge, Derek Anderson left the RedBud National with no points and 26th overall. Fortunately, he did not lose anything in the overall Championship picture and holds in 28th place with 13 points. If he can get a better start by improving his Qualifying, Anderson will start earning more. Can he do it? Watch in two weeks when the racing continues in Washington State at the Washougal National on July 20th.