The season opener of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship saw defending champion Eli Tomac take two wins from the first two motos of the season, with Marvin Musquin close behind in second in both races, and Justin Barcia third overall.
In the 250MX class it was also a defending champion making his mark on the season opener, with Zach Osborne straight back into the fray and taking the championship lead into Round 2 from Jeremy Martin and Aaron Plessinger.
Once again, it was Eli Tomac and Marvin Musquin atop the leaderboard. The two title favorites set the top times in practice, with Tomac coming out ahead of his championship rival.
Tomac was the fastest rider in both of the practice sessions, and his best lap (2:15.521) was more than a second and a half ahead of Musquin (2:17.243) and more than two seconds ahead of the rest of the field. Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Justin Barcia was third with a 2:17.986 lap time. Qualifying also marked the return of Ken Roczen, who has been out due to injury since February.
450 Qualifying Results
Eli Tomac, 2:15.521
Marvin Musquin, 2:17.243
Justin Barcia, 2:17.986
Christian Craig, 2:18.133
Jason Anderson, 2:18.274
Blake Baggett, 2:18.603
Benny Bloss, 2:18.664
Weston Peick, 2:19.539
Ken Roczen, 2:19.701
Phil Nicoletti, 2:21.324
450MX Moto 1
The season got underway with a fairly familiar sight—Christian Craig beating everyone to the line for a holeshot. There was a lot of shuffling behind Craig, but at the end of the first lap, it was Jason Anderson, Marvin Musquin, Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen running second through sixth.
Less than four minutes into the moto, Craig relinquished the lead to Anderson. Meanwhile, defending champion Tomac was charging through the field after a relatively poor start. It wasn’t long before he sliced through the field to get up to third behind Anderson and Craig. With Musquin making a charge of his own, there was some more shuffling that put Musquin into second, Tomac into third and Craig into fourth.
About eight minutes into the race, Musquin caught Anderson and made a pass for the lead, and then shortly after, Tomac was able to use the halfpipe to pass Anderson for second place. That set up the battle that many were looking forward to—Tomac vs. Musquin! Not only were Tomac and Musquin the top two title contenders last year (and the presumptive favorites again this year), they also had an incident during the supercross season that added a little bad blood to their rivalry.
While many probably speculated whether Tomac would use some sort of aggressive pass to take the lead from Musquin, it didn’t come to that. Instead, it was an unforced error—going off the track—that cost Musquin the top spot. After Tomac cruised by, Musquin was unable to mount a challenge, and the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider ultimately took the checkered flag by more than 13 seconds. Fortunately for Musquin, the rest of the field was no threat to him, so he was able to cruise to a second-place finish.
Barcia was able to earn a spot alongside them on the podium after passing Anderson shortly before the halfway point of the race. The position looked to be in peril when Anderson stepped it up late in the race and caught back up to him, but Barcia fended off the supercross champ and secured third place. Anderson finished fourth.
The top five was rounded out by Weston Peick, who was able to pass Roczen with two laps to go. Roczen ended up in sixth place—a solid result considering the status of his recovery and his lowered expectations for this weekend—after holding off a hard-charging Blake Baggett on the final lap.
Craig, who lost several positions after a fall earlier in the race, took eighth. Phil Nicoletti and Benny Bloss finished out the top ten.
450 Moto 1 Results
450MX Moto 2
When the gate dropped, it was Phil Nicoletti beating Anderson to the line for the holeshot, but Barcia got by both of them on the opening lap to take over the lead. Barcia led the field for several minutes until getting re-passed by Anderson.
As for Moto 1 winner Tomac, he was well outside the top ten as this race got underway, but then he did what he always does in that situation—make a ton of passes. On his march toward the front, he caught up with his rival Musquin but was unable to pass him. The two title contenders continued moving through the field, and in a short span of time, Musquin got around both Roczen and Barcia to move into second place. Tomac soon followed suit to move into third, but before he could make a run at Musquin, Tomac tipped over in a turn and gave that position back to Barcia.
While Tomac had to deal with passing Barcia a second time, a battle was brewing up front. With about 12 minutes to go on the countdown clock, Musquin caught and passed Anderson to take away the lead. Meanwhile Tomac went on an absolute tear while overtaking Barcia (again) and then Anderson to get into second place.
Clearly Tomac would not be denied. After catching his rival, the reigning champ scrubbed a jump and was able to cut inside of Musquin as they entered the halfpipe to secure the top spot. Tomac was then able to quickly stretch out his lead, while Musquin was forced to settle for second place once again.
Tomac’s 1-1 and Musquin’s 2-2 finishes matched their results from Hangtown one year ago. It also placed them first and second, respectively, overall for the day. Tomac will carry the points lead into Round 2, but Musquin will only be six points back.
“I had a blast today, I felt loose and comfortable on the bike all day, which really made racing easy. I’ve always loved racing here and have had incredible success at this track. It was a really good day and I’m looking forward to Glen Helen.”
“The first round, to get a second-place is a good start. The second moto I got squeezed off the start, Eli and I were a little in the back, and I thought it was going to be a tough one but I was able to come back to the lead, which is awesome. I’m really happy about my riding today. It’s the first race with a new bike setup and we’re not too far off of being 100 percent, so I’m looking forward to next weekend and I’m glad I started the year off right, I would say. We’ll try to get better next weekend.”
The final spot on the overall podium was filled by Barcia (3-3), who passed Anderson to nab a third-place finish in Moto 2. Anderson (4-6) also ceded positions late in the race to Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS teammates Baggett and Bloss but still edged out Baggett (7-4) for fourth overall.
Despite a good start in Moto 2, Roczen—who had been running in third at one point—dropped all the way back to 16th by the end of the race.
450 Moto 2 Results
Eli Tomac 50
Marvin Musquin 44
Justin Barcia 40
Jason Anderson 33
Blake Baggett 32
Weston Peick 30
Benny Bloss 27
Christian Craig 26
Phil Nicoletti 24
Bradley Taft 21
Joey Savatgy emerged from the first practice session with the fastest time and was on track to repeat the feat again in the second session, but then Jeremy Martin and Zach Osborne turned on the burners for their final laps to leapfrog the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider. Martin (2:16.930) was the lone 250 Class rider to clock a lap time under 2:17.
Behind Martin, Osborne and Savatgy, Chase Sexton was fourth and Austin Forkner, who is back racing just one month after breaking his collarbone, was fifth.
250 Qualifying Results
Jeremy Martin, 2:16.930
Zach Osborne, 2:17.128
Joey Savatgy, 2:17.290
Chase Sexton, 2:17.714
Austin Forkner, 2:18.451
Justin Cooper, 2:18.677
Alex Martin, 2:18.687
RJ Hampshire, 2:19.282
Aaron Plessinger, 2:19.339
Jordon Smith, 2:19.362
250MX Moto 1
As Austin Forkner grabbed the holeshot, Justin Cooper and Jeremy Martin made moves of their own. Cooper quickly overtook Forkner for the lead while Martin settled into third ahead of Zach Osborne.
Cooper stayed out front to lead the first official lap, but he had Forkner close behind him the entire time. On the next lap though, Forkner dropped back a bit and found himself in a battle with Martin. After some back-and-forth racing between the two, Martin made the pass to take second place. Forkner soon dropped another position to Osborne.
About seven minutes into the race, Osborne used the track’s “halfpipe” section to make a move on Martin for second place. Though Martin refused to relinquish the position easily, Osborne was soon able to make the pass stick.
With Osborne into second place, he was able to set his sights on Cooper and started applying pressure about nine minutes in. As the two riders went through the new uphill whoops (the ones replacing the old FLY 150 jump), Osborne took an outside line, and as they came out of the turn and headed downhill, Osborne blew by to take over the lead. All in all, it was a formula that we saw from Osborne last year—picking off riders and mounting a patient charge to the front of the field. Once moving into first, the defending champ was able to use the second half of the moto to pull away from the rest of the field.
WIth Osborne checking out, the main action on the track shifted to the fight for second. With under ten minutes to go, Forkner and Martin (who had fallen earlier) both caught up to Cooper and made passes. Forkner and Martin the continued their own battle for several minutes until Martin was able to get to the inside of Forkner and get around him for second place—a position he would hold on to.
Meanwhile Cooper found himself in another tense battle, this time with his teammate Aaron Plessinger. Plessinger, who is coming off a 250 regional supercross title, eventually got around Cooper for fourth and then caught up to Forkner for a shot at third place. They ran into some lappers with two laps to go, but they were able to clear them in time for the final lap. It was shaping up as a dramatic race to the checkered flag, but Forkner surprisingly stalled the bike in a turn, which allowed Plessinger to cruise by to take third place. Forkner quickly recovered and salvaged fourth, while Cooper rounded out the top five.
250 Moto 1 Results
250MX Moto 2
Jeremy Martin edged out Plessinger for the holeshot, but Plessinger got past Martin almost immediately to move into the lead. Martin battled back throughout the opening lap and was able to execute a successful pass as the two riders came out of the halfpipe section, giving him the lead just in time to complete the first lap.
Meanwhile Osborne didn’t get a great start but was able to pick off some riders to move into the top three. Less than five minutes into the moto, Osborne caught up to Plessinger and took the same line that Martin used earlier—going inside of Plessinger as they exited the halfpipe—and moved into second.
Osborne soon caught up to Martin, which initiated a good back-and-forth battle for the lead. After a few minutes though, Osborne was out in front and able to put some distance between the two riders. Though it wasn’t a runaway victory, Osborne maintained a comfortable lead throughout the rest of the race and finished about four seconds ahead of Martin to complete his sweep of both motos at Hangtown.
Osborne, who also swept Hangtown one season ago, will keep the red plate as the series heads into Round 2. Martin’s 2-2 moto finishes earned him second overall for the day.
The battle for third place in the moto came down to Alex Martin and Plessinger. Martin had gotten by Plessinger earlier in the race, but Plessinger started reeling him back in toward the end. Though Martin was ultimately able to hold the Star Yamaha rider off for third place in the moto, Plessinger’s fourth—when combined when his third from Moto 1—was enough to put him on the day’s overall podium in third place overall. Alex Martin (7-3) finished fourth overall.
Behind the veterans, several youngsters were making noise. Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Chase Sexton, took fifth place in Moto 2, and Garrett Marchbanks, making his professional debut, finished sixth. Justin Cooper, who impressed with a fifth-place finish in Moto 1, took ninth in Moto 2 and ended up fifth overall.
One rider who did not finish the race was Forkner. As previously mentioned, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider is only about five weeks removed from a collarbone injury. Though he was cleared to race Hangtown, he pulled off the track midway through Moto 2 and looked to be in some pain. According to NBC Sports pit reporter Will Christien, the team said that it was unrelated to his shoulder injury and instead was a lower back issue.
“It was an awesome day, to go 1-1 and start off with 50 points is huge for the chase. It’s nice to have a good pace and be where we need to be right of the bat. I’m happy with it and hope to carry the momentum into Glen Helen.”
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