Thunder Valley - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
For the first time since he was rocking the number one plate, Jeremy Martin will have the red plate starting at High Point. It's been a long time, and frankly I wasn't sure if he'd ever hold the red plate again in the 250 class, but here we are. He's looking the best he has since 2015, and he's also in the best position he's been in since then. A 2-1 performance in Colorado gave him his first overall win of the season, and it'll be interesting to see how many he has by the end of the year if he continues to ride as well as he currently is. Obviously, Aaron Plessinger and Zach Osborne aren't going to just roll over and let Jeremy start stretching out his lead without any resistance, but with Aaron showing signs of inconsistency already, and Zach having a string of bad luck, Jeremy has a real chance to add a little bit of extra cushion to his lead over the next couple of rounds. It was also cool to see Jeremy battle his brother throughout the day. It was some of the most intense racing of the season, and it was pretty clear that they were having some fun. Can you imagine battling your brother for a professional motocross overall win? Cool stuff.
The Good Bonus: Justin Cooper | 3rd Place Overall
This is Justin's first year racing the entire Lucas Oil Pro Motocross circuit, so it's pretty cool to see him grab a moto win in his first year. Hell, he still has nine chances to grab an overall win, so it very well could happen. He said in the post-race press conference that he was dealing with a little bit of sickness over the weekend, which may explain why he faded in the second moto. It also makes the first moto win more impressive, as I wouldn't expect a rookie (or most riders) to win a race while not at 100 percent. You never know what's going to happen when a young kid comes into the season with a ton of hype behind him, but so far Justin is holding up pretty well.
The Bad: Joey Savatgy | 17th Place Overall
Joey always seems to gel with the Thunder Valley track. It definitely seems to fit his calm and collected riding style. He never really looks out of control, and that seems like it'd be an advantage on a rough and challenging track like Thunder Valley. But, it was not meant to be this year as his bike let go as he was leading with a few laps left in the first moto. He was absolutely gutted, as were most people watching I imagine. It's extremely frustrating to have a computer project or document crash on you when you're 90% done, forcing you to start over completely. The motivation is completely gone. But can you imagine how much more frustrating it must be to get through nearly 90% of a professional motocross race, just to have your bike blow up? I wouldn't want to talk to anyone for quite a while, and I'd probably still be fuming as I lined up for moto two. Joey seemed to want to get revenge in the second moto, as he tried to pull the holeshot from one of the outside gates, but he came in way too hot and slammed into Zach Osborne who had to change up his line heading into the first turn. Both of them went down, and while Joey re-joined the race pretty quickly he was still way behind the main pack of riders. His lap times were solid for the majority of the race, but in the end he was only able to get up to 12th which gave him 17th overall for the day. That's not what he, or Mitch Payton, were hoping for. It's looking like it's going to be a bit of a rough season for the Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad.
The Ugly: Zach Osborne | 11th Place Overall
Zacho is a real man's man. Messed up thumb? No big deal. Oh, messed up the thumb again? It's gonna hurt but no problem. Dang, popped my shoulder out in the first turn? Let me just pop that sucker back in, ignore the fact that my thumb is probably even more swollen, and go all-out in the race to get one championship point. These past two rounds really have not been kind to Zach, but the man is a workhorse and I can guarantee that he's going to fight tooth and nail to try and claw back every single point until he's holding the red plate again. He wants to become the first 250 rider to win four titles in a row (2 SX, 2 MX) before he moves up to the big bike next year. Luckily for him, we have a week off so he can let his body heal and then hopefully re-mount a charge back towards the top of the standings starting at High Point. No championship is easy to win, but this one is being set up to be the most challenging one yet for Zach.
The Good: Benny Bloss | 5th Place Overall
Hey, hey, hey! Motocross' resident giant is starting to show some real speed outdoors. He has really started to pick up the pace over the past two weekends and if he continues to improve we may see him score a podium in the not so distant future. Would a couple of podiums be good enough for him to secure a contract extension with Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM? I would like to think so, but at the same time a lot of dudes will be available this coming off season, so he's one of many riders that are kind of in a state of uncertainty. I think he will find himself on some sort of factory-supported equipment next year, though. There's too much potential there for him to not find a spot somewhere.
The Good Bonus: The Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac Battles Are Back
One thing that has been missing over the past year or so is the battles between Ken Roczen and Eli Tomac. These two guys have been battling each other hard since their 250 class days. But despite being rivals most of their careers, they have always been incredibly respectful towards each other. They also seem to enjoy battling each other, as both of them have referred to their battles as "great" over the past couple of weekends. Kenny isn't quite back to 100% yet, and I think it'll probably be closer to round five or six before he's able to keep up the pace for an entire moto, but once he's back to having a full moto's worth of fitness...we're going to be in for some real sweet battles. Man, it really is fantastic to have Kenny back. Without him, Eli may very well have been an invisible man these past two rounds, making a few passes to get to the lead and then disappearing until the cameras show him on the last lap.
The Bad: Marvin Musquin | 4th Place Overall
Marvin has not been looking Marvtastic (it just felt right) out there lately. What's going on here? I understand he's on a new KTM. I get it, but even with that I would have expected him to bring the bike around to a decent place by round three. It almost seems like he's not getting along with the rougher tracks (which Glen Helen and Thunder Valley traditionally are) this year. He seems to be riding a bit cautiously, I suppose. Whenever the cameras did show him on Saturday (which wasn't very often) he didn't look to be on the attack, just not looking like his normal self. We'll have to see how he fares over these next few rounds, but he's already 28 points down in the championship...it's time to get winning.
The Ugly: Jason Anderson Sustains Injury
Blech. Last week it was Christian Craig, and this week it was Jason Anderson going down with an injury. I was really hoping that after a rough Supercross season we'd be spared an injury-filled motocross campaign, but it's not looking like that'll happen. I was also really looking forward to seeing Jason score his first motocross overall, but now that quest has to be put on hold. Now the question becomes whether he'll try to come back later in the season and secure a spot on the USA Motocross of Nations team, or just rest up and enjoy a couple of months off until he starts preparing for the 2019 Supercross season? I think, and hope, that he tries to race the Motocross of Nations. We could use him on the team this year (although Blake Baggett wouldn't be a bad pick, either).
Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson