Tomac Rebounds for Second Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Victory of the Season at Muddy Creek to Tighten Points Gap
Plessinger Captures First Victory of the Season in the 250 Class
BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (June 24, 2017) - The fifth round of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, hosted the fifth annual Tennessee National in the picturesque valleys of Muddy Creek Raceway, which marks the championship's only stop in the Southeast. Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac ended an unexpected hiatus from the overall podium to capture his second 450 Class victory of the season, his first since the season opener at Hangtown. In the 250 Class, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Aaron Plessinger emerged with his first victory of the season, and the second of his young career.
As the opening 450 Class moto roared into the first turn, it was AutoTrader/Monster Energy/Suzuki/JGRMX's Justin Barcia who led the 40-rider field to capture the Motosport.com Holeshot, followed by Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Jason Anderson and RCH/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's Justin Bogle. There was no shortage of action on the opening lap as Barcia and Anderson battled each other aggressively, passing each other several times for the lead. When the field stormed past the finish for the first time it was Anderson, Barcia, Bogle, AutoTrader/Monster Energy/Suzuki/JGRMX rider Weston Peick and Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Trey Canard, who made his first start of the 2017 season, completing the top five.
While Anderson set a fast pace at the front of the field the battle for second and third began to intensify as Bogle, Peick, and RCH/Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing's Broc Tickle went bar-to-bar. Tomac circulated the opening lap just inside of the top-10, but was a man on a mission as he carved his way towards the front. Tomac quickly found himself sniffing a podium position, moving onto the rear fender of Bogle and eventually blasting his way past the Suzuki rider for third on Lap 5. Tomac continued to drop the hammer as he lowered his lap times and set his sights on Barcia for second.
Anderson was riding flawlessly in the lead and used his best ride of the season to build a large cushion on his nearest competitor. On Lap 7, Tomac closed in on Barcia and wasted no time as he motored by to overtake the early race leader for second. RMATV/MC/WPS/KTM's Blake Baggett, who entered the day holding the red plate as the points leader for the first time in his career, got off to a slow start. However, in typical "El Cupacabra" fashion, he gained momentum with each lap of the moto. Baggett would set up Barcia and hold his KTM wide open to sweep around the outside for second on Lap 11. A small tip over cost Baggett time on Lap 15, but he remounted without losing any positions.
As the checkered flag waved it was Anderson who slowed late and cruised to his second moto win of the season, just 4.5 seconds ahead of Tomac in second. Baggett rode well to come from behind and round out the podium in third. Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing's Marvin Musquin, who entered the race second in points, was buried mid-pack on the opening lap and charged to seventh at the finish.
Bogle powered his Suzuki down the start straight to take the Motosport.com Holeshot in Moto 2, followed by Canard, Tomac, Peick and Anderson, while Baggett found himself on the ground at the tail end of the field in 38th. A crash by Bogle on the opening lap cost the early race leader several positions and allowed Tomac to inherit the number one spot. By the completion of the opening lap, Tomac held a commanding lead over Canard and Anderson.
Just as Anderson looked to have full control of third, he made a bobble that allowed both Bogle and Peick to slip back around on Lap 2. Anderson was quick to regain his composure and mounted another charge, passing Bogle to move back into third on Lap 3. Just a few corners later, Anderson would muscle his way into second with an incredible pass on Canard. On Lap 5, Bogle hounded Canard and eventually made the pass stick towards the end of the lap for third.
Tomac refused to slow down at the front of the field, continuing to add to his already impressive lead and pull away from his competitors. While Bogle pushed hard in hopes of capturing his second podium finish of the season, fellow Suzuki rider Peick caught fire and was pushing for a way around. Peick made the pass stick for third on Lap 9. Meanwhile, Baggett was putting in an inspiring come-from-behind ride that saw him storm into the top 10, then the top five, and to the shock of the field, onto Peick's rear fender for the final podium spot. Baggett bounced his way past Peick down one of the tracks rough straightaways to overtake him for third.
When the checkered flag waved, Tomac's dominant performance allowed him to win by more than 30-seconds for his fourth moto win of the season, and let his competitors know that he's back in top form. Anderson held on to the runner-up spot, while Baggett came from the back of the field to finish third and salvage invaluable points in the championship.
The 2-1 effort for Tomac was enough to clinch his second victory of the season and seventh of his 450 Class career. Anderson (1-2) ended the afternoon tied with Tomac atop the standings, but missed out on his first career 450 Class victory via the second-moto tiebreaker. Baggett (3-3) completed the overall podium in third.
"It's been a long time coming, and it feels really good to get another win today," said Tomac." I had a few off weeks, some struggles, but some days are good and some days are not so good. I went home and tried to fix the bad things and come back better improved into this weekend. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season as I feel some of my best tracks are coming up."
Baggett continues to lead the 450 Class standings, but is now just four points ahead of Tomac, who moved into in second.
"It was another tough weekend battling through the field to be up here on the podium," said Baggett. "Ideally a holeshot or two would have made our day a lot easier today. The first moto went okay, but these guys [Eli Tomac and Jason Anderson] just out rode me and that's the bottom line. I got hung up with Cooper [Webb] in the first turn of Moto 2 and just had to put my head down and charge through the pack the entire race in order to salvage some points and get on the podium."
Anderson's second place finish moved him to third in the standings, 19-points out of the championship lead. A DNF for Musquin in the final moto resulted in a 14th-place finish (7-34) and caused the Frenchman to drop from second to fourth in the standings, just one week removed from leading the championship.
The first 250 Class moto saw Plessinger lead the incredibly talented field around the opening corner to grab the Motosport.com Holeshot, with the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki duo of Adam Cianciarulo and Austin Forkner in tow. As the trio sprinted at the head of the field, Forkner had a scary moment that saw him pull off a brilliant save as he got sideways off of a jump in an attempt to pass Cianciarulo. At the completion of the first lap, it was Plessinger, Cianciarulo, Forkner, Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Alex Martin and GIECO Honda's RJ Hampshire in the top five.
Plessinger and Cianciarulo set a blistering pace out front, matching each other's lap times as they clicked off lap-after-lap, and began to distance themselves from the field. Forkner, who began to lose time on the race leaders, ran a strong, consistent pace as he maintained control of third. Martin and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Zach Osborne, the championship leader, clawed their way through the field and began to set their sights on Forkner for third.
As the 30-minute-plus-two-lap moto began to wind down, Plessinger refused to give an inch as he navigated the tricky conditions and started to put distance between himself and Cianciarulo. Behind them, the battle for the final podium position started to heat up, with Martin hot on the heels of Forkner, while Osborne managed to close in on both riders form fourth.
Plessinger remained unchallenged during the final laps of the race to win his first moto of the season, 4.9 seconds ahead of Cianciarulo. The final podium spot went to Forkner, who fended off the hard-charging Martin and Osborne. GEICO Honda's Jeremy Martin, who entered the race second in points after earning his first win of the season last weekend, suffered from a first-turn crash and was able to battle his way back to 13th at the finish.
In Moto 2, Plessinger used his razor-sharp reaction time to get the jump on his competition yet again and emerged with his second Motosport.com Holeshot of the day, narrowly edging out Forkner and Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM's Sean Cantrell. The first moto winner instantly attacked the rough and rutted race track, leading the opening lap as Forkner, Osborne, Alex Martin and Cantrell were in hot pursuit. Just after crossing the finish line for Lap 1, Cantrell suffered a crash over one of the jumps that would put an end to his day and force him to retire from the race.
As Plessinger was looking to repeat his first moto performance out front, Osborne was determined to challenge for the win at his home race that was littered with friends and family throughout the facility. Osborne blitzed his way around Forkner on Lap 1 to move into the runner-up position. Once into second, he immediately put his head down and started to chip away at the deficit to race leader Plessinger.
Plessinger and Osborne shadowed each other's every move, with Osborne finding the quicker lines and searching for a way around. On Lap 6, Plessinger made a couple mistakes that dramatically slowed his momentum and altered his line, ultimately allowing Osborne to get around and take over as the new race leader. Just like in Moto 1, the final podium position was up for grabs and created an all out war as Forkner rode his heart out to hold off Alex Martin. With the race nearing the 30-minute mark and fitness beginning to play a key factor, Forkner was under heavy pressure from the KTM rider.
Osborne held on to a 4.1 second lead and took the checkered flag for his fourth moto win of the season. Plessinger's strong start helped him finish the moto in the runner-up position, while Forkner managed to maintain his hold of third despite the heavy pressure from Martin.
Plessinger's (1-2) moto scores were good enough to give him the overall win on the day. Osborne (4-1) used a strong second moto performance to finish second overall, his best result at his home race, while Forkner (3-3) netted two consistent moto finishes for third overall.
The win was Plessinger's first of the season and ended a 16-race gap since his last victory at the season finale as a rookie in 2015. It was also the first overall win of the season for the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team, who has won four consecutive races at Muddy Creek.
"It was an awesome first moto and such a good feeling to finally grab another win," said Plessinger. "I grabbed the holeshot and just opened a little gap and rode my own race for the win. The second moto went pretty good as well, but Zach [Osborne] was riding awesome and ended up getting around me. I just kind of brought it home for second and did what I needed to take the overall. I haven't won a outdoor race besides Indiana and it feels good to get the monkey off my back with another win."
Osborne retained possession of the red plate as championship leader for another week by extending his lead to 31-points over Alex Martin, who finished fifth (4-4), in the standings. Jeremy Martin's ninth place finish (13-6) dropped him from second to third in the standings, and he now trails his brother Alex by just five points.
"I ran out of tear-offs in Moto 1 and it made it difficult trying to pass my way to the front," said Osborne. "Fortunately, I was able to get a better start in the second moto and take the lead pretty early in the race. This four-race stretch that we're in, I knew that the tracks suit me well, so my plan was to try and score as many points as possible for the championship."
The 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will reach the halfway point of the season next Saturday, July 1, for the sixth round from RedBud MX in Buchanan, Michigan. First motos of the Rockford Fosgate RedBud National can be seen live on MAVTV at 10 a.m. PT / 1 p.m. ET, while the second motos will air Sunday, July 2, on NBCSN, at 12:00 p.m. PT / 3:00 p.m. ET.
Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Tennessee National Muddy Creek Raceway - Blountville, Tennessee
June 24, 2017