The picturesque, mile-high elevation of the Denver area provided the setting for the third round of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, presented by AMA Pro Racing, on Saturday from Thunder Valley MX Park. RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen continued his hot start to the 2016 season, sweeping both 450 Class motos for the second time in 2016 en route to his second victory of the season. In the 250 Class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy raced to his second win to reclaim control of the points lead.
Roczen surged out to the holeshot to start the opening 450 Class moto, followed by Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson and Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey. The open track allowed Roczen to sprint out to an early lead of over five seconds by the conclusion of the opening lap. Anderson held off Dungey for a couple laps but the defending champion eventually got by for second. Once in first and second Roczen and Dungey started to pull away from the field. Anderson was running solidly in third but started to lose pace on Lap 5, initially losing a couple positions before dropping out of the event with an apparent health issue. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Josh Grant took over control of third in Anderson’s absence and held on to a podium spot for a few laps before coming under pressure from Team Honda HRC’s Trey Canard. The two riders engaged in an intense battle for the position, with Canard getting the upper hand on Lap 9.
Roczen led wire to wire for his fourth moto win in five attempts, crossing the line six seconds ahead of Dungey. Canard followed in third for his first moto podium finish of the season. Grant was fourth with his Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Eli Tomac fighting back from a 17th-place start to finish fifth.
Canard used the momentum of his podium result to grab the Moto 2 holeshot over his teammate Cole Seely, with BTO Sports/WPS/KTM’s Andrew Short in third. Dungey and Roczen both started outside the top five, but Dungey made several passes on the opening lap to slot into third and soon got by Seely to take over second. As he chased Canard for the lead Dungey went down and dropped back to 19th. Dungey’s mistake worked into Roczen’s favor as he made the pass on Grant for third and set chase for the Honda teammates.
Canard and Seely engaged in a spirited battle for the lead, with Seely eventually getting the upper hand on Lap 2. Roczen positioned himself right behind both riders and patiently waited for his opportunity to pass both Canard and Seely on Lap 3 and take over the lead. He would then proceed to run away from the field. Seely maintained his hold on second, but Canard received pressure from Grant for third and lost the position on Lap 6. Behind them, Tomac was on a march to the front after starting 13th. The Kawasaki rider moved into the top five and passed Canard for fourth on Lap 7 before breaking into podium position by passing his teammate Grant shortly thereafter. The Colorado native didn’t stop there and closed in on Seely for second, taking over the runner-up spot on Lap 8.
As Tomac charged forward, Dungey was recovering well from his opening-lap crash. The defending Thunder Valley winner methodically worked his way through the field and put himself back into contention for the overall podium by breaking into the top five on Lap 9. He needed to pass Canard for fourth in order to secure his spot inside the top three and did so on Lap 11. Roczen cruised to his fifth moto win of the season, with Tomac earning a season-best moto result in second and Seely claiming his first moto podium finish of the year in third.
Roczen’s second 1-1 moto sweep of the season was the eighth 450 Class win of his career and his second at Thunder Valley.
“My day was great. I grabbed an awesome start in the first moto and never looked back. I just rode a smooth race with minimal mistakes,” said Roczen. “We went into the second moto with a strong mentality. I didn’t get a good start and actually almost crashed. I tried to make some quick moves [to move up to the front] but didn’t want to rush it. Going 1-1 is a great thing headed into the off weekend. I’m really excited for the rest of the season.”
Dungey’s resilient effort landed him second overall (2-4), while Tomac claimed the final spot on the overall podium in third for the third straight race (5-2).
“Overall it was a good day. We got good starts in both motos. In the first moto we got into second and just tried to maintain that. I felt good going into the second moto. I was up front and trying to go for the lead and my front popped out of the rut and once it hit the soft dirt it just tucked the front end,” said Dungey. “We got up and just tried to pass as many guys as we could. I got up to fourth and wasn’t able to catch [Cole] Seely [for third], but all things considered it was pretty good.”
Roczen gained 10 points on Dungey to extend his lead in the 450 Class standings to 12 points after three rounds. Tomac solidified his hold on third, 29 points out of the lead.
In the 250 Class, Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb kicked off the first moto of the day by grabbing the holeshot ahead of his teammate and defending champion Jeremy Martin, last year’s winner at Thunder Valley. GEICO Honda’s Jordon Smith slotted into third, followed by the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha duo of Aaron Plessinger and Alex Martin, the points leader. A battle for the lead started quickly between Webb and Jeremy Martin, but Webb was able to withstand the early pressure. As they battled, Plessinger moved into third and closed in on the lead tandem, with Alex Martin following into fourth. However, Plessinger went down on Lap 2 and collected Martin, who was running right behind him. Plessinger was able to remount quickly and reentered the race in ninth, while Martin dropped outside the top 20 into 25th place.
The Plessinger crash allowed Webb and Jeremy Martin to open a gap over Smith, who reclaimed third, and a hard-charging Savatgy. The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider passed Smith for third on Lap 3 and set his sights on the top two. On Lap 4 Martin’s patience paid off and he passed Webb for the lead, which dropped Webb into the clutches of Savatgy. Webb kept the Kawasaki rider at bay for a lap, but lost the spot on Lap 6. Once in second Savatgy began to lay down the fastest laps of the moto and closed in on the rear fender of Martin. He made the pass for the lead on Lap 8 and quickly pulled out to a comfortable margin. Savatgy continued to build his lead and appeared to be on his way to a third moto win of the season but went down with four laps to go, handing the lead back to Martin and dropping to second. Martin led the closing laps to secure his second straight moto, with Savatgy second and Webb third. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Zach Osborne was fourth, with Smith fifth. Points leader Alex Martin recovered from his early misfortune with Plessinger to finish eighth.
After acknowledging he let the first moto win slip away, Savatgy seized the moment in Moto 2. He narrowly missed out on the holeshot to his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammate Adam Cianciarulo, but surged into the lead on the opening lap. Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM’s Shane McElrath initially slotted into third, but soon lost the spot to Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Martin Davalos. Behind them the siblings Jeremy and Alex Martin were making a push to the front. The top three riders settled in, but McElrath came under heavy fire from the Martin brothers. Alex passed his brother for fifth and then made the move on McElrath for fourth shortly thereafter. On Lap 3 Cianciarulo crashed out the race while running second, moving Davalos into the runner-up spot and Alex Martin into third. Jeremy Martin then passed McElrath to take over fourth.
Over halfway into the moto Savatgy, Davalos and Alex Martin sat within seconds of one another, but Savatgy was able to inch away as Martin made the pass on Davalos for second on Lap 8. Once in second Martin began to set the fastest lap times of the moto and gradually chipped away at his deficit to Savatgy. As the elder Martin chased down the lead, Jeremy Martin was putting himself in podium position, passing Davalos for third on Lap 12. By that point Alex Martin’s deficit to Savatgy was under a second and the two riders remained just bike lengths apart through to the finish, with Savatgy edging out Martin for his third moto win of the season. Jeremy Martin finished third.
Savatgy’s 2-1 moto results gave him the edge over Jeremy Martin in the overall standings, making him the first two-time winner of the season.
“It was almost a picture-perfect weekend. I qualified second and led first moto for long time, but I made a mistake. I had a motivational text from Ricky [Carmichael] waiting for me and I came back strong in the final moto,” said Savatgy, who became the 10th different 250 Class winner at Thunder Valley in 12 seasons. “I got the red plate back [as points leader] and that’s awesome. I’m pumped. I wasn’t feeling great last weekend and was a little under the weather, but I went back to the [Carmichael] Farm and worked hard coming into this weekend. It’s a good way to go into the break, so I’m pumped.”
Jeremy Martin finished just two points back in second (1-3), while Alex Martin put both siblings on the podium for the second consecutive weekend in third (8-2).
“It was a good day today. Those guys [Savatgy and Alex] were on it,” said Jeremy Martin. “I heard my brother say ‘woohoo’ after he passed me, and he and Joey were just riding awesome. It’s making for a good series. I love a challenge and I cannot wait until [the next race at] High Point.”
Savatgy’s third career win put him back atop the 250 Class standings for the second time this season. He carries a three-point lead over Jeremy Martin, who vaulted from fourth to second. Alex Martin, the entering points leader, dropped to third, nine points out of the lead.
The 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will observe its first break of the 2016 season next weekend before returning to action on Saturday, June 18, for the Red Bull High Point National from High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania. The race will mark the 2016 network television premiere on NBC.