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AMA : Unadilla Preview

It’s the home stretch of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship! Three races left to go and no more weekends off for the riders. While the 250 Class has officially entered “championship watch” time, the battle in the 450 Class looks like it could go all the way down to the final week.

Here are a few of the major storylines to follow this weekend at the Massey Ferguson Unadilla National.

The drama continues in the 450 Class
With three rounds to go, Eli Tomac is holding just a 15-point lead over Marvin Musquin in the battle for the 450MX championship. Without a doubt, Tomac has been the dominant one (13 moto wins, 7 overall wins), but Musquin has been the king of consistency (only rider to finish top five in every single moto). While Tomac clearly has the upper hand, any mistake or bike malfunction could flip this title race back in Musquin’s favor pretty quickly.


A familiar sight this year: Tomac taking the checkered flag. (Photo: Rich Shepherd)

The battle for third place
Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia aren’t officially out of title contention just yet, but barring injuries to the top two, they’ll have to settle with battling each other for third place in the point standings. Both riders enter Unadilla tied for third with 330 points each. Barcia has been consistent all season long (no moto finish worse than 6th) but hasn’t reached the podium in any of his last four motos. Roczen, meanwhile, has been on the podium in six straight motos and even has a victory during that span.

Taking the next step
When Cooper Webb returned from his broken leg at Round 6, he admitted that he wasn’t at 100% health and would need to work his way back into form, saying that ” goal will be to get better each weekend.” After eight motos, he’s been solid, but his results have been roughly the same each time — somewhere between 7th and 9th in every moto. With an extra week to prepare for Unadilla, it’s time to see if the Factory Yamaha rider can improve on those results at the last three rounds.

A new rider enters the 450 Class
Kailub Russell, a five-time GNCC national champion, has joined Red Bull KTM for the final three rounds of the season. (It’ll be the first time this summer that Musquin has had a teammate out there on the track, as Broc Tickle was indefinitely suspended from competition before the season began and later had his ride with KTM terminated.) The timing is right, as the GNCC cross-country racing series is on a summer break with Russell currently leading the championship standings by 54 points. He’s been training at Baker’s Factory and will have Jade Dungey (Ryan’s older brother) as his mechanic in the pits. A true wild card in this series, it’ll be interesting to see where he slots into the field.


Aaron Plessinger is getting closer to his first 250MX championship. (Photo: Jeff Kardas)

Closing in on a title
In the 250 Class, things appear much more settled. Aaron Plessinger has opened up a 59-point lead over Alex Martin and is more than 100 points up on everyone else. Plessinger’s magic number for Unadilla is 100 — anyone not within 100 points of him at the end of the day will be officially eliminated from title contention. That makes it possible, albeit very unlikely, that he could wrap the title up this weekend. It would likely take at least one DNF — maybe even two — from Martin for that to happen, but as we know, anything’s possible. The most likely scenario has Plessinger setting himself up to clinch the title next week at Budds Creek.

Year of parity
After 18 motos, there have been eight different moto winners in the 250 Class. (Joey Savatgy and Shane McElrath became No. 7 and No. 8 at Washougal.) No one other than Plessinger (8 moto wins) has been able to win more than twice, and Martin still has yet to win a moto despite sitting second in points. This remains a wide-open field.

Forkner’s troubles continue
Austin Forkner’s moto finishes from the last four rounds: 1-20, 35-2, 2-18, 2-39. He has consistently shown the speed to win races, but every week, something ends up happening to him in one of the motos. (The first three incidents were due to collisions with other riders, but he crashed on his own last time out at Washougal.) “Everything happens for a reason and I’m not entirely sure what that reason is but just gotta keep believing,” Forkner wrote on Instagram after the most recent incident.


Austin Forkner seems overdue for an overall win. (Photo: Rich Shepherd)

Motocross of Nations
Team selections for this year’s Motocross of Nations have been coming in heavy this week, and on Saturday it’ll be Team USA’s turn. The general consensus is that Eli Tomac, Justin Barcia and Aaron Plessinger are likely to get picked for the team, but you’ll have to check back Saturday morning to find out for sure.

THE INJURY LIST

A look at some of the notable riders who have picked up new injuries or are nearing a return to action.

Justin Bogle (450MX): The Autotrader/Yoshimura Suzuki rider’s return from injury lasted just four rounds. He showed speed by taking the holeshot in six of the eight motos he raced, but he inevitably faded outside the top 10 in each of those motos. It turns out that the culprit was a damaged nerve in his arm that was causing his hand to go numb during each race. Bogle underwent surgery to fix his arm but will now miss the remainder of the season.


WIth Justin Bogle sidelined, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll be getting all the holeshots now. (Photo: Rich Shepherd)

Jason Anderson (450MX): The 2018 supercross champion was hoping to return for Unadilla, but Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team manager Bobby Hewitt told Racer X that Anderson is still another week away at least. It sounds like his odds of returning next week for Budds Creek are good, but Unadilla will be the eighth consecutive round that he’s missed.

Justin Hill (450MX): Hill’s status came into question after he hit a tree two weeks ago at the Washougal National. The crash left him with a bruised and swollen knee, but he plans to race Unadilla.

Adam Enticknap (450MX): It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the popular privateer. The Seven Deuce Deuce dropped a new rap single, then brought his “too lit” bike to Washougal, where he was making his season debut. Unfortunately that will go down as Enitcknap’s lone outdoor race of the season — he broke his femur while practicing at Pala this week and is looking at 8-10 weeks of recovery time.

Jimmy Decotis (250MX): Decotis is making the decision to sit out Unadilla after battling an illness this week. “I’ve been really sick this week and with my weakened immune system from my Lyme disease I will just dig myself a deeper hole,” he wrote on Instagram.

(Pro Motocross)

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