AMA Motocross Thunder Valley Preview

James Stewart overcame the pressure from Ryan Dungey to go 1-1 at Freestone. (Photo: MX Sports)
James Stewart overcame the pressure from Ryan Dungey to go 1-1 at Freestone. (Photo: MX Sports)

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. — Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart has started the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, perfectly, winning all four motos through the first two rounds of competition.

On Saturday, June 2, Stewart will bring his undefeated record into the mile high altitude of Colorado for the third race of the season from Lakewood’s Thunder Valley MX Park and the Toyota Thunder Valley National.

The beginning of Stewart’s relationship with Factory Suzuki could not be going any better. Despite being away from Nationals competition for the past three seasons, Stewart has re-acclimated himself to the rough and rugged nature of the series flawlessly. Last weekend in Texas, the 2008 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champion refused to give in to the relentless pressure being applied by Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, fending off his rival to start the season with back-to-back overall victories.

Dungey has kept Stewart honest throughout the season. In Texas, he was arguably faster than Stewart, but was unable to complete a pass for the lead in either moto. Despite that, his pair of runner-up efforts to start the championship have also gotten his first season with the Factory KTM effort off on a high note. This weekend, Dungey will look to give the Austrian brand its first 450 Class win at a track where he serves as the defending race winner.

At last season’s Thunder Valley event, Dungey went bar-to-bar with eventual champion Ryan Villopoto in both motos, trading wins with his rival, but emerged victorious by virtue of his second moto win for his first overall victory of the 2011 championship. Dungey has won the annual Lucas Oil Motocross stop in Colorado for the past two seasons, in addition to a dominant outing at the facility during the 2010 Motocross of Nations.

In the 250 Class, GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac showed he’s ready to add his name to the discussion of title contenders in the deeply talented division. The third-year rider dominated in Texas, posting a moto sweep to secure his second career Lucas Oil Motocross win – his first since becoming the first rider in history to win his professional debut back during the 2010 season.

By virtue of his victory, Tomac moved from fifth to third in the 250 Class standings and now returns to his home state of Colorado. A native of Cortez, Tomac is hoping his familiarity with the higher elevation will play to his advantage at Thunder Valley, where he finished third last year.

While Tomac will carry the momentum of his win into Lakewood, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett enters the third round in possession of the coveted red number plate, which signifies his position as the 250 Class points leader. Baggett followed Tomac in second at Texas; giving him a win and runner-up finish to start the season. This weekend, he enters Colorado as the defending race winner.

In addition to the strong starts by Tomac and Baggett, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen is making the most of his debut season on U.S. soil. The defending World Motocross MX2 Champion has finished third overall in each of the first two rounds and despite being the youngest rider in Lucas Oil Motocross, is showing the experience of a veteran. Thunder Valley is the lone venue in the championship that Roczen has raced on previously, winning the MX2 class at the 2010 Motocross of Nations.

Last season at Thunder Valley, Baggett was forced to withstand the pressure of both Tomac and eventual champion Dean Wilson. He outlasted the efforts of his rivals to post a 1-1 moto sweep and notch his third win of the 2011 championship.

The Women’s Motocross Championship hosted its second round of the season at Texas. Despite suffering the effects of food poisoning, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Ashley Fiolek broke through for her first win in her 2012 title defense. Fiolek’s 2-1 moto scores gave her the edge in the tiebreaker with Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki’s Jessica Patterson. The pair’s rivalry is sure to be renewed in Colorado, with Patterson holding the edge as the current points leader. Additionally, Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Tarah Gieger and Kawasaki Team Green’s Meghan Rutledge, who secured her first career podium last weekend, will also challenge the leaders of the WMX Class.

Patterson was dominant at Thunder Valley one year ago, posting a 1-1 moto sweep with Fiolek and Gieger following on the podium.

Since becoming part of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in 2005, Thunder Valley MX Park has grown to be one of the series’ most popular stops. With its mile-high elevation and sprawling layout, Thunder Valley presents one of the most unique challenges for both the riders and their teams. The thin mountain air robs bikes of power while also testing a rider’s endurance. It is a one-of-a-kind combination that is only found at Thunder Valley and each year, it is one of the race’s most prominent storylines. Additionally, its picturesque setting and hillside location make it one of the best venues for fans, with incredible sight lines from any point on the track.

The Toyota Thunder Valley National will commence on Saturday, June 2, from Lakewood, beginning at 3 p.m. Eastern. Live coverage of the opening motos on FUEL TV and will begin at 3 p.m. Eastern, while live second moto coverage of the 450 Class can be seen on NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. Eastern. Same-day coverage of the second 250 Class moto can also be seen on NBC Sports Network, beginning at 12 a.m. Eastern.


Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship

450 Class Championship Standings

1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 100

2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 86

3. Mike Alessi, Victorville, Calif., Suzuki, 70

4. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki, 61

5. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, Honda, 61

6. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Kawasaki, 58

7. Brett Metcalfe, Mannum, Australia, Suzuki, 53

8. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Kawasaki, 43

9. Tommy Hahn, Decatur, Texas, Honda, 39

10. Nico Izzi, Rochester, Mich., Yamaha, 39


250 Class Championship Standings

1. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., Kawasaki, 94

2. Ken Roczen, Apolda, Germany, KTM, 80

3. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda, 79

4. Justin Barcia, Monroe, N.Y., Honda, 76

5. Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki, 55

6. Marvin Musquin, La Reole, France, KTM, 52

7. Wil Hahn, Decatur, Texas, Honda, 46

8. Kyle Cunningham, Fort Worth, Texas, Yamaha, 42

9. Jake Canada, Sun City, Calif., Honda, 41

10. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki, 41


WMX Class Standings

1. Jessica Patterson, Tallahassee, Fla., Suzuki, 91

2. Ashley Fiolek, St. Augustine, Fla., Honda, 88

3. Meghan Rutledge, New South Wales, Australia, Kawasaki, 78

4. Tarah Gieger, Aguadilla, Puerto Rico., Honda, 72

5. Sayaka Kaneshiro, Osaka, Japan, Honda, 65

6. Kasie Creson, Vallejo, Calif., Honda, 61

7. Mariana Balbi, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Honda, 55

8. Jacqueline Strong, Cottonwood, Ariz., KTM, 48

9. Sara Pettersson, Sweden, KTM, 46

10. Lindsey Palmer, Conifer, Colo., Kawasaki, 32