MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Following 11 rounds of grueling competition on the most challenging and demanding tracks in the country, the 2012 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, will come to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday with the inaugural Red Bull Lake Elsinore National.
The series’ highly-anticipated return to Southern California is signified by the introduction a new home for the Nationals in the heart of the motocross industry. After months of hard work in preparing a layout worthy of challenging the world’s best riders, while also serving as a premier venue for spectator viewing, Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park’s unveiling will ultimately decide which riders will walk away as champion in both the 250 Class and Women’s Motocross Championship (WMX Class).
Although the 450 Class title has already been decided, there is still plenty on the line in the search to become the first winner at the brand new Lake Elsinore facility.
Last weekend at Steel City, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey refused to hold back despite capturing his second 450 Class title at the previous round.
In two attempts, the newly-crowned champion had never won at the track in the premier class prior to this season. On Saturday, he left little doubt that his motivation to win is as strong as ever, sweeping the motos for the seventh time this season and extending his impressive win streak to nine races.
With one round remaining, Dungey has the opportunity to match the win total from his record-setting rookie season in 2010 when he won his first premier class title. With each respective win this season, Dungey makes history for KTM, which had never captured an overall win in the 450 Class prior to this summer.
Additionally, Dungey has not finished worse than third in a single moto this season and has already surpassed the statistical marks he set in 2010 for laps led, average start, and average finish, and needs just 13 points on Saturday to match his total from that season, making his 2012 campaign one of the most statistically dominant in history.
Several riders will be looking to end Dungey’s reign atop the podium, led by MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi, who has secured the runner-up spot in the championship and returns to his native Southern California. Additionally, perennial front-runners like Chaparral Honda’s Andrew Short and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer will be in search of their first career motocross victories as they also do battle for the third and final spot on the championship podium.
After a parity-driven season that has witnessed four different overall winners through 11 rounds, the 250 Class title fight will come down to the final pair of motos of the 2012 season. Currently, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett has possession of the points lead, and has since the opening round of the season.
However, a strong charge in recent weeks by GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac has brought the pair to within 14 points of one another, with fellow GEICO Honda rider Justin Barcia just 18 points back. Factor in Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen, who sits 45 points out of the lead, and four riders enter Lake Elsinore with a shot at their first career national title.
Last weekend at Steel City, Tomac put forth one of the most dominant efforts of the season, sweeping the motos to claim his fourth victory of the season and equal the class-leading win total he now shares with Baggett. Tomac has arguably more momentum than anyone heading into Saturday’s race, but all four contenders enter Lake Elsinore on an even playing field, having never raced on the track before.
Baggett hopes a return to his native Southern California can provide an edge, having missed out on the podium for the past two rounds. In that span, Baggett has lost 18 points to Tomac, who has surged from third to second in the standings.
Barcia’s consistency, in addition to his pair of victories this season, has kept him in the thick of the title fight all season long, while Roczen’s distinction of being the best starter in the 250 Class has made him a fixture at the front of the field, despite having yet to win a race in his first season of competition on U.S. soil.
Through the first seven rounds of its eight-race championship, the WMX Class has provided arguably the most captivating competition of the summer. Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki’s Jessica Patterson has controlled the point standings since the opening round, but following a season filled with both great racing and dramatic storylines, three women enter Lake Elsinore with an opportunity to claim the championship.
Sitting just five points behind Patterson is longtime rival Ashley Fiolek, whose class-leading four victories for Team Honda Muscle Milk have put her in position to repeat as champion, despite missing the fourth round of competition due to injury. An additional five points back is Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Tarah Gieger, who has yet to win this season, but has been arguably the most consistent of the three.
Patterson has battled through a broken hand since the halfway point of the season, not missing a single round of action but losing valuable points to her rivals with finishes outside the top 10. As a result, Patterson has the worst finishing average of the trio, but with nearly a month passed since the WMX Class was in action, she and her rivals enter Lake Elsinore refreshed and ready to lay it all on the line.
In addition to the competition for the 450 Class victory and respective 250 and WMX Class championships, the final round for the season-long Oakley Bomb Award program will also come to an exciting conclusion. The Oakley Bomb Award is awarded to the rider who posts the fastest lap in practice for both the 450 and 250 Classes. At season’s end, the rider with the most awards will be presented with an Elite Oakley Time Bomb II Swiss Automatic Watch. With five fast laps this season, Tomac has already secured the coveted watch for the 250 Class. However, the 450 Class is still up for grabs with both Dungey and Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart tied with four awards apiece. With Stewart out of action due to injury, Dungey will look to claim the watch on Saturday.
Located in the hotbed of the motocross industry, and about an hour outside of the major metropolitan areas of Los Angeles and San Diego, Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park serves as an ideal location for fans of the sport across the entire southern portion of the state.
It’s also well known to students of the sport’s history as the site of the Lake Elsinore Grand Prix, which was featured prominently in the epic motorcycle racing documentary film On Any Sunday back in 1971 – one year before the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship was born.
The Marc Peters-designed venue is state-of-the-art in terms of motocross and features multiple elevation changes, spectacular obstacles, and easy access for the fans. The facility was designed with not only riders but spectators in mind as well, with paved roads and walkways, lush landscaping, camping amenities and designated areas at multiple elevations for viewing.