MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – When the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship returns to Glen Helen Raceway on May 24 for the Red Bull Glen Helen National, it will mark the first time since 2009 that the championship has visited the vaunted track in San Bernardino, Calif.
Known for its steep hills and spectacular jumps, Glen Helen will be an immediate test of strength and endurance for the star-packed 450 Class participants. A strong finish on the hills of Glen Helen Raceway, located in the heart of motocross-rich Southern California, will be a great way to start the 12-round 2014 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Every athlete competing that day knows there will be a new 450 Class Champion in 2014 following the recent announcement that reigning champ Ryan Villopoto suffered a serious knee injury in the closing stages of the recent AMA Supercross Championship and will be forced him to take the summer off for surgery and rehabilitation.
Of course, that news sent a buzz through the motorcycle racing world, as a multitude of top racers are hoping to take his place as the premier-division champion of the world’s most competitive and prestigious motocross series.
In fact, three former Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 Class Champions will be vying to reclaim the #1 plate. Leading the way will be Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, last year’s runner-up. Dungey, who hails from Belle Plaine, Minnesota, earned 450 Class championships in 2010 and 2012, as well as the 250 Class title during the 2009 season. He will be teamed with former FIM World Champion Ken Roczen, the super-fast import from Germany who finished second in the 250 Class last season.
James Stewart will head to Glen Helen Raceway aboard his Yoshimura Suzuki. Hailing from Haines City, Florida, the veteran is considered one of the fastest, most innovative racers in the history of the sport. Stewart has not won a motocross title since 2008, when he ran the table with a perfect season, sweeping all 12 rounds and every single moto along the way.
Another superstar looking to work his way back into the winner’s circle is TwoTwo Motorsports/Discount Tire Racing’s Chad Reed. The Australian native earned the 2009 title in the 450 Class and was enjoying a career revival in the 2014 AMA Supercross Championship before a February crash left him with a damaged shoulder. Since then, he has turned his attention to the upcoming Red Bull Glen Helen National opener in hopes of picking up where he left off.
Eli Tomac, last year’s 250 Class Champion, will make his Lucas Oil Pro Motocross debut aboard 450cc equipment this summer. The resident of Cortez, Colorado, will lead the GEICO Honda team.
The Team Honda Muscle Milk squad also features a former 250 Class Champion in Shawnee, Oklahoma’s Trey Canard. He will be joined on the starting gate by his teammate Justin Barcia, a New York native who now lives in Pinetta, Florida. Barcia made his professional debut at the last Glen Helen National in 2009, leading much of the way before finishing sixth overall.
Yet another former champion who hopes to be in the mix is Ivan Tedesco, who has been picked up by RCH Racing/Soaring Eagle Suzuki, the team jointly owned by Ricky Carmichael and Carey Hart. Tedesco, who won the 250 Class Championship in 2005, will be joined by the popular Weston Peick, a privateer favorite from Wildomar, California, who is getting his first shot on a team of this scale this summer.
Another California flyer to keep an eye on is Smartop/MotoConcepts Racing’s Mike Alessi, who basically grew up racing at Glen Helen. Alessi has been a steady contender for the past decade and knows the 450 Class #1 plate is up for grabs this summer.
The Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX team will enter two contenders in the 450 Class: California native Josh Grant and Iowa’s Justin Brayton. Both riders are two of the most formidable competitors in the division, with Grant being a former winner, who also happens to call Glen Helen his home track.
Although Monster Energy Kawasaki will not have Villopoto this summer, Brett Metcalfe has been invited to join Jake Weimer on the team’s 450 Class roster. Metcalfe, the reigning MX1 Canadian National Champion, was a top-five contender in the select Lucas Oil Pro Motocross rounds he participated in last season and is a former winner in the series. For Weimer, Villopoto’s absence presents the perfect opportunity for the veteran to step up as this team’s captain.
The factory Red Bull KTM duo of Dungey and Roczen aside, three other KTM riders have national wins on their résumés: Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps will be back in action after missing an entire season with a knee injury and BTO Sports.com/KTM will feature Andrew Short and Matt Goerke.
Adding yet another storyline to the loaded 450 Class is the professional development of Troy Lee Designs/MAVTV Honda’s Malcolm Stewart, James’ brother. The younger Stewart has shown marked improvement since turning pro in 2011 and with a full season of 450 Class competition under his belt, he will be a force this summer.